Legacy has gone through some seismic changes recently. War of the Spark brought Karn, the Great Creator and Narset, Parter of Veils and both quickly became staples. We saw a lot of Eldrazi Post and Miracles do well immediately following their release. Eventually, people caught on and figured out that Dreadhorde Arcanist made UR/x Delver a tier one deck as well. Arcanist/Delver/Bolt lined up fairly well against planeswalkers, and Wasteland was very good against the Eldrazi Post threat. Then, just as the metagame was adjusting, Modern Horizons came out and hit us with Plague Engineer and Wrenn and Six. I believe most of the above cards are design mistakes and I find one-sided prison effects to be poor game play.
Wrenn and Six in Legacy
Although Wrenn and Six doesn’t look like a prison effect, it often plays out very similarly to one. At two mana, it is extremely efficient and difficult to deal. As soon as it’s in play, it often returns a land– so even if your opponent Hydroblasts it later, you are still up a card. It also is typically played with Wasteland and simulates the Loam/Crucible Wasteland lock very well as you get to continually Wasteland your opponent while still drawing a card every turn. Finally, it also serves to make any opponent who is trying to play X/1’s have a bad day. So, in many ways, Wrenn and Six is a prison effect that makes it so your opponent should not play X/1’s or decks that are particularly vulnerable to Wasteland.
The latest trend in Legacy has been to combine a bunch of the above cards and play them in a couple distinct shells. The 4-Color Delver deck, RUG Delver deck and 4-Color Snow deck are the prime examples. Let’s discuss each one.
1 Badlands 1 Fiery Islet 4 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 3 Tropical Island 1 Underground Sea 2 Volcanic Island 4 Wasteland 4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration 2 Gurmag Angler 4 Tarmogoyf 2 True-Name Nemesis 3 Wrenn and Six 4 Ponder 2 Preordain 2 Abrupt Decay 4 Brainstorm 4 Daze 4 Force of Will 4 Lightning Bolt 1 Spell Pierce Sideboard 1 Blue Elemental Blast 2 Liliana's Triumph 2 Plague Engineer 1 Pyroblast 1 Red Elemental Blast 1 Submerge 2 Surgical Extraction 3 Thoughtseize 2 Winter Orb
The 4-Color Delver deck is this weird amalgamation of good cards plus Daze and Delver. Oftentimes, players also choose to play Dreadhorde Arcanist as an additional threat. The deck can leverage the best early threats in Legacy while still playing Daze. The idea is to snowball early and have access to the best removal/sideboard cards. However, it has an extremely shaky manabase and often struggles to cast a lot of its black spells.
4 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 3 Tropical Island 3 Volcanic Island 4 Wasteland 4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration 4 Nimble Mongoose 2 Tarmogoyf 2 True-Name Nemesis 2 Wrenn and Six 4 Ponder 4 Brainstorm 4 Daze 1 Dismember 4 Force of Will 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Spell Pierce 2 Spell Snare 3 Stifle Sideboard 2 Ancient Grudge 2 Force of Negation 1 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Hydroblast 1 Null Rod 2 Pyroblast 1 Rough/Tumble 1 Submerge 2 Surgical Extraction 1 Sylvan Library 1 Winter Orb
On the other side of the spectrum, RUG Delver has a fairly good manabase but gives up some of the powerful black spells. There are several different ways of building RUG Delver, and Nimble Mongoose/Stifle aren’t strictly necessary as a lot of players are choosing to play Dreadhorde Arcanist and bigger spells instead. Overall, the strategy is not that different from 4-Color Delver. Neither strategy really wants to make land drops past turn 3, so they all require Brainstorm to turn the lands from Wrenn and Six into more meaningful cards.
2 Badlands 1 Bayou 4 Polluted Delta 3 Scalding Tarn 2 Tropical Island 1 Underground Sea 2 Verdant Catacombs 1 Volcanic Island 3 Wasteland 2 Wooded Foothills 3 Baleful Strix 2 Leovold, Emissary of Trest 3 Snapcaster Mage 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Wrenn and Six 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 4 Ponder 1 Thoughtseize 3 Abrupt Decay 4 Brainstorm 1 Fatal Push 1 Force of Negation 4 Force of Will 1 Kolaghan's Command 1 Lightning Bolt Sideboard 1 Baleful Strix 1 Force of Negation 1 Blue Elemental Blast 1 Flusterstorm 2 Nihil Spellbomb 3 Plague Engineer 2 Pyroblast 1 Red Elemental Blast 2 Sylvan Library 1 Veil of Summer
There are several 4-Color control decks, some with and some without Arcum’s Astrolabe. Either way, both decks are better able to leverage the mana advantage of Wrenn and Six by playing more expensive spells like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Kolaghan’s Command. These decks are the epitome of greed and “blue good stuff” in Legacy, and these strategies have begun to push out strategies like Death and Taxes and Elves, as they are poorly positioned against Wrenn and Six and Plague Engineer.
