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This Week in Legacy: October Statistics and SCG Open Baltimore

Hello everyone, and welcome to another This Week in Legacy. This week we'll be looking at the metagame statistics for October and seeing how the archetypes that make up Legacy have shifted over the past month. There have certainly been some interesting developments in terms of what is now the top predator of the format. The SCG Open in Baltimore also occurred over the recent weekend of November 5-6, one of the very scant Legacy Opens of the year, with a lot of interesting developments in terms of what decks trended towards the top of the tournament and what new technology (and spice!) was found. So let's dig in, to the continually interesting developments in the great Legacy format.

October Statistics

October brought with it some dramatic changes to the format finally starting to take shape in paper. Online, however, saw somewhat of the typical trend that had been established over the past year.

Miracles, Eldrazi Stompy, and Grixis Delver are the common pillars of the format most players should be well-acquainted with by now, and have remained at the top three positions Online for the majority of months past. Interesting movers-and-shakers are the resurgence of BUG Delver to the fourth most-played deck, with lists like that of Hoppelars, who had numerous 5-0 finishes within this month, being brought to the SCG Open by esteemed players such as Brad Nelson. However, Grixis Delver still outweighed BUG Delver by a large margin. Reanimator, both Blue-Black and Black-Red variants, which were grouped together in this graph, continued their impressive placings, and OmniTell now outweighed typical Sneak & Show Online as the Show and Tell deck of choice with many variants, such as that of gabrielvxcl, featuring Pieces of the Puzzle as a card to dig deep. ANT has unsurprisingly fallen by the wayside, with hostile matchups against Eldrazi and the surging Reanimator variants. Other interesting lists that popped up this month was a White Stompy list piloted by Mikebrav, which makes me feel quite happy, a few Grixis Control lists and some pretty wild BUG Control lists, featuring Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.

Moving past the Online metagame, Paper Legacy reflected an incredibly different trend. Many compounding factors, such as the price of Rishadan Port, to the lack of Conspiracy: Take the Crown on Magic Online currently, led to Death & Taxes being incredibly underrepresented there. But how underrepresented is it?

Very much so.

For the first time since Eldrazi's debut, Miracles has been kicked off the top of the heap by the little white creatures that could. It's quite amazing to see in all honesty. The once fringe deck initially featuring Mangara of Corondor and Isamaru, Hound of Konda is now the current top-dog. Although being budget-friendly (for a Legacy deck) certainly contributes to Death & Taxes abundance, its success can certainly be attributed to the new printings giving the deck an absurd amount of power. Unfortunately, I would not be surprised to see the metagame shift against the deck, featuring more Dread of Nights, Kozilek's Returns, and other powerful hosers, which the deck can have trouble with. The deck can certainly adapt to these changes more readily thanks to the toolbox Recruiter of the Guard provides. However, some lists have actually eschewed Recruiter, instead opting to maximize the effectiveness of Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Sanctum Prelate being naturally curved into. If anything, although my analysis of the Death & Taxes lists last week seemed to see the deck distilling into something more honed, looking at the overall data across October has made me even more baffled. There still seems to be very little consensus on what is the "best" list, though the typical core is now more powerful than ever.

Infect is prominently featured as the fifth most-popular deck in Paper, deviating from that of Online. The deck has continued to be an excellent choice within the format, offering both fast kills or tempo-esque gameplay. ANT also still had a reasonable number of placings compared to Online with Storm stalwarts not looking back on the deck despite how hostile the overall metagame may seem to it. "Newer" decks that have seen their numbers increasing include Turbo Depths, which just won American Eternal Weekend, as well as Bant Stoneblade, featuring up to eight mana dorks powering out True-Name Nemesis and Jace, the Mind Sculptor as early as possible. Other interesting archetypes that have found their way into the mix this month included Slivers, Death's Shadow, Cephalid Breakfast, Doomsday, High Tide, the Jund Destructive Flow deck I featured a few weeks ago, a 5c Control list, and RUG Ascension (which we'll have a look at later!).

SCG Open Baltimore

Next let's have a look at the Open that just occurred in Baltimore. To start with, let's break down the Top 32:

Jonathan Orr with Shardless BUG took away the trophy, and although the majority of his deck was stock Shardless, he had just enough spice within his list for us to take a second look.

