MagicFest: Niagara Falls and the Future of Tundra

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The Grand Prix at MagicFest: Niagara Falls over the weekend was the first Legacy GP of the year. Daniel Goetschel (AKA Gul Dukat on MTGO) took the event down with this rock-solid UW Stoneblade list, a good showing for Tundra decks all around. The results have me taking a closer-than-usual look at the Legacy metagame, and more importantly, the pricing of select Legacy staples moving forward.

Force of Will and Wasteland

A little over a month ago, I took a similar look at market signposts for Legacy in order to get a baseline for the movement I expected to happen. As many have said before, the Legacy format is essentially held together by these two cards. When gauging Legacy demand and interest, always look to these first.

For those looking to enter the format, a playset of either one of these is almost always the first investment, as there are very few established decks that don't play at least one of the two. Legacy was in a lull period around the holiday season, but is now having a significant resurgence. At present, we're seeing these two cards hit retail highs as we've never seen.

If you take a look at the last month, there has been sharp upward movement on both of these, most likely due to players' interest in this event, SCG Syracuse last month, and Legacy in general.

Even in the face of the Reserved List, which locks down key staples such as the ABUR Duals, Lion's Eye Diamond, and City of Traitors, players are still entering the format. Options like Merfolk, Death and Taxes, and even Burn can give you an option to skirt the Reserved List. For those willing to spend a little more for some Revised Duals, Tundra decks are the easiest entry point into a fair blue strategy.

Tundra Decks

Tundra is perhaps the unsung hero of the blue Dual Lands in Legacy. It has classically been the lowest of the four, with Underground Sea, Volcanic Island, and Tropical Island all taking a place above it in price and playability. However, I think we could see a changing of the guard if things keep going right for UW decks in Legacy. While it's highly unlikely it will every usurp U-sea at the top slot, it's already pushing higher than Trop, and has Volc in its sights.

The winning list of the event happened to be UW Stoneblade, a deck some would consider the fairest pile of cards possible to see success in Legacy—but it's been a while since Tundra decks were on top. As far as raw power goes, many would look to Grixis strategies such as the Storm Variants (ANT and TES), Grixis Delver, or Grixis Control. Combo decks like Sneak and Show or Turbo Depths have also been dominating strategies, and have been solid choices in recent years.

While Legacy's history has had a variety of strategies at the top, UW decks haven't been the top dog since the banning of Sensei's Divining Top, when Miracles commanded a staggering 14% of the metagame. The power vacuum was then filled by Deathrite Shaman strategies until its recent banning last year, when its metagame share was approaching the same percentile.

With these two power cards out of the format, the metagame has achieved a decent balance, with several strategies being equally viable any given weekend.

From this Day 2 metagame snapshot, you can see a pretty wide range of decks. I think Stoneblade, Miracles, and UW Delverblade's performances here are most noteworthy. In terms of overall success, fair decks are doing quite well, which some would call a sign of a healthy format. On that note, let's look at some of the cards I think will be significant winners going forward.

Council's Judgment is one of the cards that really holds these strategies together. It's the catch-all answer for nearly every problem that can't be solved by Swords to Plowshares, and demands at least a one-of in the mainboard.

The first Conspiracy set was a bit of an experiment from Wizards to create a fun, wacky draft environment outside of silver-bordered cards, and had a lower supply than that of a regular Standard set. Council's Judgment remains one of the most expensive cards in the set, and the supply of these is a lot lower than the new demand may be due to this weekend.

In addition to being core removal in UW Stoneblade, it sees regular play in Death and Taxes, another Stoneforge Mystic strategy, for much the same reason. Speaking of which...

If you've read any of my work, you'd know that I have kept my eyes on this card for the better part of two years now, and these GP results only reinforce this habit. The case for its unban in Modern is strong, and could become a reality as early as this Summer with Modern Horizon's release.

While I can't say for certain that the Akrasan Squire will make its debut this way, I'd rather have my copies sooner than later. At any rate, the fact that you can get a lot of use out of these in Legacy in decks like Stoneblade, Maverick, and Death and Taxes makes it feel more worthwhile than speculating on other banned cards like Splinter Twin or Birthing Pod.

