Welcome to part two of this iteration of the State of the Meta column! As previously mentioned, I will be looking at recent changes to the Legacy scene and will include data from PT 25th Anniversary. Let's jump right in!
Legacy – Post Bannings Trends
The torches and pitchforks can be put to rest for now: as of July 2nd, Deathrite Shaman is finally gone. And it dragged Gitaxian Probe along for the ride. Both of these moves have allowed for a wider range of archetype to get back into the spotlight; at the same time, new twists on Delver decks have started to pop up as successful lists, including during the PT itself.
Winner – Reanimator
File this one in the "Thank You, Captain Obvious" category if you wish, but still. While Deathrite Shaman was around, most Reanimator players would have to be able to bring back two creatures in order to dodge any DRS activation – unless they could use Exhume which could be a double-edge sword in the late game. Game one is now slightly easier for Reanimator strategies (either fast BR ones or grindy UB ones), but they'll still be facing more sideboard hate in gams two and three.
There are two relevant cards in the Reanimator builds: the first one is clearly Lotus Petal, which is also pressured by Storm, Sneak & Show and all kinds of glass cannon decks (looking at you, Goblin Charbelcher). Over the past six months, the only non-foil printing of the card (Tempest) went up by 50 percent, from $6.6 to over $10. There is a FTV and a Masterpiece version of it, but still the entry point to the card is steadily rising.
The other card I would keep an eye on is Chancellor of the Annex, also played in the lesser known Manaless Dredge build. With only one printing and a very niche utilization in the format, but required as a four-of when played, the card has been maintaining a $5/$25 price tag (foil/non-foil) for a while now. Since PT 25 was such a success considering the viewership numbers and feedback from social media, if more players want to venture into Legacy, Reanimator is one of the cheapest and most fun entryways to the format. There are currently 58 vendors of non-foil Chancellor, but only 17 of those have four copies or more: I'll be looking to pick up copies to build up towards a few sets in case the card spikes.
Winner – Death & Taxes
One of the biggest selling point of the D&T strategy was the "Taxes" bit, where Wasteland, Rishadan Port and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben shine the brightest. But it is very difficult to tax anyone starting the game with "Fetch, Deathrite, Go"... In a world free of DRS however, the archetype is back in business, as evidenced bythe presence of two copies in the top four of PT25, including that of the winning team.
The card that I believe is the most susceptible to see an uptick might surprise you: I would really recommend grabbing copies of Aether Vial now while it is still in the $30 to $35 range. Death & Taxes "won" the PT, it had multiple copies in the high tables, most of the list is made of cheap and/or recently reprinted cards, and it's one of the few archetypes that does not need dual lands – and that's just the considerations for Legacy! Vial is also an essential four-of in Modern, both in the Humans and Spirits builds, two lists that keep gaining not only in notoriety but also in successful results both online and in paper. As a speculative target, it might be interesting to keep an eye on the Masterpiece printing of the card, which is in my very humble opinion one of the prettiest ones out of the Inventions set.
Trending Up – Temur Delver
Speaking about mana denial strategies, as many have talked about since the B&R announcement, one card that is sure to come back to the forefront of Legacy is Stifle, and with it the best-equipped deck to run it, Temur Delver.
Now that Deathrite is no longer applying so much maindeck pressure on the opponent's graveyard, an aggro/tempo strategy that relies on an early Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration and Nimble Mongoose can thrive again. Stifle was mentioned as a target in our Insiders Discord channel nearly instantly when the DRS ban came out, but other cards from this build deserve consideration: the recent reprint of True-Name Nemesis as a Battlebond mythic is making the deck more accessible, so a rebound in price should be expected. Out of the sideboard, I really like foil copies of Sulfur Elemental, which is poised to become a fixture if Death & Taxes remains at the top of the standings.
Trending Up – Sneak & Show/Omni-Show
This is an archetype that benefits from both Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe leaving the format: the type of decks that preyed on Sneak & Show were the ones that could go Probe-into-Cabal Therapy-Flashback (Grixis Delver/Control) or Thoughtseize-into-Hymn to Tourach (Grixis Control/Czech Pile) and destroy the opponent's hand. With Probe and DRS's mana fixing gone, Sneak & Show can thrive again, and actually showed up in force at PT25, second in metagame share of the event at 9.7 percent behind only Grixis Control.
