GP Niagara Falls Preview: The Best Decks in Legacy

Current Legacy is possibly the most balanced and diverse format I have ever played. There is no deck that stands out as the default “deck to beat,” unlike past metagames where U/R Delver, Miracles, and Grixis Delver were a tier above the rest of the field. Today, I am going to explore the decks that have been putting up the most results since the release of RNA and how they match up against each other. My advice for most people is to play what you know and enjoy, and adjust your lists and sideboards to be ahead against at least half of the following decks. Metagame percentage figures are taken from 8 round+ paper events and Magic Online Swiss events. Today, I’ll be discussing the following archetypes:

  1. Grixis Delver and U/R Wasteland Delver 10.6%
  2. Miracles 8.7%
  3. U/W StoneBlade and U/W Delver 7.8%
  4. Grixis Control and Czech Pile 6.8%
  5. Moon Stompy 6.1%
  6. ANT 5.9%
  7. Death and Taxes 5.6%
  8. Slow Depths 5.6%
  9. Sneak and Show 5.6%

Grixis Delver and U/R Wasteland Delver (10.6%)

Grixis Delver

Leastbean, 7-1 at Legacy Premier

3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
3 Underground Sea
4 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland
3 Dark Confidant
4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration
1 Gurmag Angler
3 True-Name Nemesis
3 Young Pyromancer
1 Forked Bolt
4 Ponder
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
1 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Spell Pierce
1 Spell Snare
3 Stifle

Sideboard
1 Flusterstorm
2 Abrade
2 Diabolic Edict
2 Electrickery
1 Grafdigger's Cage
2 Pyroblast
1 Rakdos Charm
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Thoughtseize

Izzet Delver

zackattack23, 7-1 at Legacy Premier

1 Bloodstained Mire
2 Flooded Strand
3 Island
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland
4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration
1 Pteramander
3 True-Name Nemesis
4 Young Pyromancer
3 Chain Lightning
1 Forked Bolt
4 Ponder
2 Preordain
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
1 Vapor Snag

Sideboard
2 Abrade
2 Blood Moon
1 Electrickery
1 Entrancing Melody
2 Flusterstorm
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Price of Progress
3 Pyroblast
2 Surgical Extraction

First off is U/R/x Delver. I lumped the two decks together because they are very similar. Grixis has black for Gurmag Angler, Dark Confidant, Thoughtseize, Diabolic Edict, and Bitterblossom. U/R gets to play 3-4 basics while Grixis generally only plays one. U/R also gets Chain Lightnings, Blood Moon, Light Up the Stage, and Pteramander. Overall though, the U/R list matches up better against Blood Moon/Back to Basics/Wasteland while being weaker to combo.

In terms of matchups, I would say Grixis Delver is behind vs. Miracles, D&T, U/W Stoneblade, even vs. ANT, Slow Depths, Moon Stompy, Grixis Control, and ahead vs. Sneak and Show. But Delver is an extremely malleable deck and can easily tweak to make the “bad” matchups good.

Miracles (8.7%)

Miracles

 VedX, 5-2 at Legacy Challenge

1 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand
5 Island
2 Plains
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Tundra
1 Volcanic Island
2 Monastery Mentor
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Council's Judgment
4 Ponder
4 Portent
3 Terminus
4 Brainstorm
1 Counterspell
1 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
3 Predict
1 Spell Pierce
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Back to Basics
2 Counterbalance

Sideboard
1 Back to Basics
2 Flusterstorm
1 Celestial Purge
2 Disenchant
2 Izzet Staticaster
1 Mountain
1 Palace Jailer
3 Pyroblast
2 Surgical Extraction

Next, we have Miracles. Although it is no longer dominant, it is still the single archetype with the most results even with the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top. Recently, Miracles players have begun trying Palace Jailer, which I think is an excellent innovation. Monarch is an absurdly powerful (and underplayed) mechanic that has dominated Pauper, and I think it’s very good in Legacy too. Miracles is extremely good at playing the monarch game as it plays more removal than any other deck in Legacy. In addition, Palace Jailer cannot be Spell Pierced or Pyroblasted, and cards like Council’s Judgment and Vindicate do not do anything against the monarch token.

