Legacy Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on August 3, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

25 years after the birth of Magic. The first team Pro Tour since 2006. The first time Legacy has even been a feature format at the Pro Tour. More than 400 players are here to compete for their slice of the million dollars being awarded over the course of the weekend.

Welcome to Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.

As you can imagine, players were more than a little excited to get to break out their Underground Seas, Force of Wills, and Wastelands, and in a wide-open metagame after Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe left the format no less.

What did players choose to bring to the most important Legacy tournament of their lives to date? Here's how the metagame broke down among the 165 players battling Legacy this weekend.

Archetype Copies Percentage of Field
Grixis Control 20 12.12%
Sneak and Show 16 9.70%
Eldrazi Stompy 14 8.48%
Death and Taxes 12 7.27%
Temur Delver 11 6.67%
BR Reanimator 9 5.45%
Miracles 9 5.45%
UB Shadow 9 5.45%
WU Stoneblade 8 4.85%
Eldrazi Post 7 4.24%
Mono-Red Prison 7 4.24%
Grixis Delver 6 3.64%
4c Loam 4 2.42%
Affinity 4 2.42%
Infect 4 2.42%
Grixis Shadow 3 1.82%
Storm 3 1.82%
Elves 2 1.21%
Omni-Show 2 1.21%
Sultai Midrange 2 1.21%
UR Delver 2 1.21%
WU Control 2 1.21%
Aluren 1 0.61%
Esper Control 1 0.61%
Esper Stoneblade 1 0.61%
Jeskai Control 1 0.61%
Lands 1 0.61%
Maverick 1 0.61%
Merfolk 1 0.61%
Turbo Depths 1 0.61%
UB Reanimator 1 0.61%

As you can see from the full list, there's a lot of options available to players in Legacy, and no deck comprises more than 12% of the metagame. The top decks run the gamut from control to combo to aggro to tempo to ramp, a clear indication of why Legacy is such a beloved format among players. It's truly anything goes, and that's especially true at this event.

Of the decks listed, some have significant overlap. For instance, the Blue-Black Death's Shadow build that nine players sleeved up—and yes, this is Legacy and not Modern—also plays Delver of Secrets, though it looks markedly different from Grixis Delver or Temur Delver, as players built their deck in a way to take advantage of Death's Shadow's "drawback." Similarly, there are a few variants of Reanimator strategies.

With that in mind, let's see what the top of the metagame looks like with a bit more curation.

Archetype Copies
Delver Decks 28
Grixis Control 20
Show and Tell Decks 18
Eldrazi Stompy 14
Death's Shadow Decks 12
Death and Taxes 12
Reanimator Decks 10

We can also peel back to the highest level, with a few notes on methodology.

  • Mono-Red Prison is listed with control decks.
  • Eldrazi Post is listed with combo—it is aiming to ramp to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, after all—even though it also plays a number of smaller creatures on the way up the chain.
Archetype Copies Percentage of Field
Aggro 63 38.18%
Control 56 33.94%
Combo Decks 46 27.88%

That's about as much balance—at least at the highest levels of classification—that players could hope for. And with so many decks able to adapt different roles depending on the matchup, it's clear the Legacy metagame is wide open despite weeks of the best players in the world testing the format for this tournament.

Some other takeaways from the data:

  • Four-Color Control based around Leovold, Emissary of Trest has fallen largely out of favor. Realistically, these decks looked much like the Grixis Control decks in this tournament but splashed green for Deathrite Shaman and Leovold. With Deathrite Shaman no longer available to hold together the deck's fragile mana base, players have cut the green entirely and moved away from Leovold as a result.
  • Sneak and Show is the most popular combo deck. With the metagame opening up, the consistent blue-red combo deck can deploy Show and Tell or Sneak Attack into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand extremely early, often backed up by countermagic. Access to Force of Will, Flusterstorm, and Spell Pierce also means the deck has game against the rest of the combo decks, including Black-Red Reanimator.

  • Speaking of Reanimator, the explosive black-red version is the most popular version, and the second most popular combo deck. With cards like Unmask to protect its own combo, the deck can reanimate a large creature—typically Griselbrand—as early as the first turn.
  • Delver decks rule the roost, though there is plenty of disagreement over the best version of the deck. Most popular has been the return of "Canadian Threshold," a Temur-flavored Delver deck that uses cards like Wasteland and Stifle to keep opponents off mana while attacking with Delver of Secrets or Nimble Mongoose. Other players chose to use the traditional Grixis version of the deck, while some have a much more aggressive version using Price of Progress and other burn spells to back up the bug.
  • "Fair" strategies are well-represented. Eldrazi Aggro and Death and Taxes were the third and fourth most popular choices, respectively. Both use a suite of disruptive spells—Chalice of the Void or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are the signature cards—to keep opponents from executing their game plan while presenting a clock to end the game.
  • Brightling has been a standout in Death and Taxes. The Battlebond addition gives the deck another versatile threat that play very well with Æther Vial. But it's the not the only Battlebond card finding a home, as Arcane Artisan has given Sneak and Show decks a sideboard option that beats most of the popular hate cards typically sideboarded in against it, including Containment Priest.

  • The most surprising deck of the weekend takes a page from Modern—Death's Shadow. A dozen players are playing the format's largest one mana threat, and the innovative blue-black shell surrounding it includes some unexpected ways to reduce their life total, the most striking being more Watery Graves than Underground Seas.
  • There are plenty of other strategies represented. Miracles is the second most popular control deck, even long after losing the former lynchpin of the deck in Sensei's Divining Top. Further down the list, players showed up with a host of decks, including Mon-Red Prison, Infect, Aluren combo, Merfolk, and even Maverick. While some noise will be created due to the team nature of this event, the Legacy metagame is as diverse as it's ever been.

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