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This Week in Legacy: Reviewer of Secrets

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 doing another Player Spotlight Series where we do deep dives into some of the more well known players in the Legacy community. This week we've got a great treat in the form of Peter van der Ham, well known for his set reviews he posts on Twitter. In addition to that we've got some paper event news as well as two Challenges to look at.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Player Spotlight Series: Peter van der Ham

One of the things I want to do more of this year is more spotlights on the community. The first one of these was back in February with John Ryan Hamilton and Jason Murray and it received a lot of positive responses. This go around, we're talking with Peter van der Ham (aka 'PVDH'). Peter is well known for a number of things in the Legacy community, primarily through his associations with UR Delver as well as with cool and interesting brews around new cards, but he also reviews a lot of Magic cards every set and posts those reviews on Twitter.

As I always like to do with these sorts of things, this is Peter's story, so it's only fitting for him to tell it, so I'm going to hand things over to Peter.

Peter van der Ham - Player Spotlight

Today I want to share some personal highlights of my days with the game. How I got into the game a good 23 years ago, my competitive journey, and what moved me into my current place within the content creation space for the marvelous Legacy community.

This is my story.

Discovering the Game

Back in 1999 my father and I picked up some demo packs of something called Magic The Gathering, which were being handed out at a job fair. After trying to figure out how to play the game with my old man (and freely interpreting the rules), we got some of the basics down and he noticed how much I fell in love with it. My dad then found out that there was a store in our town, named ‘Bij B’, where they sold these cards and where people would regularly play the game. Well, I guess that was as fine a place as any to spend most of my adolescent life.

At ‘B’ we would play and teach all kinds of games including a whole host of trading card games. From widely known classics such as Pokémon, Lord of the Rings, and a swat of Star Wars variants; to odd-balls such as the Austin Powers or The Wheel of Times card games. This is also where I believe I developed a solid foundation for evaluating cards based on a wide variety of circumstances. While far from an ace in Magic: the Gathering at the time, I would often be a top contender in newly introduced games as I quickly identified superior strategies.

Around the release of the Onslaught block (ca. 2003) this shop closed. By then I had made lasting friendships and would-be teammates, and I had garnered myself some casual Magic decks and a considerable Goblins collection. We would continue to sling cards from time to time, but the intense gaming would go into a brooding slumber.

The Competitive Journey

It wasn’t until Time Spiral (2006), with its return of old-bordered cards, that my friends and I would crack some packs again. From that year on though, we went deep. We started by drafting at least once a week, cycling through the latest standard format and any older set that we could get our hands on. We had also been upgrading our casual decks through the roof on power level, such as 60 card decks with a full playset of both Sol Ring and Mana Vault. While there was a certain beauty to that raw type of deck-building, it was clear that we were in need of some guidance other than the contents of our wallets.

My friend Kasper Euser was the first to check out the Legacy format, as he’d always been the most competitive of our little gang of misfits. He suggested we’d try and make our decks fall in line with those rules, as large swaths of our decks already fit in. After prying the aforementioned mana artifacts from my Goblin hands, I gave in and decided to see what we could do given these new conditions. While most of us were just messing around with casual Legacy-legal decks, Kasper went to check out some tournaments. He built, tested, and registered a Death & Taxes list and managed to take his first tournament down. Enthralled by what would be an impressive series of victories with Death & Taxes by him, I wanted to get in on that action and looked to my Goblins for advice. A few envelopes later I got my Wastelands and Aether Vials together and was ready to join the ranks of the Legacy community with the Goblin menace.

I would play many decks in my first few years, fueled by a daily stream of envelopes where I was trading up my non-Legacy and draft cards for Legacy staples; and taking decks as Cephalid Breakfast, Dreadstill, Landstill, It’s the Fear, Domain Zoo and The Mighty Quinn, to tournaments throughout the Netherlands. As I was exploring the outskirts of the Legacy meta, I was slowly moving up from being a middle of pack player to someone who thought he knew what he was doing. We really lucked out with our timing of getting into Legacy, as it was common for 20 player tournaments to pay out in revised dual lands; such as the prize payouts from Bram Snepvangers’ binders.

From 2009 forward I was finding my home in Legacy, as I was honing in on Canadian Threshold I was also starting to have frequent top finishes in both the Netherlands and Belgium. This is also when I made my first Dutch Legacy Nationals top 8 finish with a spicy Aether Vial Threshold brew.

