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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Jun 28 2016 12:00pm
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Since Legacy decks are not cheap, many of us cannot simply buy all the cards to be able to play any deck. Many will be glad that they can purchase a single deck. On the other hand this format does not rotate and cards are not banned on a Pro Tour basis. You don't need to fear that the price of cards would drastically drop since there is no rotation. Legacy cards on Magic Online are way cheaper than in paper but still one should expect to pay around 700-1000USD for it. There are exceptions though (Rishadan Port at its current price 200tix far surpasses the price of paper version, Misdirection, Daze etc...). A deck you buy might not be the most popular all the time but will certainly be viable if you learn to play it well.

If I wanted to buy the deck I currently play, Shardless BUG, today - this is what it would cost me. If you don't know it already, MTGOtraders allows one to buy a whole deck and can optimize the price as well. Just go under Deck -> Upload -> Buy. One day you might need this feature.

After reading my previous article you should have a slight idea of what the popular decks are. Now it is up to you to choose a deck. There are few things to know before doing so though.


Once, by an accident, I joined a group of players going by car to a GPT. I went instead of a player that was supposed to go and did not come. I actually lent him my deck, so I had no deck to play with. When I arrived there I asked a few players if they would have some cards from which I could build something resembling a deck. It was in the era where Jace, the Mind Sculptor was everywhere and in 4 copies and pretty much only one deck saw play. I was also one of those players normally running UW control. Some players said yes, so I went to register and then I hoped I would actually come up with 75 cards I could play. The judge registering me for the tournament, seeing that I'm most probably by accident there, asked me: 'You are aware that you need a deck for this tournament, right?'. I let the question be and went to ask the players if there is a chance that any of them would have some copies of ANY card that would have Jace in its type. In the end I actually managed to get 2 JTMS and 3 Jace Beleren. I knew what the field would look like so I needed to prepare for UW control. I did not expect to go far with a proactive plan so I decided to be even more reactive. The decks often were changing to proactive plan post-sideboard so I hoped to use that to my advantage. My deck ended up being Grixis Control with Creeping Tar Pit as win conditions. All the rest was mostly counterspells, removal and all the Jaces I managed to get. It felt strange to run Negate, Spell Pierces and Countersqualls main deck but it was the right choice. In the end I managed to top 8 and lost the following round against my opponent from round 1 (we came to the tournament together and as usual when one travels to a tournament far away he ends up paired against the person he came with).

The important thing from this story is that I was able to build a very specific meta-dependent deck that had a game against UW control but that would die simply to any deck running creatures or Burn. I had enough knowledge of the most played deck (I played the deck myself normally), expected 70% of the field to be flooded with it and that allowed me to break the format for this single tournament since I also needed the 'surprise' factor in order to gain an edge.

In pre-Oath Modern this was possible as well. One could arrive to a local tournament (even PTQ), see what everyone is playing and build a deck or choose a deck accordingly. Last time I played Modern everyone was playing Junk or Jund. I was on Twin for some time and wasn't willing to change that. So all I needed to do was play Blood Moon main deck (and Keranos) to deal with all those greedy midrange decks. I won. In Legacy though this kind of approach; trying to come up with next level meta for the current meta is not good. It will rarely pay off since the decks in Legacy are varied and the skill level of players is also varied. The same deck can also be played in a very different way. Neither of these game plans need to be wrong though. Both can be solid and lead to victory. All this makes meta-gaming very difficult in Legacy. A general knowledge of the format staples/decks, being a good player in general and experience is what is needed the most. The best deck or the best meta-deck is not needed unlike in Standard or pre-Oath Modern. Actually quite the opposite, one needs to be ready for everything.

