This week I wanted to take a look at a broad overview of the Legacy format for the past two months. Specifically, which decks have been performing well and the overall format metagame, including what is going on in MTGO and for larger paper Legacy events. All of the lovely data and decklists themselves com from mtgotop8.com, which is a good resource for finding netdecking, which I neither condone nor reject (I may write an article on this in the future…), and for taking a look at the overall scene of any sanctioned format.
Well there it is. The deck breakdown for the entire Legacy metagame, from MTGO daily events to Grand Prix results to Legacy opens. The first and most obvious thing of note is that Aggro strategies make up a serious percentage of the metagame. Almost half of all decks in the format are trying to kill you as fast as possible with a bunch of creatures or, in the case of Burn, with spells.
So why are people playing aggressive decks? Well, most are fairly simple to pilot. Traditionally, spell order and knowing when to counter a spell or cast a Swords to Plowshares are interactions that require a decent amount of intuition and knowledge of the opposing deck, while slamming a Tarmogoyf and swinging into the red zone requires less intimate format knowledge.
I am not saying it does not take skill to successfully play an aggressive deck, but in general newer Legacy players take to aggressive strategies for that reason. Another reason why more experienced players may be playing an aggressive deck is that many utilize Blue to facilitate both Delver of Secrets and Force of Will.
Delver is the namesake card for a variety of tempo and aggro decks in the format, and he is usually supplemented by Force, which is the quintessential counterspell for the format. Both of these are obviously great, as you can see by the fact that three of the top four aggro decks in the meta all have Blue and typically run three to four copies of FoW, and four copies of Delver.
Looking at the rest of the decks, Burn and Goblins are at decidedly low numbers. Burn is traditionally a great pick for beginners to the format as it is usually tier 1.5 or higher, and in paper right now will usually cost around $300 for the 75. That being said, there are not a lot of newer players, so the Burn concentration has dropped. With this, I would recommend it as a deck for the current Legacy format, at least in paper. An unsuspecting metagame can be dominated by burn, as Force of Will is traditionally pretty bad as the only main deck answer to Burn spells in the Blue aggro decks, and Goblin Guide and Eidolon of the Great Revel can come down early and do damage far too quickly for a control deck to handle.
For Goblins, I believe the same to be true. While not as much a beginner deck, as it costs quite a bit to acquire 4 Wastelands, 4 Rishadan Ports, and 4 Cavern of Souls, Goblins is that disruptive anti-mana deck that can absolutely tango with all manner of decks. Goblin Piledriver in particular is great at smashing through all of the blue decks running around. In the right metagame, Goblins could shine. Mono-red hate is dying out, as people are instead sideboarding for the Blue Red Delver matchup that is oh-so-common today.
Control decks take up about a third of the current overall metagame. Control strategies typically do well in metas where combo is more prevalent, because depending on the control build, they can often dismantle fanciful combos with ease. That being said, control is often solid against creature decks as well, such as the Legacy control deck, Blue-White Miracles.
Miracles has access to Terminus, which can be used at instant speed for 1 mana thanks to Sensei’s Divining Top, and interaction which allows Miracles to effectively trump many aggressive strategies. Joe Lossett has been a proponent of this deck, and has several high-profile placements with it, including taking second place at the Richmond SCG Legacy Open 23 November of this year.
Unfortunately for control, many of the aggressive decks of the format are more than capable of handling themselves against this type of deck. Even Nic Fit decks that are designed to exploit the lack of basic lands in most decks aren’t quite as good when aggro strategies are starting to run basics as a hedge against Wasteland. Control is still perfectly viable, as evidenced by the fact that five of the top eight decks from the last major Open (SCG Richmond) were listed under the control category.
If you are looking for an interesting control deck to play that will take most metas by surprise, look into Tezzeret. It plays the two most busted colors – Black and Blue – and plays 6-8 of the best two planeswalkers ever printed – Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tez is a great strategy that usually wins through the powerful Thopter-Sword combo, which is very resilient since there is not a lot of artifact hate running around in people’s sideboards these days.
For goodness’ sake, why is only a fifth of the field playing combo? Well, it takes a very special type of person to play combo. One must become dedicated to learning all of the ins and outs of a deck, which usually requires a ridiculous amount of playtesting. It took me about a year to become very familiar with High Tide to the point where I can pick up almost any variant and play it, and it is not even the most complicated combo deck out there. I would argue that TES and ANT both have many more potential sub-interactions and lines of play than High Tide, despite High Tide being incredibly complex in that regard.
This also leads to another phenomenon. Usually only more developed Legacy scenes, such as that of Los Angeles, California in the USA, have serious combo players. The most recent L.A. Open had a much higher concentration of combo than any other, mostly because those players have been playing Legacy for quite some time, or have been those to come up with many of the busted decks that they play. With a newer Legacy crowd, most people will be scared to pick up something as crazy as a combo deck, as usually the price point and practice required is too much or too scary for newer players.
Why is Elves the #1 combo deck though? This is also simple. It has two avenues of victory – either combo like crazy until you draw and cast a Craterhoof Behemoth, or just wait until you have a few creatures in play and then Natural Order for a Behemoth. Post-board Elves is also even more resilient, and can best the other combo decks with the addition of Thoughtseize, Pithing Needle, Cabal Therapy, etc.
Popular Cards – Why is this even a section?
So mtgtop8.com also gives a list of the ten most popular cards for the given format in the given time period. Here is Legacy’s for the past 2 months:
Why is this even a thing? It has been proven that Blue decks are the most popular and some of the most powerful in the format. If you ignore the fetch and dual lands entirely, every card on that list is Wasteland or blue. Even the fetches and duals either produce blue or find a land that does. The blue cards on the list make sense, as Combo, Control, and even Aggro decks run these cards to make their hands better, or be cheap disruption. Perhaps this is why Imperial Painter sometimes shows up to do well in larger events – the deck that maindecks Red Elemental Blasts of course does well in a field full of blue.
So what have I learned today? In the average large event full of Treasure Cruise and Force of Will, any player would expect to do well playing Burn with four or five Red Blasts in his/her sideboard. The metagame is always evolving, but clearly cards like the Cruise and Monastery Swiftspear are making their mark.
I hope you learned something today as well. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see all of you next week!