So I’m starting to get the handle on scheduling out my writing. Tuesday is my day, so it’s easier to schedule my own deadlines, allowing for more topical discussion. We are approaching what has traditionally been a slower time in Magic’s calendar, so for the most part, we aren’t missing much in terms of breaking developments. Of course, I’m also averaging more references to Billy Zane movies per article than decklists, so maybe I don’t quite have this down pat yet. Feel free to tell me how great I am in the comments below.
Last week, I talked about how to approach a Legacy GP from a finance perspective, but, like everything else in Magic, there is a lot more to it than that. Today is going to be my attempt at trying to explain everything I have learned about Legacy, from the perspective of a player and a… financier? Wait, is that right? Really? It does not sound right at all. We really gotta work on that—I get that #mtgfinance is too entrenched to stop, but it’s not like I’m writing Tezzeret a small business loan, or diversifying Garruk’s stock portfolio. Anyway, today is going to be my attempt at trying to explain everything I have learned about Legacy, from the perspective of a player and a… Magic buyer/seller/trader/make-money-occasionally person. Crap.
Legacy, An Incredibly Brief History
There was a very large stretch of time where Legacy was an irrelevant format, at least in the United States. It began in 2004, when Wizards split Type 1 into two formats: Legacy and Vintage (this is a gross oversimplification, but I’m fine with it). For years, it was essentially a sanctioned casual format, with cult followings scattered across the country, but not enough competitive level backing to make it a relevant format. In Europe, however, there was demand, and lots of dual lands crossed the Atlantic during the format’s down years. It is not inaccurate to say that the rise of Legacy stateside coincided with the beginnings of the SCG Open Series, and savvy players learned to look to European developments, which was at times weeks ahead of American environments (most notably, Maverick was a European strategy that later became popular in the US). For a period, Euro Legacy GP Madrid (2011) held the record of largest Magic event ever (replaced last year by Charlotte and then Vegas). Legacy has effectively existed for 10 years, but was only in the public consciousness for half of that. I won’t even bother telling you what has happened to the price tag on [card]Underground Sea[/card] between the release of Matchbox Twenty’s “Unwell” and now. I know right now you don’t care.
The next two sections will address the format from a player perspective and from a finance perspective—although it may be difficult to understand the former if you skip the latter. Brace yourselves, this is gonna be a long one.
Legacy, From the Player’s Perspective
Let’s rip the bandage off quickly and move on. Magic is expensive sometimes, and until you develop time travel, you will be forced to operate within the parameters of our current situation. WOTC is firmly behind the reserved list, even though they don’t seem to like it any more than we do. This, however, does not make getting into Legacy impossible—it just makes it require more work. Trust me, it is worth it.
Legacy and Vintage (and to a much smaller degree, Modern) are fascinating in the sense that there are an overwhelming amount of archetypes in the formats. This causes two things to happen:
- It rewards experience.
- It allows you to “level up” your deck over time, which grows experience.
That’s right, Legacy is actually a Spike’s Magic RPG!
BRIEF ASIDE: When I started really getting into Legacy a few years back, I started small. I was fortunate to be diving into the format alongside Zendikar, which allowed me immediate access to [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] (GB has been, is, and forever will be my preferred color combination). The list I started with was a budget version of a deck called Eva Green, which is essentially a suicide black deck that someone (not me) named after the actress. I tried to look for my original list to no avail, but I can tell you it featured [card]Gatekeeper of Malakir[/card] and [card]Vampire Hexmage[/card] alongside [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. While I was fortunate to start out with Goyfs at my disposal, I can also tell you I have not played the card in Legacy in at least two years. Just because it is good doesn’t mean you cannot live without it.
Very few people get into Legacy with one fell swoop of a credit card. I certainly didn’t. What I always tell people who are serious is pick an archetype or strategy that you really like, and dedicate yourself to it (sounds like what we talked about in Privileged Perspective 1!). I started with the black deck, because [card]Dark Ritual[/card] into [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] or [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card] is what I consider to be fun. If Delver or Infect is your cup of tea, so be it. A surprising percentage of cards that are good in Legacy have the modern card frame(s), so in terms of playing, you really don’t have to reach that far back in time. The absolute most important part is that you put something together, and start playing with it. You need to start grinding XP!
