Why We Love Legacy: Jordan Pollack On How To Play Legacy On A Budget

Not everyone can purchase a set of duals. But there are some budget options or less expensive staples that you can focus on to get into Legacy without having to break the bank.

Here is TCG mid for some top legacy staples. I used MTGtop8.com and searched for top cards played in Legacy decks this year:

  1. Force of Will ($75)
  2. Polluted Delta/all fetches (around $15-20)
  3. Wasteland ($30)
  4. Volcanic Island/duals (wide range, from $50-200)
  5. Deathrite Shaman ($4)
  6. True-Name Nemesis ($25)
  7. Jace, the Mind Sculptor ($50)
  8. Snapcaster Mage ($45)
  9. Umezawa’s Jitte ($15)
  10. Thoughtseize ($15)
  11. Karakas ($30)
  12. Lotus Petal ($7)
  13. Stoneforge Mystic ($15)
  14. Ancient Tomb ($25)
  15. Leovold, Emissary of Trest ($30)
  16. Dark Confidant ($45)
  17. Kolaghan’s Command ($9)
  18. Cavern of Souls ($44)
  19. City of Traitors ($120)
  20. Chalice of the Void ($75)

Top tier decks average cost (Approximation)

Lands ($3,531)
Stoneblade ($2,280)
Delver ($2,198)
Storm ($2,098)
Reanimator ($1,772)
Aluren ($1,455)
Elves ($1,425)
Infect ($1,324)
Eldrazi aggro ($1,138)
Death and taxes ($989)
Burn ($295)

Surprisingly, Tarmogoyf doesn’t make the list. It’s definitely at the top of the price scale ($90), but it’s not very popular now. With the rise of removal like Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay, and the downfall of Red-based removal (Forked Bolt, Lightning Bolt, etc.) Tarmogoyf dies to a lot.

Gurmag Angler ($1) is becoming more popular and the main way to kill that is a sideboarded Dismember. Plus the ground game is being clogged up. Whether it’s from an army of 1/1 elves or Young Pyromancer ($2) tokens, Tarmogoyf has trouble bashing opponents faces.

My price memory point changed in 2013, when I used to think of top tier price points as Tarmogoyf (then $120-150), Vendilion Clique (then $50), and Dark Confidant (then $50). Then Modern Masters dropped and the reprints started flooding in. Now those creatures are almost obsolete. Even perhaps the best creature in battle ever, True-Name Nemesis, doesn’t get played in that many different Legacy decks.

Obviously Brainstorm, Delver of Secrets and Ponder are at the top of the list of cheap Legacy staples, but they can be bought for under $1. You can get them as throw-ins if you want, but I would stock up on them.

Mid-level cards like Abrupt Decay, Lotus Petal, and Deathrite Shaman are very important too. They can be good trade bait for other cards, or they can be used to build your own deck. Buy!

Keep in mind a lot of these cards above just got a huge reprint. Yay for you! Force of Will used to be a $100 bill easily and Wastelands were impossible to find, even though they were only $50-60. Don’t get me started on my English Karakas 4x set I purchased for $400. Luckily I foiled out Chalice of the Voids for $20 each, which let me laugh all the way to the bank.

Buy a Playset

Force of Will
Snapcaster Mage
Cavern of Souls
Deathrite Shaman
Chalice of the Void

You can’t go wrong buying a playset of Force of Will. Most legacy decks play four copies or zero, with not a lot of in-between. Can you get away with playing three? In some cases, but your chances of drawing them in your opening hand drop significantly. Force of Will is needed against the combo decks badly, and not having one could be the difference between a W and an L and drop. Decks like Belcher, Reanimator, and Storm can easily kill you on turn 1 with no permission. Sometimes a Force of Will on a Natural Order ($12) from Elves makes all the difference.

Only buy them for specific decks

Dual lands
City of Traitors/Ancient Tomb
Dark Confidant
Stoneforge Mystic
Jace, The Mind Sculptor

These cards you might not need a full playset of, but they are essential to winning. Stoneforge cheating in Batterskulls is cheating, Jace is the best planeswalker ever, and City of Traitors and the other “Sol lands” that tap for two mana help power out creatures or spells ahead of curve. Crystal Vein (less than $1) can be used as a budget replacement for City of Traitors if necessary.

Are these expensive? Sure, because it’s legacy. But they are needed to win in the decks that play them.

The Property Tax

I could talk all day about why dual lands are a great Reserve List investment. Is Volcanic Island used more than Plateau? Sure! Is Volcanic Island that much better than Steam Vents? Not really. On a budget, Steam Vents and the other shock lands can be used as great substitutes. Playing against Lands? Either they attack you for 20 or not. What’s the difference between being at 18 or 20 if you still lose? Dual lands are sometimes just better, so you must consider them for purchase if you are serious about playing competitively. But if you’re getting started and on a budget, shock lands can provide basically the same functionality for a lot less money.

In Stoneblade decks like Alex Hamilton’s list that won the most recent Legacy CT do you need the Karakas? No, but it can shore up some matchups such as Sneak and Show. For getting into the competitive scene I would buy one. You don’t need more than that unless you are building a certain deck that will definitely need a lot of white mana, such as Death and Taxes.

Did John Ryan Hamilton need a Horizon Canopy ($85) in his Death and Taxes deck? Probably not. But it does provide draw power in a color like white that usually doesn’t have it.

Sideboard Staples

Other cards I have to recommend scooping up are sideboard staples like Surgical Extraction ($18) Flusterstorm ($70), Pithing Needle ($1), Grafdigger’s Cage ($4), Ancient Grudge ($1), Pyroblast ($2), Ethersworn Canonist ($11). Easy to trade for, as most are used in Modern and Legacy. Easy to sell, as the buy price is always high.

I do find it interesting that the top 8 decks were all aggro decks that win through damage (infect is still an aggro deck, although some people place it as a combo deck). Combo decks like Storm, Elves, Lands, and Reanimator just aren’t that popular in Chicago.

This also says that most people who have Legacy cards tend to just play one strategy. Playing storm or food chain is completely different than just turning dudes sideways in Elves or Delver. Try to focus in on what you are best at, and buy cards for that strategy.

Jordan Pollack is a tax accountant and Magic player from suburban Chicago. He holds an accounting degree from the University of Kansas and is currently pursuing CPA certification. He enjoys watching the Blackhawks and doing manly things such as fixing a leaky sink, grilling, and making sure his girlfriend has everything she needs (and wants).

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Jordan Pollack