With GP Amsterdam fast approaching, I decided to take a look at the Legacy format this week, and go over what the decks to beat are, how they operate and what their decklists look like.
First up, the deck with the most top 8 appearances in the last two months:
Natural Order RUG.
What this deck does, is ramp out quickly using Green Sun’s Zenith to find Dryad Arbor and Noble Hierarch to quickly cast Natural Order and put the two turn clock of Progenitus into play. To back this up, it runs some aggressive creatures like Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique to beat down whilst controlling the board though counterspells and a little bit of removal if it has to. In case it draws Progenitus, Brainstorm and fetch lands/Green Sun’s Zenith can shuffle it away, and Vendilion Clique can hide it as the bottom of your library. It’s not uncommon to see Jace, The Mind Sculptor in main decks, and the use of a main deck Scavenging Ooze is sometimes complimented by other bullets like Viridian Zealot.
The deck is so successful because it’s very good at finding and protecting the combo, sometimes lists run more dig in the form of Ponder in place of some of the beat-down plan. It’s a deck that needs creatures though, a deck that is able to keep green creatures off of the field, or reduce them down to less than four mana will be able to win consistently. The nature of the deck means it’s always in the game still until the turn it dies, and its counter-suite can fight most combo decks very effectively.
Next up, a deck I spoke about a few weeks ago that has now become the second most successful deck in the format:
The game plan of this deck is familiar, control the board though counterspells and removal, and use Stoneforge Mystic to drop in Batterskull to beat down with. It also has Vendilion clique and Jace, The Mind Sculptor as fine win conditions, and a sword on a Mutavault or Spellstutter Sprite is also fine. Ancestral Vision is a very good card in terms of dodging Hymn to Tourach, since it allows you a very powerful refill a few turns into the game that can more than undo powerful hand disruption.
Other lists might run Standstill as their draw spell, and run more Mutavaults and Wastelands along with an additional Crucible of Worlds. Riptide Lab is a tool some are using which saw a lot of play in an old extended format, since it could let you reuse your Spellstutter Sprites and Vendilion Cliques, as well as saving your Mutavaults from removal if needs be, making its late game even more dominating.
What the deck doesn’t like, is a resolved Pernicious Deed, a very popular card at the moment, it can keep Mutavaults unable to attack through fear of death, and can blow up equipments and the creatures holding them in one simple activation of an ability.
An old favourite next:
Merfolk have been a staple legacy deck for a long time, their ideal plan is to drop Aether Vial on turn one, the flood the board with guys quickly, most of these guys then pump each other as well. A smattering of counterspells and some Wastelands to slow your opponent down and you can outrace a lot of decks. It’s main deck Phantasmal Image is just another lord effect who can be useful against a vast array of threat, copying a Tarmogoyf is always profitable and using it to â€œLegend Ruleâ€ creatures to death, namely Progenitus, gives the deck an edge. The Islandwalk from Lord of Atlantis makes blocking your creatures not an option for a lot of decks, since Legacy is the format of the Island.
The issues this deck has are twofold. It lacks removal, this is a big issue that is being addressed in sideboards thanks to Dismember, but might need main deck attention. Secondly, the plan is very linear for this deck, unlike NO RUG who can beat down or combo, or Stoneblade who can make Batterskulls or grind you out with a Crucible of worlds package and Jace, Merfolk have to make guys and they have to be enough to kill the opponent. It does have man-lands to get there if a sweeper resolves and counters to make sure it doesn’t, but the single-minded strategy makes sideboarding a lot easier for its opponents.
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Eternal Witness
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Scryb Ranger
2 Aven Mindcensor
2 Mirran Crusader
3 Noble Hierarch
3 Qasali Pridemage
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Stoneforge Mystic
GW Hatebear decks have been kicking around for a while, but they often failed to get the right hate when they needed it, Green Sun’s Zenith has changed all that, allowing for tutor-able graveyard, enchantment and even spell hate. If anyone needed clarification that Stoneforge Mystic is the best two drop creature, I think it’s here, a green beat down deck that runs no Tarmogoyf, but has the Mystic. Stoneforge allows the deck to tutor up a threat in Batterskull that can jump the curve, as well as card advantage engines in the swords that also provide protection from key spells.
