A New Era of Legacy
Welcome to a new world order, following what is likely the most impactful ban announcement in Legacy's history. Of course, after a major shakeup, there are many questions that demand answers. Robert discusses these questions and the upcoming MKM Series Prague, which could answer a couple of them.
The world has gone mad. The Mothership banned Gitaxian Probe and Deathrite Shaman, shaking up the format so tremendously, no one knows where it's headed. It's going to have a tremendous impact on the format, much larger than the banning of Sensei's Diving Top, which weakened Miracles, took down Doomsday fetch land Tendrils, 12 Post, and forced other decks to adjust to the changes. Both cards, Probe and Shaman, were heavily played and the elf had been dominating Legacy for quite some time. While Gitaxian Probe might not have seemed an equally oppressive card, only banning the Shaman could have resulted in an insane rise in Storm decks, because Deathrite has always been the best hatebear against Past in Flames.
Objectively evaluating the ban, it should be a great step for Legacy to be free from Deathrite's shackle. Most tempo and midrange decks were forced to play the elf because it was nearly not possible to justify not dedicating the first four slots to the so-called “One-Mana-Planeswalker,” and rightly so. There is no other creature in Magic that compares to the elf's affect on the early and late stages of a game.
Hard facts provide the groundwork, but exploring a new Legacy is the tricky but ultimately most exciting part. But what will happen with Legacy now? Which decks will take the premier spots in the meta game? What will be rendered unplayable?
Let's start with the two most obvious changes:
- Czech Pile has become unplayable. Without the mana fixing support of Deathrite Shaman, the value-oriented 4c Control deck just cannot work the same way.
- No more Grixis Delver. The blue-black-red tempo deck loses 7-8 cards, whereas an additional 2-8 cards, namely Cabal Therapy and Young Pyromancer have gotten a lot worse because Probe had been the card that propelled them and gave them their true blow-out power at almost zero cost. There is a chance that a deck consisting of Delver of Secrets, cantrips, counter spells, Gurmag Angler, and Lightning Bolt will still be around in Legacy but it unambiguously will lose its oppressive representation in the meta.
Looking at these two casualties, you can see that Wizards has banned the two most played decks. In fact, it is a bold move but one that is widely appreciated by the Legacy community. Especially Czech Pile looks like it can’t survive the new meta, as they relied on Deathrite more than almost any other deck. It was their perfect Birds of Paradise, making mana for their Kolaghan's Commands, Baleful Strixes, and Leovold, Emissary of Trests. It also was their most important finisher and could help pile players with its life gain ability.
Grixis Delver, on the other hand, suffers a big hit from both bans. Losing Gitaxian Probe, Deathrite, and synergies with Therapy and Pyromancer may end up hurting the deck too much to remain viable in the new Legacy.
Let's take the time now to look at seven changes you should expect in the new Legacy:
- Canadian Threshold is going to be the best tempo deck again.
Not a surprise for many players, RUG Delver got rid of its main enemy and loses nothing in return. Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf will see a comeback. Both cards fell victims to the Shaman a long time ago and truly struggled to find their place during the dominant period of Grixis and BUG decks. However, RUG will develop into different versions. Some will be playing black in addition in order to gain the raw draw power of Dark Confidant and Painful Truths, whereas others will utilize Green Sun's Zenith and Scavenging Ooze to hedge against graveyard strategies and to gain flexibility in choosing their creatures accordingly to specific board states. Speaking of Delver-centric tempo decks, U/R and BUG lose four important cards respectively and will have to change their looks quite significantly. BUG Delver could transform into its former incarnation with Goyf and Tombstalker; even though being extremely dependent on the own graveyard does not look like a healthy plan at the moment. U/R Delver will remain a viable deck but could cut some of its Prowess creatures in favor of a more taxing approach with Wasteland, Stifle, and more stand-alone creatures.
- U/B Reanimator becomes the superior combo deck.
Unlike its faster brother, B/R Reanimator, the blue-based deck finds itself in a decent spot. Deathrite was the main argument for playing the faster red version to sidestep the Shaman's abilities and win at maximum speed on turn one or two. The consistency of Brainstorm, Ponder, and Careful Study makes the blue choice better than any other variant. The only real problem this deck will face is the rising amount of graveyard hate. With Deathrite gone, many decks will opt for definite game plans against graveyard strategies and synergies. Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace hurt Canadian Threshold, Dredge, and Reanimator and affect Storm to some extent. This is also true for Dredge that will lose some of its newly-gained traction with the printing of Silent Gravestone in a Deathrite meta. It remains to be seen but it does not look like Dredge is going to play a major role in a post-ban meta.
