During most spoiler seasons leading up to the release of a new set, there is precious little to be excited about for your average Legacy enthusiast. For every Delver of Secrets threatening to change the shape of Legacy to come, there are a hundred mediocre draft commons, doomed to sit in dollar bins and four thousand count boxes for the remainder of their tenure, hoping that maybe some preparing mage will use them to proxy another, better card. Once in a while though, a set does have enough spicy numbers to get the mouth watering and the brewer juices flowing. Since the first few rounds of Origins were spoiled, it's felt like more the latter than the former. Time will tell whether many of these cards shake out as being the power level Legacy requires – but good or great, these cards have me itching to try new things, and that's a huge step in the right direction.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy – Looters haven't seen much love from Legacy, due in no small part to the fact that you have to untap with them to get their effect. In a world of one-mana removal, most of the payoffs for draw one, discard one aren't there. This is the first time I've really thought that may not be the case. Getting five cards in your graveyard has been demonstrably trivial for Blue decks in Legacy, and flipping a Planeswalker for a mere two mana is a very impressive rate. The issue of course will be protecting Jace for the turn required to get him online. Once you do though, he becomes a reasonable card advantage machine, and a win condition as well. His plus ability is nothing particularly impressive, it does protect him to some degree but it isn't very hard to go over the top of it. Paired with a high starting loyalty it goes much further to keep him on board and racing to multiple minus activations. And the -3 is where Jace shines.
Liliana, Heretical Healer – Another three mana Liliana, kind of. There are enough sacrifice outlets in Legacy to make flipping Lili a non-issue, even on the turn she enters play. The fact that she brings her zombie brother along with her when she flips means you get both protection for her and to maintain a threat on the board, which makes her the strongest of the walkers in my view. With either a Carrion Feeder type outlet or simply a Cabal Therapy in the yard to flash back, Liliana should essentially be a three-mana Planeswalker in Legacy. Once we arrive at that point, Liliana goes to work. Her +2 ability is the same as Liliana of the Veil's +1, and we have seen that used to great success in a few different Legacy shells. Her –X ability is not quite as powerful as her Veil-wearing alter ego, but it is strong in its own right, especially after a few uses of the +2. Perhaps as a three-drop Reanimate she seems weak, but even getting back a Tarmogoyf you just pitched is a heavy swing in your favor. I don't envision many opportunities to hit her ultimate, but the first two abilities combined with the ease of flipping her seem to be enough to get her slotted into a few places in Legacy.
This list is based loosely on a BW Humans list from Sam Black, circa 2013. You have a very reasonable chance of flipping Liliana on turn three here and will likely have protection for her if you don't get the auto-flip. It also features Dark Confidant and the Death and Taxes package of Mother of Runes / Stoneforge Mystic / Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to help apply pressure from a white weenie shell.
Starfield of Nyx – There are a few different ways to abuse an effect like this one in Legacy, though none of them are currently playable. Both Enduring Ideal and Enchantress have seen Legacy play, and Enchantress occasionally convinces someone it has the proper tools to be a good enough deck to play. Starfield is interesting in Enchantress because it serves a similar role to Replenish, while being tutorable via Sterling Grove and also being a win condition itself. Very few lists I've seen have run Opalescence, but plenty of lists I've seen have had trouble winning the game, so there may be some room for Starfield in that kind of list. I don't think Starfield gives Enchantress the boost it needs to become competitive, but it does enough to make me think some players pre-disposed to playing Enchantress will pick the deck up again.
