Team Trios, featuring Standard, Modern, and Legacy, is becoming exceptionally popular in tournament Magic. Featured in both the Premier Play and SCG tournament series, you can compete in or watch Team Trios on practically any weekend you’d like.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to play this format, I hope that you will someday soon, as it’s fun, engaging, and offers a wide variety of experiences. While fielding a team might seem like an intimidating prospect if you’re new to the scene, you really shouldn’t hesitate.
Teams come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of experience. One team might have someone who’s returning to Magic after a long hiatus. One team might have card availability problems in Legacy, while another features Eternal-format specialists who have never played a game of Standard. One team might be entirely new players, while another contains three elites who can’t decide which player to assign to which format. None of these problems needs to stop a team from competing!
There might be a few teams out there composed of single-format specialists who fall perfectly into place and already have decks picked out, but those teams are a very small minority. For the rest of us, we face a challenge in deciding how to allocate our limited time and resources to solve a complicated problem. In today’s article, I’ll offer some advice and recommendations for each of the three formats for teams of varying levels of experience. Check back later this week for Modern and Standard.
Legacy is the most challenging of the three formats. Between Brainstorm, Ponder, and free spells (among other things), the games tend to feature a tremendous number of decisions in a very condensed time frame, and making poor decisions can be punished immediately and severely.
All things equal, it makes sense to put your strongest or most experienced player in the Legacy seat. But in practice, you’ll know whether you have a Legacy expert on your team, or whether you’ll have to make due with another option.
Expert Legacy Players
If you do have a Legacy expert, it’s likely that they’ll already have a deck they love and have been playing for years. Nonetheless, two recommendations for elite Legacy players are Lands and Four-Color Leovold Control (sometimes known as Czech Pile). These are two of the strongest decks in the format—they lead to long and complicated games, and they reward practice and study of the format. Importantly, they both have favorable matchups against Grixis Delver, which is the deck to beat in Legacy.
Lands is an appealing intersection of explosive power and inevitability. You can score some easy wins with the Thespian’s Stage plus Dark Depths combo, or you can grind your opponent into dust with Life From the Loam, Wasteland, and Punishing Fire. Navigating the latter type of games requires a high level of proficiency, as you need to give your opponent as little breathing room as possible while playing quickly enough to finish matches in time.
I like to think of 4-Color Control as “Delver without the Delvers.” It’s clear that Brainstorm, Ponder, Force of Will, and Deathrite Shaman are the best individual cards to be playing with in Legacy, and this deck gets them all. In a world where Grixis Delver, an aggressively-slanted midrange deck, is the top dog, using the traditional strategy of “going a little bigger” with a defensively-slanted midrange deck makes a lot of sense.
Proficient Legacy Players
Most teams will not have a Legacy expert. The next-best thing you can hope for is that you have a talented player with a baseline familiarity with the format and a handful of games under their belt. My best recommendations for these players are Grixis Delver and Sneak and Show.
The difference between 4-Color Control and Grixis Delver is that 4-Color has more card advantage and staying power, but will never give you an easy win. Grixis Delver is the scourge of Legacy because even when you run into a strong opponent or a bad matchup, you can have that “Delver into Daze plus Wasteland” draw and slaughter them.
Sneak and Show
Kazuki Takamura, 1st place at Grand Prix Kyoto
Similarly, Sneak and Show is a simple and direct combo deck that’s capable of getting some impressive draws. Putting Griselbrand into play on the first or second turn of the game is a fantastic feeling, and Blood Moon out of the sideboard offers even more ways to end the game immediately in your favor.
Beginner Legacy Players
Legacy is a niche format, and most of the MTG population doesn’t get much opportunity to play it. Many teams will find themselves having to pick someone for the Legacy seat to face a trial by fire in one of Magic’s most challenging formats.
Very few Legacy decks are easy to pilot, but I do have two recommendations for decks that are relatively straightforward, and will make you highly competitive while avoiding those Brainstorm, Wasteland, and Daze battles. They are Mono-Red Prison and Mono-Red Burn.
Mono-Red Prison was the winning deck of Grand Prix Birmingham tlast weekend. The idea is relatively simple: Deploy the format’s most punishing cards as quickly as possible. These include Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, Chalice of the Void, and Trinisphere. Resolving any of these on the first turn of the game is lights-out against huge swaths of the format.
The most challenging aspect of Mono-Red Prison will be the mulligan decisions. You will have to keep some hands that don’t have turn-1 Blood Moon, and getting a feel for which ones will or will not give you a fighting chance to win requires a little bit of experience. It’s worth talking over mulligan decisions with your teammates before and during the tournament.
At a recent Team Trios event, William Jensen, Owen Turtenwald, and I got torched by a team playing red burn decks in all three formats. Standard, Modern, and indeed Legacy Burn are all competitive decks, and are particularly good for giving a less-experienced player a fighting chance of beating a more-experienced player.
Even beyond that, I believe that Legacy Burn is frankly a good, well-positioned, and under-appreciated deck. It’s reasonably strong against Delver, could care less about an opposing Blood Moon, and Eidolon of the Great Revel wrecks a lot of Legacy’s premier combo decks. Finally, Price of Progress is one of the most punishing cards in the format, and one that not many decks can play to good effect.
If you’re competing in Grand Prix Toronto this coming weekend, or are interested in Team Trios for a future event, then I hope you’ve found these recommendations helpful. You don’t need world-class players in all three formats to have a highly competitive team. But it’s sometimes best to be realistic and conservative when making your deck choices. It’s always best to think deeply about the best way to allocate your resources and configure your strategy.