On Friday, August 11 one man stepped to the forefront to claim the title of best “Eternal” player in the world. Who was this masked man and how did he become the first person ever to hold the titles of Vintage and Legacy World Champion at the same time? Read on, my friends, read on.

LEGACY FORMAT

More than 8,000 thousand cards are legal in Legacy tournaments, dating all the way back to the creation of Magic. For a recap of the 63 banned cards for Legacy format, click here.

The sun shone brightly in Indianapolis on Friday … or did it? I have no idea really – I was inside the giant convention center for the entirety of Friday and Saturday, and honestly, you're not reading this for a weather report, are you? You want to know about Legacy. What's the format like? What are the exciting new decks? Who took home the big prize? We'll get there soon enough, I promise. First however, I suppose an introduction is in order.

Legacy as it currently exists is a relatively recent format. The modern version of this format was formed last year when Magic R&D separated the Banned and Restricted from “Type 1” and “Type 1.5” (giving players Vintage and Legacy, respectively). The format is considerably more restrictive than its slightly older and more inclusive cousin, but considering that you can play nearly every single card ever designed in Magic, I still expected it to be a bastion for brokenness. Happily, as it turns out, I was wrong.

Thus far in its young life, Legacy has been dominated by three decks: Goblins, Threshold, and Reset High Tide, though glacial control deck Landstill has featured prominently in the metagame from time to time, and last November Chris Pikula introduced a spicy little black-white control deck he called Deadguy Ale to shake things up. This isn't to imply that these are the only decks in the format, nor even the only successful decks – a format that basically includes all the cards should hopefully be diverse, and it is. However, these particular archetypes are the ones that have shown up in the Top 8 time and again at big Legacy tournaments over the past year. Here are stock lists of each archetype from recent Star City events held in June, plus Pikula's original:

Bennett Toms - Threshold

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Chris Coppola - Vial Goblins

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James Peyton - Reset High Tide

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Chris Pikula - Rogue Deadguy Ale: A Homebrew

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Instant (4)
4 Dark Ritual
Artifact (2)
2 Cursed Scroll
Enchantment (2)
2 Engineered Plague
60 Cards
 

The Legacy Championship opened with 183 players, a very solid total boosted further by 104 competitors battling for a single two-round bye in the Trial the night before. The early rounds progressed rapidly, and players were not only interested in the event, but excited about being there. It made for an interesting contrast to the business-as-usual atmosphere of most Grand Prix, forming a mélange of casual competitive players plus format enthusiasts you don't often encounter at big events. Here's the metagame breakdown for the event:

Deck Archetype Total
Goblins 35
Threshold 20
High Tide 16
White Weenie 13
Burninator 12
DeadGuy 8
Survival 5
Aluren 5
Faerie Stompy 4
IGGy Pop 4
Affinity 4
Landstill 4
White Rock 3
Red-green Beats 3
Salvagers Game 3
There were 29 other archetypes played by two or fewer players

As you can see, the field was fairly diverse, with a substantial “random” element to the field with people playing tons of homebrews or archetypes that have fallen out of favor. That said, the top 6 archetypes listed above made up around 57 percent of the metagame, so a little over half the time players wound up playing something with which they were reasonably familiar. Of the archetypes listed above that have not already been covered, Burninator are decks that featured a ton of burn plus a smattering of Sligh-esque creatures such as Jackal Pup, Ball Lightning, and even Spark Elemental. The White Weenie decks were mostly disruptive builds in the same vein as blue-white “Fish” decks from Vintage, with fast, disruptive beats topped off by Exalted Angel to try to pull ahead of most Goblin and dedicated aggro builds.

Fast-forwarding through most of the Swiss, nearly every player in the Top 8 had a chance to be knocked out in the last round, depending on who played and how certain matches turned out. We pick up the action in Round 8, with notable slacker and Wisconsin Magician Brian Kowal versus 39-year-old pizza parlor and card shop owner Doyle Bledsoe. Bledsoe was playing Extended classic Aluren while Kowal battled with a homebrew Life from the Loam deck. Both players had a chance to squeak into the Top 8 if they won, but would definitely be knocked out with a loss.

