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This Week in Legacy: Halftime Metagame Update

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're diving into an update on the overall Legacy Metagame with data graphs that have been collected from the Legacy Challenge events on Magic Online since the release of Modern Horizons 2 and where the Legacy metagame seems to be at currently. We also unfortunately only have one Challenge event to talk about from this weekend as the Saturday Challenge event did not fire. There are a number of factors to this, primarily the fact that this weekend had several Super Qualifier events and also the ManaTraders Swiss + Top 8 rounds for this past month. Having other events ongoing really stresses the rental services quite a bit as many formats want to rent the Modern Horizons 2 cards. There is also concerns about the format at large that we'll be discussing today in the Metagame update. Of course as always we do have a Spice Corner.

Legacy Metagame Update 6/2/21 - 7/23/21

It has been a while since we did an update on the overall metagame, so we have been due for one. It has been basically almost two months since the release of Modern Horizons 2 and we've been steadily collecting data for the events since then from the Legacy Data Collection Project. This project recently started a Patreon to support the people collecting the data for these events. You can check out this Patreon over here. As of this writing we are up to 11 patrons supporting the project! This is really great to see as it helps directly support the people who spend a lot of time collecting this data.

Modern Horizons 2 presented a lot to the Legacy format and we're still seeing the full effects that this set will have on the format long term. However, the metagame is definitely doing some interesting and not so interesting things, so let's start by taking an overall look at the macro archetypes of the current format.

Over the past two months we've seen a lot of the status quo of the format, as it continues to be overtly dominated by fair blue decks, namely the Tempo and Midrange/Control macro archetypes. There are a lot of reasons that continually remain true for the format for this, such as the fact that the Cantrip Shell and the blue suite of countermagic continues to define the format. There's a fair conundrum here, and one we will discuss more deeply, but for now let's look at the Sub Archetypes.

As we have seen in the past and up into the release of Modern Horizons 2 was that Delver was by far one of the most popular archetypes in all of Legacy, and that has persisted for quite a long while now, even with a ban targeted at Delver in the bannings of Oko, Thief of Crowns and Dreadhorde Arcanist. The play style is what drives a lot of players to the deck, and it remains extremely popular for that reason. Trailing right behind the Delver deck in popularity is Bant Control, which saw a powerful resurgence in the format thanks to cards like Endurance giving them a much better leg up in the Delver matchups. We also see below that quite a few Death and Taxes, and that despite the macro archetypes showing a lot more combo players over Vial decks, the sub archetype numbers show that there is a lot of different combo decks and that Vial decks are predominantly made up of Death and Taxes. D&T is having a bit of a resurgence itself thanks to the Yorion builds showing back up in force.

The new kid in the room is the Jeskai Ragavan Saga deck, and that deck is pretty exceptional as we will see when we look at the Win Rates.

Now keep in mind the Win Rates are displayed the way this is to show us the potential range of the true win rate of the deck. Sample size is very important to this kind of data, and the higher a sample size we have the more we can accurately determine the things like true win rates. What this data above does show however is something that I have suspected about the current format. Despite the overwhelming presence it has in the metagame, UR Delver's win rate is only roughly around 54%. This is fairly okay enough, as it is one of the decks with a positive above 50% win rate in this chart, but it doesn't paint UR Delver as the best deck in the format really. It is however obviously one of the most consistent decks to learn in the format and that in of itself is important and key. Delver rewards a lot of skill in its play, and that is one of the big reasons players are attracted to the deck because it is a deck that time invested into can produce long term positive results and there's almost always a guarantee that the deck's power level will remain appropriate for the Legacy format.

Bant Control has a similar trajectory of looking just like it's fairly fine for the format as well. A lot of this is inherent to the sample size and a bit of a feedback loop. Because a lot of players play both Bant and Delver, we naturally get more data on those decks, but that data trends towards 50% win rate because at some point if the entire format became nothing but Bant and Delver in its entirety then at least one player has to win and one has to lose, which results in the win rates trending towards the middle of the road. Of course, this sort of metagame is still unhealthy but it's not unhealthy on the merit of win rates but rather on homogenous deck building and gameplay. We are not at that point in the current metagame of Legacy, but the diversity we do have is a bit deceiving. There are plenty of decks in the format, but a lot of the decks do similar things or share a lot of the similar kinds of cards because of just how strong cards from Modern Horizons 2 really are. I personally don't find this super healthy, but there is some silver linings.