In Standard we have very specifically given decks that are deemed to be the best. Playing the format competitively usually means that one chooses one of the best decks and simply learns how to pilot it. There isn't much space for deviations. Within a small group of players it is possible to test all the decks, see which deck is the best or try to figure out which completely different deck can take advantage of the highly meta-dependent decks. There is no need to be prepared for decks outside of the competitive metagame. Both a new player and experienced player can learn to play one deck in a short time well and have good results with it. These decks can be or have to be tweaked following the metagame trends.

In Legacy it is different. First of all there isn't a very highly competitive Legacy scene in general. The Magic Online metagame actually might be the most competitive one but there are no Pro Tours played in Legacy, thus pros don't have the need to play Legacy much. This makes Legacy way more diverse. There are players that started playing years ago and have not yet changed decks. There are players that follow each big Legacy tournament and play with one of the winning decks. There are players that play just for fun to play with a deck they like be it a longtime forgotten deck or their homebrew pet deck.

There are no pro players testing all the matchups and brewing decks that would be better than other decks. It is impossible to test all decks that people play. Even all the statistics one can find online can be misleading. Legacy is played by players of various skill levels. This is true for Standard as well but there anyone can learn fast how to play a deck well. In Legacy this process takes way longer and the player needs to be good player overall to have consistently good results. Also in Legacy decks are way more unforgiving. Mistakes have bigger impacts on the game. Also a single change of a card in a deck (for example either playing Stifle or Cabal Therapy in a Delver deck) can change the matchups considerably. All these factors play a relatively big role - the statistics can be skewed and should be approached differently.

In such environment thus the best deck is the one that has answers to everything or a deck that bypasses everything. It needs to have fair matchups with popular decks but also has to be prepared for decks of all kinds.

Proactivity vs Reactivity

If you ask people what deck to pick up many will tell you to play Burn, or at least that is what I hear all the time in our area. It is cheap and efficient that is for sure. Everyone also thinks that playing Burn is easy. It actually is not. It can be played well by following simple guidelines but many players can't even play the deck in the most efficient way following these guidelines. I've seen many Burn players lose games because they couldn't play the spells in right order or killed themselves with Eidolon of the Great Revel. Many say they lost due to bad luck but I can see that many struggle with playing this deck well even how 'simple' it is deemed to be. The deck is simple compared to other decks but it doesn't mean that anyone can play it. There are many players that will feel very uncomfortable playing the deck even being able to play it well. Another deck that is often advised is Death and Taxes. This deck is a completely different beast than Burn though. Many players coming from more limited formats (Modern, Standard) have most probably never played a prison deck before (there are Death and Taxes variants in Modern but they still work a bit differently). The biggest difference between Burn and DnT that should be known to new players is that Burn does not care about the metagame - it has just one strategy and that does not change. Death and Taxes though is meta dependent and requires knowledge of the field. It requires the pilot to know what decks are played and what they do so the deck can be played accordingly. Without this knowledge, the Death and Taxes pilot won't have (good) consistent results. One thing these decks share though is the fact that they are both proactive.

In the past few years Legacy is much more proactive format than it used to be. This can actually be told about any format but in Legacy it is rather surprising thing because of its vastness. In the past the most powerful spells were actually non-creature spells. But soon Wizards realized that control mirrors where the more skilled player always wins is not the way to go. They needed to add more variance so less skilled players would still want to play the game (knowing that sometimes they can win due to variance).

Excerpt from Titus Chalk's 'So do you wear a cape? The unofficial story of Magic: The Gathering'.

To achieve this though they moved away from powerful noncreature spells and started printing more powerful creatures. Many years later in Lorwyn they introduced a new card type - Planeswalker. These cards provide such a great card advantage that can't be ignored in any format be it Vintage or Standard. The power creep of creatures is higher lately though. This made even the Legacy metagame revolve around new cards while still letting old cards to support these new cards (as I write this, Vintage is overrun by Eldrazi). The best way to answer the new cards is with other (new) powerful cards. This unfortunately means that reactive control decks are no longer that potent as they used to be and even dedicated aggro decks (Zoo for example) also have a very hard time surviving in the Legacy metagame. Both of these decks have one big disadvantage. They have only one plan how to win the game. This is not the right approach in nowadays Legacy. Decks today need more ways to win. One plan can go wrong often and for that having more ways to win is needed especially when you want to play in big events where it is possible to ran into more or less any kind of deck. Such decks are both proactive and reactive, they switch roles depending on the situation or matchup.

