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This Week in Legacy: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Legacy


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of This Week in Legacy! This week we are continuing a subset of topics from last week, namely talk about Oko, Thief of Crowns but also addressing some feedback and discussion prompted by last week's article. I'm also going to address some minor concerns over Kaldheim cards, namely Valki, God of Lies and the Cascade mechanic. In addition to that we had two Challenges this past weekend to discuss with our first two events with Kaldheim in the mix, and of course our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Lot of Legacy to Talk About

Last week's article prompted a fair amount of discussion on cards beyond just the card I addressed in last week's article (Oko) that I felt the need to continue the discussion and further address some topics. So let's start by talking about a bit of feedback on last week's article.

The Main Takeaway was about "Fun"

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I realized last week I didn't quite wrap up my argument properly on the potential banning of Oko, and the big takeaway that some people pulled from this was that I wanted Oko to be banned because it was not "fun" and that I was somehow ignoring the data I have been collecting for some time. 

Currently as it stands RUG Delver is the most populous deck in the Legacy format at close to 14% of the Challenge metagame attendance since December 6th, 2020 (when we first started collecting data). The current win rate of the deck is approximated at around 52%-53%, which has been classically determined as a typical win rate for what is considered the "best deck" in a format. (See the Energy Ban article for this info from Wizards). As it stands, based on sheer Win Rate alone the data says there's nothing wrong with RUG Delver's current existence in the Legacy format. But Win Rate alone does not completely determine if a deck is fine. Combining the Win Rate with the sheer metagame presence of this deck is problematic by itself. Also, these Win Rates tend to approach 50% more in metagames where mirrors are more present because a format of mirrors is going to be just that, 50% because at least one person has to win or lose. RUG Delver is more populous in the Challenges, meaning that they are more likely to play mirror matches. We do account for this in the data by also calculating approximately how many mirror matches as well as the Win Rate without mirrors, but the fact of the matter is both of these factors combined present a more interesting perception of this deck.

I think Oko falls into a scenario where there is a perfect storm of things going against the card. It's not just its presence in RUG Delver, but its presence in other decks in the format, and the overall effect the card has on the rest of the format. I don't believe that this card's effect can be distilled properly to one thing because of this, especially given how it interacts with other cards it commonly sees play alongside.

My take on banning Oko boils down to the fact that getting rid of it puts an indent into multiple strategies, not only depowering the top of the format deck in RUG Delver, but also hits Snow and other Snow variant decks at the same time, as well as also hitting other strategies that have adopted Oko. This helps preserve a balance to an extent. That being said... let's talk about other cards.

But What About Other Cards?!

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I also realized in some of the feedback that inevitably people were going to want to know what the stance was on other cards, and I should probably address those situations. The first and foremost biggest one to address is Dreadhorde Arcanist. I know that our good friends at Eternal Glory Podcast are on record saying that their proposed changes would be to ban both Oko and Arcanist. Arcanist's power level in Legacy is quite high, and it definitely is a card that could potentially benefit from the banning of Oko. One of the biggest pieces of feedback on this that I saw was a fear that the metagame would devolve into Arcanist vs Chalice decks, and this is certainly something to consider. However, I feel like that taking a smaller baby step in just getting rid of Oko and seeing what would actually happen would make more sense than removing both cards at once. If the metagame does shift into that sort of metagame, then Arcanist could be removed, but I feel like just getting rid of Oko would do a big deal to getting people to poke at the format again and want to play it.

That isn't to say that Arcanist isn't powerful, it really is. But I don't think it is quite bannable just yet. I'd really like to see the format without Oko first before making this determination.

The other elephant in the room here is Arcum's Astrolabe. It seems like every one of these discussions comes with several comments of how Astrolabe should be banned before anything else. One of the most common arguments here is that Astrolabe makes Wasteland "unplayable" in the Legacy format, that there's no downside to decks running four - five colors and lots of basic lands. However, the biggest thing to note is that the deck we continue coming back to in RUG Delver is a four Wasteland deck. If Snow is so overpowering that it makes Wasteland bad, why then is RUG Delver continuing to play the card? For the most part, it's in part due to the fact that Wasteland is good against a whole mess of other decks outside of Snow, and even prior to Arcum's Astrolabe's existence, the Miracles Midrange/Control piles were already pretty good versus the card anyway. Snow is a different variant on that formula but still remains and occupies the same role within the format there.