- Bant might be a playable color again.
Noble Hierarch has the potential to step in Shaman's shoes and support multi-colored strategies. Bant decks were major forces in the format before Magic returned to Ravnica. Combo-control Bant with Natural Order, Bant Aggro with a lower mana curve, and Bant Counter Top – also known as Supreme Blue or 4c Counter Top. It is difficult to predict if a Bant deck can establish itself in the new meta, but a build focused on True-Name Nemesis that capitalizes on the addition of Stoneforge Mystic and some equipments might be a decent choice. There might be a world where Bant Blade is better than its cousin in Esper colors, mostly due to Hierarch.
- UW Control with many Back to Basics could be the go-to control deck.
Even though new Miracles is still on the rise and definitely is not unhappy about the recent bans, a rather conventional UW Control with many basic lands and spells that simply goes big on its mana could outplay tempo strategies and lock them with Back to Basics. Possible finishers involve a Stoneforge Mystic package but also multiple Planeswalkers, which seems like it could be the better choice. Running Supreme Verdict, Swords to Plowshares, and other powerful removal spells, regular UW Control looks better than ever. Protecting Search for Azcanta should be the key to success in many match ups.
- Aether Vial is one of the biggest winners of the ban.
Death and Taxes and Goblins benefit from the Deathrite ban. Deathrite's mana efficiency outplayed Vial's slower ability and having Abrupt Decay and Kolaghan's Command at disposal, many decks were able to deal with the artifact rather easily. Among the Vial decks, Merfolk could surprise everyone and end up beating out its brethren. Its tribal strategy overwhelms other decks on the ground and having access to Force of Will and Chalice of the Void puts Merfolk ahead in games more often than not. Even though Death and Taxes sees more play, Merfolk is on the path to old glory; especially since it's rather unaffected by Back to Basics and has solid match ups against most Legacy decks.
- Storm loses speed but remains one of the best decks in the format.
Obviously being a ten out of ten on the Storm scale, decks trying to cast nine or more spells in one turn and end the combo with Tendrils of Agony are still going to be a major player in Legacy. With Deathrite gone, Past in Flames becomes quite a double-edged sword. As powerful as it might appear at the moment, especially in pre-board games, it could end up even weaker in post-board games. As already mentioned, decks will play a plethora of hard graveyard hate in contrast to soft one like Shaman and Surgical Extraction. Removing the entire graveyard postboard via Leyline or Rest in Peace is going to weaken Storm but will not stop it from performing decently. The loss of Gitaxian Probe hurts a lot and, as a consequence, Cabal Therapy and Empty the Warrens take a big hit as well. Nonetheless, well-piloted Storm decks will prey upon slower Control strategies and RUG Delver.
- Most decks will adjust to the new meta.
There are some decks that have remained unchanged, such as Turbo Depths – even though Slow Depths is not an option anymore, Miracles, and, most importantly, Stompy decks. Their roles have yet to be determined because they will not fight against Grixis, ANT, and Czech Pile but Canadian, UB Reanimator, and UW Control. On the one hand, the lack of Deathrite makes mana denial plans significantly better, but on the other hand, Stompy decks also struggle with their mana being cut off. There could be a small decline in Moon Stompy, Steel Stompy, and regular Aggro Eldrazi, but it's also possible that these decks will prove fast enough and resilient enough to be major players.
MKM Series Prague – A New Playground
In the end, Wizards plan to shake up Legacy before the Team Pro Tour in August could be a great success for Legacy in general. There will not be any monotonous Deathrite battles and players are not going to reveal their hands on turn one that often. Additionally, from the 20th to 22nd this month, the MKM Series stops in Prague for what is going to be a major tournament for the Legacy scene, offering an early glimpse at what the new Legacy will look like. Players from all over Europe will gather in the very heart of the continent to explore and establish Legacy's new meta game.
In fact, Prague looks to be truly fascinating for Legacy players, because of the length of time in which Deathrite and Probe have dominated the format. Card choices and entire decks will need reevaluation in the context of a format where Grixis Delver and Four-Color Control are not the dominant players and Prague might be the perfect place to experience this new form of Legacy at a high level. Being host of the now legendary Prague Eternal tournaments in 2014 and 2015, the capital of the Czech Republic has developed a great infrastructure with the local players and stores. It was also the place of event of the 2016 Legacy Grand Prix and has been a permanent host since the first MKM Series season in 2015.
Everything is ready, dinner is served, and time will tell what the meta will look like in a couple of weeks. So, pick your poison and come to Prague, ready to experience the dawn of a new era.
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