The real winner here sofar is the Jeskai Ragavan Saga deck. While we don't have a ton of data on this deck, and its range of true win rates is pretty wide, the lower end of win rates for this deck starts at an approximate 51% and tops out at just below 70%. It's not hard to really see why when you look at this deck. It has a lot of strengths to it and a lot of positive matchups versus various decks in the format. I feel pretty easily comfortable saying that if we had a true best deck in the format, that deck is definitely the Jeskai Ragavan Saga deck. I just suspect that a lot of the reasons we aren't seeing more data out of it is due to the prices of cards like Ragavan and Urza's Saga on Magic Online and the fact that the deck is often out of the range of the rental services by quite a bit.

For the most part, other decks above 50 copies have fairly just middle of the road win rates, with Doomsday being a fair exception at an approximate 55% win rate. Everything else here doesn't quite have a sample size to really tell us the true win rates, but we can get a rough estimation by looking at their data and their play styles to see how things are going for that deck.

It is worth noting however, that despite a big breakout weekend on opening weekend of Modern Horizons 2, that the Affinity decks have steadily fallen back off into some realm of obscurity in regards to the Challenge metagame. Many decks have sideboard options for these kinds of strategies so it is not very surprising to see this occur as it tells us the metagame is responding in kind to new forces and shaping itself to deal with those decks. Graveyard decks are also in a bit of a weird place, with so many decks in the format maindecking cards like Endurance. This is mainly why I attribute to seeing strategies like the Madness deck doing well because the reliance on the graveyard is fairly low and the deck can adjust to different forms of graveyard hate to win the game. This level of graveyard hate plus other splash damage to try to deal with cards like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is definitely a solid answer to anything doing anything with the graveyard these days as its primary function.

This isn't all negative however. For the first time in a long time, Legacy has a measure of true aggro decks suddenly appearing the format again with the advent of decks like Affinity and Madness, and decks like GW Depths have received a measure of strong cards like Endurance and Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth. There are decks that are doing well in this climate and are taking advantage of the blue heavy metagame.

What Does This All Tell Us?

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One thing is certain about the past two months however, and it's that Modern Horizons 2 has definitely introduced a lot of cards into the format and we're still really seeing the rippling effects these new cards will have. Some cards are very positive, such as things like Grist, the Hunger Tide and Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth. Others, like Ragavan and Dragon's Rage Channeler, as well as cards like Murktide Regent have really exacerbated again the necessary needs to have removal turned on in games to be able to deal with powerful threats. Cards like Endurance have made for powerful splash damage against a good amount of decks while proving to be a solid threat versus decks that play cards like Delver of Secrets. In fact if anything I suspect the true winners overall of the Modern Horizons 2 shakeups is the decks that can play Endurance because the card is so incredibly flexible yet fair that it will never be banned and will have an effect on the format long term no matter what happens with the format.

While I don't think we're done yet seeing how much this set will affect the format long term, at the same time I am hearing grumblings over the current format and the real underlying issues of how the format has progressed. There is plenty to be said on the topics of the Cantrip Cartel, the free countermagic, and how all those pieces together and the Tempo Shell that enables a lot of these new powerful cards to be really powerful has made the format a lot less fun than it used to be. We've been in these positions before, and until the shell is directly attacked via printings or a ban, we will continue to find ourselves in these positions. Blue fair based decks have been not only continuing to reap the benefits of having the cards they have access to but have also absorbed a lot of card printings in the past few years which have really powered up their gameplay.

So What Do We Do About It?

There is the method of waiting to see what happens next, and this is a method I'm generally a fan of usually because often enough metagame forces shift back and forth enough and we can get better pictures of how things play out over time. New sets also have chances to change things as well, but I have a feeling we may see less of this outside of things like Modern Horizons sets. I personally don't think this is an avenue that needs to be approached right now because things are moving and changing much faster than they have in the past. More players are playing on clients like Magic Online and the metagame is shifting a lot faster and settling even faster than that.

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I think the only potential outcome here is to approach making some slight dents in the Tempo shell first and foremost. Of the Tempo shell, the safest option of cards to attack here is Daze. We've discussed this often enough to know that the power of Daze really really exacerbates the play/draw situation and while in the past this card was interesting and skill testing, the threats being protected with the card are so incredibly strong that it becomes more of a blowout card than a skill testing card that you are able to navigate playing around. Daze's effect on a game of Magic is such that you have to assume that your opponent has it and thus you play around it and then get punished for the fact that the opponent likely never had it in the first place. Compound this feeling with the fact that the tempo shell now has access to Force of Negation and we can see how quickly these things work against the format.

