Today I'm going to deliver something a bit different from my usual fare: I'm not going to talk about Legacy as we know it. Instead, I'd like to propose a joint experiment to the Legacy community that should be fun, exciting, and at the same time greatly help our understanding of the format and the future of Legacy.
Last week, I finally recruited a few other Berlin players to a cause I've wanted to get them on board with for quite a while now: truly exploring the banned list. To do that, I suggested playing games in a modified Legacy format, and they seemed interested enough that I'm hopeful we actually will get this project off the ground.
The idea is quite simple: every one of us gets to pick a card printed later than Antiquities that is on the banned list and unban it. They will then try their best to build a deck to maximally abuse the card. After that, our resulting decks will be jammed against each other and also against Legacy decks that are completely legal right now— that's the important part.
The interest? Well, aside from getting to play with some truly sweet cards again—even if it is outside a regular tournament environment—we'll get a glimpse at the answer to the age-old question of which cards truly belong on the banned list and which ones are just clutter. With a little luck, we'll find out that there are a number of sweet old cards that have been unfairly exiled from our desiring hands.
Why am I writing about this? Because I'd like as many of you as possible to join in. If there is enough feedback, it should be easy to find a place online where we can collect results, discuss decklists, and try to optimize the broken even more. Who knows—at some point, we might be able to actually influence DCI unbanning policy. Sounds kinda sweet, doesn't it?
What I'm going to do today is to present the (very simple) rules I've come up with for this exploration, why I chose the ones I did, and try to make your mouth water by giving you a little insight into what this kind of format might look like—because I've been thinking about and brewing with banned cards!
Rules of Engagement
The basic idea is pretty simple, as explained above: choose your favorite card (or really just any card you're interested in) from the banned list, decide it's been unbanned, and try to do the most powerful thing possible with it.
There are only two rules:
#1: Only one card at a time. You don't get to unban a combination of cards, just one of them. We want to stay as close to current Legacy as possible, after all. Otherwise, any results we get would have only a remote connection to judging if a card is actually ban-worthy or not.
#2: The card has to have been printed either in an expansion from Legends forwards or a base set from Revised or later and can't require ante.
Why those cards? Well, first and foremost, it locks out the Power Nine and Time Vault as well as Bazaar of Baghdad and Mishra's Workshop (no need to try to recreate full-blown Vintage decks in Legacy—we'd just end up right back in Vintage or in a format without any banned/restricted list at all). Aside from the obvious balance issues with those cards, there is simply no reasonable way to unban any of the older (reserved list) cards without creating a huge supply shortage for Legacy—a problem that is already bad enough now that some old cards are only fringe playable (like Candelabra of Tawnos in High Tide).
The only reason Legends scrapes by is this: Mana Drain is the only card on the banned list from that set and is, in fact, not on the reserved list, meaning they could freely reprint it if they ever decided to unban good ol' Drain.
That's it, really, the whole concept. Get a number of other players together who are interested in Legacy and the joy of brokenness and set up a little league for you guys to play games with your newly created ridiculous decks. It's likely a good idea to "reserve" cards for each player—it won't be all that helpful to have four people smash decks built around Tinker against each other. We'd never get around to covering any significant portion of the banned list that way, not to mention that the games would probably become a little monotonous after a while.
I suggest keeping a scoreboard (or Excel file) somewhere to keep track of how each card performs—after all, we should be trying to gather some usable data from this. In the same vein, don't forget to also run games against current archetypes. It's all well and good to know that Flash is fair in a world where people are rocking four Tinker, four Yawgmoth's Will, and four Necropotence—that doesn't mean it would be fine for the format as it stands right now, though.
Whetting Your Appetite
Can you guess the card I called dibs on as soon as I realized some players were actually interested? If you know my favorite thing to do in Magic—for those unaware, it's drawing cards—you won't have any trouble figuring out that there is only one viable choice for me to start with: The Skull (aka Necropotence).
I have no doubt that Necro will prove to crush anything from the current format that gets thrown at it and that it will likely be among the most powerful decks any unban could produce, so this isn't exactly the spot to start collecting unban data at. At the same time, though, Necro is fun. So fun, in fact, that I'd be fine starting this whole thing only to get in a few reasonable games against tournament decks with Lim Dul's source of power in my deck. There are few things as fun as starting the game with "Swamp, Ritual, Necro," and if you haven't had the pleasure of doing that yet, I suggest you try it out.
