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This Week in Legacy: Paper vs. Online - The Metagame Showdown


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 going to be talking about some of the myths and facts of the differences between paper Legacy and Legacy on Magic Online. Sure to be an interesting topic! In addition to that we've got some Challenges to talk about as well as a paper event. Of course, we always have a Spice Corner (no this isn't some alternate What If? dimension)

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Paper vs. Online - Round One, Fight!

A very interesting topic that has come up rather recently is the age old discussion about the differences between paper Legacy metagames and the overall online Magic Online metagame. I felt this would make for a rather interesting discussion to have, so let's start things off by talking about some of the myths and facts about the differences between Paper Legacy and MTGO Legacy. There's a fair amount to dive into, so let's get to it!

Myth: Paper Legacy is "True" Legacy and MTGO is Not

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This is certainly an odd take but it is one that I have heard from time to time. The idea is that Paper Legacy is much more "Legacy" than MTGO and that somehow Paper event metagames matter more in regards to results and making decisions for the format. Let me preface this by saying that none of this holds any merit. Both sides of the situation are true in regards to the fact that both metagames represent Legacy. Neither one is more "Legacy" than the other. They just have some minor differences to them that make them different, is all. At the end of the day, they are both Legacy.

As we will see and have seen, is that returning paper play is closer to online play than ever, a topic we will discuss further down below.

Myth: Paper Legacy Players Do Not Pay Attention to Online Results

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This is another thing worth noting, given that we just went through an entire year's worth of time where there were zero Paper Legacy events thanks to a global pandemic and shutdown/quarantine. Paper players absolutely do pay attention to online results and online data, as well as changes to the overall metagame. Even playing casually, most players utilize websites like MTGGoldfish to understand what is being played in the current format. Being exclusively a paper player does not change that aspect at all. In fact, more information is available now than even before, making it almost nearly impossible without ever being on some form of social media ever to not see any current decklists or news about the current metagame.

Even this column is something that is often read casually by paper players looking to know more about what is going on in the format!

Myth: Playing Paper Means You're Not Playing MTGO

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There are plenty of players who play both on MTGO and Paper Legacy, and translate their skills back and forth. Many of the format's most stalwart grinders on Magic Online also play in paper and many of them have proven results in paper events as well.

Fact: Paper Legacy Metagames *can* be Different Than MTGO

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This is true and it isn't. The biggest primary factor here that plays into this general card availability and whether a local metagame supports proxies or not. A local game store metagame can absolutely have some differences to it from MTGO, due to the fact that players in that metagame may not have access to certain cards or may be unwilling to seek out the newest tech, but it is also more than likely that a local store metagame can also share a lot of similarites with MTGO as well if there are players in that metagame that either play online or have access to multiple decks, or have sought out the newest cards for their decks (see Modern Horizons 2 and the prices of cards like Ragavan, etc.) In fact, the average delta of difference between MTGO and a Paper LGS event is many times a lot closer than it is often made out to be. While it is certainly possible for a local metagame to have its quirks to it, so does MTGO on occasion as well.

Furthermore, as you start looking at events that are seeking to have a competitive nature to them, proxy or not, those metagames are now more than ever closely aligning to more recent metagame changes on Magic Online, pushing them ever closer. You can see these examples in events such as the Buffalo Chicken Dip series we've talked about as well as the MTGFirst event we talk about in this article. Those are metagames where they look much more like the online meta than a typical LGS/regional metagame due to the fact that players are viewing these events with a competitive skew to them.

Fact: MTGO's Metagame Moves Much Quicker than Paper

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This is absolutely true and one of the biggest reasons for this is the advent of rental services being used on MTGO. Ebb and flow of the metagame is much faster, but that ebb and flow is much easier to keep track of due to the creation of projects such as the Legacy Data Collection Project, MTGGoldfish decklists, etc. There is much more information available at our fingertips these days in regards to how the metagame is adjusting that following it is much easier in general.

Because of this speed, there is the occasional lag in Paper players being able to keep up in paper. Often this means that sometimes entire decks that seemed completely viable on a weekend are suddenly not viable again thanks to the ability to flexibly adjust sideboard space. These things are much different in paper where players need to order cards or purchase cards to keep up with the metagame.

Fact: MTGO's Technical Differences Do Make Some Things Different

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The biggest issue that MTGO has is the technical limitations that are not present in a paper game of Magic. Executing combos like Aluren and Food Chain are click intensive and sometimes time consuming to play, which occasionally makes them sub optimal on the MTGO client to play, but are fine in paper where you can tell your opponent "I am doing this combo X times." Still, decks like this are still often played on MTGO, they just require a very timely amount of gameplay and more than likely a solid computer.

