Jason’s Archives: A Legacy of Failure

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Greetings, Speculators!

Don't let the exclamation point fool you, I'm not feelin' the magic right now and you're about to get hit by my snark cannon, both barrels.

"But Jason," I hear you ask, "what kind of cannon has multiple barrels? That's a pretty terrible metaphor you've constructed."

I'm here to tell you I don't need your sassafras because what I want to talk about today is upsetting to me and I am not going to brook a bunch of jibber jabber from the peanut gallery, you dig?

I'm here to talk to you about a time I changed my mind.

And I Don't Like Changing My Mind

A popular retail website (I won't say who) announced recently that they are making changes to the Sunday schedule of their popular "Star City Games Open Series." Again, I won't say who it was, but the Star City Games Open Series will no longer be running Legacy on Sunday as a rule, but rather introducing rotating events such as Modern, Two-Headed Giant and everyone packing their stuff up and leaving because the trades suck on Sunday and everyone has to work tomorrow.

When the announcement was first made regarding these changes, I laughed at all the panic sellers. "I'll be happy to buy your Legacy stuff," I said, putting my hands on my hips and laughing until my entire body shook, like a cartoon lumberjack. "Hahahahaha" was also a direct quote, although you won't see that in writing anywhere else. I probably just said it as I was typing the other thing. While I still don't think we should panic-sell our Legacy cards, I don't have as much confidence in the health of Legacy as a format. There are several factors and indicators. Look, it's all a bit technical.

Ok, so saying "It's all a bit technical" only works if you're a lazy screenwriter. If you're writing an actual article, you have to explain. Fine, I'll explain.

Sigmund wrote a good article about card stagnation over on the premium side. Go read it because I'm going to spoil something from his article. I'll wait. Seriously, if you think I'm going to just move on without checking to see if you actually read it and you can just read ahead you have another thing coming. Great, you read the whole thing. What did you think? Specifically about what he said about Force of Will. What's so significant about that card?

I think there is one card that is an amazing dipstick for checking the health of Legacy as a format. Where else does Force of Will get played besides Legacy and Vintage? The card advantage is a bit punishing for EDH, it's not legal anywhere else, and it's got way too many lines of text for casual players. Wasteland is good in EDH, [card Dark Confidant]Bob[/card] and [card Tarmogoyf]Goyf[/card] are marquis cards in Modern (OK, fine, you got me; I don't know what "marquis" means), and there is an angry kami accidentally summoned by practitioners of Shinto out of Osaka, Japan that tracks down and devours copies of Umezawa's Jitte. However, what happens to Force of Will usually indicates what's happening to Legacy because it's a popular card there, the decks that want it run 3+ copies and it's not great anywhere else.

Well, Force of Will is not doing great. The price is coming down, slowly. Remember how I said buylists indicate the degree of confidence in a card? Well, FoW currently buylists for $40 on a lot of sites, including one site, I won't say who, that runs a tournament series called the "Star City Games Open". They are also known colloquially as "The only people running Legacy tournaments with more than twenty attendees." If they are only paying $40 on a card they used to charge $100 for, they just don't care that much about picking them up. Why? Because they aren't selling as well as they used to. Nearly everyone who wants to play Legacy has their four copies and Legacy is not attracting new players.

Now I don't blame Legacy for Sundays at SCG Opens sucking. I blame Sunday sucking and everyone wanting to go home for that. I think once other formats are run in that spot and they're similarly under-attended that will become clear. I say "similarly" because other formats don't have the "I don't have the damn cards" problem Legacy has. Attendance will be up over Legacy but won't come close to Saturday attendance. However, that will be enough to drive a stake in Legacy's heart unless Wizards does something to support it, which they've demonstrated they're not inclined to. With WoTC loading all of their eggs into a basket labeled "Modern," I think it's a good time to get out of Force of Will.

