Hi all,

Welcome back to this month’s Metagame Analysis. We’ll be covering Legacy today, focusing on the current era of Legacy (November 1st through February 6th). You can find the last Legacy metagame analysis here.

Methodology

For this analysis, I am defining “top finishing deck” as making Top 8 of the smallest SCG Open of this period, in this case SCG Oakland (226 players). 8/226=3.5%, so I look at the top 3.5% of decks of large tournaments (100+ players). This means that we are looking at a winner’s metagame, not necessarily a complete metagame. Please note that I consolidated some decks for ease of presentation. I consider decks like Death and Taxes and Shardless BUG as the “control” decks of the format, although they obviously have many creatures. In general, I look at the deck and ask if the general philosophy is to play a controlling game or an aggressive game and then place it in its appropriate category. There are definitely decks that are more “midrange” and can play both aggro and control roles, but I decided to stick to aggro, control, and combo categorizations to keep things simple. Without further ado, here are the top performing decks since the release of Commander 2013. The percentages are the number of decks in the archetype divided by the total number of top finishing decks.

The first chart in each category is the chart for the whole period, and the second chart is from December through February.

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I will be analyzing the whole period, but I thought readers might want to see the new changes since my last article. Here are the top performing decks for the whole period:

RUG Delver (9.4%)
UWR Delver (8.9%)
Team America (BUG Delver) (8.1%)
Elves (7.2%)
DeathBlade (6.8%)
Sneak and Show (6.8%)
ANT (6.0%)
EsperBlade (5.5%)
Death and Taxes (5.1%)

These nine decks make up 63.8% of the winner’s metagame. For some perspective, the top 60.2% of decks from the M14 era (July 19th to October 31st) were RUG Delver, UWR Delver, Sneak and Show, Shardless BUG, ANT, Elves, Reanimator, Death and Taxes, OmniTell, Miracles and Jund. So you can see, 9 archetypes make up more of the metagame than 11 archetypes did before TNN was printed.

RUG Delver (9.4%)

When the going gets tough, RUG shrugs it off and says I’m still the most successful deck in the format. First [card]Rest in Peace[/card] and now [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], RUG has had a slew of new cards added to the format that make life hellish. The power of RUG lies in the fact that it is the most efficient and consistent deck in the format. Having eight cantrips and eight free counterspells, as well as the cheapest and most efficient threats in the format always give it a winning shot. I won’t lie; things are tougher for RUG than ever before as everybody is jamming [card]Batterskull[/card], [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], and [card]Rest in Peace[/card].

Furthermore, RUG’s traditional prey of combo decks are harder to beat than ever before. Elves attacks from a completely different axis from most combo decks, and generally has a decent match-up against RUG. RUG only has so much removal and countermagic, and Elves is often able to overload those avenues and have enough back-up dorks/card advantage to be able to grind out RUG, as long as RUG doesn’t have a turn 1 Delver. Sneak and Show might struggle a bit against RUG, but it still has nut draws and Blood Moon to steal a win from RUG. Finally, ANT has always had an okay match-up against RUG, in the hands of a skilled pilot. Despite all of this, RUG remains the top deck because it has answers to everything. If I were to play RUG, I’d probably run something similar to Daryl Ayers, who has been a consistent top finisher with the deck for a while now.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nimble Mongoose
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
3 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland
3 Wooded Foothills
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
2 Spell Snare
3 Stifle
2 Forked Bolt
4 Ponder
Sideboard
2 Grafdigger's Cage
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Flusterstorm
3 Red Elemental Blast
1 Spell Snare
3 Submerge
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Rough Tumble[/deck]

UWR Delver (8.9%)

Since Owen Turtenwald’s big win in DC, UWR Delver has taken off in popularity, and indeed has been the top deck since December. The deck plays the most efficient removal spells, counterspells, and hate cards in the format, so it’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. UWR is decently well positioned moving forward, as it can always beat its slightly unfavorable match-ups (midrange/control) by having more consistency through [card]Ponder[/card] as well as mana denial. Grim Lavamancer is fantastic against any deck with creatures right now, and I’d look at Ben Friedman’s list as a place to start if I were to switch to UWR.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Stoneforge Mystic
2 True-Name Nemesis
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Tundra
3 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland
1 Batterskull
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
3 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa's Jitte
2 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder
Sideboard
1 Manriki-Gusari
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Grim Lavamancer
3 Meddling Mage
3 Rest in Peace
2 Flusterstorm
1 Force of Will
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Spell Pierce[/deck]

Team America (BUG Delver) (8.1%)

Compared to the other two top Delver decks, I’d bet that Team America is played a lot less. Yet, it has been putting up very impressive results. It’s been my personal choice in the post-TNN metagame and I’ve had considerable success with it at every large event that I’ve played it.