PS. I’m still mad at my Dark Confidants for killing me in those quarterfinals against Storm.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

With the promise of a Legacy Grand Prix in Madrid in 2010 and a thriving Legacy scene in the Netherlands, many took it as a chance to get ever more involved. We traveled to Spain with a solid 70 Dutch Legacy players, many of us heading to our first Grand Prix. It was an overcrowded, 2227 player mess with players playing the main event rounds on the floor. I went 5-3 drop with one of my many Intuition Demigod brews, and I loved every second of it!

2011 was a wild year for Legacy, most notably featuring ‘Mental Misstep Summer’ and the release of the most influential set to ever be unleashed on the format: Innistrad. After the Innistrad release I attended the 1878 player Grand Prix Amsterdam, my second Grand Prix and my Day 2 birth, with a meta-tuned Esper Blade list. After a decent 40th place finish in Amsterdam, I was convinced with my token-heavy version of the deck. I submitted the same 75 to the Dutch Legacy Nationals a couple of weeks later and ended up taking the whole thing down. This was also the year where the DCI elo ratings stopped existing, and I’m still proud to finish that period with a solid #1 place in the Netherlands for eternal formats. Though my teammate Kasper Euser certainly made a good run for it in the last couple of tournaments.

2011, with the Dutch Legacy Nationals Trophy

While I love playing and winning at Magic, I’ve always been a brewer and deck-builder first. With notebooks full of decklists on me everywhere I went, I was always trying to map out and scribble down new configurations of existing decks, or exploring undervalued cards and strategies. To this day, over 95% of my time engaging with the game is theorycrafting and deck construction; I barely get any games in. So seeing a list I worked on having success, whether by my teammates or strangers, is something that I value as much as winning myself. The first memorable time one of my decks made it to the international stage was in 2012.

The Esper Blade deck, and my experience with it, was the foundation my teammates and I used to develop a Lingering Souls Esper Blade list; as it fit perfectly into my token-heavy approach for that archetype. We took three copies of this Lingering Esper Blade to a local tournament and split the top four between the three of us and Storm specialist Jamie Westlake. The reason I want to mention this deck is because of Kasper’s finish with his version of the list (I had cut the Intuitions) the next weekend, at the Belgian Eternal Weekend. After he split the finals against Marijn Lybaert, Marijn shared our list on Facebook with a message akin to ‘play this if you want to win GP Indianapolis.’ Through some GP regulars, our list ended up in the hands of Tom Martell, who would indeed take down GP Indianapolis after theorycrafting a bit and a solid zero games of testing.

Snap to 2018, with more than a decade of Legacy experience under my belt. Grand Prix Birmingham was the first time I truly invested in finding the best deck to play, as our team was still in meta limbo after the loss of Sensei’s Divining Top. While I was always tempted to submit a brew (I had Training Grounds Rebels with me, and played it in a last-minute qualifier) I gave in and just played the deck that was both clearly the best, and that I could comfortably play at a very high level. An undefeated swiss run at Grand Prix Birmingham later, there was new fuel added to my competitive fire, and I wrote my first full Magic: the Gathering article.

The combination of having an article to be proud of, and wanting to get more involved with the community, had me slowly become more active online; whether through Twitter, Reddit, or Discord. While I spewed my ideas into the abyss that is the internet, I was missing a consistent competitive outlet. I strongly believe in the ‘the Gathering’ part of MTG, but Magic Online was the closest I could get to getting more competitive Legacy play, and a nice way to generate some extra value while doing so. After some convincing and help from my friends I started hitting the pauper leagues to grind myself towards Legacy decks.

While it lacked big finishes, 2019 was by far my most successful Magic playing year to date, as I seemed unable to miss a Top 8. With a stellar record at the Dutch Open Series, and over a year of finishing #1 at all our prereleases (had to include this to remind my mates), I felt on top of my game. Keeping up with my recently started Magic Online adventure, at the start of this year I had just finished grinding towards my first proper Legacy deck on the client, and as the year moved on I would quickly find myself with a solid Magic Online collection through jamming the Legacy leagues. This would become key in getting hands-on experience with the new cards and brews as soon as new cards became available.

One big contributor to my 2019 success was the fact that I was keeping up with new releases, evaluating their impact, and adapting them before my fellow competitors. A clear example was when I brought Blue-Red Delver with Dreadhorde Arcanist to dominate a Dutch Open Series and many of my opponents hadn’t seen the card before. This led me to the realization that the vast majority of my fellow Legacy competitors weren’t involved in the online community enough, and weren’t going to listen to podcasts or read tons of articles to keep up; and the fact that this created an ever increasing knowledge gap due to the power-creep that was observed in new releases.

