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This Week in Legacy: July Wrap-Up, Legacy Festival and More!


Hello everyone! This week I’ll take a break from introducing pillars of the format to an analysis of how the metagame has progressed over July, both in Paper and Online. New Legacy players beware! Some of the stuff here might be a bit foreign, but I’ll try to make it as easy to follow.

July Statistics

Here’s the charts for the Online and Paper metagames. The Paper chart outlines which lists Top 8'ed in tournaments across the globe, while the Online chart primarily notes 5-0 League lists and also high-placing lists in Legacy Challenges and the Legacy Festival.

You can find the chart with the statistics combined here.

Unsurprisingly, the data shows what many Legacy players expect—Miracles as the top dog, with quite a fair share of both the Online and Paper metagames. Grixis Delver and Eldrazi Stompy follow after. Interestingly, Eldrazi Stompy, once the breakout deck expected to take Miracles down a peg, has now started to splutter in terms of dominance, likely due to many people adapting to the deck via brutal mana-hate and difficult permanents such as Moat—all of which can be played by Miracles. Nonetheless, Eldrazi has been adapting and changing within the month too. Grixis Delver has continued to be the most dominant Delver deck with none of the other variants coming close. Typical stalwart BUG Delver has fallen from its usual high position, and RUG Delver has lost its luster as well. The only Delver variant that has come close to Grixis’ place is UR Delver, which is more of a blue Burn deck if anything. Previous pillar, Shardless BUG, has also fallen to low numbers, while ANT has remained relevant, at least in the Paper metagame.

A few newer decks have popped up, particularly Online. These decks can be credited to their accessibility and price point, but also represent reasonably robust and powerful strategies. Most notable of these decks is the Turbo Depths variants that offer disruption and tutors to clear the way for an indestructible 20/20. Reanimator has also seen a strong resurgence Online, though primarily due to the success of the black-red lists that I had a brief look at last week. Eschewing blue, perhaps due to cost considerations, but increasing the deck’s speed via more fast mana makes this deck a very powerful force to be reckoned with.

There’s also the data from the Legacy Festival Championship that happened on Magic Online recently that we should look at, which reflects a very different metagame than what this Miracles-filled world appears to be.

A Look at the Legacy Festival Championship

The Legacy Festival Championship occurred this month, which was an invitation-only tournament for those who 5-0'ed Leagues or placed well in the previous Legacy Challenge. The payout for this event was exceptionally high, featuring full sets of Eternal Masters, Vintage Masters, Modern Masters, and Modern Masters 2015. The players in this event were no slouches, and there were 124 who participated. Let’s look at a breakdown of this event, courtesy of redditor /u/dappermuis:

Eldrazi was the most dominant deck in this Top 32, followed by Grixis Delver, which won the tournament. Miracles ended up being tied for third (with Turbo Depths) in terms of Top 32 finishes. But probably more notable is the large amount of variety within the deck archetypes featured, showing difference to the often-complained homogeneity of the current Legacy metagame. Although decks such as Death & Taxes and Lands were absent (due to how the price of Rishadan Port skews the Online metagame), more recent innovations such as Turbo Depths, black-red Reanimator (along with traditional blue-black), and Manaless Dredge made appearances. Furthermore, an interesting Nic Fit list also found its way into the Top 32!

Turbo Depths is a very interesting deck. Unlike Lands, that uses Marit Lage as simply one of its many avenues to victory, Turbo Depths aims to abuse both Thespian's Stage and Vampire Hexmage to assemble Marit Lage very quickly thanks to a variety of tutors (eg. Crop Rotation, Expedition Map, Sylvan Scrying, Into the North), and acceleration (Lotus Petal, Elvish Spirit Guide, Mox Diamond). Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is also a significant piece of the puzzle, allowing the deck to create a turn two Marit Lage via making Dark Depths tap for a black mana for Vampire Hexmage.

Within this shell, however, are a variety of variations from a variety of places on the speed spectrum—from straight black-green versions, to the BUG versions opted by Festival Top 8'er Negator77. This BUG list is medium in terms of how fast it wants to make Marit Lage

Negator77’s list uses Brainstorm to maximize consistency (and give defense post-board with Flusterstorm), discard to clear the way, and Abrupt Decay to fight against any problem permanents. However, cantrips do reduce the deck’s speed somewhat.

Compare this list to the other Turbo Depths list in the Festival, piloted by bgg88, who puts the pedal to the floor:

This list features more acceleration, faster tutors, no Brainstorm, and a bit more defense in the form of Duress, Thoughtseize, Pithing Needle, and the very special Marit Lage counterspell, Not of This World

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The third list by WorstBandName shows another direction to take the Marit Lage shell. A nice, slow, grindy direction.