SECOND BRIEF ASIDE: A lot of people will tell you to just play red. While this is kind of a crummy, stereotypical thing that seems to compound the whole “Legacy is expensive” stigma, the real, under-articulated reason people say that is because it is the best deck in terms of raw percentage points that you can put together on a budget. You don’t lose games to sequencing errors (hopefully), your game plan is linear and redundant, and you won’t experience the same, “Long Round Fatigue” that sets in on Miracles players after round four. Some of the cards, like [card]Chain Lightning[/card], are rebounding from the PDS box, but the deck is still affordable since the majority of the cards aren’t even rares. This allows you to start grinding with a known quantity right out of the gate.
So you have a starting deck. It won’t be winning any beauty contests, but it is yours. You may be playing shock lands instead of duals, but the important part is that you find (or help cultivate) a local Legacy environment, and you start playing in events. It is one thing to read decklists, but until you see what CounterTop can do in person, or you feel the pressure exerted by Infect, you can’t really understand how to best defeat them. The more you get a feel for these matchups, the more you can tune your deck to more concisely shore up your weaknesses. You’ll also start racking up wins as you go, and the prizes can be turned into the cards you are missing! As you improve your game, you’ll be able to decide and determine whether you really need those Goyfs that were pricing you out of Legacy, or if it’s better to keep playing [card]Treasure Cruise[/card] and find another creature that is more synergistic with delve.
I had a long-winded diatribe on Twitter the other day about [card]Wasteland[/card]. More than anything, Wasteland is the key to getting into this format. I really, really, really hope we get a more generous printing of this card soon. You know how good Mono-Red is in Modern because everyone starts at 14 life? Well, whereas life is the check against greedy mana in modern, [card]Wasteland[/card] is the check against it in Legacy. It is also crucial in the fair/tempo decks, since it can prevent your opponents from progressing into the later phases of their game on time. If you buy or trade any big-ticket card to get into the format, there probably isn’t a better choice than Wasteland.
We’ll wrap up this section with one more Legacy secret. So, unless you’re the Cutler family or Jenny McCarthy, you understand how herd immunity works. [card]Force of Will[/card] is an important part of Legacy because it keeps the very unfair decks from overrunning the format, but it is also $100. If your small Legacy environment has fewer combo players than [card]Force of Will[/card] players, you will likely be fine without Force, since the people that do play them will suppress the overall success of the combo decks. If your environment doesn’t have [card]Force of Will[/card] players, however, this is your chance to play some Belcher (another one of the few decks where shock lands are literally just as good as duals!). If you can’t get Forces and you don’t play combo, then make sure you have a proactive game plan against combo decks, by which I mean disruption. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is just as good as Force in that you can answer their bottleneck card, although you need to live long enough to cast it. [card]Spell Pierce[/card] is probably the best straight-up replacement for Force, since neither are great against creature decks, and the two-mana tax is typically significant enough to throw off their ability to combo off.
LEGACY, FROM THE (UGH) … FINANCIER’S PERSPECTIVE
Good news! If you are looking to Legacy as a way of diversifying your Magic portfolio, you don’t’ really need either Force or Wasteland! These, along with duals and some other things, are the equivalent of blue-chip stocks, which are great long term, but you really won’t see a huge ROI when you decide to move them. If you want to own sets for personal use, or are able to trade standard cards for them, then these are fine targets, but today I will mostly focus on more volatile options.
REALLY BRIEF ASIDE, I PROMISE: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS TRADE STANDARD CARDS FOR RESERVED LIST CARDS IF YOU CAN. Elspeth, the Whatever is expensive now, but [card]Bayou[/card] will be expensive forever. Take a little bit of a hit if you have to, but this is the safest thing you can do by far. Know what is and is not on the RL, and make this offer with every store owner you know—most LGSs would rather have fat stacks of Theros mythics than that dual land, anyway.
One thing I should get out of the way now is harp on condition. If you are buying these cards to play, like our friends from the previous section, then buy the most beat-to-hell copies that are still sleeve-playable. In fact, every big GP I go to, one of the first things I ask dealers during their slow time (early Saturday) is what super-beat cards they have, and what kind of a deal they can make me. My first three Forces were $50 for all of them. They looked like garbage, but I was still able to trade them away two years later for a healthy gain. If you are looking to have stuff to sell, however, you probably want as close to mint as you can get. Negotiating condition on anything below NM- on the internet is a pain in the butt, so if you are looking for stuff to sell, target quality condition.
