MKM Series Hamburg 2018 and the State of Legacy
Legacy at MKM Series Hamburg was a special one. Not only does it feature only a single blue deck in a rather unusual Top 8, but it also could signify a true turning point for the Legacy format on the whole. There are many questions here that demand answers and Robert is going to try and answer them.
The MKMS Hamburg Legacy main event is in the books and it marked the end of a string of huge events in May - the Eternal Weekend in Paris and GP Birmingham. First of all, Legacy has been changing quite significantly over the past few months and Hamburg showed how significant these changes have been. There was only one deck that plays blue in Hamburg's Top 8 – Miracles. The other seven decks are fast combo decks or prison decks. Grixis Delver was the most played deck, Show and Tell was the most common combo deck in Hamburg, with Stoneblade variants, Czech Pile, and Death and Taxes close behind. But none of those decks were able to secure a spot in the Top 8.
Questions and Answers
In the end, this trend is a clear answer to the format's abuse of Deathrite Shaman. Decks like Czech Pile, BUG Control, and Grixis Delver struggle against taxing and lock strategies, even more so than they used to because the total number of Abrupt Decays have declined rapidly since Sensei's Divining Top was banned. Since then, decks playing greedy mana bases while creating card advantage via Baleful Strix and Leovold, Emissary of Trest have been major driving forces of Legacy. However, those decks are not unbeatable and their low mana curves and value-oriented land counts are easily punished by Blood Moon and Chalice of the Void.
Therefore, I feel like the format was in need of a strategy that could fill the void that Sensei's Divining Top has left behind. One year late, we have just received the answer to this question in form of the rising popularity of stompy shells; be it Big Post-Eldrazi supported by Cloudpost and Glimmerpost, its smaller counterpart with Eldrazi Mimic and Endless One, Steel Stompy that runs synergies between Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, and Walking Ballista or Moon Stompy – also formerly known as Dragon Stompy – relying on Magus of the Moon and Blood Moon. Unanswered in the first two turns, all of these decks have the potential to run away with the game by resolving their taxing permanents like Thorn of Amethyst or Chalice of the Void and then follow up with real threats like Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Thought-Knot Seer.
Most Modern stompy shells play newer threats that are able to close out games in a few turns in contrast to pre-Eldrazi decks that tried to cast Wurmcoil Engine, Thundering Titan, Rakdos Pit Dragon, and Gathan Raiders, which are, in all respects, inferior to the newer threats. As a consequence, stompy shells have gained a huge boost in actual card quality, which has become a serious problem for many blue midrange, tempo, and combo decks.
Naturally, one of the few things that has not been affected by the most recent meta shifts are lands. There is not much a common Legacy deck can do against land cards in general; Wasteland and some Moon effects along with the newly printed Blood Sun and fringe options like Pithing Needle, which can disrupt abilities on lands. Perhaps the biggest winner of the decline of Storm and BUGx decks in Hamburg was the Turbo Depths deck.
Three Depths deck reached the Top 8 and, honestly speaking, it is not a huge surprise that these decks are doing so well in the current meta game. It is extremely consistent, capable of grinding out matches, and winning them quite fast when needed. Its newest additions, Dark Confidant and Deathrite Shaman, allow them to play a longer game and also mimic a generic BUG or Junk midrange deck. In 2018, nobody should make the mistake and call Turbo Depths a budget deck. In spite of its recent performance, it happens to be inexpensive by accident; not relying too much on duals – former lists omitting them entirely in order to play around Submerge and other expensive staples. The same holds true for most stompy decks; even after prices of City of Traitors have spiked a lot over the last couple of months. Both strategies remain affordable, tournament-winning options for newer and more experienced Legacy players alike.
Where were Delver, Tendrils, and Griselbrand?
Apart from an Elves list piloted by Julian Knab and the surprisingly awesome performance of one Belcher deck, many of the top tables after round five saw many non-blue decks fight for the prime spots at the tournament in Hamburg. Grixis Delver did not manage to place even one of its players in the Top 8, with stompy decks keeping the tempo strategies and spell-heavy strategies like Storm contained.
Unlike Storm, BR Reanimator has more potential in successfully ignore opposing decks and against anything on the play. Watching the first two rows of tables, there were some Reanimator decks fighting but eventually missing out on the Top 8.
Obviously, the current meta is rather hostile towards Storm. I played my regular ANT list with Grim Tutor and went only against non-blue decks in nine rounds, which was quite the task to deal with: Death and Taxes, Lands, White Stax, 2x Steel Stompy, 2x Moon Stompy, 2x BR Reanimator. Eventually, I could not battle through all the stompy match ups and lost to three of them, while winning against the other decks – one of the highlights was to win against Trinisphere and Chalice on 1 against White Stax in the first game, which displayed how powerful the Storm ability is even in dead-end situations.
The three main tournaments in May have proven that Legacy is certainly not a static format that revolves around playing Brainstorm and winning on turn one. Whether these last few tournaments really mark a turning point for Legacy is something we will have to wait and see about as the format needs time to adapt to the decks that have risen up as an answer to greedy blue decks. Perhaps we will see the next answer at the next MKM Series stop in Prague. Nonetheless, or maybe simply because of that, the upcoming tournaments will draw a better picture and fill-in the gaps that remain empty.
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