Narrowing in on the Legacy Metagame

Rich Cali
October 17, 2017

Last month I attended GP Providence to play some Team Sealed, which was the first paper Magic Tournament I have played in quite some time. For the most part, I have transitioned to playing mostly online out of ease of use and convenience and it has largely been great. However, playing a paper tournament again I remembered how amazing it was to sling spells in person. As such, I am going to make an effort to get out of the house and battle people in person again.
The first of these for me is going to be the SCG Open in Washington DC at the end of the month. Lucky for me the format even happens to be Legacy! What this means for me is that my playing now has a bit more of a purpose. As opposed to just playing to learn in a general sense, earn value, and have fun, I am going to have to shift my focus to evaluating the metagame closely, making a deck choice based on my expectations, and figuring out how to correctly tune my deck for this context. This week I am going to go over what I think the metagame looks like now (mostly based on MTGO results) and then evaluate how that will shape up for the Open.

In order to organize the decks, I will break them down into tiers, in which the decks mentioned have no particular order of power to them. There are a few factors that are going to go into considering a deck for a certain tier. These are, in no particular order: Power, consistency, popularity, and expected number that will be played against over a long tournament. The last two are related, and are similar, but part of the difference between the two is regarding how many I would expect to play deeper into a tournament as opposed to in the first few rounds. Burn is a deck that I would expect to play against 1 or 2 times early in the tournament but not many times in day 2. Burn is a fine choice, even boasting some good matchups against tier 1 decks, but I don’t think the deck has good enough matchups against the broader Legacy field to put large numbers into day 2.

A final note is that being tier 2 (or even, not on any of my lists), as opposed to tier 1, doesn’t mean that i’m discounting those decks’ place in Legacy or their power. This is a visual guide for me, which will hopefully be helpful to you readers, as well, indicating how well I think the discussed decks are positioned.

The Tier 1

  • Czech Pile
  • Grixis Delver
  • Storm

To me, this tier holds the decks that most represent the metagame. The 3 decks here have the intersection of power level and popularity that I think decks need in order to be considered the top tier. Each of these decks I would expect to play against 2 or more times over a long tournament, many of which I would expect to see later in the tournament, which is substantial in a format like Legacy, where there are so many different decks and archetypes. In addition, I think these decks are the most stable and consistent at enacting their game plan every single round.

Enough has been said about the two fairs decks on this list, even in my articles, so I don’t intend on breaking down those choices here. I have mentioned in many of my articles that I think Storm is among the best decks in the format and I don’t think anything has come up to change that. Czech Pile has grown much more popular over the past few months, which is a rise of a close matchup for Storm, but I still think overall Pile is a bit underpowered in the matchup, giving Storm the edge. When I am choosing and tuning my deck for the event, these are the decks that I am going to strongly consider and aim to beat.

The Tier 1.5

  • Death and Taxes
  • Lands
  • Elves
  • Mono Red Prison
  • Show and Tell

To me, this tier represents powerful decks which fall a bit short on one of my aforementioned factors but have good matchups against two-thirds of the tier 1 decks. Between these 5, I expect to play against them at least 5-7 times total in a long event. Elves, Mono-Red, and Show and Tell decks all exist in similar deck space to me. They are all brutally powerful at times and present pretty solid matchups against the majority of the fair decks in the format, specifically Grixis Delver and Czech Pile. However, I think these decks are much easier to both prepare for and beat with a narrow subset of cards than any of the 3 decks in the tier 1. Of course I still think they are great choices, but if people expect to play against them, the range of cards that they have access to in order to boost their matchups are large (such as Toxic Deluge against Elves).

Lands is a bit of a weird inclusion. On the one hand, there are no decks in Legacy that are better at beating up fair, creature-based strategies than Lands. On that front, it is not missing anything on power level. On the other hand, it leaves a lot to be desired in its combo matchups, most notably Storm, as that matchup is incredibly difficult. In addition to that, this deck still suffers from card availability, as always, and as such, I would not expect to play against it more than once in an event. That being said, I think Lands warrants being prepared for because the relatively small number of people who will pilot it have a good chance at making a deep run into the tournament.

