This Week in Legacy — Budget Legacy?

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Howdy folks, this is Joe again and we're here with some more great Legacy content to whet your whistle.

A long while ago, I wrote an article about Legacy Finance (you can find the article here) in regards to some of the best ways to approach getting into the format. This article is a bit of a spiritual follow-up to that article since we're going to talk a little about the budget side of the format.

Now, before we dive into this, let's be clear about one or two things: In all regards, Legacy is still a fairly expensive format to dive into cleanly. This means that often the budget route devolves into one of two pathways: Burn or Dredge. The word "budget" alone has different meanings to different people because nobody views the concept the same way. Chas Andres does a great job of addressing this particular viewpoint in his article "You Can Afford to Play Legacy," which coincidentally contains a few good decklists for budget points.

Nobody can define what "budget" means, frankly. Budget to one person could mean any deck that costs $500 or less, but to another person means $50 or less, or it could mean anything that costs less than $1,000. It's a highly subjective term, so we're going to tackle it based on the Legacy Finance article I wrote previously.

In addition, I'm going to talk about and address a little bit of the "Why Legacy?" question because it definitely deserves to be answered. This is going to talk about motivation for the format and building into it with that motivation in mind.

To Dual Land or Not to Dual Land

One of the biggest and most important decisions in Legacy is generally centered around the sheer importance of dual lands and the effect that they have on the format. Dual lands are expensive, and thus make the rest of the format expensive because they are so well utilized across the format.

One of the budget concessions that some people can often make is utilizing shock lands as opposed to true duals. There are always going to be scenarios where this is obviously going to be the extreme lesser of two evils; for example, any deck that plays Daze to any great extent are going to be in a much harsher place than if they had true duals.

My recommendation is that if you're going to seek out a deck that does play some number of dual lands, it is really a great idea to work on the potential of getting that first dual land. At that point, you can actually play shocks to an extent until the deck is finished. You will notice the percentage points here or there when the life loss matters, but at least you will have that first real dual if you are in a situation where you need to fetch and it matters.

However, there are a few decks where you can get away with pure shock lands like Nic Fit or in the deck below: Reanimator.

Shockland Reanimator

Creatures (10)
4 Griselbrand
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
4 Sire of Insanity
1 Tidespout Tyrant

Instants/Sorceries (28)
4 Dark Ritual
4 Duress
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
4 Faithless Looting
4 Reanimate
4 Unmask

Artifacts/Enchantments (8)
4 Animate Dead
4 Lotus Petal

Lands (14)
4 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
2 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
1 Archetype of Endurance
4 Chancellor of the Annex
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
3 Faerie Macabre
1 Grave Titan
3 Stronghold Gambit
2 Tormod's Crypt

One of the nice things about a solid unfair list like this is that many of its biggest card have seen solid reprints in various Masters sets: Animate Dead and Entomb in Eternal Masters, Griselbrand in Modern Master 2017, and Dark Ritual in Masters 25. If you're feeling crafty or you have the ability to do so from Iconic Masters, upgrade the Duress to Thoughtseize and suddenly you are not looking that far off from a Legacy deck.

However, it's still worth noting that this deck still puts you about $500550 give or take, which if you consider that the deck can often scrape by a few solid free wins isn't too bad. The deck does suffer from dealing with persistent graveyard hate, but all-in-all can actually pull it together when it needs to.

There are a few other decks that don't require dual lands at all. Decks like Death and Taxes which have been repeatedly had reprints of cards for in Masters sets play no Reserved List cards whatsoever, making their appeal much higher to those looking for a solid entry into the format.

If you're angling for cheaper, Burn is arguably the very definition of budget. This list below went 43 in a Legacy challenge on Magic Online and only costs $187 on average.

Burn — TMT_Noski | 4–3 MTGO Legacy Challenge 3/25

Creatures (12)
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear

Instants/Sorceries (24)
4 Chain Lightning
4 Fireblast
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Price of Progress
4 Rift Bolt

Enchantments (4)
4 Sulfuric Vortex

Lands (20)
20 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
2 Exquisite Firecraft
2 Pyroclasm
4 Pyrostatic Pillar
4 Searing Blood
3 Smash to Smithereens

Arguably the cheapest manabase ever right there—and a deck that can actually put up results when it needs to—Burn is a nice and easy way to work into the format, and the risk of the deck ever becoming invalidated is incredibly low.

Now I hear what you're thinking: "$200? $500? Those still don't sound like budget to me!" Well, again, this kind of plays back into our discussion before about what the word "budget" means to you. If you're the kind of player who thinks budget means $50 or less, it's going to be hard to find even a playable Legacy build that meets those standards. Playability of a deck is not a huge deal if you're playing with your friends for fun (and in those cases, you're able to be a little bit freer in your application of the word budget), but if you're intending to build a deck to take to even a regular REL event (like FNM) and it's not playable to a point, all you're ever going to do is hate the format and everything in it.

The harsh reality of it is that this standard even applies to formats like Modern, which on occasion can have decks that are even more expensive than some Legacy decks. Even Standard has some decks that while incredibly cheap (W/B Vampires comes to mind at a solid average $122) are still in a range that are beyond some player's consideration of the word "budget."

