How To Beat The Best Legacy Decks – Fact not Fiction by Michael Maxwell

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

How To Beat The Best Legacy Decks – Fact not Fiction  

One of the best things about Legacy is that regardless of how you like to play the game, there is a deck out there for you. There are so many decks out there that even Legacy veterans will still sometimes come across decks and interactions that they haven’t seen before. That said, some decks are more popular than others, so here I’m going to go over some of the more common decks you will see and tell you how to beat them.

I can’t possibly cover all the decks out there, but I’ll cover a range of strategies so that even if you don’t play against these exact decks, the strategy should be similar enough that you can apply what I say here to your situation. I’m going to take a look at:

  • Tempo/aggro-control – RUG Delver, also BUG or U/R Delver and U/W/R Geist
  • Aggro-control/Control – Esper Stoneblade, also BUG Control and U/W Miracles
  • 2 card comboShow and Tell, also Painted Stone and Reanimator
  • Critical mass combo – Storm, also Belcher, Dredge, and Elves
  • Board control – Maverick, also Death & Taxes
  • Tribal Aggro – Merfolk, also Goblins and Affinity

Whether or not you agree with the above categorisations isn’t too important, but if there any decks I don’t give much detail on that you’d like to hear about, or if you think there are better ways to beat these decks, then just let me know in the comments.


RUG Delver

Delver of SecretsHow they win: Cheap threats, namely Delver of Secrets, Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf, backed up with disruption.

How they interact with you: Wasteland and usually Stifle attack your mana, Spell Pierce, Daze and Force of Will as cheap/free counters, and Lightning Bolt for removal.

How to beat them: Don’t die early, and make their cards bad. The deck only has 12 threats, so a couple of cheap removal spells early will go a long way. Fetch basics early and often to turn off Wasteland and Stifle as much as possible. If they’re tapped out, just fetch a basic there and then. If you don’t have basics, prioritise lands when filtering with Ponder, Top, Brainstorm etc. They play these cards in part for free wins – don’t give them to them.

Stopping their mana denial also makes Daze and Spell Pierce much worse. If you can afford to wait a turn to play around these cards then do it. They want to keep the game in the early stages for as long as possible to make these cards good, so do your utmost to make them bad. Not playing expensive non-creatures is a good start.

Since they only have bolt and maybe a Forked Bolt or two for removal, large and/or multiple creatures can be an issue. Tarmogoyf and Lingering Souls are good in this regard, and the entire Maverick/Death and Taxes decks are a problem for RUG for this reason.

Mass graveyard hate is also reasonable, as if you can keep the graveyards clear then they have to kill you with just Delver which is pretty difficult for them.


Esper Stoneblade

stoneforge mysticHow they win: Usually Batterskull or Jace, sometimes they just get there with beatdowns from a couple of spirit tokens/Snapcaster/Vendilion Clique whilst keeping your board clear.

How they interact with you: In basically every way – they have discard, counters, creatures, and removal. Swords to Plowshares is an auto 4-of, and Supreme Verdict and Vindicate are often somewhere to be seen. Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize form the discard package, with 4-6 being the usual range. Force of Will is a 3-4 of, and this is the deck most likely to hardcast them so watch out for that once they get to 5 mana. A single Counterspell is usual maindeck, with Spell Pierce the most common counter out of the board. Most decks have Lingering Souls somewhere in the 75, with Vendilion Clique, Snapcaster Mage, and Stoneforge Mystic forming the creature base.

How to beat them: Non-creature permanents, such as Planeswalkers, Sulfuric Vortex, and Sneak Attack, can be a problem. Aether Vial is a pain too. These decks want the game to go long, so don’t let them. Every card is a either a 2-for-1 or very efficient 1 mana spell, so winning the long game can be very difficult, and if they untap with Jace then that’s usually curtains. If you’re combo then you probably want to go for it before they can blank your Daze, Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm etc simply by having a lot of lands in play. Getting Mother of Runes + Gaddock Teeg into play makes life very difficult for them, and I don’t think I’ve ever beaten Goblin Ringleader with Stoneblade. Try not to over-sideboard, as they attack from a lot of different angles and while you do want answers to their threats you have to be careful not to over-do it as you can easily be stuck with the wrong answers at the wrong time.


Sneak and Show

Show and tellHow they beat you: Show and Tell putting Emrakul, Griselbrand, Sneak Attack, or Omniscience into play. Sneak Attack and Omniscience then let them put a fatty into play, with Burning Wish for a combo kill with Omniscience also possible. They always have the fatties and one of Sneak Attack or Omniscience, but never both.

 How they interact with you: Not much, outside of protecting their own combo. Obviously their counters – some combination of FoW, Misdirection, Spell Pierce, and Flusterstorm – can be used to stop whatever you’re doing but they’d much rather be forcing through their own combo with them.

