I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that Legacy is healthy diverse interesting interactive and skill-driven. Deck selection matters far less than correct construction of your deck and the ability to make good decisions while playing your deck.
The bad news is that M13 is going to change very little.
This is probably actually good news since the good news was that everything is going rather well.
So what are we going to get from M13 exactly?
There's only one white card that I think has a real chance of making an impact on Legacy: Sublime Archangel.
Sublime Archangel is Maverick's answer to tribal decks. Before M13 the Green-White "Eager Cadets and Grizzly Bears" deck is a slight underdog to Goblins and Merfolk since the Aether Vial decks have both more explosive early potential via Goblin Lackey or Aether Vial and more late-game inevitability via Goblin Ringleader and Siege-Gang Commander or Lords + Lords + Lords. As a result Maverick can't effectively be the aggressor or the control in the matchup. It has a better chance as the aggressor but both decks can attack just as hard as Maverick in a similar time frame.
Sublime Archangel will change that dynamic. It will take a few sideboard slots but having the capacity to attack for a ton of damage in the air while holding your Mothers and Knights in reserve is a big deal. Merfolk only plays Coralhelm Commander and maybe Kira Great Glass-Spinner as potential flying blockers while Goblins don't know how to fly. Your Archangel might get Gempalm Incineratored but presumably that's what you have Mother of Runes for.
Beyond that though you now get to ignore all the Cursecatchers and Silvergill Adepts and Mogg War Marshalls and Goblin tokens and just fly on over for 5-8 damage a turn. In a pair of matchups where the ground stalls out early and tribal decks go over the top with Siege-Gang Commander activations or gigantic alpha strikes featuring 5/5 Cursecatchers having a huge flier at four mana is a game-changer.
Archangel isn't going to be amazing in the mirror (Linvala is still the best in that matchup) but that doesn't mean you can't play four or five 2WW fliers in your sideboard!
At this point I think we can all agree that having at least one Fauna Shaman in your deck is correct. Being able to Green Sun's Zenith for a way to turn your dinky 0/1s into 8/8s or a 7/6 flier is a big deal. Play one enter a tournament Zenith for it in a slow matchup and then tell me how you like it.
Next up is Master of the Pearl Trident.
The real reason to play Merfolk is Aether Vial. It's the only good card in the deck and it enables a ton of disgusting turn 3 and turn 4 sequences. Beyond a suspend-two Sol Ring though the major appeal to playing Merfolk as a tribe is the ability of Lord of Atlantis.
Lord of Atlantis was the reason that Merfolk beat up controlling blue decks so much. A Vialed-in Lord of Atlantis would often be the death knell for any blue deck turtling up behind a Tarmogoyf or two.
Since midrange and controlling blue decks so often could not race effectively they would durdle around trying to fend off hits from Silvergill Adepts and Mutavaults and Cursecatchers. They would end up throwing away cards on Merfolk's worst threats while Merfolk sculpted a hand of three Lords and an active counterspell. Eventually the Firespout or Tarmogoyf would come Merfolk would Vial in a Lord at the end of the turn untap Vial in another Lord cast their third Lord activate Mutavault and get in for unblockable lethal damage.
In a world where blue decks are playing with either Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf or Griselbrand and Emrakul being able to slide by blockers is more important than ever. The playability of actual sweepers is at an all-time low. This is exactly the sort of environment where having twice as many Lord of Atlantises will shine.
If you're so inclined feel free to swap Standstills for Spell Pierces. In a world where people are playing this many Spell Pierces though I wouldn't want to spend two mana on a card that can get Spell Pierced in my 23-creature deck. Losing that early tempo seems like a very easy way to lose.
Spell Pierce on the other hand is almost always going to parry Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares. In a pinch you can tag a cantrip that they're relying on. You can hit Green Sun's Zenith against Maverick and it's a one-mana Counterspell against Griselbrand decks since they typically don't have the luxury of setting up against you.
Your plan now against Batterskull is "make sure it never gets to block." Incidentally that is also your plan against Tarmogoyf. Your plan against Knight of the Reliquary was always to swarm around it.
If you want to get some black into your Merfolk deck check out a rather innovative 61-card Merfolk list from Patrick Chapin's last article. I would like a few Phantasmal Images in that sideboard but if I were on the graveyard-artifact plan I would definitely be splitting my hate up.
The last card that I think will make a difference is Yeva Nature's Herald.
Here are five reasons to play Yeva in your Elves deck:
- Yeva is a four-mana 4/4 in a deck that has a ton of dinky 1/1s and 2/2s. There is no shame in Zenithing for something that can beat up a Mongoose and brag about it the next day. If you just need to beat them up Yeva is your girl.
