Over the past few years, Legacy players have been adapting to the fact that every other set is chock full of powerful cards that have an influence on the format. Modern Horizons 2 was no exception to this and has introduced a fair amount of power directly into Legacy. Seeing cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Murktide Regent show up in a variety of aggressively-slanted midrange blue decks is not a surprise, as these cards were packed with a lot of power that would clearly benefit from a traditional blue shell. However, Urza’s Saga is an example of a card that we have only begun to see its impact. Once a card crosses the threshold of “archetype staple” to “cross-archetype all-star,” it’s clear that the card is doing something special. Magic Online stalwart Ark4n was able to successfully combine all of these cards and take down one of the Legacy Challenge events this past weekend with Jeskai Monkeystill, a variation on this idea.
I really like this deck and could see this being a force in the metagame going forward. While a lot of this deck has the traditional Legacy elements we have all come to know and love, the deck is very well-built so today I want to go explore what makes this deck so effective.
Legacy Jeskai Monkeystill by Ark4n
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In many ways this is a midrange-Delver shell that is filled out with potent Modern Horizons 2 cards. Filling out the blue disruption and removal suite with Ragavan is one of the best plans in Legacy right now. Following that up with the raw power that Urza’s Saga provides, as it’s often a pair of 3/3s that gets to tutor for the best card in the circumstance, is going to generate a substantial board advantage. If all else fails, relying on the tried-and-true strategy of a haymaker threat, such as Murktide Regent or True-Name Nemesis, will close the door in short order.
While the macro plan is pretty consistent with the Legacy experience, this deck has some interesting inclusions. Let’s take a look at the cards that make this deck tick.
Arguably the most hyped up card for Legacy, Ragavan has really taken its place among the top of the Legacy metagame. Much like Dreadhorde Arcanist before it, backing this card up with disruption is guaranteed to generate a fair amount of advantage. Even if you cannot cast a card off of it, the mana acceleration is crucial in a lot of matchups.
While Ragavan does have some weaknesses (blockers key among them), in a deck like this, that downside is greatly mitigated. There’s more than enough removal to clear the way and in some ways the threat of Ragavan matters more than it connecting, seeing as opponents might leave back cards like Tarmogoyf to prevent it from attacking.
While Ragavan and Dragon’s Rage Channeler got a lot of press in the early days of Modern Horizons 2, Murktide Regent being a massive, difficult-to-kill threat has proven itself to be a premier card in Legacy. Having this kind of top-end is really effective in Legacy, as your opponent will have to spend a fair amount of time dealing with Ragavan and Urza’s Saga. Regent closes out the game very quickly and allows you to ignore a fair amount of what your opponents are doing.
True-Name Nemesis will always have a place in Legacy, even when it isn’t as popular. There aren’t many cards that are as resilient as True-Name and when spot removal is really common, True-Name can break that wide open.
This is the traditional Delver counter magic suite which we don’t usually see too often outside of decks without Delver of Secrets. As a creature, Delver has not generally been worth defending these days. Players have a lot of removal spells and eventually they’ll find an answer to a three-power threat. Ragavan is different though, as it has the ability to just take over the game if it sticks around, so building your deck with Daze will help push through that damage.
The Stifles really give this a traditional Delver feel. It fits really neatly into the mana denial plan and can totally take over the game against unsuspecting opponents. Since this deck won the Challenge, people are going to start being aware of it so the Stifles are going to start to lose some impact. They’re still an essential tool with Phyrexian Dreadnought in the mix though, so be wary about trimming too many.
This is part of what gives this deck an edge in the metagame right now. Having more answers for Delver’s threats that actually kill everything is a big game, as Murktide Regent has been putting up some real numbers in these past few weeks.
The single Standstill is a bit random, but the card itself fits really nicely into this strategy. Between a potent one-mana threat that demands an answer (which neatly curves into Standstill even if you Daze because of the Treasure) and a land that threatens to dominate the game in Urza’s Saga, Standstill is an excellent card here. It’s an awkward card in many situations though, which is why there’s only a single copy. It doesn’t do much against decks like Hogaak (and even Delver if they can get a few threats down), so there’s certainly a cost to including it.
I’ve lumped these together as the “Urza’s Saga tutor targets.” They’re all extremely different, but that’s what you want in your tutor targets. Retrofitter Foundry gives you a potent mana sink that can start to take over games against interactive decks. Dreadnought used to be a Legacy staple, but has fallen off as removal has improved over time. As a card to search up with Saga, however, it’s perfect, as it represents a huge amount of pressure, especially in conjunction with the Construct tokens (and gives you extra usage out of the Stifles). Soul-Guide Lantern is a much more straightforward inclusion, as sometimes you’ll need either graveyard hate or to draw a card.
