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This Week in Legacy: December Statistics and January Legacy Challenge

Welcome once again to This Week in Legacy! This week we'll be looking at the December statistics we need to catch up on after the flurry of events that went on, along with the recent results from the Magic Online Legacy Challenge.

December Statistics

What I'll do first is have a look at the charts for December, give a bit of commentary, then delve deeper into the stand-out ones. The Online metagame turned out as follows:

The big movers were BUG Delver (overtaking Grixis Delver) and Aluren, which pushed down Eldrazi in particular, allowing Storm to resurface over the course of December. Reanimator also has continued its strong trend, though these statistics lump together all the variants, be they Blue-Black or Black-Red. Combining all the Stoneblade lists also paints a more positive picture of the little white Squire, which makes sense considering Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull's reasonable strength against the Abrupt Decay decks of the world that have begun to resurface.

In Paper Death & Taxes continued its strong run being the second most-played Top 8'ing deck, following the usual Miracles. BUG Delver did not make a similar resurgence in Paper compared to Online. Elves has similarly found itself in a strong position likely due to the format being more welcoming to Death & Taxes and decks leaning on Abrupt Decay, which are traditionally strong matchups for it. Storm continued a upward trend with Eldrazi further subdued. Interestingly Sneak & Show, although putting up respectable numbers in both Paper and Online, proved not to be as overbearing as its strong finishes and presence within GP Louisvile, where many found themselves in Day 2 and the Top 32.

The BUG Is Flying Upwards

Online throughout December and in Louisville, BUG Delver was all the rage, despite Grixis Delver being seen as the de facto "best Delver deck" ever since Dig Through Time dawned on the format. That may no longer be the case, especially with the deck getting a lot of strong additions in Conspiracy: Take the Crown and now in Aether Revolt.

malimujo has been the person primarily behind BUG Delver's success Online with incredibly consistent 5-0s across December and January, and his lists were adopted by both Brad Nelson and Louisville Top 8er Michael Majors. His most recent one can be seen below:

This actually just looks like BUG Delver from a couple of years ago, complete with Hymn to Tourach, Liliana of the Veil, Tombstalker, and co. Perhaps the only nod to the modern Legacy metagame developments are the Dismember in the main for Eldrazi and Anglers, along with the Dead Weights in the sideboard to outgrow Anglers with Tarmogoyf. But otherwise, this is pretty straightforward. I'm sure many Americans going into Louisville saw this as "ol' reliable" and adopted a similar list, or looked towards Jim Davis Players' Championship list that took a somewhat different leaning. If anything, it's not the deck choices which have made the deck great - there's little change within these lists - but rather, BUG Delver must be excellently positioned for it to make such great appearances on Magic Online and at Louisville. Why though?

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BUG Delver is the best of all the Delver decks at abusing Deathrite Shaman. His secondary abilities are able to shine greater in this deck, as he need not work overtime fixing mana due to the abudance of Black and Green mana sources available. With Black-Red Reanimator so rampant currently, having access to Green mana easily (unlike Grixis Delver, where Tropical Island is a card loathe to run) gives BUG a bit of an edge.

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Edict effects have also never been stronger. Dark Depths combos can be an issue, but with both Wasteland, Deathrite. and Liliana in the mix. BUG Delver has a strong suite of answers to the traditionally poor Lands matchup. Eldrazi can also suffer against Liliana on a stable board, with her becoming a clean answer to Smasher and Seer without straining removal. Not to mention that she is a removal spell that can also have some form of relevance against combo and control decks. Although certainly terrible in other matchups, such as against Pyromancer tokens, Elves, or even a strong board presence of Death & Taxes, I'd say she's definitely a good home in the tap-out shell of BUG Delver.

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Tombstalker is definitely underplayed relative to its big fish cousin, and BUG Delver is one of the few shells that can accomodate his rather restrictive double Black casting cost thanks to Bayous in the deck. With Grixis Delver's shaky mana it'd certainly be ambitious to try and include him. He definitely goes one step bigger than the fish, which can fall prey to stalled boards and chump blockers while the Stalker flies over.

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Rest in Peace is also currently at an all-time low thanks to Faerie Macabre and Surgical Extraction now being more prominent, and this was certainly a card which could stop BUG Delver in its tracks, nullifying almost all of its threats. With it finding less and less sideboard slots, its understandable to see the Tarmogoyfs alongside Deathrites getting a bit more of a muscle-flexing.

