More than any other format in Magic, Legacy is all about the decks. With access to over 13,000 cards, there are a tremendous number of options for players, including a number of interactions that were undreamed of when the cards were originally designed. You get decks like Sneak and Show, which take advantage of Sneak Attack and Show and Tell to get Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play, usually ending the game soon thereafter. You have the various Delver of Secrets decks that are an updated and deepened riff on the Delver decks that ran rampant in Standard for over a year. Speaking of modified Standard stalwarts, how about the Stoneblade decks that are derivatives of CawBlade, one of the most stifling decks Standard has ever seen. You have Elves combo decks hoping to avoid reanimated Elesh Norns. You have decks like Ad Nauseam Tendrils and Belcher, which feature virtually no lands, and Lands, which features virtually no spells. In Legacy, you really can do it all.
As it has garnered more and more player and organizer support over the last few years, Legacy technology has grown by leaps and bounds. It doesn't quite move as quickly as Standard does, but it moves and shifts quite a surprising amount for a format that sees such a small relative change in its card pool on a regular basis. There are certainly trends to track, and information to be aware of if you have any illusions of doing well at a high-profile Legacy event.
Coming into this event, the biggest mover and shaker has certainly been Sneak and Show. Show and Tell decks have been a force to be reckoned with ever since the release of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Able to end the game in effectively one fell swoop, the deck is capable of killing opponents before they get more than one permanent into play, or wiping the board clear against those that do. It has been doing incredibly well recently, helping a number of players to top finishes at some high profile Legacy events.
Here in Philadelphia, things are a bit different. First, here is a look at the metagame breakdown from the Grinder run yesterday:
|Ad Nauseam Tendrils||1|
As you can see, that is an incredible amount of variety. 22 players, 15 different decks. Welcome to Legacy. As expected, the only real concentration of decks played is in the Show and Tell variant, though it's a different deck than expected. Considering the performances of Sneak and Show in the preceding weeks, it was interesting to see the Omni-Tell variant, which relies on getting an Omniscience into play either via Show and Tell or Dream Halls, before killing with a cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The variant is one of the other major decks to use the Show and Tell engine, though it has seen far less success than Sneak and Show. Even more interesting, there were no Sneak and Show decks at all in the Grinder.
Ultimately, it was Keith Blackwell's Shardless BUG deck that ended up taking the Grinder down. This is a deck that has been around in force since last year, where it served to keep the dominant Stoneblade decks in check. The deck also comes equipped with reasonable answers to the Sneak and Show deck, between Liliana of the Veil and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, as well as a boatload of permission and discard.
Taking a glance around the room during the third round, the breakdown of the Legacy Championships itself looks a little different than shown by the Grinders. A random sampling of ten matches from around the room showed the following breakdown:
|Sneak and Show||1|
|Death & Taxes||1|
This sampling is fairly representative of the field around the room. RUG Delver and Shardless BUG are clearly the two biggest decks in the room. Both decks feature aggressive cores backed up with divergent strategies. RUG tends to follow the effective Lightning Bolts of Insectile Aberration and Nimble Mongoose with actual Lightning Bolts, while BUG rocks more of a control shell, featuring cards like Ancestral Visions and Hymn to Tourach to cascade into.
Other than those big decks, the things to note are the relative lack of Sneak and Show enrichment. As decks tend to do well, players key into this and there tends to be an enrichment at following tournaments. We saw it with the rise of Monoblack Devotion and Colossal Gruul at Grand Prix Louisville, one week after they made Top 8 of the Pro Tour. Legacy tends to avoid this effect, though. With the richness of the format, players tend to find one or two decks they like and simple tweak them to deal with variations in the metagame. As such, seeing the relative lack of Sneak and Show isn't a complete surprise. What'll be surprising is if it doesn't end up with a presence in the Top 8. It is the favored deck of many of the top Legacy players, making it likely to have at least one representative in the elimination rounds.
For those of you unfamiliar with Legacy, many of these names will be rather foreign to you, despite the fact that Legacy tends to be one of the more direct in naming its decks. As such, I'll take a look through these breakdowns here in a little bit and give you the skinny on what these decks tend to do.