The Kings of Legacy

One thing that makes Legacy such an interesting Magic the Gathering format is the large number of decks to choose from, many of which are tier one. Up to this point, I have written about many lower costing deck ideas for just entering the format. Now I would like to go over what I believe to be the top decks in Legacy and show you what to expect when entering a Legacy event, as well as what decks you might transition into as you get further into the format.

[deck title=”Sneak and Show”]
Sneak and Show
[Creatures]
4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
3 Griselbrand
2 Simian Spirit Guide
[/creatures]
[Spells]
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
2 Intuition
4 Lotus Petal
2 Misdirection
4 Ponder
1 Preordain
4 Show and Tell
4 Sneak Attack
3 Spell Pierce
[/spells]
[Lands]
2 Ancient Tomb
2 City of Traitors
1 Flooded Strand
3 Island
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Volcanic Island
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Defense Grid
1 Flusterstorm
1 Hydroblast
1 Karakas
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Stifle
1 Submerge
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Through the Breach
1 Wipe Away
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

We begin with a combo deck that has been making impressive showings in Legacy for some time now: Sneak and Show. The main goal in this deck is to combine [card]Show and Tell[/card] or [card]Sneak Attack[/card] with [card]Griselbrand[/card] or [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card], and cheat your large creature into play. [card]Show and Tell[/card] will give them a turn to respond, but normally it’s their last. However, [card]Sneak Attack[/card] gives the creature haste, allowing you to smash in with whichever monster you placed into play. One of the main reasons this combo deck is seeing so much success is because it has its own suite of counters to fight opposing counters, giving it resilience against cards that normally stop a combo dead in its tracks.

Because you have back-up [card]counterspell[/card]s in this deck to help protect your combo from opposing hate, your match-ups against control are not as difficult as with other combo decks. In terms of a worst match-up for the deck, I would have to say BUG or Esper Stoneblade since they have both discard spells like [card]Thoughtseize[/card] as well as counter magic like [card]Force of Will[/card].

Coming in at close to $2,000, this is a deck that will no doubt require some investment. The good thing is that it does contain staples, such as [card]Force of Will[/card], which will transition between many of the decks in Legacy. That said, when you begin to buy into the top decks of this format, there will need to be some serious investment in many cases, between the mana base and staple spells.

[deck title=”RUG Delver”]
[Creatures]
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nimble Mongoose
4 Tarmogoyf
[/creatures]
[Spells]
4 Brainstorm
2 Chain Lightning
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Ponder
2 Spell Pierce
2 Spell Snare
4 Stifle
[/spells]
[Lands]
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland
4 Wooded Foothills
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Forked Bolt
1 Krosan Grip
2 Pyroblast
2 Rough // Tumble
4 Submerge
1 Sulfur Elemental
1 Sulfuric Vortex
3 Surgical Extraction
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

Our next deck has become very popular in the format and is a good deck to prepare for when attending any Legacy event. This deck is RUG Delver, one of the “fair” decks of Legacy that also posts a high win percentage. This deck uses a lot of powerful and high-value cards to win its matches. The spells are very good at controlling what the opponent can and cannot do, with full sets of both [card]Force of Will[/card] and [card]Daze[/card], as well as copies of [card]Stifle[/card], [card]Spell Snare[/card] and [card]Spell Pierce[/card] for added control. The creature base is filled with attackers that are very powerful within this shell, since any of them will win the game quickly on its own. All this in combination make this deck a force to be reckoned with.

One key card that some people don’t appreciate as much as they should is [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card]. This card synergizes well with the spell base within the deck. I say this because the cheap digging spells like [card]Brainstorm[/card] fill RUG’s graveyard, and thus achieve threshold, very early in the game. Since [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] also calls for a large spell count this card also fits right in.

One match-up I’ve seen RUG Delver have issues with is Dredge. This is because Dredge does not do very much that the Delver deck can interact with. Really, the only spells you can counter are the [card]Careful Study[/card] effects and [card]Breakthrough[/card], and they don’t need to resolve a [card]Dread Return[/card]. They can simply mass enough zombie tokens from [card]Bridge from Below[/card] and use [card]Ichorid[/card] to win. This is, of course, why the sideboard of the RUG deck contains three [card]Surgical Extraction[/card]s. In the Dredge matchup in particular, board out some of the more narrow counters like [card]Spell Snare[/card], since not many of their cards can be countered by it.