This was also at a time where I moved town for my spouse’s work, and with a larger distance to my teammates there were fewer natural opportunities for me to share and talk about new cards and deck builds. While I like building decks that I feel have a competitive edge, sharing them is where I find real joy. I put one and one together and decided that I could provide myself with a creative outlet while providing my less-involved peers with a single low-barrier location to absorb the influence of a new set of cards.

Legacy Set Reviews

After reaching out I got the opportunity to post my first set review, for Throne of Eldraine, on (thanks again to both Min and Max for the platform). I basically just got to work by writing down exactly what I would tell my friends whenever I was talking to them about cards, whether I needed to get them hyped for it due to some unique interactions or had to talk them off of a card due to the reality that is Legacy’s power level.

To me, reviewing cards is all about asking the right questions, and coming up with a serviceable theoretical answer. My litmus test for Legacy is typically where a card lands when played against a tempo strategy; that is how well it:

  • holds up against a resolved flying threat
  • handles pressure on your non-basic land
  • performs against Lightning Bolt
  • how resilient it is to Daze and Force of Will.

While a card can be good and see play while it isn’t great against tempo strategies, the number of slots that are available for such cards is incredibly small; so it needs to be a straight upgrade over all existing candidates.

If it’s a combo card I ask myself what it’s doing better than existing two card combinations (Painter+Grindstone, Entomb+Reanimate, Show and Tell). Combo pay-offs can get away with slightly higher mana costs as long as they’re reliable and low on further requirements, while combo set-ups just need to be cost-efficient and is where we prefer power over reliability.

In general we can divide new cards in two categories; cards that offer a unique effect, and cards that don’t. Many cards don’t offer a unique effect in comparison to Legacy’s card pool, which is where we can draw direct comparisons to existing options. Unique effects, however, are a lot more complicated. It’s pretty easy to see that the more unique a card is, the harder it is to evaluate. Though being unique isn’t necessarily tied to having an effect that hasn’t been printed before, it can also hit a unique spot on the power-level spectrum. For example, Murktide Regent is very close in design to Tombstalker; but the slight bump in power level and shift in color is the difference between an unplayable card and an all-star.

Versatility is also an often talked about topic when evaluating cards in different formats, especially since it are easy to create a unique combinatory tool. The reality of Legacy is however that everything is pushed to the extremes of efficiency. Cards need to be so efficient at what they do that there is negligible room for versatility at the cost of inefficiency. While certain strategies can accept some inefficiency in their surplus slots, cards will face fierce competition for the few acceptable low-efficiency deck slots.

For each card I went through the decks it could be played in, gave a solid thought on what cards it could replace and how it would improve the deck. Did a double check whether it was unique enough to spawn a new strategy; and got to writing. Added in some unique imagery, and shipped it off to Min.

One of (too) many memes in the Legacy set review for

Putting out the Throne of Eldraine set review certainly got my creative fluids flowing, and I had a blast writing it. At the end of the day this format didn’t nail what I was trying to achieve with this endeavor; and it ended up being a one-time deal.

A couple of months later Theros Beyond Death’s first cards got previewed and I still had the urge to share my take on them with the community. Instead of looking for another third party platform to share my reviews, I decided to just use the platform I already found the most engagement on; and worry about a proper platform. Using my Twitter as the main platform for my reviews certainly ended up being one of the more unique things about them. 

While I’ve certainly had a lot of questions and comments about this choice, it has been important to me that I can put out the content in accessible and bite-size bits. Using Twitter as a platform means I can keep it workable for myself, and don’t have to manage any additional requirements or specific deadlines. It is also easy for people to share and comment on specific cards on a platform that many people are already using without having to work through another site or mess around with external links. Also, as some may have noticed, I love making visually pleasing compilations for my reviews. That was certainly not what I set out to accomplish; but I’ve found that I find it fun to do and is a way to add a personal touch to my content.

For my first per-card review I gave a short description of the individual card, without providing much in the way of context between them. By the end of my reviews I posted a couple of tweets where I gathered the previously posted individual reviews; but those weren’t all that easy to parse. This was clearly still lacking a concise bit of information for people to absorb the influence of a new set on their favorite format, without having to read-up and evaluate all the cards themselves. Which was one of the goals I set out to achieve.

First Legacy card review posted to @PVDH_magic

I wanted to create an easy to read overview that showed people the cards from the new set to look out for, and whether anything was expected to have a significant impact on the tournaments they were to play. To achieve this I’d need to grade the cards I reviewed based on their likelihood to show up in the format, such that I could group them for easier parsing.

