Did Middle-Earth Break Legacy in Baltimore?

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This weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend SCGCon Baltimore and play 21 rounds of Legacy. I’ve been very focused on Pioneer lately for Organized Play and this weekend was a wonderful break. A lot of my opponents expressed being in similar boats.

The new Lord of the Rings cards had a significant impact on the format, including prime suspect A-Orcish Bowmasters. Today, we'll take a look at some of the more interesting developments from this weekend and assess how the format could shift to accommodate them going forward.


Round after round, all but one of my opponents were all smiles and fun. I went a total of 14-5-2 over the weekend. While my results were nothing special, I did manage to at least win my money back, and had a great time.

As expected, I ended up playing the Naya Depths list I shared in my previous article. The list treated me well as usual. I took an unexpected loss to Grixis Delver and a less surprising loss to Mono-Black Storm. My other three losses on the weekend were to various combo decks featuring blue, which tend to be my worst matchups. If the metagame continues to develop how I'm expecting, I think Depths will continue to be a strong choice. This works out great for me, so hopefully I'm right.

Baltimore Meta

Baltimore was a notable event because it was our first look at how the new Tales of Middle-Earth cards might perform in Legacy.

RW Initiative

I want to start by highlighting Forth Eorlingas!. Quinn Tonole slotted this card in to Boros Initiative and cruised his way to a Top 8 finish.

Forth seems really strong here. The Initiative deck is full of fast mana sources, but if the game goes long, the deck can't make good use of all of its sol lands and mana rocks. Forth gives the deck the late-game mana sink it so desperately wanted. It can also be a very punishing early play. If people aren't prepared to block early, adding the Monarch to the game can be a very potent strategy.

I'm not actually sure how much to expect to see of this deck moving forward. This was one of the best-performing popular decks on Saturday, but a lot of that had to do with Quinn. On Sunday, the deck performed abysmally. I do know a couple of the pilots were not super familiar with the format which probably depressed the win rate some. Regardless of how the deck does in the future, if you play against it, make sure to be mindful of surprise hasty attackers.

RB Painter

Last week I said people should respect this deck going into the weekend, but I didn't realize just how right I was going to be. RB Painter had an absurd win rate on Saturday, putting only a single copy into Top 8 but two more in Top 16. If you include Mono-Red and RW builds, the numbers get worse but remain strong.

The black splash is small, but potent. Despite being a one-of, I think Chaos Defiler is actually the bigger of the two pickups. Defiler isn't new but unfortunately hasn't made its way on to Magic: Online yet. The most notable thing about this card is that it doesn't target. When combined with Goblin Welder, this card will quickly mow down any and all opposing nonland permanents. It was very impressive every time I saw it. A-Orcish Bowmasters easily slotting in also added some power to this deck.

Cephalid Breakfast

Four years ago, if you told somebody that Cephalid Breakfast won a major tournament, they probably would have laughed at you. This deck is no joke though. Brian Coval used it to take down the 10K main event.

In addition to winning the event on Saturday, the deck put up another Top 8 on Sunday in the hands of Paul Lynch. This was the most popular deck between days and still managed an impressive win rate. Often, as decks get more popular, their performance starts to move closer to average. This was clearly a good choice for the weekend. Being able to back up such a compact combo package with Force of Will means the deck will likely always be reasonable at worst.

Delver aka The Fun Police

For as long as I can remember, Delver has always been one of if not the best deck in the format. For years now, Izzet has been the most prominent flavor. Ever since the Expressive Iteration ban, people have been unsure of what to do with the deck though. This was very evident this weekend. UR remained the most popular choice but had a pretty poor showing.

Three-color Delver seems to be the way of the future. Temur and Grixis both performed better than Izzet builds. The green splash was most notably for copies of Tarmogoyf, a card I think is underwhelming in the format. Black allowed the deck to add removal in Snuff Out and to also try running its own copies of Orcish Bowmasters. This was the best-preforming Delver variant.

It's an Orc's World Now

Often when we talk about cards we expect to show up in main decks, we ask what it's doing for a deck. With this particular card, I think it's better to talk about how it attacks other decks. This approach is really unusual for a main deck card, but this is a weird one. It really does hit a lot of the metagame. I'm still not convinced it's going to warp the format as much as some say, but let's explore anyways.