To purchase this deck from scratch you would be looking at close to a $2,100 investment. The good thing about owning a deck like this is that you own many of the staples that are used the world over in the format, including [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Wasteland[/card], [card]Brainstorm[/card] and many of the lands. All in all this deck is almost always a solid choice when entering a Legacy event and is also one that you should be prepared to face.

[deck title=”UW Miracles”]
[Creatures]
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
[/creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
[/Planeswalkers]
[Spells]
4 Brainstorm
1 Counterbalance
2 Counterspell
1 Disenchant
2 Entreat the Angels
4 Force of Will
4 Ponder
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Terminus
[/spells]
[Lands]
4 Flooded Strand
5 Island
1 Karakas
1 Misty Rainforest
2 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
2 Scalding Tarn
3 Tundra
1 Windswept Heath
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Counterbalance
1 Detention Sphere
1 Disenchant
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Humility
2 Jace Beleren
2 Path to Exile
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Rest in Peace
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

The next list is the closest you will get to a solid control deck in Legacy: UW Miracles. Numbers of the various cards are often varied according to player preference, but it is always a solid contender. This deck uses the powerful card manipulation spells such as [card]Brainstorm[/card] and [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] to manipulate the top of your deck, adding powerful possibilities to the miracle cards of [card]Terminus[/card] and [card]Entreat the Angels[/card], as well as maintaining the soft lock of [card]Counterbalance[/card] and [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card]. The above list also has a planeswalker suite of two [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card], and three [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], which are very strong because there are many decks out there that cannot easily remove a planeswalker once it has resolved.

One combo I mentioned before was [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] and [card]Counterbalance[/card]. This combo is so strong together because it puts a soft lock on your opponent. How it works is because you are able to manipulate the top 3 cards of your library you are able to float a card on top that will counter one of their relevant spells and really help keep the game in your favor. Another advantage which is huge in this format is that should they cast a spell with converted mana cost 1, you can simply tap your [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card], draw a card, then put it on top of your library. If you do all of this while the trigger for your [card]Counterbalance[/card] is still on the stack you can then reveal your Top to it and counter the spell. This alone can shut down a number of decks such as High Tide since the spells they need to combo are mana cost 1.

This deck is also good at keeping many fair decks in check with the four copies of [card]Terminus[/card], which you can set up as a miracle with [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card]. Not only are you able to float them on top until you need them, but you can draw them on their turn to reveal a miracle card at instant speed, giving it that extra blow-out factor against decks like Goblins, which tend to play creatures pre-combat.

In terms of a bad match-up for this deck I would have to go with Mono Red Burn. Despite a [card]Counterbalance[/card] and [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] combo doing a lot to lock them out of a game, getting to the stage where you have that is the main issue. Also finding your 1 of mainboard [card]Counterbalance[/card] may not always happen and burn will be able to kill you before you can establish any board presence. Against them you really do want the extra copies of [card]Counterbalance[/card] over something like [card]Terminus[/card], since their creature count is very low.

The average price of this deck is close to $2,200, mainly due to the mana base and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] (whose price continues to climb), as well as the four copies of [card]Force of Will[/card] of course. Combo decks are at an all-time high in Legacy right now, and [card]Force of Will[/card] is a solid answer that helps keep them in check.

[deck title=”Esper Stone-Blade”]
[Creatures]
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Vendilion Clique
[/creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
[/Planeswalkers]
[Spells]
1 Batterskull
4 Brainstorm
1 Counterspell
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Force of Will
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Intuition
3 Lingering Souls
2 Ponder
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Thoughtseize
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Vindicate
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Flooded Strand
1 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
1 Karakas
2 Marsh Flats
1 Plains
3 Polluted Delta
1 Scrubland
1 Swamp
3 Tundra
3 Underground Sea
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Blue Elemental Blast
2 Cabal Therapy
1 Disenchant
1 Force of Will
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Misdirection
1 Perish
1 Phantasmal Image
2 Spell Pierce
1 Supreme Verdict
3 Surgical Extraction
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

Like RUG Delver, this next deck is a very popular choice when entering a Legacy event. Esper Stone-Blade uses the [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] toolbox engine to put equipment such as [card]Batterskull[/card] and [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card] into play without risk of them being countered. Beyond this package, it is in many ways an Esper Control deck, playing cards such as [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], and [card]Thoughtseize[/card] alongside our old friend [card]Force of Will[/card]. These decks also seem to favor three [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], in their lists, since he gives great card advantage and provides a win condition should the game go long.

