You Too Can Play Legacy on a Budget!

Feature Article from Colin Chilbert
Colin Chilbert
8/16/2012 8:52:00 AM
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Legacy is not a cheap format.

Obvious statement is obvious, right? It's not exactly a secret that Legacy is often heralded as an “inaccessible” format with a steep barrier of entry (much to the amusement of Vintage players) due to the high prices of dual lands and format staples, but I feel there are a few misconceptions surrounding that perception. My last article received several responses in regards to the high cost of Legacy, and I noticed a problem stemming from the mindset that you can't get into Legacy without a significant dent to your bank account, so I thought it'd be a good topic to discuss.

Now, I'm not going to provide an in-depth guide on how to trade up to dual lands and build a massive Legacy collection. But I will try to clear the air on some of the perceived issues of it, namely about playing it cheaply and some tips on getting into the format. But really, I just want to prove that you can in fact viably play Legacy on a budget, and that there are plenty of solid decks to choose from!

First though, I want to address the player's mindset and comprehension of the expense of Legacy. There appears to be a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to get into Legacy and how expensive it really is.

For starters let's come back to the grand argument acknowledging Legacy is expensive. With the inflated price of dual lands, and staples constantly surging, it does make the cost rather high. However, I don't believe this is inherent to just Legacy, but really Magic in general. Over the last couple years Magic has grown increasingly popular, and with the advent of mythic rares and tournament series and such, prices inevitably shot up. Take a look at Standard decks. Standard now features a large crop of staples that all hover within the $15-40 range and decks go upwards of $500, so clearly players have adapted to picking up any number of cards for a decent chunk of money. The reality is that Magic as a game is expensive in general, with varying degrees of resources needed to get into it. So instead of simply acknowledging that Legacy is expensive (which somehow denounces Standard from being so), we can just agree that Magic is. The kicker with Legacy is that you're actually investing in it, and that you have to view the money you're spending on it in the long-term.

The problem is that players looking to get into Legacy don't initially recognize this as an investment. This is because the ordinary non-Eternal player doesn't necessarily view Magic as a game of investment, and operates on a very short-term basis. From the run-of-the-mill Standard player's point-of-view, they simply obtain the cards they need for the current format, play them for a while, maybe sell them before they rotate for a little cash, and then pick up more cards when the format rotates; all of that within a couple of years. It's a cycle that, unless you're paying attention to Craig Wescoe (which you should!), is almost strictly a money pit with very little profit to be gained.

When you're immersed into that cycle, it is second nature to continually obtain cards and know that you're sinking money into it that you probably won't get back. So under that mentality if you look at cards that are a lot more expensive, you're more likely to be intimidated by the high prices and thus your interest will wane. But what's important to realize is that the money you put into Legacy will almost always be able to be returned, with a majority of the time actually turning a profit. Legacy cards very rarely drop in price and more commonly increase, so it's generally a safe investment if you're willing to put money into it.

 Lion's Eye Diamond
Store QTY Price  
Prodigy Games 1 $198.49
Brute Force Games 1 $206.99
Paradox CNC 1 $219.99
MTG casual 2 $219.99
GenesisGamingHobby 1 $220.00
Krazy Kidz Gaming 1 $223.50
IWinGames 1 $226.99
Mr Magic Inc 1 $227.00
MuGu Games 1 $228.00
Big Bang Deals 1 $235.00
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Lion's Eye Diamond Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Case in point: compare the value of a Standard UW Delver deck against its Legacy counterpart, Canadian Threshold. Obviously the difference in value is laughable, with the Legacy deck being worth roughly four times as much, about $400 to $1,600. But then take a look at their respective values in say, one year. That Legacy deck will still be worth that amount if not more, whereas the now-rotated Standard deck will have lost a majority of its value (as an aside, interestingly enough the only cards still holding some decent value are those that are good in Legacy, so you're already part way there!). That $400 you sunk into the Standard deck won't get you $400 back, and you'll be lucky to get good money in return before its value has severely diminished. With Legacy it's about viewing expenses in the long run. Obviously footing the $1,600 bill is a high price to pay, but once you do you'll always be sitting on a $1,600 check that you can cash at any time. Not only that, but once you've bought in you can always use it; it's a one-time investment. Best of all is that whatever you're getting will likely be able to be put to good use. There are so many good decks to play right now that whatever deck you buy into will probably be a good deck to play, and most staples see play in multiple decks.

The difficulty players grasp however is that building up a reasonable Legacy collection can be a resoundingly slow, time-consuming process. Additionally, many players don't know a good starting point on what to get first. Fortunately, the formula is pretty simple on getting started:

Step 1: Acquire a playset of Wastelands.
Step 2: Acquire a playset of Force of Wills.
Step 2½: Ignore step one and two and acquire a playset of Lion's Eye Diamonds.
Step 3: Ignore step 2½, and make sure you completed step one and two.
Step 4: Do whatever else based on what you want to build.