Dual lands will be both playable and collectible forever. EDH and cube players desire duals. Wasteland is in the same boat. A lot of other Legacy staples are Modern-legal, and the ones that aren't are usually solid in EDH. A shift away from Legacy hurts cards like Mother of Runes, Nimble Mongoose and such, but no more so than a shift in the metagame would have. So the good news is you really don't have to do anything different in my opinion. Most Legacy stuff has enough redundancy with other formats and enough collectibility that you're not likely to eat a fat one if Legacy drops off entirely. Also, there are things you can do.

A lot of us don't think the people with no money should do our speaking for us. If the people who do have money don't want to get into Legacy, fine, let them spend $800 every three months and talk about how they're glad they never spent $1000 one time on Legacy cards that have doubled in price in the last five years.

But let's not let WoTC's apathy and SCG's miscalculation take down the best format. People will drive to play Legacy, especially if they don't want to play Modern or there is nothing going on close that day. Not everyone wants to fly nine hours for a GP. A lot of people would rather drive two hours to play Saturday Legacy at an LGS.

See if your LGS will sponsor a Legacy event with a good prize pool. If you do a decent job advertising, people will come from farther away than you would have expected. The format only dies if we let it. Too hard to get into? Fine, throw a 10/10/10 event; $10 entry, 10 free proxies, 10 cents per proxy after the initial ten. Help newer players build budget decks like RDW or Poison, or even help them port their Modern deck. Legacy will always be a better format than Modern, it just needs a helping hand.

Or just do nothing and bitch about it. It makes no difference to me, I'm keeping my copies of Force of Will until they pry them from my cold, dead hands.

The Death Rattle of a Dying Format

Or maybe not. I would be happy to be proven wrong by a resurgence in Legacy, and there was a decent showing for it in Vegas this weekend.

SCG Las Vegas Legacy Top 16

The top finisher being a Rest in Helm deck (I'm going to work on that name, it does not sound good to me) makes me laugh and laugh. The two-card combo has always been solid and its eventual adoption made Helm of Obedience a real solid pickup, having a spread of a mere 33% and being a card not many people know has spiked to over $15 (maybe they do). Thanks, Jack Colwell.

So much Show and Tell! I had written this deck off a while back, but it's everywhere in this top sixteen. This seems like a fluke, but I don't know how many more of these events we'll see to bear that out.

It had seemed like Jund was on the cusp of being the next big thing, but I feel like a meta full of Sneak and Show decks is going to smash you before your Punishing Grove combo matters. I have real confidence in Punishing Jund and I have the tons of copies of Grove of the Burnwillows to prove it. In a meta with more control and more Delver, that deck is king. Sometimes the discard can still get to these decks, born out by Scott Paris' on-the-bubble finish that could have easily been top eight with better breakers. Thoughtseize, [card Hymn to Tourach]Hymn[/card] and [card Liliana of the Veil]Liliana[/card] are a nasty combination and if they can't Force the discard you'll get them quickly with a big Goyf. I don't like that I like a Jund deck, but it's the closest to Punishing Maverick we're likely to get so I'll go with the flow. Long live Punishing Grove!

The "Pet Deck of the Week" award goes to Jason Bulkowski and his top eight finish with Dredge. The maindeck Rest in Peaces in Colwell's list would likely have kept him from winning the whole thing, but top eight is no joke. Congrats!

Shallow Grave Reanimator nearly took it down, but they had the exceedingly bad luck of facing a deck with maindeck Rest in Peace in the finals. I like pitching [card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]Emrakul[/card] and having seven ways to reanimate him with his trigger on the stack an awful lot, and while I am staying away from Curse of Shallow Graves as a financier, I wouldn't mind having a set as a player. It will settle back down to $5ish soon and I'll pick them up then. Really, I just want to play something with Disciple of Griselbrand ever since I had mine signed and altered by Russel Brand.

Legacy continues to be a great format that incorporates cards from every new set. I am going to find a way to play Legacy and I welcome you all to join me.

Oh, Yeah. Standard.

