Howdy folks! For those of you who don’t know who I am, allow me a moment to introduce myself. My name’s Joe Dyer, and my favorite formats in all of Magic: the Gathering are Legacy and Vintage! These eternal formats resonate with what I love about the game of Magic: high powered games, spell and creature based interaction at all levels, and games where even the most innocuous of cards are playable.
For me, Legacy and Vintage are both incredible formats, filled with amazing decks and both formats require a vast measure of skill and time to be considered good at. The road, they say, is long but it is greatly rewarding.
However, both formats have a very real stigma to the average player. They are expensive to get into, and this is one major turnoff to a lot of players. The sheer nature of both formats being utterly defined by the Reserved List means that many format staples (dual lands primarily) can be quite pricey.
For the first part of this article, we’re going to focus primarily on Legacy, since it’s a format that in paper and MTGO both have budget options to let a player get in on the down-low. However, let me preface this by saying that down-low even then still means a somewhat substantial buy-in. You won’t find many decks that cost as low as budget standard decks, but you will find some decks that cost around what a normal standard deck does if you look hard enough.
Getting Into the Swing of Legacy
So, you’ve decided that you want to play Legacy. That’s great! But how do you decide what to buy into? Well, if you’re feeling budget conscious, there are some options to help you decide a path into the format. Later on, we’ll discuss some options for getting into some of the bigger decks and how to best plan for those lists.
Primarily the biggest budget options for Legacy play end up coming back around to two major archetypes: Burn and Manaless Dredge.
Let’s take a look at each one of these, starting with Burn.
Burn, Baby, Burn
Burn, as an archetype, is obviously focused with one important thing - getting your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0 as quickly as possible. If you’ve ever played Burn in Modern you may already even have a good number of the core of the deck, except for the obvious fact that Burn in Legacy gets to be strictly mono-red.
One of the pros of playing Legacy Burn is that it is a great way to see the format and learn it. Burn can have a fairly decent matchup against a good amount of the format simply due to the volatility and power of Price of Progress. This is great because it lets you not only play the format and do reasonably well, but you also get to learn what is important in the format and what your local metagame is like.
The cons of Burn end up being that many of the cards in it don’t convert well to other decks, with the exception of some of the burn spells themselves that convert into UR Delver. Cards like Eidolon of the Great Revel don’t really find a place in the format beyond Burn.
That being said, the cards that do translate up to UR Delver are not bad at all, and often times UR Delver is the next step up for many Burn players because of this.
Let’s take a look at some lists, shall we?
Traditional Legacy Burn
1 Sulfuric Vortex
Traditional Legacy Burn - SCG Classic Washington 1st Place
As you can see, Burn lists vary from lists that play no fetches and all mountains to lists that play fetches with Grim Lavamancer. However, on average up front costs into Burn can be anywhere from $200 to $500. This up front cost is mitigated however if you already own say… red fetchlands or Modern Burn staples (like Goblin Guide and Eidolon of the Great Revel).
The big difference in these two styles of the deck is generally preference and what cards each style lets you play. The biggest reason for fetchlands in Burn has to primarily do with the presence of the cards Searing Blaze and Grim Lavamancer. Fetchlands allow landfall to turn on during an opponent’s turn, and also fill the graveyard for the Lava Man to eat up. They do not, as many would have you believe, provide deck thinning.
Playing with no fetches (commonly referred to as PSulli Burn after the great Patrick Sullivan of SCG fame) means that you just can’t play cards like Lavamancer and Blaze, so you have to play cards like Searing Blood or even Flame Rift.
There’s no right or wrong to either style really, it’s all pure preference on what you want to accomplish with the build. In addition, the numbers on the fetches in the lists are adjustable as long as you’re on or around 8 - 12 fetches of the red variety (so if your list runs 4 Wooded Foothills and 4 Bloodstained Mire because that’s what you own, then you’re probably doing alright).
Playing Burn can be rewarding, and like I said earlier, can also be a target to eventually upgrade into a deck like this:
At first glance, such an upgrade into what is considered to be the next step up is a huge jump in price, mainly on the back of Force of Will and the Volcanic Islands in the deck. One of the obvious questions that jumps to mind for budget is using shock lands, which in a deck with Daze is mostly considered a bad idea, however if you can figure out getting at least 1 dual, supplementing with shock lands until you get the rest of them won’t kill you too much, especially if you’re playing locally only.
Dredging for Value
The other big budget option for Legacy players out there is Manaless Dredge. Manaless Dredge is appealing to many players because it completely eschews one of the primary defining things about the entire Legacy format - lands. The deck runs absolutely zero mana sources whatsoever, instead relying on creatures that are cheated into play and spells that can be cast by sacrificing creatures.
