CottonRhetoric's picture
By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Feb 28 2023 2:33pm

Magic's first nine sets were not meant to be drafted. They were meant for multi-set constructed and are in no way balanced for anything else. So... you'd better read this series to learn how to work within these warped environments! See last week for The Dark, Fallen Empires, and Homelands, and the prior week for Antiquities.






How to draft a non-sanctioned format (click to expand).
  1. Find people who will draft with you. Discord and Reddit can help.
  2. Set up the draft portion on
  3. Coordinate a time for everyone to draft together. (For groups smaller than eight, bot drafters can fill in the gaps.)
  4. Buy the necessary singles for your decks, and play 1:1 freeform games on the MtGO client!

If buying them sounds daunting, keep in mind: with very few exceptions, these cards are only cents each.

As for cards that don't exist online, that is up to your group's house rules to determine. Common solutions are using substitutions (Goblin Cannon instead of Rocket Launcher) or banning the cards outright (Tempest Efreet).






Legends (1994) 

    Tetsuo Umezawa

Some overarching strategy before we get into card commentaries—

Legends' main goal, as you might guess from its name, was to introduce legends into the game, and to make them powerful and cool. I can confirm after drafting a bunch of this set: the designers succeeded. As a group, these legends are the most powerful cards in the set (isolated bombs like Mana Drain notwithstanding). You win games by having several in your deck. Note that all the legends are multicolored, and all are in ally color pairs and shards. (Enemy color gold cards won't exist for 7 more years!)

What this means for drafting is you want to be three colors. That way you have access to the legends from two guilds AND one shard. Having fewer colors sarifices enormous value, and having more makes your manabase unstable. That's because...

This this set has no fixing. So the primary tension in drafting is how to balance your colors, knowing you'll be relying on only basics. Worse still, even within monocolored cards, most of the power comes from double (or triple!) pips. So do you give your three colors equal weight and run the "devil's manabase" of 6 lands each? Do you go 7-7-4, relegating one color to a splash and forgoing its powerful double-pipped cards? Both options have their shortcomings.

Honestly it's a format where 19 lands might even make sense, not only for the fixing issues, but for the sheer fat of the curve you're likely to end up on. Your best cards all cost 5 or more, and you will open a lot of them.

Oh and regarding the four cards from Legends banned for being culturally insensitive: establish a plan with your playgroup for how you want to handle those. Before you start drafting.



    Thunder Spirit     Moat

Commons: Mostly garbage.

  • Osai Vultures and Amrou Kithkin are formidable wearing a Giant Strength, but that is not exactly a top tier strategy.
  • D'Avenant Archer SEEMS like it would be good, especially after drafting Homelands where Anaba Shaman wrecked house, but this format is largely dominated by creatures with 5+ toughness, so this type of pinging is markedly less relevant. Sometimes it allows your 4/4 to trade with a 4/5, and sometimes it will snipe a 1-toughness Vampire Bats, but usually it just sits there.
  • Wall of Caltrops always falls short, no matter how many you have. It's a trap.
  • Keepers of the Faith is white's best common... and it isn't good. Every color has better 3 drops than this.

Uncommons: Spirit Link is outstanding, whether used to blank an opposing creature or buff your own. There are also a few good sideboard cards, but the rest are seldom playable.

Rares: Thunder Spirit outclasses most fliers in the set. Divine Transformation is more powerful than normal since there is so little removal. Moat is absolutely brutal because, in Legend's 310 cards, ZERO can destroy it. (Blue has two ways to bounce it; I could not find any other interaction.) If your deck has even slightly more air game than your opponent's, this is a game ender.




        Gaseous Form     Azure Drake
  • Several of these would be good in other formats but are not here, like Psychic Purge since most creatures are high toughness, and Force Spike because most opponents run 18–19 lands. You might think about drafting Purge for the sideboard, but honestly in this format, the creatures it can kill are usually better ignored.
  • Remove Soul is excellent. Your opponents are guaranteed to have a high volume of expensive, impactful, hard-to-kill creatures. Gobble these up.
  • Gaseous Form is respectable removal. It's even better when your deck has fliers.
  • Wall of Vapor is playable. It's more expensive than Black's Wall of Shadows for the same stats—but it can be used with glyphs. (Note it does not have flying, in spite of its artwork.)
  • If you're wondering about Flash Counter—Legends has 43 instants... but only about five are playable, and they don't come up often, so I'd pass on this one.

Uncommons: Azure Drake is one of the best fliers. Brine Hag and Wall of Wonder are medium. Mana Drain is obviously bonkers.


  • Juxtapose, Time Elemental, and Recall can definitely be good.
  • Elder Spawn would be good in Fallen Empires or The Dark, but here is outclassed by many of the legends.
  • Land Equilibrium can singlehandedly steal games. If your opponent relies on cards costing 6 or more, and your deck tops out at 5, dropping this early basically ensures victory. However. If your deck tops out at 5, it's poorly positioned in this format where all the power costs 6 or more, and games are guaranteed to go long. When you don't draw this card early, you're likely in trouble. I'll say "proceed with caution" on this one.




