Last week somebody posted in the comments section of my article that he believed there is a lot of value to playing rogue strategies in Legacy. While I am the type to support going rogue in formats with smaller cardpools, I tend to disagree with his assertion about Legacy.
Part of the problem is that most existing decks have already been played many thousands of times against the existing archetypes of the format. All of this playing has led them to the forms in which they currently exist. Do you think that somebody just decided to play Green/White one day and threw Maverick together? Not a chance in hell. It’s a deck that constantly changes, if only slightly, to battle the tools that other decks bring to the table. It’s a hatebear deck in disguise that relies on its creatures being good in the context of other decks to win any matches at all.
I can’t even being to imagine how many hours must have gone into coming up with working lists for TES and ANT. The simple fact of the matter is that actually building a rogue deck is going to be a lot more work than picking up an existing archetype.
But Will it Not Be More Rewarding to Go Rogue?
Well, that depends on the goals you set for yourself. If you place value on playing with your own creations, that is something that I can respect. I’m sure that Tyler Tyssedal loves playing Griffins to death (though not enough to play Chamelon Colossus), and there is a lot of value in just playing with a deck that you enjoy playing regardless of result.
However, I think that you’re unlikely to see more success with a rogue deck than with an existing archetype.
One of the arguments for going rogue is that your opponents will have no idea how to play against your deck. The thing about Legacy, though, is that very few people have much of any idea what they’re doing in the first place.
Legacy is immensely complicated and it is the format in which players experience the most bad playtesting. Part of the problem is probably that a lot of pros don’t pay much attention to Legacy, as it’s largely a format for smaller cash tournaments. And pro points are worth a lot more than a Mox Ruby.
In light of this, there is less content available on how to play Legacy well and fewer good players actively looking to playtest Legacy. I’ve often joked that the mirror is one of my best matchups with RUG given just how poorly most players pilot the deck.
Here’s a fun story from SCG Minneapolis last weekend. It was round 8 and I was playing RUG against Lands. I was on the play and lead with a Wooded Foothills. My opponent’s first turn was Rishadan Port, double Mox Diamond discarding Maze of Ith and Tolaria West, and finally a Life from the Loam to pick up his discarded lands.
I spent about a minute looking at my hand:
Truth be told, my keep was pretty loose against most decks, but it felt damn near impossible for me to beat a Maze AND a Loam. I tanked for a good minute about whether or not to just scoop, but finally, perhaps out of sheer masochism, decided to play it out.
And you know what? I won somehow. My victory was entirely contingent on my opponent’s greed in the following turns and some sloppy play that left his Zuran Orb in his graveyard, but that’s the entire point. Even the guy that’s 5-1-1 in round eight isn’t always going to impress you.
What I’m driving at here is that your opponents are going to mess up plenty in Legacy anyway, and if that’s your angle when you play something rogue or fringe, then you need to be certain that your deck is on the same level as tier one strategies, because nobody knows how to play against them in the first place.
But Isn’t it More Likely That an Opponent Will be Unprepared for Fringe/Rogue Decks?
Only if they’re really bad. That is - your opponent is really bad or your deck is really bad. In either case, I’ll reiterate that you’re not really increasing your odds of success.
The other point fringe deck advocates like to make is that sideboard space is limited, that you can’t be prepared for everything.
Sure, you can’t possibly prepare for everything, but the fact that sideboards are only fifteen cards severely understates just how many matchups for which you can come prepared.
Let’s take a look at my current RUG Delver sideboard:
These cards sure look narrow. Many of them look for specific colors or land types. While that is the case, they all still come in against a handful of decks.
Blue Elemental Blast, while on the surface looks as narrow as a card like Warmth, is good against a lot more than just burn. I bring it in against Sneak and Show, Belcher, some Storm variants, Zoo, Goblins, etc…
I think that the most surprising level of flexibility comes from Sulfur Elemental. Initially it was played as a reaction to Lingering Souls as well as being a nice tool against Mother of Runes. While it is very good in these roles, it is also a very useful tool against combo decks, which is somewhat counterintuitive. I’ve found that Tarmogoyf is a massive liability against many combo decks, which are frequently able to just untap and kill you when you tie up too much of your mana at sorcery speed. The major issue with boarding all four out is that it leaves your deck incredibly threat-light. Conveniently, Sulfur Elemental addresses both of these issues.
The last major point against going rogue is that it is highly unlikely that you’ll find an entirely unique angle from which to attack your opponent. Odds are you are battling with creatures, powerful spells and/or your graveyard.
While this statement is simple and obvious, it is nonetheless true. I don’t care if you’re casting Pox, Isochron Scepter or Cunning Wish - I can Spell Pierce all of them just the same. Your Goblin Lackey dies to Lightning Bolt the same way Mother of Runes does.
While your angle might be creative and different, it can never really be that different.
When it comes to battling Standard, Extended or Modern you’ll usually see me battling with something rather original. That said, I don’t believe that the advantages of doing so exist in Legacy to anywhere near the same extent as other constructed formats.
Call me uncreative if you like, I don’t mind, but don’t think my lack of creativity is hurting me in any way. Matter of fact, if you’re planning on rogue-ing out in an upcoming Legacy event, then I wish you the very best of luck.
You’ll probably need it.