Breaking In: Investing in Competitive Legacy by Andrew Quinn

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Breaking In: Investing in Competitive Legacy by Andrew Quinn

Hey there guys (and girls of course). The response to my first article about breaking into standard was absolutely fantastic. I’d like to just say, thank you to everyone who read my last article and I hope that this next one will do just as well.

What is Legacy?

Right then. What is Legacy? Well, Legacy is Magic’s primary ‘Eternal’ format. In Legacy, players construct a deck using cards printed at ANY time during the history of magic, but there are however, limitations. Players cannot use any gold-bordered cards (printed in the World Championship replica decks), silver-bordered cards (printed in the Unhinged and Unglued expansions) or cards from Alpha edition (the first set ever printed, as the cards are designed differently and have more rounded corners). In addition to this, there is a list of banned cards that make the format better-rounded. Cards such as Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall and Time Vault, if in the format, would make it far too expensive for most people to play and make it unfair to anyone and everyone who couldn’t obtain such cards, as well as making a lot of decks overly powerful. There are other banned cards such as Mind’s Desire, Mystical Tutor and Frantic Search that are just incredibly powerful and make many decks better than they ought to be.

To clarify, Vintage format also exists as an ‘Eternal’ format. In vintage, there is a list of banned cards, but currently on this list, are cards that refer to the ‘Ante’ rule, which no longer exists in Magic (which are of course, also banned in Legacy). Instead of a real list of banned cards, cards can be restricted to only one copy, so cards that are banned in Legacy are still playable in some form.

Now, Legacy is considered to be a very expensive format to play in. It is true, that a lot of Legacy’s powerhouse cards are VERY expensive for new players to buy. This tends to make even the most competitive “budget” decks end up costing about the same as the most expensive decks in Standard. However, investing in Legacy is a lot more profitable than investing in Standard. If you were to buy, for example, a £400 deck in Legacy, then that deck does not go out of fashion very easily, it does not rotate and very rarely does a deck become unplayable by changes to the list of banned cards (which happens every few months). Whereas, a £400 investment in a Standard deck will typically last about 3 months before the deck has to be updated with cards from the next set, and then eventually, the cards rotate and you have to end up investing in a completely new deck. As you can see, your investment in Legacy would go a long way.

Now, the problem is, Legacy is still fairly expensive to get in to. Even though your investment goes further, Legacy does still have a relatively high initial investment, provided of course that you wish to start playing with a competitive deck. So, in this article, I plan to demonstrate how it is in fact possible to have a competitive, budget deck, how we can then look to improve our deck further by investing money in new cards, and how certain cards can end up being good investments in the long term, such as looking at specifically which cards are used a lot in Legacy that you may look to buy up if you have the money to do so.

Starting Up

So, what sort of money should you need to make a start in Legacy? Personally, my advice would be to look into starting with about £50-80 or so. £50-80 should be able to get a pretty standard build of certain decks that use a LOT of common cards and the like. However, we are of course restricted by colour in this instance.

The most expensive cards in Legacy format, are the lands. In Alpha, Beta, Unlimited and Revised editions, Wizards printed a series of dual lands that have absolutely no drawbacks. They don’t come into play tapped, at all, and they also count as the basic land types of the colours that they represent. For example, Tropical Island is the Blue/Green dual land and it is always classed as being both a Forest and an Island. This means, that any card that refers to either of these can also refer to Tropical Island. This primarily applies to Fetch lands such as Misty Rainforest from Zendikar and Flooded Strand from Onslaught. All of these original dual lands and fetch lands are legal in Legacy and as such, they all fetch a high price.

Fetch lands all range from about £8 to £15 each, depending on the colour combination. Dual lands go for as low as £20 each for the less used and unfavourable dual colours such as White/Black or Red/Black, or as high as about £60-70 each for the most used combinations such as Tropical Island for Blue/Green or Underground Sea for Blue/Black. These high prices also apply to utility lands such as Wasteland or Rishadan Port which can each go for about £15 each. Needless to say, if we want to have a budget deck, we ought to stay away from these sorts of lands and try to play something a bit cheaper, which unfortunately restricts us to mono-coloured decks, or certain multi-coloured decks that use cheaper lands like City of Brass or Gemstone Mine.