In general proactive decks don't need to care that much about the metagame which means that a beginner will have better results with such decks than with reactive decks that are more dependent on the knowledge of other decks. The most proactive decks are Belcher and Oops! All Spells!. Other decks not so all-in as the previous examples are Sneak and Show and Reanimator. All one needs to know is how to play the deck properly and protect the combo/Show and Tell/Reanimation spell. If you'd like to pick a deck based on the simplicity of it, these are ideal decks to start with. They are not interactive though and are rather simple (they have only one and very straightforward plan) which can become boring after a while though.

Reactive decks interact with the opponent and that is the reason why one needs to know what to expect from the deck. We have to base our decisions on something. We need to know what cards are threats to our deck and which aren't. Highly reactive decks thus don't have too many threats. They deal with opponent's threats and after they take control of the game they play their win condition and win. Miracles is a good example of such deck. The reason why many people say this deck is the most difficult to pilot is due to the fact that the pilot needs to know the decks he plays against well (apart from knowing his deck well). Sometimes this deck requires the player to be proactive though. In those matchups playing Miracles becomes rather easy because there aren't too many options the player can choose from (against Lands for example).

The example above also shows that decks no matter if they are control or tempo have to sometimes change their role. Miracles takes the aggressor role rarely but tempo decks can often switch between aggressive and control roles. It is important to understand this concept if one wants to play Legacy. Changing a role accordingly in matchups is crucial.

Choosing the right deck

So how should one choose a deck to play? Well, one should choose a deck which fits his or her playstyle. Because no deck is the best deck. It is important to stick with the deck choice though. A player needs a lot of experience and needs to know their deck well. All this requires time and that is the reason why switching decks often is not advisable. A player always has the best results with a deck they are familiar with no matter if the deck is tier 1 or not at the moment.

Sometimes people do not realize that the familiarity with their deck can be so crucial. You can only gain by playing one deck for a long period of time. All the experience gained from playing with one deck can be then ported to playing other decks or similar decks in other formats. Switching decks to try them all might not give one enough time to learn all the complexities of those decks.

Sometimes though you can find out that there is a certain matchup you don't know what to do with. In this case it is actually good to try the deck yourself, to see what the deck does, how the draws look like and what are the biggest weaknesses of the deck. This gives a big insight and will give you the information needed to fight the deck properly.

Even though I've played A LOT of games against Dredge in Extended, Legacy and Vintage I never played the deck myself. I wanted to know how it feels and looks like from Dredge perspective after everyone sides in all the graveyard hate they have in their sideboards (usually 6 cards in Vintage). I found myself in a situation where I had 1 card in hand, Bazaar of Baghdad in play unable to use it because I needed to keep at least one card in hand. It was very frustrating. My plan B - attacking with all the creatures I managed to cast - did not go that well either. My opponent seeing me drawing cards with Bazaar in the end decided to sideboard in Notion Thieves so I wouldn't be able to find my answers to Grafdigger's Cage. These matches helped me understand in what positions Dredge player can find himself and thus I as his opponent can try to force him into such a position now knowing it is not a good one for him. I also learned that this is not a deck that would suit me even though that I can see that it can win games and even it can fight relatively well against graveyard hate (way better than I actually thought).

Based on similar experiences like I had with Dredge I would say that it is important or even crucial to choose a deck that fits your playstyle. Not only you will have better results with such deck but it won't bore you and you will want to play more and more.

