With Oath of the Gatewatch upon us, it’s that time again! The time when players start to sift through the chaff of a brand new set and dig out the gems for their respective formats. While Wizards of the Coast hasn’t given Legacy too much to work with in recent sets, and when they did it warped the format in ways that took banning Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time to fix, Oath of the Gatewatch is a pleasant surprise. After combing through the spoiler pages, I’ve found a whopping ten cards that have what it takes to make it in the big leagues, a feat that we haven’t seen in quite some time. So without further delay, let’s break down just which cards make the cut!
Let’s kick things off with one of the more interesting cards in Oath: Hedron Alignment. While most people joke that any Blue card is Legacy playable by virtue of simply pitching to Force of Will, with Hedron Alignment that’s actually what makes it so powerful. In other formats without Force of Will, getting a copy into exile can be a difficult endeavor, but in Legacy all you have to do is wait for the opponent to cast literally anything and presto, there’s 1/4th of your win condition right where you want it. Couple this with looting cards like Careful Study, Thought Scour, and everyone’s favourite emo kid, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, and getting a second copy into the graveyard is a cinch. What’s even better is that Intuition can put a copy into your hand and two in the graveyard, so even cards like Relic of Progenitus can exile one. Overall this is one of those cards that is pushed just slightly enough that it’s competitive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than a few Hedron Alignment decks being played the first few weeks after release.
From new win conditions to just plain solid utility cards, next up we have Natural State. My jaw actually dropped when I first saw this card. This is everything graveyard decks like Dredge want and more. One of my biggest gripes with Nature’s Claim is that giving your opponent 4 life can be game changing in a racing situation, but with Natural State you can kill all the Grafdigger’s Cages and Rest in Peaces that could with Nature’s Claim, but with none of the downside. I think the nature of Legacy is what makes this card so powerful. While Nature’s Claim is certainly more flexible, Legacy by and large tends to fixate on the cheapest spells possible, which gives Natural State the nod in my books, and I eagerly look forward to sleeving up four copies in my Dredge deck for quite some time.
It isn’t often that we see Burn cards getting printed that can actually squeeze their way into Legacy, but I think Reality Hemorrhage fills a niche that Burn players have desperately needed to combat some of the more powerful threats to their playstyle. Kor Firewalker and Burrenton Forge-Tender are two of the more powerful anti-Red cards to see print, and both appear in enough White sideboards that it becomes difficult for your average Burn deck to deal with. However, because Reality Hemorrhage has Devoid, it conveniently gets around protection from Red, giving you a way to pick off these pesky creatures before they can hinder your bigger spells. It’s nothing flashy, but Reality Hemorrhage is a solid counter that mono-Red decks have been missing.
Another card that I think can make it in the UR Delver decks is Stormchaser Mage. This card is pretty much a Monastery Swiftspear that flies and pitches to Force of Will, which is always a solid compliment to an already aggressive deck. The only hit against this card is it costs two mana, but frankly, if pushing through a bunch of damage in the early turns is the goal of a deck, it’s never a bad idea to have something that can swing over Tarmogoyf and can profitably block an opposing Delver of Secrets with a single prowess trigger. It may take a bit for it to catch on, but as long as UR Delver remains a viable budget alternative to its RUG, BUG, and Grixis contemporaries, I see no reason why Stormchaser Mage shouldn’t see play in Legacy.
Next we have Kozilek, the Great Distortion, the poster boy of Oath of the Gatewatch and the biggest, craziest, thing you get to do in this set. For a whopping 8CC, you get a 12/12 with Menace that can discard cards to counter spells with the same converted mana cost, and if you hardcast it you draw back up to seven cards. How is this relevant to Legacy? Well, Reanimator just got one of the most powerful threats it’s seen since Griselbrand. Yes, I went there. Kozilek 2.0 is just that good. You see, one of the traditional weaknesses of Reanimator is that Swords to Plowshares is a card. It’s a card that happens to see a great deal of play, and is a card that answers all but Iona, Shield of Emeria. With Kozilek, all you have to do is discard a card with 1CMC and Swords to Plowshares is countered. This is a huge deal considering how much of a typical Reanimator deck is 1CMC. As well, unlike trying to protect a Griselbrand with counterspells, Kozilek’s counter ability is an activated ability, which means the opponent can’t use excessive countermagic to force through their removal.
