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This Week in Legacy: Walking on Thin Ice

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 diving into a hot button topic for Eternal format players with a bit of discussion on Secret Lair: The Walking Dead and what a release like this means for not just Legacy but Magic as well. We're also going to look at two cards from this set that come incredibly close to being playable in Legacy. In addition to that, we have two Challenges of data to look at, one of which is the first Season Three Showcase Challenge. We also have as always our Spice Corner.

Let's dive right into this week's topic, shall we?

Walking on, Walking on Broken Glass

This past week in the world of Magic has been a little topsy-turvy with discussion over the release of Secret Lair: The Walking Dead. A limited week long release Secret Lair product, this particular Secret Lair is doing something that is new to the Secret Lair product line: creating mechanically new and unique cards that are black bordered and also legal in Eternal formats such as Commander, Legacy, and Vintage. This is a pretty radical approach to this, and has definitely spurred a lot of discussion about what kind of precedent a release like this sets.

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From the perspective of someone who plays a lot of Legacy and Vintage, I very much dislike the idea that these cards are mechanically unique and only available in an extremely limited period of time. The way that Secret Lair functions from a print to demand perspective is that the print run is dependent on how many of these are actually sold. What this means is that once the drop purchase period is up, these cards are officially out of print. The concern here is that if anything ends up being printed in a set like this that is exceptionally playable in a format like Legacy/Vintage, then supply of these cards suddenly is driven by people needing to purchase the drop in order to get the cards. This is further exacerbated by the fact that international markets can't order Secret Lair directly from Wizards, meaning that there becomes a need to utilize people within the US to order for them. With the current state of international shipping and issues with that, this can be a bad idea and not worth the time, making it very hard for international player to acquire cards.

There is a lot to unpack here, honestly. A recent MTG Weekly stream featuring folks such as Aaron Forsythe and Mark Heggen confirmed that this is unlikely to be the last time we ever see a Secret Lair release like this, and quite frankly that scares me. While the cards in The Walking Dead are borderline to unplayable, the precedent we have now is that this could become a normal thing, and we could eventually see something like this again, but way more playable. There are plenty of ways that a release like this could have been achieved such as via silver border cards (my personal preference) or utilizing the Godzilla card style naming that was used in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Wizards has stated that they would be open to printing Magic version of these with a new name, but personally I feel the damage is already done at this point. Combine this with the fact that this actually put legitimate pressure on the Commander Rules Committee to potentially ban these cards before their release, and you have what amounts to a decision that potentially hurts brand loyalty to Wizards and Magic.

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In regards to Legacy/Vintage, I have heard some interesting rebuttals to this situation, and one of them is one I'd like to address and that's the idea that Reserved List cards exist and are already hard to acquire. I dislike this argument, mainly on the basis that it assumes that people aren't already upset about the inability to acquire Reserved List staples. It is wholly possible to be upset about the Reserved List and be upset about this Secret Lair product. The two aren't mutually exclusive. In paper, the ability to utilize playtest cards is certainly a way around both of these things, but for sanctioned tournaments (once we get back to paper Magic in general) both have that issue of being hard to acquire. So yes, theres not much difference there from RL cards, but that doesn't mean we can't be upset about both situations.

It's my opinion that this situation sets a bad precedent for the state of Magic products going forward. I'm not as upset about the fact that it is a crossover IP that is decidedly non-Magic as the fact that these cards have an exceptionally limited purchase period and the sheer precedent of coming close to printing a powerful archetype defining card in one of these sets.

This situation definitely reminds me of a history lesson in the form of Nalathni Dragon.

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This card was only available as a promotional card with a voucher for attending Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. Attendees of the event were given a voucher where when redeemeed they would receive a copy of this card and a certificate of authenticity in the mail. There was a lot of complaints at this time about the availability of this card being in a very limited fashion, and of course while Nalathni Dragon was nowhere near playable at the time, consumers saw the idea and didn't like it. This led to Wizards making the card available through Duelist magazine, and a promise from Wizards to stop doing functional promotional cards. Obviously as it seems this particular Secret Lair seems to have pushed that idea out, unfortunately.