On the other hand if you are a Magic player that wants to participate and possibly win a Legacy Premier event (like the upcoming Legacy Championships) and have never played the format before and don't have much time to learn you can choose any non-interactive deck and learn everything about the deck. All you need to know is how to play your deck without screwing up. These decks are usually unforgiving and one misstep means a lost game. What you need to know is what cards stop your deck. For example if you are on Dredge the card you won't like to see is Rest in Peace or Deathrite Shaman. If you are on Storm, cards like Gaddock Teeg or Thalia can be a nightmare. It doesn't matter much what deck your opponent is playing though. You also need to learn how to play against counterspells but that is way easier to do from the combo deck perspective since all you need to care about is resolving a key spell. Choosing such a deck is a good approach to take if you are a highly competitive player and don't play Legacy often.

If you aren't that competitive or highly skilled player but still want to try your luck winning an event in a format you don't know you can try Belcher or Oops! All Spells. You will always have 60 percent chance that your plan will not be disrupted on t1 and not all decks actually play blue so the chances can be actually higher. Lately with the Legacy Festival being announced we can see these decks popping up. These decks also happen to be cheap (150-300tix).

If you are a player who wants to dedicate to Legacy, it is better to play a deck you will like, a deck that can be explored, is fun and is challenging. Blue decks are favored because these decks are way more consistent and also because they have access to Force of Will, a very much needed card to stop combo decks or early threats. But even non-blue decks are viable and have answers they need. Not all of us were born blue mages.

Power Level

Legacy decks are powerful consisting primarily of cards that alone are very powerful. Similarly to Vintage Legacy is a format in which the power of cards is very important. Thus always play the best available card there is. The best lands are original dual lands and fetchlands. Without these we couldn't consistently play our spells when we want to play them. The best removal spell is Swords to Plowshares and should be played. The best efficient creature is Tarmogoyf. If you are running green, play the card. The best cantrip is Ponder, don't play something like Serum Vision if you can play Ponder or Preordain. There is no way around this. We play this format because we want to play with all the powerful cards that were printed. These cards that proved to be the format's staples define the format now and those cards will be the topic of my next Legacy article.


Show & Tell by MichelleWong at Tue, 06/28/2016 - 22:31
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Thanks Jaroslava for this article.

Show & Tell is a very potent deck. I have played it hundreds of times with proxies, and I love laughing when certain matchups come against me, in particular the many "glass cannon" decks.

For example, Show & Tell vs BURN! This matchup is a massacre (in Show & Tell's favour). As a non-Burn player, I always enjoy watching Burn players go down! Secretly to myself I say "Griselbrand has now hit the board on Turn 2. Deal with THAT please!".

Jaroslava, can I ask you two questions?

1. When playing Show & Tell, what sideboard cards of an opponent do you most fear? I ask this because I often find it challenging to hate out Sneak & Show when it comes against me. If, for example, I use Pithing Needle to stop Griselbrand or Sneak Attack, I can then find myself being smashed by Emrakul or Show & Tell.

The fact that the deck comes at you from multiple angles, and has tonnes of cheap countermagic back-up (as well as Brainstorm to thwart Thoughtseize and Duress and the like) makes it very hard to hate out in my opinion.

Another reason the deck is hard to hate out is because the very threats that you have to deal with (Griselbrand and Emrakul, and in particular Griselbrand) are resilient to removal. Swords to Plowshares and Liliana, for example, are woefully inadequate against a Griselbrand that has not been stabbed with the Needle beforehand.

Even cards like Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon are useless against Sneak & Show, because the sneak player has countermagic and because of their Lotus Petals, and also because Sneak Attack requires only red mana.

For these reasons, I consider Sneak & Show players to be the "Slippery Bogles" of Legacy. The flavor text on the card Slippery Bogle expresses perfectly what I think of Sneak & Show players. (I challenge you to try resist the temptation to NOT look up the flavor text of the card Slippery Bogle . . . . . ok by now I'm sure you failed to resist the temptation, so you now know why I think Sneak & Show players taste good).