I have seen a number of other suggestions at this point, as these kinds of discussions always bring them out. The major one is a ban targeted at Delver of Secrets itself, but as we've already established here one of the best if not the best deck in the format right now is not actually a deck that has Delver of Secrets in it. There are a number of other powerful one-drop creatures now such as Ragavan and Dragon's Rage Channeler that a specific ban of just Delver would actually not do much else to the current format. If anything, it would be a minor footnote.

In addition, there are rumblings of whether or not cards like Force of Negation are healthy for the format long term. While I don't believe that we really utterly needed FoN (for Legacy that is), the splash damage of the card being created for Modern is acceptable for the power level of Legacy and it doesn't really strike me as a card that should be banned. I can't say for certain what the effects of banning this would do, but it would probably not do a whole lot.

Of course, we also have suggestions on directly hitting any number of the Cantrip Cartel, the only one of which that I feel would be interesting to see would be removing Ponder from the format. While there are plenty who would ideally wish to see Brainstorm removed from Legacy, the card is long ingrained into the very DNA of the format at this point, and the overwhelming responses seem to be that players like it that way. While the card did just get "suspended" in Historic, that is not an indication that they would be willing to remove it from Legacy. Historic is a much more fluid format than Legacy traditionally is, and if they were going to ban Brainstorm then they would have ideally done it a longer time ago (perhaps when they restricted the card in Vintage). Removing Ponder though is interesting, given the massive delta between playing it and playing Preordain.

There is the notion of banning new cards, things like Ragavan and DRC, but while these cards are strong, they have specific conditions in which they are very strong and those situations often end up being in positions where the player with them has a card like Daze to back up a Turn one play. Outside of these crucial critical turns both cards have a lot of issues, and while Ragavan does have Dash for some surprise hits in late game, that feels much easier to play around than the early turn Daze. Other cards like Urza's Saga has some ubiquity to them in that they go in a lot of different decks but even that doesn't feel so overpowered in the current format that the format can't adjust to it. It's definitely powerful but I don't think it would require a ban.

My suspicion is that Wizards will take the long route towards a change in the format however, and I don't hold out much hope for a Daze ban soon, but maybe a lot later. Legacy Challenge attendance has been relatively stable on Magic Online, which is a metric that I've been tracking since the bannings in February. Let's take a look at that now.

Saturday Challenges are a contentious thing because they sit in a very precarious time slot where if you move it either direction in a significant amount of time, you cut off a large portion of the player base. Enterprising grinders in the US can get up for this event currently but moving it any earlier would cut off those players and maybe allow for European and Asian players to fill in those spots, but the risk of doing so is very awkward. Moving the event forward allows for more US players to play but also cuts off the European and Asian players. It's likely this is the best time slot for this event, but the stable numbers here with the occasional outlier doesn't really make it sound like an issue. That being said, this is the event this past weekend that didn't fire, but there are plenty of factors behind that.

The Sunday Challenge is a weird one because that is the day that is typically replaced by Showcase Challenge events, as indicated by the upward spikes in the graph. Those higher than 150 player events are Showcase events, which often draws out a lot of players. Despite these weird spike, the general thread on the Sunday Challenge is that it is pretty steady as well. This past weekend only fired with the minimum of 64 players, but as we've noted there were a lot of things going on. As time goes on it will be interesting to see how this progresses but for right now, the attendance doesn't seem to be truly down turning to a point where it is problematic to say that events aren't functionally there on Magic Online. Things would need to take a really sharp turn for this to happen, and I don't think we're quite at that turn yet which is why as much as I would like for a change to be leveled at the format, it is more than likely there won't be one any time soon.

That being said, there's a lot to consider with the current format outside of just game play. Rental services are being overwhelmed with the various formats on Magic Online, and new staples are very expensive. This is putting a lot of pressure on people's ability to play as well in order to be able to compete. The Rental service issue is also very prevalent, as players are able to rent out just one deck or having to keep that deck on their accounts in order to play in big events while being unable to move cards around for fear of being unable to rent back out the deck they need for a larger event than a Challenge. There's a lot in flux right now and until these things calm down those are also factors of attendance as well.

All this does tell me is that we're likely in for a bumpy ride the next month or two until the next Innistrad set unless Wizards presents a change more quickly than that. I am hopeful that it could happen, but I am also realistic to consider that it probably won't. We just have to hope and wait and see.