        Vampire Bats     Greed
  • Spirit Shackle is low tier removal.
  • Walking Dead and Wall of Shadow are much better removal. Your opponent may spend 7 mana for a huge beater, but either of these blanks it for a fraction of the cost. A totally viable strategy is mucking up the ground with walls and regenerators, and going over the top with Vampire Bats for unblockable flying damage.
  • Glyph of Doom is playable, just not with black creatures, since its only good wall cannot be targeted with this. More on glyphs when we get to red.

Uncommons: A lot of good ones! Demonic Torment, Lesser Werewolf, Abomination, Horror of Horrors, and Shimian Nightstalker are all playable. Fallen Angel is a bomb.


  • Carrion Ants, Greed, Mold Demon, and Hell's Caretaker are all nice pickups.
  • Cosmic Horror outfights nearly every creature in the set and will sometimes win the game by itself, serving as a one-sided Abyss and then a fast clock. However it will also sometimes lose the game by itself, getting blanked by a Wall of Shadows while eating up SIX of your mana every turn and preventing you from casting anything else consequential while your opponent continues to develop.
  • Speaking of The Abyss, The Abyss is in this set. It's hard to build around, with only one non-rare artifact creature, few ways to make tokens, and few noncreature wincons. But if you're in a better position to survive it than your opponent, it's basically unbeatable. It's hard to remove, but not quite as hard as Moat, due to one factor: it's an enchant world. That means if the opposing player casts their own enchant world, The Abyss will be destroyed. Not many of them are playable, but I can imagine sideboarding in a weak one just to defeat an Abyss!
  • Underworld Dreams has too low an impact to justify running. I'd rather play Vampire Bats in most cases. It does help push through a lock from Moat or The Abyss of course, along with a certain green card I'll be covering soon....





Uncommons: Mountain Yeti's double hosing and decent body make it justifiable in the maindeck. Against any possible shard, at least one of its abilities will be relevant, and most of your opponents will be playing a shard. A similar tale could be told of Beasts of Bogardan, although the power level is a little lower. The other uncommons are largely unremarkable.

Rares: Disharmony is oustanding. Firestorm Phoenix is legit. The rest are meh (although Spinal Villain is an obvious sideboard bomb).



    Moss Monster     Arboria

Commons: Both five drops (Durkwood Boars and Moss Monster) are great. The rest are mediocre to bad. Don't be fooled by "efficient stats" on lower CMCs: Grizzly Bears is accomplishing nothing in this format. And those 1/1 fliers aren't either, except in the (mostly novelty) Giant Strength deck.

Uncommons: Sylvan Library is good. Craw Giant at 7 mana is fine but usually trades with a 5-drop. As for Arboria... it basically reads "whoever has more cards in their library wins the game." Like The Abyss, the only ways to interact with it are Boomerang, Time Elemental, and other enchant worlds. And if you're angling for an intentional mill victory, know there are no cards that mill an opponent or force them to draw cards.

Rares: Killer Bees are amazing against any color but red. Willow Satyr is usually great. Elven Riders gives most decks a headache (but note it's worthless against walls, which several decks do run).



Lands: The five colored legendary ones are no-cost inclusions, but don't pick them highly. The banding lands are unlikely to do much, nor is The Tabernacle At Pendrell Vale.

Uncommon artifacts: Marble Priest is good next to The Abyss; otherwise it's junk. The others are junk anywhere.

Rare artifacts: Al-Abara's Carpet is strong against most decks. Gauntlets of Chaos and Horn of Deafening are sweet. Knowledge Vault is one of the few ways to get card advanage in this format. Voodoo Doll is OK in the late game—it usually deals your opponent a chunk, kills two of their smaller creatures, then deals you a chunk. All while monopolizing your mana.


And now for the fun part...


    Jerrard of the Closed Fist     Dakkon Blackblade

The rule of thumb for two-colored cards in Legends: look at their stats. If their toughness is 3 or less, and they don't have relevant abilities like first strike or banding, they're probably weak. You can spend 6 mana on Pavel Maliki or Kasimir the Lone Wolf, but it's probably trading down. (Sometimes it's still worth it to run them, just to flesh out your deck in a mostly underpowered format, but hopefully you can open some better options.)

WU: Rasputin Dreamweaver and Kasimir the Lone Wolf are on the weaker end. The other five are solid.

UB: Ramses Overdark is underpowered. Sivitri Scarzam is medium. The others are good.

BR: No to Boris Devilboon and Rohgahh of Kher Keep. Maybe to Axelrod Gunnarson, Lady Orca, Pavel Maliki, and Tor Wauki. Yes to Barktooth Warbeard 

RG: Yes to all seven.

GW: Yes to all seven.

And the three-colored cards: there are twenty (four in each shard), and all twenty are strong. Seriously, you cannot go wrong with a three-colored card in this set. And since all twenty are rare, you never have to pick between them!


And now you know how to draft Legends.