Some key things to note with this deck are cards that do not see much mainboard play elsewhere yet have found their way into this list. Some examples are [card]Engineered Explosives[/card], which can be used to keep creature-based decks like Goblins in check; and [card]Vindicate[/card], which is a solid card against Reanimator and decks with a low land, where it acts as a [card]Stone Rain[/card]. [card]Intuition[/card] is often more popular in combo decks because it can be used to find a missing combo piece, but it has good utility in this deck as well. One cute interaction is casting it and searching out three copies of [card]Lingering Souls[/card], putting one into your hand and the other two in the graveyard to flash back for tremendous value.

This deck was built to not have very many bad match-ups, but it is definitely stronger against fair decks such as Merfolk and Goblins than against combo decks like Ad Nauseam Tendrils and Sneak and Show. A deck like ANT in particular can simply use its own discard spells to take out your interaction and then go about their combo, so I would say that is likely this decks worst match-up.

The cost of this deck is around $2,800; however, the deck is a very consistent finisher in many Legacy events because it has great answers to fair decks and unfair decks alike, making it always a solid choice in an unknown meta.

[deck title=”Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT)”]
[Spells]
1 Ad Nauseam
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
2 Cabal Therapy
4 Dark Ritual
4 Duress
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Infernal Tutor
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
1 Past in Flames
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Tendrils of Agony
[/spells]
[Lands]
2 Gemstone Mine
1 Island
4 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Swamp
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
4 Abrupt Decay
1 Cabal Therapy
3 Carpet of Flowers
2 Chain of Vapor
2 Ignorant Bliss
1 Karakas
1 Massacre
1 Tropical Island
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

This next deck is one of the more powerful combo decks in this format: Ad Nauseam Tendrils, also known as ANT. This is a storm deck that uses [card]Ad Nauseam[/card], [card]Infernal Tutor[/card], and many other deck manipulation spells to find its kill condition, [card]Tendrils of Agony[/card]. The main reason this deck is so consistent is that it plays a very large amount of hand disruption and is able to use that to take away any answers its opponent might have before going into combo.

One of the main engines in this deck is the interaction between [card]Infernal Tutor[/card] and [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card]. The way [card]Infernal Tutor[/card] is written, you do not have to reveal a card as you cast it, meaning that, in response, if there is nothing of great value left in your hand, you can sacrifice the [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] in response, which will turn on Hellbent and allow you to tutor for (and also pay for) any card you want. Early in the combo this can be used to acquire cards such as [card]Past in Flames[/card], to replay spells you’ve already used or discarded, or [card]Ad Nauseam[/card], to dig deep into your deck for enough cards to win. In the later parts of your combo you can simply use this to find your [card]Tendrils of Agony[/card] and kill your opponent.

One of the main decks this list can have problems with is actually Jund, a deck known more for its ability to control fair decks much easier then combo decks. That said, they run a full set of [card]Thoughtseize[/card] as well as a couple [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], which are far better weapons against this list then counters are. So when facing Jund be sure you are confident in your hand and know that it is able to fight through discard, but don’t mulligan unless you have to since Jund is not the type of deck you want to help give you card disadvantage.

The average price of this deck is around $1,500, not bad compared to the other decks we’ve looked at so far. However, I will say that ANT requires a lot of skill and practice to use to its full potential. Being able to examine a hand and know when to combo is a difficult thing to master, but once you master this deck you can normally pull wins in any match-up.