The tutor-box of this deck is pretty insane, with Green Sun’s Zenith finding creatures, Knight of the Reliquary finding lands and even the sideboard has the ability to tutor for artifacts and enchantments. This amount of flexibility means finding the right hate cards is very easy and whilst it doesn’t have the raw power of turn three Progenitus, it can pick apart the strategies of most other decks. It’s important to note, this deck is much more popular in Europe than in the rest of the world, so expect it to be a big player at Amsterdam.
Obviously the deck does have a weakness, it’s disruption is all creature based aside from Mental Misstep, which means it lacks the discard and counterspells that a lot of decks use to control some of the more fast paced combo decks in the field, and sometimes a turn three Gaddock Teeg is just too slow, and too vulnerable to a counterspell.
Another control deck that has been doing well:
This deck is another that has been about in one form or another for a while. With the printing of Mental Misstep, it got a boost, allowing it to compete effectively again. Its aim is to out resource its opponent, lots of card advantage, disruption and removal, then drop a threat and win with it. Due to the cheap costs of its threats, it can play more aggressive if it needs to. The Pernicious Deed and Diabolic Edict main deck give it answers to beat Progenitus and Stoneforge Mystic, and counterspells and discard against combo decks.
There are of course different builds, some have less threats but more counterspells, and Stifle is pretty common amongst lists; however almost all of the lists share a fundamental flaw, a lack of basic lands. This means a card like Blood moon or Back to Basics can cause a lot of problems for them, whilst these cards are not seeing a vast amount of play at the moment, it’s a viable way to beat Team America that you should be aware of.
Lastly, a deck that plays magic in an entirely different way:
When Mental Misstep was printed, Dredge took a hit, since all its spells that were needed to begin dredging costed one, Careful Study, Putrid Imp, Tireless Tribe and so forth. This left people playing the mana-less version, which revolved around you being on the draw and discarding In your first turn instead of playing anything. This strategy gives the player far fewer options, not being able to hard cast Cabal Therapy for example, and not being able to cast Breakthrough. This newest list though, takes the ability to play spells, with the option of the mana-less dredge discard plan, since Phantasmagorian then becomes an effectively free and un-counterable discard outlet. This way, you can still explode out and do unfair things, but you have the resilience against Mental Misstep that you need. The reason the deck is so strong, is that people struggle to interact with it meaningfully, which makes game one just a formality most of the time.
Other versions of this deck run Bloodghast as a way of getting creatures to sacrifice, Dakmor Salvage helps with this plan. Also, large creatures in the main deck to reanimate are very common, most decks tend to run the Flame-Kin Zealot in the main deck to win through zombies as well as something like Iona, Shield of Emeria to give it more options to win the game with. Lion’s Eye Diamond is another often used discard outlet, but it suffers the same issues as mana-less dredge, where it’s very much all in.
Of course, a graveyard based strategy has the possibility of being hated out with things like Relic of Progenitus, Tormod’s Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb, Bojuka Bog and many other cards as well. It has to dedicate sideboard space to stopping this from happening and doesn’t have a very effective backup plan aside from starting again from scratch.
There we a go; a relatively brief overview of the big decks in the format, whilst there are many other decks in the field, these are probably the core decks to beat for GP Amsterdam as it stands, and I expect several copies of each archetype to make day two. However we have two things between now and the GP, the Banned and Restricted list update, which I suspect will leave Legacy intact and concentrate on fixing Modern. Then we have the release of Innistrad, which seems to be offering some potent tools that will impact the Legacy field for sure, mainly complimenting existing decks, but it’s possible for a new deck to be formed, so wait and see.
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Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing.