This week I’m going to talk about budget Legacy decks for a change. I have talked about a few in the past, but the previous budget Legacy decks have become more and more expensive because of the rising price of both Rishadan Port and Lion’s Eye Diamond. That means decks like Goblins and Death & Taxes have become less of an option for people entering the format. I want to lay down a few decks that allow you to enter Legacy with some ease. I will of course hit on some classic entry-level decks, but also a few that I favor for entering the format. I will, however, skip writing about Burn again because I have already written about that deck twice in recent weeks and don’t think anyone wants to read another explanation of Burn.
The first deck that I will talk about is Affinity. It acts as an old standby of an aggro deck in both Legacy and Modern. Legacy Affinity has quite a lot of kick to it and can definitely beat most tier one decks if they are not packing enough hate for aggro decks or enough artifact hate. I will be using a list by Christopher Bolter as an example deck list.
4 Mox Opal
This deck is slightly unorthodox when it comes to Affinity decks because it runs Dispatch, which is typically not run in place of Stoneforge Mystic or several other cards. This does help the list be more budgeted than other list, but I am unconvinced that the card actually preforms better in testing. The deck doesn’t really care about having 3 removal spells and would much rather play a turn 1 Stoneforge Mystic into a turn 2 Cranial Plating with some 0 drops in the interim. The deck functions better when it is able to just dump everything in a few turns and kill its opponents before they can set anything up. Dispatch also hedges towards a creature heavy meta-game, which I think is currently incorrect and is only correct in Legacy in some very corner cases. I would probably cut the Dispatches for 1 more Thoughtcast and 2 Stoneforge Mystics because it gives you effectively 6 powerful cards to your deck to help win (I get this number by accounting for the level of card advantage these cards give you when they are used) as opposed to 3 cards that are going to be normally dead.
Affinity is a very powerful deck the only issue is playing against decks that run an excess of Artifact hate. It should be able to beat most non-creature based decks in the format, and, even against the few creature decks in the format, if your combat math is good, you can definitely win.
The next deck that I am going to cover is another classic Manaless Dredge. This deck has existed on the fringes of Legacy for a little more than a decade, but it was entirely rejuvenated in 2013 by friend of the website, Theo Van Doosselaere. He played the deck to its first Top 8 performance in well over 5 years when he did so in the Philadelphia Open. I will be using his deck list to run through the deck, but you can also see him pilot the deck here, which shows off the power of the deck.
This deck list is truly a thing of beauty because of its simplicity. It runs as much of its enablers and its business cards as it can and it manages to do it all with almost exclusively 4-ofs. There is one thing to change in this deck that is fairly apparent, which is cutting 1 Shambling Shell for another Cabal Therapy. This does raise your chances of needing to mulligan, but it does so almost negligibly and adds the ability to clear the way for your combo much more consistently. The deck does only have 3 real chances to go off if the game goes long, but in a short game you can be limited to only 1, in which case the extra Cabal Therapy is easily able to go the distance. The spot in the Sideboard can be changed into something else, but most of the sideboard slots are fairly flexible. The Contagions are pretty much mandatory because of the need to deal with Deathrite Shaman, but the rest of the deck’s Sideboard can be customized. These days, I would probably take out the Sickening Shoals for a different option (maybe Unmask), but this list is still very runnable in the current Legacy.
