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This Week in Legacy: Format Panelists

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of This Week in Legacy! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we'll be looking at a Format Panel for legacy.

On Format Panels - A More In Depth Discussion

I briefly touched on the announcement of the Pauper Format Panel last week but the discussion in the past week about it made me really sit and think about what this means for Legacy and the future.

As the week dragged on over this past week, much of that discussion that I saw began to take on a distinctly vitriolic and toxic nature to it, and a lot of it made claims about how a panel could function that quite frankly, simply weren't true due to the fact that we don't know yet exactly how the Pauper Format Panel is going to handle the challenges of that format just yet. I wanted to address some of that and also talk about some of the positives of such a thing (as well as the negatives as there are some actual negatives to discuss).

The first thing I think we should all really remember here is that at the end of the day, this is a game, and that approaching this topic with a calm and constructed manner can help us parse through the potential pros and cons of a Legacy Format Panel much easier. I also would like to preface a lot of this with the fact that as of right now, we simply don't know a ton of details about the exact processes behind the new Format Panel, and it remains prudent to wait and see exactly how much this Panel is able to achieve over the next year or so. Also, I'm not going to be actively discussing any names of people for a potential Format Panel, because quite frankly that sort of thing is way out there enough right now to even consider worrying about.

The "I Don't Trust" Issue

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One of the prominently ongoing threads of discussion I saw over the past week was the "I don't trust anyone to do this" problem. Statements from people that pretty cleanly said that nobody can be trusted to be on a Legacy Format Panel. There were claims of how members of a theoretical panel would use their bias over the format in such a fashion that bordered on the fantastical. Claims of a theoretical panel banning cards like Underground Sea just because they didn't like blue decks. Much of this comes from the perceived notion of players having influence due to their social media stature or somehow using their following to influence things like this (will address this later).

Here's the rub. While bias is always going to be something inherent in human nature, and while we cannot fully remove it, we can limit it to a great extent. We as humans can have a measure of objectivity. If you've ever been on a jury in a court of law, you know that this is possible to do. It is possible for us to review data and have discussions about the Legacy format and come to an objective conclusion. In the case of a Format Panel, the final decision of everything at the end of the day falls squarely to Wizards of the Coast to determine if the recommendations of the Panel are accurate and plausible. Someone asking to have Underground Sea banned is going to be either talked to about their biases or would end up being removed from the Panel due to their recommendations of this nature. It would simply never fly. At the end of the day, this is a job for anyone who would be selected for this, and anyone not treating that responsibility seriously would end up being removed as such.

A lot of this is predicated on the fact that what we need to have from a theoretical Panel is a Mission Statement. A Mission Statement on what Legacy is supposed to be from Wizards themselves. Many players and members of the community can disagree on what exactly the "format identity" of Legacy is really supposed to be, which is where a lot of this "I don't trust" situation comes from. People don't trust players/community members if their view of the format's identity is different than their own. Having an official actual Mission Statement on what Legacy's identity is supposed to be would be extremely helpful and I think it would be the first action of such a Panel to determine what that Mission Statement is from Wizards. Without such a thing, it becomes difficult to determine which way to go, and would lead to further "I don't trust" issues. It would also help guide the Panel in making decisions as to whether the decision being made would go against or for the Mission Statement.

The Positives of a Format Panel

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Despite all the discussion, it's important to focus on the positives of what a Format Panel could achieve. One of the stated issues in the PFP announcement was that Wizards had a lack of bandwidth to deal with issues in Pauper because they simply didn't know how best to approach those issues due to lack of knowledge and bandwidth. In fact, it was one of my good friends Nate Golia who replaced every instance of the word "Pauper" with "Legacy" in that overall statement and it pretty well matched to a tee.

A lack of bandwidth in Legacy would explain the lag times in Wizards making decisions for the format much like how Pauper has been treated in the past year. As has been noted, having a Panel would address that lack of bandwidth to help reduce lag times in addressing potential issues with the format.

Furthermore, one of the biggest positives of such a thing is increased communication from Wizards to the overall community and player base of the format. Having a centralized group that helps provide feedback can be a powerful thing in regards to the community itself communicating what it wants out of the format, as those community members on the panel would be able to converse with the community and keep abreast of things happening within it including trends of events such as metagame shifts and even things like event attendance. These things could be communicated in a much cleaner fashion to the Wizards team member who manages the team, which then allows that feedback to travel faster to the team members it needs to.

