Five Cards You Should Be Playing in Legacy

Feature Article from Brian Braun-Duin
Brian Braun-Duin
4/5/2018 11:03:00 AM
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I've been testing a good bit of Legacy in preparation for Grand Prix Seattle this weekend. GP Seattle is a double GP weekend, which means there is both a Legacy GP and Standard GP taking place. The two are staggered one day apart. You can play both Grand Prix events, but day two of the Legacy GP overlaps with day one of the Standard GP, so if you have a deep run in Legacy you will only end up playing in one event.

Since the first event is Legacy and Legacy is my preferred format of choice anyway, I'm putting a lot of eggs into the Legacy basket and hoping it pans out, because I am woefully underprepared for Standard. In fact, I have played less than 10 matches of Standard in the past few weeks, leaving me at a distinct disadvantage in the case where I don't do well enough in Legacy and am forced to flex my withered Standard chops.

I feel like I'm in a quandary when it comes to Legacy. I am learning a lot about the format and which cards have underperformed and overperformed for me, but I am getting no closer to settling on a deck. Most of the decks I've tested have not been yielding the level of performance that I am hoping for, or have flaws that I suspect will get exploited in an open field.

I'm hoping that I will be able to put the pieces together in time to show up with a playable deck. The worst-case scenario for me is that I can just default to playing something like Grixis Delver, which I know is a solid deck but one that I personally am not very good at piloting and have low confidence playing. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that.

At any rate, these are five cards that have performed very well for and against me over the course of my testing. I am convinced that you should be playing with these cards if you're playing a deck where it makes sense to support them. While some of these are archetype staples in certain decks, they are only fringe options in other strategies, and I think that they start to see an uptick in play in those decks because of how good they are right now.

#5: Ensnaring Bridge

Mid
Low
 Ensnaring Bridge
$43.00
$27.00
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Magic MTG Card Ensnaring Bridge Magic MTG Card
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Right now, Ensnaring Bridge is an archetype staple in one archetype, Mono-Red Prison, but it sees very little play anywhere else. I don't believe that is correct. There was a point in time where cards like Ensnaring Bridge weren't great in Legacy, such as during the Miracles heyday. Miracles could easily win through Ensnaring Bridge, and Counterbalance plus Top created a format where Abrupt Decay was at all-time high levels of play.

That isn't the case anymore. While Counterbalance still sees some play, it isn't the threat it once was and can be effectively ignored in a lot of games. This has reduced the need to play Abrupt Decay enough to where Grixis Delver, a non-Decay deck, has become the definitive aggressive strategy in the format. Fatal Push being a premier removal spell for one less mana has also reduced the level of play Abrupt Decay sees.

What this means it that there are less cards in the format that can kill an Ensnaring Bridge. Kolaghan's Command sees some play, but there are only a handful of decks that play the card and they seem to be on a downward trend in terms of how much play they are seeing as well.

Ensnaring Bridge won't win the game by itself against most decks. Deathrite Shaman can still drain through it and cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor can just build to an ultimate. However, what Ensnaring Bridge does do is completely Nullify a huge chunk of cards and force you to only care about a much smaller, more manageable subset. It creates huge amounts of virtual card advantage.

There are also a lot of decks in the format with varying levels of popularity that are going to really struggle to beat Ensnaring Bridge. While Deathrite and Jace decks have outs to it, decks like Lands or Turbo Depths are forced to win in unique ways if you shut out Marit Lage with a Bridge, and that drastically reduces the number of cards you must care about. Decks like Sneak and Show often have no outs at all against it.

I think there is a lot of room for decks that aren't based around the combat step to use Ensnaring Bridge as a tool to punish decks or sideboard configurations that aren't prepared for it. Back when Sneak and Show was at its peak, Bridge did see sideboard play for reasons like this, but that has basically ended even though Bridge is once again a solid option.

#4: Blue Elemental Blast / Hydroblast

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 Hydroblast
$1.39
$0.70
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Magic MTG Card Hydroblast Magic MTG Card
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Blue Elemental Blast, otherwise known as BEBe Rexha, was always a card that felt like kind of a wasted slot when I saw it in people's sideboards. It was the style of card that only really made sense to run if you expected to run into a fringe deck like Burn, while also being a solid play against Sneak and Show to counter or blow up Sneak Attack.

I think the card is legitimately great now. For one, Mono-Red Prison is a real deck that I would expect to play against a few times in any big Legacy event and Blue Blast is basically the best possible card against that deck, for obvious reasons. Being able to counter Blood Moon or be able to destroy a Blood Moon if you can manage to fetch an island is an enormous edge.

The other reason that Blue Elemental Blast has gone up a lot in value in my estimation requires a chain of logic to get to. The decks that benefit the most from having access to a card like Blue Elemental Blast are generally Snapcaster Mage decks, of which the main ones are Miracles and Sultai or four-color midrange decks.

Those decks rely on blue cards more than ever before in the past, which makes Red Elemental Blast or Pyroblast basically the best possible sideboard card against those decks to take out their most powerful cards like Search for Azcanta, Counterbalance, Predict, Snapcaster Mage, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Pyroblast is already the best sideboard card in Legacy by a country mile, and being able to have a cheap, and sometimes surprising answer to a card that you know your opponent is going to be bringing in against you has a ton of value. This is especially true if you also know your opponent will have other powerful red cards to deal with like Kolaghan's Command, Blood Moon, Young Pyromancer, or Sneak Attack to be able to snipe.

#3: Pithing Needle

Mid
Low
 Pithing Needle
$4.15
$2.10
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Magic MTG Card Pithing Needle Magic MTG Card
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Ensnaring Bridge and Pithing Needle? This list is starting to suspiciously look like a who's who of Modern Lantern Control cards that are also playable in Legacy. I swear that is not intentional. I can't speak for my subconscious, however. Who knows what sick, disgusting games it is up to.