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Lastly, Hymn to Tourach is a hell of a fun and powerful card, and BUG Delver is perhaps one of the decks that punishes the hardest when Hymn strips away the opponent's hand. Deathrite also provides some explosive starts which can really capitalize on Hymn's power as a tap-out tempo card, especially when, with some luck, it becomes a Stone Rain. That being said, there are situations where Hymn is a bit lackluster and can rot in hand as you fall behind. Like Stifle in some of its Delver contemporaries, it's a bit situational and has to be maneuvered to achieve full value. But when you do, there is nothing like rolling the die and watching your opponent stress out over which cards are going to be taken away.

Although there are a few metagame considerations that make BUG Delver a little better placed than usual, there's also a few new tools it got:

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Leovold has proven his worth in Legacy, and certainly is a strong three-drop option in a Delver shell, being seen in the Friedman-style 4c Delvers, and he of course fits nicely into BUG Delver similarly I'm sure. Fatal Push is perhaps more pertinent though. Disfigure has always felt a little too narrow and has always been relegated to the sideboard, but BUG has certainly lacked a solid one-mana removal spell for the Death & Taxes and Elves of the world. Dismember's life loss does add up, and Push may certainly fulfill that role. It does have issues against Angler and Smasher, but these can be remedied in the sideboard.

Let's have an attempt at BUG Delver, 2017 style.

Dropping a Tarmogoyf for some more creatures in True-Name and the new Elf Advisor is a nice bit of diversification in our threat suite, all of which require some pretty unique answers and also make the deck less prone to graveyard hate. The singleton Lili also provides another type of threat. The removal suite is also altered to be a little bit more efficient and quicker, though cutting down to three Decays is something to beware.

The sideboard also has some heavy-hitters. Baleful Strix has always been an excellent card for stopping Anglers and Smashers, and with Push it's very easy to clean up the early game so even if Strix is killed, you still should be in a strong position (and with a likely 5/6 Goyf!). Charm needs little introduction with the strength of its flexibility. Liliana, the Last Hope is a powerful grind card in midrange matchups and as a card to dismantle small creature decks such as Death & Taxes and is a little underplayed.

The other BUG deck which has had a strong showing Online but at Louisville failed to make an appearance was BUG Aluren.

This isn't too new with me featuring it in an article two weeks ago, but its lack of solid appearances in Day 2 certainly gives this fledgling deck a bit of a blow to its credibility (though I hear some players at Louisville did see an abundance of Alurens more than they're typically used to!). Then again, Eric English brought a similarly styled Food Chain deck, featuring three Leovold, to a solid appearance.

What I'd also like to highlight is one of the new cards from Aether Revolt and how it may find a place in the deck!

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Trophy Mage finds Parasitic Strix when comboing out, which may be more efficient than the one-of Glint-Nest Crane! Or, when you're grinding, it can find a Shardless Agent! There's also a bit of utility to be gained from using Trophy Mage to find a variety of interesting cards, giving the deck access to a toolbox, be it Ensnaring Bridge, Trinisphere or others.

I'm certainly inexperienced with these lists, but it may shoe-in as follows:

Yeah, Forcefield may be a little loose...

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January Legacy Challenge

January's Legacy Challenge also went on over the last week, uniting some of Magic Online's toughest Legacy players to see who came out on top.

And what came out on top was... Manaless Dredge?!

Manaless Dredge was the 7-0i'ng list of the tournament, and I'll have a bit of a speak about that in the "What I'm Playing This Week" section . As we know, I'm quite the fan of Manaless. However, the real winners were the Turbo Depths players, with three players taking five or greater match wins. Also of note is Reid's new list finally showcasing its power in someone else's hands, Death & Taxes again taking some strong placings despite it being underplayed on Magic Online (one of the places being that of Death & Taxes veteran Bahra!). and oldies like RUG Delver and Esper Stoneblade getting some limelight. There was also a spicy Reanimator hybrid deck that 5-2'ed!

First let's look at some of the Turbo Depths lists. Both DNSolver and RedArmada brought very stock straight Black-Green main decks, but had some pretty interesting sideboard plans. DNSolver utilised Garruk Relentless as a transformational way to fight against a variety of forms of disruption, particularly against Miracles where Counterbalance and slaying the 20/20 multiple times with Swords to Plowshares does little against the army of Wolves.

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RedArmada, however, had a nifty little plan for long games slotted into a three-card sideboard package. A little combo of Cabal Coffers, Eye of Ugin. and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn! With Urborg, Coffers can tap for plentiful amounts of mana and summon Emrakul thanks to Eye, which can all be found easily thanks to the robust amount of land tutoring the deck has.

