The rules regarding similarly named planeswalkers and legendary permanents in Magic the Gathering have changed, along with some other rules on sideboards, unblockability, and lands coming into play. Like most significant rules changes sent down from Wizards of the Coast, this one appears to have sweeping changes.
Changes like these are particularly interesting in Vintage, where the massive card pool and smaller playerbase mean that change often happens slowly and a few cards at a time. But don’t panic.
Impact of New Legend Rule
The legend and planeswalker rules now look at players individually rather than at the whole game. Vintage plays a decent number of legendary permanents and planeswalkers, and the new rule gives potential for several cards to get a bump in playability and, as a result, popularity. I’ll rate these as low, medium, and high impact based on my estimation of frequency and game-changing importance.
Phyrexian Metamorph (and other copy effects) no longer removes an opponent’s legends. This is a significant change in a Workshop player’s arsenal, maybe for the better. In past games, a Workshop player would hope to remove Griselbrand by copying it with Phyrexian Metamorph and letting it legend-rule to death. Now the Workshop player simply copies Griselbrand; they can then draw seven cards, play more lock pieces, and let the demons duke it out in the air. Griselbrand can still be removed permanently by Duplicant or by falling into a Smokestack. Phyrexian Metamorph is commonly played, and this will be a common interaction between Workshop players and any deck playing Griselbrand. Impact level: High.
Both players can control a similarly named planeswalker. This will happen frequently considering the popularity of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The question comes down to whether it’s better to kill Jace or make one of your own. Playing a four-mana removal spell is lackluster, but playing Jace is still awesome, because you can hope to Brainstorm into something even more relevant. Jace races will happen, but it’s more likely that the first person to resolve one will pull far enough ahead to prevent the other one anyway. Impact level: High.
Both players can control the same legendary creature. This is probably most common with Karn, Silver Golem, in Workshop mirrors. As with Jace, I don’t think it will effect much because the person who resolves Karn first already had an advantage and will likely keep it by attacking for a bunch or eating the opponent’s Moxes. This could make for some interesting standoffs, though, especially because there are more copy effects in Workshop dekcs. Impact level: High.
Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage can be a thing. This is an interesting combo that will almost certainly see play because it’s cheap, colorless, and not based on spells. With a Dark Depths in play, play Thespian’s Stage and pay to make a second Dark Depths. The legend rule applies and you sac the original Dark Depths. The Thespian’s Depths has no counters on it, so it triggers and you get a 20/20 monster. In the proper shell, this is devastating. Impact level: High.
Tolarian Academy battles no longer exist. It used to be that a Workshop deck’s Tolarian Academy (in addition to being one of its better mana producers) was also a pseudo-Strip Mine for an opponent’s Academy, an important tactical play. This also came up in blue-on-blue matches, but was often more annoying than anything else. Now both players keep their lands; Workshop players will keep looking for Wasteland. Impact level: Medium.
Vendilion Clique’s role can change. Many decks played Vendilion Clique as a two- or three-of to avoid collisions, but now they can play four and benefit: Attack with one, play a second and use the ability, then keep it in play untapped. This might become a common play, because Clique and its effect are pretty good. (It also helps the people who consistently forget that Clique is legendary.) Impact level: Medium.
Mox Opal and Gaea’s Cradle get new playability. The rule change allows Mox Opal to act as a Lotus Petal that stays in play and additional Gaea’s Cradles can be played and tapped for additional mana boosts. Both of these are fringe cards now but could appear in more decks because additional copies aren’t dead. However, the more difficult part of Mox Opal is getting metalcraft in the first place (which the new rule doesn’t help with), and Gaea’s Cradle is still limited by land drops. Elves might use the Gaea’s Cradle trick, but I wouldn’t expect to see it elsewhere unless someone comes up with a monogreen Shops list. Impact level: Medium for Opal; low for Cradle unless a new deck gets invented.
One player can switch planeswalkers. The other commonly played planeswalker is Tezzeret the Seeker, because he can find and untap Time Vault to take all the turns. The rule change allows players to run Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and Tezzeret the Seeker in the same deck and simply switch from the card-advantage/aggro version to the tutor/combo version when the time is right. This would be a new deck. Potentially (with 10 mana), you could play Tezzeret the Seeker twice in the same turn to find and untap Time Vault. Impact level: Low.
Show and Telling a legend into play allows your opponent to do the same. This is more important for Legacy, where Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, are more commonly played. In most cases, these giant legends (and others) will be put into play with Oath, which is usually one-sided enough to prevent the legend rule from happening at all. Show and Tell also isn’t commonly played currently. Impact level: Low.
A few other legends and planeswalkers are played infrequently: Liliana of the Veil, Umezawa’s Jitte, Gaddock Teeg, Kataki, War’s Wage, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Iona, Shield of Emeria come to mind. The chances of these interacting with another version of themselves is low. Impact level: Low.
Other legendary permanents could see more play if someone builds a deck utilizing the new rules. Flagstones of Trokair gets a Plains and stays in play; Serra’s Sanctum is another potential mana booster like Academy; Geist of Saint Traft and other aggressive legends avoid removal by Phyrexian Metamorph (but they do get copied); and Venser, Shaper Savant plays similarly to Vendilion Clique. Karakas might also see more play.
And contrary to popular belief, Library of Alexandria has never been a legend.
Impact of Other Changes
Sideboards now need to be between 0 and 15 cards, but that number can change between games. As explained in Wizards’ writeup, this prevents the “present a 61-card deck and 14-card sideboard” game-two loss, which is nice. For the most part, players should still be playing 60 cards maindeck and 15 in the sideboard because there will still be “best cards” in a particular matchup and you still want the best chance of finding them. However, there are some interesting variations that come up. For example, combo decks like Rogue Hermit and Belcher can board in four Leyline of Anticipations after Game 1 and not have to remove cards, or not have to remove as many. Bringing in additional hate against Dredge, or additional removal and land against Workshops also doesn’t have to come at the cost of business spells. Impact level: Low.
“Unblockable” is now “can’t be blocked.” Unblockable isn’t really a thing in Vintage, and the update doesn’t change how it works, just how it’s templated. Impact level: Low.
Playing lands with abilities now needs to be more specific. Playing additional lands does happen with Fastbond in Gush decks, but it’s usually clear what’s going on, especially since there’s a damage that has to be tallied along with the land. As is good practice, just make sure you’re clear about what’s going on. Impact level: Low.
Overall, this update won’t affect Vintage too much. Individual games, especially mirror matches between Jace, Karn, and Vendilion Clique, and games involving Phyrexian Metamorph will have the widest felt effects. Opening up playability for cards that have previously been considered “not good enough” for the format sparks a lot of potential for deckbuilders and new players to get interested. There’s some promise there for Mox Opal and Gaea’s Cradle, and the Thespian-Depths combo could be a big deal if that turns into a deck. I’m also interested to see if any novel strategies come out of the sideboard rules change.
In the Magic world at large, there’s potential now for legendary permanents that “evolve” from less powerful to more powerful versions, similar to Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas being replaced by Tezzeret, the Seeker in a particular game. Could this also hint at a legendary version of dual lands? Each player would be able to have one but not more than one in play, so the Tolarian Academy trick won’t be a problem. I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out!
I’m sure I didn’t cover every possibility here, and I definitely avoided the flavor side of the issue. If you have any other thoughts about what the rules change means for Vintage, I’d be glad to hear it. Thanks for reading!
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