Legacy Trial V – metagame breakdown
Exactly half a year after Polish Legacy Championship and one month before European Legacy Masters, we’ve gathered up once more in the middle of Poland to play some Legacy at the highest level. With 63 of 64 seats sold out (and only three “sick leave” no-shows in round 1) our Legacy Trial V was launched, with excellent vibes, livestream, English commentary, vendors, artists and – most importantly – players from all over the country, fighting for their invitation to ELM finals in Bologna. 6 rounds of Swiss were to decide, who will reach the Top 8 and which of the 26 different decks will prove itself to be the best choice for 10+ hours of competitive Magic.
Just as in metagame breakdowns for Polish Legacy Championship and previous four Legacy Trials, I divided deck archetypes into several categories for the sake of clarity and data display. Classic distinction was made between combo / aggro / control. Another, even more general, divides fair / unfair strategies.
No different from 6 months ago, such categories are no longer accurate in describing true contents and various, non-linear strategies of decks like Painter, GW Depths or MonoB Helm, yet we have to start somewhere. However, unlike in my previous breakdowns, this time I’m separating UR Delver from other categories, firstly – due to its overwhelming (20%) presence in tournament’s metagame. Secondly, in accordance with (not only) my opinion, that it no longer belongs to “aggro” nor to “fair” bracket, which I’ll try to prove – or disprove – later, in the context of presented data.
Still, with deeper analysis left for specific decklists, lets agree for now, that whatever wins primarily by hitting the opponent with (relatively) small and cheap creatures over the course of several turns is an aggro deck, just as anything ending the game deterministically in one swing, with combination of two or three, separately unassuming cards, is a combo, while abundance of removal, counterspells and late-game win-conditions presents itself as control.
Enough talk – as Conan would say. Here are the numbers for all archetypes registered by 60 players:
With Delver excluded from “aggro” piece of the pie, combo decks seem very dominant at the first glance, however that’s definitely false impression. The proportions between three main archetypes are practically unwavering since Polish Legacy Championship (26x combo, 28x aggro including 9 Delvers, 8x control in May) and fair / unfair strategies are more evenly matched than ever before. Furthermore, there is some fluidity between the groups (ex.: GW Depths, with equally strong combo and aggro components) which serves the healthy balance of the metagame even better.
Incredible versatility of the metagame, unparalleled for any paper Legacy event in Polish history, is truly a thing of wonder. Despite (or maybe in spite) of predictable and factual overabundance of Insectile Aberrations flying around, our competitors didn’t hesitate to sleeve-up experimental, pet or simply less popular decks before exchanging blows with the very best one. We are proud to add, that allowing players to use up to 30 proxies helped once more in improving attendance and encouraging unique strategies, without any paywalls.
As always, important questions is: were any colours of this magnificent rainbow of creativity and competitiveness brighter than the rest? Unlike at PLC, where Top 16 structure required 12 points to enter the play-offs, this time tie breakers before Top8 could have been ruthless even to those with 13 points. Did any strategy pay out better over the course of 6 rounds of Swiss, “guaranteeing” at least 4 wins per its pilot?
Apparently not. Just as 6 months ago, the best weapon of choice on average came to 3 wins per its wielder. Surprisingly enough, one of the “worst” scoring decks placed the most of its enthusiasts in the Top 8, but we’ll get back to that later. Noticeably, out of 9 most popular decks only 3 pushed their representatives through the Swiss, proving once more, that quantity doesn’t equal quality… or did it in the end?
Let’s find out right away and see who – and what – performed at the highest level.
CYPRIAN GAWRON (MONO B HELM)
Swiss: 0-2 vs 12 Post / 2-0 vs Naya Depths / 2-1 vs D&T / 2-0 vs HammerTime / 2-1 vs UR Delver / ID
Top 8: 1-2 vs UR Delver
After securing his online-invitation to ELM with astonishing 20 MtGO Trophies in remarkable race against Tomasz Jabłoński for the title of the best Polish online player, Cyprian opted for some reality-check before Bologna. His carefully constructed combo-prison can attack from various angles, accelerating into strong hate-piece or a win-con t1, while also being able to drag the tempo down with discard and hard-lock. Accidental free-wins vs Reanimator or significant edges gained against other grave-reliant strategies are also at hand, even without Helm of Obedience. The one thing the deck surely lacks is removal for threats which slipped through the net of hate and probably that mattered in the last game versus eventual triumphator of our tournament.