If the deck is really gaining steam, the first card I would be looking into is Show and Tell: its price really dropped since the Conspiracy: Take the Crown printing, the card bottomed at $14 ($20 for the original Urza's Saga copies) and is now trending back up on the other side of the "U" shape graph you Insiders always like to see. It also helps that Omniscience was just reprinted in Core 19, making the deck more accessible with the cheapest copies around $6.50 when the M13 ones were sitting north of $30. From the list posted above, I would point out Defense Grid, a card I already mentioned in part one of this article, when looking at the Modern metagame.
Additionally, Shota Yasooka was on camera in round one of PT25 with Omni-Show, and he decided to run a copy of Boseiju, Who Shelters All maindeck. I would watch the stock of foil copies of the land: with currently only nine NM foil copies across four vendors on TCGplayer, it is not going to take much to see a spike.
Trending Down – Storm
As much as it pains me to write this, Storm is one of the archetypes (along with Infect) that suffers the most from the Gitaxian Probe ban. Losing a free cantrip that gives you information for Cabal Therapy to clear out the way will certainly slow the game plan down and steer the list towards more discard. Enter Thoughtseize, the most obvious replacement for Probe. I listed it as trending down, but it might end up being a wash, since Storm could be facing more of the old archetypes it used to feast on before the advent of the DRS lists
Loser – Leovold
How the mighty have fallen: once a $45+ card (briefly spiking to $60), Leovold, Emissary of Trest could be one of the biggest casualties from the Deathrite Shaman ban, since it was one of the main cards in the Czech Pile build. Still being used in Aluren and Sultai Midrange lists, these decks are nowhere near the popularity the four-color list once had: only one Aluren and two Sultai Midrange lists at PT 25, for a grand total of four copies of Leovold across the field.
Legacy – Breakout Deck of PT 25
Josh Utter-Leyton piloted a UB Shadow build all the way to the Finals of PT 25: why run original dual lands when you can use shocklands as the most useful (and legal) proxies?
The list has been around for a little while now, but this particular build aims at maximizing Death's Shadow. Reanimate, Street Wraith and Snuff Out (instead of Dismember from previous lists) are all efficient ways to lower your life total while not losing too much on the tempo side. Landing an early Gurmag Angler or Death's Shadow, or reanimating a cycled Street Wraith also allows turning Stubborn Denial into a hard counter.
And just like Temur Delver with Sulfur Elemental, Utter-Leyton had packed a weapon of choice for the D&T matchup: Dread of Night. You may be prompted to point out this hate card was still not enough to avoid a game-three loss in the finals despite managing to put three copies on the battlefield, and yeah, that's true.
In terms of financial gains, foil copies of Snuff Out have essentially disappeared from the internet and the card is now running $25, so check your pauper specs and various shoeboxes. Despite the high buy-in, I believe Reanimate could be a play with the demand coming from Reanimator as well as Modern players who see a new path into Legacy with a deck that replaces $800 Underground Sea with much less scarce Watery Grave.
Finally, Dread of Night only has two printings (no foil!), Tempest and 6th Edition, and stock is relatively low for NM copies: 20 Tempest vendors, 12 for 6th Edition. I do not expect the price to stay around $1 for long, so if you want to own this card, grab your copies now.
The Legacy landscape has definitely shifted since Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe left the format. While DRS allowed players to efficiently run three- and four-color decks without too much pain, we should now be getting back to more stable, two-color manabases, with perhaps a third color as a splash (like in Temur Delver).
Although the hurdle of dual lands remains, archetypes like Death & Taxes, Omni-Show and UB Shadow are looking very attractive to anyone who wants to venture into the "other" Eternal format. PT 25 definitely helped bring exposure to Legacy, with strong viewership through all three days of the event. Hopefully t,his will translate into more LGS events and increased attendance to the SCG Classic circuit, leading to potentially renewed demand for the format as whole.
As always, feel free to leave a comment below to let me know what you think of this review and/or if there are archetypes you believe should be discussed!