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This Week in Legacy: Mean and Green

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 another historical aspect of the Legacy format and talking about the overall evolution of Green in the format and how that relates to card advantage as a bit of a follow up to our discussion on Cantrips from last week. In addition to that, we've got some spoilers to discuss from both Modern Horizons 2 and from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, as well as a look at our Challenge events from this past weekend.

Without further ado, let's dive right into it!

It Ain't Easy Being Green

Last week we had a solid piece on the evolution of cantrips in the Legacy format and how our deckbuilding considerations have changed over time. The suggestion I got on Reddit was to talk about another color in the color pie and that is how the color Green has shaped up over the years into the card advantage engines that it now has access to.

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One of the earliest and most powerful pieces of card advantage in Green came in the form of the card Sylvan Library. Not only is this card one of the oldest of this kind of advantage, but it's definitely still a card that sees play today, as its power level is very apparent especially when used in conjunction with incidental life gain cards (paired with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, another piece of Green/X card advantage).

The power of Sylvan Library is not quite in the fact that it allows you to set up your draws, but when you start actually keeping cards with it. The life hit is strong, but the advantage given by this card of being able to draw through your deck a little more than normal is very very strong.

Another card much in the same vein that came a little later in green "card advantage" is Mirri's Guile.

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The advantage provided by this card is more virtual than anything else, as you're mainly given an opportunity to set up your draws with it. Obviously, this works great with fetch lands, since if you don't like the top three and have a fetch you can fetch after the trigger has resolved. This is strong, but not quite on the level of Sylvan Library. In fact, a good majority of the Green card advantage didn't really exist during this time, and most of it was depowered quite a bit during this time. The fact that Sylvan Library has persisted for so long really shows the true power level of such a card.

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Crop Rotation is sort of an option here, but it definitely took a long time for this card to prove itself when lands that really were worth getting into play came around. The biggest boost to that was the printing of cards like Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage and the changes to the Legendary rules. Combined with other utility lands,  this is one of the Legacy format's older virtual card advantage cards that took so very long to actually be fully realized, despite being printed back in Urza's Legacy.

Despite this, many things were tried by Design during this time to address how Green would handle card selection, such as the card Abundance, which was another card that attempted to provide Green some form of card selection, but ultimately was too overcosted to actually see play in the Legacy format.

Many of Green's basis of card advantage was predicated on Lands or specific qualifiers of creatures, and Kamigawa block brought a unique aspect to this type of effect, by basing its card draw on casting creatures with the card Glimpse of Nature.

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Glimpse represents a real shift in the idea of utilizing green as a card advantage engine, and it was powerful enough with Elves to become one of the best CA engines in the entire format. Down the line, the printing of Green Sun's Zenith in Mirrodin Besieged pushed this shift towards more Green advantage even further.

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GSZ is again, a very specific qualifier of advantage, but its big property is the fact that it shuffles itself back in upon resolution. This allows for a much more fluid advantage over the course of the game as the card can be used as both early game utility and late game win condition, something we see in decks like Elves.

As we move into the more Modernized era of the world of Magic however, we start to look at cards that have really pushed the envelope in Green for card advantage and consistency, from the card Ancient Stirrings to the Throne of Eldraine all-star Once Upon a Time. We even received a Ponder-like card in Oath of Nissa.

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Many of these cards/effects have seen play in Legacy, and in the case of Once Upon a Time they still do, as that card alone has really boosted the consistency of certain creature-centric strategies like Eldrazi. During the Oko era, we also saw cards like Abundant Growth see play due to the synergy they had with cards like Yorion, Sky Nomad, and we continue to see players adopting that card even today for the mana flexibility and the card draw aspect.

Furthermore, when you start mixing Green with other colors the effect of introducing more CA into Green becomes even more apparent when you look at cards like Growth Spiral and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath.

Seeing these effects have shown that over time the thinking on how Green can apply itself to card selection and consistency has really shifted, but it's really shifted back to a range of how cards like Sylvan Library worked and played, with more powerful play patterns in general. This has led to a point in time where we have now in the format a new card (that is new but also not actually printed in a regular printing) in Abundant Harvest.