My very first set review on included such a grading, as this was used by Max for his Modern Horizons Legacy set review before, and I’d figure I would keep with it. His scale rated a card based on its expected influence on the format, rather than a card’s power level. More specifically, the level of influence a card is expected to have on the existence or placement of an archetype in the competitive metagame. Adopting this scale again would allow me to rank the cards for the average Legacy player, giving them a quick grasp on how influential I expect the card to be on their tournament experience. Over my reviews I’ve fine-tuned the categories a bit, based on community feedback, but the overall premise and goal have remained the same.

Rating Scale for the Streets of New Capenna Legacy Review

While I believe that this rating system serves its purpose pretty well, there are certainly a number of things it doesn’t convey as well. An extreme example of this rating system is my (often mocked) rating of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; which I had rated rather low despite noting its obviously high power level. As we well know, the card is very powerful and can dominate a game; but with Dragon's Rage Channeler and Murktide Regent already previewed there wasn’t much room for Blue-Red Delver to improve its position in the metagame. Ragavan ended up being a must-play because of its influence on, and the prevalence of, the mirror. Though - as we’ve seen since the monkey’s banning - its existence wasn’t a positive influence on the position of Blue-Red Delver in the metagame at all. Certainly a quirk of my rating system, and I’m still unsure how to give such a card a proper rating given the definitions of the rating system I’m currently using. While such situations will pop up, I expect such cards to be rare enough that I won’t be scrapping my rating system over them yet.

But a rating per card isn’t everything, as it is still not easy to parse a long string of individual card reviews posted to a Twitter account. While I feel that while it’s only a snippet of all the work I put into my written reviews per card, by far my most useful product is a rating overview of the entire set. This is what lets people see what cards they may want to look into, or at least what my take on the set’s influence is; and lets them see if there’s a card that they want to read my more elaborate review on. While it’s certainly been tempting to just put out this overview, as it’s the low-hanging and high pay-off content. I feel that it is paramount to the integrity of these reviews that I try to convey my motivations for the rating of each card as well as I can.

Rating overview for Kamigawa Neon Dynasty

All in all the work involved with my reviews has steadily been growing, and I’ve sadly found myself having to pick and choose the depth I go into for each set or certain cards based on my available time. Between all the imagery, actually reviewing the cards, and writing up around 10,000 words each set; it has become an interesting but demanding part of my hobby. The good thing is that I love doing this, but having some lower complexity sets from time to time surely helps things along.

As of 2021 I’ve also been dipping my toes into gameplay content on my Youtube channel, as another creative outlet for my brews. While my ability to commit to new videos on the platform is sporadic at best, I try to run some of the interesting new cards of each set through a league and share my findings. I see this as a way to follow-through on my card reviews, and I try to highlight underappreciated cards where I’m able to.

As with the people who design and test the cards within Wizards, which is just a small team, compared to the vast population of players; I’m just a single player trying to figure out what our entire Legacy community will find out over the course of days to months of gameplay. This means that I will be wrong, often, and sometimes by quite a bit. Luckily I have found a fail-proof tactic whenever some commenters get to me or I give in to imposter syndrome: I look at other people their early takes on new cards for a good minute and I’m typically quickly reminded that I’m doing a relatively fine job.

If you made it this far into this spotlight, thank you for reading. If you take anything away from this, please note that while my reviews are a lot of work, they’re a work of passion. This is something I like to provide for our little community as long as I’m able to. As a way to communicate with the more involved people; but primarily to keep the less involved people in the loop for our ever-evolving game.

Much love, your friendly neighborhood reviewer,

Peter ‘PVDH’ van der Ham

Wrapping Up

Big thanks to Peter for writing up his story for us! I love these articles, as they really are a great way to connect with the members of the Legacy community. I'm definitely going to be doing more of these, so if there's someone specific you'd like me to talk to, please let me know in the comments.

Paper Event News - The Legacy Pit Open 2

We got some big paper event news this week! The Legacy Pit has announced their second Legacy Pit Open on October 1st-2nd (two day event) in Richmond, VA. Registration for events will go on sale starting 10:00 AM EST on Monday, May 16th. You can find the Twitter announcement for this event right here for their sweet video of the announcement, or you can watch it below!

Legacy Challenge 4/23

Our first Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Saturday event. This event had 63 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Legacy Data Collection Project.

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

Delver was the most played deck but not by a huge margin here, as D&T and Jeskai Control were right behind it. Delver didn't perform suepr well, while Lands and Jeskai Control did very well in that regard. A lot of the Lands performance is owed specifically to 8Mulch however.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
ANT 1st DemonicTutors
Elves 2nd EronRelentless
Jeskai Control 3rd wiky
Death and Taxes 4th nagiiw
Lands 5th Bob49
Jeskai Control 6th Ozymandias17
The EPIC Storm 7th DARK3ckOn1ng
Lands (8Mulch) 8th Nick_Fox

Definitely an interesting Top 8, with no Delver pilots at all in it. Wild to see, but we've had weeks like this before, so I would put more stock in longer term data than a single weekend. At the end of this event, however, it was DemonicTutors who has continually been doing well with Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) in First Place.

