In many ways, Legacy has always been a community-driven format. There has been dwindling support from major tournament circuits over the past few years and this has resulted in the community as a whole turning to support the format through local events, content creation and conversation. However, despite this aspect of the format, many players have been feeling disenfranchised towards Legacy as of late and have disagreed with some significant choices that have been made by Wizards of the Coast towards the format. This has left a poor taste in many players’ mouths and resulted in a shifting player commitment to the format.
A fair amount of these players have begun to find refuge in true community-driven formats, such as Premodern, which has been gaining a lot of steam lately. However, Premodern isn’t the only game in town when it comes to community formats and most recently, Heritage, a format that evokes the nostalgia and feelings of classic Legacy, is beginning to find its footing in the community. Today, I want to go over what Heritage is, what the format looks like by reviewing deck lists from an event that occurred this past weekend, and talk about my views on the format overall. There is a ton of unexplored space here, so there’s no real way for me to provide a full comprehensive review, but I think this will be a good starting point and help build momentum for the format.
At its core, Heritage is a simple concept: Legacy without supplemental sets. A fair amount of the community view supplemental sets as detracting from Legacy, and there’s certainly merit to that perspective. Legacy is one of the few formats where people can play some of the oldest, most iconic and wackiest cards ever printed. However, due to the increased power level of certain supplemental sets, some of the cards that defined Legacy for years have been edged out. Playing a format that forbids cards from sets like Modern Horizons yields the prospect of returning to an older version of Legacy, which is an appealing concept.
For a complete list of what is legal, as well as a list of the key cards that are not legal, you can look here.
What does this mean for the format? It means that the overall power level will decrease fairly significantly. Legacy has been turned up to 11 for the past few years and removing cards like Murktide Regent, Urza’s Saga and Plague Engineer will make things much more leveled out. Hypothetically, this will make older cards stand out a bit more since there won’t be as many options for both answers and threats. It will also mean that some of the best cards printed in main sets, such as Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Thassa’s Oracle, will stand out as being more above the curve of the average card.
As we’ll see in the next section, there are some archetypes that remain completely unchanged, which is generally a good sign for an archetype since if it can compete with the more powerful Legacy format, it should do quite well in Heritage. Additionally, there are some archetypes that are going to struggle with some key losses. Death and Taxes is a great example of this, since it is losing Recruiter of the Guard which has proven to be a defining card of the archetype.
Fortunately, there was a 16-player Heritage tournament held and covered this past weekend. This gives us an opportunity to take an early look at the format and see what might work going forward. It’s important to note that these results are way too limited to draw any meaningful conclusions from. While it does provide some initial insight into future trends, the sample size is far too small to make sweeping statements about the format. Still, the results are interesting and help provide an initial look at the format.
The Top 4 consisted of Sneak and Show (first), Red Prison (second) and then Elves and Red Prison (third and fourth, respectively). Outside of the Top 4, I’m unsure how everyone else performed. Let’s take a look at each unique Top 4 archetype and then we can explore some of the other archetypes throughout the event.
To the surprise of no one, Jonathan Anghelescu won the whole event with Sneak and Snow:
Heritage Sneak and Show by Jonathan Anghelescu
If you had sent me this deck list five years ago, I would have told you it was a great list ready to win any given event. While this archetype did lose Flusterstorm, a card not crucial to the deck’s function, the loss of supplemental sets benefitted this archetype in a number of ways. For one, not having to play against Force of Negation is a significant boon for the deck, since having to manage five or six free counterspells is far different than simply four. Additionally, from a macro-level approach, the supplemental sets generally added a lot of speed to Legacy. Delver has been far faster as of late in Legacy proper as a result of cards like Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Murktide Regent giving the deck more heavy hitters. The overall slower speed of the format will really benefit a deck like Sneak and Show
On top of these two Heritage-specific characteristics, Sneak and Show was also just an excellent choice for the field and I would have said it was a favorite going in when looking at the other 15 archetypes. Overall, I think Sneak and Show is an archetype that needs to be respected when you’re looking to play Heritage going forward and I would expect it to be among the top decks.
Moving on, there were two Red Prison players, with John Hamilton losing the mirror in the semifinals (his take on the deck here). I’ll highlight the list in the finals, played by Phil Gallagher:
Heritage Mono-Red Prison by Phil Gallagher
This is another deck that essentially lost zero cards and gained position in the format with the overall weakening of other archetypes. Like Sneak and Show, the loss of Force of Negation and the overall slower speed of the format makes this archetype much stronger. Perhaps even more crucially, the loss of Prismatic Ending makes Chalice of the Void much more consistent. Red Prison is very likely to be a staple of the format going forward and I would always make sure I’m prepared for it.
The final unique archetype in the Top 4 was Elves, piloted by Newton Hang:
Heritage Elves by Newton Hang
While this deck looks quite a bit different than Elf decks of days past, this is more in line with a modern-day view of the archetype. Unlike the other two decks covered so far, Elves did gain a significant piece of technology in Fiend Artisan, which allows the deck some resilience and consistency. Again, unlike the other two decks covered before this, Elves did take some hits with the loss of supplemental sets in the form of Allosaurus Shepherd and Endurance, which were two powerhouse cards in the archetype. However, almost the entire core of the deck remains intact and no longer having to worry about Plague Engineer is a huge boon to the archetype.