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Abundant Harvest is a card that I missed initially in my Strixhaven set review because it wasn't in the set proper, but was instead in the Mystical Archives section of the set. However, the power level of this card is exceptionally interesting. One of the really powerful things this card can do is ensure a late-game land drop or action spell based on whatever is needed. Being able to clear lands from the top in search of a business spell is strong enough, but being able to ensure a land drop when it's needed is incredibly powerful. We're already seeing the basis of this card in Legacy, for example, a list from our good friend Anuraag Das and his Twitch Stream.

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Abundant Harvest actually feels more like a blue Cantrip in this particular list, given how it is positioned to be able to seek out either action or a land drop, and land drops are generally critically important to a Control strategy like this, that casting the card becomes very positive.

Green has plenty of interesting consistency and card advantage engines and if Abundant Harvest is anything to go off of, it means we will continue to see cards that push the envelope of how the color can deal with these factors.

Modern Horizons 2 and Forgotten Realms - Spoiler Season Begins!

While not officially in Spoiler Season (Narrator: We're always in Spoiler Season), the Weekly MTG Stream did give us some sweet tidbits from last week on the subject of both Modern Horizons 2 and the forthcoming Adventures in the Forgotten Realms sets. You can find all of the spoilers from their article over on the Wizards website. I generally tend to wait until the full spoiler seasons are done before really reviewing cards, but those seasons are still a little ways away in all reality, and the discussion on these cards is rather important.

So without further ado, let's really dive into what we're here for. The cards that we gotta talk about.

Urza's Saga - The most broken thing in Magic's history, and I guess the card is decent too!

(Credit to Miri on the Legacy Discord for the joke above!)

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This is the biggest talk of the town since last week, and there is a lot to process with this card in general. We've never really had a design quite like this, so we have to set some ground rules on understanding how this card functions. First off, this is a Land, so when you are playing it, you are playing it as your Land for the turn. It's also an Enchantment, so it can be interacted with on the axis of cards that deal with Enchantments and also deal with Lands. Third, this is a Saga (and clever hats off to the designer that realized that both Urza's and Saga were valid types for Land and Enchantment respectively) so it has to follow the rules of a Saga.

The very first thing that occurs with this card when you play it is that a trigger goes on the stack for Chapter I, which gives the land the ability to tap for colorless. This ability does not go away on the card, it keeps it all the way until after Chapter III resolves.

Chapter II is where things do get interesting. The land gains the ability to make a Construct token that is the same kind of token generated by cards like Karn, Scion of Urza and Urza, Lord High Artificer. It also keeps this ability until after Chapter III resolves.

Chapter III's ability is a triggered ability that gets you an artifact with mana cost 0 or 1. This is important because this is specifically referencing mana cost, and not mana value, so you can't fetch a card that has no mana cost (for example: Lotus Bloom) but can fetch cards such as Lion's Eye Diamond, Mox Opal, etc. After the Chapter III ability is resolved the land is sacrificed to the Saga rules. This happens immediately, so there's no time window after the third Chapter ability resolves to tap the land and make a Construct again, however you can activate it either in your Upkeep, Draw step, or in response to the triggered ability for Chapter III.

Now that we've sort of got the basics of the card out of the way, where really does this card go in Legacy? It definitely is an interesting design and has some interesting play patterns to it, but is it really all it's cracked up to be?

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My estimation of this card has been slowly getting to the point where I realized that I'm not actually as enthused about it as I originally thought, however, I do think it will be a good card in general power level and I am slowly coming around on how powerful it can be.

One of the first inklings that came my way about this card was in comparison to decks that already make Construct tokens like this, decks such as Karn Echo, Mystic Forge Combo, Bomberman, etc. Decks that are all generally Ancient Tomb + Chalice of the Void decks but are also all trying to cast colored mana spells, in some cases with double pips (in the case of Karn Echo, cards such as Urza, but also any time you ever have to hard cast Echo of Eons which comes up far more often than people might think). These decks all have a very precarious mana balance to them, as in they're all very mana hungry decks to the point where you cannot reasonably play a full four copies of Urza's Saga in them. I could however likely see a few copies in those decks as maybe a bit of grindy game extra action, but you cannot really cut too hard into the mana balance of those decks very easily. Bomberman might be one of the better places for it because it's much more of a grindier deck than the other two decks, and can generate value on an empty board state, and Mono White Bomberman is a deck that does not play many double pip spells (all their white spells are single pip typically) so the color requirements aren't as bad, so maybe a strictly Mono White version could play four of these. In the long run though, I suspect that the real answer here will be a maximum of probably two, but it is important to test with the full four to determine if the downsides are very pronounced as expected.

