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This Week in Legacy: New Year, New You

Howdy folks! It's time for the very first This Week in Legacy of 2021! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to look ahead to 2021 before we start getting inundated with Kaldheim spoiler season this coming week, and talk about ways that you can approach the format, both as a new player to the format and as a veteran player. Of course, as always we have two Challenges from this past weekend to cover, and as always we have our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Legacy in the New Year

It's a new year and we've got a lot to look forward to for Legacy this year, despite the fact that really not much has changed in the span of a week in regards to the world and whatnot. With the possibilities of COVID-19 vaccines being deployed and being able to move to a point where it might even be possible to approach paper Legacy this year, there is a lot to be hopeful for. With plenty of continuing opportunities to keep playing Legacy on Magic Online this year, this hype train is definitely not stopping any time soon.

With that in mind, I thought it would be a great way to open the year on a high note of talking about approaching Legacy from several perspectives.

The New Player Perspective - How Do I Get Into Legacy?!

This is a question that comes up relatively often, as I see quite a few threads pop up on the /r/MTGLegacy subreddit asking how to get into Legacy, how to choose a deck, etc. I had a recent discussion myself on the topic with someone in one of the Discord servers I am in, and I felt it would be a great time to kick off the new year talking about how best to approach playing Legacy from a new (to the format) player's perspective.

Getting into Legacy can be a daunting thing, as the format does contain over 20 years worth of cards in it, and parsing that information can be a lot for players that are new to trying out the format. One of the things that is important to keep in mind when deciding to get into this format (and I think this also applies to really any format) is to first define what your goals are for learning and getting into the format. Are you looking to play at a competitive level? Are you considering the return of sanctioned paper events and playing in those? Do you just want to learn the format and play with your friends? It's important to keep these things in mind when deciding how best to approach the format.

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The first and most obvious thing (and probably one of the most common issues) is the issue of the price of Legacy. Plenty of Legacy decks utilize Reserved List cards, namely dual lands, and in paper Magic world those cards are fairly expensive. It's important to keep this in mind if one of your goals is to actually play sanctioned paper Legacy. Right now, this is difficult to do so because of the pandemic, but at some point assuredly those events will return and it could be a goal of yours to play the format in that fashion. Unfortunately those cards are never going to simply go down in price by a bunch, so it's likely they will continue to go up as time goes on. However, there are many different ways to approach the format from a paper perspective that can help.

  • Learn what you want to likely play first - This can be a process simply consisting either of proxying various decks and seeing what best fits your play style, or by trying these decks out on a service like Magic Online. Either way, if your goal is to play Legacy in a sanctioned paper fashion eventually, it's best to figure out what deck or decks you actually like before buying in. While these cards often remain pretty fluid in prices, it's still an ultimate feelsbad to buy in only to find out you don't like what you bought to play.
  • Purchase format staple cards that are used across multiple decks - Cards like your Force of Will/Force of Negation, and generally certain dual lands (like Volcanic Island, Tropical Island, and Underground Sea) apply to such a wide range of different decks in the format that financially it might make the most sense to work towards purchasing those cards first and then have those as a basis of being able to deckbuild from there. This is an option that obviously takes a bit of upfront money, however, and not everyone has that luxury.
  • Borrowing cards - The Legacy community has consistently proven time and again that they take care of players newer to the format by not only showing them the ropes but by also helping them to play the format. Getting into your local Legacy community and getting to know the people in it as well as showing that your are a trustworthy individual not only will make you some new friends but will also help for larger events if you ever need to borrow something specific.

On the flip side, getting into a format like Legacy via Magic Online is much less expensive than playing paper Legacy, and as of right now MTGO is the one big way to approach the format right now with the lack of paper events due to the pandemic. Thankfully, rental services such as Cardhoarder exist, making it incredibly easy to hit the ground running and play the format and start learning what best you might like to play while also acclimating you to the Magic Online client interface. Even simply buying into a deck is also much cheaper than paper.

Another thing to mention that inevitably comes up in these questions is the concept of "Budget" decks. I actually mostly dislike the word "Budget" because most players have a very different concept of the word. Budget has a different meaning across different players, and to one player Budget could mean $100 while another player Budget could mean $500. I prefer to call decks typically labeled as "Budget" in Legacy simply "Lower Than Average Cost" in a sense. Of course, the decks that are often brought to the table are decks like Burn, Manaless Dredge, and Death & Taxes, but this can also apply to decks such as Oops, All Spells as well.

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There's a stigma often associated with decks like these, as if somehow the player playing them is bad for jumping into a deck that is lower in cost. Honestly, there's no real truth to this stigma as these decks have had their day in the sun more times than not. Burn is a deck that's well regarded in Legacy as a police deck, and people generally accept that no matter what, they're probably not super prepared for a good Burn player. Burn placed 2nd in a Challenge recently, having received some fun new technology in the form of Roiling Vortex. Furthermore, it seems to consistently be doing pretty well in the hands of a few players pretty regularly.