Fine, I'll write about Standard, too.

SCG Open Las Vegas Standard Top 16

Five copies of UWR Flash in the top sixteen. This is the format people would rather play than Legacy. Honestly.

So UWR Flash won the event, piloted by Devyn March who beat Evan Boritas' Experiment Jund deck (We need to work on that name too) in the finals. Boros Reckoner appears to be here to stay as a lot of the top decks are all about doing silly junk with him. In this case, players set up an infinite lifegain combo by making Reckoner indestructible with Boros Charm and dealing himself his own damage on an infinite loop while he has lifelink. Gatecrash has been out for less than a month and Standard is already ruined.

A nice counter to these strategies is Abrupt Decay and/or Tragic Slip. I still think The Aristocrats has the goods to deal with these Reckoner decks, but something similar to Kibler's B/G Ooze deck could be a good choice as well. I like Predator Ooze and get shipped them in bulk all the time, which makes me laugh. Abrupt Decay, Tragic Slip, Mutilate and Supreme Verdict are all useful at removing the Reckoner, but are all pretty poor once the Boros Charm resolves (and it's not your turn in the case of half of those). Plain, old-fashioned Command of Unsummoning seems pretty clutch if you ask me, and I could see Auger Spree getting tried if the format stays as is. That said, I hardly play this game anymore and I will let them meta evolve as it always does: everyone deciding the only answer to UWR is to play it yourself and forcing WoTC to ban something.

Humaninator continues to do well, and so does Jund and R/G, although R/G isn't as ubiquitous as it once was. Only one Naya deck in the top sixteen is puzzling considering Naya won the last two SCG Opens, but I can imagine it has a tough time dealing with UWR Flash and the meta may have finally left Naya in the dust. With few tools to deal with the lucky charm action, the infinite life gives Flash inevitability.

The strangest development here, though, is that the top finisher didn't have Boros Charm anywhere in his 75. With no possibility of pulling off that stupid combo, and only one copy of Harvest Pyre, he won through beating faces and beating fair decks with a list loaded with card advantage. Augur of Bolas could be a decent pickup here if you can get them cheap as they'll trade out well as a playset. SCG has a tendency to understock uncommons people need, forcing players who want to audible into another deck to look for them in trade. How many traders bring along uncommons? Not many, but I do. Don't leave home without them.

Standard is still getting worked out, so I won't declare intense hatred of it yet, but the lack of different archetypes makes it seem stale and grindy compared to older formats. Modern is seeing a lot of innovation in the form of Amulet of Vigor decks that use bouncelands and Summer's Bloom to get a ton of easy mana. Amulet already got [card Cloudpost]posts[/card] banned in Modern. Is it time to take a look at the Amulet itself or is it more fun than broken? Only time will tell.

In Conclusion

Support your local Legacy scene; create one if necessary. If WoTC won't support it and SCG won't support it, it's up to you to make sure it continues. Legacy is a great format with varied archetypes and no one deck that can dominate for long. Any deck can win and that makes it fun and dynamic, and if you can find creative ways to attract new players we can make Legacy more than just a bad Vintage.

But what do I know? I don't even play this game.

13 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: A Legacy of Failure

  1. This is a terrific article, Jason! Thanks for the shout-out as well. Now I find myself in a bit of a pickle. I want to sell out of Legacy, but I just found out I will be in the neighborhood (OK, 2 hours away) from GP Strasbourg that very weekend. Of course that format has to be Legacy so that life can continue to make decisions complicated.

    Do I sell out of Legacy anyways and not play in the GP? Do I just keep 1 deck and sell everything else (through what channel?). Or do I just keep everything until June when I can go to GP Providence, and pray that Legacy buy prices haven’t collapsed by then?