Furthermore, whether this is a good card in a deck like Painter (in a more colorless focused Painter strategy to utilize the artifact synergy with the constructs) is a good question. There is some possibility there because the tutor can fetch Grindstone that maybe just maybe it might be good enough for that deck. There has also been some chatter on how this might interact with Crop Rotation based decks like Lands, but I have a feeling that it is not much better than Field of the Dead there, and the number of 0 and 1 mana cost artifacts those decks tend to run is very low (Mox Diamond and Pithing Needle primarily). Even further is decks like Cloudpost that also run relatively few hyper impactful artifacts to tutor for.

All of this is also predicated on the fact that most of the decks that you would want to put this card in are already decks that are generally soft to Wasteland, and this does turn on some weird interactions with Wasteland. For example, this could be destroyed with the first Chapter trigger on the stack. In this case one would not have an opportunity to tap the card for mana even. It's also possible that other aspects of the manabase could be attacked outside of this card, making it difficult to activate the Construct token ability. Then this land will be sacrificed on its own due to the third Chapter ability, which will then possibly put you down a mana (unless you fetch a mana rock with the tutor ability).

Another functionally interesting thing to note about this card is the interaction with the card Blood Moon. If your opponent plays a Blood Moon and you attempt to play this land, it will enter the battlefield as an Enchantment Land - Mountain Saga (because Blood Moon only overwrites Land types), and then will be immediately sacrificed. Big thanks to pg8 and Solrya on the Legacy Discord for working this out, and then to Jess Dunks (the current MTG Rules Manager) for confirming how it works based on that information.

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The reasoning here is based in the comprehensive rulings on Sagas 714.2d:

"714.2d A Saga’s final chapter number is the greatest value among chapter abilities it has. If a Saga somehow has no chapter abilities, its final chapter number is 0."

What this means is that if the Saga has no Chapter abilities (which it won't in the case of Blood Moon taking them away), then the final Chapter number is 0, and the state based action of sacrificing a Saga kicks in. There's actually not even an opportunity to even tap the land for mana at that point because of the fact that the SBA sacrificing a Saga does not use the stack. This similarly occurs with also Magus of the Moon and cards like Blood Sun, so this puts the card right out of putting it into Red Prison/Stompy. (This is all predicated on the existing rulings however, and you never know if Wizards might decide to issue an updated ruling for this sort of situation.)

There is also an amusing thing to note that this can be recurred with Hall of Heliod's Generosity in something like Standstill, but I personally believe Shark Typhoon is a much better payoff than this because of the evasive nature of those threats while also being able to be pitched for Force of Will. Shark Typhoon in general allowed the manabase of Standstill decks to develop in a more Wasteland immune fashion, which was ultimately very good for that archetype. However that being said, I could definitely see a copy or two in the Replenish variants of Sharkstill because it's an Enchantment, and is ultimately rather hilarious.

Where I do expect this card to thrive is a deck that is built around the card and is designed to utilize its synergy with other artifacts in the deck as well as the construct making ability. Whether such a deck really exists is a real question, and I suspect someone will figure out a way to potentially break this in such a shell, but as it stands most of the existing colored Stompy shells really only maybe want one - two of these at best, and even then that might be pushing it. It's really going to take some real testing to determine where the card fits in. That being said, it's possible that this could also just slot directly into a fair blue midrange/control/tempo strategy as just another grindy option for long games (like noted before with the Shark Replenish variant of Standstill), as the free utility of this effect on a Land is definitely powerful. This could also theoretically see some plan in a Lands shell with Thespian's Stage being able to copy it and Loam being able to recur it in order to continue making constructs with it, and that alone could be a real shell for it, except for the fact that Field of the Dead is likely just a better long game card.