Another positive aspect of a Panel is the fact that it actually does bolster confidence in the format's future. One of the more negative things that I've read is the idea that Wizards is outsourcing management of a format off onto the community, and to me that is not looking at the bigger picture overall. I may not personally agree with every decision made by Wizards, but I do believe that this Format Panel decision does represent a decision that invests in the future of any format that gets one. This sort of thing represents a communicative effort to understand and work with the community on a format, which says to me that they believe there is a reason to keep that format around. While Legacy as a format does have some hindrance to it in regards to the Reserved List, there is still a ton of life in the format either in community held events utilizing proxies or on Magic Online, and looking to how the future might work for that makes sense to me.

The Negatives of a Format Panel

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While there are a lot of positives to a Format Panel, there are some downsides to it as well and how we might mitigate those downsides. One of the biggest downsides of having a Legacy Format Panel as opposed to the existing Pauper Format Panel is most notably the cost of the format. Pauper is not a very expensive format, so changes made more liberally to that format can occur to help shape it into a state the community enjoys. A Legacy Panel has to be far more cautious with that, due to the overall cost of the format's high end staples (notably most of these being Reserved List cards). Primarily this is baked into the idea that switching decks (especially in paper) is difficult without a large collection and if a ban or unban invalidates an existing strategy then it might negatively impact players who play that deck. Paper Legacy is still a cornerstone of the format, and while financial implications shouldn't enter ban discussions, it's important to keep in mind as long as the Reserved List exists.

This again calls back to the idea of a Panel banning cards like Brainstorm or other format defining staples, which would basically never happen but does mean that the Panel would need to tread carefully on what the potential impact of a banning might be.

For this reason of course, to me it would make sense that not only provide the members of the Panel with a Mission Statement as we discussed before, but also allow them to have access to things such as full data from Magic Online. Having all of the information on the bigger picture of things would help the Panel more accurately be able to interpret this information in a way that would ultimately allow them to see what sort of impacts a banning might have.

The other major downside of a Panel is a bit of a "shift in blame" so to speak. While the ultimate end decisions of the Format Panel's recommendations are down to Wizards, it is the Format Panel making the recommendations and the major downside to that is the public nature of the individuals on the Panel. We would know who all these people would be and to the overall community it can suddenly become very easy to say "This person did this" in regards to a banning. It's hard to fully stamp out this kind of problematic thinking, but I know that the community could do better and not attribute such malice to people who are asked directly for their opinions and analysis by Wizards. We have to be better than that, and assume good faith. One has to remember that especially for the Pauper Format Panel and any future possible Panels, the community members on it are people just like you and me who care about the health and future of the format.

Wrapping Up

My personal thoughts on a Format Panel for Legacy in the future is that it would represent a great opportunity for the community to voice their ongoing concerns for the format and hopefully enact some real change in how we communicate with Wizards for this format. Not in just how ban announcements are handled, but in how we see cards come down the pipeline for Legacy and how the format absorbs those cards. At the end of the day it is a positive thing and can represent so much potential for great change in the format long term.

However, whatever happens with this is a long ways off, and the only thing we can do right now is to watch and learn from the first year of the Pauper Format Panel, and see how it goes for them. There are ways things could end badly, but it could also be a great thing. We just have to wait and see what happens next.

Legacy Super Qualifier 1/15

We had a full on Legacy Super Qualifier event this past weekend on Saturday, with the top two finalists of the event being awarded a Championship invitation. This event had 199 players in it, thanks to the data collected by the Legacy Data Collection Project.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

One staggering thing to think of here is that UR Delver made up 23% of this event's metagame as the most popular deck by far, but it's win rate in this event was dragged down pretty hard below 50%. In fact, there were no copies of the deck in the Top 8 at all and only two in the Top 16. I'm more than willing to wonder if we're seeing a shift in these larger events of things that are good versus Delver, but it's also hard to ignore the fact that because it is the most popular deck that the win rate is going to naturally be brought down by players newer to deck or just having a bad day. It's hard to really account for these things obviously, and we shouldn't introduce biases such as player skill into collection of the data, we just need to be cognizant of the fact that this can be a thing. D&T had a stellar performance here as we will see, and this deck has a pretty positive Delver matchup. Also on the map is the newcomer Jeskai Control deck with Hullbreacher and Day's Undoing that ziggy_stardust won with recently.

This is a nice data point though because it is a much larger event than most Challenges are by a good 100 players or more, so it really helps to see these kinds of things. It's also a great addition to the overall data set, which we'll be having a further discussion on in the future here.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Death and Taxes 1st yoshiwata
Jeskai Control 2nd killersuv
Jeskai Control 3rd pepeteam
4C Control 4th trunks132
Madness 5th pacoelflaco
4C Control 6th Ark4n
GW Depths 7th urzatheplaneswalker
8Cast 8th Fenrir18

Lot of Control/Midrange piles in this Top 8, with a smattering of Depths and even Madness. At the end of the event though, in a stunning 10-1 finish overall was Death and Taxes to snag one of the Championship invitations.

