...and you probably have no clue what is going to happen in Legacy. Think about that.
It's okay, I also have a lot more questions than answers for what will become of the Cadillac of Magic: the Gathering. Unfortunately for me, the Pro Tour is only a month away and I need to figure something out now. Fortunately for readers, the information from the next few weeks will be absolutely pivotal in determining the direction of the format for the foreseeable future. What had become a format of tweaks, nitpicks, and tiny adjustments has been blasted into smithereens, and it's up to us to pick up the pieces and try to remember what a Legacy format looks like without Deathrite Shaman.
With Grixis Delver and Czech Pile out of the picture, there are a few obvious winners as well as a few not-so-obvious fair decks that may come back out of the woodwork.
Now, nearly all the Reanimator decks running around on Magic Online are of the R/B variety, with Faithless Looting, Unmask instead of Force of Will, and basically no options other than jamming a big threat on the first turn and hoping for the best. U/B versions may come back with Show and Tell as a sideboard juke to dodge graveyard hate, and Matt Nass' all-in Tin Fins + Turbo Depths lovechild could be a key alternative, but either way, it will be time for Griselbrand to shine.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that when the ubiquitous main deck graveyard hate piece leaves the format, not only does the all-in graveyard deck improve, but the slower, grindier graveyard deck also improves. I expect Lands to be an excellent choice going forward, especially after the fair decks start packing the requisite Surgical Extractions to beat Reanimator and still end up losing to Lands' side hustles.
Dredge is in a unique spot, where it can run Silent Gravestone as an anti-Surgical response, but it still loses to Grafdigger's Cage, Relic of Progenitus, and Rest in Peace. The Reanimator deck almost insists on opponents having Surgical Extraction as a turn-zero answer to an early kill, but Dredge can beat it if that's the only hate card an opponent is running. Generally, two Surgicals (one on Ichorid and one on Narcomoeba) is enough to beat mana-based Dredge, although Manaless Dredge requires even more copies of the popular hate spell. Figuring out the best way to hate on graveyards now is one of the roadblocks to succeeding in this new Legacy format.
Death and Taxes Improves
I'm sure Craig Wescoe, Thomas Enevoldsen, Michael Bonde, and the rest of the D&T aficionados are scrambling to perfect their list for the PT, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're big favorites to crush at this event. Karakas is heaven against the turbo Reanimator players, and with the right hate cards, this deck can absolutely find its footing against Lands. Pack your Umezawa's Jittes, your artifact hate, and your sweepers, because Mother of Runes is back.
1/1 Creatures Improve
Goblin Lackey and Bomat Courier are on the short list here as two of the creatures that most benefit from not having a random 1/2 on the other side of the battlefield at all times. Bomat Courier is a powerful draw engine in the right sort of deck, and Goblin Lackey has just been getting pummeled by new cards ever since Tarmogoyf got printed back in 2007. Dialing back the clock a half-decade or so on the format is the best thing to happen for that deck, and it will mean that Cedric Phillips and Jim Davis can relive some old glory days from a simpler time. That's always a good thing, if you ask me. Of course, there's another 1/1 creature that has been basically nonexistent because of how helpless it was against Deathrite Shaman. It's been loosed on the world once again, in the shell of the erstwhile King of Legacy.
Older Versions of Delver Improve
I'm talking Temur and Jeskai, or as we knew them back when they were still relevant, RUG and U/W/R Delver. The best 1/1 in Legacy for a number of years was none other than the original Wild Nacatl, Nimble Mongoose. It was quite the handful in 2010, to be sure. With Deathrite Shaman no longer providing gentle pressure on graveyards in fair matchups, it will be so much easier to maintain the kind of graveyard that feeds Tarmogoyf and threshold for Nimble Mongoose. New players don't know the frustration stemming from an army of untouchable 3/3 creatures wreaking havoc on your life total. Temur Delver with Stifle was always an extraordinarily irksome deck to lose to when you were behind, and it's back in a big way. Hell, Bomat Courier might even be a playable card in such an archetype, adding a supplemental one-drop, another maindeckable card type, and a unique draw engine.
Of course, Jeskai Delver was built originally to prey on Temur Delver, as a removal-heavy pseudo mirror that owned the late game with a certain very special someone, the 1/2 creature that got supplanted as Legacy's best 1/2 for so long it seemed like she would never come back. But Deathrite's out, and she's back. If Temur Delver looks to be the most popular Legacy deck at the Pro Tour, it's high time we got back to Stoneforge Mystic.
Stoneforge Mystic is Back, Baby!
Aside from just being played in Death and Taxes, Stoneforge Mystic has wonderful applications in fair Brainstorm decks as a sort of split card between Tarmogoyf and Baleful Strix. Jeskai Delver, Jeskai Stoneblade, Bant Stoneblade, and Esper Stoneblade are all wonderful fair options that run the gamut from aggressive to controlling, and all of them can come back with a vengeance now that Deathrite Shaman is no longer choking the diversity out of Legacy.
This is, to be frank, my wheelhouse. I would be astonished if it doesn't end up looking like 2012-2013 all over again when my Pro Tour testing is said and done. The enemies are very clearly out there, and whether it's with Lingering Souls, True-Name Nemesis, Delver of Secrets, or Noble Hierarch, Batterskull will be out there breaking heads and gaining huge chunks of life.
With the loss of Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe, the heavily stretched three-and-a-half color manabases of midrange blue decks are a little tougher to make happen, which incidentally means that Mono-Red Prison gets a bit worse. Colorless Eldrazi is in an interesting spot, with a good matchup leaving the format (Grixis Delver is usually slightly favorable, but close) and a bad one simultaneously exiting (Czech Pile is slightly unfavorable). I suspect that inexperienced players (of which there will be a significant, though small amount at the PT) will gravitate towards Colorless Eldrazi or Reanimator as two powerful options in a newly-unfamiliar format.
The last deck that merits consideration in the brave new world of no Deathrite Shaman is straight U/R Delver. Though the loss of Gitaxian Probe hurts the prowess aspect of the deck, there are a number of appealing reasons to pick up the two-color version of Delver. Playing basic lands, for one, as well as Price of Progress, and your choice of Grim Lavamancer or Bedlam Reveler. This is another deck that could benefit immensely from Bomat Courier, as it's close to a U/R Burn deck and has lots of reason to empty its hand quickly. If I don't end up piloting a Stoneforge deck at the tournament, it might be because of a little artifact creature and a certain incredible source of direct damage.
That said, the metagame has some vague outlines that a wise player can predict. For this tournament, the best decks in Legacy are:
- Temur Delver
- Death and Taxes
- Esper Stoneblade
- Sneak and Show
- Colorless Eldrazi
Realistically, if you have a Brainstorm deck that can beat combo, Temur Delver, and Death and Taxes, you're very well-positioned to win a lot in the coming months. I still have my Stoneforge Mystics from way back in the day sleeved up and ready to go and expect to have some intricate and unexpected interactions from the old days of Legacy come back in a refreshing way. And who knows? Maybe Sam Black will win the whole thing with a pet deck like Zombie Bombardment! Regardless, it'll be a blast to watch and an even bigger blast to play in.
Get ready for Legacy's facelift and a totally new format.