Breaking into Legacy – Part 1

Hey guys! We’re Jason and Jeff Abong, administrators and owners of AZMagicPlayers. As some of you are aware, we mostly play Legacy, and we try our best to play in every Legacy event we can. As a result, we get asked a lot of questions regarding Legacy—more specifically, how to get into Legacy. In order to answer these questions, we decided to write this (hopefully) semi-regular column covering this very topic.

Legacy is pretty darn expensive. Seeing players top 8 with Reanimator, BUG, and UW Stoneblade can certainly be daunting to players who don’t have that kind of budget. But never fear! Legacy is actually a lot more affordable than it seems.

Differences in Metagames

The one thing to realize is that there is a difference between the “professional” metagame (such as the StarCityGames Open Series, Pro Tours, or Grand Prix) and your local metagame (your local card store, or the city that you live in). Just because Reanimator dominates the Open Series doesn’t necessarily mean it’s tearing up your local store’s metagame either. This can be for several reasons, with the most obvious being card availability. Unlike Standard where people can buy the winning deck on the fly, Legacy players, if they don’t have the cards already, usually don’t drop $400 for a set of Underground Seas the instant Reanimator wins. Instead, they adapt their deck or sideboard to beat Reanimator since it is far cheaper to do that than buy Reanimator. For example, Arizona was not affected at all by the dominance of Survival/Vengevine. Yes, it may have put two or three decks in the weekly Legacy events, but so did Goblins, Merfolk, or Zoo. So, while Survival/Vengevine may have been the deck to beat elsewhere, in Arizona it wasn’t nearly as impressive. The point is, just because a particular deck seems bad in a metagame because the StarCityGames metagame is hostile to it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your local metagame would be hostile to it.

What does this mean for you? In our experience, since local Legacy metagames don’t adapt as fast, you don’t need to play the current “best” deck to win. Your budget deck is probably well fit for your local store’s metagame. A smaller Legacy scene’s decks are less likely to fluctuate than the StarCityGames scene. Instead of playing the flavor of the week, you can just adjust your sideboard to beat that flavor, so that way, your budget deck can still remain competitive at your store.

Before we begin covering the decks, we just want to note that “budget” is a very relative term. To some, their idea of budget is $50. To another, the ceiling for budget is $500. In order to appeal to as many budget players as we can, we will cover decks that are known to be on the cheaper end of the Legacy decks, instead of picking an arbitrary dollar amount and adhering to that.

That being said, let’s begin!


Austin Yost, 1st Place at DC

Creatures (13)
Figure of Destiny
Goblin Guide
Hellspark Elemental
Keldon Marauders

Spells (28)
Lightning Bolt
Price of Progress
Chain Lightning
Flame Rift
Lava Spike
Rift Bolt

Lands (19)
17 Mountain
Barbarian Ring
Sideboard (15)
Faerie Macabre
Pyrostatic Pillar
Red Elemental Blast
Smash to Smithereens

Avg Price on as of 1/22/11: $133.94

Did a $130 deck just win $2000 and 1st place at SCG: DC? You bet it did! People can deny it all they want, but burn is a legitimate threat in Legacy. Nothing feels better than punishing people for playing dual lands, and stopping blue decks cold with Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast just feels good. Heck, if you really wanted to, you could just buy four Fire & Lightning Premium Decks and after that, all you’re missing are the sideboard cards, Goblin Guide, Flame Rift, Lava Spike, and Rift Bolt.

Obviously, Austin’s sideboard is gearing towards the dominance of Reanimator and blue-based decks that have popped up recently, but check your local metagame. Other possible sideboard cards include Volcanic Fallout, Sulfuric Vortex, and Pithing Needle (for the Circle of Protections: Red that will inevitably pop up with you start dominating with burn).

A question that often pops up with burn is the inclusion of Grim Lavamancer. He is certainly a good card and it wouldn’t be bad to run it, but he needs fetchlands to be good, which can be upwards of another $100 to add. If your metagame has a lot of RUG Delver decks, fetchlands get much worse against Stifle.

Beyond Burn

There are really only two routes you can take if you wish to add money to burn. One route is Zoo, which plays similarly but the manabase is the most taxing part. Luckily, you really only need five, maybe six, dual lands (two Plateau, two Taiga, and one Savannah), since the rest of the manabase is basics and fetchlands.

The other route is the new UR Delver decks. Snapcaster Mage isn’t universally adopted yet, and Force of Will is nice, but if you want to go straight burn, adding countermagic isn’t all that great anyway. Getting a couple Volcanic Islands and fetchlands is the most expensive part, since Delver of Secrets and Brainstorm are cheap.