I want to say a few words about [card]Thoughtseize[/card] vs. [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], as Drew Levin recently brought it up, arguing that Thoughtseize was better. He based this assertion on the fact that many hands are polarizing in Legacy so it’s better to take a higher impact card. What he left out of the analysis was that a) Hymn can hit lands and b) you have a chance and hitting their best card anyways and c) [card]Brainstorm[/card] is great against Thoughtseize and only okay vs. Hymn. Hymn’s ability to hit lands is extremely relevant, especially vs. decks that have a much stronger late game than us. Most of the games I’ve won against Shardless BUG can be at least partially attributed to manascrewing them, and Hymn can do that while Thoughtseize cannot. Furthermore, chaining Hymns gives you a great shot at getting a free win, while chaining Thoughtseizes doesn’t win you the game and leaves you down 4 life. It’s very rare that your opponent has 2 dead cards in their hand against you, so Hymn is almost always going to take something relevant. I’ve played against Hymn and Thoughtseize a lot, and unless I’m playing combo, I’m usually okay with Thoughtseize and really upset when my opponent’s Hymn resolves. Judging by my opponent’s faces, I’d say they agree with me too.

I’ve said a lot about the archetype already and I don’t want to repeat myself too much so I’ll just end with this: Deathrite Shaman is an absurdly undercosted card, and this deck excels at abusing the mana producing ability of the dark Elf. I’d still argue that Deathrite Shaman is the best creature in the format (sorry Stoneforge Mystic) because it simply brings so much upside with so little investment. There’s a good reason why it was just hit by the banhammer in Modern. Here’s my list from SCG Baltimore:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Tombstalker
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Bayou
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Polluted Delta
1 Tropical Island
4 Underground Sea
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Wasteland
4 Abrupt Decay
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Ponder
Sideboard
1 Sylvan Library
3 Disfigure
2 Golgari Charm
2 Krosan Grip
3 Spell Pierce
1 Submerge
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Liliana of the Veil[/deck]

Elves (7.2%)

For the first time ever, the best combo deck in Legacy doesn’t have [card]Brainstorm[/card]! Elves is consistent for having no blue cantrips, and the fact that your opponent almost always needs to counter [card]Glimpse of Nature[/card] is great for you as it will leave you an opening for a lethal [card]Natural Order[/card]. The deck is one of the hardest decks to play in Legacy because your cards all cost the same amount and you have a cheap tutor effect in the form of [card]Green Sun's Zenith[/card]. If you practice with it, there are big rewards, as it should have a favorable matchup against most of the fair decks in the format.

For a deck list, I’d take a look at Julian Knaab’s deck list from a big year-end tournament in Germany. Miracles and ANT are overrepresented across the sea in Europe, so that makes Swan Song and MD Ruric Thar a lot more attractive over there than they are here.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Quirion Ranger
1 Birchlore Rangers
3 Heritage Druid
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Viridian Shaman
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Wirewood Symbiote
2 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Deathrite Shaman
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Dryad Arbor
1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
3 Natural Order
4 Glimpse of Nature
4 Green Sun's Zenith
2 Forest
2 Windswept Heath
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Tropical Island
2 Bayou
4 Gaea's Cradle
Sideboard
2 Pithing Needle
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Swan Song
2 Mindbreak Trap
1 Progenitus
3 Thoughtseize
1 Natural Order[/deck]

DeathBlade (6.8%)

I’ve argued that DeathBlade is the best [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] deck for a while, and I’m not surprised to see DeathBlade re-emerge as one of the top decks in the format. After the M14 rules change, Shardless BUG was favored because it simply excelled at generating board presence in the Jace mirror. However, now True-Name Nemesis excels in the Jace mirror. On the back of mana acceleration ([card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]) and equipment ([card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]), DeathBlade boasts the most undercosted and powerful creature package out of any current deck in Legacy. While you won’t have quite as many explosive starts as BUG Delver, or as stable a mana base as UWR Delver, you trade that for playing very powerful individual cards.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 True-Name Nemesis
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Bayou
1 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Flooded Strand
3 Marsh Flats
3 Polluted Delta
1 Scrubland
1 Tropical Island
2 Tundra
3 Underground Sea
2 Wasteland
1 Karakas
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Brainstorm
3 Force of Will
1 Spell Pierce
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Ponder
2 Thoughtseize
Sideboard
1 Manriki-Gusari
1 Pithing Needle
1 Notion Thief
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Flusterstorm
1 Force of Will
3 Surgical Extraction
2 Swan Song
1 Zealous Persecution
1 Venser, Shaper Savant[/deck]