However, Legacy is pretty good at adapting. While these blue Wrenn and Six decks have received a lot of hype, none of them have put up extremely good results and it looks as though Legacy has fully adapted to them. Let’s look at the latest snapshot of the Legacy winner’s metagame. The following data is sourced from top finishes from MTGO Challenges/MCQs, as well as 8-round or larger paper tournaments. Here are the decks with the most results since the release of Core Set 2020:
|Sneak and Show||4.1%|
|Death and Taxes||2.2%|
|Mono W Bomberman||1.8%|
Despite the large amount of hype around 4-Color Snow, it has put up very limited results. Typically, when a blue Jace deck is called “the best deck,” players flock to it and it becomes a significant share of the winner’s metagame. But Legacy has already quickly adapted to the point where it is just another deck. Instead, there have been a lot of non-blue decks that have risen to the top by ignoring Wrenn and Six.
First, the two best Chalice decks on the list are Moon Stompy and Mono-White Bomberman. Neither deck is particularly susceptible to Wasteland or Wrenn and Six as both decks get on board very quickly and try to do something powerful in the first few turns of the game. They don’t allow the Wrenn and Six decks to slowly accrue advantage over time because the game is effectively over in the first few turns.
Next, we see combo decks putting up a lot of results. Just like the Chalice decks, combo decks often don’t care about Wrenn and Six. The challenge for the combo decks is to beat up on Delver, which is typically favored against a lot of combo strategies. But Delver is not as strong against Depths or Hogaak, and we have seen a lot of combo decks involving one or both of those two cards put up some strong results.
More recently, U/W StoneBlade and Death and Taxes have been making a comeback. StoneBlade won both the MCQ and the latest MTGO Legacy challenge, and it does very well at preying on decks like Moon Stompy or Delver that have risen to the top before. However, I believe StoneBlade is somewhat behind against the 4-Color Snow deck. The Legacy metagame has become cyclical, and we have seen this cycle play out before right around GP Niagara Falls. It will be interesting to see how the metagame adapts from here.
For now, I would advise not playing Wrenn and Six or any decks that are weak to it. There’s a similar problem in Vintage where blue decks are forced to play a lot of Mental Misstep/Pyroblast maindeck because the format is mostly blue, which in turn makes these decks weak to Workshop decks. A very similar thing is happening in Legacy where Wrenn and Six is extremely powerful against other blue decks because blue vs blue match-ups are often determined by card advantage. In order to beat the Delver or Control mirror, you want as many Wrenn and Six as possible. But the non-blue decks have mostly adjusted and no longer care much about the card. For now, my advice is to stay away from this midrange arms race and find decks with powerful proactive strategies that are naturally good against these blue decks. I recommend Depths variants, Griselbrand variants and Moon Stompy/Bomberman. The London mulligan has really helped non-blue decks out, and for now, I would prefer to abuse the new mulligan and look for decks with good fast mana engines than play slow blue Ponder decks.
An Aside on Dark Depths
1 Snow-Covered Forest 1 Snow-Covered Swamp 2 Bayou 1 Bojuka Bog 2 Nurturing Peatland 1 Sejiri Steppe 4 Thespian's Stage 4 Verdant Catacombs 2 Wasteland 1 Karakas 4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 4 Dark Depths 2 Dark Confidant 4 Elvish Reclaimer 1 Sylvan Safekeeper 4 Vampire Hexmage 4 Mox Diamond 1 Sylvan Library 4 Abrupt Decay 4 Crop Rotation 3 Duress 2 Sylvan Scrying 4 Thoughtseize Sideboard 2 Pithing Needle 2 Plague Engineer 2 Sylvan Safekeeper 1 Assassin's Trophy 3 Surgical Extraction 1 Liliana, the Last Hope 3 Hymn to Tourach 1 Dryad Arbor
I was lucky enough to win the StarCityGames Legacy Classic this past weekend, and a few people have asked me about the deck. I think it is extremely well-positioned as it is a powerful proactive plan, and Elvish Reclaimer typically means your Marit Lage is also unblockable, thanks to Sejiri Steppe. I’m very excited about the deck going forward, but it’s worth mentioning that there are many different Dark Depths variants out there. It has gotten to the point where Dark Depths is the newest Legacy meme because you can literally play anything with Dark Depths and still win. Here are some of the significantly different Dark Depths lists I have been able to find in August alone: Green Sun’s Zenith, Jund, BUG, Abzan, Turbo, Death and Taxes, G/W, and Full Monte.
I’ve even heard rumor of Elves decks taking advantage of Elvish Reclaimer. What a wild world. I’m excited to see what the big upcoming Legacy events in September have to offer! Come say hi if you see me at GP Atlanta.