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This Week in Legacy: White Winter


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 kicking off 2023 with a discussion on the Initiative mechanic and what is currently happening with it in the format and some of the discussion on the mechanic itself. We've also got some events to talk about, but it's worth noting that there is still a bug with the MTGO.com decklist data so we have only hearsay decklists from Twitter for some of these events.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

White Winter - The Initiative in Legacy

We've been having a wild time in Legacy as of late, and the discussion on White Initiative and how the mechanic is impacting Legacy is heating up. Our Round Table last week presented a lot of interesting thoughts on the format right now and on Initiative in general.

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So where do we stand? What is the look ahead for 2023 for this mechanic and how do we continue to approach this? There are a few things to discuss here and the overall impact that this mechanic has had on the format. Initiative certainly arrived in Legacy with a true bang and has been pushing its way through the format since. Is this going to continue? Are we going to see this deck continue to push on other decks, and more importantly what might Wizards do about it?

Let's talk about some options and their upsides/downsides.

Option 1 - Do Nothing, Allow Metagame to attempt to adjust / Put cards on MTGO

I think this ends up being the more likely thing that will happen. For the first time, we do have a creature-heavy strategy that is good in Legacy and is also good against the boogeyman of the format UR Delver, and I am not sure how much Wizards will want to make changes right now and instead allow the metagame to attempt to adjust.

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The biggest reason we might want to see this happen is that MTGO does not currently have all of the cards that are currently potentially good cards in the format (very specifically pointing at the Warhammer 40,000 decks here) and it would make so much more sense to allow the format attempt to adjust and try to work on getting those cards into the client, as they can have a real impact and we can further align paper vs MTGO a little better. I would rather see this be the likely outcome than perform any bans because it would let us work with more complete information overall and not make decisions based on specifically MTGO without these cards.

Furthermore, we don't even have the full Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate set on MTGO, which also includes the rest of the cycle that White Plume Adventurer and Caves of Chaos Adventurer belong to, of which the most potential playable here is Ravenloft Adventurer which might also tip some things as well in the format.

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The downside of this option is that if the metagame can't adjust before the rest of the cards are put onto MTGO, then we might have to make a change anyway.

Option 2 - Ban Some Cards

Obviously, the other option here is to ban some cards. Specifically, if we were going to ban anything to take White Stompy down a huge notch, the card to ban would definitely be White Plume Adventurer. Given that this is the only three mana value Initiative card definitely means that if there was a card to ban that would be the one because it's definitely the most common one played on Turn 1-2.

There can be some possible reasoning to maybe also ban Seasoned Dungeoneer here, but I think that card is arguably fine enough that it may be worth keeping and is not coming down early enough to enable the Initiative in a game. That being said, if the goal is to remove the Initiative as a playable Tier 1 strategy, banning it as well would probably be good.

HOWEVER, as noted before even if we remove those two cards we don't remove the mechanic entirely as there are other cards that can take the Initiative, some of which still don't exist on MTGO. Ravenloft Adventurer specifically plays well with Dark Ritual and Ancient Tomb enough to enforce using it in a Black Stompy deck, and being a pseudo Leyline of the Void/Dauthi Voidwalker effect is pretty gross.

The downside of this is that we are making decisions based on information about a format that is missing some cards on MTGO. The other downside here is that if we only ban White Plume Adventurer (and/or Dungeoneer) is that we are somewhat returning to a Legacy metagame where players were already complaining about Expressive Iteration and Murktide Regent. We already saw that metagame over several months leading up to the Initiative cards on MTGO. If we have to go this route, it would make sense to take a further step and ban something out of Delver as well.

Option 3 - Change the Initiative Mechanic

The final main option here is to go deep into changing the Initiative mechanic entirely. There have been some comparisons made to the Companion mechanic, which had to have its rules errata'ed in order to continue to be present in the format. I don't fully believe we are at this option yet simply because the format has been adjusting to the presence of the White Initiative decks and there is no being forced to play either Initiative or something that beats Initiative in order to be truly competitive. Decks like Painter and Cephalid Breakfast have been making waves as part of the metagame, and there are still plenty of other decks that are playable that aren't Delver or Initiative.