Sneak and Show (6.8%)

This deck has declined in popularity for some time now, and I’m not that surprised. While it’s capable of having various unbeatable hands, it is still inconsistent as well as vulnerable to a variety of different hate cards that now see play. Still, it’s a great choice for those who are newer to the format as I believe that Sneak and Show has the most free wins in Legacy (with the possible exception of Reanimator). I personally dislike [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card] in Sneak and Show as I hate having bricks in my already brick-full deck. Here’s GP finalist Jared Boettcher’s most recent top finishing list.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Griselbrand
1 Misdirection
4 Force of Will
4 Brainstorm
2 Intuition
3 Spell Pierce
4 Ponder
3 Gitaxian Probe
4 Show and Tell
4 Sneak Attack
3 Island
1 Mountain
2 Misty Rainforest
3 Ancient Tomb
1 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 City of Traitors
3 Volcanic Island
4 Lotus Petal
Sideboard
2 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Massacre Wurm
2 Blood Moon
1 Flusterstorm
2 Swan Song
2 Divert
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Through the Breach
2 Pyroclasm[/deck]

ANT (6.0%)

ANT has also declined in popularity recently, and I would attribute it to the rise in [card]Meddling Mage[/card]. The card by itself is not too difficult to beat, but in conjunction with counterspells and other hand disruption, Meddling Mage is very strong. For those who don’t know, the best card to name is [card]Infernal Tutor[/card], unless the ANT deck is running [card]Burning Wish[/card], in which case you should name Burning Wish because Burning Wish can go get [card]Massacre[/card]. Here is Andreas Bendix Nielsen, a successful European Storm player’s Burning ANT list:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Cabal Ritual
1 Ad Nauseam
4 Brainstorm
4 Dark Ritual
1 Tendrils of Agony
4 Infernal Tutor
4 Duress
4 Ponder
1 Past in Flames
3 Burning Wish
3 Thoughtseize
4 Preordain
1 Island
1 Swamp
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Tropical Island
1 Volcanic Island
2 Underground Sea
1 Badlands
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
Sideboard
2 Xantid Swarm
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Bayou
1 Thoughtseize
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Massacre
1 Reverent Silence
1 Diminishing Returns
1 Past in Flames
1 Virtue's Ruin[/deck]

I don’t know if I would play [card]Preordain[/card] over [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] as Probe is fantastic with Therapy, but everything else looks good.

EsperBlade (5.5%)

EsperBlade has a number of varying builds, but I agree with Josh Ravitz that the [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] version is not necessarily where you want to be if you’re picking the Esper shard. Obviously, True-Name Nemesis comes with a lot of free wins, but it doesn’t mesh well with the strategy of Esper, except for the fact that it pairs well with Stoneforge Mystic. There have been a few non-TNN Esper lists floating around, and my favorite of the bunch is Joe Bernal’s. He omits TNN to play [card]Lingering Souls[/card], [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], and [card]Back to Basics[/card], all main deck. All of those cards are backbreaking against Delver decks, and the number of basic lands it runs makes it very strong against [card]Wasteland[/card] as well. Supreme Verdict is fantastic in the TNN mirrors as well. Here’s his list:

[deck]Main Deck
1 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
5 Island
3 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Flooded Strand
3 Marsh Flats
3 Polluted Delta
2 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
1 Batterskull
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Back to Basics
1 Detention Sphere
4 Brainstorm
3 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
1 Misdirection
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa's Jitte
3 Lingering Souls
1 Ponder
3 Supreme Verdict
Sideboard
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Pithing Needle
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Meddling Mage
1 Notion Thief
2 Flusterstorm
1 Misdirection
2 Swan Song
4 Thoughtseize[/deck]

Death and Taxes (5.1%)