Round 8: Doyle Bledsoe vs. Brian Kowal

Kowal called shenanigans on himself on his first turn, yelling “Uno!” as he cast three Mox Diamonds, and then still made his land drop on turn two. Life from the Loam brought all of his discarded lands right back to his hand, showing his very intriguing engine right from the get-go.

Brian Kowal in a make-or-break match.“I call it… Mishra's Stompy,” noted Kowal ironically, as he bashed for four with Factories. “Unfortunately I'm not going to know what he's playing if I kill him this quickly.” For his part, Bledsoe cast Brainstorm and Impulse on the first two turns, digging for blockers, before putting Eternal Witness into play.

Kowal used Wasteland to keep Bledsoe off of any white or black mana, dredging Life from the Loam each turn to fill his graveyard with useful items, and tossing in a Hymn to Tourach for good measure. Wall of Blossoms from Bledsoe settled in to block, but he just couldn't deal with the Factory beatings backed up by Lightning Bolt.

“That's sickening,” lamented Bledsoe.

“Thank you,” quipped Kowal.

Both players mulliganned for Game 2, with Kowal leading off the spellcasting with a Duress (hitting Brainstorm and revealing Wirewood Savage, Wall of Blossoms and two lands). Bledsoe cast Intuition for three Raven Familiars, getting one to dig for combo pieces, and then attacking with it a turn later only to see it head to the farm via Swords to Plowshares. Kowal had no action at all however, and Doyle used Living Wishes to fill his hand with Cavern Harpy and Raven Familiar. Combine that with the Cavern Harpy in his hand, and Bledsoe was able to go off over the top of Kowal's Swords to Plowshares.

Doyle Bledsoe, with Living Wish on the brain.About 30 cards into the loop, Bledsoe realized that he might have sided out his third Living Wish and might not be able to finish Kowal, and stopped drawing cards. Luckily, Bledsoe had the wherewithal to start attacking with his creatures and killed Kowal a couple of turns later with plenty of cards left in his library.

“Why did I say anything about that Living Wish?” mused Kowal. “He might have just kept going and drawn his whole deck.”

“Yeah, thank you for that. I almost cost myself there,” Bledsoe answered as he checked his sideboard – he had definitely sided out the third Wish.

Kowal got off to a solid start in Game 3 with very little time on the clock, disrupting Bledsoe's hand heavily and trying to start the beats with Mishra's Factory and Eternal Witness, but his deck wasn't exactly suited to dispatching an opponent quickly. The game ended with Bledsoe at 7 life when time was called.

When neither player was willing to concede, the match ended in a pyrrhic draw.

Brian Kowal - Dirty Dreams

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With that tasty morsel as an appetizer, let's head to the Top 8.

Top 8 Player Profiles

Name: Roland Chang
Age: 23
Where are you from? New York City, NY
Deck Archetype: Blue-green Madness
Why did you choose this deck? I played it because I went 0-2 drop with Goblins the day before in the Legacy pre-lims. I've been doing really well with the deck since last year, but I hadn't picked it up since Grand Prix-Philly. It's been consistent and solid all weekend.

Roland Chang - U/G Madness

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Chang was the only player in the field to run any sort of traditional Madness build and it paid off for him. Minus Force of Will, Brainstorm (it’s still hard to believe Brainstorm rotated out), and the manabase, the maindeck is Extended legal. Force and Wasteland add additional disruption elements to a deck that was already pretty good at protecting its beaters or keeping combo down. The sideboard for this deck is also focused almost exclusively on disrupting the common decks in the metagame, with graveyard hate, Aether Vial hate (Needle), and Goblins hate (Blue Elemental Blast) all present in reasonable quantities.

Name: Brandon Todesca
Age: 22
Where are you from? Medfield, MA
Deck Archetype: Goblins
Why did you choose this deck? I've been playing it for the last 18 months now. I chose the green splash because I was worried about the Rifter matchup, which didn't show. I've been playing Jitte in the deck for a while now and it paid off by winning me two matches outright. I think it's important to play the deck you know best at tournaments like this, instead of some metagame choice.

Brandon Todesca - Goblins

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Look, it’s Goblins. You all know what goblins do – they attack. They also might sacrifice themselves for damage, and put other goblins into play for free, and tutor up their friends, and draw cards and… dear god, what don’t goblins do? Supposedly the little red men aren’t smart, but hot diggity are they versatile. Since the creation of Legacy there’s been some tension about whether or not Goblin Lackey is too good not to be banned, but only one set of gobbos in the Top 8 would seem to indicate he’s safe… for now.

