There seems to be a popular opinion out there that Legacy is a decaying format. With a high barrier to entry, the format is not said to be growing, and Wizards no longer supports the format and Star City Games' support appears to be eroding as well, dooming the format. Modern is the hot new format, with Modern FNM events, Modern PTQs and GPs and a set like Modern Masters to help control costs, lowering the barrier to entry and making it the people's eternal format.
It seems like people have moved on from Legacy and Modern is going to completely eclipse it, right? Time to sell off those dual lands and Force of Wills--I feel like it's grammatically correct to pluralize something like "Force of Will" as "Forces of Will" but I'm weird. One time I said an opponent who cast Farseek last turn "Farsought"--while you can still get something for them, right?
Lessons Learned In Unlikely Places
You hear me mention QS Insider and owner of Perfect Storm Carter Hatfield a lot because he's in my local area and we cross paths a lot. Our most recent occasion to cross paths was this weekend when he decided to run a proxy-legal Vintage tournament at my LGS, Odyssey games in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
I had never played Vintage before, but if you've ever encountered a Vintage player, their enthusiasm is frankly a little alarming. I don't know whether they are feigning that level of fanaticism as an attempt to bring more people to a dying format, whether Vintage tends to attract pie-eyed lunatics or whether the format is actually that good. I only know that Vintage has a reputation for being a "dead before your first turn" format (That's wrong, though--that would be pre-bannings Pauper) and that a Vintage deck can cost more than a car.
I decided I should do some research so I didn't show up with a deck I didn't know how to use. Twitter is always a good resource, but all Twitter yielded me was Stephen Menendian telling me I should play Young Pyromancer Gush--probably a good idea for an experienced Vintage spell-slinger, but not an ideal first foray into the format. Plus, I'd have to pay $4 to read Stephen's article if I wanted to learn how to sideboard and @#$% all that noise.
It was then that I remembered that I knew more about Vintage than I was giving myself credit for. It was Brian DeMars who taught me how to Brainstorm and it was his totally free, totally helpful article series I was going to read to get a few deck ideas.
Ideally I was going to find something easy to pilot, forgiving of misplays and which didn't require much knowledge of the format to pilot.
I needed to know exactly one thing--what to name with Phyrexian Revoker. It seemed perfect. It looked powerful, it played three ridiculously powerful cards (Skullclamp, Academy and Workshop) and it looked like I could get a feel for the deck by goldfishing, something that can't be said of control decks.
Goldfish I did and after really botching the first few games, I realized that there were two paths to victory. Certain hands would see me overwhelming opponents not playing blockers or inclined to trade Dark Confidants with Memnites with an aggro rush.
Other hands would see me getting the Genesis Chamber-Skullclamp absurdity going which would allow me to vomit my hand out and sac enough artifacts to Ravager to dump 20 counters on a Signal Pest and get there like a combo player. I had no illusions of winning the entire event, but I felt like I wouldn't embarrass myself.
The event was $10 entry with unlimited proxies. I proxied my entire deck, because why not? I felt like if I were a Vintage player who owned all of my cards, maybe I would be a little annoyed that people who didn't bother buying real cards paid the same entry fee, but everyone who owned real Vintage decks was just glad to be playing the format and were cool about it.
As a brief aside, I advocate a 10-10-10 format for this sort of event; $10 entry, 10 free proxies, ten cents per additional proxy.
If you want to play $16.50 to enter the event, you contributed more money to the store and prize payout. If you have your own cards, you pay a little over two thirds of what the proxiers paid and benefit from a higher prize payout. If you're the store, you get a bigger cut than if everyone had paid $10, and if you do these regularly, people may be more inclined to buy stuff they need from the store rather than continuing to pay every week.
You may not sell a Mox Pearl, but you may sell someone like me a pile of Frogmites and Steel Overseers, and that's good for the store. I feel like charging players for proxies benefits everyone.
