Insider: Is Legacy Squanched? – Looking at the Changes to SCG Opens

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As we learned a few weeks ago in the season finale of Rick and Morty, "The Wedding Squanchers," squanchy language is more contextual than verbal and it is assumed that people will understand what you mean so long as you say what is in your squanch. (If you haven't checked out the show yet, I highly recommend it. R&M is in my opinion the best thing on TV right now).

One thing I guarantee about my Magic writing is that every article, every social media post, every podcast, is always 100% what I believe. My opinions are often strongly stated, sometimes unpopular, and occasionally obtuse--but as a writer I believe it's my job to share what I actually think with my readers.

A few weeks ago I wrote a sportsmanship article about post-game etiquette which caused some backlash. Not because of the ideas I expressed, but because some people questioned the authenticity of my claims. They essentially claimed it was laughable that I would write about sportsmanship when they believed they'd seen me be a bad sport in the past.

I'll be the first to admit there have been times when I was salty after a loss and exhibited sub-par sportsmanship. However, in the past six months I have placed a legitimate focus on clamping down and eliminating those kinds of moments from my game.

I've never been a perfect saint like good guy Reid Duke, but I do look to players like him as an example of what to strive for.

So, when I write about the importance of sportsmanship, it comes attached to my personal experience. I know what it's like to be the person who takes losses hard and struggles to shake it offbut I also know these are impulses that need to be kept in check.

Changing my approach to the game and working hard to be a different kind of player has 100% contributed to my recent tournament success. I recognized that taking losses personally, letting my emotions get the best of me, and sometimes not showing proper respect for my opponent or the game, was toxic to what I was trying to accomplish.

The reason we read articles is to improve our understanding of the Magic universe. The reason we write Magic articles is to share that perspective so that others can learn from our mistakes and experience.

Legacy & the SCG Announcement

I've followed and played Legacy since the days when Mana Drain was legal, and have a lot of love for the format. Last weekend, I qualified for the Pro Tour by making Top 4 at the Legacy Grand Prix in Seattle. I also fancy myself a sort of "Eternal expert," so I have a vested interest in what happens with Legacy and Vintage.

Last week SCG announced changes to their tournament format that will affect the future of Legacy. I'd like to share my thoughts on these changes and their impact moving forward.

As a writer, I'm going to be forthright: I dislike these changes and think they're bad news for Eternal fans. I'm not saying I don't understand why they occurred, but that doesn't mean I can't disapprove of them personally.

The Details

The main gist of the announcement was a cutback to the number of high-profile Legacy events for the upcoming season of the Open tournament circuit. Only one Legacy Open is scheduled, and the format will no longer be a component of the Invitational. It seems clear that Modern will fill the role of non-Standard format occupied by Legacy in years prior.

The news is particularly relevant because Legacy is already the ugly duckling when it comes to high-profile events on the professional circuit. There are no Legacy Pro Tours and comparatively few Legacy Grands Prix.

For Legacy fans, the SCG Legacy Open series has provided the banner events for the format over the last several years. The scaling back of these events is a tremendous blow to the format and its fan base.

Of some consolation for Eternal fans, SCG will still run Legacy side events at their Opens and Invitationals. The downside is these 4K events won't offer cash prizes but instead employ the "prize ticket" system that has started to become commonplace at Grands Prix.

This is a little hard to evaluate right now, since we don't know the contents of the prize wall, nor the de facto exchange rate between tickets and dollars. With that being said, most players would agree the preferable hierarchy of prizes goes: cash, store credit, and then prize tickets.

Hopefully some kind of trade-in system for store credit or cash is put in place, because it's going to be hard to find $500+ worth of stuff you actually want on a prize wall. While I am skeptical this is anything but a downgrade, I'm going to wait and reserve judgment until I see what the prize wall looks like with my own eyes.

