This weekend, my LGS is having its first Legacy FNM. For people who don’t play Legacy, this is just a chance for people to show off their dual lands, Force of Wills and Wastelands. I guarantee there will be some people who’ll show up just to see cards they may never see again. I mean, the words “Jace, the Mind Sculptor” are said in hushed tones amongst casual players, imagine the chance to see this legendary card of mythical power, pun intended. But for those playing in the tournament, it’s a whole lot more than a showcase of Magic’s greatest hits. It’s exposure to what many call the best format in the game, the Magic player’s paradise, or Type 1.5.
For those that aren’t aware of this format, Legacy is an eternal format, meaning that the format doesn’t rotate and you can play any card that was printed in the game’s history, provided it isn’t on the format’s banlist. It’s a format where you get to experience the power that was Magic’s history and where you get to see some of the most skill intensive games of Magic you may ever see. It has a huge community online on The Source and on the subreddit, /r/MTGLegacy, yet despite this, people are often turned away or are afraid to approach Legacy. Legacy is my favourite format, hands down, so I’m going to take some myths about Legacy and toss them aside and show you why you would be a fool to turn away from a format where you can put an Emrakul into play on turn 2 or 3.
Magic the Gathering’s Greatest Hits
In recent years, Wizards RnD have done a great job of perfecting power levels. Sure cards like [card]Siege Rhino[/card] and [card]Hangarback Walker[/card] slip through onto the print sheet but on the whole, the game’s power is at a much lower rate than it was fifteen years ago. Which is healthy for the game going forward but come on, would you rather be playing a turn two [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] or [card]Sylvan Library[/card]? In Legacy, you get to play with cards that no other format lets you play with. When you cast your [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] or your [card]Dig Through Time[/card], this is the only place where you’re going to find those cards. You get to play with these powerhouses of recent memory that have been banned in Modern and sometimes Standard. And that’s just looking at cards that have been printed in the past few years. Just you wait until you see what RnD thought was okay to print twelve or thirteen years ago!
I love being able to see these cards shine. It feels like you get to play with ancient relics that used to be wielded by gods. Imagine getting the chance to lift Thor’s hammer or pull the sword from the stone. That’s what it’s like to cast [card]Force of Will[/card] and [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card]. These cards that won’t see the light of day ever again because they’re too strong have a home in formats that aren’t Legacy. It’s kind of like that moment in action movies when you get the old, retired action hero to come out of retirement and get back into it again, and then you see them kick serious booty as the other heroes watch in awe. Legacy is getting to fight alongside Yoda and Gandalf! How cool is that?
A Thrill for Skill
Pauper, another format dearly close to my heart, is widely considered to be a brewer’s format. People that love to come up with deck ideas and tinker and brew are drawn to Pauper and it’s brewing capabilities. Legacy, on the other hand, is a player’s format. What I mean by that is, Legacy rewards those who really know the game and their deck. This isn’t to say that other big constructed formats like Modern or Standard aren’t skill intensive. You just need to look at the finals of this years World Championships to see how much skill is present in these formats. But this skill and all of the various lines of play are multiplied hundredfold in Legacy. Legacy matches can be decided on how one orders their [card]Ponder[/card] or [card]Brainstorm[/card]. Similarly, there can be multiple paths to victory and its a matter of trying to isolate the path that is quickest and easiest on the resources.
And this isn’t to say you have to be a “good” player to enjoy Legacy. Instead, if you are a “good” player you will be heavily rewarded in this format and it’s a real test to your skill level. Even if you aren’t a PTQ grinder or the person who regularly goes undefeated FNM, playing Legacy will test you and after even a couple of games, you’ll begin to get better. Games will almost always come down to the player who picks the best plays and utilise their cards in the right manner. I refuse to believe that there are “bad matchups” in Legacy. There are decks that have an upper hand against some decks but I refuse to believe that there are decks that just steamroll other decks. There are decks in Modern that just can’t beat certain decks like Merfolk vs Affinity, or B/G Midrange vs Zoo wheras in Legacy, sure Infect has strong game against Miracles but all it takes is a good Miracles player and they can claw back those percentage points like nothing. If you love trying to figure out the right play or the most mana efficient way of stabilising the board, then Legacy is the format for you.
There’s a Deck for That
There’s a really strong brewing community within Legacy and with the entire history of Magic at your fingertips, you can go nuts with what you have available. And the great thing is all of these decks can be played to great success and have been played to great success. Which means that no matter what you want to play, you can find a deck for you.
Do you like playing control and locking out the game before grinding out a win? Miracles.
Do you want to do loads of maths and thinking over how to sequence your cantrips before picking up speed all in one turn? Storm.
Wanna play a deck that wins by not casting spells? Just look at any of the flavours of Dredge.
Even if you just wanna play ball and hit with creatures, you’ve got a deck for you, Maverick and Death and Taxes. Legacy has something for everyone, regardless of what your preferred playstyle is. It’s hard to find something for everyone in formats like Standard. Combo players often don’t get the love in Standard and even in Modern, combo decks don’t get the care and attention from Wizards. Yet in Legacy, there’s a slew of combo decks you can play from Storm, to Reanimator, to Omnitell, to Dredge, to… you get the point.