MATEO QUEVEDO MONTES (12 POST)
Swiss: 2-0 vs MonoB Helm / 2-0 vs BG Depths / 1-2 vs UR Delver / 2-1 vs UR Delver / 2-0 vs Pox / ID
Top 8: 1-2 vs MonoR Prison
The choice for the deck in case of Mateo didn’t come after its latest results in MtGO Challenges, as our dear Spanish friend was always “nearly there” with 12 Post during our previous events. Even though he reached Top 16 at “Impact Returns” in Spain at the end of July with Death&Taxes, he returned to throwing Emrakul into opponent’s face. Very straightforward 75 with some personal adjustments (no Kozilek, 2 Walking Ballista, 4 Endurance in the main opening space for Dismembers in the sideboard) carried Mateo through Swiss (with just a single single loss to the best player of the day) into Top 8, where he had to face arguably worst possible matchup. Even though he was disappointed after letting his chance slip through (with opponent looking for start with Blood Moon in the depths of mull to 4), he can be satisfied with the best result in our events so far.
ARTUR BOGUSIAK (DEATH & TAXES)
Swiss: 2-0 vs BG Depths / 1-1-1 vs UB Shadow / 2-0 vs UR Delver / 2-1 vs RG Lands / 2-1 vs KarnEcho / ID
Top 8: 1-2 vs KarnEcho
After splitting with Tomasz Jabłoński and his KarnEcho in the finals of Legacy Hajs Stejk #2 in Katowice at the end of July, this time Artur managed to defeat dreadful “JabolPorn” for his win-and-in. Storming through the Swiss without a single loss and leaving pile of very different bodies behind, Artur proved once again, that he is the best D&T player in the country. Ironically enough, the deck that stopped him in the play-offs was again the vicious spawn of “Jabol”, this time with Filip Kwiatkowski behind the steering wheel (you can find the match in the record of our livestream).
MARCIN NOWAKOWSKI (UR DELVER)
Swiss: 2-1 vs UR Delver / 2-0 vs BG Depths / 2-1 vs Painter / 1-2 vs UR Delver / 2-0 vs Painter / 2-1 vs KarnEcho
Top 8: 1-2 vs Infect
During entire tournament, Marcin had to deal with not only difficult matchups and strong opponents, but also with unrelenting stomach ache. Despite his severe handicap and long break from playing Legacy, Marcin conceded just a single game in each of matches against two eventual finalists, ending Swiss at the 1st place. With this level of skill and some better health, there could be no doubt about his potential of reaching even higher at our future events. In his Top duel against Sylwester Strużyna, he endured extremely intensive exchanges of resources, however in the final game his deck refused to find an answer to opponent’s Pendelhaven.
MIKOŁAJ BOŁTUĆ (MONO R PRISON)
Swiss: 2-0 vs 4c Control / 2-0 vs Doomsday / 2-0 vs NicFit / 2-0 vs Painter / ID / ID
Top 8: 2-1 vs 12 Post
Top 4: 1-2 vs UR Delver
Without conceding even one game during Swiss against insanely diverse strategies, Mikołaj proved not only his prowess with the deck, but also Prison’s (somehow unexpected) versatility. Slow control, superfast combo, aggro-toolbox, combo-prison, unfair midrange – all of these were crushed by careful application of proper tools, shifting between locking opponents out with hate and trampling them with snowballing creatures (if you don’t know Laelia, the Blade Reforged yet – go check it now). Only incredible set of draws (which you simply must see on our stream) from UR and Paweł Szostek in the semi-finals withheld Mikołaj from reaching Top 2.