Going to the other extreme, this list seems much more about grinding out the opponent with the typical midrange shell of Bob, Deathrite, Hymn to Tourach, and Abrupt DecayDark Depths is a fast kill once the opponent's resources are depleted. I think this strategy is an excellent way to play non-blue midrange decks, as they remedy an age-old problem they’ve had against combo—losing to top decks. It’s also notable that in addition to the utility lands seen in the other versions (Sejiri Steppe, Bojuka Bog and Wasteland), this list also includes lands seen in… well, Lands (the deck), such as Maze of Ith and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.

Although Turbo Depths lists have existed for some time now (they’re actually an homage to the old HexmageDepths combo decks of Extended), it’s interesting to see how players are continually innovating. 

The other lists I’d like to highlight were the two graveyard-based decks:

I mentioned the strength of Manaless Dredge, thanks to Prized Amalgam a few weeks ago. It’s nice to see the deck has indeed found success, despite people nay-saying the deck as a bit of a gimmick. Oddseidank has opted for a very clean main deck, moving the blue package all to the sideboard and opted for Chancellor of the Annex as his flex slots. He also chose Balustrade Spy as his deck-flipping Dread Return target, which is complemented by a Progenitus in the sideboard. Can you imagine someone casting Show and Tell, you putting in Spy, and then decking yourself next turn? Progenitus stops that. Or perhaps they Surgical Extraction your Flayer of the Hatebound and you can no longer combo-win there and then . . . Progenitus again has your back. Also, it pitches to Force of Will!

Black-red Reanimator has seen a huge proliferation of success on Magic Online. Although this showing may be dictated by budget reasons (no blue duals required!), I also think the deck is very explosive and has a lot of avenues to victory. Although turn one Griselbrands are certainly a possibility, playing into the late game and hard-casting Sire of Insanity or Griselbrand are actual possibilities.

Notable in SknerusMcKwacz’s list is that he did find room for a Volcanic Island in his main deck and aimed to beat hate such as Rest in Peace via a proactive plan of Show and Tell, powered out on turn one via sideboarded City of Traitors!

I’ve also been toying with black-red Reanimator myself. I have probably too much of a fondness for Burning Wish and Tin Fins, which abuses Children of Korlis to draw ones whole deck with Griselbrand . . . And I also wanted to see how powerful Collective Brutality was. So I came to this pile, which has been a blast to play:

Eschewing speed for a Burning Wish package is something I like, as moving into the late game with this deck feels quite powerful, as a lot of options open up. Burning Wish also becomes your combo piece when using Children of Korlis to draw most of your deck, finding you the Tendrils of Agony needed. It definitely needs some fine tuning, but has been very interesting nonetheless.

We Are Living in a Miracle World (and I Am a Miracle Girl)

So what do the statistics show? Nothing that hasn’t been a continuous trend from previous months. Miracles has remained the top contender, despite Eldrazi looking like it had pushed the deck’s dominance downwards a few months ago. However, Miracles made only moderate appearances in the large tournaments that happened around the globe, similar to what was seen with the Legacy Festival Championship, and the first place of many tournaments was taken down by Grixis Delver. Miracles is probably the best deck in the format right now. I think that is reasonably well-proven, and perhaps if the format shows further signs of stagnation bannings need to occur. I think currently bannings would be hasty, as further adaptation and innovation can be used to attack the deck, and more concrete statistics (which are kind of difficult to obtain in a format as sporadic as Legacy) showing the deck’s dominance are needed.

Although bannings could occur sometime in the future, I also question what would need to be banned. Sensei's Divining Top is usually seen as the main culprit, but this move would have too much splash damage on non-blue decks that truly appreciate this kind of card filtration, such as Imperial Painter. Terminus seems like a silly card to ban. It may be a one-mana Wrath of God, but it can be difficult to setup and is a completely useless card against many combo decks such as ANT. Rather, I’d like to see Counterbalance as the card banned, if required.

This causes the hard control shell of Miracles to still exist, but it now suffers against combo, and also gives leeway for Delver decks to not be completely locked out by the deck, perhaps making decks such as RUG Delver more feasible. The deck now has to opt for some concessions in certain matchups during deck building, rather than being able to cover its bases against combo, while also having an incredibly powerful fair plan by having a combination of both Terminus and Counterbalance. However, CounterTop has existed for quite some time in the Legacy format, and although Miracles has found itself as the premier CounterTop deck, it has never been deemed (by Wizards) too oppressive in the past. Banning Counterbalance may also lead to a huge power boost to Storm, making it a bit too overpowered, as well as flush the metagame full of goodstuff midrange Stoneblade decks to replace Miracles—giving the death knell to a pure control deck in Legacy, which is certainly a nice asset to have.