[deck title=”Punishing Jund”]
[Creatures]
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Dark Confidant
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Tarmogoyf
[/creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
4 Liliana of the Veil
[/Planeswalkers]
[Spells]
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Hymn to Tourach
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Punishing Fire
1 Sylvan Library
4 Thoughtseize
[/spells]
[Lands]
3 Badlands
2 Bayou
2 Bloodstained Mire
1 Graven Cairns
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Wasteland
4 Wooded Foothills
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Duress
1 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Mindbreak Trap
2 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Pyroblast
2 Surgical Extraction
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

Next I wanted to review a deck that has only recently begun putting up results in Legacy with the Return to Ravnica set: Punishing Jund. At first glance, this deck looks similar to the Jund deck that was a powerhouse in the Modern format. That’s because it is. However, Legacy allows the added benefit of some very powerful cards such as [card]Sylvan Library[/card], [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], and [card]Wasteland[/card]. Also, it can use the [card]Punishing Fire[/card] combo with [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] since it is legal in this format.

The main idea is to use [card]Dark Confidant[/card] and [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] to provide enough advantage to power through whatever your opponent is doing, as well as discard to help you control your opponent’s hand. The two main cards printed in Return to Ravnica that made this deck playable in Legacy were [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] and [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], both of which provided the deck with answers to problem cards and helped it emerge as a high contender.

Combining [card]Punishing Fire[/card] with [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] lets this deck control creature decks with recursive burn. The lifegain on [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] triggers [card]Punishing Fire[/card] in the graveyard, letting you pay a red and return it to your hand. This is a combo that many creature decks such as Goblins and Merfolk have an issue dealing with since the Fire is able to kill many of their creatures.

I think one of the harder match-ups for this deck would be the BUG Agent deck. They get such value off of [card]Shardless Agent[/card] and [card]Ancestral Vision[/card] that it is hard to control the cards in their hand, which is something that this deck really wants to do. Though [card]Punishing Fire[/card] is able to kill many of their creatures, there is small chance you will be able to catch a [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] with it.

The price tag on this deck is around $2,200, and it is a deck that has strong potential simply because it uses a lot of value cards to help achieve its goal.

[deck title=”BUG Agent”]
[Creatures]
2 Baleful Strix
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Shardless Agent
4 Tarmogoyf
[/creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
[/Planeswalkers]
[Spells]
4 Abrupt Decay
4 Ancestral Vision
4 Brainstorm
3 Force of Will
3 Hymn to Tourach
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Thoughtseize
[/spells]
[Lands]
2 Bayou
2 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Polluted Delta
2 Tropical Island
4 Underground Sea
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Wasteland
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Baleful Strix
2 Chill
1 Hymn to Tourach
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Thoughtseize
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

The final deck I wanted to review is one I am a huge fan of and that was piloted by Gerry Thompson to first place at the Invitational tournament held in Atlanta. This deck is BUG Agent, which uses [card]Shardless Agent[/card] to cascade into powerful cards. One of the stronger cascades is [card]Ancestral Vision[/card], which lets you draw three cards for no extra mana. A 2/2 for 1GU that can draw three cards? I’d play that all day long. This list also has access to very strong counter magic in [card]Force of Will[/card] and hand disruption with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card]. The list is simply all-around solid.

This deck is proves to be so strong because it has answers to the majority of the format. Great removal such as [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card] hit problem creatures, and discard spells and countermagic help handle control decks while putting the threat of a decent clock on board. It is a very powerful deck that is built to be able to abuse all the interactions within it.

It is difficult to say what a bad match-up would be for this deck, which has such power and advantage in its cards, but if I had to pick one I would go with Dredge again. The main reason I’m saying this is because Dredge is fast and doesn’t care about its cards being discarded or countered. It is one of the decks that BUG Agent has few ways in interact with pre-board.

This list is the most expensive of the decks we’ve looked at, coming in at about $3200, but it is worth it. I feel like this has great potential to post many future wins in Legacy and is a deck I figure we’ll be seeing for a long while to come.

Well I hope that this has given everyone a good idea of what to expect when you decide to play in a Legacy event and also some ideas for decks you may want to pilot at hose events.

On a side note I have started a stream on twitch.tv within the last couple of weeks. I’ve been playing a large amount of Modern, and Legacy when I can afford it, so feel free to stop by there and say hi, and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have about Legacy or Modern or Magic in general. My channel can be found at twitch.tv/stoylesmtg.

Thanks again,

Chris Stoyles

@StoylesMTG