I would say Miracles is behind vs. Slow Depths, Sneak and Show, even vs. Moon Stompy, and ahead vs. U/R/x Delver, U/W StoneBlade, Grixis Control, ANT, and D&T. But like Delver, these matchups are all extremely close and it’s hard for Miracles to cover every angle of the format at the same time. Being reactive in an extremely open metagame is an inherent disadvantage for the deck, and that is one reason many Miracles players have begun switching over to our next deck, U/W StoneBlade.

U/W StoneBlade and U/W Delver (7.8%)

Azorius Stoneblade

mechint, 7-0 at Legacy Challenge

1 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand
6 Island
1 Marsh Flats
2 Plains
2 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Tundra
1 Windswept Heath
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
3 True-Name Nemesis
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Council's Judgment
4 Ponder
4 Brainstorm
2 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
2 Spell Pierce
1 Spell Snare
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Batterskull
1 Umezawa's Jitte
2 Back to Basics

Sideboard
2 Containment Priest
2 Disenchant
3 Flusterstorm
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Palace Jailer
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Vendilion Clique

 Delver Stoneblade

mw_94gA, 6-2 at Legacy Premier

2 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
3 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Plains
3 Tundra
4 Wasteland
4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration
2 Nivmagus Elemental
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 True-Name Nemesis
1 Council's Judgment
4 Ponder
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
4 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice

Sideboard
2 Cataclysm
2 Disenchant
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Karakas
2 Meddling Mage
1 Path to Exile
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rest in Peace
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Umezawa's Jitte

While these two decks are somewhat distinct, their matchup profile is fairly similar. In fact, some StoneBlade players have begun sideboarding Delvers, and the U/W Delver deck also often sides out Delver to morph into U/W StoneBlade. U/W StoneBlade gets to play a lot of the same powerful haymakers as Miracles, with access to a plethora of basics, Back to Basics, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Swords to Plowshares. In addition, fair mirrors have generally become True-Name Nemesis arms races, so it’s good to be playing the deck that plays Equipment along with the True-Name Nemesis.

U/W StoneBlade is behind vs. Miracles, Grixis Control, ANT, Slow Depths, Sneak and Show, and ahead vs. U/R/x Delver, Moon Stompy, and D&T. Although it seemingly gives up some of the good matchups of Miracles, it’s still a strong choice because it’s a more proactive deck and the good matchups are more lopsided in its favor than Miracles’ good matchups.

Grixis Control and Czech Pile/Punishing Thieves (6.8%)

Grixis Control

Scabs, 6-1 at Legacy Challenge

2 Badlands
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Island
4 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Swamp
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
4 Baleful Strix
2 Gurmag Angler
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Hymn to Tourach
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Preordain
1 Thoughtseize
4 Brainstorm
2 Diabolic Edict
2 Fatal Push
4 Force of Will
3 Kolaghan's Command
2 Lightning Bolt

Sideboard
2 Bitterblossom
2 Blood Moon
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Marsh Casualties
1 Pyroblast
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Spell Pierce
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Toxic Deluge

 

 Grixis Control

Stryfo, 7-1 at Legacy Premier

1 Badlands
1 Bayou
1 Bloodstained Mire
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Island
4 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Swamp
1 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
4 Baleful Strix
1 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Dack Fayden
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Ponder
2 Thoughtseize
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Assassin's Trophy
4 Brainstorm
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Fatal Push
4 Force of Will
1 Kolaghan's Command
3 Punishing Fire
1 Nihil Spellbomb

Sideboard
1 Assassin's Trophy
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Hydroblast
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Notion Thief
1 Pernicious Deed
1 Pulse of Murasa
2 Pyroblast
2 Rise/Fall
1 Spell Pierce
2 Surgical Extraction
1 To the Slaughter

Grixis Control and other U/B/x control decks are still around and putting up significant results. Most experienced Legacy players tend to gravitate toward blue midrange strategies like Grixis Control and U/W StoneBlade as they are generally good against the field and have a lot of decision agency. I’m generally not a huge fan of these decks as they aren’t doing anything inherently powerful on the mana axis, but I can’t deny that playing a bunch of good spells and Jace, the Mind Sculptor has been a successful strategy.

