Learning Legacy: Lessons from Losing

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Welcome back to Learning Legacy, brewers. Last time, we took a look at the RUG Delver deck that I decided to champion. I truly believe that to be successful in Legacy, you really need to pick a deck and stick to it. RUG Delver is what I will stick with. This series is dedicated to showcasing my journey out into the Legacy wild: what I learned, how I tried to get better, what worked, and what didn’t. For reference, here is the list that I have been playing.

When you’re just starting out in a format, you’re going to lose. Trust me: I lost a lot. This is normal and you should not let it discourage you. You should, however, learn from it. With this article, I’ll be going over several games I lost while testing and what I learned from them.

Losing to Learn

“If you learn from a loss you have not lost.” –Austin O’Malley, Keystones of Thought

“I should not have done that.” –Ryan Archer, Said numerous times while testing

Belching Victories

Let’s set the scene. We are playing against Belcher. This is a combo deck that tries to get lots of mana and either kills you with Goblin Charbelcher or storms for a lot and casts Empty the Warrens. Either way, RUG Delver is very good against this kind of deck. We have early pressure and lots of counter magic. Its game two, our opening hand is double fetch land, Volcanic Island, Delver of Secrets, Spell Pierce, Brainstorm, and Tarmogoyf. It’s not the best hand, but we have both early pressure and a counter. We are on the play because somehow we lost game one. My thinking is to play the Delver and then follow it up with counter magic and Brainstorm on the next turn to refuel our hand. So we lead with Volcanic Island (saving the fetch land for Brainstorm) and cast Delver.

So what happened? Because I was tapped out, my opponent went for it and was able to cast an Empty the Warrens for 12 goblins. I lost. The most important thing to do against this kind of combo deck is survive. I didn’t have a free piece of counter magic, so I should have left mana open and played a threat when I could back it up with counters.

empty the warrens

Lesson learned: respect your combo opponents and their ability to go off. Even with a deck full of counter magic, you can still lose. Play slowly and make sure you stick a threat when you are able to.

Almost a Mirror

Next up, we are playing against Blue-Red Delver. Like ours, this is a tempo deck full of cheap creatures backed up with counter spells and burn. This is game one and we trade spells back and forth. I have a Tarmogoyf in play (a 4/5) and my opponent casts a Young Pyromancer. I have Force of Will in hand but would have to remove my only other card, a Brainstorm, to cast it. I choose not to.

So what happened? He was able to chain some spells together to make lots of 1/1s. These are enough for him to block the Goyf and eventually find enough burn to make me lose.

Round two, same opponent. I have him on the ropes. I have drawn a lot of my green creatures, which he has a tough time burning out. I play my fourth land (two Volcanics and two Tropicals in play now) to cast another Tarmogoyf and a Nimble Mongoose. I am at 16 life and my opponent has one card. I now have lethal on my next turn.

So what happened? He cast end-of-turn Price of Progress, putting me to eight. He untapped, played Snapcaster Mage, targeted Price of Progress, and killed me.

price of progress

Lesson learned: always understand which cards are important in each match. This is especially important in Legacy because there are so many powerful cards.  In the first match, I should have realized that the Young Pyromancer was a fantastic way of blocking my ground creatures, so I should have countered it. In the second match, I should have realized that burn decks play Price of Progress. I should have paid more attention to the lands I was playing to try to play around Price if I could (and in that match, I totally could have played around it).

Miracles Happen

Last example. We are playing against Miracles. Miracles is a UW control deck that plays Entreat the Angels as a win condition and Terminus as a one-mana miracle wrath effect. We get our opponent down to three life, mostly on the back of a thresholded Nimble Mongoose that dodges Swords to Plowshares all day long. Our opponent is dead next turn if our Mongoose survives. He has been digging and looking for a Terminus. He’s down to just one card in hand (a Swords to Plowshares). He needs a miracle. Our hand is a Stifle, a Volcanic Island, and a Spell Pierce. He has seven lands and goes to untap, upkeep, and draw…he then reveals the Terminus.


So what happened? Our opponent revealed the Terminus and then went to cast it for one mana. We could’t counter it because he had too many lands in play. We cursed our opponent for his awesome luck and proceeded to lose as we drew nothing and he controlled the game from there.