One of the big pros of Manaless Dredge is that it has a very high Game 1 win percentage since lots of decks don’t have maindeck hate for it (even in a world with a lot of Deathrite Shaman this is still relatively true) and many opponents simply don’t know how to interact with the deck either which makes it even better.
That’s where the Pros fall off a bit into the Cons however. The deck, because it runs zero mana sources, does struggle a lot with post-board graveyard hate like Rest in Peace or heaven forbid Leyline of the Void. Thankfully many decks around aren’t running these options, opting for the faster Surgical Extraction because of the presence of Black/Red Reanimator. The other big hit on the deck is that many of the cards simply don’t translate to any other archetype in the format with the exceptions of Cabal Therapy and Gitaxian Probe. The Dredge cards themselves really only translate to LED Dredge (which we’ll talk about in a second).
The big thing about Dredge however that can be telling to the type of player you are is how it plays. Unlike Burn, where there’s interaction and you’re trying to manage the other player’s life total and deal with their creatures too, Dredge has none of that. The deck is completely uninteractive other than the discard from Cabal Therapy, and for the most part its plan is pretty simplistic: Make an army of creatures using Bridge from Below or combo off with Balustrade Spy. Many often joke that when you’re playing Dredge, you’re not playing Magic as Richard Garfield intended, you’re playing Dredge and to some extent that is fairly true.
That being said, if you maybe play Dredge in Modern already then Manaless Dredge actually ends up being incredibly cheaper to buy into because you already have many of the important cards.
Let’s take a look at a sample list.
4 Chancellor of the Annex
3 Balustrade Spy
1 Flayer of the Hatebound
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Golgari Thug
4 Nether Shadow
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Street Wraith
4 Bridge from Below
What makes Manaless Dredge popular and to an extent regular LED Dredge is that the deck has an air of exotic to it. It’s different than the normal cut, and that’s what makes it interesting.
Manaless Dredge eventually can be evolved to its bigger and more expensive cousin LED Dredge, an up front cost that generally sits on the back of the playset of Lion’s Eye Diamond (a Reserved List card). What is nice about this upgrade is that the deck gains the axis of being able to play against graveyard hate, as well as LEDs being transferable to a deck such as Storm.
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Bridge from Below
As you can see, while this does end up being a bit more expensive than Manaless Dredge, it is certainly a lot more explosive, and is a great upgrade path if you are aspiring to play a deck like Storm eventually since the Lion’s Eye Diamonds work in a good number of decks like that.
The Middle of the Road Legacy Decks
Beyond the two big budget entries into the format, there are a few decks that sit at the lower end of the range of Legacy prices and are considered cheap-ish decks to buy into. Two of those decks are “Death and Taxes” and Black/Red Reanimator. While these decks cannot be considered to be truly budget (because they both cost at least $1,000 up front), they are far less expensive than decks that run blue duals.
4 Animate Dead
B/R Reanimator can be quite a strong deck to play as a first foray into Legacy. Much like Dredge, it’s fairly non-interactive other than all the discard spells and mainly just seeks to jam a big creature into play as quickly as possible and get rid of the opponent’s options to deal with it. The obvious issues this deck has however is based in consistency and mulligans, as it is a deck you will often mulligan with a lot to get a playable opening hand, but when it goes off it goes off.
Death and Taxes
4 Swords to Plowshares
Notable for being a deck that plays absolutely no Reserved List cards, DnT can not only be a good starting point that is lower in cost than the rest of the format, but it can also be a really solid deck to just play for a long time. Highly adjustable with new options being printed all the time, DnT is a solid deck to learn the metagame of Legacy on, because the deck is dedicated to being able to work around the meta.
The Long and Short of It
Legacy is expensive, but it can be mitigated by various options that let you progress into the format at a steady pace. However, what if you don’t wanna play one of the budget options, and you still want to get into the format at a lower expense or don’t know what you want to play? There are a few options here or there that can help not only with finding what deck you want to play but also help you get closer to the big money stuff.
Proxy - One of the big things I advocate a lot to newer Legacy players is to proxy playtest with various different decks to not only get a feel for the format but to also get a feel for what you want to play. Proxying can help quite a bit in determining deck selection.
Proxy Unsanctioned Events - Controversial, I know, but this is often a way that many local game stores can help promote a Legacy scene. Set a defined limit for proxies (10-15 is usually pretty good) and some places can also set restrictions on using store credit for cards to improve or replace proxies in their decks. Another way to drum up revenue off of this as well is to allow 10-15 proxies and then charge a minute fee (10 cents or so) per additional proxy. This incentivizes players to eventually replace the cards in their decks with the real card while allowing them to still play and enjoy the format. Players won’t be able to acquire Planeswalker Points for these, but at the very least it gets players in the store and playing the format.
