Choosing a Legacy Deck, by Andrew Quinn

From classic builds to the new hotness, there's some fun decks to choose from in the current Legacy meta.

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Volcanic Island - Revised (artwork by Brian Snoddy)
Volcanic Island - Revised (artwork by Brian Snoddy)

Manaleak is hosting a Legacy “win-a-dual” tournament this weekend. With enough players in attendance, making the top 4 wins you an original Revised dual land. Rank higher in the top 4, the value of your land improves.

Win a Dual Legacy Challenge (Feb 2020)
Join us here at Manaleak, Birmingham for our popular win-a-dual Legacy event!

Legacy is an incredible format with a very diverse array of decks available to choose from.

So… if a person wants to play in this event, hasn’t played the format in quite a while but can borrow cards if they need them, then what deck do they choose to play? This is the question I’m faced with myself as I decide what I would like to play at this event.

Back in 2018, I had the same conundrum. Through a series of unrelated events, I decided I would play in Legacy Nationals, run as a side event to that year’s National Championships. I used to play a ton of Legacy but at that point I was a bit rusty. I settled on the Blue/Black Death’s Shadow list, popularised by Josh Utter-Leyton at the 25th anniversary Pro Tour (to date, one of only a small handful of professional level events to feature the Legacy format):

U/B Death’s Shadow by Josh Utter-Leyton

Creatures (14):
4 Death’s Shadow
4 Street Wraith
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Gurmag Angler

Spells (28):
3 Ponder
1 Preordain
4 Thoughtseize
2 Reanimate
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
2 Snuff Out
2 Fatal Push
2 Stubborn Denial

Lands (18):
3 Watery Grave
2 Underground Sea
4 Wasteland
1 Marsh Flats
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Verdant Catacombs
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
1 Flooded Strand

Sideboard (15):
2 Hymn to Tourach
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Throne of Geth
3 Dread of Night

It was a little outside of my comfort zone, but it was brand new and very powerful. The choice really paid off, because I won the event without losing a single match (humble brags, I know)!

So what are the options this time?

The New Hotness

Theros Beyond Death is packed with weird and wonderful new cards that are impacting on multiple Constructed formats. Unlike most Standard sets, there are even some sweet additions for Legacy too! Thassa’s Oracle and Underworld Breach are already turning heads in Pioneer and Modern, yet they’re probably better suited for Legacy combos, as can be seen in this list from a recent Legacy Challenge on MTGO:

Jeskai Breach Combo by MentalMisstep

Creatures (1):
1 Thassa’s Oracle

Spells (43):
1 Pact of Negation
4 Brainstorm
3 Enlightened Tutor
2 Orim’s Chant
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Spell Pierce
4 Brain Freeze
4 Force of Will
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
1 Defense Grid
1 Grinding Station
1 Seal of Removal
1 Seal of Cleansing
4 Underworld Breach

Lands (16):
4 Flooded Strand
2 Prismatic Vista
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Tundra
1 Volcanic Island

Sideboard (15):
2 Chain of Vapor
2 Silence
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Serenity
1 Force of Negation
2 Monastery Mentor
2 Wear // Tear

This combo is just sweet. Brain Freeze allows you to fill your graveyard quickly, fuelling Escape costs. The goal is to use blue draw spells and Enlightened Tutors to build a hand that enables you to cast Breach with a few cards in the graveyard, then use Lion’s Eye Diamond to cast Brain Freeze. The first Brain Freeze will dump about 9-12 cards into your graveyard. Three of them can be used to Escape the Lion’s Eye Diamond plus another three. The mana from Diamond lets you Escape Brain Freeze, this time for 15-18 cards. By the third time you do the loop, you’ll have no cards left in your library and all you need to do is Escape your one copy of Thassa’s Oracle to win the game. Pact of Negation in the graveyard can Escape as many times as you like to counter disruptive pieces. Orim’s Chant on the turn you begin your combo makes sure your opponent has no responses.

This deck is still in its infancy and will likely look a lot different in a few months’ time. There are a lot of searchable 1-of cards that may prove to be less relevant down the line or be replaced with different 1-ofs.

For now, I will set this deck aside and look for something else. It looks powerful and can pack a big surprise factor, but I’ve never been too handy with combo decks. I will, however, make sure that my final decision is prepared to fight this.