Furthermore, we also have to address the fact that it is common for cards to be bugged on MTGO that don't have any issues in paper at all. For example, Vengeful Pharaoh is a card that sees very little to no play on MTGO due to the fact that it has been bugged for a very long time, but doesn't have this issue in paper (obviously).

Fact: The Reserved List Doesn't Exist on MTGO

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This is a bigger issue and a much bigger topic to really address, but the overall nature of Legacy as a paper format is constricted by the existence of the Reserved List. Because of this, MTGO often alleviates an amount of this pressure because the RL doesn't apply to digital objects, which allows players to play Legacy as a format on MTGO much easier than is typically available in paper.

That being said, RL proxy friendly events or full proxy level events can also help alleviate paper play and the constrictions of the Reserved List, which in turn can potentially bring the metagame much closer to the MTGO metagame.

The Fact of the Matter

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There are definitely some differences to playing on MTGO vs Paper Legacy, and I think the biggest aspect and argument that Paper is some vastly different place than MTGO is becoming closer and closer to being false as more players absorb information about the metagame and as more paper events get started back up here or there. The information delta between the two continually is changing. More players are tuned in to the ongoing ebb and flow of the metagame and more players are also using MTGO to test for paper events due to the competitive nature of the client.

There's always going to be differences between the two halves of Legacy play, but the similarities are actually much closer than one might actually believe. At the end of the day, they're still both Legacy.

Legacy Challenge 8/21

We had two Challenge events 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 67 players in it.

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

A first for a while in that while Tempo was the most represented deck, it wasn't UR Delver that was the most represented subarchetype. Instead, the Jeskai Ragavan deck took that top spot, and had a solid performance to back it up. Doomsday also had a solid performance in this event, as did Sneak and Show.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Ragavan Saga 1st ZYURYO
Lands 2nd aslidsiksoraksi
Doomsday 3rd sawatarix
Colorless Cloudpost 4th emurakirin
Bomberman 5th kanican
Doomsday 6th Goliat2
GW Depths 7th Didackith
GW Depths 8th maxbv

Super interesting Top 8 for sure here, with half of it being taken up by two decks that aren't Delver! Both GW Depths and Doomsday had solid performances here but it was the Jeskai Ragavan deck that took it all down!

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This deck and all variants of it continue to put up quite the results over the past few months and is still in the top tier of Legacy decks right now based on the data. Whether we've arrived at the correct variation is another story, but expect this deck to keep evolving.

In Second Place we've got Lands!

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One of the minds behind the website Pendrell Vale, this pilot really knows their stuff when it comes to Lands. If you're looking to dive into this archetype, this is a great place to start. This pilot also put up an article on the aforementioned site talking about their run to the finals.

Also in the Top 8 we've got perennial Bomberman player kanican!

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Ingenious Smith definitely seems to be the real deal in these decks. Furthermore, it's interesting to see sideboard cards of Dawnbringer Cleric from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, a card that does some very modal things.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we've got GW Depths!

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This deck has so many angles at which it can attack the game and not every deck can beat all of them. The simple act alone of having Swords to Plowshares is a really strong aspect of this deck for sure.

Outside of the Top 8 we've got a sweet take on the Red Prison/Blood Moon Aggro deck.

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Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Fury seem incredibly sweet together. Plus, four maindeck copies of Den of the Bugbear?! Be still, my beating heart.

Going down the Top 32 we've also got the return of our good friend Reeplcheep on CURSES.

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Fitting Urza's Saga into this deck only made sense to me. Sudden Edict is another sweet MH2 upgrade that is really nice.

At the very bottom of the Top 32 we've got legitimate JUND.

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This deck is super sweet. Sarulf, Realm Eater?! Super cool. I am digging everything about this list.

Legacy Challenge 8/22

The other Challenge this weekend was the Sunday event, which had 92 players in it.

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

This event flipped back the other way with UR Delver being the most populous tempo deck in the event, but the Jeskai deck was there as well, with a subpar performance. There's definitely a lot of ebb and flow to these events for sure.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
GW Depths 1st maxbv
UR Delver 2nd AyeltsNick
Bant Control 3rd trunks132
Oops! All Spells 4th NAKASHIMA
Oops! All Spells 5th Parrotlet
Sneak and Show 6th wingzeronfc
UR Delver 7th yamakiller
GW Depths 8th Shadraro

Certainly a very interesting Top 8 with a presence being felt by Oops as well as Delver and GW Depths. Speaking of GW Depths, it was that deck that went all the way to the end and took down the event.