The most interesting part of this mana base is the lack of basics, but it makes sense here. With seven nonbasic lands that don’t tap for a color of mana, it’s really important to have your colored sources be as consistent as possible.
It’s a tried-and-true strategy with any powerful set to just combine all of the most powerful cards into a single deck and ride that to victory. Urza’s Saga is unbelievably good. By itself, it generates an absurd board presence and then continues to present pressure, even if they can answer the Constructs, by searching up a potent artifact. It works perfectly well with the Stifle plan and the Standstill plan, as you don’t need to play any spells proactively with a Saga in play. Ragavan also makes Treasure tokens, which not only buffs the Constructs but also allows you to hold up more mana on your Saga turns.
This combines with Stifle to fill out the mana denial plan. Wasteland is not only a staple of these Delver-style decks, but of the old-school Standstill decks, as well. One of the ways to break the symmetry of Standstill is to continue to develop your mana while your opponent stumbles. This provides you with a substantial advantage as the game goes on, but Wasteland also disrupts opposing lands that prove to be problematic, like Urza’s Saga.
Much like in the Lurrus metagame, Karakas is a great way to break open a metagame that surrounds a legendary creature. It can protect your own, thus serving as an engine against removal decks, and protect you from theirs. In addition, Karakas is an excellent card in Legacy overall, so occasionally stopping a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Marit Lage from looming over the game is a big deal.
This is a diverse graveyard hate suite that is pretty common in Legacy. You have to be prepared for a lot of different strategies and playing white gives you access to Containment Priest, which is one of the most potent and diverse options out there. In addition, Grafdigger’s Cage is quite good here because in a game that goes a bit longer, Urza’s Saga will let you tutor it up.
Null Rod might be a bit awkward, seeing as this deck uses a decent amount of artifacts. However, it’s still one of the best haymakers in Legacy and most of the time you’ll probably be siding out cards like Retrofitter Foundry when you bring this in.
As always, this card does a lot of different things in a lot of different matchups. Being tutorable with Saga certainly makes it better and it’s a great inclusion here.
It didn’t take long for Prismatic Ending to show up all over the place. This is an excellent sideboard card that answers a huge amount of problematic cards and I think any number of white decks will be playing this for years to come.
Still the best at what they do, they’ve only gotten better with Murktide Regent in the format.
We don’t see a lot of Vendilion Cliques these days, but it’s still an effective card. It’s a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none” type of card, but there are a lot of situations where you might want this, such as against any combo deck.
- One way to abuse the symmetry of Standstill is to cast a Brainstorm in your opponent’s end step so they cannot use the cards. If you find yourself in a situation where you think you have to act, wait until they have seven cards (or better, eight) and cast a Brainstorm before your turn.
- This might be old news by now but don’t forget that you can activate Urza’s Saga second ability twice: once on the second chapter, and again during the third chapter before the trigger resolves.
- Prismatic Ending can answer cards like Chalice of the Void, but you have to make sure you pay some extra mana.
These days, removing all of Delver’s creatures is going to keep them from getting anything going. This deck has a ton of removal, so playing defensively is a good approach. It’s important to make sure your removal lines up with their threat (namely, that you can answer Murktide Regent), so be very mindful of which spell you use and when.
With Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Endurance in the mix, I could see a world where you want to keep your Swords to Plowshares. However, I think Prismatic Ending is much more versatile (also answering Carpet of Flowers and Sylvan Library, namely). Urza’s Saga is excellent in this matchup, so I would try to lean into that as much as you can. Phyrexian Dreadnought might be worse than something like Pithing Needle, but having access to a huge creature seems pretty meaningful at times.
This matchup can be pretty challenging, especially because Ragavan isn’t very reliable. There are a lot of graveyard hate cards, which helps a lot, but they’re still a really potent deck so it’s really important to slow them down. Prismatic Ending is a bit slow and doesn’t answer some of the key threats, so I don’t want to go overboard on those. Murktide Regent is one of the best ways you have to end the game and defend yourself, so I would emphasize protecting those in your hand if you can. Urza’s Saga is also a key card, as it gives you plenty of defensive measures and a way to stop their graveyard shenanigans.
Having early pressure and disruption goes a long way in this matchup, but Doomsday can definitely power through it. This matchup is probably a little bit more difficult than if this was just a Delver deck, but outside of Wasteland, the strategy will be mostly the same. Stifle is a big deal in the matchup, so prioritize finding one of those. Meddling Mage would be really helpful if you wanted some extra help in the matchup.