Palace Jailer has the power to swing even games in your favor, especially in tandem with evasive creatures like True-Name Nemesis or Vendilion Clique. The immense value gained from resolving one of these and retaining the crown can break a board stall wide open.

I believe foils of this card are pretty much gone, but normal copies are already getting difficult to find at reasonable prices for an uncommon. Much like Council's Judgment, Palace Jailer has a Conspiracy-unique mechanic in Monarch. The obvious place for cards like this to come back are in Commander products where multiplayer mechanics are the focus, rather than a feature. Should these cards dodge reprints going forward, there's a real opportunity for growth.

Monastery Mentor is the odd one out of the bunch here, as I don't think metagame share is currently pushing its price. War of the Spark spoiler season ended this weekend—a lot of pressure was put on this card due to the printing of Feather, the Redeemed and the relevant interactions in Commander. Mentor is often the win condition of choice in Miracles, and has the fringe strategies of Bomberman and Esper Mentor to vouch for its playability in the format.

The card's price has literally doubled in the past week, but I think a lot of this is due to hype. The card is definitely powerful, but I would expect this to settle around $15-$18 once War of the Spark is in circulation.

Foils are probably a different story. The single printing of this card in a small, under-opened set will result in a high multiplier we may have not hit the ceiling on just yet. I'll be keeping my eye on this over the next couple of weeks.

Probably the most unfair "fair" card, TNN rears its ugly head as one of the premier three-drops of the weekend. Even though we've got more answers than ever to stop this menace, it still proves difficult to answer with normal removal. Those answers are often at three or four mana as well, which can prove a liability, given the speed of Legacy and the prevalence of Wasteland.

TNN shines brightest when you make it difficult for your opponent to answer it. Grixis Delver does this best with a combination of Daze, Force of Will, Wasteland, and even Thoughtseize in the main.

The jury's still out on whether or not we'll get True-Name Nemesis, or any of the aforementioned cards, back in Modern Horizons, Commander 2019, or even a Standard set. If not, expect upward price movement going forward.

A Note on Coverage

Unfortunately, because this GP's coverage was subject to what some perceive as budget cuts, video coverage of the event was not available. Luckily, there was sparse social media coverage from the players in attendance (shoutouts to AnziD for holding it down), and some regular tweets from Channel Fireball to keep us updated.

This was an awesome win from a hardworking MTGO grinder dedicated to the format, and it seems odd not to have video coverage to memorialize the weekend for those looking to watch gameplay after the fact. Should this trend continue for premier Legacy events, it could be a bad sign for the format's overall visibility and lifespan.

Take this statement with a grain of salt, though, as many have heralded the end of Legacy for years for one reason or another. This will only just be the latest entry on that lengthy list.

Bring it on Home

It was a bit strange clamoring for the information from the event by constantly refreshing my Twitter feed, or combing Reddit for a possible update on the events, what decks people were seeing, and so on. As always, I'm bummed out Miracles didn't win the event, but UW Stoneblade is close enough, right? My big takeaways from outside looking in:

  • Stoneforge Mystic is still good. (But probably not too good for Modern.)
  • Palace Jailer has proven itself as a viable creature.
  • True-Name Nemesis is still the most frustrating creature in Legacy.
  • Combo strategies appear less successful than they could be.
  • Legacy isn't dead yet.

That does it for this week! You can follow me on Twitter @chroberry or Instagram @chroberrymtg if you want to see extra goodies and spoilers for next week’s article. Feel free to let me know how you feel about my targets here in the comments, or if there’s anything you think I missed!


One thought on “MagicFest: Niagara Falls and the Future of Tundra

  1. Good article. My only concern is that Tundra’s price remained relatively stagnant even when SDT was legal and my beloved Miracles deck was too dog…I didnt understand that back then and I’m hesitant to expect a ton of movement now simply because it didnt move when it was the best dual in the best deck.

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