So you want to get into Legacy? Fact not Fiction with Michael Maxwell

Fact not Fiction – The Winners and Losers from Pro Tour Paris by Michael Maxwell


About 12 months ago if you’d asked me to write down everything I knew about Legacy I probably could have it fitted it all onto one side of a post-it note. This is my story of how I got into Legacy, and hopefully how you can too. Like a lot of people who had never played Legacy, I had the following misconceptions:

Don’t you just die on turn 2 half the time?

Doesn’t it cost a fortune to build a competitive deck?

Does anyone even play that format?

Wont it be impossible to learn all the interactions involving all these old cards I’ve never heard of?

Around that time, a friend of mine mentioned he had almost all of a Legacy dredge deck that he wanted to get rid of. Between a couple of old cards I had that I had no intention of ever using (a Lion’s Eye Diamond and a Null Rod), and a few Standard staples, I had enough to trade the whole deck off him. I bought a few lands that I was missing, copied a sideboard from an excellent article by Richard Feldman, and voila! I was now the proud owner of a Legacy deck.

Then it sat untouched for months…

I goldfished the deck a few times to get the hang of the basic operations of the deck, but that was about it. I didn’t have anyone in the local area to play against, so my deck sat in a box for a while until a tournament came up in Manchester for a Mox. I played against Esper stoneblade, Merfolk, and Affinity. Then I got the bye after failing to even win a game in any of my matches. It wasn’t even like they had significant graveyard hate, I just had no idea how to actually play against a deck that did anything whilst also failing to play around just about every card imaginable.

Still, I left the tournament with a fairly positive impression. Most of the games I played and watched looked interactive and interesting with a wide variety of strategies being played.

Now that my interest had been piqued, I started to read Legacy articles on various strategy websites. At first I was looking for articles giving an overview of the format but I quickly started reading anything and everything I could find on Legacy. It was around this time that U/W/x stoneforge decks started to become popular. Looking at a few decklists I realised that I already had a lot of the cards from playing Caw-Blade in Standard, with a lot of the cards I was missing being commons and uncommons. Force of Will, Flooded Strand, and Tundra were the other main missing pieces.

It was at this point that I decided to buy a playset of Force of Will. Normally I much prefer to trade for cards, but it’s rare to find one of these for trade and the cards are solid investments – barring something very unlikely such as a reprint I will always be able to sell these cards for what I paid for them or more. Plus Force is a card that goes into many many decks, whereas buying a playset of Entomb limits you much more. Its also not much more than you might pay for a playset of a top standard mythic, except these cards don’t have the potential to plummet in value 2 years after you buy them.

The other pieces I picked up here and there in a series of small-ish trades, rather than shelling out a lot in one go. Because of the eternal nature of the format I like viewing building a Legacy deck like building an EDH deck – rather than aggressively trading for and buying the bits I need like I might for a Standard deck, Legacy and EDH are constant works in progress where you pick up things as and when you find them. This makes it much easier on the wallet and I think it’s a more fun way of going about getting your deck too.

Skip forward to October, and I’m in Milan for the GP. I notice there’s a Legacy side event on the Sunday, so I bring along my U/W Stoneforge deck. It still wasn’t finished, but it was close enough that I felt comfortable playing it, and the main objective was to learn anyway. I failed to make day 2 after starting out 6-1, which was somewhat frustrating, but at least I got to play in a big Legacy event for the first time. Going through the tournament, I could feel all the things I’d read in all those articles coming into play. Each match I learned so much – it felt like in the Matrix when Neo is learning how to do things by having a rod inserted into the back of his head and the information is uploaded directly into his brain. I didn’t do very well in that tournament either, but I at least won some matches and I knew that all the things I’d read were beginning to stick.

In November I won my first Legacy event. It was just a 4 round event in Liverpool, but it showed me that I was beginning to learn the format. How to sideboard properly and how to play against all the different kinds of decks that appear in Legacy events was getting easier every time. At the end of the month there was a tournament for a playset of Force of Will in Manchester. I only went 3-2-1, but again I could feel myself learning and improving. The fact that I lost to Storm twice also showed me where I need to improve.

So, now that I’ve been playing Legacy for almost a year, or more like only 6 months really, how do I feel about the points I started the article with?

1. Don’t you just die on turn 2 half the time?

In a word, no. In 2011 I played a total of 21 sanctioned matches of Legacy. Here are the decks I played:

Esper stoneblade
Team America
Team America
High Tide
Team America
Team America

Look at all those different types of deck! Out of 21 matches the most popular matchup was Team America and I only played that 4 times, and I played 12 unique archetypes. Also, look how many of those decks can win on turn 2 – not very many, is it? I have only lost one game of Legacy on turn 2 in all those matches, when I conceded after my reanimator opponent had Jin Gitaxias in play on turn 2 on the play.

2. Doesn’t it cost a fortune to build a competitive deck?

Well, it depends on your definitions of ‘fortune‘ and ‘competitive‘. Looking at the first one, the real question is ‘is a good Legacy deck significantly more expensive than a good standard deck?’.  Now, getting into Legacy on a budget is an article all of its own, so I wont go into too much detail here, but I believe the answer is ‘no, not significantly’. If you’re thinking of getting into Legacy, go to mtgUK or Starcitygames and look at the decklists from recent Opens. When looking through lists, see which decks include cards that you already have. You might well find that there are decks out there that include several cards you already have. If you do decide to buy cards go for ones that go in lots of decks, or cards that are good in Modern too. The last thing you want to do is drop £100 on a playset of Entomb then realise you hate playing reanimator, especially if you cant find someone to trade/buy them off you for what you paid for them.

It’s also easier to build a deck/collection if you view it as a project rather than one big investment. It is daunting to think ‘ok, I want to build deck X, it’s going to cost £500 to buy it’. But if you think that you might well have several cards for the deck from recent standard/extended season and that you should be able to trade for some pieces (check out this open market Facebook group thoughtfully set up by Manaleak for instance: Magic The Gathering Cards For Trade & Sale – UK) then all of a sudden that £500 is more like £100, a much more manageable investment. If you’d like to see a more in-depth article on this subject let me know in the comments below.

3. Does anyone even play that format?

A lot more people than I thought a year ago! The tournaments I played in Manchester had 40-50 people, the side event at the GP had 150, and if you check out the UK Magic Calendar or various Facebook pages and forums, you’ll find that a lot of places have reasonably sized Legacy communities. There are plenty of places around the country that run regular tournaments if you just keep an eye out for them.

4. Wont it be impossible to learn all the interactions involving all these old cards I’ve never heard of?

Difficult yes, but impossible no. This is another subject that you could easily write an entire article on. When you start playing Legacy you will make mistakes, there’s no denying it. You’ll make really obvious misplays that any seasoned Legacy player would be embarrassed to make. But you’re not a seasoned Legacy player and like anything else it’s a learning process. Playing around Wasteland, playing around Daze, what creatures a Merfolk player can Vial in, what lands a Knight of the Reliquary will typically be able to fetch, these questions and many more are questions that you will learn the answers to by reading articles and more importantly by playing. You might lose a lot at first, in fact you probably will, but you will learn the answers to a few of these questions each time. Before long you’ll be able to compete with most players and can start learning about and discussing the real nuances of the format with the Legacy regulars.

So that’s my story of how I got into Legacy, and hopefully it’s given you some tips and pointers if you’re interested in doing the same. Let me know in the comments if more Legacy content is something you’d like, or if you’d like me to expand on any of the points I’ve written about above.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Maxwell


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