How you beat them: There are two ways you can go: either not care about them resolving Show and Tell, or try to never let it resolve. Obviously you can also hedge by doing a bit of both. If you want to stop it resolving then a combination of discard and counters is the way to go, although they often have Leyline of Sanctity after board. All discard or all counters leaves you vulnerable to either a topdeck or Spell Pierce/Flusterstorm becoming live when you’re forced to do all your interacting in one turn. As for not caring about Show and Tell resolving, that means either being a faster combo deck or having something good to put in when they cast it – remember you get to do it too. This plan was easier before the printing of Omniscience, as the Sneak Attack version has to attack to win so cards like Ensnaring Bridge were very effective. There are plenty of cards that are good against two out of three of a fatty, Sneak Attack, and Omniscience but nothing that’s excellent against all 3. Below is a quick summary of the type of effects you might want and what they are good against:

Bounce/Exile/Destroy: Cards like Venser, Shaper Savant, Oblivion Ring, and Angel of Despair are great against Omniscience and Emrakul but not as effective against Griselbrand and Sneak Attack as they either get to draw 7 or put in a fatty before your trigger resolves (assuming they have a red up). These are the most common answers since they always do something and can be very good.

Karakas: Great against Emrakul, ok against Griselbrand, pretty bad against Sneak Attack and blank against Omniscience. Sees a lot of play though since it’s a land and has a lot of applications in other matchups.

Ensnaring Bridge/Peacekeeper: Great against everything except Omniscience into Burning Wish. Griselbrand will eventually find them as answer too in all likelihood.

Planeswalkers: You can’t actually put these in with S+T, but if they make a fatty and you untap into Jace/Liliana then that’s pretty good.

Obviously these aren’t the only cards that you can use, but they’re some of the more common ones. Let me know in the comments if you have a particular favourite that has brought you success.



How they win: Make a lot of mana with rituals and Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor/Burning Wish for more Infernal Tutors, Past in Flames, or Ad Nauseam, and eventually kill with Tendrils of Agony.

How they interact with you: Discard such as Duress and Cabal Therapy to strip your answers, Silence in the 5-colour builds, and Abrupt Decay/Chain of Vapor after board.

How you beat them: The same way you beat most combo decks – disruption plus a clock. If you have hard counters then you can let them blow their mana and then fight their Infernal Tutor/Burning Wish, but they wont go for it into a potential counter unless you’re pressuring them. If you have soft counters then you might as well use them early since once they’ve made a bunch of mana they wont do much. A mix of counters and discard is again the best way.

Hateful permanents like Thalia, Gaddock Teeg and Leyline of Sanctity are decent but they should be expecting them so don’t expect them to live forever. Graveyard hate is fine as it turns off Past in Flames but they can win without it if you give them the time. Leaving in a couple of ways to kill a creature can be good as they sometimes had Bob or Xantid Swarm.



Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenHow they beat you: Assemble an impenetrable wall of utility creatures whilst hampering you with mana denial and removal.

How they interact with you: Through creatures. They have protection (Mother of Runes), mana denial (Thalia, Knight of the Reliquary), disenchants (Qasali Pridemage) and an assortment of other utility creatures such as Scryb Ranger, Scavenging Ooze, Gaddock Teeg, and Green Sun’s Zenith to find them all. Stoneforge Mystic is often present too. Swords to Plowshares and sometimes Punishing Fire act as removal. If you let them untap with Knight expect Wastelands, Karakas, Maze of Ith, and Bojuka Bog.

How you beat them: Do something unfair. If you do something ridiculous on turn 1, or turn 2 on the play, they probably can’t do much of anything to stop you. Removal is good if you don’t let them untap with Mom, and Wraths are good if you can keep Gaddock Teeg off the board. Developing your mana is important, as is hindering theirs. Be aware of the interactions between their creatures – it’s easy to sit here and say you wont miss on-board tricks, but when they have a Mom, a Scryb Ranger, a Knight of the Reliquary, and a Scavenging Ooze out it is very easy to miss something. Watch out for Choke and Planeswalkers after board.



Lord of AtlantisHow they win: Flood the board with creatures, including plenty of lords to pump the team. Cheap/free counterspells and Wasteland slow you down.

How they interact: Force of Will, Daze, Cursecatcher, and Spell Pierce in conjunction with Wasteland protect the creatures, which they’ll be trying to put into play with Aether Vial. Merrow Reejery can make it hard to block even if you aren’t playing islands. Sometimes they have Dismember/Vapor Snag and Standstill.

How you beat them: Kill their lords. Silvergil Adept and Cursecatcher do not form a very fast clock. Play around Wasteland, Daze, and Spell Pierce as much as possible. They play very few ways to kill creatures, so cards like Stoneforge Mystic, Tarmogoyf, and Mother of Runes can be a problem for them. Supreme Verdict is very good against them; other wraths are liable to get countered though. Be aware of what they can Vial in at each mana cost, and watch out for Kira after board.


Final Thoughts

So there you have an overview of some of the most popular decks in Legacy, what they do, and how you beat them. If there are any decks you’d like to ask me about, any strategies you’ve found to be successful against these decks, or think I’ve missed anything then let me know in the comments. Legacy is such a sweet format, and if you’ve ever thought about getting into it but weren’t sure what you’d be up against hopefully this has helped, and if you’re a Legacy veteran I’d love to hear how you go about beating these decks.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Maxwell

How To Beat The Best Legacy Decks - Fact not Fiction by Michael Maxwell
One of the best things about Legacy is that regardless of how you like to play the game, there is a deck out there for you. There are so many decks out there that even Legacy veterans will still sometimes come across decks and interactions that they haven’t seen before.

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