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Jonathan found room in his main deck for a singleton Leovold, Emissary of Trest, which, although stretching the mana a bit, certainly gives the deck a powerful axis of attack, especially due to his main deck's middling ability to fight against combo. If anything, his list is much more geared against the fair decks of the format, preying on the fact that Eldrazi has brought combo into a downswing, and it certainly grinded incredibly strong as featured in his finals match against Joe Lossett. Master of the Wild Hunt is probably the coolest sideboard slot in the deck, and it certainly furthers his ideal of grinding fair decks out. On camera Master massacred David Long on Lands in a pretty flashy fashion, and it certainly is better than other four-mana bombs that have been found in Shardess sideboards, such as Garruk RelentlessNight of Souls Betrayal is also a card that has been seeing reasonable play within Shardless sideboards, but is certainly further warranted with Death & Taxes on the upswing. Speaking of Death & Taxes, despite the abundance of it within October, Baltimore found no Death & Taxes within the Top 32. I'm sure the deck was a victim of its own success in the lead up to this tournament, with potent hate pieces in abundance preventing it from placing effectively.

Daryl Ayers and David Long, both longtime masters of the Lands archetype, found their spots within the Top 8 and were the only Lands players within the Top 32. Their lists deviated from what has been seen as the norm within the archetype, featuring zero Rishadan Port and instead a full set of Ghost Quarter. This move hasn't been unheard of. In fact, lists Online in October such as this and this found themselves with 5-0s. But Long and Ayers have truly proven the strength of the card on camera. They Strip Mine'ed Miracles to make Marit Lage safely, and I'm sure Ghost Quarter ruined decks such as Eldrazi and Delver.

Other than the Ghost Quarter changes, Ayers and Long also included (and cut!) some other crucial cards.

  • Ayers and Long both had some number of Molten Vortex in their deck. Ayers included a singleton in order to supplement his Punshing Fires and also found room for a Seismic Assault, likely a concession to Death & Taxes to have a variety of answers to Sanctum Prelate. Meanwhile, Long cut Punishing Fire and relied on Vortex only.
  • Long included Abrupt Decay in his main deck, making his list a "Dark Lands" variant, I suppose, which hasn't been too uncommon.
  • Long cut away Manabond too, to include all the removal, while Ayers simply trimmed down to one.
  • Long supplemented his permanent-based combo hate with Thoughtseize, as expected of the black variant.
  • Long's sideboard includes some interesting ones. Kozilek's Return is continuing its role as an excellent hate card against Death & Taxes, dodging both Prelate on two and Mother of Runes, and Crucible of World gives him essentially a fifth Loam to get around Prelate on two.
  • Ayers' sideboard was much more straightforward, maxing out on Tireless Tracker, while Long only played three. The card is nonetheless proving to be the staple Lands.
  • Ayer's included main deck Boseiju, Who Shelters All to hedge against Counterbalance, while Long found this less of a necessity due to Abrupt Decay.

Lands nonetheless proved itself to still be one of the best decks that not enough players are playing. It has also proven itself to be an archetype that has been met with continual innovation, as Ayers and Long have shown at Baltimore and in past tournaments. Many thought the death knell was sounding for the deck due to Sanctum Prelate, but the naysayers can now be hushed. Lands is here to stay, here to destroy all your lands, and here to smack you in a face with an indestructible 20/20.

BUG Delver found the second-highest number of placings within Baltimore, which is certainly astounding for a deck that had largely fallen by the wayside in the last few months in preference of its Grixis or 4c brethren. However, Jim Davis and Bob Marshall piloted Jim's now rather classic Stifle-based, more tempo'ey BUG list to Top 16, while Brad Nelson brought the incredibly midrangey list similar Hoppelars to a Top 32 finish. Let's have a look at these:

Jim's list has always been characterized by a few interesting choices:

