The legacy scene at my local game store has seen incredible growth recently. Only about a year ago we used to have around fifteen players every Wednesday. Yesterday forty-eight players showed up to do battle in this week’s weekly legacy tournament, and we consistently draw more than thirty-two players. Legacy is a great format, but what is the reason for this recent increase in players? A lot of it has to do with the work so many of us have put into building an amazing community, but what about the format itself? There was a post recently at svenskamagic.com asking why one should get into legacy. Someone on Twitter asked me about the main attraction to Legacy compared to Modern. These questions got me thinking. What is it exactly that gives this format its charm? Why is it that so many players seem to have been put under its spell? What makes a format enjoyable is subjective, and opinions are going to differ. Most formats will not suit all players, and that’s okay. Still there is a pattern to what we tend to enjoy, something about Legacy that draws us in and excites us. I want to figure out what that is, and share it with the uninitiated. I will focus on the format from a gameplay perspective, but there is no doubt that the community and the people also play a very important role. The legacy community I play in is great. People are super friendly, and the atmosphere is very uplifting. It is truly a privilege to enjoy such company.
Legacy is what it is largely because of the size of the card pool. Magic has been around for quite a few years now, and with nearly every card ever printed being legal, there is an insane amount of viable strategies in the format. While certain decks are certainly over performing compared to the rest of the field, there are still a lot of decks that are clearly viable choices. The nonrotating nature of the format also allows players to achieve mastery with a deck over time, which is why we keep seeing dedicated players putting up excellent results even when most people would consider their deck to be subpar. At my LGS we started keeping track of the metagame as recently as three weeks ago, and we’ve already seen close to forty distinct decks from just a few weeks of legacy.
Legacy has a number of decks that would generally be considered tier one. As I’m writing this, the following decks make up the ‘decks to beat’ section over at the source.
- Team America
- Ad Nauseam Tendrils
- Canadian Threshold
- Blade Control
- Death and Taxes
That’s eight different decks that are all quite different from each other. Not only do we have a set of decks that employ widely different strategies. We have a set of decks that while clearly very powerful still only make up one part of the metagame. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the next larger event taken down by Shardless BUG, Imperial Painter, Infect, Lands or Merfolk. The list goes on and on, and that says a lot about the state of the format. While some decks are certainly often similar to one another in how games with them tend to play out, this diversity is still a major reason for the complexity of the format. While a flaw in many formats is that they grow stale, this tends to not be the case with Legacy. When Owen Turtenwald listed Legacy among the top five best formats of all time he referred to it as “Legacy at any point in which people weren’t playing with the cards Flash, Mental Misstep, or Treasure Cruise.” While there have been times we’re one strategy has been clearly dominant in the format, the majority of the time anything’s viable if you’re competent with the deck you’re playing. This means that you will be rewarded for mastering a deck and being a skilled pilot, but also for really knowing the format, not just the best decks. This metagame diversity also means that even those very experienced with the format will have to think on their feet from time to time. While you may be familiar with all the different decks in legacy, knowing how any given rogue strategy has evolved in the past year and what the current lists look like is a more difficult feat.
Achieving Mastery with a Deck
Some legacy aficionados play a wide range of decks, switching things up between tournaments. Others have been playing and tuning the same deck for years, dedicating copious amounts of time, energy and reflection to master their strategy. If you ask any such player about why their list looks the way it looks they could probably give very exact reasons for every single card choice. Listening to an experienced player describing their decision making process tends to be very inspirational simply due to the sheer amount of factors they intuitively take into account. Being skilled with a deck comes down to more than knowing what cards are good when and where. You have to know what matters in a matchup and be attuned to how the game is progressing. It means knowing what you can’t beat, and figuring out how to beat what you can. It means knowing what needs to happen for you to win, and knowing when you need to gamble. The fact that the legacy format doesn’t rotate, and the card pool being large enough that existing strategies persist even with the release of new sets allows legacy players to play the same deck for years in order to become masters of their strategies.
Intricate Puzzle Solving
Games of Legacy often involve very complex interactions and intricate lines of play. The format is a highly suitable source for ‘magic puzzles’, and I am very impressed every time a player manages to solve these puzzles right then and there in the game. Whether it’s using Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce your own Counterbalance in response to its trigger so that you can Brainstorm and reveal it to itself, or aiming some copies of Brain Freeze at yourself when you have a Sensei’s Divining Top in play so that you can spin it in between and find the Cunning Wish you need to win, these puzzles tend to be very mind expanding. Solving one feels like figuring out the answer to an especially difficult riddle. Once you’ve figured it out it all makes sense. Essentially it’s about realizing what presumptions you had subconsciously made, and correcting them.
Consistency without Redundancy
Consistency means less is decided by variance. As the impact of variance diminishes, more is left to the decisions we make as players. The problem we face when we strive to eliminate variance is that it often leads to the elimination of variation as well. Variation is what makes every game unique and brings a sense of freshness. It keeps us curious and engaged. Consistency in a game can be achieved in a number of ways. Rather than simply relying on the redundancy that comes from playing more cards that fulfill a certain role, many decks in legacy have the ability to sculpt the flow of the game in such a way as to ensure consistency. Cards like Brainstorm and Goblin Matron allow us to combine the tools we have to engineer a way through a given situation. There’s always a plan, but it’s not always the same plan. Having access to powerful library manipulation means we have more cards to work with, only we’re not necessarily looking for the most individually powerful card, but rather a combination of cards that can look very different from time to time. You won’t always have access to a card that solves all your problems, but you will have enough control over your draws to be able to sculpt a game that you can win. The quality of your draws is going to impact your chances of winning, but if you can adapt to your circumstances you needn’t be at the mercy of fate. Flexibility and knowing what your role is in a given situation – not just a matchup – is essential to your success.
It’s true that there are several barriers to getting into legacy. The format is not cheap, and entry will often require serious investment on your part. But the format still keeps attracting new players. The myth of Legacy being a format where turn one combo decks are running rampant everywhere has finally died out, and the format is more open as a result. I’ve seen quite a few Modern players dip their toes in the Legacy waters recently. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue. Magic is an amazing game, and legacy embodies a lot of what I love about the game and its strategic elements. If you’ve been fascinated by Legacy but hesitant to try it out, hopefully this article will have shed some light on what makes this format so great. If you’re already an experienced Legacy player I would love to hear what keeps you coming back to the format!
As always, I’m Sandro Rajalin, and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter or e-mail me at RajalinSandroMtG@gmail.com
If there’s any topic in particular you’ve been itching to read about make sure to tell me, and I might just end up writing an article about it!
Until next time,
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