Legacy. It’s my favorite format, I play it whenever possible, and is what I know more about than just about anything else in magic. In this article I’m going to define the contemporary Legacy format, which has become a fairly simple to understand format in the past year. Now allow me to introduce myself.

I’m Sam, I’ve been playing Magic competitively on and off for about 4 years. I learned about Legacy fairly early on and shifted my entire Modern (and non-Standard supply) into trading for Legacy. I was able to build a Legacy goblins deck (back when that deck was still remotely viable) and played a tournament. I was almost immediately hooked; that was August of 2012 and I’ve played in almost every tournament that was possible in my budget since.

I’ll go more into my deck choices and explaining them in the future, but let’s leave it at I currently play Intuition Lands (GUrb) and love it.

Legacy has always been a very diverse format but quite often, like in most formats, there are decks that are better than others. In Legacy there are four decks that are really good and really popular:

Storm. Storm exists in two primary firms in Legacy: ANT and TES. I’m going to discuss ANT because it’s the primary version of the deck that exists. It stands for Ad Nauseam Tendrils. The deck gains mana to cast Ad Nauseum, which it then uses to casts a lethal Tendrils of Agony. This is the list that did well at the GP in Prague this past weekend, piloted by Rodrigo Togores:

Lands (15)

  • 1 Bayou
  • 1 Island
  • 4 Misty Rainforest
  • 4 Polluted Delta
  • 1 Swamp
  • 1 Tropical Island
  • 2 Underground Sea
  • 1 Volcanic Island

Spells (45)

  • 1 Ad Nauseam
  • 4 Brainstorm
  • 4 Cabal Ritual
  • 3 Cabal Therapy
  • 4 Dark Ritual
  • 3 Duress
  • 4 Gitaxian Probe
  • 4 Infernal Tutor
  • 2 Past in Flames
  • 4 Ponder
  • 1 Preordain
  • 1 Rain of Filth
  • 1 Tendrils of Agony
  • 4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
  • 4 Lotus Petal
  • 1 Sensei’s Divining Top

Sideboard (15)

  • 4 Abrupt Decay
  • 2 Echoing Truth
  • 1 Empty the Warrens
  • 2 Flusterstorm
  • 2 Krosan Grip
  • 1 Sensei’s Divining Top
  • 2 Tendrils of Agony
  • 1 Xantid Swarm

This deck is a fairly simple combo deck in its essence (though storm is a difficult deck to play). The deck uses card draw in Ponder, Brainstorm, and Preordain to find its combo pieces which are rituals, Infernal Tutor, and Past in Flames. These cards let the deck play a very powerful game very quickly.

Storm is a very complicated and good deck. And, while it belongs on pretty much any list of top Legacy decks, it is too complicated to explain in that little time. I will go more into depth on Storm in the future, but for now that’s all there is to be said about ANT.

Another deck that needs to be put at the top of Legacy decks is Miracles. It’s the best control deck in the format. It plays a traditional control game: card draw, counter spells, board wipes, spot removal, and a small number of win conditions. It is by many people’s opinion the best deck in Legacy, and they very well might be right. It is favored or has a 50/50 matchup against just about the entire field of Legacy, which lets a talented and knowledgable player succeed in most brackets with the deck. I will supply a list, but it is by no means a standard list because miracles generally differ in game plan and genre from the 5 to 10 cards that separate the different versions of the deck. This is what Alexander Hayne played this past weekend:

Lands (22)

  • 1 Arid Mesa
  • 1 Cavern of Souls
  • 4 Flooded Strand
  • 4 Island
  • 2 Karakas
  • 2 Plains
  • 4 Scalding Tarn
  • 2 Tundra
  • 2 Volcanic Island

Creatures (8)

  • 3 Snapcaster Mage
  • 3 Vendilion Clique
  • 2 Venser, Shaper Savant

Planeswalkers (2)

  • 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells (28)

  • 4 Brainstorm
  • 2 Entreat the Angels
  • 4 Force of Will
  • 3 Ponder
  • 3 Swords to Plowshares
  • 4 Terminus
  • 4 Counterbalance
  • 4 Sensei’s Divining Top

Sideboard (15)

  • 2 Back to Basics
  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 2 Flusterstorm
  • 2 Moat
  • 1 Pithin Needle
  • 1 Pyroblast
  • 2 Red Elemental Blast
  • 2 Rest in Peace
  • 1 Swords to Plowshares
  • 1 Wear // Tear