Astrolabe does have its own subtle influences on the format. Yes, it does allow decks to play spells off-color, but the deck has to take a turn off casting a mana fixing artifact to do so. Yes, Astrolabe does make fetch sequencing a little easier because you don't have to be as stringent on ensuring your colors line up with Astrolabe. There are lots of arguments to be made in regards to removing Astrolabe from the format at some point in the future.

However, removing this card prior to removing Oko would have a negative effect on balance of the format. Oko's playability still exists within the RUG Delver shells, and the removal of Astrolabe from the format potentially removes a competing archetype from the format that was keeping up with it. One of the primary arguments I see about this card stems from the card's synergy with Oko, and while Oko certainly does have synergy with Astrolabe, the current better Oko deck is a deck that doesn't play Astrolabe. I don't believe that it is correct to ban Astrolabe without banning Oko (and if they happen to be banned at the same time, I definitely wouldn't be upset about the outcome of that) as the metagame balance could shift even further and place RUG Delver in a position where it's dominance is too great and then something would have to be banned anyways. Removing Oko also removes the synergy aspect while also depowering another deck in the format at the same time.

The third one often mixed into these discussions is Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Uro comes up a lot because of the card's omnipresence in a lot of the Snow shells, and the card certainly has a lot of power to it. There's been some discussion over the fact that Uro represents a bit of an acceleration of the blue arms race, and that might be true to an extent. I do expect that an Uro ban would make the Snow shell certainly weaker without a recurrable powerhouse to fuel the deck. I also would expect that an Astrolabe ban would actually not do much to Uro as a card. Many have posited that Uro would be more difficult to cast due to constraints of Wasteland without Astrolabe's existence, but I don't think that is actually true. Uro would be just as playable without Astrolabe, as has been quite proven in Modern thus far. Sure, Legacy has Wasteland and there is a possibility of cutting that off at the pass, but I don't know that it would actually be the savior people think it would be. I expect that because of fetch lands and duals that it would be still trivial to cast an Uro and escape an Uro. Does this mean Uro should be banned? I don't think so yet. I think the card is on par with a power level of other things in the format, and an Oko ban first would open access to hate bear effects that could not exist to counteract Uro in the current metagame for fear of getting Elk'ed. In addition, it also is worth determining how worth playing green is without Oko (and it still is possibly fine) but would also maybe give some credence to other color combinations and threats.

In addition, people are often discussing the card Veil of Summer and while that didn't explicitly come up in feedback, I do think that the card is likely just fine in Legacy right now as it stands. I don't think it is actually breaking the format, and the mantra that discard is unplayable with it in the format isn't quite all there I feel.

Where Do We Go From Here?

From here, we have to consider a lot of options and hope that Wizards can make a course correction that involves something, I just hope that we can establish the proper course correction.

Taking Our Ball and Going Home - Why Community Ban Lists are Bad

Inevitably bringing up ban discussion in the past few weeks has brought up the notion yet again that the Legacy community should somehow take matters into their own hands and move to managing the ban list for the format on their own. I wanted to address this notion this week, because this idea is not a very good one, and would likely kill Legacy in its entirety much faster than any other potential issue in the future.

The idea behind this is that Legacy could in effect, take their ball and go home. The community would run the ban list, and all of Legacy's problems would be magically solved, but in all honesty that is farther from the truth. Often comparisons are made to the Commander Rules Committee and the Old School community. This all stems from a sense of unhappiness and displeasure that it feels like Wizards of the Coast is either intentionally ignoring Legacy's problems or is somehow ignorant of them.

One of the biggest issues with this idea is the concept of logistics. It's easy enough to say "We get together people to represent the community and they choose the ban list" but it's another to actually consider the logistics of that decision. Who do you involve in such a group? Who do you trust? Do you trust the group to handle things on a democratic basis and keep things impartial? Legacy players are very passionate about the format for sure, but that doesn't always translate into an understanding of managing something like a ban list. In addition to selecting people to be on this committee, you'd also have to guarantee that their decisions are rooted in some form of data, data which this organization likely does would not have access to, primarily in the form of League data. While I manage a project that gives Challenge data to the community, that's just a small piece of the overall puzzle. You'd need more complete data to make accurate decisions, and that is data that isn't being shared by Wizards.