"What about the players who have to pay extra for proxies? How do they benefit?" I hear you asking. I don't know, how about they're being allowed to pay a ten-thousandth of the cost of ownership of a Black Lotus to play with a facsimile of one? They don't have to pay the prohibitively-high barrier of entry to the format to be able to play an event.
The event can't be sanctioned because of the proxies, but I feel like Vintage lovers just want to play any way they can. Let's remember that sentiment later on in this article.
A brief Tournament Report
Round 1 -- A real player with real cards. He played an Aggro Loam brew. I won 2-1 when I topdecked a Skullclamp to replace the one he had just Thoughtseized. Beginner's luck.
Round 2 -- A real player with real cards. He played a Grixisy control deck. I won 2-1 when he stumbled on mana game 3. No one is more surprised than me that I'm 2-0.
Round 3 -- A real player with 75 proxies. He explained that he is in Kalamazoo for Grad school and left all of his Vintage cards in Denver. He is very familiar with the format, but a misplay lets me race his Jitte and I win 2-1. For the record, I didn't see the misplay at all, which only leads me to feel like I understand the format even less.
Round 4 -- A real player with real cards. With only 3 undefeated players, I get a downpair. Dan Buzzie is a Lansing-area player I used to travel to events with. He has Mental Misstep and Steel Sabotage for every Skullclamp and I never get anything going. I lose 2-0. At 3-1 and only one round to go I can actually draw into Top 8. Not how I saw this day going at all.
Round 5 -- Kevin Cron. ID. Kevin was one of a crew of Vintage players who drove up from Ohio, which shows dedication to the format to say the least. Do you recognize the name? I did--Kevin is the cohost of the "So Many Insane Plays" podcast and also the inventor of the "Vintage Achievements" checklist.
"Vintage Achievements" are similar to the achievements checklist Wizards has tried to get people to care about at prereleases. I wish I'd snagged one of Kevin's sheets so I could tell you what all of the ones he had for this event were, but the ones I remember were pretty cool.
- Win without casting a spell
- Win without them casting a spell
- Have 10 counters on a permanent
- Swing with a 0-power dude
- Have all 5 original Moxen in play
- Have 3 cards in play at once that are all legal in Standard (basic lands don't count)
- Have 3 copies of the same card in play (lands don't count)
There were a bunch more that I wish I could remember. I don't know if it is super easy for everyone, but I managed to almost always swing with a 0-power creature because of Signal Pest. Between that and my ability to routinely get a bunch of Memnites in play, I managed to get the most achievements one of the rounds.
There was a prize every round for the most achievements--this time it was candy plus a booster pack. I feel like that's maybe over-generous but over-generous prize payout is the Odyssey Games way. Still, a few people playing their first ever Vintage event got the prize and it couldn't hurt their chances of coming back again.
I hope Kevin got some decent data on whether any of those achievements are too hard or too easy--the list is constantly evolving. Anyway, Kevin and I drew into the Top 8.
Quarterfinals -- Aaron Katz playing Grixis Control. Aaron is a local and a member of Team Perfect Storm. When I was at the height of grinding, Aaron and I did a lot of playtesting together and I feel like it was more effective than almost anyone I've ever playtested with. Aaron is the kind of player who could lose to topdecking 11 lands in a row and afterward he'd say "there was probably a way I could have won that game, I just didn't see it."
I am favored in this matchup, but Aaron knows his deck and the format pretty well, and all of his cards are real so he wasn't going to screw up like I did in Game 3--I thought you had to pay 2 mana to crack Memory Jar for some reason. My proxy, the word "Mem. Jar" written on the back of a mountain in Sharpie was no help--and this would be a tough matchup.
I managed to win 2-1 because I'm lucky and because he made the wrong play which allowed me an extra turn to swing in. I played too conservatively and didn't balls-to-the-wall sac my board to get there with Ravager tokens the turn earlier so it could as easily have been me who punted the match.
