One of the most exciting parts of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in Minneapolis last weekend was that the Legacy format got to show itself off on the Pro Tour stage. As a long-time fan of the format, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting to watch this event, but even more thrilled when I managed to qualify for it myself. Even better, as a dedicated Grixis Delver pilot I was confident I would be able to lock in my 75 the moment the banned and restricted announcement would be a thing of the past.
Never mind then…
Probably one of the most exciting questions after the banning was what Delver deck would be best equipped to pick up Grixis Delver's mantle. The immediate response in the wake of the bannings was for people to flock towards Temur Delver, acting as if Nimble Mongoose had just been unbanned in to the format.
As it happens though, the goose is decidedly not loose. If all your deck has gained in the space of five years is a couple surprisingly-hard-to-cast True-Name Nemesis in the sideboard and some Hooting Mandrils that you shouldn't be playing in your Nimble Mongoose deck anyways , consider the possibility that your deck might be becoming a bit outdated and underpowered relative to the format it exists in. The threats in Legacy continue to get stronger and stronger over time, and whilst Temur Delver is very able to brawl with the combo decks, it simply hasn't gained the sort of upgrades in fair matchups that other decks around it have. Look at Gurmag Angler and then try looking at Nimble Mongoose again.
The amount of evolution we've seen among Delver decks over the last month has been kind of startling, what would normally be a few months of growth being turbo-charged by the lead up to the Pro Tour. Initial updates to Grixis Delver just jammed Bomat Couriers and Preordains where once there were Deathrite Shamans and Gitaxian Probes - this is inelegant, but the fact it was still winning games at the very least showed that Underground Seas and Delver of Secrets could have a strong future together with some more work.
An acknowledgement that the green cards just aren't terribly impressive anymore led to further experimentation, trying to fuel Gurmag Anglers as fast as possible with Thought Scours. A bunch of different desires naturally ended up leading to Death's Shadow builds coming to the forefront though -- wanting access to Thoughtseizes instead of Cabal Therapy now that there's less incentive to play Young Pyromancer, wanting more one-mana threats that could efficiently be played alongside a piece of interaction, a desire to just be two colors now that Deathrite Shaman can't tie your ropey manabase together.
Somehow after all of that we end up with this gorgeous piece of deckbuilding on display at the Pro Tour:
Of all the Delver decks we've seen try and battle for our attention this last month, this is easily the most sophisticated and exciting one, and I would be surprised if it doesn't cement itself as a key part of the Legacy metagame going forward. Getting to play four copies of Thoughtseize means this deck has better combo matchups than even fully powered Grixis Delver had, and whilst Swords to Plowshares is a scary card out of the fair decks, this deck still plays a fair game better than any of the other Delver decks we've seen so far in this post-Deathrite world. Gurmag Angler and Death's Shadow are just so much larger than Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf.
The Eve of the Pro Tour
Heading into the Pro Tour, there were three Legacy decks that in testing had been overperforming for me and that I expected to show up in large numbers at the event itself: Death and Taxes, Sneak and Show and, to a lesser extent, Colorless Eldrazi. All three of these decks had been putting up good results in the run up to the event itself, all three decks require very different tools to effectively fight, and the fact that they created a rock-paper-scissors metagame among themselves was fairly enticing to the narrative also.
Death and Taxes looked to be well-positioned with the loss of Deathrite Shaman leading to a significant downtick in the number of Kolaghan's Commands and True-Name Nemeses floating around the format. Meanwhile, from week one, Sneak and Show was policing the format, punishing anyone so daring as to not have a properly tuned list yet.
Colorless Eldrazi is a more interesting case. I'd heard hardly a word about the deck leading up to the event itself, and it feels like even after the Pro Tour having occurred lots of people are writing off its large metagame share at the event as people just playing it because it's a relatively budget deck.
The thing is, though, that for as long as Brainstorm is legal, Chalice of the Void is going to be a cornerstone of Legacy. Further, there will always be a "best" Chalice of the Void deck. For the months leading up to Deathrite Shaman's ban, this was Mono-Red Prison; the Blood Moons punished the greedy Deathrite Shaman manabases, whilst Fiery Confluence effectively cleaned up Grixis Delver's myriad of small creatures. With the sizing of creatures in the Delver decks in this post-Deathrite world increasing outside of range of Fiery Confluence, and even out of range of Chandra, Torch of Defiance's minus ability, and added to that that the Death and Taxes matchup is almost unwinnable for Mono-Red Prison, there's simply no reason to believe the deck would hold of the mantle of Best Chalice Deck anymore.