On the other end of the spectrum, Kozilek also fits in quite well with decks like MUD and 12Post which can generate enough mana to actually cast it, thus refilling their hand for even further shenanigans. Can you imagine a MUD player casting a bunch of Grim Monoliths, playing Kozilek, then tapping a Metalworker for a fresh hand’s worth of mana? You could flood the board with even more threats, making it incredibly difficult for the opponent to come back. MUD decks have already splashed Ugin, the Spirit Dragon for non-artifact bombs, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving Kozilek a chance to shine.
The next five cards actually make up what I think might be a new archetype for Legacy. We’ve seen how quickly Mono-Black Eldrazi has taken Modern by storm, and I think with a little help from Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Eldrazi Mimic, Warping Wail, and Spatial Distortion, we may start seeing it in Legacy as well. Thought-Knot Seer has been touted as the colorless Vendillion Clique, and for a very good reason. Exiling a card from the opponent’s hand is far more powerful than putting it on the bottom of their deck, and the fact that they only draw a card should the Seer leave play rather than right now can set them at a huge disadvantage if you take away their removal. As well, since most removal in Legacy is aimed at smaller creatures, Thought-Knot Seer’s bulky 4/4 body is immune to format all-stars like Abrupt Decay, Lightning Bolt, and Massacre. Compliment this with the ability to cast it as early as turn 2 via any combination of Eldrazi Temple, Eye of Ugin, Ancient Tomb, and City of Traitors and you’ve got a serious threat on your hands.
An excellent followup to Thought-Knot Seer that curves wonderfully is Reality Smasher. While a bit more blunt in its applications, Reality Smasher puts down a serious clock that most fair decks in Legacy have to respect. A 5/5 trampler with haste can push through everything but the largest Tarmogoyfs, and its defensive ability is effectively a guaranteed 2-for-1. Whenever it’s targeted by an opponent’s spell, you counter it unless they discard a card. Netting a Mind Rot while pressuring the opponent’s life is always fun, and if the opponent is low on cards due to say, Thought-Knot Seer or Hymn to Tourach, you can force them into topdeck mode very easily.
The only thing a deck like this is missing is a turn 1 play. In an Eldrazi Temple-centric manabase, look no further than Eldrazi Mimic. While a 2/1 for two mana seems innocuous, when followed up by Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, and Oblivion Sower, the humble Eldrazi Mimic can push through for some serious damage. More importantly, should your turn 1 land drop be Eye of Ugin, you can play Eldrazi Mimic for free! This is amazing if you have multiple Mimics in hand. As well, curving just these three new creatures into one another can deal a whopping 18 damage by turn 3! Simply play your Mimic turn 1, then your Seer on turn 2 (swinging for 4 with the Mimic), then play a Reality Smasher to make your Mimic into a 5/5 and attack for 14 on turn 3. If your opponent uses fetchlands, like most Legacy decks do, they will most likely be dead by the third turn, which gives me high hopes for this style of deck.
Rounding out the new colorless cards are Warping Wail and Spatial Distortion, which give both MUD, 12Post, and even our new Eldrazi deck removal options. Warping Wail, colloquially known as Eldrazi Charm, can put a 1/1 body on the board at instant speed, counter any sorcery, or exile a creature with a power or toughness of 1. Making a 1/1 is hardly the most impressive thing in the world, but it does give you a means of trading off with an opposing X/1 that’s beating down, or even using it to ramp since Eldrazi Scion tokens can sacrifice themselves to make a colorless mana. Sorceries don’t nearly as much play as instant in Legacy, but having a colorless counterspell for picking off Terminus, Infernal Tutor, or even something as clutch as a Show and Tell is ideal against the more unfair decks in the format. Finally, exiling an X/1 or 1/X creature goes a long way against a lot of the fair decks in Legacy. This gives colorless decks an out to Young Pyromancer, Dark Confidant, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Flickerwisp, Mother of Runes, and Deathrite Shaman, a list prominent enough to give Warping Wail the go ahead in my book. This list also applies to Spatial Contortion, which is effectively a colorless Nameless Inversion. While a Warping Wail is more flexible in its applications, Spatial Distortion has a wider variety of things that it can kill, such as Delver of Secrets, Shardless Agents, and even smaller Tarmogoyfs.
As a Legacy player, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Oath of the Gatewatch. While hardly the flashiest set out there, it provides new options for both maindecks and sideboards, and even has the potential to spawn a new archetype in Eldrazi. While we still have quite some time before the metagame truly adapts to the new set, I’m filled with a strange sense of hope, which is more than I can say about the last handful of sets. Only time will tell just how much impact Oath of the Gatewatch will have on Legacy, but I look forward to seeing what happens.
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