To me, Death and Taxes is the closest deck on the list to breaking into the tier 1. Somehow this collection of annoying White creatures always holds its own. Recruiter of the Guard really beafed the deck up on both the power and consistency front when it was printed and Death and Taxes has proven that it can keep up with the majority of what decks can throw against it. Despite both this, and a generally good Grixis Delver matchup, this deck’s particularly poor Czech Pile matchup holds in back from the tier 1, in my eyes. Seeing as Pile is so popular and that the matchup is somewhat challenging, I don’t think D&T is going to be over-represented in the later rounds of the tournament.

Tier 2

  • UW Stoneblade
  • Bant Deathblade
  • Punishing Maverick
  • Sultai Delver
  • BR Reanimator
  • UR Delver

Finally, these decks round out what I expect to play against at DC. Once again, the intersection of all 4 factors is what defines this tier list. Both Stoneforge decks and Sultai Delver are very stable, consistent choices in a long tournament. Depending on how these decks are built they can have answers to a wide range of strategies and that is a really solid place to be in a Legacy tournament. These decks lack a little bit of power relative to the rest of the format, however. Grixis delver and Czech Pile are both more brutal and generate more card advantage, in general. In addition, these decks don’t have good enough matchups against anything in the format to really warrant choosing them over any of the tier 1 decks, in my eyes. That’s why I don’t expect to play against these decks too often in DC, but I do expect them to pop up in some number.

UR Delver is a good, consistent deck and it boasts relatively favorable matchups against both Grixis and Pile. The large amount of removal is great against many of the creature-based decks in Legacy. It has a lot of things going for it: An aggressive curve, cheap disruption, and a consistent game plan. One of the larger problems this deck has, however, is a general weakness to other relatively popular decks in Legacy. The Storm matchup is much worse for this deck, as opposed to other Delver decks. The Death and Taxes, Lands, and Elves matchups are quite bad. This deck has more potential to steal games with an aggressive draw than other Delver decks, however, which makes it a contender. Overall, though, I think it’s a weaker choice than many of the other decks throughout these lists.

Maverick is a weird choice to make the list. As of the past few years, because of Miracles’ dominance and the rise of Death and Taxes, Maverick sort of fell by the wayside for a long time. However, I think this deck is poised for a comeback as a metagame choice because it boasts strong matchups against all of the tier 1 and that is a big deal. The ability to aggressively use Wasteland, deploy protected Knight of the Reliquaries, and use Punishing Fire to pull way head on cards makes it difficult for Czech Pile and Grixis Delver to get in the game. In addition, if this deck can survive to turn 2, it has a great chance at defeating Storm with the presence of Thalia and Gaddock Teeg. I don’t know if this deck has the feet to still compete in a long Legacy tournament, but I think if there’s a time for it, it is right now.

Finally, there’s BR Reanimator. I saved this for last because its placing on this list is very simple. It’s powerful and fast but very easy to prepare for. I think it needs to be prepared for because of its power, but once a certain amount of graveyard hate is included I do not think that it is a worrisome matchup for most decks.

The Rest

There are so many other decks in Legacy that didn’t make it onto this list of what I am prepping for. Decks like Miracles, Food Chain, Alluren, Turbo Depths and so many more are all perfectly fine decks, but I don’t think they will be too popular at the event. I might expect to play against 1 or 2 of those throughout the day, but I don’t think that will warrant tuning my deck for.

As for deck choice, I am currently torn between Czech Pile and Grixis Delver. I generally choose to play one of the best blue-based fair decks as opposed to trying to metagame against those decks. They are both great decks and will definitely both perform well at the event, but I need to continue to test, tune, and explore to see what will give me the best chance at the event. This is what I am going to be doing for the next 2 weeks and next time I will recap how DC went, what deck I chose, and where I went wrong/right!

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