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D&T continues to be one of the more interesting metagame related decks in the format. In the hands of a really strong player it is certainly a force to be reckoned with. I am loving the two Timeless Dragon here. That card is sick.

The Second Place finalist and the other Championship invite was on Jeskai Control.

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This deck is something I've seen referred to as "Mono Three Drops.deck" and it rings pretty true. There are a lot of three mana value cards in the deck, and a lot of them pretty important to its game plan of using Hullbreacher and Day's Undoing to destroy people.

Also in the Top 8 we had a showing by Madness.

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I've been playing this particular list for a bit myself, and it's pretty strong. I really like the Street Wraith angle of the deck. It makes the games with Hollow One so much better, and lets you draw into your deck some more as well.

Also in the Top 8 we've got a 4C no red variant of Control.

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Witherbloom Command is a sweet card that's been popping up from time to time and it seems really strong. Also, loving the power of Pernicious Deed lately in dealing with problem permanents like Urza's Saga.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we've got 8Cast.

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This variant is splashing into white for some sideboard stuff like Prismatic Ending and also Dispatch! Also we have some Karn, Scion of Urza action in the main deck to supplement the beat down game plan.

Legacy Challenge 1/16

Our regular Sunday Challenge fired as well this weekend with 84 players, thanks to data collected by the Legacy Data Collection Project.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

The Jeskai Hullbreacher Control deck was the most popular deck in the event with a reasonable win rate. It seems to me that the deck is pretty solid. UR Delver had a better showing here than in the Super Qualifier as did Reanimator. Both Elves and Mono Green Cloudpost performed rather poorly despite having a reasonable number of pilots on those decks.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
The EPIC Gamble 1st TonyScapone
Lands 2nd Promidnightz
4C Control 3rd trunks132
4C Control 4th AnziD
Death and Taxes 5th Bobnanos
4C Control 6th TrueHero
Reanimator 7th Skite
UR Delver 8th JPA93

Quite a bit of 4C Control piles here, plus one copy of UR Delver. At the end of the event however, it was the one and only TonyScapone on The EPIC Gamble that took it all down!

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This is certainly one deck that has had the ability to absorb and soak up so many different new printings over the past few years. Cards like Galvanic Relay and Reckless Impulse have really pushed the power of the deck. This deck continues to achieve these kinds of leaps and bounds in that regards because of these new printings.

In Second Place we have Lands.

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Lands is another deck with a lot of reasonable power, as the combination of gaining cards like Urza's Saga and Valakut Exploration was very positive for the deck. It continues to be one of the more interesting hybrid decks of the format even now.

Also in the Top 8 we had the 4C no black iteration of Control.

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The primary driver here is Expressive Iteration being a generally powerful piece of card selection and advantage, which ties together the splash for red next to sideboard effects like blasts. This is a good place to be at the moment for control variants than strictly Bant.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we have JPA93 on UR Delver.

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"Delver" it is then, as we see this list cutting all of the Delvers and instead supplementing with more non-creature spells like Spell Pierce in addition to the Daze and Force of Will. Seems like a strong play.

Around the Web

  • Our good friend Anuraag Das put up a recap of his winning Challenge on 1/2. Check it out here.
  • Bryant Cook goes on a rant with some EPIC Storm gameplay. Check it out here.
  • Birthing Pod Alert.
  • The Eternal Glory Podcast has a great episode on their thoughts on the Pauper Format Panel and what it means for Legacy. Check it out here.
  • The Competitive Lands Podcast had their third episode put up! Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

You can find this past week's 5-0 deck lists over here.

Jeskai Stiflenought is pretty sweet. Scroll of Fate!

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Our good buddy Marcus continues to rep some High Tide action, this time with a slightly transformational sideboard plan of FOUR MURKTIDE.

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Yorion Esper Vial is neat. Four Gilded Drake is some energy for sure. Also, Wall of Stolen Identity in the sideboard.

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A deck featuring Clever Lumimancer and other sweet Prowess creatures. Pretty awesome.

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Artifact Tempo is pretty interesting. AFR card The Blackstaff of Waterdeep showing up here is pretty sick.

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Finally, Yorion GW Depths is hot stuff.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for continuing to support the column and join us next week as we continue our journey into Legacy!

As always you can reach me at Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the MTGLegacy Discord Server.

Until next time!

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