Day's Undoing – This card probably has the highest ceiling for potential out of any card in the set, but it seems to me that the hoops you need to go through to take real advantage of it are problematic. In a deck like High Tide, it competes with Time Spiral – a spell that, though twice the price on the front end, has the potential to generate a significant amount of mana on the back end. And also doesn't end the turn. Or, you could try to slot the spell into an instant-speed version of High Tide, perhaps paired with Quicken to maintain the ability to win on the opponent's turn – but then you're forcing yourself to find two specific cards to pair together in a deck where redundancy is its greatest strength. The nice thing about this despite that hurdle is that Quicken doesn't say "the next spell," it says the next Sorcery – so if you had to, you could use a Quicken early in a combo turn to dig deeper into your library, and when you eventually do draw a Day's Undoing later on in the turn you could still utilize the Quicken. The downside is you're still playing a deck that isn't particularly good, and a spell that isn't appreciably better than something like Meditate. On the other side of the combo scale, putting this card into Storm has similar issues. It's a terrible card mid-combo as it resets your mana and Storm count. It's imperfect as a reload spell because it also reloads the opponent. Some players using Wish boards had been using Diminishing Returns to fill a similar role, but even that has largely waned in popularity. Overall this spell seems interesting, but keep in mind that a no-drawback Timetwister is largely unplayed in Vintage – because the drawback is the spell just isn't particularly good.
Demonic Pact – Perhaps the spell that's gotten people brewing more than any other, Demonic Pact screams "Break Me!" and then quietly sits in the corner mumbling, "or I'll kill you..." Legacy has a number of ways to interact with Demonic Pact that other formats lack – most notably Donate, the only sure-fire way to give your opponent the worst end of a deal (or Pact, in this case). After using up all the good parts of the Pact, you use your last turn with it to Donate it to the opponent, who gets no choice but to pick losing the game (the Enchantment remembers the choices when it changes controllers). Of course, that's the dream scenario, and the opponent has three turns to try and wriggle out of that situation. Here's a first pass at a Demonic Pact decklist:
This strategy needs to have some significant work done on it to vet it out, and I plan to do a lot of that. I think we've been missing a deck like this for some time in Legacy, and the strategy is inherently very powerful. The exact combination of protection and acceleration will need to be tweaked, and whether the deck would be capable of surviving the three turns it requires to set off the victory condition will be the real litmus test for it. Finding a way to play control in a combo deck will be the key to making a Pact/Donate deck work.
Dark Petition – I've talked to some combo players I trust, and though this card seems to have Dark Ritual stapled on a Demonic Tutor, it isn't quite as realistic as either of those cards. Storm Combo has better things to do with five mana (Ad Nauseam, for example), and control decks don't have the kind of bombs you're looking for on the back end of that tutor. Where it may see some play is in Doomsday, since the spell finds and also gives the appropriate mana for Doomsday in one little package. Of course, Doomsday has a swath of problems of its own, not the least of which is that it's inherently a worse and more vulnerable Storm deck, so the fact that it can play eight Doomsdays is not necessarily the biggest deal in the world. However, reliably finding and casting the signature spell is in fact a key component of a deck like this one, and since we can't play Mystical Tutor anymore this may be the next best way to find the one-card combo.
Hallowed Moonlight – Some people will be tempted to play this card in their sideboard as a way to interact with decks like Show and Tell or Sneak and Show, or even Dredge. They probably shouldn't. Super narrow spells like Hallowed Moonlight are tempting because they seem to be "free," given they provide a unique effect at little cost and cantrip, so you don't even go down a card by playing it. However, this effect is still costly. It costs you however many slots it takes up in your sideboard, and Legacy is a format where sideboard slots come at a premium. The wide variety of decks you would see in a given event means it is difficult to prepare for everything, and there would need to be a very large percentage of players who end up cold to Hallowed Moonlight before it would be more beneficial to you than playing something broader in application. It is a very tempting prospect, and perhaps in Modern (where it hits Collected Company and acts as Fog against Twin) it hits enough of the field to be reasonable, but I think you can do better in Legacy.
Despoiler of Souls – Speaking of Dredge, this guy wants to play with the Ichorids pretty hard. I don't know that he will. In fact, given the state of Dredge today, I don't think the number of creatures capable of being played from the yard is the constraining factor. I see this creature in a more Aristocrats-style build, where you bring it in and out of play a number of times for value, rather than trying to combo someone out via reanimated Horrors. There are steep requirements on returning this, both in mana terms as well as the number of creatures your deck must contain to reliably turn it on, so I think you really need to build with the card in mind, rather than slot it into an existing deck. It's still a powerful threat with strong resiliency, and the fact that you can put it on the board at any time (rather than only during upkeep, the way many of this type of creature works) makes it quite flexible.