With this set however, two cards came out of this set that really push the idea of this precedent being a bad thing by coming very close to being Legacy playable, scarily close even.

Glenn, the Voice of Calm

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There's a lot of comparison between this card and the card Shadowmage Infiltrator, but I think those comparisons aren't looking at the bigger picture on this card. One of the things that Glenn does really well is pick up Equipment, namely Umezawa's Jitte. Being able to use Jitte to gain counters and pump Glenn in the same combat step to draw a bunch of cards is really exceptional, and that could be a place where you might want to look at this card. The big downside here is that cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns exists, making Equipment like Jitte a really bad thing to want to have, but also making Glenn himself kind of awkward by turning off his ability.

However, this card is exceptionally close to playable, and is relevant colors for Stoneblade style decks while also being able to pitch to Force of Will. While it's certainly true that True-Name Nemesis is a much better card overall, this still has a lot of power and raw card advantage should never be overlooked.

Rick, Steadfast Leader

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This on the other hand, is even closer to Legacy playability than Glenn is. A powerful anthem effect + ability-granting effect on a four mana body is nothing to sneeze at, and the four mana is really nothing when you consider that cards like Palace Jailer see play. The biggest downside of this card is being Legendary, and being able to turn off its anthem with a removal spell or Karakas at the right time.

In fact, this plays really well within a shell that utilizes the Ancient Tomb + Chrome Mox manabase. Normally I would be looking at decks like Soldier Stompy for this, but that deck often plays a lot of non-Human Soldiers. However, if you slightly rebuild the deck with all Human Soldiers... Rick suddenly gets a lot better.

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This definitely can use some tuning, but I think there is some potential merit to the card in this kind of shell. Another card I looked at that really surprised me to try out was Tithe Taker (as in multiples that card can be pretty back-breaking to interrupting Rick with removal in addition to a taxing effect like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben). While Soldiers is certainly a fringe archetype, there is definitely a possibility that this is a card for that deck.

The Verdict

My verdict on this product is that while I don't mind the fact that Wizards is expanding to crossover with other IPs (as someone who is REALLY excited for the Dungeons & Dragons set coming in 2021), but I definitely dislike the idea that these are cards only available in this fashion and are black-bordered legal cards that are not reprints. As has been mentioned before by our good friend Seth on this website, if you believe that this is a bad idea, the best thing that can be done to tell Wizards that this move forward is not appreciated is to simply not purchase this product.

Legacy Challenge 10/3

Our first Challenge of the weekend was a regular Challenge event, and was the early morning Saturday Challenge event. Let's dive right into the Top 32 Metagame breakdown.

Hogaak and RUG Delver were definitely neck and neck in terms of popularity, and I completely understand why. Hogaak is definitely an exceptionally popular deck as it is very powerful and explosive, while having a generally solid game vs RUG Delver. In addition, both Maverick and Snowko decks put a reasonable dent in the Top 32 metagame as well. There was also a small amount of Oops as well as some fun lists like Belcher and Pox even in this Top 32.

Now let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Snowko 1st R0ckNati0n
Sneak and Show 2nd JPA93
Snowko 3rd Dazai
Mono Red Prison 4th Basuta
RUG Stifle 5th TheStyle
Oops! All Spells 6th Yashimoro
Lands 7th Pische10
RUG Delver 8th Azerate218

This was certainly a very interesting Top 8, with some wildly cool decks in the mix like Mono Red Prison and Oops. At the end of it all however, it was Snowko that took it all down.

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The big draw to me here is the Garruk, Primal Hunter in the sideboard. Seems like a fun inclusion for sure.

In Second Place we have the one and only JPA93 on Sneak and Show.

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This is a super clean 4 Daze list, and JPA's experience with this list is very apparent in his finishes with it. Just good clean fun putting in Emrakuls and Griselbrand here.

In Third Place we have another Snowko list.

