The Impact of Commander Legends on Legacy
- Rodrigo Martin
The holiday season is over, and Commander Legends has been with us for more than 50 days now. Time enough to see results, time to take inventory. Which cards from Commander Legends made the cut in Legacy and where do they fit in? Let's rank the best of the bunch and look at lots of lists!
Happy New Year, dear readers! I sincerely hope you enjoyed the Christmas holidays as well as the latest contest on Cardmarket. Sadly, the party's over and we need to go back to work. The Magic wheel keeps on moving, which means the next preview season is already in full swing. So it's about time to review the real impact of Commander Legends on Legacy, now that the dust has settled.
#5 – Honorable Mentions
First things first, this latest format-focused set has revitalized Commander, improving lots of strategies while creating new ones. It did so without drastically warping other Constructed environments, quite unlike what Modern Horizons did a while ago. This means, only a few of the cards can make the cut in Legacy, one of the least forgiving formats aside from Vintage. Although some of them looked very promising at the beginning, now we can ascertain that the general impact is minimal. However, some cards do see play, and the following ranking showcases them all. Two will most likely become format staples.
Starting with number five on the list, a few honorable mentions, Fall from Favor felt like a Palace Jailer to me during preview season: giving you the monarchy while permanently tapping an opposing creature looked sweet. Although it is a powerhouse in Pauper at the moment, the Legacy bar proved too high to clear.
Next on our list, the number one in sales on Cardmarket during the holiday season: Jeska's Will. This red modal spell only gets its full value in Commander games of course, but it has some potential in Legacy, for example as a Burning Wish target or in a red deck with a lot of mana.
|Ruby Storm by TonyScapone, 5-0 in Legacy League, January 2|
This list here works as a budget Storm shell without any duals. If you're a combo lover, it is a way of introduction into Legacy that doesn't break the bank. Aside from not being an established deck, it can win out of nowhere and Legacy players are not used to fighting against this particular version.
Our last honorable mention is a call-back to the one and only Wheel of Fortune, which you only get to play in Vintage. Wheel of Misfortune is sweet in Commander, containing a choose-a-number minigame within the card. In one-on-one games, it's simpler though: If you are willing to pay a high amount of life, you can have a brand new hand. The only strategy willing to take the risk I found so far is Izzet Delver, an aggressive version with eight "prowess" creatures in the shape of Monastery Swiftspear and Sprite Dragon combined with the regular amount of cantrips and burn spells.
|Izzet Delver by MartinMedMitten, 5-0 in Legacy League, December 12|
#4 – The Court Cycle
Moving on to number four, we find the court cycle, another way to bring the monarch back into Legacy after Conspiracy: Take the Crown where the mechanic showed up for the first time. While the red and green one are stone-cold unplayable, we will be focusing on Court of Grace, Court of Ambition and Court of Cunning.
All of them offer the same enter-the-battlefield advantage of giving you the monarchy, so in a way they cantrip, but the mana investment might not be worth it depending on the game situation. Court of Grace has seen some fringe play in both Death and Taxes and Yorion Snowko as an alternative win-condition for grindy matchups. Even though the white enchantment creates an army of flying creatures to keep the crown on your side of the table, its cost is a bit prohibitive. Meanwhile, Court of Cunning has the "pitch to Force of Will" upside so it's more likely that in the long run, Court of Grace ends up not making the cut.
Focusing on the blue Court in Snowko shells, it's interesting to note that it allows you to mill any number of players. You can indeed target yourself, since you're likely running Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, and it helps to escape it on turn four.
|Snowko by Pascal3000, 5-0 in Legacy League, December 12|
The list above tries to maximize the chances of winning via Court of Cunning with a full playset and Noble Hierarch to cast it on turn two. Ice-Fang Coatl, a format staple that needs no further introduction, keeps opposing creatures at bay to preserve the monarch status and can get it back if needed by attacking through the air.
Before we move on to our Top 3, a quick mention for Court of Ambition, since I found an upgraded version of Buried Phoenix, another out-of-the-box strategy that became popular a year or two ago. It is based on playing several rituals in one turn followed by Buried Alive to look for three copies of Arclight Phoenix that immediately come back from the grave. Showing up as a one-of means the Court is not exactly a key card for the strategy. Nevertheless it is encouraging to find people willing to try new cards for unorthodox lists. This is especially true for the following, which allows you to change the whole game plan by transforming into a Doomsday deck in order to dodge graveyard hate. I simply love it!
|Buried Phoenix by Pietrone10, 4-3 at Legacy Legacy Challenge #12242624|
#3 – Krark, the Thumbless
This legendary creature has established a long lore history throughout the years. Krark's Thumb was first printed in Mirrodin in 2003, and only seventeen years later we finally get to meet Krark, the Thumbless in person. The character is curiously related to the famous Krark-Clan Ironworks too that ended up banned in Modern not so long ago.
About the card's playability, I recently ran a Izzet Delver shell with three copies in order to determine if the card was good enough to become a staple in the strategy. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a conclusive answer.