Unfortunately there's legitimately no way to please every player in this regards, and oftentimes this tends to paint a jaded viewpoint in the player's mind about the nature of the format and how the expense of it has priced them out of playing it, even when there are legitimate ways to enter and play the format (as described in the Legacy Finance article I wrote).

So then, why play Legacy? Why should I be interested in it?

The question about budgeting into the format often ultimately comes with the question of "Why should I care about Legacy? Why is it a format I should like?"

People often put a very negative spin on Legacy overall, primarily due to the expense of the format. Strangely enough, those same people don't say the same about formats like Modern or Standard, despite the fact that there have been things in both formats that end up being far more expensive than Legacy can be. In fact, right now in Standard, The Scarab God—a defining Standard staple—comes in at a whopping $30. At one point in its life, it was close to $50. The issue this card has? It's only playable really in formats like Commander outside of Standard, meaning that the value of the card will drop in absurd amounts when it rotates out this Fall.

Take Modern as well. One of the pillar decks of the format, Jund, is around $2,252. And yet, most people don't argue that Modern is so expensive that players can't get into it.

I believe a lot of this stigma comes from a fair number of misconceptions about Legacy as a format coupled with the existence of the Reserved List and how it has impacted the format. Often many of these players have not had a first-hand experience with the format to formulate their own opinion and are merely echoing what others say about it: The format is expensive so it must be terrible. But that doesn't really scratch the surface of what the format is and what it isn't.

What Legacy is:

  • A format where players can play arguably powerful cards with a high amount of interactivity. Cards like Show and Tell, Reanimate, and True-Name Nemesis, among other things, come to mind when describing the power level of the format, but cards like Daze, Counterspell, and Cabal Therapy also provide a high level of interaction with those powerful cards.
  • A format where a lot of the heavy glass-cannon style decks are kept solely in check by the fair decks of the format thanks to the existence of Force of Will.
  • A format defined heavily by skill and knowing your deck and your outs with very few classic bad match-ups for any deck in the format. Even with classically bad match-ups, many Legacy decks can win based on the skill of the pilot knowing how to play the deck.
  • A format where while Blue is regarded as the "best" color, but playing non-Blue decks is often great too, with the rise of decks like Eldrazi, BR Reanimator, and Mono-Red Prison really showing this lately.

 What Legacy isn't:

  • A turn one/turn two combo–heavy format. One of the most common misconceptions of the format is that games end on turn one or two. While there are decks in the format that are capable of doing this, the format is predominantly policed by the fair decks (things like Grixis Delver, BUG, 4C Control, etc.), and deckbuilding inconsistencies in the combo decks don't always lead a turn one/two kill.
  • A non-diverse format. There's plenty of different archetypes and strategies in the format to enjoy, and while the presence of certain cards skew deckbuilding slightly it's certainly possible to work within the context of the format for some truly interesting deck archetypes.
  • A format that's not very fun because of countermagic. This is highly subjective to what each person determines is fun, but often also false because not every game plays out this way. Every player plays to their outs and to their best, and sometimes every game is a fantastic interactive match that both players can feel proud of at the end of the day.

So, for you who may be asking yourself this same question of why Legacy and why should I try it, the answer I pose back is why not? What's keeping you from giving it a real honest try? If your answer comes back to "It's expensive" then you're doing yourself a disservice by not giving the format a serious attempt to win you over. By being open-minded and forward thinking, you can become a much better and well-rounded player by allowing yourself to just simply try new things.

If you want to try Legacy out, proxy paper play is a good way to play a few games of the format and start assembling an understanding of its finer points. Consequently, asking a friend for help in borrowing a deck to play can also help you play in a more structured environment (such as a tournament like FNM) to get a feel for the format. Be mindful and understanding and willing to learn, because you may just find that you like the format for what it is.

Also, try many new things in the grand scheme of things. Your first impression of the format could be poor simply because of the deck you played—it may not be attuned to your play style. You may have lost because you didn't really know what you were doing and it may take something a little bit different to push you in the right direction of what kind of play style you enjoy.

Furthermore, if you're already an enfranchised Legacy player, don't be one of those people and look down upon those who give Legacy a little gruff. Offer to help them understand your passion, offer to show them what the format does for you and the enjoyment you get out of it. Everyone is different and we all approach this game a little differently. As an enfranchised player, you are the best ambassador to be able to get people interested in Legacy. Be jubilant! Be positive! And always be welcoming to help new players.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks. I hope you enjoyed this little foray into discussing what it means to be "budget" and also how we can approach the format for helping people who may not be interested in it to get interested in it.

Until next time!

Joseph Dyer (@volrathxp) is an avid Legacy enthusiast. He's admin of the /r/NicFitMTG subreddit, as well as a regular participant on the Source and MTGLegacy subreddits. His knowledge of the Legacy format is deeply rooted in constant analysis, playtesting, and lots of discussion of the format. Joseph's primary accomplishments include a 10–5 finish at GP Columbus 2016 with Rhino Fit, and a 32nd place finish at a SCG Columbus Legacy Classic with Sneak Fit. 

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