I didn't like knocking Aaron out, but I have this weird complex where I feel bad when I win in a format where I don't know what I'm doing as well as the player I beat. This may stem from the incredulity I feel when I get trounced by a worse player in a format I know well. I apologized to everyone I beat, which I acknowledge is odd behavior.
Knocking Aaron out of Top 8 felt worse because he's a buddy and I guess I felt like he somehow "deserved" the win more by virtue of being a serious Vintage player. My deck costs like $2.75 outside of the shops and Moxes and despite it being one of the most affordable decks, I'm using proxies anyway.
Semifinals -- I got 2-1'd by Dredge and lost to finish 3-4th. The format basically just eats it Game 1 against Dredge, then everyone brings in between six and twelve cards and the Dredge player has a tougher road to victory games 2 and 3.
I didn't really know how to beat Dredge so Game 2 I kept a fast hand with no sideboard cards. I have no idea whether that's correct, but it got there, so it's hard to say it isn't. Game 3, we realized that Leyline of the Void shut off my Skullclamp and my deck really kind of needs Skullclap in certain games. This was one of them. With a pile of Memnites facing down a pile of Ichorids, Grafdigger's Cage getting Chain of Vapored and no way to "combo" win, I was sunk.
I have no idea if Robots is the best Shops deck, but it seemed like more fun for me than prison decks. Genesis Chamber is quite possibly more effective than Young Pyromancer since more of Robots' spells are free and Ravager makes better use of the tokens than anything in YPG's arsenal. But don't ask me, I have only played Vintage once.
Kevin Cron has informed QS that he in fact lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, not Ohio like stated above. Also, any references to him offering Mr. Alt an Intentional Draw because he was "wee wee in his pants scared of [Mr. Alt's] sick Vintage skillz" was, according to Mr. Cron, "pure fantasy on the part of the author." We apologize for the confusion and strive for accuracy in all of our articles here at Quiet Speculation.
What Can This Teach Us About Legacy?
Well, the lesson here is simply that "If you schedule it, they will come." This was a Sunday event, it wasn't sanctioned, it allowed proxies and it didn't offer a Mox or anything as a prize and people still drove literally hours to play in it and there were 30 players at a store whose biggest FNM ever was about that size.
A bigger event could be even more successful and this one will likely be repeated. Vintage has been declared dead by the established Magic Community, but I'd consider this event a repeatable success even when attempted at the smallest scale possible. If a "dead" format like Vintage gets that sort of attendance and most of the attendees had their own Vintage cards, is Legacy really going to "die" soon? Could it possibly?
"When SCG stops the events it will die, and they're already stopping," I hear some of you saying. I acknowledge that opinion, but I want you to realize there isn't any room in that sentence for more wrong.
First of all, there's no indication SCG is phasing Legacy Sundays out. Sunday attendance sucks because people work on Monday, not because Legacy is too expensive for anyone to play. Legacy Burn is cheaper than almost any deck in Standard, and you could have been playing the burn deck for twenty years.
SCG runs Modern and Standard on Sundays occasionally, and guess what? Attendance is down at those events, too. Do I hear anyone saying Modern is "dying" because attendance is low on Sunday at SCG Opens when they run Modern? They don't run Modern every Sunday and attendance is down! Modern must be dying, right? No one's saying that, but I'm just using the same logic applied to Legacy. See how absurd that logic seems in a different context?
Besides, if SCG stopped doing Legacy entirely, would no one come along and take it up? If TCG Player wanted to print money, they could take over. Or Pastimes, or PES or anyone else who really loved money. SCG printed money for years by having a big Legacy card selection and running the events, do you really think no one else would attempt the same thing?
Not only that, Legacy cards are divided into three categories, the two largest of which are "cards on the reserve list" and "cards that are also good in Modern". Are you in a huge hurry to sell cards in either of those categories because SCG decided to run the occasional Sunday Standard event? Didn't we have this same discussion six months ago?