Old Faithful

Legacy is very diverse, so there’s never really a “best deck”. However, there are a few decks that have been around for as long as I’ve been playing Magic and some of them still sit right at the top of the format even now.

U/R Delver by Franco Cicchini (Top 4 of GP Bologna 2019)

Creatures (14):
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Dreadhorde Arcanist
3 Young Pyromancer
1 Brazen Borrower
2 True-Name Nemesis

Spells (28)
4 Brainstorm
1 Chain Lightning
1 Forked Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Ponder
1 Preordain
1 Spell Pierce
3 Stifle
4 Daze
1 Force of Negation
4 Force of Will

Lands (18):
1 Arid Mesa
1 Flooded Strand
2 Island
1 Mountain
2 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland

Sideboard (15):
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Blazing Volley
1 Flusterstorm
1 Pithing Needle
2 Pyroblast
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Abrade
1 Null Rod
1 Winter Orb
1 Brazen Borrower
1 Force of Negation
1 Sulfuric Vortex

U/R Delver is an absolute Legacy classic. I remember playing a version of this deck years ago before Delver of Secrets was even printed. Back then, it was called Canadian Threshold and the 1-drop of choice was Nimble Mongoose. The deck is simple. Play a cheap threat (Delver, Arcanist, Pyromancer), kill opposing threats with burn spells and protect your threat with the counterspells. This deck has evolved many times over the years, adapting to the metagame and to new cards being printed. This version has been seeing a lot more play recently as a result of War of the Spark’s Dreadhorde Arcanist. Having a creature that lets you reuse a Brainstorm or Lightning Bolt every time it attacks can be a game-changing addition.

Bant Miracles by Tim Wilder (1st place at a $3k Mox Legacy Open, Jan 13th)

Creatures (6):
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
2 Snapcaster Mage

Planeswalkers (7):
3 Oko, Thief of Crowns
2 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells (27):
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Veil of Summer
1 Entreat the Angels
2 Force of Negation
4 Force of Will
3 Terminus
4 Arcum’s Astrolabe

Lands (20):
4 Flooded Strand
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Mystic Sanctuary
1 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Snow-Covered Forest
4 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Tropical Island
1 Tundra

Sideboard (15):
1 Volcanic Island
1 Flusterstorm
1 Pyroblast
2 Red Elemental Blast
2 Veil of Summer
3 Rest in Peace
2 Return to Nature
2 Blood Moon
1 Council’s Judgment

U/W Control is not only a classic Legacy archetype, but just one of Magic’s most well-known ones. In Legacy, it currently takes the form of Miracles, a deck that uses the Miracle cost of Terminus (with Brainstorm and Jace to set it up on key turns) to have access to a 1-mana Wrath of God effect. This is our first view of Oko, Thief of Crowns too. Whilst the elk master has been banned in virtually every format, he is still legal in Legacy. Here he isn’t as dominant and meta-warping as in every other format, but is still powerful. In our Miracles shell, he simply goes alongside Teferi, Time Raveler and Jace, the Mind Sculptor as one of the best planeswalkers available.

I have played both Delver and Miracles in the past. I even played Miracles at our Legacy FNM last week. I don’t think either of these will be my deck choice: neither is a bad choice, but having known them for so long they’re undoubtedly less exciting to me than other options. That, ultimately, must be a deciding factor in choosing a deck for a tournament: if you’re not going to have fun with the deck you play, then if you don’t win, then you won’t even have had the enjoyment of the event to fall back on.

The Flavour of the Month

Ninjas by sora1248 (4-2 in an MTGO Legacy Challenge)

Creatures (16):
4 Ornithopter
4 Changeling Outcast
1 Baleful Strix
3 Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow
4 Ingenious Infiltrator

Spells (26):
4 Brainstorm
3 Fatal Push
4 Ponder
3 Preordain
3 Daze
4 Force of Will
1 Murderous Cut
4 Retrofitter Foundry

Lands (18):
1 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Polluted Delta
4 Prismatic Vista
4 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Swamp
2 Underground Sea

Sideboard (15):
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Dread of Night
2 Hydroblast
2 Thoughtseize
2 Liliana’s Triumph
1 Force of Negation
1 Plague Engineer
4 Leyline of the Void

In the past month, Luis Scott-Vargas and Andrea Mengucci have both written articles and recorded videos about this Ninjas shell, in Vintage and Legacy respectively. It is hands down one of the most innovative decks I’ve seen in the last few years.