The deck is extremely powerful, it was able to take second place at both Legacy GPs over the weekend. This is the most conventional Miracles list to top 8 the events because many lists have taken to playing Monastery Mentor in the main. Miracles’ primary game plan is to defeat their opponents by counter spells using the combination of Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top. This allows the deck to slow most midrange and tempo decks by playing a diverse shout curve to consistently counter most spells (and virtually every one drop) while smoothing out their draws. The true power of the deck is in its denial of aggro decks through Terminus and Swords to Plowshares, which act as permission to pretty much everything in the game. Miracles is an incredibly powerful deck with a steep learning curve. Most decks in Legacy have learning curves that are not forgiving (Storm decks being one of the steepest learning curves). All things considered Miracles is one of the best decks at most tournaments because it beats the bests decks well and beats what people bring to tournaments consistently.

The third deck that has really come forward in recent weeks is Grixis Delver. It is not uncommon for a Delver deck to be one of the best decks in any given Legacy format, but it’s been a while since their was truly one best Delver deck and it seems we’re back to that.

Lands (18)

  • 4 Misty Rainforest
  • 4 Polluted Delta
  • 1 Tropical Island
  • 2 Underground Sea
  • 3 Volcanic Island
  • 4 Wasteland

Creatures (14)

  • 4 Deathrite Shaman
  • 4 Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration
  • 2 Gurmag Angler
  • 4 Young Pyromancer

Spells (28)

  • 4 Brainstorm
  • 2 Cabal Therapy
  • 4 Daze
  • 1 Dismember
  • 4 Force of Will
  • 4 Gitaxian Probe
  • 4 Lightning Bolt
  • 4 Ponder
  • 1 Spell Pierce

Sideboard (15)

  • 1 Ancient Grudge
  • 2 Baleful Strix
  • 1 Cabal Therapy
  • 1 Darkblast
  • 2 Flusterstorm
  • 2 Painful Truths
  • 1 Pithing Needle
  • 1 Pyroblast
  • 2 Surgical Extraction
  • 2 Winter Orb

The deck’s focus is based in landing early small creatures that it protects to win. Delver decks are in this sense a true tempo deck. They do everything that a textbook tempo deck does. It even runs a curve topper that is inexpensive but difficult to get rid of. Delver, since the addition of Young Pyromancer has become very good at going wide. Delver is very good against most lower tier decks. Many decks that people play in Legacy are almost incapable of besting a delver deck (this has become less and less true over the last year) so the deck can get easy matches. But the deck can struggle against the best decks such as Storm and Miracles. Delver is a well designed deck, so it is still able to beat even its bad matchup occasionally.

There are multiple other tier 1.5 and tier 2 decks that exist in Legacy (there are other decks that people would argue are tier 1) this is, however my list of the best decks in Legacy right now after the two GPs.

I also want to slip in a post script about Eldrazi in Legacy. Eldrazi is what many people believed was going to be the boogeyman of this Legacy season after it terrorized modern, but that clearly didn’t happen. There are multiple reasons why it didn’t, but the one that I’m going to focus on is its lack of power comparably to other Legacy decks.

The basic reason I believe that Eldrazi didn’t punish Legacy the way it did modern or the way UR delver did 18 months ago did in Legacy is because aggro isn’t good in Legacy. Let me explain this belief. Aggro decks have not been good in Legacy for several years. The best decks in Legacy do not fight the way normal Magic decks do, with creatures. Instead it’s about 2 things: card advantage and life total. Decks live and die on being able to be better at controlling one of those than the opponent is at controlling the other. Burn is the quintessential example of this because it disregards everything else in the game to entirely control its opponent’s life total. Most decks in Legacy attempt to win off of one or the other. Tempo and Midrange are the two successful exceptions to this rule in Legacy. Tempo does it by stopping it’s opponent from getting value over it by getting some value while hitting the life total of their opponent. And midrange tends to fight by hitting its opponent with some damage while attempting to still maximize its card advantage. Aggro decks on the whole tend to fail to engage with card advantage entirely (or at least traditional card advantage). The best traditional aggro decks currently are Burn (which functions almost as a combo deck) and Death and Taxes (which functions close to a tempo deck with very little card advantage outside of its creatures). The other aggro decks that used to compete in Legacy have fallen off because they weren’t able to really compete with decks like Miracles and Delver in existence, both of which ran much more efficient removal than they could deal with. Eldrazi fell into this trap. It is able to play the aggro game very well, but in Legacy some of the best aggro decks of all time aren’t able to compete because depth is a must for Legacy. Eldrazi got caught not being fast enough or controlling enough, but somewhere in the middle where most creature based aggro decks fall.