Those first two are important. Wasteland and Force of Will are the two expensive pillars of the format, seen in more decks than any other cards. Very few decks run neither of them, and many run both. Having these enables you to play a good number of decks and they are often the most expensive cards in a deck. Being cheaper than dual lands, they allow you to still play aggro or aggro-control in some form or another without too high of an initial investment so they're great to start on. However, if you're getting into Legacy and know you're going the combo route, I'd suggest picking up Lion's Eye Diamond first. You won't ever see Wasteland or Force of Will paired with these, but they're the most expensive piece in a few combo decks so if that's the case it's worth picking them up before anything else. Now because of their importance to playing most decks, I'll continue under the assumption that you'll be getting some combination of these first in your quest to play Legacy.

So you manage to scrap together a few hundred bucks for Wastelands and Force of Wills or Lion's Eye Diamonds, but you're still out of a deck and don't have all the time and money in the world. After all, most people won't have the funds to just drop $1,600 in a small amount of time to have something like Canadian Threshold built. Thankfully, there are a plethora of solid budget decks to play, either instead of a “powered” deck or in the meantime while you build up the more expensive cards like dual lands. Now when I say budget, I'm realistically referring to something in the $500-$800 range. Yes, the cheapest Legacy decks border the absolute most expensive Standard decks and it's still a lot of money, but again it's an investment. Besides, in comparison to the regular $1,200-$1,800 Legacy decks, “budget” is a term that fits well. Sadly, the term budget has a bit of a bad connotation attached to it in Magic, often in relation to unpowered Vintage decks or decks with poor substitutions for their upgraded counterparts. Because of this, many players are of the state-of-mind that a deck defined as being “budget” isn't as competitive and can't succeed in high-level environments. Well, those players, you're wrong!

In my last article I outlined the top8s of the past four large events of the time, and within them were five decks I'd classify as budget. Each one of these decks have are great choices to bring to a tournament, which is especially true given the metagame is currently wide open. I'd like to briefly go through each of them and show the options you have for just getting into the format. However, I'll admit they're a bit narrow as far as available colors and the archetype paradigm goes, only touching the surfaces of aggro and combo and primarily being monocolored.

Elves by Lukas Maurer
Finished 2nd Place at 2012 Grand Prix Ghent - 7/21
Main Deck
2 Birchlore Rangers
4 Elvish Visionary
2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
3 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Heritage Druid
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Priest of Titania
3 Quirion Ranger
1 Regal Force
4 Wirewood Symbiote
Creatures [34]
1 Crop Rotation
4 Glimpse of Nature
4 Green Sun's Zenith
Spells [9]
1 Dryad Arbor
6 Forest (246)
3 Gaea's Cradle
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Pendelhaven
5 Snow-Covered Forest
Lands [17]
Deck Total [60]

3 Faerie Macabre
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Krosan Grip
3 Meekstone
1 Mortarpod
2 Pithing Needle
1 Scattershot Archer
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Viridian Shaman
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

This is currently one of the well-positioned decks to play in the format, and it also happens to benefit by being one of the cheapest. Elves has a fantastic matchup against many of the upper decks of the format like Maverick and Canadian Threshold, and is fast enough to race the combo decks. Looking over the decklist, the only real money card is Gaea's Cradle, which account for a majority of the deck's cost by itself, but you could likely get away with running only two if that was an issue. I'd personally probably go a step further and fit a Karakas somewhere in the 75 given it already runs Crop Rotation, but it isn't a necessity. Incidentally it runs neither Wasteland nor Force of Will so you'll be out some additional cash picking up Gaea's Cradle, but otherwise the deck is incredibly cheap so it's great to pick up if you're just looking to start out.

Goblins by Phimus Pan
Finished 5th - 8th Place at 2012 StarCity Open Legacy - Las Vegas - 7/22
Main Deck
4 Gempalm Incinerator
1 Goblin Chieftain
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Matron
3 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Ringleader
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Goblin Warchief
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
2 Mogg War Marshal
1 Siege-Gang Commander
2 Stingscourger
1 Tuktuk Scrapper
Creatures [32]
4 Aether Vial
2 Pyrokinesis
Spells [6]
4 Cavern of Souls
14 Mountain (242)
4 Wasteland
Lands [22]
Deck Total [60]

1 Boartusk Liege
3 Chalice of the Void
3 Faerie Macabre
1 Goblin King
1 Pyroblast
1 Pyrokinesis
2 Red Elemental Blast
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Stingscourger
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Goblins is actually one of my favorite decks right now, and I'm glad it's had a sort of revival in the metagame. Cavern of Souls really gave the deck a much needed lift, and as such has allowed it to spark back into relevance. The deck is rather soft to combo decks, but has a newly refined game against blue decks and superior card advantage and removal over other aggro decks, so it's definitely a contender. I actually prefer the monored build over the lists splashing colors, so I think that makes it even easier to get the deck without the need to pick up duals or fetchlands.

