The Legacy Grand Prix in Seattle was an exciting watch! It has been a while since the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top rocked the format and I feel confident that we can paint a reasonably accurate picture of the format and metagame.

Let me start by saying that ranking decks is an exercise in imperfection. I spent several hours discussing different ways to evaluate a deck. In the end, the entire process is largely subjective. With that being said, I put a lot of effort into trying to make my subjective observations as objective as I can, given the model.

There are a multitude of ways to qualify decks. They all do different things and utilize different strategies, which feels like comparing apples and oranges. I could create arbitrary categories to compare apples and oranges: sweetness, brightness, crispness, etc., but the conclusion drawn will always be wrought with bias.

So don’t get too hung up on the numbers because at the end of the day they are less important than the big picture. Given the complexity of ranking decks, bias, and metagame shifts, there is probably about a 2-3 spot margin of error.

If you disagree with a particular ranking or score, feel free to let me know in the comments. In such a huge and complex format, there is always something new to learn. I learn more about Legacy every time I shuffle up.

My Ranking System

Power Level – A combination of how quickly, easily, and effectively a deck can win a game of Magic. Slow decks can be powerful. Miracles for example, is capable of running an opponent out of gas with extreme efficiency, even if it won’t technically end the game for several more turns.

Consistency – How often does the deck draw hands that can execute a winning strategy? How high is the variance between a large sample size of games?

Resilience/Exploitability/Flexibility – Does the deck crumble to sideboard cards? Does the deck have a backup plan or transformational sideboard? It’s not just sideboard cards—a deck that struggles against major pillars of the format (fast combo or counterspells) will have scores that reflect these inflexibilities.

I’m going to give each deck a score of between 1 and 10 for each of the three categories and add them up. The higher the score, the higher the rank.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in Legacy there are a lot of hybrids of archetypes. Name a combination of colors that involve blue and there is some flavor of aggro-control. In the spirit of inclusion, I’m going to group some of these decks together rather than have fifteen different Deathrite Shaman + Brainstorm decks on the list.

Two cards that define many builds of functionally similar decks.

There are no doubt other factors at play but these are the big three for me. The dream deck is one that can quickly and consistently put itself into victory formation without being too vulnerable to cards and strategies people are likely to play. So, basically a deck that would typically be considered “broken.”

The Top 20

Legacy has a lot of decks, so obviously not everything can make the list. I will contend that the margin between #20 and #1 isn’t that large. All of these decks are viable choices, as are many of the decks that narrowly missed the cut. These decks are so powerful that anything can beat anything else.

20) Nic Fit (12/30)

Approximately 1% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 7
Consistency: 3
Resilience: 2

Nic Fit is a grindy “The-Rock”-style deck that has been a fringe Legacy mainstay for years. It is defined by its use of the card Veteran Explorer, which is used to ramp out giant monsters that go well over the top of the typical aggro-control decks.

Veteran Explorer is rarely long for this world, but his predictable demise heralds the arrival of some pretty nasty monsters.

Nic Fit

Winddragon11, 4th place in an MTGO Challenge

While the deck does some powerful things and has some exploitable matchups against popular decks, I gave it weak scores in consistency and resilience. The deck has a lot of moving pieces, which means that drawing the wrong cards in the wrong order can lead to some awkward draws. Many of the faster combo and aggro decks can go underneath before the deck can set up. Some of the control decks can go over the top.

A very cool and powerful deck that has some matchup issues.

19) Merfolk (14/30)

Approximately 1% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 5
Consistency: 5
Resilience: 4

Merfolk was once one of the premier decks in Legacy and is still hanging around as a viable strategy. It is an aggro-control deck, like Delver, but uses tribal synergy to create a much quicker clock.

Merfolk

Lorenzo De Laurentiis, 3rd place at Underdog Legacy League

A recent list that is actually pretty spicy. I love Chart a Course and Chalice of the Void in the deck.

The deck has upsides and downsides compared to other blue aggro decks. In matchups without removal, the clock is much faster. The downside is also a function of the upside—attacking the Lords with removal can often leave the fish mage with an army of small creatures that are badly outclassed by individually more powerful creatures.

Merfolk is a solid Legacy deck and a great budget option for new players. It is competitive and doesn’t require a bunch of dual lands.

18) Burn (14/30)

Approximately 2% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 3
Consistency: 7
Resilience: 4

Legacy may be dominated by blue mages, but red mages are also welcome!

The deck is fast and straightforward. Burn the opponent to death with direct damage and haste creatures: a concept as old and elegant as Magic itself.

Burn

David Berg, 5th place at Trollywood Legacy

In a format where Storm and Show and Tell exist I can’t give Burn overwhelming scores, but it’s consistent if nothing else. Another nice, capable budget option that can be a tough matchup for some of the more popular decks in the format. A true dark horse!

17) Infect (15/30)

Approximately 2% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 8
Consistency: 4
Resilience: 3

Pumping a creature with infect is obviously powerful. Infect is a deck with nut draws that can end the game on turn 2 with counterspell backup, which can never be overlooked.

Make it big and then double it.

Also, it is worth noting that this is a difficult deck and not for the faint of heart! The deck requires a willingness to make risky plays in order to be played well.

Infect

Marcel Stocker, 2nd place at Trader Dulmen Legacy

The obvious brute power and speed of the deck is balanced out by the fact that it needs to combo by investing multiple cards into pumping a 1/1 creature. The risk and reward are both ridiculously high. The deck obviously has permission and hexproof spells to provide protection while combo’ing off. Nonetheless, there is a lot of removal in Legacy right now because of DRS, which makes life difficult for the poison mage.

16) Dredge (15/30)

Approximately 2% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 6
Consistency: 7
Resilience: 2

One of the true boogeymen of Magic: DREDGE! The concept is simple: mill your library and use the graveyard as your hand to generate tons of board and card advantage.

The scariest 1/1 flyer in Magic.

There are also two primary version of the deck, one with mana and one without:

Manaless Dredge

Michael Nakahara, 5th place at CFB Legacy 4K

Dredge

Dredge is a powerful strategy that benefits from a lot of free wins. Most decks are not well equipped to handle a recurring Zombie army that magically appears from the graveyard. On the other side of that coin, the deck also suffers greatly against focused sideboard cards such as Containment Priest and Rest in Peace.

There are enough graveyard decks in the format that you should expect to face hate on a consistent basis. All things considered, Dredge is powerful and attacks from an angle that is difficult to defend against without dedicated hate cards.

15) Maverick (15/30)

2% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 5
Consistency: 5
Resilience: 5

Maverick is a great creature deck. Powerful threats, removal, and some serious grind.

And tutors!

One of the biggest misconceptions that people might have looking at a list of the “best decks” is that it is wrong to play anything besides the top two or three archetypes. Clearly, Maverick is more than capable of Top 8’ing a Grand Prix:

Maverick

Miranda Keith, 8th place at Grand Prix Seattle

The margin between the best deck and the 20th best deck are not that huge when it comes to playing a tournament and I believe that any deck featured in this article is a legitimate choice.

The deck has a lot of powerful creatures that easily dominate the battlefield in most matchups. It doesn’t blow the doors off in any single category but it is well rounded and has a plan for anything that an opponent can throw against it. It’s a deck that I very much enjoy playing myself!

14) U/R Delver, (16/30)

4% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 4
Consistency: 7
Resilience: 5

The first of the Delver decks to be featured on my list! U/R Delver is a lot like a burn deck with Counterspells and Brainstorms.

The Legacy triforce.

U/R Delver

Mathias Schubert, 2nd place at Win a Dual Open

Rather than being “all in” on ending the game as quickly as possible, U/R Delver backs up its cheap aggressive threats with permission and card filtering. What the deck sacrifices in threats it makes up for in being able to interact with broken strategies on the stack.

It’s a difficult deck to hate out because it has good threat density and disruption that both protects its creatures and keeps the opponent honest. Take a deck (Burn) and find a way to add Force of Will and Brainstorm—it’s a winning combination!

13) Reanimator (17/30)

2% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 10
Consistency: 5
Resilience: 2

Another one of the classic Magic archetypes to be featured on my list. Throw a creature into the graveyard and bring it back to life at a much cheaper rate!

It’s fairly easy to execute and extremely efficient at ending the games. The days of making a Verdant Force are long past. The creatures nowadays end games immediately in most cases.

One hell of a Demon.

Reanimator

Mihara Yuuki, 1st place at Win a Volcanic Island

The problem with the deck is that like all graveyard decks it is vulnerable to graveyard hate and the deck doesn’t have a ton of staying power if the opponent makes it past the initial showdown.

I love the transformational sideboard plan of Pack Rat and ramping out Grave Titans. I have no idea how effective the plan would actually be, but it is sweet and I have mad respect for the fact that Mihara pulled it off and won a Volcanic Island! Nice innovation.

12) Dragon Stompy (17/30)

4% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 7
Consistency: 4
Resilience: 6

Dragon Stompy is the epitome of a metagame-driven “hate deck.” It is also a sort of prison deck. It has a lot of soft lock components that attack the opponent’s ability to actually cast the spells they need to execute their game plan.

The deck makes life really miserable for most opponents.

Dragon Stompy

ELFKID, 6th place at MTGO Legacy Challenge

Once the opponent is stumbling around trying to slog through Chalice, Bridge, and Blood Moon the deck can pretty much deploy and run amok with its own powerful threats. In fact, the threat package is pretty powerful all on its own.

Chalice of the Void has become one of the emergent archetypes in Legacy over the past year and this is one of the many choice options.

11) Sultai Midrange/Control  (18/30)

4% of the winner’s metagame

Power Level: 6
Consistency: 6
Resilience: 6

Sultai is a whole spread of different decks that can range from Delver, to Shardless, to midrange, and into control territory.

The new hotness is Jeremy Dezani’s list that he piloted to a second-place finish at Grand Prix Seattle last weekend:

Sultai Control

Jeremy Dezani, 2nd place at GP Seattle

I don’t want to overgeneralize the color combination. Obviously, a Sultai deck with Delver is going to be different from one with Shardless Agent or a more controlling list like Dezani’s. The key to understanding the basics of what Sultai is all about involves understanding Sultai’s relationship to other aggro-control decks.

The Sultai colors lend themselves to a couple of things. First, they are best able to utilize Deathrite Shaman without spreading their mana too far since it’s naturally on color.

Secondly, Sultai decks tend to be grindier and less aggressive than a U/R-based Delver deck or a U/W Stone-Blade deck.

Black naturally provides cards that generate card advantage and that is the staple of the Sultai deck. It will run you out of resources in a long game with 2-for-1 after 2-for-1.

Well, that rounds out the first half of the list. Stay tuned later this week when I’ll break down my top 10 picks.

Obviously, blue is great and Deathrite Shaman is everywhere (I’ll be talking about that more in the next article) but there is a ton of fascinating stuff going on in this format and the games are awesome.

If you want to advocate for a particular deck that you think I undervalued, be sure to leave me a comment and let me know. I’m always interested in hearing what you all have to say and discussing Eternal MTG.