Legacy is by far my favorite format. It is a format that usually requires more thought and strategy to become victorious, and offers a much deeper style of play than playing dudes and turning them sideways.
After playing Miracles for the better part of two years, I was forced into picking up something new with the sudden banning of everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) dreidel. I dabbled with a couple versions of Stoneblade, which Alex Hamilton explained here. However, it didn’t really fit me the way that Miracles did. I considered trying the Topless Mentor version and some form of Delver, but then Noah Cohen showed me 4-color Leovold.
If you pay attention to Legacy top 8s at all, you will have likely seen variations of this deck referred to as Czech/Super Pile, 4C Control, or 4C Unearth. The reason I really enjoy this deck is that it can take on many different personas in order to fit the pilot’s preference, or to adapt to the expected Meta and be competitive at any Legacy event.
4-color Leovold, by Ben Schuetzenhofer
This is the hybrid build I took for a spin in the Nerd Rage Gaming Championship Trial this past weekend. As you can see, I couldn’t decide which route I wanted to take with this deck, which was probably part of the reason I didn’t really sniff the Top 8. However, I wasn’t too upset with my deck as a whole. It is a Legacy who’s who of threats and answers that do everything they can to stop opponents from doing what they want to do while applying pressure early and often.
Deathrite Shaman: The 1-mana Planeswalker that everyone loves to hate. If he isn’t accelerating your mana, he is interacting with graveyards to cost players life or gain life for you. Works amazingly well against decks that utilize their graveyard to win the game, namely Reanimator, Storm and any deck attempting to Snapcaster something.
True-Name Nemesis: A fully protected creature in any matchup. Whether attacking or blocking, this card is extremely valuable at all times when it resolves.
Leovold: I never realized just how good this card really was until I started playing it. Want to Wasteland me? Let me draw first. Want to Thoughtseize me? Let me draw first. It doesn’t always win you the game, but it for sure gives you much better access to your answers when you need them. Oh, and your opponents only get to draw one card per turn.
Snapcaster Mage: Sometimes I may take one out, but I usually keep the full complement in because of …
Unearth: I will never take the two copies of this card out of the deck.
Cantrips: Brainstorm and Ponder both help you dig through your deck to find what you need; however I have taken out a Ponder before when I am removing Force of Will during sideboarding.
The Flex Spots
Literally everything else is a huge flex spot, depending on the matchups you expect and how you sideboard. Sometimes you will need to take out removal pieces, sometimes the control pieces aren’t as necessary. Force of Will is a great card in Game 1 of combo matchups, but against other blue decks it is just a bad 2-for-1. Fatal Push does nothing against Emrakul.
The worst part of this deck by far is how fragile the mana base is. With access to a basic Island and Swamp, you have some resiliency to Wasteland strategies, as long as Life from the Loam is not in the picture. But you run 9-10 fetch lands and 7-8 dual lands, with only 19-20 lands in the entire deck. Underground Seas are the most important duals in the deck, so sometimes it may be beneficial for you to bait a different dual land early to a Wasteland if the hand permits that flexibility. The one saving grace is that all of your fetch lands as well as your opponents’ help fuel Shaman to smooth out your mana issues.
Being a control player at heart, I couldn’t bring myself to go all-in on the more aggressive Unearth strategy. However, I want to touch on just how powerful Unearth really is. Over the course of the first couple of turns, you are working on playing your threats: A Shaman, a Snapcaster for a cantrip, True-Name Nemesis. Your Snapcaster is Fatally Pushed, and an unexpected Daze or Force of Will counters your Nemesis. Cast Unearth, target Snapcaster, use Snapcaster to re-cast Unearth into the True-Name Nemesis that was countered earlier. All aboard the value train.
Replace the True-Name with Leovold or another Snapcaster late in the game, and the board state changes almost immediately. I’ve even cycled Unearth before when I didn’t have a target due to a Nihil Spellbomb.
My previous control version of the deck ran Abrupt Decay, but I found it wasn’t as useful as I wanted it to be. The best thing it can do is take care of Chalice of the Void or Blood Moon, but sometimes it’s just dead.
One card I did not regret playing was Jace, the Mind Sculptor. At his very worst, he is able to bounce a creature and buy you a couple of turns while your opponent determines the fastest way to kill Jace, which in turn buys more time for you to find your threats. At his best, he is locking out your opponent by making sure they don’t draw cards that can beat you before he beats them.
If you suspect or know that you are playing against combo, the best route may be to attack their hand, thus the presence of Thoughtseize in the main. This card can be good in numerous control and combo matchups, but sometimes it is just a really bad dead draw.
