By: Daniel D’Amato
Legacy is one of the most interactive and diverse formats in the game of Magic. It combines some of the most powerful cards and strategies together to create a unique play experience for each person. One of the main issues with this format though is barrier of entry and lack of players. I hope to elaborate more on these issues in this article and help any player start playing the format I love.
The original Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, and Revised sets brought us the original dual lands of the game. For the newer players, a dual land is a nonbasic land that has two types associated with it which makes it easier to cast different colored spells in the decks they are played in. Currently, an example of dual lands we have are in standard represented by the shock lands. What makes the dual lands of legacy so powerful though is the fact that they don’t have a drawback upon entry to the battlefield. No life must be paid, and they enter untapped allowing the user no consequence of playing it immediately. This reason, along with the dual lands being on the reserved list, a much different conversation not for this article, has caused these lands to be very expensive and the ultimate format barrier.
With the rise in prices of dual lands the format has become unattainable to some due to decks costing thousands of dollars. There are some budget decks and budget versions of decks, but they will never be able to perform the same as the real thing. This price barrier has made most tournaments in your local area, most likely, a proxied tournament. What’s nice about proxy tournaments is that paper is the only barrier of entry you need to be able to play any deck in the format Also, prizes that are won in that tournament could be saved up so that you can purchase the deck you have found to enjoy. These tournaments are great ways to meet people that actively play legacy and gain connections so that if a competitive rel tournament came up, they may let you borrow some cards so that you can play the completed deck. In my experience, legacy players are always the first to help other players out, especially when it is trying to get someone new in the format. Which leads me into how the lack of players is an uphill battle in this format.
Rallying off the last topic of barrier of entry, it is a contributor to lack of players in the legacy format when modern and standard are much more accessible. In my experiences though, especially in the Richmond, VA Magic scene, the proxy legacy tournaments are getting larger turnouts compared to the other formats because anyone can play. With the same point being made about how proxy tournaments are allowing players to save up and get cards for their legacy decks, the community is growing more rapidly. Just the other week a local store in the are had 20 plus players for the legacy FNM which is incredible. Growing the community is always an important aspect to consider making any format viable, and I am hoping that through these proxy tournaments, more people can gain access to the format and the format can gain more support in professional play. So, you have a legacy deck, now what? Learning the format is important to having success and I hope to talk about some key interactions for new legacy players. The first one being, how to properly cast Brainstorm.
Brainstorm is a fixed version of one of the pieces of Power 9, Ancestral Recall. The drawback of Brainstorm is that you must put two cards back on top of your library, only netting one card while Ancestral Recall is just a hard draw three.
Even though Brainstorm doesn’t just draw three, it can be treated as an Ancestral Recall when used properly. The most common application of Brainstorm is the interaction with itself and fetchlands. Fetchlands allow you to put the cards that you put back with Brainstorm to be shuffled away so that, hopefully, they will not be drawn again. My legacy deck, ANT utilizes Brainstorm greatly for this aspect since it can turn excess lands in my hand into spells. It is important to think ahead about how to use Brainstorm because if you do not have a way to shuffle your library and aren’t satisfied with the cards you left on top, the next two turns your draws will be unwanted.
Becoming Brainstorm locked can cause numerous losses in games and can cost matches. I have lost numerous times to putting bad cards back on top of my library in the hopes that I drew a fetchland or Ponder to shuffle away what I didn’t want. Preordain also works because it allows you to scry cards to the bottom essentially acting a shuffle effect so that you may see new cards. Whatever deck you may end up playing, it is important to remember interactions and how certain cards work when paired with other cards, this alone can put you in a different league of players in the format of legacy. Another important aspect that happens in Legacy more often compared to other formats is retaining priority.
Retaining priority can be a huge factor in how a deck operates and it comes in legacy all the time. I hope to go over two well know interactions where retaining priority is key with the first being the card Phantasmagorian in the Manaless Dredge deck.
This card has an activated ability that allows you to discard three cards and return it to your hand from your graveyard. Dredge likes this card because it gets all their dredge creatures in the bin but with how this card is templated, it will return to your hand once the ability is activated. But if there if the player has enough cards to activate the ability again, that is where retaining priority can be relevant. Retaining priority means responding to your action with another action and the opponent can’t interact with that action until priority is passed. By discarding three cards to return this creature to your hand, you can activate and discard the three cards, then retain priority and do it again so that it would essentially return to your hand twice, but it isn’t in the yard for a second time. Let us look at another well-known interaction where priority is relevant. Infernal Tutor and Lion’s Eye Diamond.
Infernal tutor has the keyword Hellbent which refers to no cards being in a player’s hand. Infernal tutor acts as a Demonic Tutor when the user doesn’t have any cards in hand but otherwise requires the user to reveal a card from their hand and retrieve that card from their deck. Lion’s Eye Diamond on the other hand requires the user to discard their hand but adds three mana of any color to their hand essentially acting as a fixed Black Lotus. When these two cards come together, Infernal Tutor can be cast retaining priority and sacrificing LED to receive three mana and discard your hand, thus allowing you to search for any card from your deck because you no longer have cards in hand to reveal. This is extremely relevant because how storm typically wins is with this two-card combo because they can retain priority and search for either Past in Flames or Tendrils of Agony to win the game, otherwise it can be used as a resource to help go off on a following turn, or just be a dead card.
Legacy is an incredible format with an incredible player base and I hope to help grow the player base as much as I can. If there is a topic you would love to hear about or discuss, please reach out to me on any social media platform! Until then, thanks for joining me and I hope you start your legacy soon, storm count 4.