Now, if we want to look at a Mono-coloured deck list, we have to mainly look at Green, Black and Red. Mono-White decks just aren’t particularly good in Legacy. They lack a lot of the qualities that decks require in order to compete with other Legacy decks. Yes, Mono-White is very aggressive, but Mono-Red aggro is just a lot faster and Mono-black was a lot of control options that White just doesn’t have. As such, white’s place in Legacy is as a colour to work in conjunction with others. Blue however, is easily, the strongest colour in the whole of Magic. The problem with it is the fact that a majority of blue decks need Force of Will to work to their full potential, a card which will set you back roughly about £100 for a playset. So, as I’ve said, we’ll be sticking to Green, Red and Black.

Green

Let’s start with Green. Green has 3 major deck types in it that stay mono colour. They are: Elf Combo, Elf Aggro and Stompy. Stompy is a fairly expensive deck due to how it plays 4 copies of Berserk which goes for about £20 each. The deck is basically, play lots of cheap, efficient creatures and make them bigger with cards such as Invigorate and Giant Growth. This deck type is not hugely competitive right now, if you consider the number of tournament appearances, but it still has its merits if that’s the sort of deck you like to play.

Elf Combo and Elf Aggro are fairly similar. Both use cheap elf creatures to ramp up into large win conditions. The main difference is, Elf Aggro typically plays a lot of Elf lord creatures (i.e. creatures that give all Elves +1/+1, like Elvish Champion) so the ramp goes a way towards making lots of creatures instead on one big win condition. Elf Combo however, uses an infinite combo to draw the whole deck, find the win condition and cast it. Here is a rough example of a deck list:

Creatures (35):

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Fyndhorn Elves

3 Arbor Elf

4 Elvish Spirit Guide

4 Elvish Visionary

4 Nettle Sentinel

4 Heritage Druid

3 Birchlore Rangers

1 Regal Force

4 Elvish Archdruid

Spells (11):

4 Summoner’s Pact

4 Glimpse of Nature

1 Grapeshot

2 Concordant Crossroads

Lands (14):

14 Forest

If you look in the right places, this deck shouldn’t cost more than about £70 or so. This may seem a lot, but in order to play Legacy competitively, there will be a certain start-up price involved. The way the deck works is by generating mana. The most ideal combo in the deck is by combining Heritage Druid with Nettle Sentinel[/card]. Using the Druid’s ability, you can tap some Nettle Sentinels for 3 mana, then cast a 1-mana green creature, which, in turn, untaps the Sentinels, letting you tap them for mana yet again. When we combine this with Glimpse of Nature, each time we cast one of these creatures, we draw a card. Hence, we can constantly draw more creatures to cast and eventually, draw through the whole deck.

In order to win, the deck generates a Storm count and then casts Grapeshot, having gotten red mana from the ability of Birchlore Rangers. Alternatively, all of our Elves will have haste, thanks to Concordant Crossroads, so we could just swing with a whole bunch of elves for lethal damage.

Now, like all budget legacy decks, there are in fact ways in which you can now add to this when you want to put more money into it, as well as of course the time and effort involved in testing it. For example, due to the existence of good dual lands as discussed before, it is perfectly viable to splash a colour for some sort of disruption that you wouldn’t otherwise see in a Mono-Green deck.

By splashing black for example (via some fetch lands and a couple of copies of Bayou) we get access to some discard outlets, such as Duress, Thoughtseize or even, my personal favourite legacy card at the minute, Cabal Therapy. These give us some very cool ways of making sure that our Glimpse of Nature doesn’t die to counter magic, whilst also giving us some cool ways of disrupting combo decks and also some outs to cards like Engineered Explosives, Volcanic Fallout and Wrath of God which we maybe wouldn’t have outs for otherwise.

Red

Next up, is mono-red. Now, the best red card in my opinion, is Lightning Bolt without a shadow of a doubt. The card just does what Red does perfectly. BURN, BURN, BURN!!!  So, any guesses as to what our budget mono-red list is going to be?

Creatures (14):

4 Spark Elemental

4 Goblin Guide

4 Keldon Marauders

2 Countryside Crusher

Spells (26):

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Lava Spike

4 Rift Bolt

4 Fireblast

3 Sulfuric Vortex

3 Price of Progress

4 Magma Jet

Lands (20):

20 Mountain

Yep, that’s right. BURN!!! This is a fairly simple list. The idea is simply to kill the opponent as quickly as possible. That’s it. The only particularly interesting card in this build is Countryside Crusher which is a way to help late game land draws, which are always nasty to have. If you’re in the late game, then the last thing you want to see is a land, when in fact, all you want to see is that final Lava Spike or Lightning Bolt to finish the game on the spot.