This deck struggles against 2 things, which could hinder you from doing well with it. The first is graveyard hate, which can heavily hinder your play. There are many different kinds of graveyard hate that are run these days, which hurt this deck even more. The most problematic ones are Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void. Unfortunately for Manaless Dredge, Leyline of the Void has become much common in recent months because it is what Eldrazi runs as its graveyard hate of choice. Deathrite Shaman is a nuisance, but is very beatable. You actually run removal for it in the Sideboard, which heavily neuters its power. The best thing to do against a Deathrite Shaman is to kill it immediately. If you look at Theo’s third game against Reid Duke it displays a way of defeating Deathrite Shaman. Chancellor of the Annex stops decks from making turn 1 plays (for the most part). This forced Reid Duke to play a Dryad Arbor on Turn 1, which can then be killed by Contagion on Reid’s upkeep. Most Deathrite Shaman decks, however, do not run Dryad Arbor (Jund, Shardless Sultai, Deathblade), so they end up running out a spell to be killed or play their first spell turn 2, which of course gives you the tempo that you need. If they are playing their Deathrite Shamans on turn 2, you have much more space to win in and you can still potentially remove their Shaman after that. Another piece of graveyard hate that is often seen in Legacy is Relic of Progenitus. This card is definitely the hardest one to play against Manaless Dredge because the time when you should pull the trigger is confusing. The rule of thumb that is best for beating the deck is to use Relic when the other deck is trying to reanimate their win. This is kind of different from normal hate card theory (ie the one surrounding Force of Will, which states to counter the big enabler card). Relic should be cracked after Manaless Dredge has cast Dread Return targeting their Flayer of the Hatebound. This gives the deck no chance of coming back, while if you crack against the reanimation of the enabler (Balustrade Spy), Manaless dredge can play their powerful long game.
The other thing that Manaless Dredg struggles against is taxing effects. This is kind of unsurprising because the deck runs no mana, but a taxing effect is something that must be just conceded to. There are very few ways to play around taxing effects besides winning before they can land it (this is very unreliable, mostly because many of the taxing effects are cast turn 1 or 2 before you can win), making them discard it (this is where another unmask can be helpful in addition to a way to rip Rest in Peace from your opponent’s hand), or using Chancellor of the Annex to slow their ability to cast their taxing effect.
The final budget deck that I am going to talk about (I could of course talk about several others but I will probably write more in depth articles about those in the future) is Solidarity. I spoke about High Tide a few weeks ago, but today I am talking about a much more rogue version of the deck that runs Reset instead of Time Spiral to enable its combo. The most fun part of the whole deck, which justifies it as its own deck type is its ability to go off at instant speed exclusively. I will be using my own deck list, which is from 2 years ago and has remained unupdated because of the lack of playable cards for this deck. (I exclude Dig Through Time because despite my update that card got banned and the update is basically identical with the addition of that card).
Note: This is the least “budget” of the 3 decks, but it still on the cheap end for Legacy.
This deck is super interesting mostly because of its ability to do everything that High Tide does, just differently. You lose certain cards from the instant speed requirement (specifically Candelabra of Tawnos), and inability to play Candelabra is most of what makes this deck accessible financially. The land base is fairly inexpensive for Legacy and its instants only have a few that are over $20, excluding Force of Will. The deck’s play style is fairly unique, but is simple once it is learned. The basic idea is to go off in response to your opponent attempting to win the game. This means that you take as long as possible to set up your board as you are given. Unlike many decks that attempt this strategy, Solidarity is able to actually do it because of its instant speed requirements.
The deck’s major engine is, of course, High Tide and Reset. However, it needs several draw spells because it lacks both the drawing of Time Spiral and the tutoring ability Merchant Scroll. You gain these cards back by running cards like Meditate and Snapcaster Mage. Meditate is a super powerful draw spell (it says draw four on it!!!), and Snapcaster Mage lets all of your cards work double duty especially Snap because it gains a target in your deck. The biggest advantage that Snapcaster lets you gain is the ability to run Fact or Fiction. Snapcaster Mage makes Fact or Fiction splits much harder for your opponent because they remove their ability to effectively cut you off of one good option. The best split they can give you is Snapcaster Mage+all lands vs spells and that results in you drawing those spells (or a Snapcaster Mage if the spells aren’t good). The deck has a lot of intricate interactions because of the odd instant speeds spells that you get to run, which is certainly a draw to the deck for people like me.
All of these decks are very interesting budget lists. I would probably advise against Manaless Dredge for the time being because of its difficulty with Eldrazi in its entirety. If I were to play any of these decks, it would probably be Solidarity because I enjoy these types of intricate and math-intensive combo decks.
Till next time,
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