You know what hasn't happened in the mean time? That's right, a mass sell-off of Legacy staples. I can't keep dual lands and Forces in my binder, and it's not Modern players picking that stuff up. If you really think Legacy is going to "die" I'll buy any dual land for $30. If that doesn't sound like a bargain to you, it's possible you don't really think Legacy is going to "die" any time soon.
In five years, if no one is running Legacy events, it will still be possible to get people to show up and play it simply by scheduling an event. People are always going to want to play Legacy and there are probably more people who would drive hours to play Legacy than Vintage due to how popular it's been the last few years.
I am an advocate of using unsanctioned store-level proxied events to introduce players to formats. If Wizards is going to have Modern and Standard be their FNM formats, that doesn't mean that's all that will be played at your store.
Encourage your LGS to get people interested in older formats. Those people will trade singles from you, buy from the store, bring in friends, become proponents of the format and generally strengthen the game. But how will they ever know they like Legacy and Vintage until they play it? Remember, this last weekend proved to me if you schedule it, they will come.
It Wasn't All Vintage Played This Weekend
There were some other events played, after all. The World Cup and World Championship were both this weekend.
The World Championship only featured 16 players which means there isn't a ton of decklist data, but it's instructive to see what the pros are brewing. I won't do a ton of analysis but there are some general points worth making, and there is a LOT of data to slog through since the World Championship was four formats.
It looks like there wasn't a single deck not playing red. With red losing so many good spells with rotation, there may be a new king color--Shock is no Searing Spear. It's not even a half-assed Pillar of Flame.
With the exception of three decks, Kibler's Gruul, Wescoe's Boros and Willy Edel's Naya, the other 13 decks were either UWR Flash or Jund. There isn't a ton of financially-relevant info here. Well all knew that the pro-community consensus was that these were the best two decks.
What seems strange is that no one brewed anything that could beat those two decks but had trouble with other strategies. It's not like there was anything else to play against. Still, those two decks are so different, it's hard to find something that can beat both of them, so most players went with the "if you can't beat them, join them" strategy.
This resulted in a lot of mirror matches, which sounds approximately as much fun as getting a root canal for five days. Luckily the root canal marathon was punctuated by the occasional booster draft.
No, I didn't post the Standard decks again, there was really that much UWR in Modern, too. When I first saw decks pop up on MODO that were a pile of UWR goodstuff with four Snapcasters, I thought the decks looked good but likely wouldn't catch on. Apparently the pros like UWR so much they wanted to jam it in both formats.
What we should watch is the price of stuff like Living End, which no pro played. Living End could be set to crash and I don't see a second spike. I'd get out now.
Green-Black is getting more popular as Jund players reassessed whether the minimal advantage they were getting from red (and Ajani Vengeant) was worth the strain on the mana base and not playing their more powerful spells in larger numbers. The ability to include Scavenging Ooze, a legitimate monster, likely pushed Jund toward GB. This may seem obvious, but Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest spiked twice. Verdant Catacombs spiked once. Do with that analysis what you will.
B/W Tokens is likely not a very good deck, but Craig Wescoe plays decks like that so that's what he played. It is relatively affordable and it looks like it's simple to play so it could get popular. Unfortunately, everything is uncommon and reprinted a bunch. Not much opportunity here.
Reid Duke's deck was called "rogue" a lot, which is confusing to me. Hexproof Auras isn't all that new, and Daybreak Coronet spiked a long time ago. Could Kor Spiritdancer join it? I don't have faith in it as a spec, but it's bound to go up a little despite there being lots of copies due to reprinting.
The World Cup was exciting to watch, but I really don't think there is anything we can learn from the deck built in Unified formats. With card pools limited, player innovate a bit more, but they didn't discover a new, relevant card that gives us time to buy it before it spikes. They mostly just played goofy formats we'll never see again.