  • Stifle, and no Hymn to Tourach and the Tropical Island/Underground Sea mana base emphasizes that this is not the midrangey BUG Delver deck to be expected, this is a tempo deck.
  • Dark Confidant makes an appearance as a threat that, although looking like a midrange card and reeking of anti-tempo (he basically forces BUG Delver to take a turn off to play a 2/1 that is very susceptible to removal), allows the deck to really leverage its advantage and push the game far out of the opponent's reach. I found Bob's ability to clock the opponent and draw Jim into more pieces of countermagic very impressive.
  • Disfigure is awesome. Although it cannot go to the face like a Lightning Bolt, it does a very good impression when killing creatures, as there is really no notable creatures that are three toughness in Legacy, though there is a heckuva lot of two-toughness ones. 
  • Only three Abrupt Decay makes sense. It can be clunky; it's pretty inefficient, but it's also a necessity to beat Counterbalance and Chalice of the Void.
  • Three Force of Will I find more interesting. The three Pierces certainly help pad out the countermagic suite, and Dark Confidant certainly doesn't like seeing five drops, but Force is the epitome of a tempo play. I'd love to squeeze in a fourth.

Meanwhile, Brad's list took quite a different approach:

Tombstalker, Sylvan Library, and Hymn to Tourach all imply an attrition-based gameplan compared to the tempo-oriented approach of Jim. Tombstalker I particularly like. The format has become somewhat well-adapted to Gurmag Angler, and Eldrazi cluttering the ground can be an issue for the big fish. So fly on over instead with the original Delve granddaddy, I suppose!

I brief shout-out to the fellas on The Brainstorm Show who found two of their cast members in the Top 32! Phillip Braverman took the quad-Mentor no-Jace build of Miracles to an excellent finish, coming 13th.

Compared to the previous list featured on their podcast, a few updates have been made. Notably, no mana-hatred ala Blood Moon is in the sideboard, and Kozilek's Return once again is seeing its spot in the Legacy limelight. Sudden Shock is also very interesting, and a likely extra consideration against small creature decks like Death & Taxes, diversifying removal further against Sanctum Prelate.

Meanwhile, Paul Michel brought the list of Michel Chevallier, European Eternal Weekend winner to an 18th place finish, though his sideboarded featured a variety of customizations. Ingot Chewer ended up as his artifact destruction piece, Blood Moons were cut, and Hornet Queen found a place in the sideboard?! The Queen is certainly a monster to reanimate against many fair matchups, and unlike Elesh Norn, who would similarly dominate there, it does not lose to Karakas. If anything, it's similar to the slot typically dedicated to Grave Titan or Tidespout Tyrant.

Nonetheless, congratulations to these two excellent contributors of Legacy content. The Brainstorm Show is an excellent place to take in some very well-informed opinions on the format, and the guys there are always keyed in to the latest technology. I look forward to hearing their tournament repots at Baltimore!

Next, let's look at some of the more bizarre lists that found their way into the Baltimore Top 32:

Gerard Fabiano never ceases to impress with the crazy inclusions within his decklists. And this Open was no different, with his Top 8 list featuring a bevvy of strange ones:

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Nahiri, the Harbinger and Emrakul, partners-in-crime in Modern, made their way into Gerard's Legacy deck, though not the Emrakul one would expect. Gerard expected to ultimate Nahiri, smash in for a huge amount of damage, and then recast Emrakul in the late-game (since Miracles typically hits its land drops and has a variety of card types). Although I feel Aeons Torn is likely the better option (and the Nahiri package overall is pretty questionable). I can respect his desire to not want dead cards within his deck; the Promised End is certainly within a feasible casting cost late in the game.

Fact or Fiction is a heckuva a clunky card in Legacy, but when resolved it certainly performs a powerful role that Predict can never really achieve. Just like Dig Through Time in the past, Fact or Fiction gives raw card advantage like nothing else. Note that the cards binned can fuel the cost reduction on Emrakul, the Promised End too!

Other interesting pieces of technology in his sideboard was the full complement of Lands hate in the form of Tsabo's Web and Blood Moon, two-ofs each, though Web proved to be pretty ineffective against the new Lands lists running zero Rishadan Port. I'm sure Web would've been helpful against Death & Taxes, however.