If you check recent winning Delver lists, you will find no Krarks at all, since nowadays what the deck is trying to do is close up games quickly by adding a playset of Sprite Dragon. That doesn't mean the card doesn't have a shell to get its full value. The following is good proof:
|Temur Krark by NooxTom, 5-2 at Legacy Challenge #12242614|
The plan here is to try and combine the angry Goblin with Young Pyromancer so even if you lose the coin flip you will be getting an Elemental token. Krark plus Arcanist is also a win-win situation since the spell you cast from the graveyard either copies itself or ends up back in your hand at no cost. Rule of thumb (pun intended)—don't slam Krark on turn two with countermagic backup, as losing the flip on Daze or Force of Will can easily cost you the game. Rather treat it as a mid-game threat to double your cantrips and burn spells. Looking closely at the list, adding green for Noble Hierarch and Oko is a smart move. Hierarch not only ramps you to play your planeswalkers on turn two, it also increases the Human count to cast Of One Mind for only one mana.
Overall I don't expect Krark, the Thumbless to become a staple in the near future. It's more of a build-around card that might create its own strategy if further synergistic cards keep being printed.
#2 – Opposition Agent
At last we get to the Commander Legends all-stars, which created a lot of buzz during spoiler season. The Top 2 both are three-mana flash creatures with annoying static abilities that disrupt your opponent's game. Opposition Agent has proven itself Legacy material and currently stands as the twentieth most played creature in the format.
Where you can find Opposition Agent wrecking tutor effects? In order of metagame percentage, I would start with some Snowko builds, which include it as a singleton since the competition is quite strong between Uro, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, and Hullbreacher as well. Secondly, there's Esper Vial, a creature-based strategy that recently is starting to overshadow Death and Taxes as the best Aether Vial deck in the format. It uses Hullbreacher too, as both cards can be tutored with Recruiter of the Guard. Overall it is a very fun deck to play with a plethora of hatebears to fight both aggressive and combo matchups.
|Esper Vial by altniccolo, 5-0 in Legacy League, January 2|
Other places where you can find Opposition Agent include Deadguy Ale, the good old white-black strategy with Stoneforge Mystic and discard. But the most spicy deck I have found so far is a heavy black Prison design where the Agent is the only creature and gets powered up by Dark Ritual to cast it on turn one, therefore blowing up any fetch-land activation. Add some Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere to the mix and you get the ideal deck nobody wants to face.
|Mono Black Prison by tomjab, 5-0 in Legacy League, December 26|
Pricewise, now is a good time to purchase your Agents if you haven't done so yet. Cards from the latest set tend to get cheaper until the next set releases and then pick up in price again. After the initial hype, the card dropped from the twenty-euro threshold to less than fifteen and the price might even go lower until Kalhdeim shows up.
#1 – Hullbreacher
To no one's surprise, Hullbreacher is the most impactful card in the whole set. This doesn't only apply to Legacy but holds true for Vintage as well, even more so due to all the draw effects the format offers. Just focusing on Legacy, since we already had Leovold and Narset, Parter of Veils as three-mana permanents that provide similar effects, where does Hullbreacher actually see play?
|Snow Miracles by AnziD, 6-0 at Legacy Challenge #12242675|
Easy question, just play the best deck in the format and squeeze in some of the latest-set goodies. The Oko-Uro-Snow shell is quite flexible depending on the expected metagame. In this case for example, Hullbreacher allows you to have an effect similar to Leovold without adding black. Moreover, having two additional Narset makes total sense when Day's Undoing is in the mix, a watered-down version of the original Timetwister that can also be played during your opponents' turn thanks to Teferi, Time Raveler. Needles to say if you manage to resolve the spell with either Narset or Hullbreacher in play your opponent will likely concede on the spot.
Regarding amount of play, Hullbreacher is already in twelfth position among the most played creatures in the format, above Leovold. This is only logical, if you think about it, due to the more affordable mana cost as well as the flash clause.
There are plenty of archetypes where Hullbreacher can put in work to hose Legacy staples like Brainstorm or Ponder: Merfolk, Temur or Izzet Delver, even as a sideboard tool for blue-based matchups. But the deck where it really shines is Karn Echoes …
|Karn Echoes by haubidtran, 5-0 in Legacy League, January 2|
Do you recall another draw-seven effect recently printed in Modern Horizons? In case you missed it, Echo of Eons is a busted Magic card that was already seeing play thanks to its synergy with Lion's Eye Diamond. Before Commander Legends, Narset was the main plan to negate opponents their draws, but with Hullbreacher in play, the outcome is even better: getting a bunch of Treasure Tokens that synergize with the whole deck. In particular, with Urza, Lord High Artificer in play they suddenly transform into Mox Sapphires. Long story short, the deck is likely to be the best home for Hullbreacher.
The card is already a Legacy staple, and you should get used to playing around it. Despite its strong effect, it dies to every removal spell imaginable, so overall I consider it a fair Magic card that only improves on what cards like Notion Thief already did but upgraded for 2021 times.
Regarding its price, great news as well—seems like it's dropping a bit, although it remains the most expensive rare in the set. As I mentioned before, there's still an open window to purchase before Kaldheim drops and people stop opneing Commander Legends boosters.
All in all, my general impression regarding Commander Legends in Legacy is quite optimistic. The fact that the two most busted cards in the set are three-mana and 2-toughness creatures is a sign of how balanced things are. The format isn't being warped as much as Modern Horizons did with Wrenn and Six or Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis for example.
If you reach this point, thank you so much for reading. As usual, we would love to hear from you in the comments section below. What do you think about the new cards in Legacy? What personal experience did you have with them? Let us know and have a nice start into the year!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.