Once again, there is room to improve this deck with more money and cards available. First of all, in the land base, turning some of your Mountains into any of the 4 red fetch lands will mean that whenever you see a fetch land, playing it as a mountain will filter out another land in your deck. Some simple probability formulae will tell you that in the long run, using fetch lands will in fact reduce the odds of seeing more lands by a pretty significant amount.

There are also some more expensive red cards like Grim Lavamancer and Chain Lightning that really help this deck perform to its full potential, so once again, with additional money available, these cards can improve the deck later on, but are not hugely essential for it to perform.

Black

Mono-black, I think, has loads going for it. It obviously has an immense level of discard spells which disrupt pretty much every deck, it has some pretty powerful and efficient creatures allowing the deck to beat down really fast on the back of its discard options and it has in some shape or form, every kind of removal you could possibly need in Legacy, including a free removal spell, mass removal and non-targeting removal. I really like this and as a budget option, you could do loads worse.

Remember of course, Dark Ritual is one of the best cards that Legacy has to offer and Mono-Black just relishes in this. Being able to throw down a large threat such as a Hypnotic Specter or a Phylactery Lich on turn 1, or multiple discard spells on turn 1 is such a huge bonus and could potentially throw the game in your favour. Here’s another rough example of such a deck:

Creatures (16):

3 Phylactery Lich

3 Hypnotic Specter

4 Gatekeeper of Malakir

2 Tombstalker

4 Vampire Lacerator

Spells (24):

4 Dark Ritual

4 Duress

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Hymn to Tourach

3 Sign in Blood

3 Diabolic Edict

2 Snuff Out

Lands (20):

4 Vault of Whispers

16 Swamp

Multi-Colour

So, are there some good multi-colour decks available to us if we don’t want to use overprice dual lands? Well, there are! This next deck is one of many decks that Legacy players just HATE to have to play against. It is of course, DREDGE! Dredge is a very weird deck that makes you mill your own deck and use the awesome effects of some flashback cards plus Bridge from Below, Narcomoeba and Ichorid to help generate a huge mass of 2/2 Zombie creature tokens.

The ability “Dredge” is used pretty heavily in the deck. For those who didn’t play in Ravnica, the ability ‘Dredge X’ means, whenever you would draw a card, you may choose to either draw that card, or return this card to your hand from your graveyard and send X cards from the top of your deck to your graveyard. So, the implications of this are that you can use Dredge cards to mill these important combo cards into your graveyard and hence win using them. It also means that you could cast a spell that lets you draw 3 cards, but instead return 3 Golgari Grave-Trolls to your hand and mill yourself for 18 cards, which typically finds you everything you need. Let’s take a look at a decklist:

Creatures (29):

4 Golgari Grave-Troll

4 Stinkweed Imp

3 Golgari Thug

4 Putrid Imp

4 Hapless Researcher

1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

1 Flame-Kin Zealot

1 Sphinx of Lost Truths

4 Narcomoeba

3 Ichorid

Spells (17):

4 Careful Study

3 Breakthrough

4 Bridge from Below

3 Dread Return

3 Cabal Therapy

Lands (14):

4 City of Brass

4 Gemstone Mine

3 Cephalid Coliseum

3 Tarnished Citadel

So, the main win conditions are Ichorid, Dread Return and Bridge from Below. By turn 3 or so, you should be able to bring back multiple Ichorids to swing for lots of damage. You should also be able to make lots of Zombies with your Bridges by casting Cabal Therapy and Dread Return and then give them haste by flashing back a Dread Return to grab Flame-Kin Zealot out of the grave. Or of course, you can grab Iona, Shield of Emeria and win that way.

This deck might be a little more expensive than the others I’ve featured here, but it is, in my opinion, a lot more competetive whilst still being relatively cheap.

NINJAS!

Finally, contrary to my previous statements, I am in fact going to show you a mono-blue list. It has some expensive cards in it, but the whole creature base costs no more than about £10, so the deck can still be built very cheaply. This is of course, the most wonderful deck archetype since Squirrel combo… Ninja Faeries!!!

Creatures (21):

4 Zephyr Sprite

4 Cloud of Faeries

4 Spellstutter Sprite

4 Mistblade Shinobi

4 Ninja of the Deep Hours

1 Higure the Still Wind

Spells (19):

4 Daze

4 Spell Pierce

1 Spell Snare

4 Standstill

3 Umezawa’s Jitte

3 Aether Vial

Lands (20):

4 Mishra’s Factory

2 Riptide Laboratory

14 Island

This deck is just the funniest deck I’ve ever played. It can be pretty competitive once the build is right. The simple idea is to abuse the Ninjutsu ability to gain as much advantage as possible before swinging for the kill, typically with a Faerie equipped with Umezawa’s Jitte or just via lots of little hits.