Stryfo, or Chase Hansen, has been putting up a lot of results with his unique take on U/B/x control, and he believes Dack Fayden to be one of the most underplayed cards in Legacy. Dack works extremely well with Punishing Fire, and it’s very easy for his deck to snowball in card advantage. His list is significantly better against Miracles and slower blue decks than regular Grixis Control, but does give up some percentage points against land hate and Wasteland as it is four colors.

Grixis Control is behind vs. Miracles, ANT, Slow Depths, even vs. U/R/x Delver, and ahead vs. U/W StoneBlade, Moon Stompy, Sneak and Show, and D&T.

Moon Stompy (6.1%)

Mono-Red Prison

joetru, 5-2 at Legacy Challenge

4 City of Traitors
11 Mountain (343)
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Legion Warboss
3 Magus of the Moon
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Ancient Tomb
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
3 Karn, Scion of Urza
4 Fiery Confluence
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Chrome Mox
2 Ensnaring Bridge
4 Trinisphere
4 Blood Moon

Sideboard
2 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
3 Abrade
2 Defense Grid
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Sulfur Elemental

Moon Stompy was one of the most dominant decks on Magic Online for a period, but eventually people began wising up and playing more basic lands and Stoneforge Mystics. Joetru’s list packs three Abrades and moves back toward being a more controlling list with fewer Legion Warbosses and more Ensnaring Bridge, which I think is a solid metagame call. Moon Stompy is still excellent against most combo/Chalice decks and just has such powerful draws that I think it is still a solid choice.

Moon Stompy is behind vs. U/W StoneBlade, Grixis Control, Sneak and Show, D&T, even vs. Slow Depths, UR/x Delver, Miracles, and ahead vs. ANT.

ANT (5.9%)

Ad Nauseam Tendrils

cl1ffy81, 8-0 at Legacy Premier

1 Bayou
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Island
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Polluted Delta
1 Swamp
1 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
1 Dark Petition
4 Duress
4 Infernal Tutor
2 Past in Flames
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Tendrils of Agony
4 Thoughtseize
1 Ad Nauseam
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal

Sideboard
1 Tendrils of Agony
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Chain of Vapor
2 Echoing Truth
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Extirpate
2 Flusterstorm
2 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Massacre
1 Xantid Swarm

Michael Clifford won the MTGO MCQ, and many people have been calling ANT “the best deck in Legacy” for some time now. I disagree with that statement as I don’t think Legacy has a best deck, but ANT comes close. It’s ahead against most blue decks (outside of Miracles), and is one of the most consistent decks in the format. Unfortunately, it’s extremely hard to play and very punishing when you make a mistake. It also matches up poorly against Chalice of the Void and hatebears, but it has begun playing tons of bounce spells for that reason.

ANT is behind vs. Miracles, Moon Stompy, even vs. U/R/x Delver, D&T, Sneak and Show, and ahead vs. U/W StoneBlade, Grixis Control, and Slow Depths. Although this matchup profile seems great, keep in mind the deck is weak to certain sideboard cards and extremely difficult to play. It’s a deck I would recommend if you have a lot of experience with Storm, but probably not otherwise.

Death and Taxes (5.6%)

Death and Taxes

Scabs, 7-0 at Legacy Premier

11 Plains
4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland
1 Ancient Tomb
3 Karakas
1 Mishra's Factory
4 Flickerwisp
4 Mother of Runes
1 Palace Jailer
3 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Recruiter of the Guard
1 Restoration Angel
1 Sanctum Prelate
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Walking Ballista
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 AEther Vial
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Umezawa's Jitte

Sideboard
1 Palace Jailer
1 Cataclysm
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Containment Priest
2 Council's Judgment
1 Damping Sphere
1 Dismember
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Path to Exile
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rest in Peace
1 Surgical Extraction

Briefly considered one of the best decks in Legacy, the rise of Grixis Control and Miracles pushed it out for a long period. But as the hate for the deck has died down and good matchups have reappeared, Death and Taxes appears well positioned again. Thomas Enevoldsen has Top 8’d every MTGO Challenge he has played with the deck recently, and this insane run just shows that the deck can go very far in the hands of an amazing pilot. Palace Jailer shores up some of the holes against the control decks, but it is admittedly weak to True-Name Nemesis.