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GW Depths is definitely the best Depths variant in the format right now. It just has so many ways to prop up its game plans now that there are so many ways of dealing with things like Marit Lage.

In Second Place we've got UR Delver.

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Steam Vents Delver continues to hold on steady, and the build also boasting only two copies of Delver as well. It almost feels like you could drop both of them for something like Brazen Borrower in the long run.

Down the Top 8 we've got one of two Oops! All Spells pilots.

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The big takeaway here for me is no copies of Bridge from Below which is usually used to replace a creature if you have to Cabal Therapy your opponent first before casting Dread Return. However, there's also only one copy of Cabal Therapy here as well. The two copies of Once Upon a Time is also sort of interesting. Definitely a cool list.

Also in the Top 8 we've got Sneak and Show.

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The sideboard being mostly one-of's here had me looking for a Wish effect but there's none of that here. Just some solid silver sideboard action for specific matchups without diluting too much of the core game plan.

Outside of the Top 8 we've got Aluren!

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The BUG lists with Living Wish seem incredibly strong, being able to flexibly utilize their sideboard with the Wish effect. Acererak it seems is definitely here to stay as one of the deck's many ways to win a game.

Legacy Showcase Qualifier 8/22

This past weekend was also the culmination of the past Season of Premier Play on Magic Online with the Showcase Qualifier. The only way to get into this event was to either Top 8 one of the Showcase Challenge events or to win a Last Chance Qualifier event. There were 27 players in this event overall.

Unfortunately, Wizards has a penchant for not posting any lists for these events, but you can find the datasheet here.

UR Delver had the most representation out of this smaller metagame, but it had the worst performance. I've seen a lot of takes on this data about how Delver got dunked or that Delver seems bad because of this, and I think it is important to keep in mind that this was still only a 27 player event and Delver still holds an overall 53% approximate win rate over the past few months of Magic Online events with a much larger sample size overall. It is also worth noting that due to the overall nature of this event, more people are going to be gunning for what the most popular deck will be and the list of players in the event is a known quantity.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Death and Taxes 1st Phill_Hellmuth
Lands 2nd alli
UR Delver 3rd nathansteuer
Bant Control 4th McWinSauce
Standstill 5th burrarun
Jeskai Ragavan Saga 6th stainerson
Esper Vial 7th jtl005
Goblins 8th Caedyrn

Pretty sweet Top 8 here for sure. Lot of variety at the very least. At the end of the event though, it is worth noting that it was Sky Noodle Taxes that took down the entire thing in the hands of Phill_Hellmuth.

Proof positive that the Sky Noodle is pretty groovy. Congrats to Phill_Hellmuth for winning this event and taking it all the way to the MOCS qualification!

MTGFirst Legacy 2K 8/21

This past weekend was also a paper Legacy event at MTGFirst, a Legacy 2K level prize pool event. This event had 58 players in it.

You can find all of the Top 8 decklists for the event here and the datasheet here.

A fairly expected metagame here in regards to the Tempo and Control deck makeup as plenty of UR Delver and Bant Control players descended upon this metagame. There's a definite variety but it's also definitely top-heavy into blue.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing Player Name
Hogaak 1st Albert Birckhead
UR Delver 2nd Joe Brennan
Depths Combo 3rd Peter Kirk
Ninjas 4th Lyle Rolfes
Aluren 5th Steve Axtell
Bomberman 6th Nicholas DiJohn
UR Delver 7th Andrew Vorel
UR Delver 8th Ryan AuCoin

Interesting Top 8 for sure. UR Delver put three pilots into this Top 8, but at the end of the event it was Hogaak that took it all down in the hands of pilot Albert Birckhead.

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Haven't really seen a good Gaak list in a hot minute mainly because the deck has had its woes online, but a good pilot can definitely take it all the way. We get to see new cards Bone Shards here in the sideboard as well. Pretty solid list!

Around the Web

  • Bryant Cook fires up The People's Cannon! Check it out here.
  • Phil Gallagher has some Madness action with Kitchen Imp! Check it out here.
  • Anuraag Das with some Counterbalance and some Predict. Check it out here.
  • 90sMTG has some action for us with D&T. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

This Grixis Painter list is sweet. Bolas's Citadel!

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Turbo Peer into the Abyss is pretty sweet.

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U/B Delver is an interesting place to be given the positioning of black in fair decks at the moment.

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The Antiquities War?!?! SIGN ME UP!

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What I'm Playing This Week

Have been still firmly on the Madness train for a while. Posted at least one 2-3 and one 3-2 with the deck in two Leagues, with some pretty wild games. Deck's a lot of fun for sure.

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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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