Legacy Challenge 7/25

The Challenge that did fire this past weekend was the Sunday event, which as previously noted fired with 64 players. Unfortunately, we didn't have all the data for this event prior to the article needing to be submitted so I don't have a graph for win rates for this one. We're slowly working on the data for the overall Legacy Data Collection project at the very least.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here.

We had a good amount of data on representation at least which showed us what we alluded to above in that UR Delver is definitely the most popular deck, but Jeskai Ragavan Saga was right behind it and had an even more solid conversion to the Top 8 of the event.

Let's get right to the Top 8 of this event.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Yorion Death and Taxes 1st xJCloud
Jeskai Ragavan Saga 2nd Scavenging Booze
Hogaak 3rd BMoney3Stacks
UR Delver 4th ReformedPaolo
Madness 5th B-Baka
Jeskai Ragavan Saga 6th Travis8427
Lands 7th LittleSparrow
Planeswalker Stompy 8th MrApple65

Honestly this is a pretty cool Top 8. Lot of interesting stuff going on here and that Eighth Place list is something else. But first and foremost, congratulations are in order to a good friend in John Ryan Hamilton who took down this event on Death and Taxes.

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The Sky Noodle cometh! John has been proselytizing the glories of the hallowed Yorion in D&T for some time now, and it's awesome to see his work on the deck pull through. This list is really strong. Four Solitude is powerful in of itself, and the power level of Kaldra Compleat is really showing through in the current format. Very powerful card indeed. Congrats again to John on a stellar finish!

In Second Place we have Jeskai Ragavan Saga.

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This deck continues to blaze a trail through the Legacy format and I can't imagine what will happen if this deck becomes cheaper via the Modern Horizons 2 events returning on Magic Online. It's exceptionally strong and has a lot of angles of winning a game that I expect to see more of this deck in the future unless something changes.

Down in the middle of the Top 8 we've got MADNESS.

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This deck is truly just a ton of fun and I love seeing that it's doing well. It has a lot of cool micro decision-making sequences that are really interesting and the games with it have a lot of tension to them.

Further down we've got Lands.

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Sarkhan Vol in the sideboard here is super sick if you're making a Marit Lage token immediately and then giving it haste to swing (not just haste but +1/+1 as well for that added beats). Also really good with your Saga Construct tokens for sure.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we have something I've seen referred to as "Interplanar Beacon Stompy".

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This deck is absolutely wild, taking a lot of the best Planeswalkers of all time and tossing them into one deck and just running with it. Really incredibly interesting, and we also get to see new card Portable Hole out of the sideboard for Karn, the Great Creator to wish for.

Outside of the Top 8 we've got some Bomberman action.

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Ingenious Smith is a sweet card that not only works with what Bomberman is aiming to do is hunt down pieces of its combo but also functions in the confines of the Gyruda, Doom of Depths Companion restriction. While I'm still a little sad at the loss of the Gyruda clone deck, I'm happy the card found a place in the format after all.

At the bottom of the Top 32 we've got a neat Grixis Control list.

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Monke getting around to various color combinations, and I can see how this works very well with the Grixis cards by giving you the ability to cast cards like Kolaghan's Command and Hymn to Tourach above curve, and enabling some turns of Snapcaster Mage into either of those cards. Mostly surprised not to see Murktide Regent as a Delve threat to close out games, but I think that it's probably fine.

Around the Web

  • 90sMTG has some Mentor vs Goblins action going on. Check it out here.
  • Great video on building Maverick in 2021. Check it out here.
  • Alex McKinley talks about his run in the Showcase Challenge. Check it out here.
  • Our good friend Brian Coval posted a video on Madness! Check it out here.
  • If you paid some attention to the MTGGoldfish main channel, I was on another Top 10 video with Seth! Check out the Top 10 Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards for Legacy here.
  • Cloudpost Show and Tell. That's the Tweet.

The Spice Corner

A more Control heavy version of Merfolk, featuring Standstill is our first spice this week!

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Dreadnought no Stifle, Dress Down is all the rage right now!

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Painter Combo with new card Oswald Fiddlebender!!

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Esper Control is always pretty cool to see, so check that one out.

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Death's Shadow and Grist, the Hunger Tide?! Seems sweet.

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And finally, TonyScapone asks the question: What's better than four Lion's Eye Diamond? Four of those and four Diamond Lion of course!

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What I'm Playing This Week

I've been on the Madness train as of late. Deck is really super fun to play!

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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 /r/MTGLegacy Discord Server and subreddit.

Until next time!

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