Effect on Breakfast

Bowmasters will see a lot of play over the next few weeks while we figure out its true power. So regardless of how good the card ultimately ends up being, it is liable to have a pretty big impact on the immediate future. Let's look at how this card lines up against our favorite Cephalids. Every creature in the Breakfast deck has one toughness. The fact that Bowmasters doubles as removal against every creature in the deck is likely to be a problem. It might encourage some players to return to Stoneforge Mystic, but it might also just chase people away from the deck. Worth noting: Bowmasters itself is also a potential option for some of the flex slots.

Effect on Delver

Delver is another deck that seems weak on the surface to the Orc. Delver is known for casting small creatures and lots of cantrips. This is far from ideal against the Orc. All weekend I heard victory/horror stories of people casting a Brainstorm that ended up killing their own A-Dragon's Rage Channeler. Delver players should be able to adjust their play patterns to not get blown out by the Orc, but it will likely take some practice. As mentioned above, the card can also slot into this deck and might be the future of the archetype.

Effect on 8 Cast

8 Cast is another deck I expected to show up in force at Baltimore. It was very popular but didn't have a great showing. A lot of things go into a deck having a good or bad weekend but I bet some of it had to do with our new Orc.

8 Cast draws a lot of cards. That's sort of the deck's whole shtick. It also doesn't play any main deck removal. It's pretty easy for a Bowmasters to pick off an Emry or Thought Monitor to help contain the board, and then just sit there making life difficult. It's also hard for 8 Cast to develop without letting their opponent generate a huge army token. It may be enough to make 8 Cast consider main decking copies of Dismember or Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft.

Effect on Elves

Against the Glimpse of Nature builds of Elves, it basically shuts down the deck's engine. The deck is almost exclusively X/1s. While Glimpse would still allow for additional draws, it wouldn't be able to build its board. Elvish Visionary and Claws of Wirewood goes from strong engine to non-existent real fast.

Effect on Miscellaneous Other Decks

Against any blue-based cantrip deck, the card can only be so bad. The card doesn't actually apply that much pressure, but becomes oppressive when it can gun something down. Even killing off a Staff of the Storyteller Spirit token or Snapcaster Mage can be enough. Most non-blue decks have some amount of targets: Goblin Welder, Dryad Arbor, Baleful Strix, and Ice-Fang Coatl are all creatures I expect to see falling to Bowmasters a lot over the next few weeks.

Delighted Halfling

This card was one of the first we saw from the set and it's pretty strong. The 5C Zenith decks in Legacy they seem like a natural home for this card. The deck already incidentally plays a lot of legendary permanents. Getting to ramp into these haymakers AND make them uncounterable is really strong. It means knowing your turn two Grist, the Hunger Tide or Leovold, Emmisary of Trest will resolve on turn two.

If we really want to up the ante though, on turn three you can fore through an A-Omnath, Locus of Creation or Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heros. Outside of Zenith, I could also see Halfling contributing to the foundation of a Legacy version of the Modern Yawgmoth, Thran Physician deck. And perhaps most promising is slotting it into the very fringe Planeswalker Stompy deck we see from time to time. It is worth noting, though: that deck normally plays Chalice of the Void, and I'm not sure which is better for the archetype or whether both cards can coexist in one shell.

Taking a Bow

Are there other cards you're excited for in Legacy? I'd love to hear about your ideas, so feel free to reach out on Twitter or in the Quiet Speculation discord. Next week, we'll cover Modern's adoption of Lord of the Rings. I have a lot of ideas I want to work on and I'm sure we'll see a bunch of neat stuff in the MTGO Challenges. Until then!

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Michael Mapson

Mapson is a constructed specialist and Level 2 judge. While he has a strong preference for Modern and Legacy, he is happy to play any form of Magic. He enjoys most decks, but can most often be found playing various land-based strategies such as Amulet Titan, Scapeshift or Naya Depths. His most notable finishes include a Modern Grand Prix Finals appearance, a team SCG Open top 4, and some 5k wins. You can also catch his thoughts each week on the Dark Depths Podcast where he and his cohost, Billy Mitchell, talk about Modern and Legacy.

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