Name: Matthew Abold
Age: 19
Where are you from? Near Syracuse, NY
Deck Archetype: Thunder Bluff
Why did you choose this deck? I saw it a week before Gen Con at Kodiak's Dual Land Draft. It seemed to have decent matchups and matched my play style.

Matthew Abold - ThunderBluff

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Ooo, what have we here? An honest-to-goodness midrange control deck? Surely this can’t be good enough to compete in Legacy, can it? Abold’s results say otherwise. Combine the best spot removal with the best board clearing, plus discard, card filtering and versatile fat and you get this deck. I’m quite certain a substantial portion of the Magic playing public just became very excited as they realized you can play The Rock in Legacy as well.

Name: Thomas Lee
Age: 35
Where are you from? St. Paul, MN
Deck Archetype: Salvagers Game
Why did you choose this deck? I'm an avid Vintage player, but with little tournament Legacy experience. Thus I wanted an aggressive combo deck that wins quick and easy, and Auriok Salvagers is my favorite Magic card.

Thomas Lee - Salvagers Game

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Thomas Lee has a serious fetish for some Auriok Salvagers. The only way to make this more obvious to opponents would be to put stickers of Dita von Teese over the Randy Gallegos art. Most of his success in Vintage has come via Oath of Druids Salvagers, and this deck tries its best to recreate that deck in the slower, Goblins-and-Threshold-filled Legacy metagame. It’s really just a dirty combo deck disguised as an excuse to get a crappy four-mana 2/2 into the graveyard so it can just win. Strangely, it’s quite effective at doing this, but it doesn’t feel much like you got sleazed out by brokenness when you lose to it. The same cannot be said of losing to IGGy Pop.

Name: Ben Roberts
Age: 21
Where are you from? Milwaukee, WI
Deck Archetype: IGGy Pop
Why did you choose this deck? It is a very explosive deck with a lot of maindeck hate against the most popular decks in the format and I love to kill people on turn two. It also has three cards that I can run four copies of that are restricted in Vintage.

Ben Roberts - IGGy-Pop

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This was a deck that nearly broke through back at Grand Prix-Philadelphia, but certain new additions from Guildpact and Dissension (Leyline and Infernal Tutor, respectively) have pushed it over the top. For those who don’t know the synergy, Ill-Gotten Gains with Leyline of the Void already in play is a one-sided Mind Twist for four mana that also Ancestrals the caster in the process. That’s the kind of disgusting stunt you’d expect to see Divine pull in a John Waters movie, and it’s decidedly unkind on opponents in the game of Magic. I found myself coming back to matches involving this deck again and again on Friday, surprised by how nasty it could be as well as how resistant it is to both control and heavy disruption strategies. Michael Bomholt’s creation is a thing of insidious beauty.

Name: Nick Trudeau
Age: 22
Where are you from? San Diego, CA
Deck Archetype: 4-color Landstill
Why did you choose this deck? A creation of San Diego's Legacy brain trust, 4-Color Landstill has been a staple of SD Legacy for over a year now. After a new addition to the deck (Stifle) by Lucas Michaels, we were ready for Gen Con.

Nick Trudeau - 4-Color Landstill

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Surprised to see this slow-as-molasses control archetype (it kills with friggin’ lands!) make the Top 8, I asked Trudeau point blank, “Isn’t that deck dead?” Trudeau’s performance answers the question in the negative. Stifle wrecked people all weekend long, I really like the Monastery beats, and playing three Fact or Fiction with cards this good feels like cheating. This deck is the one obvious and direct control deck in the environment, and while its clock can only be described as glacial, the fact that it continues to do well is a good thing for the format.

Name: Jason Mayes
Age: 26
Where are you from? Oswego, IL
Deck Archetype: 4-Color Threshold
Why did you choose this deck? It has good game against the entire format. I chose to play this version of the deck because it has a slight edge in the mirror.