So let’s talk about some things I do like: what makes a good eternal-format spec? Well, it has to either be on the reserved list, or be pre-Mirrodin. While there are some great eternal playables in the newer frames, the added pressures of a Modern reprint limits the long-term potential of many of these. The best example of a card I like as a target is [card]Cabal Therapy[/card]. Cabal Therapy is not on the reserved list and is not currently in Modern. Now, CT is one of my absolute favorite cards, and I wish they would have put it in Innistrad, but there is a problem: it’s way too good!
I had a brief exchange with a WOTC R&D member on Twitter recently (not disclosing your sources is legal, check the Patriot Act), where he/she/Ashiok described to me some of the myriad reasons why [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] is not a likely candidate for Modern. As a fan of the card, this is unfortunate, but as a collector and speculator, this tells me it is safe to move on these, even after the big price jump they made last year. The only versions of the card that exist are the set copies, FNM promos, and the PDS ones. I like all of them equally, but try to prioritize making sets, since this is a card that gets played as a four-of, and players will want matching sets (this avoids giving away free information to opponents). Also, since the only non-foils were from the set printing over a decade ago, those will stay strong with people trying to avoid foils.
There are few more criteria CT has going for it—first, the card is awful in Commander.
BRIEF ASIDE: [card]Goblin Welder[/card] would have been a decent recommendation from me up until last Friday, when it was spoiled in the Red C14 deck (called it!). This is great for the rest of the cards in the Welder decks (Painted Stone, UR Welder, assorted Forgemaster/Metalworker decks), but will probably keep Welder down for a while, given what I expect to be a healthy printing.
Cabal Therapy is beyond awful in Commander, which means it is a virtual 0-percent chance of a reprint in one of those supplemental products. After next year’s swan song core set, we are likely to see very few actual reprints appear out of nowhere (The Cabal, it should be mentioned, is a proper noun, making it even harder to get this into any given set. Thanks, Vorthos!).
The last thing I want to harp on here is something I touched on just a little bit ago—understand what is and is not acceptable by current design standards. [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] is way too good for Standard, which means it will never make it to Modern, which keeps it relegated to the land of Legacy. Understanding what is too good to exist in today’s game can help you find a lot of hidden gems. These are the things like [card]Shallow Grave[/card] that randomly spike and then stick, rather than things like [card]Summoner’s Egg[/card] that spike and then bottom back out.
So we just broke down the majority of Legacy Finance 101 by evaluating a single card! Now when you want to break down Legacy spec targets, you know the different variables to consider before doing so. Of course, this is just scratching the surface, so if you want a more in-depth breakdown, let me know in the comments, and we will do another Legacy special again sometime soon.
Let’s close out this week with some quick Legacy hits!
- [card]Show and Tell[/card] is one of those cards that everyone suspects is probably a little too good for Legacy (or at least in post-Emrakul America). It’s too high to buy in with cash (I don’t like tying a lot of my cash up in stuff that I don’t expect to move), but if the format keeps pushing towards fast, aggressive decks, then S&T may slip a bit in popularity. Be careful though, I see S&T as a prime choice for a functional reprint (but at a much fairer mana cost) since the original doesn’t mention planeswalkers and the effect is interesting for multiplayer. If that happens, then the possibility of a S&T ban is not impossible.
- All versions of [card]Entomb[/card] (especially the Judge Promo) feel too cheap to me. By the way, did you know that Entomb was supposed to be a Judge Promo right before PDS Graveborn came out? These are (according to a judge friend of mine) them.
- In no world does [card]Rishadan Port[/card] feel like a $120 card. It is also terrible in this environment. It is probably fair enough to exist in some future Commander or Conspiracy type product. I wouldn’t keep any of my eggs in that basket.
- [card]Cabal Coffers[/card] wasn’t in the Black C14 deck. If they haven’t spiked already, expect a possible price bump soon.
- [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] is a pillar of the current format. Easily has more room to grow.
- The two most immediately playable cards from C14 in Legacy are Containment Priest and Dualcaster Mage. I expect the former to see play in the majority of White decks- it is more than “just” another Hate Bear. The latter may make it into some of the more adventurous Red lists, since copying a Fireblast EoT and then untapping and attacking is a cool 10 damage. Expect to pay a premium if you plan to buy the White deck soon, especially if you’re in the Northeast in the next two weeks.
As always, thanks for reading!