Lesson learned: always understand how your cards interact with their cards. In Legacy, there are a lot of different cards. Some of the interactions may not seem intuitive, but this is just another reason to stick with one deck. Miracling a card uses a trigger. With that trigger on the stack, we could have Stifled the Terminus. Our opponent would have drawn it as normal and he would have had to cast it for six mana. We would have been ready with Spell Pierce and attacked for the win on the next turn.

So Pay Attention

Thanks for joining me on this little Legacy life lesson. In the future, I will not make these same mistakes. You should also learn from your mistakes to make sure you don’t repeat them. In the above examples, I was just playing practice games, but you better believe this will help me in the next large tournament.

“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” –Donald Trump

This Week On: You Can Stifle That?

Did you know that you can Stifle the living weapon trigger on equipment? This comes up most of the time in Legacy with Batterskull. When it enters play, the living weapon trigger will go on the stack. If you Stifle it, they are left without a germ token. This is important for RUG because it gives us much-needed time to attack though without a blocker and without them gaining life. Just be careful, because they can always pay mana and return it to their hand.

Thanks for reading.

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Ryan Archer

@RyanArcherMTG     -     Email     -     Articles
Ryan Archer is a PTQ grinder and a Magic financier. When he's not making top eight in a tournament or looking for the next card to spike, he's playtesting as a member of Team RIW or writing articles for BrainstormBrewery.com or MTGinfosource.com
Ryan Archer

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    • Shea on August 20, 2014 at 2:05 pm
    • Reply

    I think a lot of these things are what limited resources would call “rotty” or “results oriented thinking..” That is to say that I don’t think your play in many of these situations is incorrect, it just happened to lead to poor results in this one iteration. Magic is, as Gerry T says, one long session. Focusing on the myopic outcome of one result is short sighted and will lead you to make worse plays. You need to make the best percentage play every time.

    In particular, your RUG example: Putting lethal on the board is almost certainly the better play. You shouldn’t be playing around price of progress snapcaster mage price of progress. And even if you do decide to do that, all your doing by not putting lethal on the board is giving your opponent more time to draw exactly those cards.

      • Mitch on August 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm
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      Shea, you are incorrect. If the 4th land he played was a Volcanic, then he absolutely shouldn’t have played it because he only needed three lands to cast the creatures. Regardless though, it still is the right play to not lay the 4th lands even if that means holding back one of the creatures. Knowing the deck you are playing against is important. And knowing that they only way you can likely losing being at 16 and the opponent only have one card is PoP twice with 4 duals in play (needing to top Snap or PoP). There is no other way for them to win. Their creatures are all inferior and no other spells in the deck do more than 3 damage. I’ve thought about it and can’t come up with any higher percentage combo of cards to top in the following turns that would win it for them. So by your exact advice, his play is the highest percentage play.

      As a rule against a deck playing PoP you should never have more than 3 lands out unless one is an untapped Wasteland so you can waste your own lands in response if you need to. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve actually activated Wasteland on my own lands in this deck. It happens fairly often between responses to PoP and getting lands in the yard for Threshold.

    • Mitch on August 20, 2014 at 2:18 pm
    • Reply

    Good article. I agree that in a format like legacy it is less about the deck you pick and more about sticking with a top deck to learn the ins and out. I play this same RUG deck (my list is a bit different but only by handful of cards). I don’t get a change to play many tournaments in person (my only live play with it was an SCG open in Jersey where I finished 12th) but I do grind a lot of 8-mans on MTGO and play a lot of practice games on there. Your definitely improve playing over and over again.

    For a future, “You Can Stifle That?” One of my favorites that I didn’t realize right away was you can Stifle the initial coming into play graveyard remove of Rest in Peace. This is important for your creatures, especially if you already have Threshold. Even if you aren’t at Threshold, it is still useful for your Tarms. Of course, all cards after the RIP come down still get removed but the original ones in the yard stay.

    • Scott Peitzer on August 20, 2014 at 3:45 pm
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    Nice article. For a future “Can You Stifle That?”, how about “enters as” abilities? A surprising number of Delver players have tried to Stifle my Vesuvas.

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