Furthermore, with the current vast majority of Legacy play happening on Magic Online, having something like this would not magically give this new organization the ability to change the banned list on there. This is something Wizards manages. In addition to that, it is highly unlikely that a relationship could be established by such a group with Wizards to make those kinds of changes, simply because of the fact that the community is again "taking their ball and going home". Wizards would simply not be very receptive to that kind of thing in the long run.

One of the reasons that this works with Commander is that a number of the Commander RC folks actually work for Wizards and that the format started from the ground up with this group. Furthermore, this group has a method of applying rules where play groups can decide to ignore individual rules or bannings via the "Rule 0" method, allowing players to decide on their own what they want out of the format. This would not functionally work with Legacy the way the format exists, it would need an actual structured ban list that would have to be followed and that's not possible outside of the official ban lists.

The other comparison being made is to the Old School community. I have many friends in the OS community, and the reason those groups are able to manage what their format looks like is that their format will essentially never change in regards to new cards being printed for it. There are multiple groups with multiple variants of rules and ban lists within the OS community because they are designed to give the format a bit of a different spin and set of creative restrictions. The OS community doesn't need to keep up on new sets being printed, nor do they need to worry about cards entering the format. This makes everything incredibly easier to manage. Legacy on the other hand, has to deal with these things. We have new sets that are impacting the format at a greater rate than beforehand. A community-based banlist would have to take this into account and that means keeping up with every set release. It also sort of helps the OS community that none of the format can be played on Magic Online due to specialized rules like Mana Burn and the like.

Furthemore, custom formats like Pre-Innistrad Legacy and Pre-WAR Legacy are fun things to do, but they don't accurately replace Legacy since they are also closed formats and eventually can end up stagnating. Not saying these formats aren't fun to play, because they definitely have their niche and that is great, but they're not replacements for current Legacy play.

The end result of any decision like this is a fracturing of the Legacy community overall in the long run. What this would inevitably do would be to further the death of the format by splitting the players into multiple sub groups of those who want to play a custom Legacy and those who want to play Legacy. As I mentioned before, most of Legacy players are incredibly passionate about the format. That format means Legacy. No matter what its flaws, passionate Legacy players and content creators are still hard at work trying to make the format a better one because they actively care about it. Fracturing that would be painful and not helpful.

Now, I get having the feeling that Wizards is not paying attention to Legacy, so I'd like to address that. I do not believe that there is any sort of willful ignorance or even maliciousness versus Legacy from Wizards of the Coast. However, it would be nice to know that they are keeping an eye on the format in some fashion, either just a blurb or something like that. We got a hint of that when Arcum's Astrolabe was banned in Modern, and the handful of bannings in 2020 (Breach, Companions) I do believe shows that Wizards is paying attention to Legacy. It's also worth noting that 2020 was a fairly tumultuous year for Legacy with multiple periods of time where the metagame was completely shook up and bannings had to occur, or rules changes to mechanics. Since the change to Companions, it's only really been about six - seven months without any changes to the format outside of set releases. I suspect as always that Wizards tries to prefer to let Legacy course-correct on its own over a longer stretch of time (with the exception of truly notable broken scenarios which they have shown they are willing to step in and correct). Now, is this too long? I think perhaps so, but we also don't have all the full info and data that Wizards does, and maybe there was some shimmer of potential hope that Legacy could glean something from Kaldheim to shift the metagame.

Regardless, it is understandable to have feelings of neglect and the like. But I don't think taking our ball and going home is the right answer to that. The answer is to continue reaching out and providing feedback to Wizards on what should be addressed.

Kaldheim and Cascade

Another thing that came up this weekend in some of the feedback threads is some light concern over the usage of the Cascade mechanic in relation to the card Valki, God of Lies.

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(seriously though, that Showcase art)

There's been some concern about how this interacts with Cascade, due to the fact that you can Cascade into Valki and then choose to cast Tibalt. Some have decried this as a mistake, that this is just like the split card situation and that a rules change should be issued.