    1. I sold a playset of Tropical Islands for $120 on eBay in 2005. We thought that was the ceiling, then. I personally have play stock and I have trade stock. I have an easy time (now) of replenishing trade stock, but I\’m keeping my play stock forever. It won\’t be the same cost to pick it up later, it will be a lot more. Tropical Island quadrupled in under a decade. Could it go up by that much again? Unlikely, but I\’m not inclined to risk it, and I don\’t see those prices tanking as long as there are cubes, EDH decks, Legacy being played in local settings and they\’re on the reserve list.

      Play in the damn GP, Sig. Even if I\’m right and Legacy dies a slow death you will have months and months to sell off if you want, but I think the conclusion I came to in writing the article was that there were very few Legacy-only cards that I want to sell…. pretty much only Force of Will. Everything else is useful elsewhere and price memory plus its utility in those formats will keep the price the same(ish). Legacy prices shouldn\’t collapse, no matter what the outcome is.

      I convinced my LGS to try a 10/10/10 Legacy event soon. Should be a great time. I\’ll probably jam zombardment so I have an excuse if I don\’t win.

  2. A great article Jason, on a format I hold dearly, exactly for what you said in the end: it’s diverse, not one deck is totally on top. It’s a format with a healty metagame.

    And we’re lucky here in Amsterdam. Local enthousiasts have started a 1,5-monthly legacy tournament in Amsterdam. It gets great attendance and is fun to play. Also the GP Utrecht is coming. Not limited for me, but 3 days straight legacy side-events!

  3. I can agree with you regarding the direction projection for Legacy right now, and it’s incumbent on the players to convince their LGS that Legacy worthwhile. However, I don’t necessarily agree with your measure of the health of Legacy based on SCG’s buylist prices. There are several reasons as to why this price is so low, including but not limited to: oversupply in their inventory, reduced demand from existing players (and thus oversupply), or metagame flux. When people look at the revolving Legacy metagame and see holes that could be filled (example after SCG Vegas — play Force of Will), this could restore some balance to the archetypes and drive new demand. It may be too nearsighted to base the entire signs of a collapse on one retailers buylist price.

    As for Sunday events, I could not agree more however. Sunday doesn’t pick up as many players otherwise, no matter which format if played.

    1. SCG\’s buy price of $40 isn\’t unique. It\’s not the highest, but it\’s the most common. Do you think everyone is overstocked on FOW? If they are, why? A healthy format would see those cards in the hands of players, not dealers.

  4. As someone who has been involved in Vintage and Legacy for years, can I suggest that we don’t bring up the option of adding in proxies to Legacy so casually. I know it is an expensive format and I know that it is hard for new players to make that investment, but people that don’t invest in the format, don’t stick around. A continuous argument in the Vintage community (or what is left of it) is how much of its demise came from proxies, and while not everyone agrees that it is entirely the fault of proxies (almost certainly not) most people think it was a contributing factor. Please don’t advocate for legacy becoming the new Vintage. Encourage people to loan out cards and decks. I have never been to a large scale Legacy tournament where I wasn’t loaning multiple decks and random cards to people, we should encourage that for our large scale Legacy tournaments.

    1. I’m actually in full agreement. I didn’t play legacy at all 2 years ago…but I got a Dark Confidant from a friend as a birthday present and I started picking up legacy staples here and there…I bulked out rares for duel lands/old fetches (probably lost a decent amount of money in this process), but it’s worth the loss to me to play a format as powerful as legacy. I too loan decks/cards to friends to play in events and we have a decent legacy crowd that’s growing as standard players watch us play the decks we’ve grown to love they ask about it..the price is daunting at first, but it’s been shown numerous times that the cost of competitive standard over a 2-3 year period easily matches even the most expensive legacy decks. The thing with legacy is…that you pick a deck and typically stick with it..whereas, with standard people change out decks a LOT (based on what’s winning/metagame shifts); while it’s true some legacy decks (looking at you Maverick) tend to wane in popularity you can still win with them.

  5. Great article! Personally I’m about to pull the trigger on ~1000$ worth of duals and wastelands. It’s great when your LGS has weekly legacy tournaments!

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