As far as gameplay goes, you most often want to be casting a Deathrite turn 1 in order to attempt powering out True-Name or Leovold on turn 2. While applying pressure with Shamans, Leovold and Nemesis, the rest of the time you are using the toolbox of the deck to answer anything the opponent tries to do. However, sometimes the matchup doesn’t allow that line to develop that quickly, due to the unfair decks of Legacy out there ruining your life on turn 1. Sometimes, Flusterstorm or Spell Pierce are your only line of defense to just losing. Having access to more of a control build in the board makes those matchups better.
Surgical Extraction: For the same reasons as Invasive Surgery above, as well as any other combo pieces that possibly hit the graveyard. Cards like Dark Depths, Punishing Fire, Monastery Mentor and opposing True-Names are just a few great targets.
Engineered Explosives: Best against aggressive strategies leveraging Monk or Elemental tokens, but also performs well against Elves/Goblins. Midrange aggro strategies that leverage Sylvan Library or Chains of Mephistopheles are also surprised when this comes down for two, sometimes even getting a ‘Goyf and a Dark Confidant in the process.
Nihil Spellbomb: See Surgical Extraction; phenomenal against opposing Snapcaster Mages.
Flusterstorm: Sometimes you just need another answer for combo.
Counterspell: Sometimes you just need two more answers for combo.
Liliana of the Veil: Good against opposing True-Name decks, the mirror, and other grindy matchups.
Jace, The Mind Sculptor: When control is the strategy, there isn’t a better option. Nuff said.
With four colors, the deck adapts to whatever it is playing against to present a fair, balanced game plan against most decks. Post sideboard, the deck is normally ahead and can answer numerous opposing strategies.
Reanimator: See Deathrite Shaman above, and post sideboard you have a lot of graveyard interaction. If you can counter one of their recursion spells or Entomb, you are usually set if you can resolve a Deathrite.
Midrange Aggro/Delver: You have enough answers for their dudes, plus reanimation of your own to make their kill spells a bit less relevant. Many of these decks work to attack your hand, so you may lose a piece or two early on, but they are usually not fast enough to recover once you land True-Name or Leovold.
Control: You present enough threats to keep them on their heels, and you have answers for just about anything they bring out except for an opposing Jace. These matchups aren’t about pacing their counter magic with yours as much as it is just dealing with the low amounts of threats that they have. You have to deal with Mentor and Jace immediately before they just beat you.
There are not that many actual bad matchups when playing this deck because of its diversity. However, there are definitely cards that numerous decks play which can shut you down instantly. These need to be answered as soon as you can after they are played, or countered before they wreak havoc.
Blood Moon: This is why the deck runs two basics, but if it comes down turn 1 or 2 it probably doesn’t matter.
Chalice of the Void: This deck runs on 1- and 2-mana cards, and the only maindeck way around it is Kolaghan’s Command.
Burn: All of their spells kill all of our creatures (and us). Price of Progress is really good against us.
Lands: Life of the Loam is a real card, especially when it is returning Wasteland and Ghost Quarter. This will ruin you, as our deck only plays 9-10 lands that actually produce mana. Deathrite is our only chance at survival in game 1.
Eldrazi: Spoiler alert: Turn 1 Chalice on 1 usually just wins unless you find your Command and survive long enough to cast it.
I consider most combo decks to be about even matchups. This includes Storm, Show and Tell, Food Chain and Belcher. If they go off and you stop them, you usually just win because of card and board advantage. The important part of these matchups is disruption; counters and discard spells are necessary to win.
I have never enjoyed playing a deck as much as I do this one. Your draws open up so many different lines due to the variety of cards available and the different ways that the deck interacts with the opponent.
It may be better for some to focus their deck into more aggressive or control strategies, but for me, I really enjoy the flexibility of going all in on one of the strategies in game 2 as a surprise factor. If an opponent expects you to be sideboarding into a control strategy, maybe moving to the aggressive spectrum is a way to surprise them. Maybe the opposing control opponent sees you play your Jace in game 1, then game 2 they see you Pithing Needle Jace the turn before they were going to play their own.
Legacy as a whole is a very cerebral format, with minor details in strategy deciding the fate of the game pretty quickly. I am looking forward to the next Legacy event I get to compete in, because repetition and practice is the name of the game when it comes to Legacy. Hope you enjoyed the read, have nice day!
Ben Schuetzenhofer is an amateur Magic player who started playing in Mirrodin Block, took a break from the game while many of the best cards were printed, then paid way too much to start playing again during Origins. He enjoys all formats of competitive Magic, and is a continuous student of the game who tries to expand his knowledge with every win or defeat.