Cook’s Kitchen – Legacy: A Format Analysis
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a completely healthy format for Legacy, but I believe we’re finally back at the pinnacle. When we look at the last few years of Legacy these are the eras:
- Vengevine Survival
- Mental Misstep
- Reign of Stoneblade
- Rise of RUG Delver
- Sneak & Show
- Maverick’s Domination
- The Age of Return to Ravnica (Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay)
We haven’t really had a time period when the format was completely settled and diverse until right now. Sure, Jund and BUG Delver (Team America) are pretty powerful thanks to the printing of Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman in Return to Ravnica but the format as a whole is wide open. No one deck is defined as “The Best Deck” which is incredible considering how long it’s been since the format has had this. On any given weekend a different Legacy deck could win an NELC or Legacy Open, most Legacy decks right now are on an even playing field.
While the time periods listed above are defined by a certain card or deck, none of these decks ever truly fell out of power completely. They just were no longer the format’s premier deck, this has lead us to where we are today. When looking at the results from the last four events of Star City Games and Jupiter Games, we’re looking at a variety of different decks.
These are all of the decks within the last few months:
Uw Countertop (With Helm combo)
Sneak and Show
UWr Countertop (With Helm combo)
Mono-Red Sneak Attack
Seventeen different decks represented for Star City Games and twenty unique decks for Jupiter Games. Overall, there were a grand total of thirty individual decks between the two tournament series just in the top finishes! With 64 total deck slots between the two series, there was some duplication, which is to be expected. However, thirty unique decks tells us that the format is quite diverse right now. Think back to before Star City Games started with Legacy events for those of you who have been playing long enough. Does anyone remember how high-level players described Legacy? I do.
“You can just jam your favorite deck from the past and have a chance of doing well.”
It hasn’t been like that until recently. I mean seriously, Post is a deck people are concerned about when they build their sideboards! That deck was questionable at best back in standard, but now is dominating other midrange decks in Legacy. If you put enough dedication into any deck in Legacy, as I do storm, there’s a fighting chance that it will be a reasonable competitor. Sometimes players are unwilling to give up an interaction and that’s when the deck fails. It’s important to adapt the deck to the times and to play the best cards possible. Post is no longer playing Solemn Simulacrum and TES is no longer playing Slithermuse or Simian Spirit Guide. The concepts are the same, just a slightly different face.
While the format may be incredibly wide-open right now, I’m always interested in what can change that. At least on the horizon, I don’t see too many things that could possibly do that. In recent years, it’s been new sets that have been what defines the following months’ metagame until the next set is released. While this keeps Legacy very fresh, it also often leads to price spikes. Look at a card like Shallow Grave, before the last few months this card was a two-dollar Commander staple. It’s currently resting at twenty dollars due to the new flavor of the week, TinFins. But isn’t that part of the beauty of Legacy? Completely. It’s part of the appeal of this format. Older cards interacting with cards fresh off the press, sometimes it takes a few month’s to realize the interactions (Shallow Grave) and sometimes it completely destroys a Grand Prix (Flash).
With price spikes in Legacy, it’s become increasingly difficult to enter the format or even have multiple decks. While it’s certainly not Shallow Grave’s fault that the format is expensive, that’s just the nature of the beast. What I’m concerned with is if Legacy has a growth ceiling and how far away are we from it. That is what I see as a potential change to the balance of this currently healthy format. While there’s no predicting cards from future sets and how they’ll influence the metagame, it’s important to look at what is foreseeable. I think the worst thing that could happen to Legacy would be if Star City Games stopped supporting the format. Legacy could survive through very little of Wizard’s support, I mean, what do we receive anyway? Four Grand Prix a year – two in the United States and two in Europe.
Without the support of Star City Games, Legacy single prices would drop dramatically as there wouldn’t a consistent use of these cards outside of the few Grand Prix a year or smaller event series and local gaming stores. This is what I’m afraid of, but I just don’t believe that there’s a middle ground to this. Legacy will continue to grow and I expect it to, it’s incredibly enjoyable, or it will come to a screeching halt. That peak that I’m afraid of isn’t in the near future, it’s during a darker day where Underground Sea commands a price tag of $250.00 dollars. Over the last year or two, the format’s prices have stabilized and Underground Sea is roughly a $150.00 card. What I don’t think Legacy would survive is another potential price spike in cards. Most likely, this would result from Wizards announcing Legacy as a PTQ format which they’ve been hesitant to do because of card availablity.
Outside of the variance between decks and potential ceiling of the format, I have some concern relating to the long-term look of the format. Will Legacy ultimately become Combo versus Control much like Vintage? I’ve seen a pretty steady increase in combo decks over the last year in Legacy. It began with the printing of Griselbrand and is now continuing with more Show and Tell decks and other decks that cheat large creatures into play. Even control decks are opting for a combo-based win condition with Rest in Peace and Helm of Obedience allowing them to now have the “Oops! I win factor.” Speaking of the word “Oops” we now have a completely landless combo deck that isn’t Dredge. That deck even has the ability to win on the first turn with multiple protection spells in Pact of Negation and Cabal Therapy. Similarly, Storm’s numbers have remained consistent with even a few higher-level players picking up decks that count to ten. Lastly, there’s Elves. From the kitchen table to the top tables of Magic events, this deck is the real deal.
My views could be somewhat skewed living in the northeast of the United States, but the metagames up here are more dense with combo than others appear to be. I know that in my local store there is absolutely zero aggro decks, it’s incredibly unhealthy. The players that once ran aggro became upset with their performances and instead of finding a solution to beat it, joined it. In fact, the same could be said for a few of the control players. There are frequent combo mirrors and it’s nerve-racking.
However, when travelling to larger regional events such as Jupiter Games the metagames as explained earlier are diversified. The Syracuse metagame for the time-being just seems incredibly inbred and I don’t know if there’s a good solution. Jund and Maverick both do decent against both combo and control, but not well enough to consider either a good match-up. I’ve tried to run plenty of other decks mostly tempo based (Team America, UWr Delver, and RUG) as possible answers to these two arch-types with some success, however, my deck choices never influenced others to also adapt.
I just hope the overall metagame never becomes like the Syracuse local metagame. I don’t want Legacy to change one bit. I think we’re at the beginning of a “Golden Age” for Legacy and don’t foresee any changes in the near future, excluding new sets, that’s going to change Legacy. My concerns or fears are all long-term results of the format, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s something we as a community could be doing as a possible solution to the card availability problem.
But for now, I’m focusing on upcoming events in the area. I’ll be in attendance at Star City Games Open: Washington, DC this weekend with a much lighter backpack. It’s a sad day when thieves influence if I should be carrying my play binders with me.
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource