Legacy Weapon – On a Budget

The main complaint I hear about Legacy is regarding the price tag, and I can relate, even though I grew up with the advantages of an upper middle class family. I was well fed, educated, and we always had Christmas presents under the tree. This was a bit odd during July, when most people were celebrating some other holiday, but it worked for us.

That said, when it came to entertaining myself, my parents left me to my own devices. This meant that if something fun were going to fall into my lap, an elderly member of the family would have to die and bequeath it to me. While this helped me acquire the odd hunting rifle, it didn’t work particularly well when it came to magical cards.

To play the game, I followed my friends’ lead and got creative. I made my own fruit snacks and sold them between classes. I cashed my mom’s checks, intended for school lunches, and then wiped down the tables to eat for free. I started grinding early, and it got me there. I became a regular at local events, starting with limited and moving to block, type two, and then more obscure formats like Prismatic. When the banned and restricted list for legacy and vintage first separated, I saw it as a huge opportunity, albeit one I still didn’t have the funds to pursue.

Simply not playing the format was never an option. Legacy is too much fun to not participate in. I was always a brewer at heart, and the vast number of cards legal meant more options, a deck builder’s paradise. I started legacy with two budget-minded decks, and as the format developed so did my ability to tune my builds. Slowly I traded up, kept my staples, and by the time I had graduated and moved out on my own I had a set of [card]Underground Sea[/card]s which, as the most expensive duals, I could always trade away for another set plus the format staples to play almost any archetype. As a sign of my limited budget, I didn’t have the funds to test a white splash for [card]Enlightened Tutor[/card] in UG Survival. In many respects, though, being restricted my whole life made me more creative, and without that background I wouldn’t have developed the deck in the first place.

At the time I picked it up, Merfolk cost me a scant eighty dollars to build. I already had the [card]Wasteland[/card]s and [card]Force of Will[/card]s, so I only needed [card]Mutavault[/card]s and [card]Aether Vial[/card]s, both of which were going for about ten bucks at the time. The commons and uncommons like [card]Cursecatcher[/card] and whatnot were basically throw-ins on larger trades, and it wasn’t until the deck became a format regular that the cards slowly rose to the price they are now.

Some of you might be thinking, “Cool story bro, but how does this help me buy Merfolk?” It doesn’t, but that’s my point. If you want to play legacy, or any format, on the cheap, you shouldn’t be bemoaning how expensive last week’s deck is, you should be flying under the radar. When I picked up Death and Taxes, I thought I was a sap for paying seven dollars on [card]Karakas[/card]. Later, [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] and [card iona, shield of emeria]Iona[/card] made their impacts on the format, and I turned my sucker bet into dual lands.

Scouring lists from online tournaments and dredging through forums are great ways of getting a whiff of fresh, possibly tier tech before it rockets in price. However, this is time consuming. Fortunately, there are other methods of getting into legacy cheap. The format cycles, and what isn’t performing at the moment will drop. Predicting a metagame correctly allows you to buy in low, take advantage, and then, by the time the meta has shifted, hopefully you’ve gained a good enough mastery of the deck to fight through the hate.


The following lists aren’t new archetypes, but they are all easy points of entry for the legacy format. While they aren’t what I would show to Scrooge McDuck if he were looking to buy into legacy, they are lists I would’ve been proud to play when I first started. Like if my past self fell into a wormhole and got sucked into our present time and, even after that life-altering experience, he still had nothing better to do than sling more cardboard, these are what I would ship him.

Tightwad Elves

[deck]14 Forest
2 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Dryad Arbor
2 Birchlore Rangers
1 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Visionary
1 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Heritage Druid
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Nettle Sentinel
1 Priest of Titania
2 Quirion Ranger
2 Regal Force
1 Viridian Shaman
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Wirewood Symbiote
1 Crop Rotation
3 Summoner’s Pact
4 Glimpse of Nature
4 Green Sun’s Zenith[/deck]

By Channelfireball’s prices, this deck costs two hundred and eighty three dollars, and after a strong finish or two the deck will have paid for itself. Meanwhile, all the cards are popular in casual and the deck’s value should never go down. Unlike most combo decks, Elves can still win through a fizzle by tapping guys sideways, which is just one of many non-budgetary reasons for running the deck.

When expanding on this base, I’d suggest looking into multicolor sideboard strategies. I’ve seen [card]Buried Alive[/card] (for [card]Vengevine[/card]s), [card]Envelop[/card], and [card]Dauntless Escort[/card] brought in as ways of fighting [card]Perish[/card]. This opens up options for maindeck cards like [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card], which can answer other forms of disruption like [card]Engineered Plague[/card]. Remember kids, [card]Viridian Zealot[/card] is almost unplayable due to its vulnerability to the Plague. Your sideboard strategies should shore up weaknesses, not play into them.

Bob Cratchit Burn

[deck]4 Volcanic Island
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Arid Mesa
1 Misty Rainforest
6 Mountain
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Goblin Guide
4 Brainstorm
4 Price of Progress
2 Magma Jet
3 Lava Spike
4 Fireblast
4 Flame Rift
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
3 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Faerie Macabre
3 Pyroblast
2 Sulfuric Vortex[/deck]

The go-to deck for buying into legacy on the cheap has always been burn. The archetype has historically had worse creatures than Zoo, and it still does, but now you can splash an evasive [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] in the form of [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] while avoiding the expensive tricolor manabase that Zoo necessitates.

Purchasing the above deck from scratch from here at ChannelFireball will set you back roughly five hundred dollars, which is still in the range of standard decks but includes a set of duals and a pile of fetchlands (which our own Chas Andres speculates are excellent buys, and it’s hard to argue with him.)

Burn was one of the first decks I owned in Legacy, and I kept it for a long time, loaning it out to those new to legacy and magic in general. There are cheaper options available, like the more established mono red versions that top eight the occasional Open. However, the goal isn’t just to play, but to win long-term, so practicing our innovation skills while picking up a few format staples is exactly what we should be looking to do. It’s like killing two [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] with one [card]Slagstorm[/card].

Cheapo Weenie

Earlier this week I talked to a friend, Scott Morrow, who was looking to get into Legacy, and his natural instinct was to port his WW deck from standard. When hearing this I wanted to facepalm, but what he came up with surprised me in its competitiveness. Here’s my take on his list:

[deck]4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
1 Horizon Canopy
15 Plains
4 Mother of Runes
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Serra Avenger
4 Mirran Crusader
4 Aven Mindcensor
2 Grand Abolisher
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Aether Vial
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Sword of Body and Mind
1 Batterskull
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/deck]

At ChannelFireball prices, that deck can be ordered for roughly two hundred and ninety two dollars, which is cheap for any format. Considering that most people will have crossover cards from standard, or at least some tradestock to work with, the actual cost of the deck is going to be even less.

The next step to developing the deck involves [card]Wasteland[/card]s. After that, adding another color to the manabase for access to new tools has been a widely successful strategy, including such archetypes as UW tempo, WB Deadguy, and GW Haterade (or Maverick.) A single [card]Karakas[/card] to compliment the [card]Oblivion Ring[/card]s as maindeck outs to [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] wouldn’t hurt.

Tuning the above strategy to fight whatever broken decks are in the current field isn’t going to break the wallet. Maybe storm combo is present, and you want to maindeck some [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card]s and sideboard some silence effects. Graveyard based strategies, like Reanimator and Dredge, will always be around, and hate has never been cheaper.

Be Hatin

Building a budget deck is not hard. However, making a cheap list that’s also competitive is difficult. Any glance around mtgthesource.com is going to reveal dozens of new deck ideas. By the game’s very nature the brews can’t all be good, or most of them would probably be seeing play already.

One of the difficulties of playing a budget deck in Legacy is that it probably can’t include [card]Force of Will[/card], which will hurt your chances against the unfair decks. Fortunately, sideboard cards are often commons and uncommons, which means you can tune your deck for any given field without breaking the bank.

However, if you’re new to Legacy, knowing what you should be preparing for, why, and how to do so can be daunting. Doing the research is important, but sometimes it’s difficult to understand why a card is played without seeing it in action. The only remedy for that is to dive in headfirst and get some game experience, but here’s a list of options that should help us get started thinking.

[card]Back to Basics[/card], [card]Blood Moon[/card], [card]Magus of the Moon[/card]: In Vintage, [card]Null Rod[/card] has been a longtime tool for budget decks trying to beat the more expensive strategies, and these cards all fill a similar role in legacy by locking the opponent out of greedy manabases. As such, these cards are all underplayed, partially because the budgety, mono colored decks are viable in legacy, and you need to be able to beat those too.

[card]Pithing Needle[/card] and [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card]: [card]Pithing Needle[/card] has a ton of uses in legacy, stopping everything from [card]Gempalm Incinerator[/card] to [card]Goblin Charbelcher[/card] to [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card], and as such I’m not afraid to maindeck it. A deck could use one as a [card]Trinket Mage[/card] target or run the full four, depending. In decks that are particularly weak to activated abilities, particularly those of [card]Aether Vial[/card] or [card]Pernicious Deed[/card], you should lean towards running more.

[card]Perish[/card], [card]Nature’s Ruin[/card], [card]Hibernation[/card], and [card]Submerge[/card]: Saito ran a mixture of these in his Grand Prix-winning decklist, but that was in a time before [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] existed, so there was no downside to running [card]Nature’s Ruin[/card] over [card]Perish[/card]. In a recent tournament, I realized at the last minute that I needed [card]Nature’s Ruin[/card], as I had a Thrun of my own to regenerate! I went on to win a game due to that specific interaction, sweeping away a board of [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and [card]Progenitus[/card] while leaving me with the lone finisher. [card]Hibernation[/card] is the more lackluster blue version of [card]Perish[/card], and typically only shows up in mono blue Merfolk sideboards. [card]Submerge[/card] also hates on green creatures, but it does so differently. While [card]Perish[/card] is good at nuking the board after they’ve already tutored for [card]Progenitus[/card], [card]Submerge[/card] is better at preventing them from getting into the game at all, and is a fair deck’s best response to a turn one [card]Dryad Arbor[/card].

[card]Aven Mindcensor[/card], [card]Leonin Arbiter[/card]: For a while, people tried to make [card]Suppression Field[/card] work, but the card wasn’t consistent enough and made for a terrible topdeck. As is, [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] has the most impressive stats, and can even act as a counterspell to cards like [card]Intuition[/card]. It sees the most play in Maverick, which is also the only deck I’ve ever seen run [card]Leonin Arbiter[/card], and even then only once. Still, while outclassed by the Aven, the Leonin has a powerful effect, and I’ve always wanted to run both.

[card]Enlightened Tutor[/card] doesn’t directly hate anything out, but it can add redundancy to bullets, giving a deck game against a wider variety of broken strategies. Also, the card can protect your hand from discard. Your opponent can [card]Thoughtseize[/card], but in response you tutor for [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card], possibly taking the game where a redundant copy of Canonist would’ve hit the bin.

[card]Mindbreak Trap[/card], [card]Stifle[/card], [card]Flusterstorm[/card]: All of these cards are good against [card]Ill-Gotten Gains[/card], but bad against [card]Silence[/card] and discard effects leading into [card]Ad Nauseam[/card]. Being able to [card snapcaster mage]Snapcast[/card] back [card]Flusterstorm[/card] makes it more resilient to discard, so it’s worth running there, but the decks that should be running [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] are ones that can aggressively attack the opponent’s life total. These decks might win turn four to the storm deck’s turn three, but they can limit the effectiveness of [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] and decrease the time the combo deck has to find a discard spell. Both of these traits make [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] a more profitable option in aggro than in a clunky control list or a combo mirror.