Death and Taxes is also often regarded and touted as a deck that doesn't generally utilize any Reserved List cards, and this is certainly true of the deck over time. However, I often find that unless you're already relatively familiar with the type of play style the deck promotes and are willing to put in the work to understand the deck and its ins and outs, it definitely is not a deck for players that are newer to the format. While it's incredibly appealing to play a "non blue" deck in Legacy like D&T, the deck is actually pretty difficult to master and while that can be worth it, it might not be a great fit for players looking to learn the format. If this is your cup of tea however, definitely do yourself a favor and reach out to established D&T players and learn from their experience.

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Another deck on the lower end of most Legacy decks is Oops, All Spells. This deck has been putting up a real performance as of late, and is relatively straightforward to get into and understand, so this is a deck worth looking at as well. Decks like this are great for learning the ins and outs of the format with because they are fairly linear and you learn how to sideboard best with them, but you also get exposed to a wide range of different deck strategies and learn what each deck's game plan is fairly well.

Regardless of what your goal is for learning and playing Legacy there is a method that can be found to approach playing the format and enjoying the format.

The Existing Player Conundrum Perspective

If you're an existing enfranchised Legacy player or you have played the format in the past few years, approaching Legacy in 2021 is obviously going to be a little different. Just because 2020 is gone doesn't mean that 2021's current format is any different than before, and to some that can be a little frustrating. I know that many have voiced some frustration with certain aspects of the current format as well as cards within the format. One thing I can say about this is that being frustrated with a format can be rough, and sometimes as much as it doesn't make sense to do so, taking a break can also be a good thing.

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That being said, there are ways to still challenge yourself even in the face of frustration by trying new things, different deck ideas out, or just simply a play style you're not used to. If you're primarily a fair control/midrange player, try a fast combo deck for a change of pace. Since most of the play is occurring on Magic Online right now, rental services make it pretty easy to do this sort of thing.

I've also often found that a great way to get a fresh head approaching Legacy is to change the pace of formats and play another format, mainly for me Limited formats like Cube, as those formats often promote a subset of skills that aren't always used in Legacy.

Still, despite all the things going on with the format right now, there's still plenty of fun to be had and things can be more positive if we make them!

The Big Sets of 2021 to Look Forward To

Looking forward to 2021 in general there's plenty of sets to consider that could have an impact on Legacy as a format. Primarily the big one of 2021 is going to be Modern Horizons 2. As we all know, Modern Horizons had a profound impact on older formats like Legacy and Vintage, and I expect that Modern Horizons 2 will as well. Will we get a card on the same power levels of cards like Hogaak or Wrenn and Six? (Maybe Wrenn and Seven...) It's certainly possible. This is one set this year to explicitly keep an eye on.

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Another set that is interesting to me is the supplemental product Time Spiral Remastered. Legacy players are certainly well known in paper for deck bling, and the timeshifted cards that are going to be present in TSR are all old bordered. This product actually was confirmed to have came out of feedback from a lot of Legacy players actually through Gavin Verhey, so it stands to reason that there is going to be some real Legacy spice in the timeshifted part of the set. We already know about Chalice of the Void, but I would be hopeful at looking at seeing both Ponder and Preordain in the timeshifted slots as well, given their popularity in older formats.

We'll know much more about Kaldheim in the next few weeks here and we'll be shifting gears here to talk about the set when its fully spoiled, and the dual Innistrad sets also have some potential as Innistrad has always been a world that has introduced potential Legacy playables (or in the case of the original Innistrad set, a complete archetype in Delver of Secrets).

It also stands to reason that we could potentially receive more Commander based product throughout 2021 as well, and these sets are also well known for introducing Legacy potentials.

Legacy Challenge 1/2

Our first Challenge of 2021 was the early morning Saturday event, and it had 79 players overall in it. Thanks again to the efforts of the Legacy Data Collection Project Discord Server who have been really making this project happen. I've improved the graphing a bunch in the past week alone and we've got some better things to look at now.

Our cutoff for the graphs in this event is set to anything >= 4 copies of a deck so get an idea of what is prevalent in the format as well as to not clutter the graphs too much. For those wishing to see the full list of data in the event, you can check out the sheet over here.

This event certainly had a presence of RUG Delver however, with 11/79 players for an overall metagame percentage of 13.9%. Snowko fell in line at 10.1% with 8 players. RUG Delver also showed that it had a solid event here in terms of performance, as noted on the Win Rate chart of having a potential Win Rate of anywhere from 46% to 70%, with an estimated win rate at 57.73% w/ mirrors.

The real talk of this event however was the presence of the Jeskai Mentor Arcanist deck that cropped up seemingly from nowhere and would go on to populate the Sunday event as well.

Let's take a look at how the Top 8 broke down.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Arcanist Mentor 1st mw_94gA
RUG Delver 2nd Andreas_Muller
Hogaak 3rd Ecobaronen
Snow Day 4th AnziD
Oops All Spells 5th Slotherine
Lands 6th Squid7384
RUG Delver 7th jankyb
Doomsday 8th Azerate218

The major reason everyone was talking about the Arcanist deck in general was due to the fact that it actually won this event. As we can also see, RUG Delver stuck 2/11 of the players in the event into the Top 8, one of which ended up in the finals.