Players Up in Arms

Generally speaking, I think the changes are really bad for Legacy fans who enjoy playing in large, high-profile events. That includes me, which is why I posted the following message on my Facebook wall shortly after learning the news last week.

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I was surprised to see Cedric Phillips (media manager for @starcitygames, voice of @scglive) responded to my Facebook post several times to share his perspective.

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Cedric's point is well taken, and he is technically correct that Legacy side events aren't going away. However, I think he misses the point of why Legacy fans are upset with the changes.

My initial Facebook post actually received a lot of responses (mostly from commiserating Eternal fans) and shortly thereafter Cedric again responded:

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I appreciate the fact that Cedric took time to respond and clarify some of the rationale behind the recent decision. It seems a significant factor here was SCG's belief that Legacy isn't "coverage-friendly."

As an Eternal enthusiast, I take issue with this claim. Personally, I find Legacy much more interesting to watch than Standard or Modern. The texture of the games is more complex and players have to navigate larger decision trees. In Standard or Modern, strategic considerations are more straightforward and usually relate to playing cards on curve.

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Other Eternal fans also used my FB post to voice their concerns.

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I believe Anthony's concern is a valid one. In order for Legacy to sustain its place as a healthy format it seems important that it be featured in high-level coverage. This doesn't mean the format will "die" (whatever that even means), but it's reasonable to assume that less coverage will be accompanied by a decline in popularity.

I suppose Legacy players should have more thoughtfully considered how coverage-friendly their format was before deciding to invest in decks for the now-endangered SCG Legacy Open series.

As I mentioned earlier, the new prize support is a pretty drastic change as well.

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Cedric has a fair point. It's difficult to assess the prize wall at this time, nebulous and unknown as it is. But I think it's reasonable for Legacy players to question if committing their time, energy and money will be worth it to compete for prize tickets.

For the record, I've attended events with prize walls and been unimpressed thus far. The selection is severely limited and it's annoying having to settle for things you have little to no interest in. I'm not saying SCG's prize wall will squanch like the other prize walls I've encountered so far, but that is my impression of prize walls in general.

As Cedric points out, it's impossible to quantify the trade-off between cash and prize wall items without knowing the items offered or their cost. My hope is that SCG will offer some really great items at good ticket rates to reward Legacy players for their continued support of the Open Series.

A Logical Move for SCG

To be completely honest, I saw this announcement coming a year ago. Vintage Nostradamus Stephen Menendian saw it coming even further out than that!

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Keep in mind that Vintage experts like Smennen and I know the historical precedent regarding SCG's tournament model.

For those of you who didn't experience it firsthand, the original traveling SCG tournament was "The Vintage Power 9 Series." After a few years, they retired the Vintage events in favor of the new Standard and Legacy Open Series. At the time Legacy had more potential to grow and was gaining popularity.

The similarities between this scenario and the current one should be obvious. It makes perfect sense for SCG to capitalize on the Modern hype that's been brewing for the past two years.

Wizards of the Coast has put tons of energy into building and promoting Modern. Remember that Modern Masters is a direct attempt to undo the Reserve List problem that plagued Legacy from the start. The result of these efforts is a much larger market, and a format accessible to a wider range of people.

I assume there are more opportunities to sell Modern cards than Legacy cards. Legacy cards have already plateaued and many have nowhere to go. The same thing was true of Vintage staples when the Vintage Power 9 Series was retired.

Also note that after a few years of grinding a circuit, the majority of regular attendees already have their cards. The cost of entry to the format is too high to attract many new players, so it becomes tough to sell singles.

If history repeats itself, we'll see significant surges in the price of Modern staples in the coming months. This happened to Vintage staples when SCG ran the Power 9 Series and to Legacy staples when they started the Legacy Open series. I fully expect this trend to continue with Modern, and advise you to invest accordingly.

Let's go back to Cedric's point from earlier about Legacy coverage. In the thread, several people expressed their enjoyment of SCG Legacy content and their desire to see more. Cedric responded:

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From this comment we can glean that ratings for the Twitch stream played a role in the decision to cut back on Legacy events and coverage.