However, the argument here is that the Initiative as a mechanic is not designed well to account for games of Magic that are 1v1 and was more designed in line with Commander in mind. That argument alone is actually a pretty reasonable one for changing the mechanic as it definitely has issues in a non-Commander game of Magic. The Companion change gives a lot of precedence for making this kind of change. What this change might look like is unknown, but the most common suggestion is that the mechanic look for more than one opponent in order to function.

The downside (and sort of upside I guess) of this is that it removes the mechanic from the format (and to another extent both Vintage and whatever is left in Pauper) entirely. Whether this is true upside or downside is subjective based on how much you like the mechanic.

I don't particularly see this kind of change happening because I don't think removing the mechanic entirely is a good idea and continues to set further precedence on making power-level errata changes as a good thing. Yes, we did see Companion change, but that mechanic was absolutely bonkers in its original form, and while Initiative is strong it does promote creature combat.

Legacy Super Qualifier 12/29

Last week as part of the All Access week we had a Legacy Super Qualifier. This event was quite large and had 289 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Legacy Data Collection Project.

You can find the data sheet here.

Both UR Delver and White Stompy vied for top position in this event. UR had a slightly positive win rate and White Stompy had a slightly middling win rate. Below the cutoff here is Painter, which had a stellar win rate (and is definitely one of the better decks in the current format).

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
White Stompy 1st gnorilgrande
Painter 2nd Delthar
4C Control 3rd trunks132
White Stompy 4th D00mwake
UR Delver 5th Gul_Dukat
UR Delver 6th discoverN
Painter 7th Falkoneye
Bogles 8th Sprouts

I will note that despite White Stompy's middling win rate, one stood out above the rest in this event, and it was none other than Andrea Mengucci on the deck that won this event.

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Andrea's list looks pretty powerful here and has some strong stuff going on. Walking Ballista is a solid hedge against the mirror and against go-wide decks like Elves, 8Cast (for Sai tokens), etc. Touch the Spirit Realm is just absolutely bonkers though.

Legacy Challenge 12/31

The final Challenge of 2022 was an early morning Saturday event. The only major thing we know on this event is that it had 65 players overall thanks to the work performed by the Legacy Data Collection Project.

You can find the incomplete data sheet here. If you think you can help with the data from this event, please let us know. One of the awkward things about our data collection and not having decklists from MTGO.com at the moment is not knowing what the Top 8 is even.

Legacy Challenge 1/1

The first Challenge of 2023 was a big one at 107 players overall thanks to the work performed by the Legacy Data Collection Project.

You can find the incomplete data sheet here. If you think you can help with the data from this event, please let us know. Because of the incomplete data we also don't have any graphs for this event.

This is the Top 8 below, with the winner marked and the rest of the Top 8 marked in no particular order (due to not being able to get screenshots of how the Top 8 broke down).

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Painter 1st Delthar
Painter Top 8  LordEgg
UR Delver Top 8 hipeople351
White Stompy Top 8 McWinSauce
UR Delver Top 8 Xwhale
Displacer Kitten Combo Top 8 Iwouldliketorespond
UR Delver Top 8 MTGMack
UR Delver Top 8 TheGrimLavamancer

While we don't have a ton of data about this, we do have the data on the winner here. Coming off of multiple Top 8 finishes (including a finals finish in the Legacy Super Qualifier) is Deltha on Mono Red Painter.

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Winning with the same 75 as he has been playing lately, this deck has a lot going for it right now. The power of Pyroblast alone with Painter in play is great enough, but Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Fury are incredibly strong. The Mightstone and Weakstone seems absolutely insane for right now until we get Chaos Defiler on MTGO.

Around the Web

  • The Eternal Glory Podcast has a new episode out! Check it out here.
  • Eternal Durdles did some digging into last week's Round Table article. Check it out here.
  • TonyScapone is beating some haters. Check it out here.
  • Phil Gallagher posts his year end wrap up and future plans! Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

While we don't have any league results, we do have this sweet sweet decklist from the Super Qualifier by Sprouts.

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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 all my associated links via my Link Tree! In addition I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the MTGLegacy Discord Server.

Until next time!



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