I would say watch coverage of events like this, but there isn't much post-gaming to be done.
SCG Open Minneapolis
The SCG Open was Standard on Saturday and a dead format on Sunday.
There was a lot of Jund Midrange in the Top 8 here. It's a powerful deck, all the pros are playing it and it got better with the inclusion of Scavenging Ooze. Thanks, M14. A bunch of disappointing crap plus making the best deck better means a lot of us are just going to have to wait until rotation for Magic Standard to be exciting again.
I like the G/W Elves version even better than the mono-green build I ran, but it barely cracked the Top 16 here. The G/W version is more consistent but maybe sometimes slower than the mono-green version, and in a field full of Jund, not having maindeck Ranger's Guile can suck.
Still, I expected a better showing, but it's not all that relevant since the deck is about to lose Archdruid and Craterhoof. Get out of Hoof while you can.
Goblins wins! How 'bout dat? Merfolk in the Top 8 makes Corbin happy, Merfolk not winning because Goblins won makes me happy, everybody happy!
Is it a Minnesota thing that the Top 16 was veritably lousy with ANT? I'd call it the pet deck of the week, but it's not really a pet deck anymore. ANT is a deck that you will almost certainly be able to play five years from now and do just as well.
It has cantrips, rituals and it has a card that lets you draw like fifteen of them in a single turn and then combo off. If you paid attention to ANT three years ago, maybe you bought Burning Wish before it hit an absurd $25 (they were like $8 three years ago or something stupid like that).
The only thing more puzzling than the preponderance of ANT is the dearth of Shardless BUG. One in the entire Top 16 doesn't really jive with what the pros like, but I guess all the Shardless BUG players were at the World Cup or World Champs or HOLY $%* SOMEONE MADE TOP 16 WITH 12 POST!
12 Post gets "Pet Deck of the Week" and it's not close this week, folks. I know one person who plays a lot of 12 Post, and that's Scott AKA Booze Cube. Scott tweets about this deck non-stop but I don't see a ton of other people talking about it. Seeing it manage a Top 16 warms the cockles of my shriveled Grinch heart.
I like that it manages the occasional "Oops, I win" Show and Tell into Emrakul draw but smooths it out by being able to hardcast Eldrazi if left to its devices. The deck is a decent toolbox list with Crop Rotation and there isn't much not to like about it.
Reanimator is a distant second for PDoTW, but it isn't running Chancellor of the Annex, which I think it should. Maybe that's a pet card and a pet card in a pet deck is way too...petty.
Two Jund decks is good. I got out of Grove of the Burnwillows completely, which is good because it didn't manage to spike a second time and has fallen off a lot. Jund is still good because it combines good removal with good creatures and has Liliana of the Veil which is the second most powerful planeswalker ever printed. The deck has gas, and two Top 16 finishes is one more than RUG Delver and two more than Deathblade.
Agents and Strixes
Legacy continues to be a diverse format. Did you notice that Shardless Agent is $25 sold out on SCG? You can get these for $15 on TCG Player. Are they going to go up? I think so. Baleful Strix, too. If you snagged a bunch of Night of the Ninjas and Chaos Reigns at Target for $20 like I did, it may be time to bust those bitches and sell the contents.
I was happy to get $55 for a playset of Agents on eBay 6 months ago, now I'm kind of wishing I'd held. If you can get the sealed product for under $50 or get the singles for under $15 I think you'd be a dingbat not to. $25 is he pretend double money price, but it's also probably the future. Those cards are pretty good.
As always, I think we should pay attention to what the pro players are doing, pay attention to what Jeff Hoogland is doing (brewing G/B, in case you were wondering) and pay attention to what you can buy on TCG Player for $10 less than it is on SCG. You can bet I have my eye on all of that.
Have a great week, and tune in next week to be disappointed that I won't have a third week in a row with an article containing a brief tournament report. I don't play this game, remember?