The best Necro deck to build is likely some combolicious monstrosity along the lines of the original Trix decks. Only a combo deck makes Necro into "Suspend 1: win the game," after all. As such, I'll probably be fielding something like this:
The point is to have a ton of acceleration that will allow you to get to Necro mana by turn 2 as well as a lot of disruption to make sure Necro sticks. Having Force of Will in the deck is particularly important (and a big reason why there are so many cantrips—they're blue) because Necro only really wins you the game if it allows you to create a god hand full of countermagic to survive your opponent's next turn— after all, you have to pass once.
I'm sure I'll realize a lot of flaws with the deck I've built here as soon as we start playing—keeping double counter, double blue card makes it kind of hard to have enough business to start storming, for example. That's the beauty of it, though—I get to try to tune decks that have the sweetest cards Magic has ever produced but that have proven too good to play nice with the rest of the kids.
Not Broken Enough?
If Necro isn't sick enough for you, maybe you'd like something truly absurd? Well, if you've ever played Vintage, you know which card is unanimously considered the most broken (not most powerful, just most absurd). Yes, I'm talking about Yawgmoth's Will.
Look at what happens if a current ANT build gets access to that bad boy:
Doesn't look much different than Cabal ANT, does it? Quite true, but the fact that Will costs black mana (which your Rituals produce), is a mana cheaper than Past in Flames, and allows you to replay Lotus Petal and Lion's Eye Diamond makes this list miles better than anything we currently have, all while allowing you to skip that stupid Ad Nauseam in the maindeck. It'd still be in the sideboard because I expect people to have some graveyard hate so you have a backup engine once it becomes relevant.
Balancing Things Out?
If all of this is much too focused on killing the opponent for you, how about ultimate equality as a theme?
Look at what you could be doing with Balance:
This is probably far from ideal but should be able to consistently Balance the opponent down to nearly no hand and no permanents, while you'll have a ton of artifact mana lying around by turn 2. Is the Stax plan consistent enough to work as a follow up? I'm not sure, but there isn't much else that seems more synergistic with making both players have nearly no resources than permanent locking them out of the game, so there's at least that.
Even though I've only shown you decks with cards that have been banned for a long time thus far, there's nothing to keep you from running decks back that have been hit with the ban hammer more recently. Maybe you're pining to run this one again?
- 1 Memnite
- 3 Basking Rootwalla
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Vengevine
- 1 Waterfront Bouncer
- 3 Wild Mongrel
- 1 Wonder
Or maybe you miss total broken a little more and want this back?
- 1 Body Snatcher
- 1 Carrion Feeder
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 4 Protean Hulk
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Go ahead; it's yours for the taking. Maybe we'll realize these powerhouses of old aren't all that broken anymore. Wouldn't that be nice?
You might also be more interested in testing cards that actually stand a chance of getting unbanned.
What would you think about High Tide looking like this?
Seems sweet to me. The deck is quite a bit faster and more consistent with the extra acceleration that doubles as library manipulation, though it's far from being obviously too good like my Will deck above. I'd be totally fine playing against this with my regular Legacy decks, even though I suspect the deck's overall win rate would probably be a little higher than I'd be comfortable with in the format at large—I guess I'll get to find out later this year.
Those are just a few of the cool things you could end up doing if you decide to pick up the flag and join me in trying to give our poor exiles a little more playtime. I honestly expect this to be a whole lot of fun, and what I threw out above really only scratches the surface of what's possible with the ridiculous cards waiting on the banned list.
Things like Tinker, Yawgmoth's Bargain, and Tolarian Academy allow you to do totally dumb stuff, and if you're inclined towards more likely candidates, you could throw Earthcraft into Elves and see how that does. Or use Ancient Tomb and Grim Monolith to Mind Twist people for five on turn 2—it's all in good fun, after all.
That's it from me for today. I hope a lot of you are interested in exploring cards we haven't been allowed to use in Legacy for years; hopefully, we'll give these poor old veterans another glorious chance to be on the battlefields of Magic. Enjoy the ride—there sure is gonna be variance. Until next time, go break some stuff!