Another thing to look at is unbannings in order to mix up the metagame that many people feel is stagnating. Is Goblin Recruiter a card to look at? Earthcraft? Mind Twist? These are all interesting considerations. Perhaps Goblin Recruiter will reinvigorate an archetype that has a strong Miracles matchup—or perhaps it will go the same way that Worldgorger Dragon did. If anything, Wizards should be looking at these options, giving us new tools to attack the Miracles metagame, before bannings. That is, of course, if they consider the Legacy metagame stagnant at all.

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Other things I have mentioned are finding new ways to fight the deck. The Brainstorm Show had an excellent recent episode outlining their Miracles-Slaying Delver deck, featuring a lean suite of one drop creatures, Abrupt Decays, and some powerful trumps like Painful Truths and Winter Orb in the sideboard. And they certainly put their money where their mouth is, with one of the hosts Paul Michael taking the deck to a strong finish in SCG Baltimore’s Legacy classic!

Not to mention the deck also found a place in AZMagic.com’s Tempe City Championship, which you can find here.

This deck aims to stick all the needles into the Miracles gameplan. Shrouded threats such as Nimble Mongoose are a hard threat to deal with for Miracles, demanding a Terminus. Vendilion Clique also does a lot of work at negating Terminus and being generally disruptive. Although the deck is flush with one-drop creatures which look like they’d struggle against Counterbalance, the deck of course runs Abrupt Decay to clear that enhantment away cleanly. Stifle also makes an appearance to counter Terminus easily too.

Another way to approach this problem is to run a Delver deck like that of silviawataru, who not only included Abrupt Decay, but also main decked haymakers like Sylvan Library and Painful Truths.

These are just some ways to adapt ones deck against Miracles, and although they may seem narrow and much too focussed (over-metagamed, perhaps), they’ve proven themselves to be powerful enough in open metagames now too.

Eldrazi Have a New Best Friend

Eldrazi have also continued to find new places in the metagame. Last week I looked a blue-white list, this week a mono-white one has found its way into 5-0'ing a League:

Although previously these lists only found room for Thalia and Displacer, Stoneforge has now found a place in the deck too, along with the typical equipment package. This move definitely adds some powerful weapons in the mirror, where Batterskull can be hard to deal with, while also giving the deck access to a very powerful card even if land-locked under Blood Moon or Back to Basics. She also synergises very well with Displacer!

Rather than adding white to Eldrazi . . . What if you added Eldrazi to mono-white?

Partially a reaction to the insane price of Rishadan Ports Online, but also an incredible innovation, CLYDE THE GLIDE DREXLER finished in the Top 32 of the Legacy Festival with Eldrazi & Taxes. Ports are now replaced by Eldrazi Temples that can power out Displacer and Thought-Knot Seer. Although the mana denial elements of the deck are reduced, the deck gains a lot of sheer power, as well as easy access to Displacer’s trickery. Definitely an interesting way to take the typical Death & Taxes shell.

The last place I expected to see Thought-Knot Seer and Stoneforge Mystic was in a blue-white Stoneblade deck:

Although red and black splashes have been well known in Stoneblade, who knew that a colourless splash, featuring Thought-Knot cast the fair way would be feasible? But so it is, thanks to the full set of Mishra's Factory, a Mutavault, and an Academy Ruins.

Conclusion

Hopefully you enjoyed this edition of This Week in Legacy. At the end of each month I’ll continue to aim to do something similar, lay out the month’s statistics and then give a bit of a commentary on where the metagame seems to be going. Next week we’ll be back on track divulging the pillars of the format!

Sean Brown

Email: sean_brown156@hotmail.com
Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

What I’m Playing This Week

This week, I just want to Blood Moon people into a barrel. With Hanweir Garrison a new addition to the format, there is a nice new threat to accompany Goblin Rabblemaster with a mana cost of 2R. Add in some Imperial Recruiters for a bit of a tool box and here’s the Dragon Stompy list I’ll be fighting with for some high-variance action:

 

The Spice Corner

Nic Fit is perhaps a deck we’ll thoroughly investigate in the weeks ahead, but this week it made a strong appearance in the Legacy Festival. Although Nic Fit encompasses a family of decks, at its core it is a deck centered on Veteran Explorer and Cabal Therapy to accelerate its mana production, and then use Green Sun's Zenith to turbo out some fat and difficult to deal with dude. This list, however, opts to have another way to kill, which many Modern players should be familiar with. Dubbed colloquially as ScapeWish, welcome to the Legacy Scapeshift deck:


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