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Dazai bumps in Omnath, Locus of Creation into the Snowko shell, along with some Green Sun's Zenith for support and tutor. As we've discussed before, Omnath really shines in these kinds of shells where it can be abused by Uro and GSZ.

In Fourth Place we have Mono Red Prison.

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Mono Red Prison seems to have adopted the red mythic MDFC in Shatterskull Smashing, which makes for a decent bump in the deck's red mana sources but also presents a way to kill an opponent's creatures or planeswalkers, something the deck was sorely lacking with the nerf of planeswalker redirection for damage.

In Fifth Place we have RUG Stifle.

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Commonly referred to in the community as PokePile, this deck continues to put up some solid results in Challenge events. It is very strong for sure.

In Sixth Place we have Oops! All Spells.

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Rather than go on a plan involving green disruption, this variant of Oops utilizes Sea Gate Restoration and Jwari Disruption as blue mana sources to cast cantrips and to even have its own Force of Will plan. Very intriguing build for sure!

In Seventh Place we have Lands.

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The verdict is definitely in on Valakut Exploration in Lands shells. The card is incredibly powerful and does everything you could ever want in an engine/finisher for the deck. Incredibly powerful card all around.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have RUG Delver.

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This is a pretty standard RUG Delver list at this point. The biggest interesting thing here is the Sylvan Library in the sideboard, which functions really well with incidental lifegain off of Oko.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-2020 cards in this event. As always we're looking at cards with 8 or more copies, with exceptions made for Companions and for Modal DFC cards.

Card Name Number of Copies
Oko, Thief of Crowns 32
Force of Negation 24
Plague Engineer 24
Dreadhorde Arcanist 23
Force of Vigor 19
Veil of Summer 19
Arcum's Astrolabe 17
Ice-Fang Coatl 17
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 16
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 15
Once Upon a Time 14
Prismatic Vista 10
Agadeem's Awakening 8
Changeling Outcast 8
Ingenious Infiltrator 8
Karn, the Great Creator 8
Sea Gate Restoration 8
Teferi, Time Raveler 8
Shatterskull Smashing 3
Pelakka Predation 2
Jwari Disruption 1

All our usual suspects from the past two years are here, as well as some of the Modal DFC cards from Zendikar Rising in various shells. I expect that Modal DFCs will continue to impact the format as things go on.

Legacy Showcase Challenge 10/4

This past weekend was the first Showcase Challenge for Season Three. This event required 40 Qualifier Points (QPs) to enter and the Top 8 of the event qualifies to go onto the Season Three Showcase Qualifier at the end of the season. Let's dive right into the Top 32!

The top three most represented here were RUG Delver, Elves, and Hogaak, all of which converted fairly well in crossing the threshold into the Top 8. Also showing up was a smattering of Lands, LED Dredge, and a fairly low showing for Snowko.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
RUG Delver 1st WamboCombo2020
Elves 2nd Testacular
Doomsday 3rd Sawatrix
Elves 4th Julian23
ANT 5th ThePowerNine
Hogaak 6th Sakuragi21722749
White Eldrazi 7th Mei0024
Death and Taxes 8th xJCloud

This is actually a pretty relatively interesting Top 8, and while the event was taken down at the end by RUG Delver, it seemed like the rest of the Top 8 was fairly diverse. Of course, as mentioned already, RUG Delver did win it all.

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Wambo's post on Twitter mentioned the fact that this was only their third time out with RUG Delver in general, so I think that speaks a lot to the power level of the deck and how good it can be. It feels like metagame forces are trying to adjust against it, but I still feel like this is the best deck to play in an event like this if you really want to win.

In Second Place we have Elves.

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And we're back to seeing builds with Nettle Sentinel again, and this time without Once Upon a Time in the list and a full four Allosaurus Shepherd. This card certainly did a lot for Elves, which was already edging back into greatness, but Shepherd really pushed the archetype quite a bit.

In Third Place we have Doomsday.

