It’s no question that my favorite format by far is Legacy.
The reason for this because of the dynamic game play and countless small decisions that are the difference between winning and losing. Sure, sometimes there are games where there is a Turn 1 Griselbrand or Chalice of the Void, or you get hit with multiple Wastelands to keep you from playing any spells for the entire game, but sometimes, you have to take the bad with the good.
Part of what helps keep this balance compared to a format like Modern is the Force of Will safety checks, which make players think more cautiously and don’t just let the game end immediately without participation. When I started playing Legacy back in 2013, Esper Stoneblade was the “unbeatable” deck of the format, and since the printing of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, Stoneforge Mystic’s time in the limelight quickly diminished in favor of Delver and Miracles. Legacy has been that way even after the quick departure of Cruise and Dig.
Fast forward three years. After years of Miracles dominance, Sensei’s Divining Top is banned in Legacy. This banning was bittersweet, because I did enjoy playing against Miracles and am always happy when a control deck is the best deck in a format. However this opened the door for good ‘ol Stoneblade to make its triumphant return.
At the last Nerd Rage Gaming Championship Trial, Joe Bernal made sure that Stoneforge Mystic’s return was indeed triumphant. If you’re a Midwest player, you likely know that Joe loves playing Stoneblade, and he plays it well. On his way to his CT victory he didn’t drop a single match.
I had the opportunity to play Joe in the Top 4 and was handed this decklist by the judges:
U/W Stoneblade, by Joe Bernal, 1st place, May NRG CT
Joe’s deck building philosophy is really showcased here, as he just wants to have as many copies of his most powerful spells — such as True-Name Nemesis — as possible. As happy as I was to not see any Back to Basics in his deck — a card he’s been known to play in the past — I wasn’t thrilled to see his deck maxed out on threats while playing 3-4 of most of his answer cards, making his deck incredibly consistent and powerful.
One piece of tech that Joe brought to good use for this event was two main deck copies of Flusterstorm. The deck naturally has all the fair matchups covered in the main, so his sideboard is there to focus on combo matchups. Finding the space to play Flusterstorm in the main gives him some extra protection game 1 against spell-based combo decks.
Joe wasn’t the only Stoneblade player to have a successful event at the last CT. In fact, we had three Stoneblade decks in the top 8.
Another one I want to highlight is Alexander Hamilton’s 4-Color Deathblade, which is reminiscent of the early versions of Reid Duke’s True-Name Sultai deck that won GP Louisville to start 2017.
As we saw by Alex’s last CT top 8 and his eulogy to Sensei’s Divining Top, Alex was a huge fan of Miracles. Prior to picking up that deck he was a huge advocate of Stoneblade, so it was interesting to see the 75 he brought to the CT after Top was banned.
Based on the Top 8 decks, Alex found himself in a friendly meta, as he was able to get True-Name Nemesis going as early as the second turn of the game. Leovold is still incredibly well positioned against blue control decks, as well as Delver and Elves, which made up the rest of the top 8.
4-Color Deathblade, by Alexander Hamilton, Top 8, May NRG CT
Part of what makes Legacy such a great format is that even after a huge banning, such as Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time and now Sensei’s Divining Top, decks that utilize these cards to the greatest effect didn’t die out, but rather adjusted and adapted thanks to the depth of the card pool. Since the day Top was banned, Miracles players have been trying to find any way possible to keep the deck alive, as Terminus is incredibly powerful in attacking a format where people are gravitating towards four copies of True-Name Nemesis. This started out with Soothsaying and went as far as Scroll Rack before a true solution to the woes of Top’s absence was found.
Miracles, by WhiteFaces, 5-0 MTGO Competitive League
This version of Miracles is held together by one of the oddballs of Magic’s design: “Slow-Trip” upkeep triggers. You may remember this triggered ability from cards such as Mishra’s Bauble and Arcane Denial. However, this time the card in question is Portent. This gives you an extra effect similar to Ponder and Brainstorm to manipulate the top of your library. Unlike the other cantrips, Portent draws the card at the beginning of the next upkeep. This means that the card you draw from this trigger will always be the first card you draw for the turn, so all of your Miracles are live. In some interesting corner-case scenarios, Portent can target your opponent and mess with the top of their library, as well as give you some extra information for the rest of the match. The game plan of the deck is still largely the same; keep the board clean with Terminus and counterspells and close the game out with Jace or Entreat the Angels while drawing a ton of cards.
With the absence of Top, Counterbalance isn’t nearly as reliable, so combo matchups become much more difficult. Nearly every single sideboard card can be a useful tool for various combo decks. The first thing that sticks out is three copies of Ethersworn Canonist as well as three copies of Flusterstorm. This is mostly a nod to Storm specifically; with Storm on the rise, be prepared to face one of the most powerful combo decks Legacy has to offer.
With the banning of Top making Legacy a fresh and vibrant format again, there are endless possibilities to what could be at the top of the Legacy metagame at any given time. At the end of the day, Legacy is a format where you can play whatever you wish, so no matter what style of deck you enjoy, there is a deck for you.
Justin Brickman is an SCG Tour grinder from suburban Chicago who began playing Magic during Innistrad block. His Magic accomplishments include an SCG Regionals Top 16 and a Super Sunday Series Top 4. He can be reached on Twitter @BrickerclawMyr.