Merfolk by Joshua Cho
Finished 1st Place at 2012 StarCity Open Legacy - Buffalo - 7/29
Main Deck
2 Coralhelm Commander
4 Cursecatcher
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Silvergill Adept
Creatures [22]
4 Aether Vial
3 Daze
2 Dismember
4 Force of Will
2 Spell Pierce
3 Standstill
Spells [18]
12 Island (234)
4 Mutavault
4 Wasteland
Lands [20]
Deck Total [60]

1 Blue Elemental Blast
2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Spell Pierce
4 Submerge
3 Tormod's Crypt
1 Umezawa's Jitte
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Merfolk is another deck that recently benefitted from the printing of a new card with the addition of Master of the Pearl Trident. Similar to Goblins, it had fallen off the Legacy radar for some time only to be revived recently. And revived it was! Merfolk has been a terrific choice, especially in recent weeks, for its ability to have a well-rounded game against virtually every deck in the format. It has the ability to go aggressive very easily, yet still has a good number of control elements to fight combo decks and other non-aggro decks. For these reasons I believe Merfolk is arguably the safest deck choice at any given large event right now, so Smoke if you got ‘em!

Dredge by Dan Walton
Finished 5th - 8th Place at 2012 StarCity Open Legacy - Buffalo - 7/29
Main Deck
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
3 Golgari Thug
3 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
4 Putrid Imp
4 Stinkweed Imp
Creatures [23]
2 Breakthrough
4 Bridge from Below
4 Cabal Therapy
3 Careful Study
1 Darkblast
2 Dread Return
4 Faithless Looting
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
Spells [24]
4 Cephalid Coliseum
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
1 Undiscovered Paradise
Lands [13]
Deck Total [60]

2 Ancient Grudge
1 Breakthrough
4 Chain of Vapor
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
2 Firestorm
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Memory's Journey
2 Pithing Needle
1 Terastodon
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Despite the hate for Griselbrand and Reanimator, Dredge still remains a viable choice in the metagame. Surgical Extraction and the narrower spells are rarely enough to stop this deck, so it can take advantage of those with weaker hate. It also has the benefit of almost never losing game one, so if you enjoy making people groan within the first couple minutes of playing then this is for you. Additionally, it's also one of the cheapest decks to build, and I often see newer Legacy players choosing it as their first deck.

Belcher by Joshua Wiitanen
Finished 3rd - 4th Place at 2012 StarCity Open Legacy - Las Vegas - 7/22
Main Deck
4 Elvish Spirit Guide
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Tinder Wall
Creatures [12]
4 Burning Wish
4 Chrome Mox
4 Desperate Ritual
3 Empty the Warrens
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Goblin Charbelcher
4 Land Grant
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
4 Manamorphose
4 Rite of Flame
4 Seething Song
Spells [47]
1 Taiga
Lands [1]
Deck Total [60]

1 Carpet of Flowers
1 Diminishing Returns
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Hull Breach
1 Infernal Tutor
1 Past in Flames
3 Pyroblast
1 Pyroclasm
1 Reverent Silence
1 Shattering Spree
3 Xantid Swarm
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

If there ever was an anomaly in Legacy, it'd be Belcher. Somehow, despite the uphill battle against Force of Will after Force of Will, Belcher manages to do well on a rather consistent basis. I think this has a lot more to do with Empty the Warrens that it does with the actual Belcher, but a win is a win. Empty the Warrens is an incredibly strong card currently thanks to the lack of sweepers. Sweepers other than narrow spells like Perish are poor right now because the creatures are so big, so that allows Empty the Warrens to do some serious damage. This combined with Pyroblast and Xantid Swarm, give it a respectable game against blue decks, and it's faster than any other deck in the format. Beyond Lion's Eye Diamond, the only significant value lies within the single Taiga, but fortunately not being blue means it's reasonably cheap. Otherwise the majority of the deck is composed of commons and then a few decent rares like Burning Wish and Chrome Mox, so Belcher most certainly gives you the most bang for your buck.

So there you have it, five decks that you can pick up relatively cheap and walk in and win a Legacy tournament with. There's nothing wrong with not splurging for dual lands and an entire deck of expensive cards, because a lot of power lies within the strength of the deck and not the price tag. I'll admit that when it comes to a topic like being budget-friendly my perspective is from the outside looking in, so my understanding is a bit different than someone working their way up. After all I'm the same guy that wrote an article about High Tide and completely wrote off the possibility of playing the deck without Candelabra of Tawnos, so I realize the irony here being the person preaching about being cheap. But hopefully this will help your understanding of what getting into Legacy is about, and how to do it with ease!

As a bonus, if you still want to rock Delver but aren't yet there with the dual lands, you can try something like this:

Monoblue Delver by Colin Chilbert
Main Deck
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Phantasmal Image
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
Creatures [12]
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
2 Dismember
4 Force of Will
4 Ponder
4 Spell Pierce
2 Spell Snare
2 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag
Spells [30]
6 Island (234)
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Wasteland
Lands [18]
Deck Total [60]

2 Back to Basics
2 Flusterstorm
2 Mind Harness
4 Submerge
3 Surgical Extraction
2 Tormod's Crypt
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Thanks for reading!
colinchilbert at gmail dot com

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