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May 2015 Legacy Metagame Analysis

Many things have changed since my last analysis, which you can find here.

A certain overpowered sorcery has left the format, and we are, for the most part, back where we were six months ago. Dig Through Time has been making waves though, and time will tell if it becomes as impactful as Treasure Cruise.

Methodology

For this analysis, I am defining “top finishing deck” as finishing in the top 5% of tournaments with 129+ players (8 rounds or more). This methodology means that we are looking at a winner’s metagame, not necessarily a complete metagame. I categorize decks like Death and Taxes and DeathBlade as the “control” decks of the format, although they obviously have many creatures.

In general, I look at the deck and ask if the general philosophy is to play a controlling game or an aggressive game and then place it in its appropriate category. There are decks that are more “midrange” in scope and can play both aggro and control roles, but I decided to stick to aggro, control, and combo to keep things simple. The percentages are the number of top decks in the archetype divided by the total number of top finishing decks.

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Here are the top performing decks since the release of Fate Reforged:

1. Miracles (12.7%)
2. BUG Delver (7.8%)
3. Death and Taxes (7.8%)
4. ANT (6.3%)
5. UR Delver and UBR Delver (6.3%)
6. OmniTell (5.9%)
7. RG Lands (4.4%)
8. UW, UWR, and UBW StoneBlade (4.4%)
9. RUG Delver (3.9%)
10. DeathBlade (3.9%)

These 10 decks each have at least a 3.9% share of the winner’s metagame. In total, they make up 64% of it. I will also be leveraging some data from the MTGLegacy subReddit. Many thanks to Reddit user dafrk3in for putting together a tracking for archetypes and their records.

Now, on to the top decks and my thoughts on each.

Miracles (12.7%)

When I last wrote about Legacy back in June, Miracles was the top deck (18.4%). Despite the ~6% decrease in metagame share, Miracles is even better now than it was during Treasure Cruise Legacy. It doesn’t really have any bad matchups against the other 9 top tier decks.

Counterbalance is excellent versus most of the top decks, with the exception of Death and Taxes, OmniTell, and BUG Delver. With a cheap sweeper like Terminus, most of the creature matchups also favor Miracles. The deck has finally caught on in the U.S. too, with many people adopting Joe Lossett “Legend” Miracles and Schoenegger “Ponder” Miracles.

Legend Miracles

 Ponder Miracles

I was once a big fan of the Ponder lists as it really allows your deck to become a lot more consistent and less clunky. With the Ponder list, you care less if your opponent counters or Thoughtseizes your Top as it’s not hard to find action.

Now, though, I am a bigger fan of the “Legend” Miracles list because Vendilion Clique is excellent in the mirror and against the up and coming combo deck OmniTell. I am also a huge fan of SB Monastery Mentors. It’s fairly risky to leave in removal against Miracles as they often just become dead cards, and Monastery Mentor is excellent at playing both defense and offense.

Miracles is one step above all of the other decks in the format, but it does reward strong pilots and punish weaker ones more so than many other decks. The clock is always an enemy, and more people are picking up cards that are strong against the archetype, like Pithing Needle and Stifle. I would still expect Miracles to remain the top deck in the format for the next several months.

According to the Reddit data, the best matchups are Elves and ANT, with RUG Delver and Shardless BUG its worst. I would agree with the gist of this, but Miracles isn’t too far behind the two harder matchups. Another interesting data point is that the mirror record is 16-16-10, which implies that about 24% of mirrors ended in a draw, and about 9% of other matchups ended in a draw. Don’t count on placing highly with this deck unless you get enough practice with it to consistently finish on time.

BUG Delver (7.8%)

Thanks to the Treasure Cruise ban, BUG Delver is back. BUG Delver had trouble competing with UR Delver due to its lack of cheap removal and Pyroblast, but it’s good to see one of my old favorites back in the spotlight. Currently, the more blue oriented lists of BUG Delver with Spell Pierce/Stifle see more play, but there are others out there playing the more black oriented lists that contain Hymn to Tourach and Liliana of the Veil.

There are many ways to split the extra spells, and it all depends on the decks you are trying to beat. I would say that the blue lists have better mana and are more tempo oriented in nature, whereas the black lists are more Jund-like. The blue lists are better at beating Miracles, but the black lists are better against other fair blue decks and combo.

Regardless of which list you choose to play with, it’s a no-brainer to run Dark Confidants right now, as it’s excellent against Miracles and combo. Here is a recent list from BUG Delver player John Wiley:

According to the Reddit data, BUG’s best matchups are the combo decks, and its hardest is Lands. I would also argue that Elves is one of the toughest matchups. The deck has a high win percentage overall (58%), which is 2nd out of decks with 100+ matches played. BUG Delver is a much easier deck to pick up than Miracles, has the tools to beat anything, and is always a safe choice.