Harbinger of the Tides – I sincerely doubt many people will ever cast this for 2UU in Legacy, however I do imagine it will be put into play via AEther Vial quite a bit. Legacy Merfolk is not at a loss for two-mana Merfolk, having more than its fair share of Lords at that cost. However, meaningful interaction with the board outside the combat step is something the deck does lack. In a tempo-oriented shell, I see no reason you wouldn't want access to this type of card. Bouncing a Tarmogoyf is certainly great, and quite a swing, but that's on the low side of the power curve. This creature bounces basically anything, giving you an out to an attacking Griselbrand, Emrakul, or any number of other insane threats your opponent can bring to bear. It can set a Grim Lavamancer back a turn, allowing you to get some Lords on the board to invalidate the hate. I see a lot of potential in this creature, well beyond the racing applications. I think we are guaranteed to see this creature in Merfolk, and the question will just be whether or not we'll see much Merfolk. My guess is that we will see some amount of the deck begin to show up at events again thanks to players testing out Harbinger.
Vryn Wingmare – this is the third creature with this effect, and one of them sees significant play (Glowrider lacks flying but otherwise has the same text). There is some hope that the evasion on Wingmare will put it in the realm of playable, but there is a serious difference between two mana and three mana, and Thalia is only seeing play in one deck. I don't believe that Death and Taxes has all that much room for another three mana hate bear, flying or no. There are a multitude of options for this kind of creature and I don't see doubling up on the Thorn effects as beneficial. Having to pay 1U for a Brainstorm is typically enough to disrupt the heck out of Delver opponents on its own, an extra mana beyond that is probably diminishing in impact. I do like this card, I think it's actually better than Thalia in terms of impact when in play, but the extra mana will probably be just too great a barrier. (Ironic, isn't it?)
Psychic Rebuttal – People have been discussing this in relation to its impact versus Burn, but I don't see it as the anti-burn card. Realistically, Burn will be far more capable of dealing with the three to four damage you would do with this spell than you would be. Where I think this card has much more application is against decks like Shardless Sultai that bring in Hymn to Tourach against blue opponents. Much like Divert, I see this as a situational Counterspell that has blowout potential against hand disruption. I would still board it in against Burn.
Dwynen's Elite – This has a small chance to make it to some amount of Legacy play, based solely on the fact that turn one Heritage Druid, turn two Dwynen's Elite begins the chain for Glimpse shenanigans. Getting to three creatures for Heritage Druid with an extra card in your hand could very well be enough to make the card see play.
Shaman of the Pack – Fireball for Elves is great. This gal is a fantastic addition to the elvish arsenal, but this is a format where Natural Order is finding Craterhoof Behemoth and winning when there are three elves in play. I don't know if finding a Shaman with 19 other elves, or a pair of Shamans with eight other elves, will be anywhere near as easy a win condition. On the surface, this looks like a way to streamline the deck, perhaps negating the need for Natural Order altogether. Craterhoof and Natural Order can both be extremely bad draws, and do nothing to recover from a Pyroclasm or the like. Shaman is a much better card on her own, and has a lot more synergy with the rest of the deck when you aren't just winning on the spot. It will be a very interesting debate to see which of the two – raw power or synergy – is more important. My guess is that once again we'll see power win out, but I would be very happy to be proven wrong.
Overall I'm putting my money on just a few cards seeing real play in Legacy – Liliana, Harbinger of the Tides and Shaman of the Pack will certainly be seen, and a few others may see fringe play in tier two decks. I'll be putting some work into making Demonic Pact a real card; I think there's a lot of potential there. Whether more spells from Origins end up making waves in Legacy or not, the highlight of the set was simply the creative energy the cards have inspired in me. There are so many interesting cards in this set, well beyond anything we've seen in a core set up to now, and it seems a fitting way to put the cap on the concept of the core set for Wizards.
What do you think? Are there any sleeping giants waiting to burst on the Legacy scene? Are you brewing with any of the new cards? What inspirations from Origins do you have to share? Let us know in the comment section!