What Makes Modern and Legacy Special?

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Call Me Mapson

My name is Michael but most people just use my last name, Mapson. Some of you may already know me as the guy who came in second at a 1300-person Modern Grand Prix with Amulet Titan. Some of you may know me for my Legacy success with various Curse of Marit Lage decks. Some of you may not know me at all. Perhaps most importantly though, I'm the guy who once drove three hours to go 0-6 in an event.

I've been playing Magic: the Gathering for about 17 years now, which is horrifying to think about. My friend Adam got me into the game so he would have somebody to play with other than his brothers. That summer I went to my summer camp and found out a lot of the boys in my unit played. That's where I got hooked.

In college, My campus was very near a game store. As I spent more time there my love of Magic only grew. During this time I switched from casual formats to competitive play. I started with Modern and later picked up other constructed formats and became a judge. Magic has become a huge part of my life and my biggest hobby. Like everyone else, I've certainly had my highs and lows with the game.

I’m really excited to join the Quiet Speculation crew. My focus here each week is going to be on Modern and Legacy. I might also drop an article or two about Standard or Pioneer before Regional Championships and Pro Tours. With that in mind, I’m going to talk a bit about what makes Modern and Legacy my favorite formats and what I would play this weekend.

What Makes Modern Great

Modern and Legacy are both fairly open formats. I love that they give people the ability to express themselves in their deck and card choices. It’s neat that people get to express themselves so much in this game. This sentiment is a large part of what makes Commander so popular, I just happen to prefer sixty-card formats.

I love that the top decks have fairly even matchups against one another. In a lot of matchups, it feels like your individual card choices and play decisions matter much more than your archetype. Even though every deck has bad matchups, you can often construct your deck to combat them. Modern rewards you for knowing the metagame and how to beat the hate. However, metagame prediction is challenging because the format is usually pretty open and diverse.

It feels like those two are opposing ideas, but in the end, it really just means you get rewarded for following the format. I really appreciate that Modern readers the fans rather than those who only play occasionally. The complaint I hear the most about Modern is the prevalence of Modern Horizons cards. Most commonly, people call out Akroma, Angel of Fury, City of Solitude, Urza's Saga, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and especially, Wrenn and Six.

The manner in which the cards entered the format doesn't matter to me personally. All that matters to me is their effect on the games. Are these cards too strong? Maybe, I don't really think so though. They're also great answers to many complaints people used to have about Modern. I agree that there are a lot of cards in common between the archetypes. However, the decks play out differently enough to be interesting. Jund Saga and 4c are both decks with Wrenn and Six, Fury, and sometimes Ragavan, but they don't feel at all similar. Consider how Wrenn and Six functions in Scapeshift and compare it to Temur Grinding Breach, 4c Omnath, or Creativity. The same card fills different roles in the deck and feels unique in all of them.

The last common complaint I hear is that games of Modern are too short. People say they aren’t able to make meaningful decisions. While you make fewer decisions than in formats such as Legacy or Commander, you are still making them. In many ways, your decisions actually matter more since the games are so compressed. Questions such as, should you play a turn-one Ragavan on the draw against an opponent's possible Wrenn and Six make for exciting points of tension. One wrong choice can end the game! I'll end with this, Modern is the most popular 60-card format for a reason.

What Makes Legacy Great

That’s enough about Modern. Time for Legacy. People say all the time that the format is dead but that's just not true. Yes, I understand that it is no longer very relevant to paper Premier Play and it hurts. Thankfully, Legacy is still contributing to online Premier Play. It made sense to remove it from paper due to the rising financial barrier. Online, prices are much more manageable, especially with rental services. Also, Magic is first and foremost a game. Many of us have Pro Tour aspirations, but Legacy doesn't need to get there to be a fun experience. 

Legacy is one of the most misunderstood formats in the game. People operate under the assumption you have to play blue to be successful and that's simply not true. It can certainly help, but players like John Ryan Hamilton, Newton Hwang, Julian Knab, and Albert Lindblom have made names for themselves among Legacy greats without casting Brainstorm.

Legacy games involve a lot of decisions. This really rewards you for having a good understanding of how games should play out. The decisions on a whole are less impactful than in a lot of other formats but you make many more of them over the course of a single game. You have a lot of agency over how the games play out because of the vast amount of card advantage and tutors in the format. It really feels like you have more opportunities to trap your opponent and craft these elaborate stories. There are definitely matchups that are lopsided such as Naya Depths vs Doomsday Combo, or Elves vs The Epic Storm, but they aren't the norm. It's possible to overcome a lot of bad matchups by understanding what the game is about better than your opponent.

What To Play This Weekend


I've got a Legacy 5k and 10k to win this weekend so I thought I'd share where my head is currently at. Legacy has been fairly open since the last round of bannings. The two biggest winners seem to be Tundra decks and Artifact decks.

The Boogeymen

I expect Painter and 8cast to be among the most popular decks this weekend. Especially in paper as 8cast is one of the cheapest competitive decks in the format. I would highly recommend showing up with artifact hate in your sideboard this weekend. Cards like Angel of Serenity, Aether Meltdown, Collector Ouphe, and Seeds of Innocence, all do wonders here but even cards such as Wear // Tear or Force of Vigor that aren’t exactly hammers can still be part of the plan.

As I mentioned, the Tundra decks are also looking really nice to me. Marcus Ewaldh aka iwouldliketorespond on Magic the Gathering: Online has been consistently putting up results with his UW Saga Deck, and Cephalid Breakfast also remains a strong choice.

At the end of the day it seems like maybe just having Urza's Saga in your deck is the best thing to be doing. If you don't want to play Saga I would also look at the 4c Zenith decks that have been tearing it up. Three copies in the top 8 of the Showcase Challenge is insane, not to mention Stefan Schutz aka MentalMisstep winning the Legacy Super Qualifier with it two weeks ago. The deck has the tools to out-grind the UW mages while also having some really hard-hitting bullets to tutor up vs artifacts, putting it in a great spot.

To be honest, I'm not sure what I'm playing, I will likely register Naya Depths. The matchup spread is similar to the Zenith decks and it is also just my favorite deck. I think Zenith is a better choice but my proficiency with Depths should make up the last few percentage points.

Naya Depths by Michael Mapson


In Modern, Creativity and Rhinos have been everywhere lately. Jeskai Fair Breach has also been putting up some impressive results. It's pretty hard to go wrong with any of those decks. Between the three I would go with Creativity or Breach. Having access to A-Teferi, Time Raveler and Spell Pierce seems really good right now. I would also look into playing Living End. Living End historically beats up on Rhinos and Creativity. If those are going to remain popular, it seems like a solid choice. I would make sure my Living End deck had copies of Subtlety to help combat the prominence of Teferi.


Anyway, I think it's time for me to go. Hopefully, you enjoyed this introductory article. Good luck if you're playing any Magic this weekend. I assume a lot of you will be at Prereleases so I hope you pull some sweet The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth cards. Maybe you'll even open A-The One Ring. I'll see you next week to discuss how my events went and the impact Tales of Middle-earth is having on our two favorite formats.

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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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Posted in Free, Legacy, Metagame, Modern, Opinion, StrategyTagged , , , , , , , , ,

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