Five Underrated Cards for Legacy in 2020


Currently, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths makes big waves in Legacy and will likely have a lasting impact on the format. But one shouldn't forget about all the material from the previous 27 years. There are several older cards to look at and to reevaluate. Here are some that might come to the fore.

Magic's Fertile Grounds

font of fertility

Magic has so many different cards that one cannot keep track of every single one. Many have never seen competitive play and some surge from the depths of the trade binders only to be shelved after a short period in the spotlight. Do you remember Fire Covenant seeing play in Four-Color Delver or Pteramander in Blue-Red? Cards come and go, but they should not be laid to rest completely because Legacy's playing field is extremely fertile and there are always sprouts that feed on the dead.

Without further ado, let us dive into some of the cards that are slightly overlooked or still wait for their chance to shine. Of course, there are always more cards that deserve another look. Maybe they will find their ways into higher circles of cards at some point. The following stand out to me in some way or other, so — in no particular order — let us begin with …

Tribal Flames

tribal flames

Who remembers Zoo? Back in the days, before powerful Jaces and Lilianas walked the planes, before Emrakul, the Aeons Torn got turned sideways on turn two, and before players could sweep the board for one white mana, there used to be a deck that played undercosted beaters like Wild Nacatl, Kird Ape, Figure of Destiny, and Isamaru, Hound of Konda. Compared to Lightning Bolt, Tribal Flames was a potent way to kill almost any creature and provided enough reach to finish off opponents after the onslaught of small creatures had chipped off a significant chunk of life.

Domain Zoo, the five-colored variant, saw some play during the long Deathrite Shaman era and utilized Tribal Flames as its core spell. But the deck has not been able to gain enough traction in Legacy to fully establish itself among other midrange decks like Food Chain, BUG Control, or various slower-paced Delver decks like Patriot or BUG.

I could see Tribal Flames making a comeback at some point, not in a playset, but as a powerful finisher that can dodge a Chalice of the Void on one and plays well with recycling engines like Snapcaster Mage.

Culling Scales

culling scales

What a strange card. Brought to the spotlight by a group of Storm players a couple of years ago, Culling Scales provides a Balance-light effect that can be used to control the battlefield for a couple of turns.

Especially useful against decks that rely on many inexpensive permanents like Loam or Death and Taxes, the card is easily incorporated but can be too slow in some situations. There might be a world where creating a soft lock with Culling Scales and another combination of permanents and spells could be a solution to a strategy in the future; even though it looks rather unlikely with Ikoria affecting the Legacy metagame.

Karn, the Great Creator can grab it from the sideboard, where it unfortunately competes against other powerful artifacts that seem to be more effective, such as Mycosynth Lattice. Nevertheless, let us keep this card in mind because of its unique effect that makes it difficult to play against.

Devastation Tide

devastation tide

An underrated spell with Miracle? That cannot be. Well, Terminus is not the only reset button from Avacyn Restored. For one blue and one generic mana, Devastation Tide's miracle cost is right in the mix with other powerful spells such as Thunderous Wrath or Entreat the Angels.

So, why does it see no play in Legacy? The answer lies in the fact that most decks want permanent solutions for their problems. Devastation Tide bounces all nonland permanents, which makes winning via classic permanents quite tricky. Much like Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror, it is a card that could be game-changing in a combo deck, such as High Tide or Solidarity, with miracle working at instant speed, or even ANT.

Being maybe the strongest card on my list, I fully expect Devastation Tide to get some attention sooner or later, because it has all the right attributes: it is blue, has the miracle ability, is a global answer, and it is not entirely unreasonable to cast it for its actual mana cost.

Tortured Existence

tortured existence

One might call it the black Survival of the Fittest, but fact is that Tortured Existence is a great Pauper card. Not very easy to utilize because it demands the entire deck to be built around it in order to unleash its full potential. But for merely one black mana, it brings quite an impactful ability to the table. A deck like Zombardment could make use of it and naturally cards like Bloodghast, Squee, Goblin Nabob, Shriekmaw, Entomb, Reanimate, and Faithless Looting come into mind.

Obviously vulnerable to permanent graveyard hate, I am not sure if Tortured Existence could work as a utility card to retrieve Hope of Ghirapur and Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but it might create some fun interactions in fringe decks that try to surprise their opponents and draw their winning percentages from the rogue factor.

Nonetheless, I strongly believe that there are tons of interactions with Tortured Existence that are worth trying out; even if experiments ultimately may result in putting that card back into the binder.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave

kiora, the crashing wave

Now that is a spicy one. Its inclusion here may surprise you, but let me explain. On the planeswalker front, there are obviously strong entries in almost all color combinations — mostly with blue though. Especially at 4 mana, Kiora needs to fight really hard for a slot in any deck. One could argue to simply play Jace, the Mind Sculptor — which I still do believe is the single most powerful walker that has graced the game and dodged the ban hammer — or of course Oko, Thief of Crowns.

One thing separates the Fish lady from the others though. Kiora can win games quite fast when ticking up constantly. Of course Jace forces concessions at some point and Oko's Elks can get out of hand quickly as well, but both walkers are typically used in more control-oriented fashion.

Jace really wants to branstorm a couple of times and Oko tries to get rid of problematic permanents first. Kiora is indeed a much more aggressive walker. While her −1 ability can be useful as well, the key is really to get that emblem and bring the game home. Her ultimate resembles the ability of Liliana, the Last Hope to some extent and her protective +1 ability can easily turn off a Tarmogoyf or any other big creature for good.

Tell Me More

Are there any other underrated cards that you feel like we should be talking about these days? Comment with your ideas and I will be back soon with more!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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Aight(28.04.2020 15:00)

Thanks for the inspiring article. I will try out Kiora in my Czech Pile waiting for some astonished eyes. But of course not-being bolt-proof is a huge drawback.

CabalTherapy(16.05.2020 14:03)

Glad you enjoyed it. Heh, yeah Kiora could be something. I can definitely see her at some local tournaments surprising people. She's not bad at all.