So here we go - Legacy on Sunday with the unlimited proxies, hope you have all been printing out those proxy cards all week. Can I recommend www.magiccards.info who have a proxy printing service built into the site. To keep with the Legacy theme here is the second part of Patrick's Legacy article.
Key cards in legacy
So now we know just how many decks there are in the format. Lets look at some of the key cards that see a lot of play in various decks.
Force of will
Arguably the most important card in the format, countering something for 0 mana is hugely important, and makes a format that would otherwise be entirely about combo much more open. Belcher going off turn 1? Not with force of will! It makes for a hugely depressing card to cast when you have to, losing 2 cards is a massive cost and almost always worse than paying mana if you can, but the option to continue playing the game is the most important option you can have, and force is the way to get it.
This card is insane. Its instant, draws 3 cards, and lets you get rid of 2 irrelevant cards. Against discard, it lets you draw 3 cards, and protect your 2 best cards on top of your deck. Against combo, it lets you draw 3 cards, or counter their spell with force of will. This card is insane!
Is it a spell? Is it a land? It destroys target non basic land, in exchange for sacrificing it. It’s an iconic legacy staple, and it’s awesome. Is your opponent’s mana base too greedy on the non-basic front? Or is there a land you can kill to just destroy their game plan? WASTELAND! Opponent kept a 2 land hand and missed their drop turn 3? PUNISH THEIR POOR MULLIGAN DECISION! WASTELAND! Wasteland is hugely versatile and is massively influential, if your deck loses to wasteland, your deck isn't good enough for legacy.
Counterspells that cost 0 mana are generally good, and this one is no exception. It’s much less utilised than force because it sets you back a land (in a format where having 2-4 lands is generally enough to cast all your game winning spells, that’s a big deal) but it’s still a very potent card when you get to go first, as it doesn't set you so far back in that situation. Daze is generally utilized by very fast decks like merfolk which are trying to stop you doing anything relevant for just long enough to kill you, and have such low curves (with aether vials to gain even more tempo) that the lost land drop doesn't have a big impact. 0 mana counters are good in all decks with blue however, and you often see some number of them in people’s decks.
Everyone who has heard of eternal formats has probably heard of tarmogoyf. He is the ultimate bear. If you are playing fetch lands and instants (i.e. if you are playing any format where tarmogoyf is legal) you are getting a creature so far above the curve it’s insane. There is a reason that he commands such a high value, generally the best cards in each type end up costing loads, Force of Will being the best counter spell commands a high cost, jace the wallet sculptor earned his name by being the best planeswalker, and tarmogoyf is arguably the best creature, at least that you can cast naturally.
Pay 1 black, get 3 black. There isn’t really anything better than that, it’s like a black lotus that you have to pay 1 mana for, that’s not a bad deal. Generally used in combo decks but some fairer decks like to use it to power out something big early.
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Want to play black lotus? Can’t afford the £500 price tag? This bad boy is black lotus, but you get to play 4 of it! FOUR! Woooow! Ok, so it has the downside that you have to discard your hand to activate it, meaning you cant cast a spell from your hand using it (the discard must resolve before you get the mana, so your hand is already empty when it makes it to your pool) but sometimes that’s what you want anyway. Activate lions eye diamond, flash back faithless looting, dredge 2 grave trolls, discard the grave trolls again, mill 1/5 of your deck immediately… seems pretty nice! It also gets used just after storm decks ramp into ad-nauseum, to generate the mana needed to cast tendrils of agony when you get to it.
Cabal Therapy/Hymn to Tourach
High value discard spells, Cabal therapy lets you make sick plays if you get a good read on your opponents, and successfully guess their decks (and hence what they have in hand), if you hit with the first cast, you usually can get a 2 for one by flashing it back, or better if they have multiples of a card.
Hymn gets 2 cards at random, this is invariably their best 2 cards, making it ridiculously awesome.
Swords to Plowshares
This is the removal of the format. Life is usually the least valuable resource in legacy, generally when you die from damage, the life gained isn’t going to turn the game around for you, with only some very specific exceptions (and those are usually found when you swords to plowshares your own guy… not ideal) swords is the best removal in legacy, and sees far and away the most play. If your deck plays white, you better have a good reason not to play swords!
Red has mana denial, and in a format with really greedy manabases with only a few basic lands (if any in some cases) blood moon says “you have no lands now”. It’s playable in modern too, and its power is even higher there (there is a lot less fixing that lets you fetch your basics in modern).
Bolt your dude, Bolt your face, Bolt you, Dome you. These are some of the many ways players will describe paying 1 mana for lightning bolt. It’s the iconic burn spell, and it’s very good at killing things in this format (although it pays to be careful trying to bolt a tarmogoyf! It doesn’t die till your bolt is in the graveyard, meaning it might not die if its toughness goes up!) with the added bonus of being able to direct it at your face for the last bits of damage. Lightning bolt has the versatility required to make it in this format of cheap cards, and when it’s good, it’s really good!
Getting in to legacy
Here is what happens with legacy:
“Want to play legacy?”
“I don’t have a deck”
“I don’t have £2000 to throw away on cardboard”
Sad Face. why don’t you have £2000 to throw away on cardboard? Now I can’t crush you with my sweet sweet legacy cards!
Sadly, I can’t give you that £2000, much as I would like to make legacy a massive format with loads of players. Legacy is a problematic format, where the more people play, the harder it is to start playing. Wizards have made 2 big mistakes in their history making this game, the first was the printing of chronicles, which was a set containing many of the staple cards of the game, which prior to that printing were worth reasonable sums of money. Chronicles flooded the market with those cards and they instantly became worthless (and have remained so for the most part).