Grixis Painter also found a slot in the Top 32, utilizing some technology from Kaladesh:

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Copter seems excellent in this kind of list, looting away excessive mana rocks such as Mox Opal and any other excessive combo pieces, which can all be welded back into play via Goblin Welder. Inventors' Fair is also an excellent land to find either critical combo piece of the Painter combo. Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast and Chandra, Torch of Defiance both found places within this Grixis Painter sideboard too, fleshing out the already full planeswalker package if required. There's truly a lot going on in this list, and the clunkiness of all the pieces, the middling blue count for Force of Will (despite Painter naming blue) and the high curve on paper makes this look rather irksome to me. If anything, I'd want more Copters to smooth this deck's draws. Nonetheless, this finish puts Grixis-colored Painter back on the map, and I'm certain there's a fully-fleshed list (perhaps finding room for a Transmute Artifact to find all these one-ofs in the deck), that can be gleaned from what Daniel Sacco has brought. There's a lot going on, but his finish certainly says this list is more than just cute, it's powerful. The image of Goblin Welder riding in a Copter is also something I can't really shake from my mind.

Another Kaladesh artifact, Bomat Courier, also found its way into a list:

Courier is a dinky little 1/1, but if it sticks around it can certainly provide quite a bit of value, and may have a place as a Monastery Swiftspear-esque threat but with a different bit of utility. Its ability is also incredibly synergistic with Bedlam Reveler, as dumping your hand, reloading it with Courier and then dumping it again and reloading with Reveler looks like a very powerful (albeit fragile) way to generate a huge amount of card velocity. Interestingly, Jacob Saracino opted for the situational Stifle within his list which I'm largely not a fan of. In a deck that wants its cards to just do something, having a Stifle stranded in hand while you're waiting for the sixth card to turn on Reveler is a potentially awkward situation this list can encounter. Nonetheless, a few interesting creature choices in this list fascinate me, and show another different avenue to take the UR Delver deck, whether it be a Snapcaster Mage-based list as we saw with Matthew Brown, a Stormchaser Mage-based Prowess list, or this Bomat Courier/Bedlam Reveler list.

The last interesting list we'll look at is Enchantress - piloted by the one-and-only Jesse Hatfield.

Jesse Hatfield is a well-known personality from the dawn of the Legacy format - Top 8ing with my favourite antiquated Legacy deck, Cephalid Breakfast, in one of the first ever large Legacy tournaments. To Baltimore he brought the prison-combo (or really, "pillow fortress") deck Enchantress. This deck centers around the cards Argothian Enchantress and Enchantress's Presence.

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These are both incredible card advantage machines in a deck flush with enchantments. The supporting cast, primarily, of course, enchantments, within this deck are:

The black splash also provided Jesse with some very effective sideboard options, such as Thoughtseize, Engineered Plague and Dread of Night. Glad to see such a well-known player take a fringe archetype to a very effective finish. Enchantress, although slow and at times ineffective, particularly against combo, is very powerful at crushing many a fair deck in its prison of weird cards that most players will have to pick up and read.


Thanks for joining me in this step through October's metagame, along with a rundown of all the interesting technology and shifts that SCG Open Baltimore brought to the format. If you'd like to get in touch about your experience at Baltimore, your experience over the past few large events (eg. the Eternal Weekends), have some interesting lists to highlight or just want to get some words in, feel free to contact me at the information below. Join me next week for an investigation into some European tournaments, some interviews (really, this time, hopefully) and more!

'Til next time,

Sean Brown

Reddit: ChemicalBurns156
Twitter: @Sean_Brown156

And catch me on The Salt Mine, for more banter about Legacy!

What I'm Playing This Week

We're back to the RUGLyf.

Definitely inspired by the Jonathan Alexander-style lists, but with a little higher threat density in the main and a few tweaks to the sideboard. It's been playing ultra-smooth, just as RUG always does. Spell Snare has felt like an exceptional card overall and as three-of I'm quite enjoying it. I'd love to find some room for more graveyard hate, especialy with BR Reanimator so abundant, but otherwise I'm pretty happy with the list.

The Spice Corner

Pyromancer Ascension is a very cool card, the engine of an entire Modern deck. But... In Legacy it has never got too much love. Until now:

This deck isn't really a combo deck, and uses Pyromancer Ascension more as an additional threat along with Young Pyromancer, creating an insurmountable avalanche of copies and card advantage, leading to a flurry of death by Bolts or Punishing Fires. Very cool to see Regrowth getting some love in Legacy too. The card's powerful, but very scantily played.

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