For the rest of the event, I’m not going to highlight every unique archetype. Some of them, such as Doomsday played by Brian Coval, had fairly minimal changes. Others, such as TES by Bryant Cook, did undertake some losses, such as Galvanic Relay and Echo of Eons, but fundamentally remained the same powerhouse of a deck. Overall, I think the strategy of finding the most powerful cards printed over the past few years that remain legal and taking advantage of those is the best strategy in the format, so a deck like Doomsday is an excellent choice for the format.
Caleb Durward took a similar approach with a Four-Color Control deck that fully takes advantage of the best cards printed recently:
Heritage Four-Color Control by Caleb Durward
Unlike some of the other decks I have covered, this does not look like a deck from five years ago. Instead, this deck is maximizing on almost every powerful control card available in the format. Both Expressive Iteration and Uro are high among the most potent cards in Legacy proper, while the planeswalker suite is extremely annoying to play again. While this deck does take a significant hit with the loss of Prismatic Ending, March of Otherworldly Light picks up some of its slack and I would expect that card to show up more (especially with the loss of Council’s Judgment, as well). While Caleb is the only player to step into the fourth color, Francisco Pawluszek piloted his take on Bant Control, which takes a similar approach.
The other control representation came from Gerry Thompson, piloting one of the most classic Legacy archetypes, Sultai Control:
Heritage Sultai Control by Gerry Thompson
This take on control does feel like an old school approach to the format. Despite Uro being the only major representation of modern-day power level (which, to be fair, might be all you need with how powerful Uro is), I think there is a strong merit to building this type of deck. With the loss of Prismatic Ending, white no longer has the ability to answer anything and everything. This makes cards like Assassin’s Trophy far more appealing and gives players a reason to start playing some Golgari cards again. I doubt I’m alone in feeling somewhat nostalgic looking at this deck and it will be exciting to see people tune this archetype as the format gains a bit more momentum.
The lone Delver player was Matthew Vook with Izzet Delver:
Heritage Izzet Delver by Matthew Vook
I haven’t put much thought into how I would build Delver for this format (which if I was available to play in this event, it would have been my archetype of choice, for sure), but I think this is a reasonable approach. Again, taking advantage of the most powerful cards printed recently is a good strategy, so I think Ledger Shredder is a slam dunk inclusion. Generally, I am very low on Monastery Swiftspear and I’m high on Wasteland, so I don’t think I would have necessarily landed on this approach myself. There are a lot of different ways you can build this deck and with Murktide Regent not being legal, stepping into other colors becomes more appealing again. I think there’s a lot of innovation to be had and I think Delver is an archetype that will certainly be at the top of the field, regardless of what the best way to build it is.
Lee Hung Nguyen was the lone player who decided to play a colorless deck:
Heritage Cloudpost by Lee Hung Nguyen
I think there are a ton of ways to build a deck like this. Overall, this is a good looking list which takes advantage of the loss of Force of Negation and Prismatic Ending. I don’t know if this is the best way to build the deck. Leaning into a more aggressive approach is still appealing, and the same goes for building a far bigger deck that’s working towards Eldrazi.
Finally, we have Justin Gennari who approached the format from a different perspective:
Heritage Paradoxical Outcome by Justin Gennari
This is far more of a brew than the other decks in the room. I definitely think there’s something here, since Chalice-based decks generally tend to have success in the format overall. Additionally, there aren’t many decks that take advantage of a card like Emry, Lurker of the Loch, which is a very potent newer card. However, this is also the kind of deck that gets a lot worse once people prepare for it, which overall hurts its longevity. It’s exciting to see some novelty introduced in the format though, and I’m excited to see what else comes out of the format going forward.
There are four remaining decks played in the format that weren’t linked or discussed here. Two of these are repeats of other archetypes and the other two are fairly classic takes which I don’t have as much to say about, so I’ll include the link to the deck lists and a brief comment on the list/archetype:
- Dougal Warby – Maverick (a very classic take on the archetype that calls back a lot of nostalgia).
- Curran Delahanty – Elves (a non-Fiend Artisan approach which evokes feelings of an older version).
- Michael Mapson – Sneak and Show (more of the same, a great choice for the event).
- Callum Smith – Painter (a very traditional approach to a classic archetype, with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker being a great inclusion).
Personally, I do think the idea is very cool. I’ve been playing Legacy for more than a decade and seeing strategies which call back to an earlier time does give me some nostalgia. I initially expressed interest in playing in this event, but my time was becoming fairly tight and I didn’t think it would be a responsible choice for me.
While I think it’s a cool solution to some of the issues of Legacy right now, I have said many times that I think sets like Modern Horizons are generally good for the format. While there is some degree of format identity that begins to be lost, having powerful and exciting new cards introduced into the format every now and then has been a breath of fresh air. My perspective on Legacy identity is not necessarily tied to older archetypes and cards and I have sincerely enjoyed playing Legacy proper over the past few years.
This being said, I do think there’s a decent amount of fatigue with how many sets have been released lately, many of which are Legacy legal, which is a bit frustrating. For me, I think this point more than any other is the most compelling to pursue Heritage. On top of that, I do think it’s very cool and a good option for a player base that’s growing increasingly frustrated to have. While I don’t quite have the bandwidth to explore a new format, if there ends up being more support for it down the line I would love to give the format a shot.