This was mistake 1, and it cost them many players. Mistake 2, was the creation of the “Reserve list” this is a list of cards which wizards have promised collectors they will never print again, meaning it’s a safe bet that their value will only go up in the long term. Sadly for players, this means that cards like the Dual Lands, Show and Tell, Lion’s Eye Diamond, the power 9 and many, many more of the most expensive cards in legacy (although NOT force of will! very important for the future!) are never going to be reprinted ever again, the number in the world now are the number there will always be, and that means there is a hard limit to the number of people who can play legacy, and the closer we get to that number, the closer to infinity the cost of cards will creep.
There is every chance that in 20 years, if the reserve list doesn't change and magic is still going strong, the key legacy staples may well end up being a new kind of power 9. The prices marginalising players to the point that only a select few can afford to play the format with those cards. Modern is wizard’s plan to resolve this issue, but it’s a plan that will take years to come to fruition (modern is substantially weaker, and hence less fun)
In the meantime, there ARE affordable ways into legacy, and affordable decks you can play and be reasonably competitive with. To give you some idea of where to start, here are a few decks you can buy for under £100.
Allegedly, turn 1 llanowar elf is the scariest play in legacy. Personally, I find turn 1 kill you a little scarier. In any case, this deck can easily be playable for around £100, obviously you omit high cost cards like gaea’s cradle or natural order, but you can get to a perfectly playable version of the deck for a reasonable price. As many of the cards are legal in modern, this is a very transferable deck. Added bonus!
This is the modern deck, but with artifact lands, there are a few differences, but again, reasonably priced and very playable for around the price mark we are talking. Obviously as the deck is very good in modern, its very transferable, always a bonus.
There are 2 ways to play dredge, the way that has 4 lion’s eye diamonds and costs an extra £150, or the way that doesn't and is pretty affordable. Dredge has had a lot of painful hate printed recently, especially rest in peace, the strongest piece of graveyard hate that I can think of. Rest in peace unfortunately has a side effect of enabling a couple of combos, helm of obedience mill to kill you, and energy field solid lock to stop creature decks being able to attack you. This means there's a chance of running into maindeck hate, which is an added problem for dredge. Its still a very playable deck though, and if you want to play a combo deck, this is probably one of the better ones (having a 70%+ win chance against pretty much every deck game 1 is pretty sweet).
Now one of the problems with the above decks is that you spend your £100 and you have that deck. Yay. Bored of affinity yet? Want to play a new deck? Well, shit! You STILL have to spend £2000 on cardboard! There are several decks you can build for a reasonable price sub optimally, and gradually improve with incremental purchases, I will outline my suggestion below:
Goblins! I freakin’ love ‘em, and you should too! Why should you love them? BECAUSE THEY ARE GOBLINS! Isn’t it obvious? If you cut out the mana base and just buy the creatures, you can get a perfectly playable goblin creature base for about £100. Bam, goblin deck. Is it significantly worse without wastelands and rishadan ports? Yes. Is it unplayable? No! if you can afford badlands and cavern of souls (cavern of souls is going to be a 4 of in various decks of all formats, just buy them now if you haven’t already) then great, you have a deck that is very difficult for counterspell decks to beat, if you then spend £70~ a while later, you have your rishadan ports. Then a month before rotation, you sell your standard deck to mark Hammond at a steel city tournament and you have yourself a couple of wastelands friend! Suddenly that unattainable legacy deck is very attainable!
So many decks in legacy play wasteland, picking up 4 is the gateway to unlocking many affordable decks. Suddenly you can expand into a pox deck for around £100, suddenly pretty much the only thing standing in your way of merfolk is £150 worth of force of will. once you have force of will? suddenly the wonderful world of blue is your oyster! And the only expensive cards left are the dual lands! Trade in another couple of standard decks, and boom, you have yourself a couple of tundras. Next thing you know you’ve accidentally UW miracles and your mate playing elves hates playing legacy with you. Well, shit. Sorry Adam!
Essentially what I have just described, is my path into legacy. I didn’t sell quite as many standard decks as I suggest above, and I went a bit quicker on it because I had a couple of good opportunities for reasonably cheap wastelands. But mark got a good chunk of my trade folders for tundras (and hopefully when I get a chance I will be doing the same again soon to get an underground sea or 2). The 2 most important playsets you will ever buy in legacy are your wastelands and your force of wills. Neither are on the reserved list, and if my thoughts on modern are correct, within 5-10 years force of will and wasteland will be playable in modern. I would hope it will be sooner, because they are fabulous cards to have in a format, they really make decks play fairly.
I don’t think its for nothing that they specified that all cards in modern masters are reprints of Modern legal cards. I think there is a good chance of Modern Masters 2 being released in a year or 2, and guess what, that probably WONT be all modern legal reprints. Of course it may be a way to print new cards exclusively for modern, but I would also not be surprised if it’s used as a way to reprint good cards from legacy into modern safely without upsetting standard or completely destroying their market rates and pissing off collectors.
Legacy is the funnest format. If you play magic, you should be looking for a way to get into it. Hopefully the above has given you some guide on the options you have to get some way into legacy. If you choose to go down the route of just getting one deck at a reasonable price and sticking with it, fair enough. By all means, especially as several of them are very interchangeable with modern, it is probably a smart investment in that regard. However, at the same time, if you play a few games of legacy and feel like that’s the kind of magic you want to be playing. Really look at whether you really cant afford it. I hope I have showed you it is possible with incremental purchases to get to quite a wide level of choice of decks to play in legacy.
Thanks for reading this huge expanse of text, or however many episodes it has ended up being.
Wow that was a blog and a half! Great stuff, thanks again Patrick. I will be back on Monday with a look at Standard and news of our Christmas Magic tournaments.