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Negator77 added another color to their list for a bit of consistency:

Brainstorm is a no-brainer (ha-hah!) but it's interesting to see that the deck becomes significantly less explosive once Blue cards are put in the mix, with a trimmed down tutor package, more stable mana sources with Mox Diamond and some surprising utility with Flusterstorm as a much more elegant answer to combo (and as a card to protect Marit Lage!) and Stifle as a fancy one-of to defend from Wasteland or other tricks, while being certainly more flexible than Not of This World. If anything, Negator77's list looks like an interesting middle road between the typical fast Turbo Depths lists we've seen and the UB DepthStill lists of Brandon Owen that is geared for grinding out the opponent. There's obviously a fair bit of unexplored space within the archetype it seems!

RUG Delver also got some love, but in a... Bizarre form.

This is not the first of this style of RUG, but no Nimble Mongoose makes me feel like this is disingenuous to the spirit of Canadian Threshold. Speaking of RUG, ORDAL brought this to a League 5-0:

I guess this is "RUG Control" more than anything, but seeing four Mandrills and four Gooses in the same deck is interesting, and Thought Scour is certainly doing a bit of overtime work here. This list also speaks to the current strength of True-Name Nemesis in the metagame and the weakness of Tarmogoyf comparatively, and this is likely to be further slanted against the ol' green idiot thanks to the rise in Decay decks and the newly printed Fatal Push.

Another blast from the past is moatzu's Esper Stoneblade:

There is a tonne of age-old technology here, be it the usage of Lingering Souls or the Academy Ruins / Engineered Explosives combo. This deck is incredibly fair though, with the aforementioned Souls, along with Supreme Verdict and all the deck's threats being incredibly ineffective against combo, which this deck likely packs up against in game one. Being successful with a deck such as this indicates, at least Online, how fair the metagame is transitioning thanks to the resurgence of BUG decks; though does this mean it's a time for combo - in particular, Storm combo - to shine once more and this deck crumble into obscurity again? At least the deck also gets to pack further disruption in the sideboard, with the hatebears particularly potent.


And so we wrap up this week's edition of This Week in Legacy. Before I head off, I'd like to just give some links to some excellent content that has cropped up:

Perhaps just as important, I think I enjoyed playing MTG more at this tournament, and leading up to it, than I ever have in my life. Granted, it’s easy to claim something’s fun when you’re running hot. But even on Saturday, when my record wasn’t particularly good, I was having a blast. Legacy sometimes lends itself to very close, interesting games, and those were the games I was getting to play round after round after round.

As always, I'd love to hear from any readers, feel free to email me about comments on decks, criticisms and etc.! The details are, of course, below!

'Til next time,

Sean Brown

Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I'm Playing This Week

So, Manaless Dredge won the Legacy Challenge!

I've been thinking for awhile Manaless Dredge is actually in an excellent position. Eldrazi, the most popular deck packing Leyline of the Void is little to be seen currently (compared to months ago), and the only graveyard hate to worry about is Surgical Extraction and Faerie Macabre, which are actually quite easy to brute force through. I'm sad I haven't pulled the trigger yet (I may be in tournaments moving forward) but I'd like to congratulate IIIIIII on bringing the guts to take the monster to the finish line.

My current list would probably look similar, but have some modifications to IIIIIII's list. Foremost, I've always preferred Whirlpool Rider over Balustrade Spy in the main really just because of sideboard equity. He usually does a good enough job. I'd also love to find room for the fourth Chancellor of the Annex somewhere, perhaps cutting a Nether Shadow or Shambling Shell. The Force of Wills may be relegated to the sideboard with the metagame so fair currently, and Deathrite Shaman being the only thing to really worry about.

Anyway, let's have a list like so:

Looks pretty good to me!

The Spice Corner

This also comes from the Legacy Challenge. If anyone remembers the Young Frankenstein lists, this is certainly within that vein - except using Pyromancers newer, sparklier older brother - Monastery Mentor. Also excellent is this deck using Entomb more like a toolbox rather than a dedicated combo piece, with Cabal Therapy and Lingering Souls as strong flashback spells and even Dread Return a tutorable reanimation spell if you have a board presence big enough. I'm surprised Unburial Rites wasn't tried though. This deck is also a great home for Collective Brutality thanks to the flashback spells that can be pitched to it!

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