Jason Mayes - Threshold

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Threshold is too good an archetype not to get at least one player into the elimination rounds. Apparently Mike Flores and BDM’s favorite Extended archetype is much better when you get to add cards like Lightning Bolt, Force of Will, and Brainstorm plus dual lands to the decklist. Then again, what deck isn’t? Threshold is consistent, hate resistant, and thus persistent. Expect it to be around for, oh, basically ever, though some former Extended players might (rightly) point out that it’s just like Madness but with worse animals.

Name: Michael Bomholt
Age: 25
Where are you from? Oxford, OH (Miami University)
Deck Archetype: IGGy Pop
Why did you choose this deck? I created the deck last year, and then Wizards decided to print Leyline of the Void and add Infernal Tutor so the deck could own more.

Michael Bomholt - IGGy-Pop

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I’ve said all I’m going to say about IGGy Pop above. In fact, just thinking about it again makes me feel like I need to go take a shower.

Eight decklists and seven different archetypes was more than a pleasant surprise, especially considering the fact that only one each of Goblins and Threshold made it to the elimination rounds. Looking at archetypes that made it into the Top 16, you can see nearly every solid Extended deck from the game’s glorious past has a chance to do well. Affinity, 9-land Stompy, and Suicide Black with a splash of red all put players one match win away from the elimination rounds. Further down in the Top 16, you could also find a modified version of Vintage hit Uba Stax, and even Burning Bridge, so it looks like there’s a lot of design space yet to be exploited in Legacy. Thus worries that Legacy is merely a three- or four-deck format (largely spawned from the Grand Prix results at Lille and Philadelphia) appear to be overblown.

As mentioned above, the only deck to put two players into the Top 8 was IGGy Pop, a dirty combo deck that was hardly well represented but is nevertheless very powerful. Designed to exploit the synergy between Leyline of the Void and Ill-Gotten Gains, IGGy Pop is disruptive enough to blow through many control decks in the field while still fast enough to get past the flood of Goblin decks one can expect to see in the Legacy metagame. In the past, both Legacy and Vintage players have seemed to shy away from explosive combo decks, but judging from the results at Gen Con, success may force a change in that trend.

top 8 bracket

Quaterfinals

Roland Chang (Madness)

Jason Mayes (Threshold)

Nick Trudeau (Landstill)

Michael Bomholt (IGGy Pop)

Ben Roberts (IGGy Pop)

Thomas Lee (Salvagers Game)

Brandon Todesca (Goblins)

Matthew Abold (Thunder Bluff)

Semi-finals

 

 

 

 

Finals

 

 

Champion

 

Semifinals: Thomas Lee vs. Brandon Todesca

Thomas Lee brought Auriok Salvagers into the semifinals. Lee won the all-important die roll and chose to keep. Todesca kept as well and hit the saucy start of first-turn Goblin Lackey. It died to Innocent Blood before inviting any friends to the party. Goblin Piledriver from Todesca a turn later was also good, and he managed to stick around for a bit, while Rishadan Port allowed Todesca to keep a land a turn on lockdown. Cabal Therapy from Lee for Goblin Ringleader hit, showing Goblin Matron and Goblin Incinerator remaining in Todesca's hand, while on the other side of the board Mogg Fanatic was now keeping Piledriver company on the attack.

Gamekeeper for Lee served double duty, providing both a sacrifice outlet for Cabal Therapy and allowing him to put Auriok Salvagers into play for free. Another Gamekeeper two turns later with Lee at 9 dramatically slowed the game … but that was really just Todesca figuring out combat math with the Goblin Warchief and Piledriver he was about to cast. The little red men were shipped directly into the red zone. Lee dropped to 1, but the Gamekeeper going to the graveyard triggered its ability, which then flipped Lion's Eye Diamond into the graveyard. That allowed Lee to end the match after his untap via recurring Lion's Eye Diamond, Auriok Salvagers, Chromatic Sphere digging for Pyrite Spellbomb, and then Pyrite Spellbomb recursion for the kill.

Todesca freely admitted he had no idea how to play against this combo deck.

Game 2 opened with a first-turn Goblin Lackey from Todesca eating another Innocent Blood, while Todesca put a pair of Aether Vials on the board for his second turn. Cabal Therapy for Goblin Ringleader whiffed, revealing Warchief, Fanatic, and Goblin Matron. Todesca drew his required land off the top, and cast the Warchief, putting Fanatic into play along with it, while Lee wiped the board clear a turn later with Infest. The board remained that way for a turn until Todesca went for the greedy play, tutoring up Goblin Warchief with his Matron (instead of Goblin Ringleader) and then putting it into play, casting Piledriver, and smashing for 8. Another Infest lay in wait for this new crew of Goblins, and they were quickly toe-tagged and sent to the morgue.

