Legacy: Cheaper Than You Realise! Week 1: Burn, Baby, Burn!
Over my three years of playing Magic, I have played many different formats. The usual culprits, like Standard, Modern and Draft, but also everything from Judge Stack to Unhinged Constructed to Mental Magic. There are so many ways to play the game. Out of everything, though, my favourite format absolutely has to be Legacy.
Legacy hits the sweet spot between the incredibly powerful and game-warping cards in Vintage and the straight, linear strategies in Modern. It has incredible combo potential but also great removal suites, perfect fixing, and most importantly, excellent disruption in the form of counterspells and land destruction. It is much more a format that encapsulates really knowing the meta, reading your opponent’s plays and understanding when to act and react.
It’s saddening that many people will not experience this format in their Magic lifetimes, because they simply can’t justify the money for a deck. Legacy requires an investment if you want to play some of the most well-known decks like Delver, Storm or Shardless. The dual lands and Lion’s Eye Diamond being on the reserved list have sadly made a lot of decks unaffordable for those who don’t wish to spend a lot of money on the game.
However, I’m here to bring you the good news: this isn’t always the case.
Since the printing of Eternal Masters, which, granted, did not address the main issue, but did make some important reprints outside of the reserved list, the average price of Legacy decks has gone down a lot, and some tier 1 or tier 2 decks now cost the same amount as some Modern lists. If you think you can’t play Legacy, it might be time to think again. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to write about a few decks which are the same price as Modern lists (and, indeed, in some cases share cards with Modern), and which are not what you would call budget lists; they are exactly what people are running at GPs.
With more Legacy now approaching on the horizon with the Team Pro Tour, is it time for you to get stuck in?
Burn – The Rundown
This week, I’m going to start with the simplest and one of the cheapest decks available: Burn. This is a simple rundown to give you an idea of what the deck can do, and how to play it, with a more detailed primer at the bottom for those of you who are interested in learning the finer points. (After all, I’m most certainly not a burn expert!)
Much like its Modern counterpart, the aim of the deck is to blast your opponent’s face with red spells and cheap creatures, and it shares a lot of cards with the Modern list. In Legacy, though, you have exceptionally powerful burn spells that can deal a lot more than 3, and access to Sulfuric Vortex, so there are a lot of great ways to mess up your opponents’ maths and blow them up out of nowhere.
Here is a recent decklist by Carlos Montiel (mtgtop8.com):
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
INSTANTS and SORCERIES
4 Chain Lightning
4 Flame Rift
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Price of Progress
4 Rift Bolt
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Leyline of the Void
2 Pyrostatic Pillar
2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Searing Blood
3 Smash to Smithereens
1 Sulfuric Vortex
This exact decklist costs $148-$265 depending on condition and set on TCGplayer Mid, the equivalent of around £120-£230.
The first thing you will notice in the Burn deck is that, yes, there are only basic lands. This is excellent from a price point of view. The reason for this is the existence of Wasteland, meaning that in Legacy you don’t want to be too greedy with your mana if you can help it, and Burn has more than enough in its arsenal with just red cards, so there is no need to splash for Boros Charm or Atarka’s Command in this format.
Optionally, you can include fetch lands if you have them in your Modern deck, which will aid you in some of the more binary matchups by marginally thinning your deck, and allows you to run Grim Lavamancer in your sideboard, but it’s absolutely not 100% necessary.
More good news. Every single creature in this list is also in Modern Burn, and has been printed within the last four years. If you don’t already own Modern Burn, and need to buy them, Goblin Guide‘s reprint in Modern Masters 2017 has reduced the price of that card a lot. It is currently half the price of The Scarab God, if you wanted a playset of those for your Standard deck, just to put it in perspective. Eidolon of the Great Revel is also inexpensive at around £40 a set, and Monastery Swiftspear is worth pennies thanks to the massive print run of Khans of Tarkir.
The creatures in this deck function the same as they do in Modern; Swiftspear is intended to add value to your spells and force them to make unfavourable blocks, Goblin Guide gets you out of the gate very quickly, and Eidolon locks them down so they are unable to cast their spells – exceptional against combo lists – and in Legacy, unless you are playing against Eldrazi lists, there are very few spells that cost more than three mana, thanks to the presence of Wasteland, so you will almost always get a lot of value from it.
Now we arrive at the bulk of the list: spells. In a Burn deck, that makes sense. You will notice, again, that Lightning Bolt, Rift Bolt and Lava Spike are all played in Modern and can simply be transposed; and again, if you don’t own Modern, these cards are not expensive to buy. The new spells that you may not be as familiar with are also cheap (Chain Lightning also has Eternal Masters to thank for that) and I would guess you could pick up the entire suite of spells for £50 at the absolute maximum. Probably less, if you take the time to shop around and buy the cheapest editions.
Now, onto the spells themselves. Lava Spike, Lightning Bolt, Rift Bolt and Chain Lightning all serve the same purpose, which is to deal 3 damage to the face or, in dire straits, to a blocker. That’s easy enough, that’s Burn. Now, onto the other three which have more interesting numbers on them, and which are the key difference between the Modern and Legacy iterations of this deck.