I don't believe that this should happen personally, but I wanted to address it nonetheless. I think the comparison to the situation with split cards is awkward because split cards under the old rules had some really awkward use cases associated with it. For example, under the old rules for this if you flipped a Wear // Tear off Counterbalance it could be used to counter either a one or two CMC spell, but if you flipped it with Dark Confidant then you would lose three life because it would see it as a three CMC card. In addition, the old rules allowed imprinting of cards onto things like Isochron Scepter and the usage of Brain in a Jar to cast these cards. The use cases of these things didn't line up well always, and they were not very intuitive to players to explain to them why exactly they worked this way. The rules change that was made was to bring things in line to be more intuitive the way that players would expect them to work.

Modal DFCs, especially those that are newer with different card types on the back, are new territory and ground rules can be established from the ground up on them. These cards currently operate within the rules, so I don't see any real issue with them at this point in time. Cascade has an element of randomness to it, no matter how well you build your deck to take advantage of it. The Snow variant decks running this card with Shardless Agent can't forgo Brainstorm or even Arcum's Astrolabe, as well as potential removal spells like Abrupt Decay or Swords to Plowshares so there's always that potential you hit one of those cards instead of a Valki.

I don't expect that there will be a rules change to this either. You can technically currently cascade into an Adventure card with Cascade (say Brazen Borrower off Bloodbraid Elf if you so desire) and then choose to cast Petty Theft instead of the creature.

If anything, if this really presents itself to be a problem, then Wizards will simply ban an offending card (in this case Valki) rather than change how the mechanic interacts with Cascade.

Legacy Challenge 1/30

We had two Challenge events this weekend, and our first was our early Saturday morning Challenge event. This event had 57 players, which is a bit low for the Saturday event. While it's possible that it's an indication of something with the format, I feel it's more than likely due to the fact that there are a lot of bugs going around Magic Online this weekend, ones that would not be fixed until this coming week. The biggest of these is a bug with Uro where Uro losing abilities doesn't cause it to lose its attack trigger, so... Oko Elk'ing Uro doesn't fully shut it off. Awkward all around for sure.

I have started more tracking on Challenge attendance so hopefully we'll see what happens with that! Maybe we'll get lucky and there will be a BnR announcement after all. Let's take a look at the charts.

This weekend saw the rise of people trying some new cards from Kaldheim, namely the aforementioned and discussed Valki, God of Lies Cascade Snow variant with Shardless Agent. Currently we have this classified as "Other Control" because it is new, but if it really picks up then we will likely give it a deck name of its own. Currently we're calling it BUG Shardless Valki. There was not much RUG Delver in this event, four players out of 57 which is rather low. I suspect a lot of the bugs really kept people off this event for sure.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Omni-Tell 1st MaxMagicer
Bomberman 2nd kanican
Yorion Zenith 3rd Masumaro
Sneak and Show 4th JPA93
Hullbreacher Snowko 5th AnziD
Yorion Snowko 6th altniccolo
Hullbreacher Snowko 7th Ozymandias17
Hogaak 8th jundilion

A lot of Snow in this Top 8, between the fact that Zenith is a Snow shell and the other three Snow decks. In addition, the rest of the Top 8 was just combo or in the case of Hogaak aggro/combo. This is certainly an interesting mix, but also fairly samey with all the Snow. The Hullbreacher Snow deck has certainly come into its own however and is slowly becoming the defacto Snow deck it seems.

The event ended up being won by Omni-Tell!

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This is more all in than the Simic Omni variants that often play cards like Ice-Fang Coatl and Uro as a backup plan to the Omni game plan. Instead of that, this deck is playing more disruptive elements like Veil of Summer and some CA cards like Sylvan Library. Very strong list for sure.

The Second Place finalist was kanican on Gyruda Bomberman.

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Starnheim Unleashed!!! I have to wonder how good this card was in this deck but it seems pretty hilarious to just Foretell it off Ancient Tomb and then cast it later if you need it. It's also even CMC so it fits with Gyruda as the Companion still. Really wild stuff.

Down into the Top 8 we have Yorion Zenith, which is a Snow shell utilizing Green Sun's Zenith. This list saw new card Sarulf, Realm Eater!

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Sarulf really does seem interesting. I'm really curious how well it played in this list. The Yorion variants of this list are pretty neat though as you get to play more cards like Questing Beast and Ramunap Excavator. Really fun list for sure.