Let's take a look at the winning list.

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The biggest thing to note here is just how pre-Eldraine this deck feels. This type of deck certainly found itself in a place in the format prior to the existence of Oko and Uro, but to see it again despite those cards existing and homogenizing these kinds of strategies is pretty cool. Mentor is just an incredibly powerful card overall, so it's cool to see it included here. Also, there's a sideboard Court of Grace which is super sweet. This deck is sweet, and would go on to put a few more people into the Sunday event's Top 8 as well.

The other finalist in this event was none other than RUG Delver as noted before.

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This is the version floating around that completely shaves the green creatures for just Oko as a green card in the main and Young Pyromancer, which doesn't seem too bad at all. Definitely continue to expect this version to keep showing up for sure.

Also in the Top 8 we had our good friend Anuraag Das on a deck that we've come to continue calling "Snow Day" after the fact that it utilizes both Hullbreacher + Day's Undoing.

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This is essentially a 4C non black Snowko/Snow Miracles variant, but the biggest thing is the addition of the combo. In this deck it's more of a sheer value play to put your opponent on the back foot by being able to resolve Hullbreacher into a Day's Undoing and then win the game by just simply being so far ahead on both cards and mana than your opponent that is now having to top deck. This is certainly a solid list for sure.

Also in the Top 8 we have a showing by Lands.

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The white splash here for cards like Skyclave Apparition and Sevinne's Reclamation seems to be where this deck is trending, as well as the usage of Elvish Reclaimer, which is certainly an exceptionally powerful card in general. It's sort of fun also seeing one of the Triomes in this list in the form of Raugrin Triome.

Legacy Challenge 1/3

The second Challenge of the weekend was the mid-afternoon Sunday event, which thanks to the data collection efforts we know had 110 players. Let's take a look at the graphs.

More players means some slightly different changes to how the cutoffs look. You can find the sheet with all of the data for this event over here.

This event flipped on its head with Snowko and RUG Delver, with Snowko taking the top spot in metagame percentage at 13.6% of the event with 15/110 players. RUG Delver came in 2nd with 9.1% at 10/110 players. Things certainly continue to be relatively interesting in the format as both of these decks vie for position, but the Top 8 really told a more interesting story, which we'll look at now.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Oops! All Spells 1st Martin_Dominguez
Snowko 2nd Ozymandias17
Snowko 3rd r0cknati0n
Jeskai Arcanist Mentor 4th McWinSauce
Omni-Tell 5th NathanLipetz
Jeskai Arcanist Mentor 6th Koala40
Sneak and Show 7th SuperJoschi
Snow Day 8th AnziD

Snow based decks were all over this Top 8 since the Arcanist decks are playing Astrolabe as a mana filtering device. This solidly puts Astrolabe decks in 5/8 of this Top 8, despite the fact that the Arcanist decks don't really utilize Snow as a mechanic mainly due to no things like Coatl.

However, it was the rag tag team of Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer that demolished this event with Oops! All Spells.

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Oops is certainly exceptionally powerful thanks to the consistency boost the deck received from Zendikar Rising and the Modal DFC lands. The fact that it continually keeps Top 8'ing Challenge events is a solid indicator of just how powerful it really is.

The Second Place finalist is our good friend Matthew Vook on Snowko!

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This is certainly a solid list. Very lean and clean for sure. Some of the sideboard options here are pretty sweet, such as the Meddling Mage as well the Ground Seal.

Also in the Top 8 of this event is another friend of ours in NathanLipetz on U/W Omni-Tell.

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Nathan has had a lot of consistent performance with this and it's easy to see why it's so powerful. Teferi, Time Raveler does a great job of protecting the combo turns for casting Show and Tell, and Sea Gate Restoration is absolutely bonkers when cast off Omniscience.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a fun showing by a really neat Arclight Phoenix Storm deck.

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Burning Wish and LED and PHOENIX and just wow. Super cool list all around. Really digging everything about this.

Around the Web

  • 90sMTG kicking off the New Year right with a little Control vs Combo matchup. Check it out here.
  • Our good friend Peter van der Ham is getting into a little video content! Check out a sweet video on U/R Delver over here.
  • grants us a Matchups Series on Maverick vs Eldrazi. Check that out here.
  • Our good friend Max Gilmore hits us a with a guide on Doomsday w/ Predict. Check that out over here.

The Spice Corner

Speaking of Yorion Birthing Pod....

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It's the return of Deadguy Ale! For those unaware, DGA is basically a Black/White Stoneforge Mystic deck.

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Ruby Storm featuring Jeska's Will. What's cool here is that they didn't just replace Act on Impulse... no they played BOTH.

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This decklist is perfect. I will take no questions on this.

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What I'm Playing This Week

I switched gears slightly and started playing around with the 4 Hullbreacher Karn Echoes variant. Pretty sweet stuff!

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Wrapping Up

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

As always you can reach me on 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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