For a long time I've relentlessly lobbied for significant changes to the Legacy Banned list. I've advocated for the removal of Brainstorm and Sensei's Divining Top, because they create multiple problems with diversity and gameplay. People misunderstand the motivation behind these statements and assume that I just hate Legacy.

Believe me, I love playing with Brainstorm (I do enjoy winning, after all) but I also recognize the card completely warps the format. The existence of Brainstorm greatly decreases format diversity in the same way that Ancestral Recall and Time Walk have basically ensured that 75% of all Vintage decks will always play blue.

In Legacy there are blue decks, and there are linear decks. This dichotomy is a direct result of the existence of the card Brainstorm.

The prominence of cards like Brainstorm and Sensei's Divining Top may also be coded into the language of "coverage friendliness." Both of these cards deal heavily in hidden information, manipulating cards in the hand and the library and completely ignoring the battlefield. This likely makes it difficult for commentators and viewers at home to follow along.

Given the circumstances, I think most players can see why it was time for SCG to replace Legacy Opens with Modern. I think Derek Nelson summed it up pretty well with his comment on my wall:

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Financial Impact and Singles Prices

I can't imagine this announcement is great for Legacy's stock.

Fewer high-profile events can only mean an end to growth, unless something new occurs to fill the void. In fact, we can expect the number of Legacy players to shrink.

Some players only own Legacy cards for the express purpose of attending SCG events, and I fully expect those players to divest moving forward. Over the next few months, a lot of people will be looking to move their Legacy staples into Modern.

The masses going into "sell mode" means a buyer's market. My expectation is that Legacy prices across the board will continue to decline slightly over the coming months.

We've already seen significant declines for many high-dollar cards, including dual lands. Buyers should keep an eye on these trends and try to capitalize when prices get close to bottoming out.

The nice thing about old cards is that aside from Legacy demand, there's still a very strong market with collectors. The rise of "1994 Magic," or "Old School Magic," has brought about new interest in good old cards. We've seen a significant surge in many of the format's staples, like Serendib Efreet, City in a Bottle and Juzám Djinn.

Commander and casual also provide a home for cards like dual lands and will continue to keep demand high. I for one am waiting to make my move to acquire duals--I expect other people to do the same. The bottom on these cards is probably nowhere near as low as people are hoping.

It's also worth noting that if and when a Magic movie franchise launches (there have been rumblings of this in the past), we'll see prices rise as a whole new group of collectors and players become acquainted with the game for the first time. If the movie is done right, it could appeal to a wide audience, like The Avengers or Lord of the Rings. New collectors and investors will be inevitably drawn to the old cards.

The cards I don't like right now are ones that derive their value primarily from Legacy. These are cards that aren't sufficiently rare, iconic, or fun to play with, but rather gained significant value because of the Legacy Open series: Lion's Eye Diamond, Force of Will, Sensei's Divining Top, and Wasteland.

Sensei's Divining Top is also risky because I think there's a good chance it could get banned at some point in the future. Speaking from the perspective of a person who just top-eighted a Grand Prix with Miracles: Top is an unfun and unfair card.

I'm keeping my duals, and will be looking to take advantage of the current price lull as fairweather Legacy players exodus the format.

As for the format? I expect it is decline time. Legacy just lost its flagship tournament series. It seems pretty clear it will take a hit in terms of visibility and opportunities to play in large events.

Looking to the Future

The good thing about Legacy is that it has a very strong "grass roots" player base and will live on despite this setback. There will certainly be fewer high-profile Legacy events to reward the loyal and rabid fan base, but as I experienced last weekend at the Grand Prix, that won't be enough to squanch the format.

In my testing for #GPSeaTac I attended three local events in Michigan. Each one had attendance of 15+ players who were there to jam Legacy on a weeknight.