D&T is behind vs. Miracles, U/W StoneBlade, Grixis Control, even vs. ANT, Slow Depths, Sneak and Show, and ahead vs. U/R/x Delver, and Moon Stompy.

Slow Depths (5.6%)

Golgari Depths

Griselpuff, 6-1 at Legacy Challenge

3 Bayou
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Dark Depths
1 Forest
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Sejiri Steppe
1 Swamp
4 Thespian's Stage
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Wasteland
4 Dark Confidant
2 Sylvan Safekeeper
4 Vampire Hexmage
2 Duress
2 Hymn to Tourach
1 Life from the Loam
2 Sylvan Scrying
4 Thoughtseize
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Crop Rotation
4 Mox Diamond
1 Sylvan Library

Sideboard
2 Sylvan Safekeeper
1 Abrupt Decay
2 Hymn to Tourach
1 Assassin's Trophy
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Karakas
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Marsh Casualties
2 Pithing Needle
2 Surgical Extraction

This is my latest list that I really like, and I am deciding between this deck and U/R/x Delver for GP Niagara Falls. Depths has powerful draws and a proactive game plan, and Dave Long’s latest build incorporates four Hymn to Tourach, which are excellent against combo decks that are some of the harder matchups.

Slow Depths is behind vs. Sneak and Show, ANT, even vs. U/R/x Delver, Moon Stompy, D&T, and ahead vs. Miracles, U/W StoneBlade, and Grixis Control.

Sneak and Show (5.6%)

Sneak and Show

JPA93, 8-0 at Legacy Premier

2 Flooded Strand
3 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Polluted Delta
2 Scalding Tarn
3 Volcanic Island
3 Griselbrand
3 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Ponder
1 Preordain
4 Show and Tell
4 Brainstorm
3 Cunning Wish
2 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
1 Impulse
1 Intuition
1 Spell Pierce
4 Lotus Petal
3 Omniscience
3 Sneak Attack
3 Ancient Tomb
2 City of Traitors

Sideboard
1 Flusterstorm
1 Intuition
2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Firemind's Foresight
1 Kozilek's Return
1 Pyroblast
2 Pyroclasm
1 Release the Ants
1 Rushing River
1 Sudden Shock
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Through the Breach
1 Trickbind

Jonathan Anghelescu has made the finals of a few different MTGO Legacy events this year, and it shows that Sneak and Show is not as simple of a deck as some people make it out to be. Somehow, he has been able to achieve another level of performance with the deck and prove that it is still one of the best decks in Legacy. Recently, most builds have been incorporating Omniscience/Cunning Wish to make them better against permanent disruption from D&T and Eldrazi Post.

Sneak and Show is ahead vs. Miracles, U/W StoneBlade, Moon Stompy, Slow Depths, even vs. D&T, ANT, and behind vs. U/R/x Delver, and Grixis Control.

Now, while I think I tried to give a fairway estimate of a deck’s matchups, I honestly don’t feel like I did a great job. There are just far too many variables at play, including specific card/sideboard choices and player skill. Grixis Delver, for example, can be constructed to be favored against almost all eight decks (just not at the same time). I also have a bias against Moon Stompy and blue midrange decks, so that may have caused me to rate them a bit lower. I would say the biggest lesson here is to realize that these nine archetypes are among the most successful archetypes today, and be ready with a plan to beat them. Players are succeeding on MTGO with all nine of these decks (and many more beyond them), and I think the key is to pick your spot in the metagame and come with a coherent plan for each of the important matchups. Most of that comes with experience, so I go back to my original point: play what you know. I’m very excited for this GP and can’t wait to see what the next chapter of Legacy has in store.

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