Simply, Faeries are near enough always unblockable. So, by attacking with them, you can activate a Ninjutsu from your hand after the opponent has declared no blockers and hence, your Ninja becomes unblockable. They then gain you advantage with their effects triggering when they deal combat damage. But more so, you end up bouncing Faeries to your hand so you can get further abuse out of their “enter the battlefield” abilities.

This whole deck just becomes better by adding more expensive cards. Force of Will, Mutavault and Wasteland all fit perfectly in here and are welcome additions if you wanted to take up this deck.

Investments

So, the best way to get the most out of your money in Legacy I believe is to invest in certain powerful cards. There are playable cards in this game that cost a lot of money but also benefit from being Legacy cards. This means that quite simply, they’ll always be playable and hence, shouldn’t really drop in value. For example, Grave Titans are currently going for around £15 each. However, this card WILL drop in price when it rotates out of standard, as it is far too expensive in terms of mana to be a Legacy playable card. Whereas, short of being banned, cards like Force of Will, Wasteland, Lion’s Eye Diamond and the like will always be good in Legacy and will retain their high £15-25 prices.

In short, buying these cards turns out to be a good long-term investment. Here’s a few of those cards and a rough idea of what price ranges you should be looking at. Note, these prices do of course fluctuate all of the time, but the prices I give are a rough boundary in which you should be able to find them. Lower than these is a HUGE bonus…

(Prices are based on recent completed listings of the cheapest legal printing of the card on eBay)

Underground Sea – £40-50

Tropical Island – £35-40

Volcanic Island – £25-30

Tundra – £30-35

Taiga – £25-30

Savannah – £20-30

Plateau – £20-25

Bayou – £25-30

Scrubland – £15-20

Badlands – £15-20

Wasteland – £15-20

Rishadan Port – £15-20

Polluted Delta – £10-15

Flooded Strand – £10-12

City of Traitors – £10-15

Mutavault – £10-15

The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale – £130-160

Tarmogoyf – £30-35

Dark Confidant – £7-10

Goblin Lackey – £5-10

Goblin Piledriver – £5-10

Argothian Enchantress – £7-10

Arcbound Ravager – £5-10

Phyrexian Dreadnaught – £10-15

Mox Diamond – £15-25

Chrome Mox – £4-7

Umezawa’s Jitte – £7-10

Aether Vial – £6-10

Sword of Fire and Ice – £5-10

Engineered Explosives – £6-9

Crucible of Worlds – £4-7

Moat – £100-130

Sinkhole – £10-20

Force of Will – £25-30

Misdirection – £6-10

Stifle – £6-10

Standstill – £5-8

Reader’s Question

Right, that’s it for the main article today. On my last article, Derek posted asking about “casual competitive” decks in Standard and talked of using a Red/White aggro deck based on Scars of Mirrodin cards. My response to this is to note that in fact, Block Constructed is a competitive format and if I’m not very much mistaken, there is in fact a Block Constructed Pro Tour every year once a block is fully released. In that sense, I would simply wait for the rest of the block to form itself if you want to build a Block Constructed Red/White.

In terms of Standard though, I think you’d be missing out on a lot of awesome cards from Zendikar block that ought not to stretch a budget too much. To name a few, Cunning Sparkmage, Goblin Bushwhacker, Steppe Lynx, Plated Geopede, Kor Skyfisher, Teetering Peaks, Adventuring Gear, Stoneforge Mystic, Basilisk Collar and there are plenty more. They don’t necessarily have to be expensive to be good.

More often than not, a card is given a rarity based on its flavour rather than strictly on how good it is (e.g. Planeswalkers will ALWAYS be Mythic Rares, due to how “Mythic” they are in terms of flavour), which results in awesome commons like Kor Skyfisher and Steppe Lynx. I would try looking into the archetype of red/white aggro and see what you can come up with, if you haven’t done so already.

DISCLAIMER: Just a note on the deck lists I’ve provided. They are NOT tried and tested lists. I made them myself and are meant to serve primarily as a guideline to show how these archetypes tend to look.

As always, if anyone wishes to talk about ideas, find me on facebook if you haven’t already. If you would like some deck advice, for any of Standard, Extended, Legacy, even EDH/Commander, then talk to me on Facebook or drop me an e-mail at landstar01@hotmail.com. Thanks for reading!

Landstar


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