Flame Rift deals 4 damage to each player. This can be scary when combined with your Eidolon, meaning you might take 6 just to cast a spell, but as with all Burn decks, your opponent should be at a lower life total than you, and this essentially acts as a Boros Charm for which you do not have to splash white.
Fireblast deals 4 damage to the opponent and can be cast for free by sacrificing two Mountains. This is tremendously powerful, as it messes up your opponent’s maths. They have to always account for a potential Fireblast, so even if you only have two mana open, if you have three cards in hand you could potentially deal them 10 damage to the face in one turn, even with no creatures in play. This card inspires so much fear that it forces people to reconsider taking actions that seem obvious, or casting spells into an Eidolon, because it’s so easy to just die out of nowhere to it.
And speaking of playing around cards, we come onto our final maindeck spell: Price of Progress. This is the punishment card for opponents who are greedy with mana, and also another reason why you don’t want to play nonbasics in your deck. Dealing damage to each player equal to the amount of their nonbasic lands – against a Shardless, Eldrazi or BUG Control deck, that’s probably easily 8 to the face for two mana, and against Delver you are looking at 4-6. It’s impossible for these decks to play around if they want to further their game plan, and so easy to just win out of nowhere with. They are also very easy choices to sideboard out if you are playing against a deck like Show and Tell or Storm which doesn’t run very many nonbasic lands.
Obviously, sideboards will be meta dependent, and therefore this won’t be set in stone. However, this list has a good starting point which covers a lot of meta decks, and you can build from this depending on what you tend to encounter most. Again, none of the cards mentioned below are worth more than £5-10 in value.
Grafdigger’s Cage you should be familiar with from Modern, and it is your answer to Storm, Reanimator, Dredge and Elves. Unlike Modern, in Legacy, Elves wins with a combo where they will build a huge board and then use Natural Order to tutor out Craterhoof Behemoth and smash you for huge damage. This card will stop them doing so. It’s also very good against Maverick and Nic Fit, as these decks like to tutor with Green Sun’s Zenith.
Leyline of the Void is, again, for Reanimator, Dredge and Storm. It also handles the Lands matchup nicely as they cannot dredge Life from the Loam. It can be useful against the Tarmogoyf and Deathrite Shaman decks, but be wary of over-filtering your deck.
Red Elemental Blast is almost exclusively used to counter Show and Tell and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. For these two situations, it’s a must-have. Of course, there are other times when it will be valuable, and if your opponent is running something like Merfolk it can be another good piece of removal for a Lord or two. Don’t bring it in just to counter cantrips!
Smash to Smithereens will likely be your removal suite for Chalice of the Void. This is obviously a very good card for dealing with your deck, and thanks to lands like Ancient Tomb it can very easily come out on turn one. Expect this from Eldrazi lists and Merfolk. It is also great for the MUD, Affinity and Painter matchups. If you are worried about Batterskull, it’s a possibility against Stoneblade, but it is by no means a game changer in that matchup, so consider it carefully.
Sulfuric Vortex and Pyrostatic Pillar are there to give you inevitability. Vortex is amazing for slow matchups, as they can’t gain life to beat you in the race, and even if they counter every spell you have and look like they’re turning the corner, unless they can remove the enchantment, they’ll die before you do.
Pyrostatic Pillar is essentially a harder-to-kill Eidolon, and you should use this in matchups where the former is good, particularly against decks that like to cantrip a lot, and anything like Storm, Belcher or Elves where they have to cast a lot of spells to kill you.
Finally, Searing Blood is for when there will be problematic creatures you want to kill but you don’t want to use up a card to do it and miss the damage to the face. It handles Thalia, Guardian of Thraben very well, a card you will see in Death and Taxes lists the world over, and which is very problematic for you. It can also remove combo pieces in Elves, and dampen the early blistering starts for Goblins or Merfolk.
Other great options for the sideboard could include:
- Relic of Progenitus if you are struggling with graveyard hate.
- Searing Blaze if you have a lot of creature decks in your meta.
- Pyroblast if you want more for the control matchups.
- Exquisite Firecraft/Vexing Shusher against anything with counterspells.
- Ensnaring Bridge if your Show and Tell/Reanimator matchup is really that dire.
If you are interested in possibly building this deck, you can find a more detailed (if slightly out of date) primer for it, detailing more about potential sideboard cards, the construction of the mainboard and what your matchups are like here.
BE AWARE THAT THIS PRIMER PREDATES THE DIVINING TOP BAN. Miracles is now a very different build, so disregard advice concerning that matchup, and you CANNOT run Sensei’s Divining Top in your deck.
I hope to see you on the Legacy tables soon!
If Burn doesn’t tickle your fancy, though, then don’t worry! I have plenty more of these affordable decks to write about including Pox, Merfolk, Leylines and many more, and hopefully next week or the week after, there will be one that you might like to have a try at. Legacy really can be cheap if you give it the chance to be!
Thanks for reading,