And so something has to take its place…
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 2 Endbringer
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 3 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
It's certainly possible that Eldrazi's reign as the best Chalice deck is short-lived. Its creature base lined up well versus the Miracles control decks that didn't make much of a splash at the Pro Tour. Meanwhile, Reality Smasher gets a lot less appealing if the best Delver deck is playing a pile of Death's Shadows and Snuff Outs. That said, it's certainly the most appealing Chalice deck to me at the moment, especially if it tailors its answers with Death's Shadow in mind - lean away from Umezawa's Jitte a bit in the maindeck and more towards a card like Ratchet Bomb, perhaps. Ultimately, Colorless Eldrazi always managed to be favoured against Temur Delver even in spite of Tarmogoyf, so it seems more likely than not that it can put up a fight against Death's Shadow too, but only time will tell.
Of the three decks I expected to be well-positioned and highly popular, Sneak and Show ended up being the anomaly. It was certainly popular, but seemed to put up the worst performance this weekend of any of the widely played Legacy decks. Death and Taxes being so popular was always going to be a limiting factor for the deck, but the Death's Shadow matchup being so awful with its Thoughtseizes and Stubborn Denials was an unexpected and brutal problem for the deck. The worst moment was realizing that Sneak Attacking in a Griselbrand wouldn't actually even gain me life in the face of my opponent's Death's Shadow. The complete absence of Lands at the Pro Tour was also problematic for Sneak and Show this past weekend too.
Unfortunately, this makes the Legacy deck I chose to register for the tournament look a bit foolish.
Considering its positioning in this new metagame, especially with Death's Shadow decks putting up such an incredible performance at the Pro Tour, I would be very wary of registering Sneak and Show for any upcoming events. That said, I think the list I registered is a very nicely tuned version of the archetype and some of the choices here deserve a few words for those of you who still want to jam Sneak and Show regardless of its positioning. So, briefly:
- The Dazes were included largely to increase the explosiveness of the deck, but also because Spell Pierce and Flusterstorm are sometimes just outright awful (mainly when you're not playing against other blue decks). Setting yourself back a land drop can hurt in the games where you don't draw a sol land or Lotus Petal, but in general I've found myself happier with a small number of Dazes as opposed to the alternatives.
- Pyroclasm doesn't do what you want it to do half the time. The first time a Mother of Runes saved my opponent's Phyrexian Revoker from this sweeper in testing I felt slightly annoyed, the fifth time it happened I just felt downright foolish. Sudden Shock is much better at removing troublesome hate bears through opposing Moms, countermagic, and Vialed-in-Flickerwisps. Pyroclasm just feels outdated to me now that Grixis Delver isn't preying on the format anymore.
- Now that Arcane Artisan is a known quantity its value drops a bit. It's still the best additional win condition you have access to after sideboard for its ability to ignore Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm, and Containment Priest (just to name a few cards), but the fact that people are leaving in more in the way of Swords to Plowshares to deal with this threat after sideboard inclines me to think a split of alternate win conditions makes more sense now than it did a few weeks ago (hence the single Through the Breach lurking in the sideboard).
- Search for Azcanta doesn't really fight on an angle that Sneak and Show wants to fight so it's understandable that it has been ignored in the archetype up until now, but it's such a rawly powerful card, and is so good at contending with some control deck's sideboard plans, that I have enjoyed experimenting with a single copy in the board.
Death and Taxes, U/B Death's Shadow, and Colorless Eldrazi are the three decks I'm most looking to respect at the moment. As such, I'd be nervous of playing any combo deck that isn't a clear favourite against both Death and Taxes and Eldrazi Stompy (on the basis that almost every combo deck is going to struggle against U/B Death's Shadows disruption suite). In practice, this makes combo largely unappealing and I feel like as a result of all this, Legacy is going to settle into a relatively fair place at least for a little while. Even though I'm not generally a big fan of the deck, U/W Stoneblade is likely being slept on a tiny bit here as True-Name Nemesis is a card I'm very interested in right now against all three of the big winners from this last weekend.
Personally, though, I'm excited to start spending my first turn Reanimating my own Street Wraiths.