I really don’t like Death and Taxes right now as it has immense trouble beating True-Name Nemesis + Jitte, as well as all of the incidental TNN/Elves hate cards like [card]Golgari Charm[/card] and [card]Zealous Persecution[/card]. You can sideboard bad cards like [card]Celestial Flare[/card], but you have no library manipulation so it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not you draw them. I think cards like [card]Disenchant[/card] and [card]Leonin Relic-Warder[/card] are decent choices for dealing with equipment, so I’d like to see more of those if you choose to run Death and Taxes. Here’s Travis Cowley’s list from SCG Baltimore.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Aven Mindcensor
4 Flickerwisp
1 Mirran Crusader
4 Mother of Runes
3 Serra Avenger
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
10 Plains
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Horizon Canopy
4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland
3 Karakas
4 Aether Vial
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa's Jitte
Sideboard
1 Cursed Totem
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Manriki-Gusari
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Rest in Peace
2 Celestial Flare
2 Enlightened Tutor[/deck]

Looking Ahead

I’ll be honest; Legacy is not appealing to me right now. While I’m happy with my deck choice of Team America, I think the format is stale. While there have been a couple new interesting Loam brews, overall the format has been hostile to diversity. [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] + [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] is just an obnoxious combination that isn’t fun or enjoyable to anybody, in terms of game play.

My top choices for strong decks moving forward would be Team America, DeathBlade, Elves, UWR Delver, and ANT. The results from SCG Nashville back up this statement, while also proving RUG will still be a perennial contender. All of these decks have strong proactive plans that either include or ignore True-Name Nemesis to some extent. It’s going to be interesting going forward to see what happens as Born of the Gods shakes up the metagame. It’s interesting to see that all of these decks run multiple ways to draw extra cards (Brainstorm, Ponder, Glimpse of Nature, Elvish Visionary, and Jace) and there’s something spicy coming up with Born of the Gods.

[draft]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/draft]

I think this card is a fantastic print and I congratulate Ken Nagle on designing yet another Legacy staple as lead designer. For those who don’t know, he was the lead designer for Worldwake ([card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] + [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]), New Phyrexia ([card]Batterskull[/card], [card]Mental Misstep[/card], [card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card]), Commander ([card]Flusterstorm[/card], [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]) and Return to Ravnica ([card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]). I sincerely hope that he continues to be lead designer in the future as it’s great to see new cards filter into one of Magic’s oldest formats.

I think [card]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/card] is going to be a format defining card. 70% of the top decks play [card]Brainstorm[/card] and 50% play [card]Ponder[/card]. All of the top decks play some way to draw extra cards, with the exception of Death and Taxes, which is a great shell for Spirit of the Labyrinth. In conjunction with [card]Mother of Runes[/card], the card will be difficult to kill, as well as a great card to bring in under [card]Aether Vial[/card] in response to a Brainstorm. I would place this card as probably the 6th most impactful creature in Legacy right now (under Deathrite Shaman, Stoneforge Mystic, Delver of Secrets, True-Name Nemesis, and Tarmogoyf) because it is effective against all of the top decks. While Thalia is definitely stronger against Storm, Spirit of the Labyrinth simply belongs in more archetypes and might lead to a resurgence in non-blue decks. I’m all for format diversity and I truly hope that Spirit makes a dent in Brainstorm going forward, despite the fact that I’m not letting go of Brainstorm anytime soon. It’s just interesting to have more viable strategies in the format.

As far as where Spirit fits in, it's hard to say. Death and Taxes will be a natural fit, but I’m skeptical it will be enough by itself to beat True-Name Nemesis + Jitte. Here’s a list I came up with that might be a good starting point for incorporating Spirit into D&T.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Rishadan Port
2 Scrubland
4 Wasteland
3 Karakas
1 Cavern of Souls
4 Marsh Flats
4 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Spirit of the Labyrinth
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Mother of Runes
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Dark Confidant
4 Serra Avenger
2 Mirran Crusader
4 AEther Vial
1 Batterskull
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Swords to Plowshares
Sideboard
3 Zealous Persecution
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
4 Thoughtseize
2 Wilt-Leaf Liege
3 Rest in Peace
2 Cataclysm[/deck]

Splashing black gives you an answer in the form of [card]Zealous Persecution[/card], as well as Thoughtseize to fight against the combo decks. In addition, you get to play [card]Dark Confidant[/card] which meshes conveniently well with Spirit of the Labyrinth. Spirit is also strong in Zoo, although I’m not sure if that deck can beat the TNN decks. Finally, I’d also consider splashing white for Spirit of the Labyrinth in Jund. Spirit Jund was a thing in Modern; why not Legacy? That deck is still viable, and Spirit is a card that fits in well with the rest of the deck as Jund plays Dark Confidant and no card draw. I’m really hoping to see some exciting new brews with the Spirit.

That’s it for this week. Let me know in the comments what you thought. Good luck to everybody in Paris this weekend!