In fact, our good friend Peter van der Ham has done some amount of testing with the card already via webcam play, and has been testing it in a Delver build with Phyrexian Dreadnought and Stifle. You can find Peter's review of the card here, and do follow him on Twitter and his reviews as they are often really spot on to various cards.

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Is this good? I think it is potentially very good, but I don't think it is completely broken either. It has its ups and downsides like any other card, and some of the downsides are very pronounced. It's certainly going to take some real testing to really see, and furthermore it is worth noting that this is only one card we've seen out of Modern Horizons 2 and that there could certainly be even more potentially powerful cards than even this.

I will note however that this card is very flavorful in general, as it is an Enchantment that people care about because of artifact-based reasons. Much like how Urza's Saga was supposed to originally be an Enchantment matters set, and ended up being one of the most broken Artifact sets of all time. Great job on hitting that flavor for sure!

Portable Hole (Does Not Create a Portal to the Astral Plane with Bag of Holding)

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This one comes to us from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and I have to say this card is really fairly amazing. The major comparison for this card is the card Glass Casket from Throne of Eldraine and this is generally just better in a lot of ways. Yes, it only hits things with mana value 2 or less, but Casket only hits creatures while this can be used to hit any nonland permanent. Examples of things this hits are things like Sylvan Library, Chalice of the Void, Exploration, Altar of Dementia, you name it. Furthermore, because this is an artifact means that it can be wished for from the sideboard using Karn, the Great Creator just like Glass Casket.

I like this card a lot. It's efficient and powerful, and I definitely expect it to see some amount of play.

Legacy Challenge 5/8

We had two Challenges this past weekend, the first of which was the early morning Saturday event. Thanks to the efforts of the Legacy Data Collection Project, we know this event had 76 players in it, which is about on average for this event.

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

Three decks were really the top of the metagame here in this event in regards to popularity and representation and that was UR Delver, Elves, and RUG Delver. Out of the three of these however, UR Delver performed the best and had the most positive performance. It's hard to glean a lot from a small sample size as this, but the ongoing nature of the format continues to show us that both UR and RUG Delver are exceptionally powerful and that Elves is one of those decks that can keep up with those two decks. Still, despite the overbearing metagame presence of these decks, we've seen plenty of evidence indicating that these decks are merely just popular and not overpowered (usually due to play style) and that decks can metagame their way to the top, as we will see by the Top 8 below.

One thing to note here is that Graveyard decks were not well represented in this event, coming in at just below the cutoff of four entries at three players overall on Graveyard based decks. This is certainly a trend we've seen as of late and it's more than likely a lot to do with metagame/sideboard choices and also hedging in hate versus Uro based decks. Still, it's a little interesting and concerning at the same time to see this kind of trend.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Humans 1st Mei0024
RUG Midrange 2nd M_4
UR Delver 3rd UnderwaterBimbo
MUD 4th PunishingWaterfalls
Red Prison 5th Granham
UR Control 6th SenpaiBlank
Mono Green Cloudpost 7th into_play
Stoneblade 8th JPA93

Some really interesting decks here, with a severely interesting result in the winner being 5C Humans by Mei0024.

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I do believe Elite Spellbinder has seemed to be the card that has really invigorated the Humans archetype as a Vial deck in the format. Being able to tax spells while also having the tax effects of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is very powerful, and quite often you're snagging something that your opponent is going to be unlikely to ever cast to utilize the Spellbinder's downside, turning Spellbinder into an extremely powerful exile effect. In fact, despite also being a Human, this makes it much more powerful than even Kitesail Freebooter, a similar effect.

In Second Place we have a deck that's sort of reminiscent of the "Delverless" Delver type pile in a RUG Midrange variant.

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The elements of this deck have some tempo to them with Daze, but also have plenty of midrange/control elements to them. This reminds me a lot of the "Poke Pile" decks that floated around during the Oko era towards the end of that era.

Also in the Top 8 we have a real treat in Fourth Place with just actual factual MUD.

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MUD is a deck name that was given to artifact based decks because of the brown color of the old artifact frame. In Legacy, classic MUD strategy was mostly characterized by the presence of the card Metalworker, which we see here. One fun thing about this card and its interactions is that it goes infinite with Staff of Domination by generating enough mana to continually untap and tap Metalworker for mana while untapping Staff. This is one of the more combo-esque ways a deck like this can win a game. Very cool to see for sure!