Borrowing from Friends - Chances are, if you have a Legacy scene around you, you have friends who also play the format or that one guy who is engrossed in the format. Chances are, if you make friends with that person, they will be inclined to let you borrow cards for sanctioned events. Chances are, you should probably buy that person a beer sometime. You probably owe them a solid.
Magic Online - Another fairly interesting option is just simply eschewing playing paper Legacy and pursuing playing on Magic Online. Many of the decks that normally cost in the range of $1000 or higher on MTGO often cost half or more. (Legacy DnT is roughly on average $486 on MTGO compared to the on average $1200 in paper). The upside of this is that you can play all the time with Leagues. The downside is that you don’t have paper cards. Weigh the options.
Examine Your Collection - Examine your collection a little. What do you play in Modern? Is there a deck in Legacy that is close to that deck? Remember that we examined that if you played Modern Burn or Dredge that those decks got cheaper? That same works true for other decks in the format. Do you play Eldrazi Tron? Legacy Eldrazi might be within your reach. Another thing to examine is what cards in your collection you really need. Perhaps there are things you can move to help progress towards Legacy staples. Perhaps you don’t need ten EDH decks for each ally and enemy color guild combination. It may be harsh to accept this as a fact, but it is certainly an option for building towards Legacy.
The Other Half of the Equation - Vintage
When it comes to the other big Eternal format, Vintage, there’s no beating around the bush when it comes to the price of it. If you want to play paper Vintage, the cards are expensive thanks to the sheer existence of the Power Nine. However, when it comes to most paper Vintage events, most of them are unsanctioned and allow proxies (mostly because even players who own Power don’t really want to shuffle them up and play them) which helps deflate the costs a ton. The only major event that is fully sanctioned Vintage play is the North American Vintage Championships at US Eternal Weekend, so if you’re never going to play there, but still want to jam some paper Vintage here or there, proxy events will be your best friend.
Another option however if you do want to play at least semi-competitively is Magic Online. Vintage is a format that’s fairly alive and well on MTGO, since the price point of nearly every deck compared to its paper price is extremely low thanks to Vintage Masters. Most decks range from anywhere from $200 to the upper end of $800. Let’s take a look at a few lists that can be considered fairly decent in price.
4 Serum Powder
At a fairly modest 218.97 tix, Vintage Dredge is not only fairly cheap to build, but it’s also fairly competitive, thanks to the fact that Bazaar of Baghdad being such a powerful card for the archetype. This is a great deck to get your feet wet with the format, since it is such a powerful deck.
Another deck that is comparative on MTGO, Storm!
1 Ancestral Recall
3 Cabal Ritual
2 Dark Petition
4 Dark Ritual
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Gitaxian Probe
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Time Walk
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Blightsteel Colossus
1 Chain of Vapor
1 Defense Grid
1 Empty the Warrens
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Sadistic Sacrament
2 Tormod’s Crypt
At its price point, this isn’t a bad deck at all to learn the format with. Storm is strong, and can also play a side game of Tinker > Blightsteel if it has to post-board through hate. Not to mention how powerful a card like Yawgmoth’s Bargain is.
Finally, a middle of the road deck and despite its price point one the most popular decks in the format… Ravager Shops!
At a fairly middling price of 547 tix, this really isn’t too hateful for a deck that is pretty much the cornerstone of Vintage at the moment. If you want to play Vintage and you want to win probably a lot, Shops is probably the deck for you since it is strong and has game against basically the entire format.
Beyond these decks, there are some options for playing without Power (such as Eldrazi) but those decks run into issues thanks to recent restrictions making it harder to play them. Thorn of Amethyst’s restriction really put a damper on Eldrazi, a deck which really relied on such a powerful hate card to push through matches like Storm.
Wrapping it up - The Long Road
Well, I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed our first foray into the worlds of Legacy and Vintage, and the long road into getting into them and some ways that you can help yourself along that road. My hope is that somewhere this helps someone into deciding what they want to play and also helps them come up with a plan for how to get there. Legacy/Vintage can be both absolutely wonderfully rewarding formats, full of interesting interaction and powerful play.
Next time, I’m planning on talking primarily about Legacy, discussing where the meta is as well as where it looks like things are going to be heading throughout this year. 2018 is already shaping up to be an exciting time for the format, given that it will be on display for all to see in the Team Trios Constructed 25th Anniversary Pro Tour.
If you want to reach me to chat about Legacy or to simply ask a question, please feel free to hit me up on Twitter!