Outside of the Top 8 we got our first look at Valki, God of Lies with Samu_27's BUG Shardless Valki list.

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The Valki deck is mainly a Snow BUG shell with Shardless Agent and Valki on top of it. The red splash not only enables a potential late-game Tibalt hard cast but also enables some of the sideboard material like the blast effects. Time remains to see whether this deck is very good, but this same pilot went on to Top 8 the Sunday Challenge, so I'm expecting fun things to come out of this deck.

Also down in the Top 32 we had a showing by Jeskai Spirits!

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This deck is sweeeeeet. Getting to see cards like The Royal Scions in Legacy is superb. The sideboard also seems to be really well plotted out too. I'm certainly impressed!

Legacy Challenge 1/31

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was the mid-afternoon Sunday event, and it had 99 players. Again, this was a little lower than normal (this event is typically over 100) but again the bugs could have really chased away some players, not to mention other big events like a PTQ event for MTGO grinders to play in was also on Sunday (for a different format, not Legacy).

Let's take a look at the charts.

RUG Delver certainly came back around for this event, with 14 copies overall out of 99 players. In addition, the Hullbreacher Snow deck continues to just be very powerful, but also the Valki deck continued to do well too.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
RUG Delver 1st Kazuga
Goblins 2nd Surfinbird19
Lands 3rd LittleSparrow
Hullbreacher Snowko 4th Ozymandias17
Hullbreacher Snowko 5th AnziD
Yorion Zenith 6th kauffj
BUG Shardless Valki 7th Samu_27
RUG Delver 8th Martin_Dominguez

Fair amount of Snow based decks again (in three different variations) as well some RUG Delver, but also GOBLINS! At the end of the event it was the little green men vs the RUG Delver menace, but unfortunately the RUG Delver menace did win the event.

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This is pretty close to the Gul_Dukat lists that did well in the past few weeks, leaning on Hooting Mandrills as the green creature threat. There's not much that can be said about this deck right now, the flex spots are pretty notable and people have some slightly different approaches here or there, but it's definitely most set in stone.

As noted though, the Second Place finalist was Goblins!

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Goblins!!! I enjoy this deck quite a bit, as it is super duper fun to play. It definitely has a fun learning curve associated with it, and that makes it interesting to me. This list is pretty great too.

Further down the Top 8 we have the Hullbreacher Snowko deck piloted by Ozymandias17 (Matt Vook). It's worth noting that Matt Top 8'ed both events this weekend, so super great run for him!

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It's interesting that Matt's list is on zero copies of Day's Undoing (and I'm sure he has a good reason for that). The full four Dreadhorde Arcanist is certainly a thing though. All the powerful cards in one spot in this deck. Hullbreacher here is pure value town because of how good it is against other blue decks.

Also in the Top 8 we have Samu_27 again with a Valki deck, but a slightly different one than the one from Saturday.

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Four Hymn to Tourach is really a statement. I'm not sure how I feel abou that, but if I could see the card anywhere in current Legacy, a Shardless Agent list would be a list for it. It's also worth noting this is more traditional Shardless BUG. There's no snow here, no Astrolabe, etc.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by Death and Taxes with a main deck copy of Reidane, God of the Worthy.

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I'm not sure if Reidane is the answer this deck is looking for, so I'm really curious as to how it played out.

Around the Web

  • If you're looking to play the best of the best in Legacy, look no further than BlueStew.net, the new website generator for all your Blue Stew needs!
  • Conversely, if you're looking to play the best of the best of Standard's past, check out NicFitBrew.net!
  • Everyday Eternal had a new episode recently! Be sure to check it out here.
  • Eternal Glory Podcast also had a great episode on their own stance on bannings, which you can check out here.
  • Rich Cali had an awesome article on Force of Will heuristics for a more modern Legacy format. Check that out here.
  • Phil Gallagher posted a super sweet video on playing Legacy games while commentating in Latin. This is certainly one of the most unique pieces of content I've seen in some time. Also I was in it briefly playing against Phil! Check out the video here.

The Spice Corner

Mono Black Reanimator is always super sweet.

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Jeskai Mentor + KARN!

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Simic Delver featuring Ethereal Forager and Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse.

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THE RAZE-BOAR COMETH!

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What I'm Playing This Week

I'm on the Karn Echo gig this week. Super fun deck!

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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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