The arrival of spring has reinvigorated Legacy, which will reach its peak at MagicFest Niagara Falls in three weeks. For the past two weekends Legacy was featured on the SCG Tour, and Sunday was Magic Online's Legacy Playoff for the Magic Online Championship Series. There's just a lot of Legacy being played, which is great for the format, and great for anyone who likes new decklists. High-profile and high-stakes events increase the competition and the payoff for separating oneself from it through innovation, and it's obvious from the wealth of new ideas and decks emerging that players are working hard at breaking the format in their own ways.
With its Modern ascension complete, Arclight Phoenix is now flying higher toward Legacy. The card has moved from a rogue entrant into a legitimate strategy with some notable finishes, but it's still existing on the fringes of the metagame—no one has seemed to quite crack the code and "break it." A Buried Alive version in a Storm-like shell has been the front-runner so far, but a new innovation to the deck could bring it to the next level.
This version of the deck embraces the Storm plan by adding an actual Storm win condition in Tendrils of Agony. It's supported by the typical Infernal Tutor and Lion's Eye Diamond package, along with a Past in Flames. The cost is removing the creature package of the original builds, cards like Dark Confidant and Young Pyromancer, or bigger threats like Tombstalker and Gurmag Angler, but this list shows that the deck does have the option of sideboarding them.
The typical Grixis Phoenix deck hasn't seemed to break through, and while some more tuning there might push it over the top, there's something to be said for a more radical approach. The Storm plan gives the deck a much higher overall power level, but does come at the expense of being more vulnerable to disruption that might otherwise be skirted with creatures.
A very familiar-looking approach to Arclight Phoenix in Legacy is this decklist that directly ports the Modern Izzet version.
Izzet Phoenix has been so good in Modern that it almost begs to be ported to Legacy, and this deck is the first I've seen that does so faithfully. My concern with moving a Modern strategy to Legacy would be that it's not powerful enough, but this build eases those concerns by upgrading itself into an even more powerful deck. Most important to me is that the deck supports a full set of Force of Will, which I believe to be the best card in Legacy, and certainly essential for a deck like this, which fills a similar niche as Delver decks. Force of Will won't often be cast in the main phase to help toward Arclight Phoenix, but I do see the free spell working quite nicely with Thing in the Ice—which as a blue spell can also be pitched to Force of Will! A smart inclusion is Pyrokinesis, which does have great synergy with Arclight Phoenix as another free spell. It's also sure to be a surprise game-ending blowout when it finds good targets, at least it was the last time I played it in Legacy, in Goblins in 2007…
The card that might push the strategy over the edge is Land Grant, a very useful free spell, and one that this deck can actually help set up with Brainstorm and Faithless Looting getting rid of lands. Of course the deck isn't green, so it does require some otherwise unneeded green dual lands, but it doesn't seem to be an issue—the deck is still able to include a few basic lands and a set of Volcanic Island.
The strategy receives another nice power boost in Intuition, which can find three Arclight Phoenix like Buried Alive, with the downside of one ending up in hand. The upside is it can be used as a tutor, maybe for Thing in the Ice when the opponent has graveyard hosers, or for a game-winning Daze or Force of Will.
A couple Pteramander provides another alternate win condition, and looks to be able to adapt very early here. Young Pyromancer does seem amazing here, but it has poor synergy with Thing in the Ice, so it might be best in the sideboard or in a build without it.
A cool piece of technology in the sideboard is a set of Accumulated Knowledge. It's a reasonable card in grindy control matchups, where Thought Scour and the looting can help get extra value from it, but it's at its best when found with Intuition.
Another Modern strategy that has broken into Legacy is Five-Color Humans, which theoretically would gain access to a large cast of all the best Humans in Magic's history. The reality is that most of the great Humans were printed within Modern, so going back farther doesn't open up a wealth of new cards like one might expect, but those it does receive are huge additions.
Mother of Runes is conveniently a Human, and a proven Legacy staple for protecting creature decks like this. The Human Imperial Recruiter is a valuable addition that outshines Militia Bugler because it opens up a toolbox of some powerful silver-bullet humans: Sanctum Prelate and Orzhov Pontiff.
Moving to Legacy also gives the deck Wasteland, which is a great addition to the general disruptive plan of the deck. By taking a page from the toolbox of Death and Taxes, Modern's most successful Aether Vial deck, Humans has found a way to compete in the metagame. It's still on the outside looking in, but given the recent huge success of D&T decks makes me think there might be room for a deck like Humans to rise.
I'm a sucker for combos in decks that can play fair—or from another perspective, fair decks that can play dirty. My interest was immediately piqued when I came across this deck, which mashes a reanimator strategy into what's otherwise a pretty normal-looking Four-Color Control deck.