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This build is very strong and looks like it has a lot of powerful things to be doing. The biggest change for these lists is the advent of Malevolent Hermit and the power level of that card. It's just an exceptionally strong card that is often a 2-for-1 in many of the matchups it comes in for.

The Second Place finalist was our good friend EronRelentless on Elves.

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Reclaimer Elves builds are certainly the new normal as the ones predominantly putting up the best results with the deck thus far. It really showcases the power of Elvish Reclaimer and how truly strong that card is in Legacy right now.

We had two Jeskai Control builds in the Top 8, and the first one was a Jeskai Hullbreacher build, but the one in Sixth by Matt Vook (Ozymandias17) looked very interesting.

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Matt has been continually iterating on this variation of the deck, and the time put in has really paid off for him as he has had multiple strong results with the deck. This is a solid take on Jeskai right now, utilizing cards like Mentor and Murktide to great effect.

At the botom of the Top 8 we had 8Mulch.

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Flame Jab in the main deck is pretty sweet, as it does kill a lot of different things and ups your chances of beating Magus of the Moon game one if need be. This is definitely a really strong deck right now and it's super fun to see it do well.

Legacy Challenge 4/24

Our second Challenge of the weekend was the Sunday event, which had 86 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Legacy Data Collection Project.

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

UR Delver was again the most played deck by a pretty wide margin in this event, but it also didn't perform super well. Out of the top decks played past the cutoff, all of them actually didn't perform super well and only Lands performed 50/50. It was a lot of the decks below the cutoff that actually overperformed.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Depths Combo 1st Delthar
Doomsday 2nd wonderPreaux
4C Control 3rd Nammersquats
8Cast 4th HiGeKuN
Elves 5th EronRelentless
Elves 6th Julian23
The EPIC Gamble 7th TonyScapone
Cephalid Breakfast 8th makuto86

Definitely a wild Top 8 here, again with no Delver, but some copies of Elves and even a helping of Breakfast. At the end of the event though it was a MONO BLACK based Depths Combo deck that took it all down!

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This list is super sick. I love it. Really interesting stuff going on here with the Depths Combo, but also stuff like Dauthi Voidwalker and Confidant. Just really wild all around.

The Second Place finalist was on Doomsday.

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Have not seen a ton of Doomsday recently, mostly due to the fact that Delver is not a super good matchup and a lot of the major Doomsday pilots seem to have been off the deck in Challenges or just not playing in Challenges, but with Delver doing rather poorly in this event it's a good place for Doomsday to step in and remind people of the extreme power level of the deck.

Further down the Top 8 we have The EPIC Gamble.

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Tony is one of the masters of this deck and his continued results with it really show. It's a powerful strategy that has really evolved over time for sure from its days as Ruby Storm. Galvanic Relay continues to show just how good it really is all over the place in these kinds of combo builds.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we have Cephalid... YORION BREAKFAST.

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This list is wild as heck. I am digging it. Lot of really cool things going on here, from being able to act as a fair Stoneblade deck to a combo deck. I am rather surprised at the lack of Kaldra Compleat though. I feel like I would actually want that more than I would want Batterskull even right now due to how crushingly powerful it is. Still, this is a sweet list.

Around the Web

  • Our good friends at Everyday Eternal had on Lawrence Harmon recently, talking about UR Delver. Check it out here.
  • The Eternal Glory Podcast had a solid episode about the current Legacy format this past week. Check that out here.
  • IN RESPONSE also has a new episode out on UR Dominance! Check it out here.
  • Well known player Isaac Bullwinkle wrote a really solid piece on the current state of UR Delver and how to approach deckbuilding with the deck. Check it out here.
  • on moving away from Knight of the Reliquary? Check it out here.
  • 90sMTG had some 8Mulch vs UR Delver action this week. Check that out here.

The Spice Corner

You can find this past week's 5-0 deck lists over here.

Legacy MILL?!

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Dwarf Tribal. Right... Dwarf Tribal.

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Pretty interesting take on the Witherbloom Nic Fit deck here.

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What I Played This Week

This week's video was pretty wild. Inspired by a list Peter White has posted about on his Twitter, it's Cosmic Intervention Control!

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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 MTGLegacy Discord Server.

Until next time!

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