Death and Taxes (7.8%)

Thalia matches up pretty well against the other top decks in the format and has continued to put up solid results and finally gain the respect of most Legacy enthusiasts. Death and Taxes is still ahead against the Delver decks, and can often be very frustrating for Miracles as Aether Vial is hard to beat. Ethersworn Canonist is also a well-positioned hatebear, and is even beginning to see some maindeck play. It buys a full turn against OmniTell, and just wins the game on the spot game 1 versus traditional ANT lists.

According to the Reddit data, Death and Taxes fares poorly vs. Elves and ANT and does well against Reanimator. I would say Death and Taxes is a fairly skill-intensive deck, and I see it as a fine choice going forward. However, the lack of card manipulation and inclusion of clunky equipment make it one of the least consistent decks in the format. Even though it is theoretically favored in a lot of matchups, the inconsistencies can sometimes add up and give free wins to opponents playing broken cards like Brainstorm and Ponder.

Storm (6.8%)

ANT is still awesome, and even despite having bad matchups against both BUG Delver and Miracles, it is so inherently powerful and consistent that it continually puts up good results. Most decks are just not prepared to deal with ANT’s proactive game plan game 1, and post-sideboard, ANT pilots have come up with a variety of ways to fight the hate. Permanents are still the best way to attack the deck, as it forces ANT to respond with answers like Abrupt Decay and Chain of Vapor. Lists are now trending toward more Past in Flames, with Pascal Wagner sporting an innovative take with three maindeck Tendrils of Agony:

According to the Reddit data, Storm is favored and D&T and StoneBlade and a dog to BUG Delver and Miracles. D&T has some powerful hatebears, but Storm can either strip those with Cabal Therapy, or go under them with Empty the Warrens. StoneBlade decks are typically easy because they lack interaction and don’t have a particularly fast clock.

UR/x Delver (6.3%)

The second-most popular Delver deck now, I’m happy to see that Taylor Swiftspear is still seeing play. Instead of Treasure Cruise, lists are now playing Dig Through Time and delve threats like Tasigur, the Golden Banana Man and Gurmag Angler. The deck is explosive, and the inclusion of Dig Through Time gives it some gas through the late game.

This deck has definitely been underreported, and along with Grixis Control it represents a significant share of the online Legacy metagame. It is favored against BUG Delver because it has more efficient threats, but struggles against a deck like Miracles because it is very vulnerable to CounterTop and Terminus. The combo matchups are decent because it can run discard. Still, giving up Wasteland to have better Young Pyromancers is a significant price to pay.

OmniTell (5.9%)

The new up-and-coming combo deck, the 5.9% share actually underrepresents how well the deck has done recently. The deck has been on a tear since GP Kyoto. Most lists have cut chaff cards like Enter the Infinite and focused instead on using Show and Tell into Omniscience and Emrakul for a cleaner kill.

This has allowed the deck to be a lot more consistent and have fewer dead draws. The most important card, though, is Dig Through Time. Dig Through Time lets the deck assemble the combo without much difficulty, and serves as extra protection and card advantage when games go long. OmniTell has done a lot to push out the non-blue decks of the format, as it has a good matchup against Lands and Elves.

I wouldn’t read too much into OmniTell’s matchup statistics as a lot of those matchups were likely played using the “outdated” Enter the Infinite lists.

RG Lands (4.4%)

Before GP Kyoto, Lands was definitely the up-and-coming deck. It has excellent matchups against the fair blue decks, but struggles more against combo decks and Miracles. Still, the overall favorability of the deck against Delver and other fair strategies like D&T and Elves makes it a force to be reckoned with. The combo matchups were never great, but Lands also has the potential chance of just Marit Laging someone on turn 2. The main problem for Lands is the rise in OmniTell, as the mana base is very difficult to attack and Karakas is useless. Sphere effects are good, but basics often allow the OmniTell deck to play around them.

I applaud people for finding ways to win without Brainstorm, but it’s just getting harder and harder each day. More on this later this week.

UW/x StoneBlade (4.4%)

StoneBlade decks have always been a popular choice, and the addition of Dig Through Time has made these decks even better. UW StoneBlade allows you to play Back to Basics, UWR StoneBlade gives you Pyroblast and Lightning Bolt, and Esper StoneBlade gives you access to Lingering Souls and discard. In such a blue-dominated metagame, playing Jeskai colors is a no-brainer in my opinion. DeathBlade is also a solid choice as Deathrite Shaman is still amazing, but the rise in Miracles makes playing more creatures less desirable, so I would look to play a UWR StoneBlade build with a strong SB plan for fighting CounterTop.

Looking Ahead

I don’t expect too many big metagame shifts going forward, but I will say that Imperial Painter and Shardless BUG are probably underplayed right now. Fair blue decks are still rampant, and both decks are well positioned going forward, especially if they find a way to shore up matchups against OmniTell and Storm. Miracles and BUG Delver will be forces for a while as they are the most fundamentally sound and consistent strategies. OmniTell would be my other pick for a top deck as it is a combo deck that is very difficult to attack. All of this being said, Legacy is a still a format where knowing your deck will pay more dividends than trying to navigate the metagame.

Discussion

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