The deck I own in Legacy is Hexmage Depths (not the typical Sultai Depths version, but my own Golgari brew), so I can't bring in ENSNARING BRIDGE from the sideboard but I can bring in KARAKAS against Sneak & Show. But do you think that Karakas is generally worthwhile in sideboards of non-Dark Depths decks, given that they will not be able to search for it when they need it?

2. My second question is: Has anyone hated you out using an Emrakul from a sideboard? I don't recommend such a sideboard strategy, because it is a card which is useless against all other matchups and because it only stops Show & Tell, not Sneak Attack.


I typically feel similarly by Paul Leicht at Tue, 06/28/2016 - 22:36
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I typically feel similarly about burn but mostly because many players pilot the archetype suboptimally or in a linear fashion that works great if your opponent isn't playing something unfair (like reanimate or/show n tell Griselbrand). But a really good burn pilot will probably have a plan to deal with your 7 toughness demon if only after sideboarding.

As to Karakas, there are methods by which decks can find it easily enough: KotR, Crop Rotation and Tolaria West for example. Not sure how relevant it is in the format though as aside from Emrakul and Griselbrand there aren't too many juicy targets for it.

I once stopped a S&T deck with duplicant. That was funny. Opponent rage quit once he realized what I'd done.

Sneak and Show - sideboard by stsung at Wed, 06/29/2016 - 04:05
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1. I was trying to come up with a reasonable answer but I couldn't come up with it. The thing is that Death and Taxes is what comes to my mind. Not single cards. Ensnaring Bridge and Pithing Needle are nice but can be bounced. If you will play against a Sneak and Show player knowing his deck he will sideboard cards to help him fight your sideboard cards and since there are 2 to 3 ways how to cheat the creatures into play it might not help you since you usually sideboard against those and they are fairly different. You can have Needle in play but opponent will play Show and Tell into Emrakul. If you have some REBs your opponent will go Sneak Attack -> Griselbrand -> Emrakul. Anyway since this deck has more countermagic than any other deck practically it is difficult to win a counterwar unless you run more Flusterstorms and actually have them in hand. Flusterstorm is the card that I fear the most since it is difficult to counter. You can deal with majority of hate. Jace or Liliana that sneak in after a counterwar are pretty bad as well but those are MD cards.

Karakas is a card that you can go around with Sneak Attack and it will be a nice Mountain post-board. There is actually more Karakas cards than you might think. Many decks play the card. From Lands, Death and Taxes, Miracles, Maverick to Cloudpost. Even some decks that don't need the card just sideboard it against decks like Show and Tell. It does not help much but from time to time it wins the one game you need to win a match in a big tournament. Many decks can search for the card easily actually. Blue decks have more time to look for it so the fact that you can't tutor it isn't that big an issue.

So in general cards that I fear are actually creatures because you can't really deal with them. For example I would name Xantid Swarm as the feared card. But it is not because it stops Show and Tell but because you can easily die to Tendrils of Agony next turn. Even though this matchup is favorable for Sneak and Show it can be a problem if you don't have Pyroclasm/FoW etc. Venser and Vendilion Clique are also as annoying as they can be and can ruin the game for the Sneak and Show player in many ways.

2. I faced Emrakul when playing against Elves. But otherwise, no. People tend to play cards like Oblivion Ring, Angel of Despair/Ashen Rider, Sower of Temptation. But I personally always cut those slots for something and else and rather ignored this matchup in general. In KTK Sneak and Show meta I just played 2 Flusterstorm, 2 Golgari Charm and hoped to be lucky.

note: please, do not call me Jaroslava (people don't call me that), stsung is fine.

Sneak & Show by MichelleWong at Tue, 06/28/2016 - 22:59
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Paul, I am glad that your Duplicant worked! I admire anyone who can hit Sneak & Show players with good sideboard tech.

