Catching Up With Legacy

Longtime readers know that I’ve slowly drifted away from Legacy after refocusing my efforts toward getting back on the Pro Tour, but recently it got so stale that I stopped following it entirely. The Dig Through Time banning was late, and should’ve happened at the same time as Treasure Cruise, just as it did in Modern. I don’t begrudge Wizards for experimenting, as that’s the benefit of having multiple Eternal formats, but I did lose interest.

The banning opened up the field, and I’m excited about Legacy again. I won’t be flying out for GP Seattle/Tacoma since I can play a MOCS Finals from the comfort of my own home, but I am jealous of those that are going.

I’m going to make some bold statements based on data, experience, the collective understanding of a well-established eternal format, and common sense.

UW Miracles isn’t going anywhere.

That’s right, the deck with the biggest market share of winning decks for the last two years will continue crushing it. Despite the hype around Shardless, Miracles is still the deck most likely to land multiple Top 8 slots, which it has done at both of the larger European tournaments since the banning.

It’s a little unusual for a deck to be top dog for so long. For reference, Stoneblade only lasted a year as king of the hill, and RUG Delver a year before that.

We already got one printing to keep Counterbalance in check (Abrupt Decay), and it’s hard to imagine a hoser doing much more. The opportunity cost of playing Terminus and Entreat is so low (I have to play Top and Brainstorm? Shucks!) that the only way Miracles relinquishes its seat is if a brand new archetype sprouts up or if Top gets a ban.

And that’s fine. There are still tons of viable decks, and BUG, Stoneblade, and Show and Tell aren’t far behind.

Sneak and Show is back.

During Dig’s reign, OmniTell absolutely dominated the Show and Tell market. Sneak had fewer free slots for Dig and fewer cantrips to turn it on, and OmniTell was better set up to take advantage of the new hotness. In the few weeks after the banning, Sneak Attack is already poking its head out from the shadows.

The most important card from Battle for Zendikar is Retreat to Coralhelm.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Steven Schlepphorst’s deck from the St. Louis Open Top 8:

Reliquary Retreat

I’ve talked to a few people that were working on a Knight Retreat deck for Modern, but I hadn’t thought that it might be competitive. Even now, the skeptic in me is guessing that Food Chain is a fair comparison as far as viability goes, but the deck is undeniably sweet.

Going forward, I’m not sure you need the full 4 Retreats, and the mere threat of it carries a lot of weight. Starting with 4 and then shaving them post-board, similar to what Twin does in Modern, could be an effective plan.

Mother of Runes is good for protecting Knight, and it has some synergy with Retreat-plus-fetchland. The problem is in coming up with the slots, since there are a lot of deckbuilding requirements at work here. Green Sun’s Zenith both helps accelerate into Knight and tutors for it, but it requires a tutor package to be effective and that all takes slots. Force of Will is a great way to get rid of extra Retreats and it’s a large part of what makes the deck viable, but it needs a high number of blue cards. At a certain point you start weighing Mother of Runes against cards like Force of Will and Swords to Plowshares and realize why it didn’t make the cut.

Black Vise is unplayable.

Some people speculated on this card, but the only money they’ll be making is from other speculators. Here’s why:

  • Legacy’s main control deck features a permanent-based soft lock that lets it start dumping its hand as early as turn one.
  • Force of Will is a big problem, as Black Vise doesn’t want the opponent to be able to pitch cards for free. The thought of the opponent Force of Will’ing your sideboard card on turn 1 sounds great, but this line destroys multiple-Vise hands, and now you’re stuck with these dead cards in your deck.
  • If your opponent mulligans, Black Vise does less. If your opponent mulligans on the play and has a 1-drop, it does nothing. To my knowledge, the only deck in Legacy that doesn’t mulligan is Manaless Dredge, and there are probably more effective sideboard cards for that archetype.
  • Burn thrives on redundancy, and it can’t get away with topdecking a worse Vexing Devil in the late game.

I would love to be proven wrong, especially if it involves a sweet Prosperity brew out of nowhere.

Hymn to Tourach is playable again.

This is an overstatement, since Hymn wasn’t completely shut out before, but it was certainly worse with Dig Through Time around.

Before Dig was printed, fair black decks like Junk, Jund, and BW could curve discard into a Liliana and crank out a winning line against the Show and Tell, as a hellbent opponent can’t exactly combo you. The combination of that line with a few key sideboard cards made the matchup winnable so long as you mulled aggressively for the cards that mattered. You weren’t favored, but winnable was good enough with some strong matchups in other places.

Dig Through Time destroyed that, and games that used to get locked down under Liliana got broken open with a “thanks for fueling my delve, sucker.”

There are frightfully few reasons to play not-blue as is, and Hymn was always one of the better tools for punishing Force of Will decks. I’m looking forward to its return to form.

As far as picking a Hymn to Tourach deck goes, I like Jund with Punishing Fires in anticipation of blue midrange decks. Punishing Fire picks apart those decks almost singlehandedly, it fits well into what the Jund shell is already doing, and Abrupt Decay is a nice catch-all for cards like Counterbalance or Rest in Peace that might stop the loop.


Not exactly reinventing the wheel here, and there are only so many decisions to make when you’re dealing with a well-worn archetype.

Some lists run fewer than 4 each of the Grove-Fire combo pieces. I’ve tested different numbers, and it always feels like a big mistake. This is your inevitability, the reason you win certain matchups, and one of the main reasons to play the deck. If you can’t put it together when you need it, then you’re playing a bunch of bad cards for no reason.

The benefit to one fewer Grove is that you can get away with running a Taiga without overloading on nonblack lands, but between the threat of Wasteland and the potential of multiple Grove loops in a turn I’m much happier with the full 4.

That’s all for this week.

Oh, and if you don’t want to miss out on the GP coverage, be sure to follow twitch.tv/channelfireball if you haven’t already.

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