I can't stress enough how big the July 2, 2018, Banned and Restricted Announcement will be on the future of Legacy moving forward. With Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe biting the dust, we are now left with a dramatically different format.
Yes, it's still Legacy and it will still be great. Yes, people will adapt and embrace this new format. I would be shocked if Legacy didn't see a boost in play simply because of the "new and exciting" element of playing a refreshed format.
The announcement is extremely significant in that banning Deathrite Shaman is basically banning the top pillar of the format. The most popular, winning, and successful archetypes in the format – Four-Color Control and Grixis Delver – accounted for over 30 percent of the winner's metagame, and to simply blow up that archetype in an Eternal format is unparalleled.
Keep in mind, this isn't like banning a card like Flash or Survival of the Fittest which emerged, quickly rose to domitate their respective metagames, and were predictably extracted from the format. In contrast, Deathrite Shaman isn't a flashy win-the-game-in-a-can card. It's a piece that provides utility, consistency, and protection from graveyard strategies. Traditionally, we think of banning "unfair" cards, but Deathrite Shaman is a bit different: it does something "fair" but simply does it with too much efficiency and utility for the cost of a single Golgari hybrid mana.
Today's article isn't to debate whether it was right or wrong. Personally, I kind of liked where Legacy was at before the banning and slightly favored doing nothing. However, the numbers did seem to suggest a growing problem in terms of how much DRS was taking over the format. In terms of play, Deathrite Shaman was approaching Brainstorm levels of ubiquity, and even more problematic, it was becoming yet another anchoring force in Brainstorm/Force of Will-style decks.
Something Has To Take DRS's Place
It's funny – when a card like Deathrite Shaman is legal in Legacy, it's easy to take it for granted just how good the card is. Now that it's gone, it should become clear to players that it isn't an easy card to replace because it is simply so effective. I would also argue that Legacy has become completely warped around playing against Deathrite Shaman decks, which is no longer a pressure holding the format in place.
If one considers just the Grixis Delver and Four-Color Control metagame space that has become available, that is a huge insurgence of deck slots to fill. We can also assume that decks that were particularly well positioned against Grixis and 4c suddenly get much worse, since their natural prey has essentially evaporated from the format.
We know that something has to fill this space, but what? And more importantly, how can we as MTG finance-minded individuals take advantage of emergent trends and capitalize?
I know I am focusing much harder on DRS than Gitaxian Probe, and I should take a moment to address that.
Probe being banned isn't really a big deal. Sure, there are decks that play it, but it is much easier to replace a card like Gitaxian Probe than Deathrite Shaman. I definitely think the DCI got it right to nix Probe, since it isn't a card that facilitates anything other than faster wins, increased consistency, and free triggers for the investment of no mana.
Most people sort of accept that Phyrexian mana was a big mistake in terms ofgameplay, and Probe is one of the most egregious offenders. On the other hand, Deathrite Shaman is a banning that will significantly change the way we play the format.
Decks That Will Get Better – And the Cards You Should Pick Up
It should be fairly common knowledge that blue decks anchored by absurdly effective spells like Brainstorm, Ponder, and Force of Will have always been the defining force in Legacy. It has always been this way and probably always will.
Show and Tell is a blue deck that immediately comes to mind as poised to make a move. Grixis Delver was a natural predator of the archetype since it featured so much cheap disruption and a fast clock. DRS was basically the reason to play these sort of Delver aggro/control decks. Without DRS, we may see a rise in combo decks like Sneak and Show that struggled with the stacked permission and efficient clock of Grixis.
Griselbrand is another card to keep an eye on. It is worth noting that reanimator strategies are likely to improve greatly without Deathrite Shaman to hold them back. On the draw, these decks facing down a Deathrite Shaman were often looking at close to an automatic loss, but no longer!
Reanimator is a powerful strategy. It can win the game by resolving one important spell, similar to Show and Tell. With DRS in the format, Reanimator decks evolved to be more "all in" to try and avoid fighting DRS games of attrition. Now those decks can transform back into a more traditional combo-control style.
All-in, or flimsy, combo gets better with DRS gone. In particular, variants that play out of the graveyard. Speaking of:
It's ironic that banning a hybrid Golgari card is basically the best possible thing for true fans of the Golgari guild!
Lands and Dredge both get much better in the new metagame. Both are powerful strategies that need to go through the graveyard and benefit greatly from zero Deathrite Shamans floating around in the format.
Life from the Loam is just an amazing Magic card. I'm likely going to stock up on extra copies in anticipation of some movement. It could also be the kind of card that sees play in new grindy Sultai decks that push Wasteland hard.
Overall, the single card that may have gotten better in Legacy is Wasteland. When DRS was around, it was hard to really disrupt mana generation with it, simply because a resolved Deathrite insulated them so well. Now without DRS, Wasteland becomes much more punishing against land-light decks that don't have a great way to push through or catch up after being disrupted.
I'd be shocked if Wasteland didn't see a tremendous uptick in play over the next month in Legacy, which could lead to rising prices on the card.
Miracles is another deck that I'm interested in picking up again now that DRS is gone. I also think this is the kind of strategy that is good enough, and familiar enough, that it will potentially draw a lot of the displaced Four-Color Control or Grixis players to it.
Aether Vial is another card that I think is nicely poised to make a big splash in the new metagame. Death and Taxes gets much better without Deathrite Shaman floating around and has the proper hate cards to survive even the most busted metagames.
In particular, I think Containment Priest will be a huge player in Legacy moving forward:
I went pretty hard on getting Masterpiece versions of this card and am pretty happy about that. However, I think this card has a lot of room to improve in the coming months. If decks like Dredge, Show and Tell, and Reanimator were all held in check by DRS, what is to stop them from coming back in force?
Well, nothing. But Containment Priest is an amazing card that I would love to have access to against all of these potentially popular decks. It's even the kind of card that can be played maindeck in an Eldrazi and Taxes deck alongside Eldrazi Displacer:
Come to think of it, Eldrazi strategies geared around Chalice of the Void and Sol Ring lands like Eldrazi Temple, Ancient Tomb, and City of Traitors also seem like a downright decent place to be. Those decks also make great use of timely Wastelands and lock pieces such as Chalice.
There's a lot going on in Legacy and nothing has even happened – well, besides the most significant Legacy banning in the history of the format.
Enjoy the change. Do some brewing. And play something you like until the dust settles. There's plenty of opportunities to cash in on the banning – just look for the decks and cards that become more important than they were yesterday.