Exhaustion got the better of Brandon Todesca. A pair of dirty plucks for Lee let him get past Todesca's dual Rishadan Port lockdown, giving him a Bayou and Forest so that he could cast Living Wish and then Gamekeeper on successive turns. An end-of-turn Siege-Gang Commander looked to give Todesca the win, except he decided to throw up all over himself instead. With Lee at 7, all Todesca needed to simply attack, stack damage and sacrifice two of his tokens before damage resolved and he would win the game. Instead, he decided to sacrifice a token and his Siege-Gang before damage, putting Lee at 1. Lee cast Innocent Blood on his turn, sending the Keeper to the bin and then flipping his entire combo over with the trigger. It had been a very long day, and Brandon's play was clearly the result of exhaustion.

Thomas Lee advances to the finals of the Legacy Championship with a 2-0 win over Brandon Todesca.

Finals: Thomas Lee vs. Roland Chang

Roland Chang has a chance to be the first holder of both Vintage and Legacy World Champ titles and not only that, if he wins here, he will hold both at the same time (for a day, anyway…call it the Roland Slam). Thomas Lee is also a notable Vintage player, sporting at least one StarCityGames.com Power 9 Top 8 on his resume.

 

Cabal Therapy
Both players kept their openers and they were off. Cabal Therapy from Lee met a Brainstorm in response, with Chang protecting Force of Will. The Therapy whiffed on Mongrel, revealing two Wooded Foothills, Brainstorm, Arrogant Wurm, Basking Rootwalla, Deep Analysis, and Aquamoeba. Chang cast the ‘Moeba on his turn and then protected it from Innocent Blood with Basking Rootwalla. Living Wish from Lee resolved, giving him City of Brass, and perhaps indicating that he already had Gamekeeper in hand.

Gamekeeper a turn later ran right into Daze, earning a big frown from Lee.

Chang meanwhile kept casting angry animals and turning them sideways. The Daze plus a Force in hand was more than enough to buy Chang time for his burly beaters to win, with even a Circular Logic left in hand to spare.

“Now is when the matchup gets really bad… if I can't win Game 1, there isn't much hope,” lamented Lee.

Both players kept their hands for Game 2, and Lee led off with a Duress, hitting one of a pair of Circular Logics in Chang's hand. Cabal Therapy a turn later ripped Chang's hands to shreds, nailing a pair of Aquamoebas this time, leaving Roland without a madness outlet. On Lee's third turn he cast Living Wish, and then used his Lion's Eye Diamond for three white mana before the Wish resolved. Chang Dazed this to set Lee back at least a turn, since Lee was obviously paying for the Daze, but now could not put his Auriok Salvagers into play that turn. On Chang's turn he merely cast Aquamoeba and then passed it back, while as expected, Lee's Salvagers merely resolved a turn later than anticipated.

 

Circular Logic
Chang used two Circular Logics to make sure a recursed Lion's Eye Diamond did not resolve, trying to buy more time to draw into either Pithing Needle or Tormod's Crypt. It was not to be, and Lee combo'd out a turn later to even the match.

Chang kept his starting seven for the rubber game, but Lee had to pitch his hand back, and then watched in horror as his first Polluted Delta was Stifled. Basking Rootwalla from Chang kicked in the beats, followed by Wild Mongrel a turn later. Duress cleared Chang's hand of a Daze, but he drew a Force of Will, and was basically a blue card short of guaranteeing a win for himself, especially with a second angry dog joining its brother on the table.

Living Wish from Lee got him Gamekeeper, but Cabal Therapy naming Force of Will smacked home, giving him a chance again. Circular Logic off the top made it all irrelevant though, and with his next attack step Chang became the first dual title holder of both Legacy and Vintage World Championships.

Those looking for additional information about Legacy should check out The Source and The Mana Leak, the Legacy side of Vintage forums found at The Mana Drain.


Roland Chang, from 2005 Vintage champion to 2006 Legacy champion.