[card]Chalice of the Void[/card], [card]Trinisphere[/card], [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card], [card]Rule of Law[/card], [card]Arcane Laboratory[/card], [card]Mana Maze[/card], [card]Pyrostatic Pillar[/card]: These are all lock pieces targeting storm combo, but have varying degrees of effectiveness and all fit into different deck’s game plans. The artifacts are staples in [card]Ancient Tomb[/card] archetypes, Canonist in creature decks, [card]Rule of Law[/card] as an [card]Enlightened Tutor[/card] bullet, and [card]Pyrostatic Pillar[/card] in red aggro.

[card]Krosan Grip[/card], [card]Ancient Grudge[/card], [card]Tower of the Magistrate[/card], [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card], [card]Seal of Cleansing[/card], [card]Nature’s Claim[/card], [card]Tin Street Hooligan[/card], [card]Trygon Predator[/card], [card]Viridian Shaman[/card]: There are an almost unlimited number of playable [card]Disenchant[/card] effects at the moment, many of which are maindeckable in certain metas. A deck’s weak points are going to dictate what sort of artifact or enchantment hate is necessary. A combo deck might want [card]Reverent Silence[/card] as a [card]Burning Wish[/card] target while an aggro control deck might want [card]Hull Breach[/card].

[card]Shattering Spree[/card], [card]Hurkyl’s Recall[/card], [card]Energy Flux[/card], [card]Kataki, War’s Wage[/card]: All hosers for both Affinity and the Metalworker deck. While neither of these archetypes are tier one, they fluctuate in popularity, and if your deck is weak to such a strategy you need to adjust when they’re peaking, and then realize when to pull the hate when they’re down.

Naturally, this list will always be incomplete, as each archetype has hate options that are specific to what it’s trying to do (like [card]Searing Blaze[/card] in Burn, or [card]Vengevine[/card] in Elves.) Also, staples are constantly increasing and decreasing in usability. [card]Loaming Shaman[/card] used to be a [card]Living Wish[/card] target, for example, but now casting [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] for [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] is a much more attractive play.

Hopefully this article has helped convince some previously daunted folks that Legacy is affordable, all while providing some deck examples and ideas on keeping a budget deck competitive. I know it, have lived it, and have friends living it now. It’s a great format, and with plenty of events in the states, as well as accessibility anywhere on MODO, there’s no reason not to play.

If, on the other hand, the complaint isn’t about playing Legacy on a budget, but instead regarding an inability to netdeck the latest eight blue dual tournament winner, then your problem isn’t with Legacy, it’s with Magic. The game’s economy is set up so that whatever is coveted more will indeed cost more. We saw this play out with standard decks that ran over a grand and also in the recent price fluctuations due to modern and EDH. Dredge isn’t a cheap deck because of its expected value, but because there are few that can appreciate playing it all day long.

As a bonus, I thought my latest Pauper list was fitting with the subject at hand:

Pauper CounterBurninator

[deck]8 Islands
6 Mountains
1 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kiln Fiend
3 Keldon Marauders
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Preordain
3 Ponder
4 Dispel
4 Repeal
2 Mana Leak
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
4 Burst Lightning
1 Shock
2 Echoing Truth
3 Seismic Shudder
4 Smash to Smithereens
1 Stitched Drake
4 Pyroblast
1 Manic Vandal[/deck]

The Pauper metagame is a tricky beast. This list tends to beat Storm and Affinity but lose to attrition-based value decks like MBC and Cloudpost. While it isn’t the strongest deck in the format, it is a ton of fun to play.

That’s all for this week. As always, hit me up with your questions, and I’ll do my best to get back to people.

Caleb Durward
@CalebDMTG on twitter
[email protected]


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