Also in the Top 8 we've got another "Delverless" Delver deck but this time it's straight UR, and it's playing Dack Fayden!

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Dack + Hullbreacher is really solid interaction for sure, and having a copy of Squee, Goblin Nabob is some real tech from places such as Vintage where Squee sees a fair amount of play. The basis of this card is to use it as a free card to pitch to Dack's + ability, making the ability card positive since Squee will just return to your hand the next upkeep. This list is really super cool. I dig it.

Outside of the Top 8, we had a showing by what we can only refer to as Turbo Peer into the Abyss.

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This is a really neat list. It's very much aiming to maximize on speed to cast Peer and then win the game after resolving Peer. Really cool and interesting deck, and Solve the Equation showing up again really shows that the card is definitely powerful.

Legacy Challenge 5/9

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was the afternoon Sunday event, which only had 88 players. Now this was a holiday (Mother's Day) so while this is a little lower on average for this event, the holiday impacting it as well may have pushed a few people off of playing in it.

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

UR Delver again had a REALLY strong event here, and was far more popular than even RUG Delver. Elves was right there at the forefront as well, with a bit better performance than the event the day before. However, there was quite a bit of diversity at the top end, as we will see here.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG Control 1st Chefen
UR Delver 2nd Paradise_lost
Red Prison 3rd iwanteatebi
UR Delver 4th Diem4x
Ninjas 5th lylogoyf
Cephalid Breakfast 6th maian
UR Delver 7th r0cknati0n
BUG Chain of Smog 8th btraut

Pretty solid Top 8 here, with a decent representation of decks. At the end of the event however it was a BUG Control/Midrange variant that took it all down.

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Four Stifle is really interesting here, but it works really well in a variety of ways and also enables Stifling Uro, which is cool. Lot of neat stuff going on here though with Leovold and Ramunap, but also cards like Hexdrinker and Daze. Sort of like a "BUG Poke Pile" style deck without the Delvers.

Speaking of Delver, Second Place was indeed UR Delver.

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This is one of the variants of UR Delver where they have a green splash very lightly for sideboard cards, in this case specifically Klothys, God of Destiny. Seven Forces and Four Daze is a real statement though. Pretty insane all around.

Also in the Top 8 we had a showing by Ninjas!

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This is absolutely one of my favorite blue based tempo decks. It draws so many cards so very quickly, and I adore it so much.

Also in the Top 8 we had Cephalid Breakfast.

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Breakfast is a really cool deck with a really unique gameplay style. I really love Wish decks in general, so the Living Wish package here is super cool.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had BUG Chain of Smog.

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This is seeking to cover some of the weaknesses by playing a BUG Control shell-type deck around the combo, occasionally just utilizing Witherbloom Apprentice as a powerful way of having reach to close games out without the combo. It's very much a Splinter Twin-like deck for sure.

Around the Web

  • 90sMTG has got some Chain Smoking going on with Magecraft cards. Check it out here.
  • Episode 196 of Eternal Durdles, featuring Portable Holes and the concept of Muppet Nate. Check it out here.
  • Neoform Nic Fit!
  • Enchantress vs Humans, courtesy of The Legacy Pit. Check it out here.
  • Canadian Threshold has a new episode, celebrating two years of casting! Check it out here.
  • Leaving a Legacy had on Jordan Mellor of the MTG Paper Legacy Discord this past week. Be sure to check out the episode over here.

The Spice Corner

Our good friend Jax has the Witherbloom hookup right here.

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Omni-Tell? Win with Thassa's Oracle instead!

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In the "We should probably be seeing more Abundant Harvest" section, we have Depths running the card here.

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What I Played Last Week

Well I had a bit of a wild stream last week celebrating 1,000 followers on Twitter. For those that stopped by, thanks for doing so, I'm sure it was some great nightmare fuel for you. Here's what we played, and you can check out the video of all the shenanigans over on YouTube.

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Note: This list is completely untuned and really untested. Going 1-4 still with that was an accomplishment given that I could barely see out of the mask!

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.

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