Legacy After the Bans: Winners and Losers
- Robert Swiecki
The ban hammer has hit Legacy hard, resulting in a much-needed upheaval of mythic proportions. With the metagame in turmoil, it's time to let old staples fall by the wayside and to resurrect even older staples. Here's a look at the future of the format, at losers, winners, and decks to play!
Here it is: the highly anticipated update to five formats. We are to focusing on Legacy today, and there is much to talk about. So, Wizards have banned Arcum's Astrolabe, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Oko, Thief of Crowns …
Rejoice, Legacy players worldwide, for the usurper king is dead. And with him died his most powerful soldier and their astronomical artifact. All in all, I am sure most people are happy with Wizards' big hit. Over the last year Legacy gameplay had turned extremely monotonous with Oko dominating board states and Arcanist winning games in short order if left unchecked. As Wizards stated, Astrolabe circumvented the format's basic premise that one has to choose between a Wasteland-proof mana base using basic lands or going for more dual lands to have early access to all the colors of one's deck.
In addition, Wizards have changed the cascade rule so that one cannot cast a more expensive spell off it. Shardless Agent can no longer get you the back side of Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor. Seeing most recent results online, this adjustment was a sensible and quick one, quite the opposite of the companion fiasco in the first half of 2020.
After a major change to any format there is usually a time for the dust to settle and this may take a couple of weeks. One can speak of a "Wild West phase" because there are so many variables involved and the meta needs some time to adjust itself. Imagine it like weighing scales where suddenly someone empties one side and now the scales swing back and forth and try to find a new equilibrium. We might experience a period where there will be decks of the week trading blows until everybody will have found their place in the new metagame.
But what are the decks to look at now and who are the biggest winners and losers of this significant announcement?
This deck should definitely get some attention again. Its blue-black shell is quite versatile, and it suffered from Dreadhorde Arcanist pushing blue-red to the fore. Izzet and Temur Delver will see less play in general, which are decks traditionally favored against Shadow's life loss strategy. Grixis and Sultai Delver might also get more traction again, especially Grixis, which can rely on Young Pyromancer. Either way, if I were to play in the first Legacy tournament of the post-Oko era, I would sleeve up something like this:
Now that Astrolabe is gone and the super consistent mana bases with it, Wasteland will be better as well. An aggressive tempo strategy should be a decent starting from which to explore the format.
So everyone's favorite dishware will not turn into an Elk anymore. Chalice of the Void is back and reintroduces an aspect to the game that might not be the most fun to play but one that has become essential to the health of Eternal formats: the lock or stompy strategy. During Oko's reign there was little to no reason to play a deck that relied on a turn one Chalice, and most opponents did not even feel the need to counter it; playing Oko on turn three and dictating the board state from there was simply the more efficient way to go about things. One could always use Force of Will or Force of Negation for a real threat.
Now Chalice can again put a hamper on all of the blue decks relying on one-mana spells. I expect Loam and Eldrazi to make a comeback with the already established Urza's Echo deck still playing an important role in the weeks to come.
Sneak & Show
While it has never really been a bad choice, Sneak and Show has had some tough times battling against recharging Arcanists and Okos. Being a blue combo deck, Sneak and Show can only fight a certain amount of counter and discard spells before refilling its hand. If the amount of Forces goes down, it will have an easier time pushing through opposing counterspells. Additionally, it is a great option in an unknown environment because it proactively tries to win as fast as possible without letting the opponent do their thing.
Death and Taxes
Decks will have to rely more on duals again? There is no three-mana planeswalker anymore that can punish players for casting creatures? (Well, there are still the Lilianas, but you all know what I mean.) And there is no two-mana creature that can recast Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push? Then this is a world where Death and Taxes and similar creature-based soft-lock decks will find their way to the top again.
It never left the format, but Death and Taxes had seen better days. With Oko and Astrolabe being gone for good, nonblue strategies—whether focused on card advantage via Life from the Loam or card quality by preventing opponents from playing their spells – will see an uptick in this new-old metagame.