- She has flash. If you want to play multiples you can easily get into spots where she comes down all Restoration Angel-like and just eats one of their attackers. And then maybe you flash in a few 1/1s just because you can. It's really hard to put someone on having Yeva when they didn't attack their Nettle Sentinel Heritage Druid Birchlore Ranger or Quirion Ranger into your 3/4 Tarmogoyf.
- She lets you use Wirewood Symbiote as a sweet sort of one-mana Stonecloaker. Nice Lightning Bolt. Oh also replay that thing I just saved. My turn?
- Good luck killing my good cards with Forked Bolt before my Glimpse of Nature turn!
- Being able to overload countermagic against slower decks is a big deal. She'll almost certainly eat a Counterspell but she'll leave them tapped for what actually matters: your Glimpse of Nature.
Overall I really like the design of the 2CC rares in M13. It's not often that a core set four-drop has real Legacy implications so kudos to the design and development teams on creating some very sweet cards.
Speaking of sweet cards…
… Omniscience sure looks like it should be playable in Legacy. Common rationales include:
"You can Show and Tell it into play!"
"You can Academy Rector it into play!"
"It lets you cast anything!"
"Seriously guys anything!"
I have a few problems with this deck though. Historically Show and Tell decks have been successful only when they have another way of getting their Big Cheat into play. I'll explain:
Omniscience though… Omniscience is impossible to actually cast. You're all in on Show and Tell. If they're piling up Red Elemental Blasts against you you're dead. If they having Meddling Mage on Show and Tell you need to resolve Burning Wish and Pyroclasm before you get to keep playing Magic.
Another real problem with the deck is that Omniscience unlike Hive Mind or Dream Halls + Conflux doesn't actually kill them. You still need to put a kill engine into a deck that has eight "mana engine" slots with four Show and Tell and four Omniscience. That's not a deck that I want to play. If I'm Show and Telling a card with (effectively) no mana cost the text of the card needs to be a lot closer to "you win the game" than Omniscience reads.
If you want more angles for brewing Omniscience consider:
- An Enlightened Tutor shell. You can Tutor it up more which means you get to play fewer copies. Your protection is probably enchantment-based so you can play stuff like Gitaxian Probe + Declaration of Naught and City of Solitude. If you want to go really gung-ho I guess you could put Omniscience in Enchantress since it's not like that deck ever runs out of cards once it starts drawing them.
- A Personal Tutor shell. Remember how Temporal Mastery was supposed to ruin everything? What if you just Omniscience a Progenitus (or Emrakul or Griselbrand or whatever) freeroll your Temporal Mastery and attack once or twice or three times? You can also randomly Time Walk them using Personal Tutor which is what people were getting real excited about at the beginning of Avacyn Restored spoilers. Personal Tutor getting Show and Tell is a big game.
- An Academy Rector shell. You can play black for Cabal Therapy to both disrupt and to kill your Rector getting Omniscience and going off in whatever fashion suits you best. Gitaxian Probe is also great here. As a side note Probe + Therapy is still underexploited in Legacy deck design. There have to be good decks that want to Probe + Therapy people.
What to Play in Legacy
I will cop being wrong about Griselbrand. The card is very good but it's not unbeatable. The metagame clearly adapted to his presence in Atlanta as we saw just by checking Karakas' $70 price tag on the Friday before the tournament began.
This format is more resilient than anyone (including myself) gives it credit for. There are answers to everything. Griselbrand does not spell doom for this format. Look at the two-drops from Atlanta and Seattle's Top 8 and tell me how healthy this format is:
There were only sixteen Brainstorms in the Top 8 of a Legacy Grand Prix. The weekend before that in Detroit at a tournament with 250+ people there were four Brainstorms in the entire Top 8 of the SCG Legacy Open.
If anyone tells you that this format is solved or broken without also showing you several Top 8s where their assertions are proven don't listen to them. That includes me.
Legacy is as healthy as it has ever been. You can choose to not play Brainstorm and instead play Elvish Visionary Blood Artist Silvergill Adept Thalia Guardian of Thraben or Hero of Bladehold and make Top 8 of a major Legacy tournament.
The success of these cards is why Legacy is great. Yes Brainstorm is very good but if you're willing to experiment and step outside the lines of conventional wisdom you can win and be a hero. Carrion Feeder and Bitterblossom can beat a Griselbrand. How sick is that?
On a bit of a different note I'm planning on making a few Legacy videos in the upcoming weeks. If you have any matchups you'd like to see play out online let me know in the comments section and I'll start working out optimal lists for both sides of the matchup.
Good luck to those of you going to St. Louis this weekend. I won't be there but I'll be glued to the coverage as much as I can.
Until next week
@drewlevin on Twitter