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The light green splash in the sideboard for Carpet of Flowers is pretty sweet. Carpet is definitely a card that could use a reprint (outside of Mystery Booster) because it is seeing an incredible amount of play, and a reprint on Magic Online would really alleviate its price there as well.

Since Fourth Place also had Elves (by our good friend Julian Knab - Happy Birthday Julian!) let's move down to Fifth Place with a list by another good friend of ours in Vintage specialist ThePowerNine on ANT.

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This list is pretty sweet, taking some adaptation cues from The EPIC Storm just a tad here with main deck cards like Veil of Summer and multiple Wishclaw Talisman. Seems like a really fun list for sure.

In Sixth Place we have Hogaak.

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As far as I can tell, popularity of Hogaak variants is definitely split down the middle on Jund vs BUG, but BUG has had some great results. This deck is exceptionally good right now in the metagame overall, and its meta share has risen quite a bit in response to Delver threats.

In Seventh Place we have White Eldrazi.

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No main deck Chalice plan is certainly very interesting, instead leaning on having removal like Swords to Plowshares and cards like Eldrazi Displacer. Shefet Dunes is a cool way of enabling colorless and white mana sources too.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have our good friend xJCloud on his signature deck, Death and Taxes.

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The big hotness of this list is Skyclave Apparition which has definitely cemented itself as having a home within the Death and Taxes shells. The card seems like everything you'd want out of a Legacy playable card for white based decks, and has a solid upside with just enough of a downside to make it good but not broken.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-2020 cards in this event.

Card Name Number of Copies
Dreadhorde Arcanist 30
Force of Negation 26
Oko, Thief of Crowns 25
Force of Vigor 20
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 18
Ice-Fang Coatl 15
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 14
Arcum's Astrolabe 12
Once Upon a Time 12
Veil of Summer 11
Plague Engineer 10
Klothys, God of Destiny 8
Sea Gate Restoration 2
Yorion, Sky Nomad 1

Sea Gate Restoration showed up a little in this event, but not in decks that would be playing the effect strictly as a land, but in Omni-Tell and Yorion Stryfo Pile. The numbers on Astrolabe and friends also trended back down as we'll see in our Ban Watch section.

Ban Watch

Two more events give us another two days of data to add to our chart. As some of you have liked seeing the numbers I'll continue to keep them on the chart, so let's take a look.

Numbers continue to trend back down on cards like Astrolabe and even Oko has trended a bit back down. Uro's trajectory is wildly all over the place as the card goes from all over the place to nowhere. The only consistent trend is the average numbers of Dreadhorde Arcanist which continues to be pretty steady.

Currently I think we're in a bit of a decent place with the format. Zendikar Rising has shaken up a little bit with Modal DFCs to improve fringe archetypes that may not have had a lot of representation in the format beforehand, so I'm inclined to wait and see what will happen. Oko is still certainly high on my list of problematic cards personally, but we'll see just how that goes.

A lot of you really enjoyed the Legacy Round Table events, so we'll definitely be doing that again right around the release of Kaldheim for sure.

Around the Web

  • The DDFT website published a great article on Cantrips in Doomsday. Check that out here.
  • Brenden McCarley posted a solid Tournament Report on Maverick on Check that out here.
  • Our good friends at Eternal Durdles took on The Walking Dead Secret Lair in their most recent episode. Check it out here.
  • Episode 9 of In Response is now live and the gang talks about being a part of my Legacy Round Table, among other things. Check that out here.
  • 90sMTG has a sweet D&T matchup with Burn with new card Skyclave Apparition on VOD. Check that out here.

The Spice Corner

Flow_True with a really sweet Mystic Forge take. Surge Node is sweet and reminds me of Modern Dice Factory.

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Mazemind Tome showing up in Mono-Red Painter!

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Enchantress showing up is always spicy. I love what On Thin Ice has done for this deck, to be honest.

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Wayward Guide-Beast in Burn!

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What I'm Playing This Week

I'm actuallt somewhat on vacation this week so playing Magic Online is a bit right out, but if I had to be on, I'd still be jamming this Oops list. Leyline of Lifeforce is so much fun!

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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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