At Grand Prix Columbus, it occurred to me that Legacy has essentially become Vintage. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I love Vintage. I love Legacy. I even love 1994 MTG. I enjoy getting to play with the old cards that I grew up with.
I was chatting with some friends in Columbus about how I have noticed that Legacy has become much more like Vintage. It was a fun conversation and thought exercise, and so I thought I’d share it here. If you are an Eternal fanatic like me, some of the basic points will come off as obvious, but I’ve included them because they are important to the story so that some of our Modern and Standard friends can more easily join in the conversation. Today’s article is a thoughtcraft exercise and I encourage everybody to be thinking about these kinds of ideas. I’m also happy to respond or discuss specifics in the comments.
My overarching idea is that Legacy has become more and more like Vintage over the past few years. In particular, I noticed another big change in Legacy that I think may be here to stay:
The Eldrazi are Mishra’s Workshop and they are very, very real.
The Line In the Sand
The differentiation between Legacy and Vintage has always been, is now, and always will be the Restricted list.
If you are a Vintage fan, you look at a card like Black Lotus and think, “this card is pretty messed up. You should only be allowed to play with 1 copy per deck.” Whereas a Legacy player looks at Lotus and thinks, “that is probably not necessary for reasonable games of Magic…”
Vintage restricts busted cards and Legacy bans them. It isn’t a hard-line rule that one necessitates the other. For instance:
Gush is banned in Legacy and should be restricted in Vintage, but isn’t.
Or, Chalice of the Void isn’t banned in Legacy but is restricted (but probably shouldn’t be) in Vintage.
Of the 43 restricted cards in Vintage, 35 are banned in Legacy.
There are similarities between Vintage and Legacy that are easy to spot and hard to ignore:
Both have traditionally been dominated by archaic blue spells printed in the dark ages of Magic card design.
Both formats have plenty of ways to enable big swingy plays for unreasonably low investments of mana.
The mana bases for decks in both formats cost more than a used car.
What Really Defines Eternal Magic
“The Eternal formats have always been defined by brokenness and expensive decks!”
That statement is actually a lie. Those are the qualifications that have always tended to define Vintage and have not always been characteristic of Legacy. In fact, the association of those qualities with Legacy is relatively new!
Legacy decks didn’t always all do tons of broken stuff all the time.
Lands didn’t always combo out with Marit Lage!
Show and Tell didn’t become a thing until the deadly duo showed up.
Magic even created a special Yawgmoth’s Will just for Legacy so that it could be more like Vintage.
Legacy hasn’t always been considered an expensive. There are a number of factors that caused the price of Legacy singles to rise, but Legacy didn’t used to be cost prohibitive to play.
I was talking to Kyle Boggemes after Day 1 of GP Columbus about some of the card prices and he mentioned buying his playset of Tundras for $50 at Worlds in 2005. The price of a Legacy deck used to be cheaper than the cost of a Modern deck is now!
Vintage has always been cost prohibitive to play. While the price of a Legacy deck may have been comparable to a Standard or Modern deck, the price of a Mox was always worth more than a Standard or Modern deck.
Nowadays, the relative price of a Volcanic Island or Underground Sea compared to a Standard deck is much closer to what a Mox used to be back in the day. The cost of a Legacy deck is very similar to what the cost of a Vintage deck used to be.
Vintage, on the other hand, has become a whole new level of expensive without proxies.
Blue duals are the new Moxes. Moxes are the new Summer Magic Blue Hurricane.
In terms of relative pricing, Legacy has settled into the space that Vintage once held.
The Vintage (and Now Legacy) Triforce
Ever heard Vintage players debating or discussing The Pillars of Vintage? They are talking about this particular Triforce: control, combo, and prison.
This ranges from control decks like Keeper and The Deck, to combo control decks like Gush or Control Slaver. These are the “blue decks” that play all the powerful library manipulation and permission.
These are all flavors of graveyard combo-based decks, including: Long.dec, Storm, Reanimate Dragon, and I would even include Dredge as an extension of these grave-based combo decks.
All things Mishra’s Workshop fall into this category.
There are an infinite number of variations on these themes and all kinds of hybrids to boot, but these are the big dogs of Vintage.
Legacy Finally “Trons Up”
The biggest historical metagame difference between Vintage and Legacy has been that whereas Vintage was heavily defined by Workshop decks, that space was occupied by aggro decks in Legacy. Legacy, Goblins, Maverick, Zoo, Burn, Death and Taxes, etc. are decks that people have played to great success over the years. Yes, some of these aggro decks have mana denial elements, but never to the same extent as Workshops in Vintage.
The Eldrazi have drastically changed the landscape of competitive Magic in the past year. The change is especially pronounced in Legacy where it produced a dynamic that the format had never really had before: a top-tier resource denial deck that feels and plays like a Workshop deck—the last piece of the puzzle to more accurately recreate that Vintage experience in the Legacy metagame.
Having access to so many lands that tap for 2 mana is a huge deal in a deck that wants to leverage resources over their opponent’s.
“But the Eldrazi deck is an aggro deck—not a prison deck!”
It’s both. Also keep in mind that “Workshop Prison” decks in Vintage have also been trending down the same path of aggression with resource denial more and more in the past years.
Pure aggro decks are not good in Eternal formats where the combo and control decks can quickly out-muscle Goblin Guides and Wild Nacatls. In Modern, pure aggro decks like Zoo and Burn are great because there is balance between the archetypes.
Decks like Workshops in Vintage and Eldrazi in Legacy (or the banned Eldrazi deck from Modern) can overpower a lot of decks because they can play resource denial cards while also using their mana to be aggressive.
These are cards that constrain the opponent’s options while your other resources can be devoted to attacking and ending the game.
My hypothesis is that the Eldrazi archetype is going to end up occupying the same space in Legacy that Workshops does in Vintage. I also think that deckbuilders and players have only scratched the surface of what the colorless resource denial decks can do in Legacy.
Workshops has evolved over the past years and spawned countless different versions, variations, and hybrids. Resource denial decks are surprisingly adaptive and can be tuned and refined as a metagame changes.
It is fascinating to observe trends in Legacy following suit from Vintage. Eternal Masters was also a nice touch that seemed to resonate with players at the Grand Prix.
The last and final way that Legacy has turned into Vintage is that it doesn’t get played as much as it deserves to be played. The Grand Prix was a blast and I wish there were more large scale Eternal tournaments. The games are fun and the crowd is even better. I’m already looking forward to the Vintage and Legacy Championships!
And I’m seriously considering playing colorless resource denial in both formats.