With Legacy taking the main stage at Grand Prix Birmingham, I had to do my homework and get across all the decks in the format to pull together coverage that made it seem like I at least had a vague idea of what was going on. Whether I was successful at this remains to be seen, but I certainly did investigate the format pretty thoroughly, and in doing so, came across some spicy brewskis.
Everyone has seen Grixis Delver, and various Leovold decks are well known in Legacy these days—there aren’t many surprises on those fronts. While discussing the format with various people, however, I was put onto a terrific deck that Legacy specialist Henry Tsang had locked in for the GP. He was put onto it by Tyler Marklyn, who shared his list with Tsang after having a lot of success with it.
It’s time to live the dream! Making mill decks actually function properly has become the life’s work of more than one Magic player, and there are those determined to see it happen in Legacy. Here, there’s no excuse—perfect mana and access to all the best mill cards—can we pull everything together and deck ’em?
The key piece to this puzzle is Hedron Crab. As a recurring mill engine, it’s the most important card in the deck—not close. This also should explain the high number of fetches in relation to fetchable lands. You almost always want to be able to crack multiple fetches once your Crab—or hopefully Crabs—are online, as a single fetchland will mill out 10% of an opponent’s library. Don’t forget that bouncing a land with Daze gives you the opportunity to retrigger crabfall!
We see Archive Trap in Modern mill decks, and it’s just as good here. Every mainstream Legacy deck searches its library at some point in the game, in which position you can snipe ’em for a baker’s dozen. It’s Brain Freeze, however, that really juices up the milling plan. After stringing together a few cantrips, you can Brain Freeze them like they’ve just downed a Slurpee in one go.
Aside from this, the usual suspects have gotten together to do their work in another blue Legacy deck—Brainstorm, Daze, and Force of Will are just as powerful here as in other, perhaps more established, archetypes. A welcome addition, however, is the card that often works as a functional Ancestral Recall. Visions of Beyond (quite aside from having the most incredible art) is an insanely powerful card once online, which really isn’t too difficult to achieve.
This deck can adopt pretty different postures post-board. As opponents will almost certainly cut a bunch of removal, it’s the perfect opportunity to slam a cheap beater into play. Jace’s Phantasm will often get busy as a 5/5 flyer, which outstrips even Delver of Secrets at a single blue mana. Pair these threats with extra removal to end the game much quicker than your unsuspecting opponent may have anticipated!
The two other critical post-board tools are Ensnaring Bridge and Surgical Extraction. If your opponent is playing to the board, use the Bridge to stop their onslaught while you do you noble work milling them out, or stay the course with the main-deck Extractions if they’re not looking to contest the battlefield.
Here’s the post-board plan suggested by Marklyn:
Against Delver (Grixis, Sultai, Temur)
The last three cards you bring in depend on which creatures you’re playing against—you want to bring in a combination of Abrade, Diabolic Edict, Hydroblast, and Ensnaring Bridge to make up the final three cards. Edict is great against True-Name Nemesis, Ensnaring Bridge is great against Gurmag Angler, and Hydroblast is great against Young Pyromancer, so plan accordingly.
Against Fair Blue Decks (Leovold, etc.)
Against Fair Decks Without Fetchlands (Eldrazi, Death & Taxes):
As Death & Taxes is (usually) a mono-colored deck, cut an extra Force to bring in the Sphinx’s Tutelage to really teach them a lesson.
Combo matchups generally don’t change too much after sideboarding, as the combination of Gitaxian Probe and Surgical Extraction is the best way to win. You mill over a bunch of cards, Probe them, then use Extraction to snag the best card. That is the ideal win condition, but otherwise just target a card they have multiples of in hand.
Milling people out isn’t always easy. With Legacy currently overrun with Delver decks, it can be tough sometimes to get across the line. Happily, however, this deck actually does have some pretty good matchups. It’s surprisingly decent against fair decks (especially Death & Taxes), and doesn’t do too badly against combo thanks to the main deck Surgical Extractions.
The best thing Legacy Mill has going for it, however, is the sheer surprise factor. Many people simply don’t know how to play against such an off-the-wall strategy. This can heavily skew a matchup in your favor as you catch opponents off-guard and keep them guessing about what might happen next—pure pilot error on the part of your opponent will shore up quite a few percentage points for you.
Actually, that’s the second best thing Legacy Mill has going for it. The best is, of course, playing a mill deck. There’s no better feeling than forcing your opponent to draw off an empty library—may your opening hands be ever replete with Hedron Crabs!