It’s that time of year once again, where one block rotates out of Standard and a new one rotates in. While Standard players scramble to figure out what they’re going to play next, Legacy players like myself scour the spoilers for cards that might break through into our format. Legacy is a format of distinguished tastes, and it takes a powerful effect to see play. However, for the first time in years, we have a set with a bevy of strong cards that I believe have a shot. With the first SCG Legacy Open of the new format over and done, the following cards are what have been tried and true to work, as well as what I believe to be the top contenders yet to be tested.
THE TRIED, TESTED, AND TRUE
Who would have guessed that when I started writing this piece, Monastery Swiftspear of all cards would be the breakout star? I certainly didn’t, but that’s why I love how this format constantly changes. Bob Huang’s Izzet Delver deck from SCG New Jersey proved that with the right build, Monastery Swiftspear is more than capable of decimating the competition. In days gone by, Izzet Delver ran a creature suite of Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, and Goblin Guide, but in a shell like this, Swiftspear can easily out-muscle Goblin Guide and put the opponent on an even faster clock. Let’s take a look at Huang’s tournament-winning list:
That is a whopping 31 spells to trigger Prowess, several of which are free to cast, making Monastery Swiftspear an incredible clock while also developing an army with Young Pyromancer, and reliably flipping Delver. There is just so much synergy between the spell suite and the creature package that it’s no wonder why this list dominated the first SCG Open. With a turn 1 Delver of Secrets into a Swiftspear on turn 2, you can easily swing for upwards of 6+ damage on the second turn. As the game progresses, Swiftspear becomes this consistently growing clock that demands an immediate answer.
And speaking of Bob Huang’s Izzet list, one of the other breakout cards from SCG New Jersey is Treasure Cruise, hands down one of the strongest draw spells printed in years. It’s been a long-standing joke that no matter what the price tag on an Ancestral Recall is, someone will figure out a use for it, and Treasure Cruise is no different. Over the course of a game with a Delver deck, you and your opponent are constantly trading spells and resources as you try to protect your early clock. But due to the nature of cards like Brainstorm and Ponder, you’re actually only cantripping rather than drawing spells. This makes it easy to fall behind as the game goes on. However, with a fully stocked graveyard, you can cast Treasure Cruise for it’s full Delve cost and get an Ancestral Recall for a massive boost in a war of attrition. While this card is already making waves in the Modern Jeskai Ascendancy deck, Treasure Cruise breaking into Legacy is something I’m pleasantly surprised to see.
Lastly, I would like to touch on the impact of reprinting the Onslaught fetchlands and what it’s done for Legacy. One of the most difficult parts of building a Legacy deck is putting together the manabase. The price of dual lands is already a bitter pill to swallow, so to add an additional $300+ for fetchlands always felt absurd to me. It was a big reason why the Zendikar fetchlands were so popular at first, as they were comparatively cheap to their Onslaught brethren. Then, as Modern became more popular, the price of Zendikar fetches were on par with the older set, adding further frustration to anyone trying to craft a new deck. By reprinting the Onslaught fetches, the prices go down to the point that it makes it far easier for newer players to get into the format.
Suffice to say that when Delve was spoiled as a returning mechanic, WotC had captured my attention. I am, in my own humble opinion, one of the few to truly master the art of Dredge, so I’m interested whenever they bring something new involving the graveyard to the table. Of all the Delve cards in Khans of Tarkir, no spell matches my undying love for Murderous Cut. I’ve ranted and raved about its applications on Twitter and Facebook, but for those of you who I have yet to subject to my rambling, here’s a list of just how powerful this card is in Dredge:
– Counters effects that target specific cards in your graveyard, like Deathrite Shaman and Surgical Extraction. Because exiling the cards is part of the cost of Murderous Cut, your opponent can’t respond to you exiling the cards with another Deathrite/Surgical.
This card does everything you want to counteract the various Deathrite Shaman/Tarmogoyf decks in Legacy that are traditionally awkward to fight against. Murderous Cut feels like it was tailor made for Dredge, and it’s one card that I will certainly enjoy experimenting with in the near future.
Along the lines of Murderous Cut we have my second favourite Delve card: Dig Through Time. Anyone who has played Impulse is no stranger to the power of picking and choosing the best card on top of your deck at instant speed. With Dig Through Time, we have what is essentially a double Impulse that digs even further down into your deck. As mentioned with Treasure Cruise, the later a game goes, the more stocked with useless cards your graveyard gets. Dig Through Time gives you the ability to turn those spent fetchlands and Ponders into two new cards to hopefully put away the game. I expect this card to see extensive play in Sneak and Show decks to dig for their game-ending creatures, or even to find methods of cheating them into play. These types of decks don’t really care about their graveyard, so all of their spent spells are just sitting there, begging to be used as fodder for Dig Through Time. It’s an effect that requires immediate attention, as it can almost assuredly spell game over the following turn.
One of the more fair cards on this list, and one of the first cards ever spoiled for Khans of Tarkir, is Sultai Charm. While the prohibitive mana cost limits it to Sultai Delver and the alliterative Shardless Sultai decks, Sultai Charm’s various modes are so versatile that it’s worth at least a slot or two. Multicolor creatures aren’t really a that common in Legacy outside of Deathrite Shaman, so Sultai Charm’s first mode is effectively Murder. While typically Abrupt Decay is sufficient for most threats in the format, Sultai Charm gives Sultai decks outs to larger threats like Griselbrand, and even the trump card in the mirror, Tombstalker. The second mode is where things get interesting. Batterskull is one of the more common counters to Shardless Sultai on the grounds that it’s just so much bigger than anything in their deck. With Sultai Charm, you can destroy any pesky artifacts or enchantments that might be keeping you down. Batterskull, Rest in Peace, and even Sneak Attack all get blown away for just three mana, giving fairer Sultai decks more play in otherwise bad matchups. Lastly, Sultai Charm lets you loot at instant speed. While not as strong as say, Brainstorm, the fact that you’re discarding a card means you can pump up a Tarmogoyf at instant speed, or even drop a card to eat with a Deathrite Shaman. As well, unlike Brainstorm, if you don’t like one of the cards you drew you can simply discard it, rather than putting it back on top of your deck and requiring a fetchland to get rid of it.
Finally, and this is simply pure speculation, we have Deflecting Palm. I’ve seen first hand the kind of chaos this card can cause in Modern, and I don’t see why Legacy should be any different. For just RW, you not only prevent any damage from a single source, Deflecting Palm also does that much damage to that source’s controller. What makes this special is that it stops creatures with lifelink like Batterskull and Griselbrand which are traditionally terrible for Red decks to deal with. Giving a Burn deck or a Jeskai Delver deck the ability to prevent the opponent from gaining life and smacking them for a hefty chunk of damage can really swing the game in their favour. What’s even scarier is that this gives these decks outs to even the mighty Emrakul. Sure, you lose your board presence, but you keep your life and hit them for 15, all for two mana. Any Red deck worth its salt should be able to get a Sneak and Show deck to 15 life by the time Emrakul is attacking, so Deflecting Palm can very well end the game on the spot. But above all else, you get to tell your opponent “Stop hitting yourself”, which makes Deflecting Palm all the more enjoyable to cast.
I expect the impact of Khans of Tarkir to be huge for Legacy. Compared to the previous year, there are considerably more viable cards in this set alone than in all of Theros block. This looks to be the beginning of more powerful cards being printed, which can only mean big things for Legacy in the upcoming year. I, for one, look forward to the possibilities of how the format may shift and evolve. If this trend of stronger cards continues, we’re in for one hell of a ride.
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