Elf Combo

Creatures (36)
Birchlore Rangers
Elvish Visionary
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Fierce Empath
Fyndhorn Elves
Heritage Druid
Llanowar Elves
Nettle Sentinel
Priest of Titania
Quirion Ranger
Regal Force
Wirewood Symbiote

Spells (10)
Crop Rotation
Glimpse of Nature
Green Sun’s Zenith

Lands (14)
Dryad Arbor
11 Forest
Gaea’s Cradle
Horizon Canopy

Avg Price on as of 1/22/11: $213.09

This is our own personal list – you can already see the budget elements of it! Gaea’s Cradle is $60, but Crop Rotation fits nicely as a 50 cent replacement. For those who don’t know about this deck, the deck aims to get a Heritage Druid (or its worse equivalent, Birchlore Rangers) and Nettle Sentinel out, and cast a Glimpse of Nature. Tapping the Nettle Sentinel and two other Elves nets you three green mana, then casting an Elf draws you a card and untaps the Sentinel. Repeat until you get the fifteen mana necessary to cast Emrakul, and along the way, Green Sun for a Regal Force to help your combo out. Summoner’s Pact and Green Sun’s Zenith are interchangeable, so if you have access to Pacts, those work pretty well too.

Beyond Elves

Unfortunately, the cards in Elves don’t translate into other decks as well, but upping the Gaea’s Cradle count is a way to make the deck more consistent. For reference, this Elf Combo list won a 71-player event in Paris. Instead of Emrakul, however, it uses Vengevines and the superior board position it develops to win.

Creatures (36)
Dryad Arbor
Joraga Warcaller
Regal Force
Viridian Shaman
Fyndhorn Elves
Llanowar Elves
Elvish Visionary
Fauna Shaman
Heritage Druid
Nettle Sentinel
Quirion Ranger
Wirewood Symbiote

Spells (8)
Glimpse of Nature
Green Sun’s Zenith

Lands (16)
Gaea’s Cradle
12 Forest

The Mighty Quinn

Creatures (4)
Eternal Dragon
Painter’s Servant

Spells (34)
Sensei’s Divining Top
Isochron Scepter
Enlightened Tutor
Orim’s Chant
Swords to Plowshares
Decree of Justice
Wrath of God
Ghostly Prison
Sacred Mesa
Story Circle
Runed Halo
Oblivion Ring

Lands (22)
18 Snow Covered Plains
Scrying Sheets

Avg Price on as of 1/22/12: $317.54

Control decks aren’t known to be budget friendly. Most control decks involve Force of Will and Jace, the Mind Sculptor—two cards usually out of budget range. But not this deck. Using the synergy with Scrying Sheets, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Snow-Covered lands, it generates massive card advantage by filtering all of its lands out during the end of turn step in order to draw into massive board control cards like Wrath of God or the Scepter/Chant lock. The win is Painter’s Servant and Grindstone, but be sure to play your Servant after you Chant your opponent. If the combo is still a little out of your budget, consider running Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Gideon Jura. Also, Silence is a decent replacement for Orim’s Chant (though stopping the combat phase is brutally effective).

One thing to note is that Painter’s Servant works under a Humility, since the layer that changes color is applied before Humility’s effect, so grind away, humble servant.

Beyond Mighty Quinn

The main card that can be added to improve the Mighty Quinn is Moat. Unfortunately, that essentially doubles the cost of the Mighty Quinn. While running the Mighty Quinn without it isn’t that detrimental to the deck’s overall game plan, since it runs so many other board control elements anyway, Moat’s ability to completely stop decks like Goblins or Merfolk (except for Coralhelm Commander) is amazing, so if you like the Mighty Quinn, consider dropping the dough for the Moat.

We’re not done yet…

We’ve covered three strong, but budget, decks in Legacy, but we’ve barely even scratched the surface. Join us next time as we cover more Legacy decks that can break your opponent but not the bank.

Before we end, we just want to say thanks to several people who have given some inspiration for the decks you have seen (and will see in the future). These people have also created budget decks in order to help other players get into Legacy—we certainly aren’t the only ones! If you’re eager to see more budget Legacy decks, check them out!

If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments section below, on the forums, or Jason’s Twitter (he just started a new account! Follow him at @MTGTwin1). If you have any requests for decks for us to cover, let us know! We’ll be glad to brew up a list for you.

See you at future Legacy tournaments!

Jason and Jeff