Imagine the following two turn sequence. On turn one, you play a land, an Ornithopter and a Changeling Outcast. On turn two, you play your second land, attack with both creatures and Ninjutsu in Yuriko, bouncing the Ornithopter. Because Outcast is a Ninja too, this simple sequence gives you two Yuriko triggers. If one of those triggers hits a Force of Will, not only can you protect your board, but you just dealt 5 extra damage. Your opponent at 13 life (or even lower) and it’s only turn 2. The best bit of innovation here is Retrofitter Foundry, another seemingly innocuous Commander card. For a 1-mana artifact, you can tap it and sacrifice a Thopter you control to create a 4/4 creature token. What Thopters do we have? Not just Ornithopter, but of course Changeling Outcast also counts as a Thopter. This deck gives you multiple ways to make use of these two otherwise lacklustre creatures.

Ninjas is certainly a force to be reckoned with and was one of the first decks I thought of for this event. However I believe it’s still a somewhat untested entity. It has done very well in Vintage, but so far has no results in Legacy. I’m unsure where I stand on how powerful the deck is, though it is unquestionably capable of some incredibly powerful draws. But if I’m not going to pick Ninjas, then what could possibly be better?

The Chosen One

I’ve settled on a deck that has a lot of the factors I look for in a Constructed deck. It has a Blue/Green-base – my favourite colour combination in Magic. It plays a range of sweet 1-ofs, with cards that can search for them. Above all else, it plays some of the most powerful cards in the entire format. The deck I am looking at will most likely be a build of this deck, which took 1st place at Grand Prix Bologna last December:

BUG Zenith Oko by Tristan Polzi

Creatures (17):
2 Gilded Goose
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Courser of Kruphix
2 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
2 Plague Engineer
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Questing Beast

Planeswalkers (5):
4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells (17):
4 Brainstorm
4 Green Sun’s Zenith
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Force of Will
2 Arcum’s Astrolabe
1 Sylvan Library

Lands (21):
1 Bayou
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Polluted Delta
2 Snow-Covered Forest
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Tropical Island
1 Underground Sea
3 Verdant Catacombs
2 Wasteland

Sideboard (15):
1 Karakas
2 Carpet of Flowers
1 Meekstone
2 Pithing Needle
2 Surgical Extraction
3 Veil of Summer
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Plague Engineer
1 Trinisphere
1 Leyline of the Void

Ice-Fang Coatl is what really makes this deck tick. Since Leovold was printed back in Conspiracy 2, he’s been best Legacy-friends with Baleful Strix. But now Ice-Fang Coatl is a better Strix. As a green creature, the Sultai Leovold shell has been able to evolve into this build which perfectly utilises Green Sun’s Zenith. Zenith has been a Legacy mainstay ever since it was first printed in Mirrodin Besieged. It searches for Dryad Arbor for 1 mana, a mana dork for 2, and any number of powerful threats for 3+. I have played this in Standard, Modern (briefly before it got banned!) and especially in Legacy. To this day it remains one of my favourite cards in Magic.

Leovold, Emissary of Trest is powerful threat in Legacy. Being blue, you can pitch it to Force of Will (a very important factor in determining Legacy playability); it shuts off opposing Brainstorms and Ponders; it even matches up really well against Oko – if Oko turns Leovold into an Elk you still get to draw an extra card, then apply pressure. Leovold is a nightmare for a lot of decks to deal with and is the card that really makes this deck tick.

I will probably play around with some of the numbers here, but it’s a shell I like in this format and I can’t wait to put it together and jam some games! I hope to see a great turnout this weekend. If you like what you’ve read here, share it around and let us know what kind of content you’d like to see more of.

Until next time!

Find more of Andrew’s articles – including his guide to Theros Beyond Death Limited – on his author page.

Sign up for our Legacy event this Sunday at www.manaleak.com. We buy and sell singles, so remember to preorder, or talk to us about trades.

Find more events across a range of formats on our events page, including our upcoming Pioneer Constructed WPNQ Preliminaries.

Deciding on a Legacy Deck
Deciding on a Legacy Deck
With new releases providing a surprising number of Legacy-playables, it's a good time to take a look at the latest meta - from classic builds to the new hotness, there's some fun decks to choose from!
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