All too Good to be True?
This all seems like it’s a paradise for every kind of Magic player but you’re probably asking about a couple of niggles. A few bits you’ve probably heard about Legacy that immediately put you off. No doubt the first one is the price and I wanna get this one out of the way.
Legacy is an expensive format, if you want it to be. Yes, you can splurge all out on a deck like Lands that plays cards like [card]Rishadan Port[/card], [card]Wasteland[/card] and [card]The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale[/card] and yeah, that’s gonna set you back a hefty chunk of cash. Alternatively, you can play something cheaper, something that’s still got great game and isn’t going to break the bank. There’s a whole variety of affordable decks out there that are probably the same as a Standard or Modern deck. Something like Burn, Merfolk, Dredge, even something like UR Delver only really has expenses in the 4 Volcanic Island which is a card that will let you play loads of Legacy decks, and 4 Force of Will which similarly, lets you transition to another deck with little to no difficulty. And in case you’re thinking, “but budget decks are always going to be inferior to decks that are expensive and cost lots of money”, you couldn’t be more wrong. I recommend you check out the Top 8 of SCG Worcester from last July. In that Top 8 you will find Charlie Mitchell playing Burn against Loam Pox and Jeskai Delver, two decks that are both expensive on their own but were fully pimped out, all foils, Alpha and Beta duals and so on. Charlie beat the Loam Pox deck to make it to the Top 4 where he lost to Jeskai Delver. A two hundred dollar Burn deck trounced an easily four thousand dollar Pox deck.
Oh, and Charlie Mitchell was 13 years old when he did that. So you can’t say money buys you victory when those kinds of results and players are out there.
You may also think that Legacy is full of turn one kills and combo deck after combo deck but that is equally untrue. Sure, in Vintage turn one kills or relatively uncommon but in Legacy, yeah there’s fast combo decks and alright, pretty much all of them have the capacity to win on turn one but the chances of that happening are so unbelievably slim. I’ve been playing and watching Legacy for over a year and in all that time I’ve seen Storm combo off on turn one once. And they were able to do that because they cast [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] to reveal a five card hand with no disruption so they knew the coast was clear. Show and Tell, the most popular combo deck in the format right now, can’t go off on turn one. The mono blue Omnitell deck (another relatively unexpensive deck, I might add) has given up [card]Lotus Petals[/card] meaning it can’t cast [card]Show and Tell[/card] on turn one. Legacy is in fact, a slower format than people think. The Modern Affinity deck is faster than the Legacy Affinity deck, which has access to all of the Artifact Lands, a luxury the Modern deck doesn’t get to capitalise on.
I Now Pronounce You, a Community
I think after all of the crazy stack shenanigans and getting to say, “I equip Umezawa’s Jitte to True-Name Nemesis”, the part of Legacy that has me coming back every time is the community. Whether you frequent The Source or r/MTGLegacy, the Legacy community is always welcoming and is great fun to be around. Possibly this is because we know we’re a small bunch and we have to stick together. When I started getting into Legacy, the local Legacy players were delighted to help out and showed me a couple of their decks. There’s even a guy in my LGS who lets new players play his Death and Taxes deck at Legacy events.
Legacy players have invested into the format. They’ve spent time tuning and learning their decks, and spending large amounts of money on them in a fair few cases. They care about the format and when they see new people coming in, they are always happy to help them out. Even now, a friend of mine has bitten the bullet and is going to Legacy this Friday with his Modern Burn deck, with a few modifications. And I’m delighted. The Legacy community has gotten hit hard by WOTC a lot over history. The Reserved List, not reprinting expensive staples in an easily obtainable manner like a Commander deck, the lack of GPs, it’s pretty obvious we’re not WOTC’s favourite child. So when we see new players coming in, we welcome them in with open arms. The format is constantly growing as more and more people move to the format and most of them are sticking around because there’s a great bunch of people within the community. Guys in America like Bryant Cook, Joe Losset and Eli Kassis are known Legacy players that are great spokespersons for the format, and the same can be said over here with people like Phillipp Schoenegger, Julian Knab and even our own Susann Heidemueller, who became our World Cup Team Captain because she landed a great finish at GP Lille, which was Legacy!
I could go on about this wonderful format for paragraphs but I won’t. Because then you won’t have enough time to start playing this incredible format. Log on to Magic Online or Cockatrice or whatever platform you play on, or even head down to your LGS and ask about Legacy events. Start a proxy league in your shop. Make an account over at The Source and look at what some of the guys over there are posting. There’s tons of ways to get into Legacy and I encourage you choose one or multiple of them and start exploring. I can’t recommend the SCG Open Series enough as a way to get into the format. The commentators do a great job at explaining even the most complicated of combo decks and showcase a variety of decks, not just Delver deck after Delver deck.
I hope that you enjoyed this ramble of a madman and I hope to see you flipping Delvers and spinning Tops at the next Legacy GP!