Esper Mentor and Jeskai Miracles
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is another card that will most likely make an appearance again. Esper's aggro-control strategy with Monastery Mentor and Hymn to Tourach greatly suffered from Oko's and Arcanist's presence. Running Pyroblast in its sideboard, the white-blue Miracles deck has changed its face and is simply too powerful to leave the format. Let us not forget that Teferi, Time Raveler is still legal in Legacy, and his role will only solidify itself even further.
Summarizing the Winners
To sum things up, decks running Wasteland and lock pieces should become significantly better, such as Lands and Loam. Also, Elves and Infect could benefit from Arcanist being banned, while many other decks will have to wait and see how the format shapes up in a couple of weeks' time.
Reanimator and Ad Nauseam Tendrils are not extremely impacted by the bannings but got slightly better overall because grinding against Arcanist's card advantage machinery was a tough task. TES on the other hand was already geared for a new metagame with a full set of Veil of Summer main alongside Defense Grid and Carpet of Flowers. Last but not least, discard is back. At some point it is tough to justify playing discard spells when the opponent simply refills their hand with Dreadhorde Arcanist. Especially for midrange and control decks that traditionally like to play black, the bannings are good news.
Previously known as Snowko, one of the most dominating decks in recent history will need to change completely. Noble Hierarch, Stoneforge Mystic, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Teferi, Time Raveler can still form a solid Bant control shell. Hullbreacher and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath have already been used in similar lists, but the mana base will need major tweaks. During Astrolabe's regime, Snowko could keep ridiculous hands with the artifact fixing off-colored mana in the early turns. I'd argue that there is no need for snow-covered basic lands anymore and that Ice-Fang Coatl should not be the decisive factor here.
I am very glad that Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath stayed in the format because it is simply yet another powerful three-drop but nothing that could destroy Legacy on its own. Uro's dominance in control and midrange matchups was mostly due to Oko's presence and Astrolabe's support. Now that they are gone, the meta can acknowledge Uro's capabilities in a fairer way. On a fictional "to be banned" list I would place Uro way below Veil of Summer; and both cards are totally fine in my opinion.
Valki Cascade // Turbo Tibalt
I think we all dodged a bullet here, as Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor started dominating the last few online tournaments. Luckily Wizards stepped in and changed the cascade rule quickly. To be honest, it does not make any sense why one could ever play Tibalt off Shardless Agent's trigger.
Izzet and Temur Delver
Not so much Izzet but Temur Delver got hit hard by the bannings. Izzet will still be a decent choice in the new-old meta because it pairs red's burn and reach with the card quality of blue and really does not care which cards it is running. I am pretty positive that it will bounce back, maybe with more Young Pyromancer and Sprite Dragon or Pteramander.
Temur, by contrast, loses up to seven cards. Yet there are quite a few solid candidates coming back from the bench, such as Tarmogoyf, Nimble Mongoose, Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft, True-Name Nemesis, Hexdrinker, Klothys, God of Destiny, and Magmatic Channeler. One might consider sideboarding Flusterstorm, which has become better too because it simply did not hit Oko and was always rather miserable against Veil of Summer, and even some numbers of Narset, Parter of Veils could find their way into Delver sideboards.
I still feel like Izzet Delver and Death's Shadow are the more obvious choices in the tempo department. If I were forced to jam a Temur deck together, I would probably start with something like this:
Summarizing the Losers
Apart from the few decks that ran more than one of the now banned cards, most decks will not change that much. There is plenty of room for innovation, especially in the midrange section of the format. Cards like Dack Fayden already made guest appearances from time to time, and so did Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow in Tempo Ninjas. There's a power vacuum waiting to be filled, and these footsteps may as well prove too big for just one archetype, meaning more variety. I'm excited to see what decks will rise to the challenge.
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