Jaroslava, I know your article was not about Sneak & Show decks but about choosing a legacy deck, so I hope you're not angry at Paul and I for focusing on Sneak & Show strategies!

Sneak and Show by stsung at Wed, 06/29/2016 - 04:15
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Actually your Sneak and Show post made me think about something I could possibly write in the future. I guess it was written already by who knows how many players. It is important to recognize a deck you are playing against fast if you are on Show and Tell. (not that much experienced players will still get many free wins just by playing the deck 'somehow' since they won't fear much and will just proactively play the deck. Few mirror matches will teach them though^_^). So I guess I might write about this a bit in the future.

I can't be angry about this. Thx for the comment. It just surprised me a bit. In general I'm not a big fan of Sneak and Show. If I would have to play something 'similar' I'd rather play Reanimator or Omni-Tell. Reanimator can be hated out though way more and one needs to be way more careful when playing the deck. Omni-Tell is actually a very nice deck that can also play Sneak Attack and surprise many players but can also kill them with Release the Ants. It is more complex though but many players don't know how to play against it which is an advantage on the other hand.

Sneak & Show by MichelleWong at Wed, 06/29/2016 - 05:39
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Thank you stsung for your comments, which were very helpful.

I thought it interesting that you would side in GOLGARI CHARM against Sneak & Show. I am a Golgari Depths player, and I have access to Golgari Charm in my board, but I would not generally bring in Golgari Charm against Sneak & Show because all they need is to cast Sneak Attack with one red mana spare, and then they can activate Sneak Attack to bring in Emrakul or Griselbrand, and Golgari Charm is useless against the card Show & Tell. Plus, a single activation of Sneak Attack is usually all they need to secure the game, so removing the enchantment is probably too late to make a difference to the result. Nonetheless, I respect your choice, and I'm sure that Golgari Charm will help sometimes.

I guess it reinforces my point about how the deck is so resilient to hate - even your Golgari Charm can be thwarted by the Sneak & Show player who is able to keep 1 extra red mana available for the activation.

Golgari Charm by stsung at Wed, 06/29/2016 - 06:14
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If you have other relevant cards against the deck you don't need to side cards like Golgari Charm (since I have no idea how your deck and SB looks like I can't comment on that, but I suppose you have better cards than Golgari Charm^_^). Sideboard plan depends on the deck you run and on what cards actually you need to deal with. So saying something like 'sideboarding Golgari Charm against Show and Tell is bad' is something we could talk for ages. Even though I can agree with this there are reasons to side Golgari Charm under certain circumstances. They depend on many factors though. Be it your deck, bad sideboard, too many dead cards against the matchup etc. Usually it goes hand in hand but you get my point.

I run Golgari Charm in my SB to deal with Empty the Warrens, Elves, Death and Taxes and True-Name Nemesis. And to be honest I like the card because it gives options. The Charm is not there specifically for Show and Tell matchup obviously. But it can help since I have other cards that are worse, there is no downside to having the card in the deck after game 1.

As for the Golgari Charm, many players won't keep mana open for counterspell but rather keep mana for the activation. They will either want to kill you with the fatty they already have in their hand or search for another one (Sneak Attack, creature or actual counterspell so their Sneak Attack can stick). You'd be actually surprised how many Emrakul attacks I survived. Thanks to Golgari Charm I was able to get enough time to come back into the game and win. Needled Griselbrand and destroyed Sneak Attack is also "good position". Talking about a deck that has like 35/65 matchup against Sneak and Show.

I primarily side in Golgari Charm against Show and Tell because it deals with Blood Moon. Resolved Blood Moon usually means 'concede' for me.

Sneak and Show is very resilient to decks that are rather slow. In the era of midrange decks it can fair pretty well.

Sneak & Show by MichelleWong at Wed, 06/29/2016 - 17:39
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Thank you stsung for your thoughts on this topic. Kindly noted.

I look forward to your next article, as Legacy is my No.1 format.