It’s not too often that we get Legacy GPs, and it’s always fascinating to observe the way the format is evolving. While Standard shifts radically from week to week, and while Modern is noted for the dynamism of its top decks, Legacy tends to develop at a relatively slow pace. Even now, months after the banning of Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe, the format is still “settling” from the upheaval these changes entailed.
My Team Coverage colleague Chapman Sim outlined some of the newer cards that are breaking into Legacy based on his observations this weekend, and with cards from Battlebond, Core Set 2019, and Guilds of Ravnica all prompting meaningful change across different archetypes, it’s clear that Legacy is in a state of flux.
Relatively speaking, of course—Brainstorm, Ponder, and Force of Will are always going to be good, and people will always be trying to flip Delver of Secrets. Nonetheless, once you get past these format staples, there are plenty of new archetypes, strategies, and card choices continuing to drive change in the format.
This was reflected within the results of the GP, with the Top 16 containing a fair bit of exciting new technology. Let’s go over some of the most important developments from the weekend!
We’ve seen Grixis and Temur Delver in the past, where greedy mana bases were strongly supported by Deathrite Shaman. Lacking both DRS and Gitaxian Probe, however, Delver decks had an incentive to try out new approaches, many of which just involve two colors.
A marriage of two Legacy powerhouses—Delver of Secrets in tandem with Stoneforge Mystic. Stoneforge typically sees play in much slower decks, but here it’s paired with the tempo-oriented strategy of Delver, Daze, Force of Will, and Wasteland in order to give the deck a little bit of staying power.
This isn’t a typical Delver deck. While more than capable of the usual threat-plus-denial tempo game, it can also contest the late game with True-Name Nemesis plus Equipment or Jace plus… well, basically anything else. It’s a tidy little hybrid of two of Legacy’s premier strategies.
A two-color, basic-heavy mana base both maximizes the impact of Wasteland while minimizing opposing Wastelands, and white offers exceptional removal in Swords to Plowshares, as well as excellent sideboard options like Containment Priest and Disenchant, not to mention the exceptionally potent Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
This aggro-control hybrid is a weird one, for sure, but is not short on power level, consistency, or staying power. I’m curious to see what the future holds for the partnership of Stoneforge Mystic and Delver of Secrets!
Legacy burn decks have one of the best direct damage spells ever printed in Price of Progress, an exceptional card in a format flooded with dual lands. Rather than restrict himself to one color, however, Huang Ta Chi dipped into blue for some of the format’s usual suspects, and the result is a super sweet burn deck that also meaningfully contests the battlefield.
Once again, here we have a deck capable of the busted Delver draws while still having alternative ways to close out a game should attacking and blocking not work out so well. The Delvers are supported by a robust suite of aggressive creatures, including Oath of the Gatewatch Draft all-star Stormchaser Mage.
Triggering prowess creatures is a cinch with the sheer volume of cantrips and burn spells. The usual blue cards are joined by Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning, which will whittle away an opponent’s life total until Price of Progress can blast them right out of the game.
The sweetest card in the list, however, is Risk Factor. Paying 3 mana for 4 damage isn’t a great rate, but it adds up quickly with jump-start, and sooner or later the opponent won’t have enough life left to prevent you from drawing cards. Legacy typically doesn’t have a lot of raw card advantage engines—it’s typically about jostling for minuscule edges with cards like Wasteland and Daze—so turning one card into three is definitely big game.
This is a pleasingly aggressive deck that threatens to leave opponents in the dust, chipping in with early damage before using the top-end of Price of Progress and Risk Factor to close things out. Burn is often a scary matchup, and this blue-red approach offers powerful new angles of attack, as well as a lower land count and greater consistency.
Ever since Gary Campbell won GP Birmingham with Red Prison, the deck has been well-known as a scourge of blue decks in Legacy, playing overwhelmingly hateful cards to stymie and pick apart the game plan of Legacy’s premier decks. Hiroyuki Kaga made it all the way to the finals of GP Shizuoka with his updated take on the archetype.
While most Legacy decks are looking to chain together cheap cantrips, deploy undercosted threats, and leverage 1-mana removal, this deck uses Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere to make all these cheap spells look very silly. Additionally, Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon punish greedy mana bases, while Ensnaring Bridge holds off aggressive decks. These mana-intensive plays are enabled by Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, as well as Simian Spirit Guide. This makes a turn-1 3-drop very possible!
A suite of sticky, resilient 3-mana threats seek to end the game quickly, and Legion Warboss joins Goblin Rabblemaster as copies five-through-eight of the army-in-a-can. A single removal spell often won’t deal with these Goblins, and you’d be surprised how much work a single 1/1 can do when an opponent is spending all their other resources dealing with Blood Moons and Trinispheres!
If attacking and blocking isn’t good enough, you can instead whittle down an opponent’s life total with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Hazoret the Fervent, or Pia and Kiran Nalaar. Given the deck also plays Ensnaring Bridge, it is of course critical to have win conditions that don’t involve combat.
Legacy’s most popular decks are invariably Delver strategies, combo decks like Sneak and Show, and Miracles. This list beats up on blue decks of all kinds, punishing every Brainstorm deck in the format. Brainstorm is, without question, one of the most important cards in the format (alongside Force of Will and Wasteland), and for that reason it seems like a pretty good idea to play a deck designed to beat it!