Magic is about more than just mega-convention style tournaments with Twitch coverage, it's also about getting together with some friends to play the game we've all grown to love. For many, Tuesday night Legacy at the local comic shop is what defines their Magic experience, and traveling to a big tournament occasionally is just an extension.

SCG's decision to reduce Legacy coverage won't stop these individuals from congregating at the local game store once a week and battling for pride and glory.

I don't currently have any insider information, but I expect somebody will eventually step in to fill the gap left by SCG. Legacy has proven it can grow, and that players are willing to travel if you give them a reason to. My thinking is that if somebody gave Legacy players something better to play for than prize tickets, they would attend.

I also find it ironic that SCG pulled back from Legacy, as well as events in the Western United States, in the same week that #GPSeaTac sold out preregistration for a Legacy GP on the West Coast! 2000+ Legacy players!

Like I said, it seems like a real opportunity for somebody else to step in and take over what SCG has seemingly given up on.

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As an Eternal enthusiast, I too am bummed out by SCG's announcement. However, I am optimistic that somebody will create something new where Legacy fans can play the format they love in large events with high-profile coverage.

If you ladies and gentleman want more Legacy, you've got to speak up and keep showing up! If demand exists (which I believe it does) somebody will step up and provide the service. Modern may be a bigger, fresher frontier for SCG but I believe there is still plenty of money to be made from Legacy.

Legacy isn't squanched yet, because it's uniquely entwined with the history of the game. At some level, most people want to play with dual lands and reconnect with the old spells every now and then. It is this history that sustains eternal Magic formats and why they can never truly die.

Say some squanch to me on Twitter: @BrianDemars1

4 thoughts on “Insider: Is Legacy Squanched? – Looking at the Changes to SCG Opens

  1. Great article! A note on the fact that players will travel id they find the incentive. With GP’s paying out 10k to the winner in 2016, I assume it will attract more people to the few and far between Legacy GP’s.

  2. I also played legacy when mana drain was legal (had a bunch in my deck). The first 3-4 years I played magic competitively, I played only legacy. In a sense it will always hold a special place in my heart.

    However, I think legacy has a whoooole slew of problems. I’m happy SCG is supporting it less as a main format.

    Deck cost is a huge one. At a certain point X, you can’t have a format where you need $X to build a deck. Legacy has likely completely crossed this threshold.

    The games are extremely boring to watch, at least for me. So many games come down to who was on the play or who drew the better opening hand. (Or matchup.) There is no such thing as maneuvering your way back after falling behind in legacy, the cards are just way too powerful.

    You only have one fetch? Great, I’m on the play and have stifle.

    You don’t have FOW? Great, I’m on the play and can play sphere of resistance or chalice for one.

    You only have nonbasics? Great, I drew 2 wastelands.

    So many games of noninteractive magic. Especially after watching this Standard format which has been such a treat.

    I think the main reason people find Legacy cool is because it happens so infrequently. There were a lot of “cool” “new” decks at the GP, but if there were Legacy tournaments as often as there are Standard ones, no one would have been excited about them at all.

  3. This article has a lot of depth. I do agree with your actionable advice on the Modern format (Modern season aside). The point about LGS Legacy and casual formats soaking up this incoming wave eventually is another good point.

    Change for the better can be attained more easily when your self reflection is clear. Being in the public eye has impacted you. I’m sure that I am not the only person glad to see you taking that as a step towards personal growth. That is the best part about community.

  4. I think this was a great article. I’m a big fan of watching legacy events, and while the existence of some of the cards in the format can definitely impact the ability to add “color commentary” it’s still fun to watch.

    What I’ve gathered from Cedric’s comments has done nothing to impress me with him as a person. Instead of trying to cast things in a positive light and bring other things to attention he comes off as snide and a smart ass. As he was so quick to point out…

    Words. Have. Meaning.

    When you’re already making an announcement that you’re alienating a subgroup of magic players to a degree why add insult to injury?

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