The basic combo here is Animate Dead plus Worldgorger Dragon, which creates an infinite loop of blinking all your permanents (note that it can be stopped by deciding to put Animate Dead on another creature). Lands can be re-used to generate infinite mana, which converts into a lethal Stroke of Genius. Actually finding Stroke of Genius is an issue, so I think the actual main plan is to get Griselbrand, which supports the control strategy with card advantage. It will often be good enough to win on its own, but when necessary it can dig into Stroke of Genius and the pieces to set up the Worldgorger Dragon combo to finish the game.
This particular list improved on an earlier version by replacing the maindeck Stroke of Genius with Cunning Wish, which with infinite mana doesn't matter when killing. The upside is the deck will never draw Stroke of Genius, and in theory would rather draw Cunning Wish and have the option of tutoring for a more versatile spell. When the deck already wants to sideboard instant spells this makes a ton of sense, so it's a great innovation.
The deck does have a few ways to win the game without reanimating, but the deck goes deeper in the sideboard by giving itself the option to remove the reanimator plan entirely. True-Name Nemesis gives the deck more real threats to play with, which along with some additional disruption allow the deck to shift into a bonafide Four-Color Control deck. The deck might seem a bit gimmicky, but it's on the rise, and with some tuning could become a real contender—on their own both Four-Color Control and Black-Red Reanimator are already top-tier Legacy decks so it doesn't feel like the deck is giving anything up in terms of card quality.
Recently when playing Legacy online I ran into a deck I had never seen before, a Red Eldrazi deck with Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows. It's a good addition since Grove of the Burnwillows makes colorless mana for Eldrazi, and recurring Punishing Fire is a proven Modern strategy great in many matchups. It turns out the deck is pretty good, because in the days since it has earned at least a trophy finish, maybe at least three in total based on its pilot's count.
The deck is similar to the Red Moon Prison deck, but adds Eldrazi for a more robust creature element. Blood Moon is replaced by Blood Sun, which doesn't shut off the deck's ability to cast Eldrazi but still shuts down many of the lands in the format, including fetchlands. This deck is still a new quantity and still in development, but its results show it has promise.
One of the wildest Legacy decks I have seen in a long time is this Storm deck built around abusing Battlebond's Bonus Round, a card I've never seen in action but is clearly immensely powerful when combined with rituals.
Reforge the Soul is a huge play with Bonus Round, refilling the hand and allowing for rituals to be cast before discarding and drawing another new hand—which is almost assuredly a win. Burning Wish fills in to provide win conditions and some utility. It will also be copied by Bonus Round, so putting a Rite of Flame in the sideboard is a nice piece of tech that helps to rebate its mana cost when looking for whatever else. Fiery Confluence impresses whenever I see it, whether it's in Legacy, Vintage Cube, or 100-Card Singleton, so I'm sure it's a blowout tutor target here, best for destroying hosers like Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere and creatures like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Still, the highlight of the sideboard to me is Hazoret's Undying Fury, which is like a miniature Mind's Desire and a likely win if it hits Reforge the Soul.
Fond memories of Sapphire Medallion lead me to believe that Ruby Medallion is incredible here because of the discount it provides, which should make mana a trivial issue when going off. It's hard to believe the deck is truly better than traditional Storm, but there is something to be said about the power of draw-seven effects like Reforge the Soul. The deck's Saving Grace is the blue splash, which provides Brainstorm and Ponder for some real card selection. Flusterstorm in the sideboard seems like an essential inclusion given that unlike traditional Storm the deck lacks discard to disrupt opponents.
A much milder yet demonstrably effective innovation on a top-tier deck is Sultai Depths, which splashes blue into the Golgari Depths deck.
I've had immense love for Dark Depths ever since I won a Grand Prix with the card, but it was banned afterward and I never had a real chance to play with it again. Playing Legacy without Brainstorm while it's legal just isn't something I am interested in doing. This version eliminates those concerns by splashing into blue for Brainstorm...and somewhat comically, nearly nothing else. Stifle is a great addition that supports Pithing Needle against Wasteland, while sideboard Flusterstorm helps fight back against disruption and hoses Storm. The reality is that Brainstorm is so good, especially in a combo deck, that it's worth splashing for. Mox Diamond making blue mana makes it more palatable, but the mana looks solid.
This isn't just a deck that 5-0'd a league, but Top 8'd last weekend's Legacy Format Playoff, composed of just top MTG Online Legacy grinders. In my eyes that's about as competitive as it gets for Legacy, and this deck got there in style. It's a deck I'll have to explore more myself, as it might finally give me the opportunity to shuffle up Dark Depths again.