Pithing Needle is one of those cards that I have always loved in Legacy and it has found its way into my sideboard many times but has never really been a universally adopted sideboard slot. Pithing Needle, along with cards like Blood Moon and Izzet Staticaster, are the kinds of cards I make an effort to play as much as I possibly can because of my philosophy on how to build a sideboard in formats like Modern and Legacy.

I've written about this in the past a number of times, so I won't go into full detail, but I want very high-impact cards in my sideboard that are the best at what they do, even if they are a little more narrow than some other options. The reason to have cards like this is because they can give you free wins, which are extremely valuable in formats like Modern and Legacy where the card power level is so high. Having to scrap and fight to win every single game is miserable and more importantly, makes it extremely difficult to do well in a long tournament because you are bound to lose to your opponent's great cards at some point.

Pithing Needle is a one mana answer to Thespian Stage, Sneak Attack, Wasteland, planeswalkers, and Griselbrand, and has plenty of applications elsewhere as a great catch-all that might be the perfect answer to whatever wacky thing your opponent has going on. The best part is that, depending on what deck you're playing, Pithing Needle also can perform a role that none of your other cards can do. Some decks can't ever beat Griselbrand, or stop Lands from making Marit Lage, and having a one-mana card that proactively and permanently prevents this from happening can provide a lot of percentage points in the matchup whenever you draw it.

#2: Blood Moon

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 Blood Moon
$27.95
$18.34
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Magic MTG Card Blood Moon Magic MTG Card
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I hate Blood Moon as a card because of the high amount of non-games it can produce, which isn't fun for my opponents (I still have fun), but I also love Blood Moon in that I will almost always play the card whenever I can in whatever deck can support it. Blood Moon is so unbelievably powerful that it blows my mind why people don't like it or don't want to play it at every available opportunity. I understand that sometimes Blood Moon is a card that doesn't do much – when your opponent is too far ahead on board or if they've managed to get a bunch of basics in play already – but when those situations don't happen, which is a lot of the time, it often wins the game entirely by itself. That is an extremely powerful effect, and it is worth playing extremely powerful effects even if there is some variance attached to it.

I think a lot of good players shy away from cards like this because those losses or situations where you drew a dead card feel bad, and feel-bad moments like this stick with us a lot more than the moments where our opponent can't cast any spells the entire rest of the game and thus they lose because all 50 of their remaining cards in library are incapable of producing any effect. Embrace the variance. Draw a dead card from time to time so you get to play a card that basically reads “Force of Will or bust” for your opponent.

Personally, I think cards like From the Ashes or Back to Basics are very poor approximation of the power of Blood Moon. A lot of players gravitate to playing these lesser imitations because they have a higher floor than Blood Moon does and so they won't be dead as often, but the tradeoff is that they also have a much worse average case. I really dislike both Back to Basics and From the Ashes because your opponent can play out from under them. Some lists play basic lands, and even if they don't your opponent can just keep playing lands and casting spells. This problem is exacerbated against any deck that plays Abrupt Decay, since Back to Basics can be defeated by simply playing two lands and casting Abrupt Decay afterward.

Just play Blood Moon if you can. It's the best at what it does, and business is booming. There are many decks in Legacy that play zero basic lands, including the best deck in the format in Grixass Delver. What more could you want?

#1: Tarmogoyf

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 Tarmogoyf
$89.65
$79.43
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Magic MTG Card Tarmogoyf Magic MTG Card
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Oh, how the once mighty have fallen...and then risen again back to might. I have a pretty extensive Modern collection as well as some Legacy stuff, but Tarmogoyf is one of the few cards I don't actually own, partly because of its prohibitive price tag and also because I play the card so rarely. It is a card that I generally think is overrated and not that great, but right now is not one of those times.

Tarmogoyf is a staple in decks like Temur or Sultai Delver, but there are plenty of green decks that don't play Tarmogoyf, like Sultai midrange or Czech Pile, and I don't think that is correct. While Tarmogoyf – a vanilla two-drop with no card advantage or abilities, doesn't fit the theme of these decks that are trying to two-for-one the opponent out of the game – the card is just so well-positioned right now and those decks desperately need a clock so badly that I think this happy-go-Lhurgoyf is exactly what you're looking for.

Abrupt Decay is on the downswing and even Fatal Push isn't seeing an excessive amount of play right now, which means that Tarmogoyf is surviving a lot of the time. That is definitely step one when you're playing a card that is nothing more than a giant vanilla beater.

Step two is that it's great against Grixis Delver, which is one of the best decks in the format. It outclasses Young Pyromancer on the ground and provides a relevant clock. A clock might not seem that important against Grixis Delver, but they can actually grind with the best of them and cards like True-Name Nemesis are extremely punishing on decks that are too slow. Being able to pressure them and end the game in a reasonable time frame is not irrelevant at all. Costing two mana is also nice because of how much they tax your resources with Wasteland and Daze, and Tarmogoyf can often sneak in underneath the tax.

Step three is that it's a phenomenal clock against “avoid interaction” decks, of which there are a number. Tarmogoyf is a great threat against decks like Mono-Red Prison or various Eldrazi strategies or Cloudpost decks. These decks often tend to kind of ignore what you're doing and just present annoying cards to deal with and Tarmogoyf creates very relevant pressure and is a big body that can play defense against Thought-So Seer's and the like. I've been very impressed with how well Tarmogoyf has performed for me and how annoying it has actually been against me.

I think it's time to say “Hasta, la vista baby” and sleeve up the Tarminator.

- Brian Braun-Duin




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