FILIP KWIATKOWSKI (KARN ECHO)
Swiss: 2-1 vs Painter / 2-1 vs Oops! All Spells / 2-0 vs Infect / ID / 2-1vs BG Depths / ID
Top 8: 2-1 vs D&T
Top 4: 1-2 vs Infect
One of our wonderful judges during Polish Legacy Championship decided to change his shirt and to terrorise players from another angle. After falling in love with the deck invented by Tomasz Jabłoński, it was only reasonable to take ID with him in 4th round of Swiss, which in other rounds went perfectly for Filip. Even though he faced combo decks exclusively, his own killing machine (and his abilities) displayed perfect combination of explosiveness, control and lockpieces. Missing the finals by an inch in a rematch vs Sylwester Strużyna is nothing to be ashamed of, so Filip definitely has good reasons to be proud of his performance.
SYLWESTER STRUŻYNA (INFECT)
Swiss: Bye / 2-0 vs UR Delver / 0-2 vs KarnEcho / 2-0 vs MonoB Helm / 2-0 vs Jeskai Control / ID
Top 8: 2-1 vs UR Delver
Top 4: 2-1 vs KarnEcho
Top 2: 1-2 vs UR Delver
The day before Legacy Trial V, “Sylwek” grabbed his 1st round Bye at our FNM, wining 4 rounds of Swiss + Top 8, finishing close to midnight. His prodigious skill in operating the deck isn’t just about poisoning opponents, which he proved time and time again, often trampling them with 0/1. Carefully manoeuvring around point and mass removal with Pendelhaven, Sylwester overpowered Marcin Nowakowski in Top 8 after very long duel, only to run straight into another one in Top 4. There his revenge, after loosing to Filip Kwiatkowski in 3rd round, was served cold, in decisive swing from Walking Ballista, supported by Karn and Liquimetal Coating versus empty board (you can watch “Sylwek” using Berserk to his advantage on our stream). Top performance indeed, made across all variety of matchups during two days of play, resulting in close match against the best deck and the best player in the finals.
PAWEŁ SZOSTEK (UR DELVER)
Swiss: 2-0 vs Goblin Food Chain / 2-1 vs UR Delver / 2-1 vs 12 Post / 2-1 vs UR Delver / ID / ID
Top 8: 2-1 vs MonoB Helm
Top 4: 2-1 vs MonoR Prison
Top 2: 2-1 vs Infect
The road that Paweł had to travel down to his eventual triumph was not an easy one. The only UR player to win both his mirror-matches, defeating two future Top8ers and the unfortunate 9th place in Swiss, Paweł had to fight tooth and nail for his points all the way to the finals. Even mulligan to 4 in decisive game of the semi-finals against Mikołaj Bołtuć did not stop him in his tracks, in ultimate display of Delver’s devastating power and consistency. Yet, as you will see in next paragraphs, where we are scrutinising “best deck’s” results at Legacy Trial V, Paweł was not at all destined to reach so far that day only due to deck choice. The ultimate struggle against Sylwester Strużyna was a contest of thoughtful decisions, timely mana denial and patient application of removal, especially after losing first game. Watch the finals yourself, and you will be just as sure as we are, that Paweł is a threat to be aware of at European Legacy Masters in December. Congratulations!
Personally, I’m beyond myself with joy and pride to see so much diversity in the meta and in final 8. With attendance as strong as before and several new faces replacing those unexpectedly absent, Polish Legacy, supported by already established cooperation with European Legacy Masters, is blooming with dedication, passion, ideas and fun. Needles to say, the “fun” part in a particular event is always relative, so people like Michał Szczawiński (9th place after Swiss, with his Goblin Chain conceding only to Paweł Szostek) or a Doomsday player paired only against matchups like UB Shadow, Reanimator and two UR Delvers can have a different perception of fun. Luckily, Delvers didn’t overshadow the event, even though – for whatever reason – there was not a single copy of Leyline Binding registered in any decklist…
Once again I find myself in need of pointing out the most noticeable absences. It’s been more than a year since we’ve had a chance to see any Show&Tell player in real life and nothing seems to be changing for the better in that regard. Apparently, the supersonic tempo of UR, followed by other, fast and proactive combos in the meta (Doomsday, Reanimator, KarnEcho) is still enough to discourage players from sleeving up their Sneak Attacks, even if others have the audacity to compete with Hammers, Burn or Slivers and to enjoy themselves. On the other end of the spectrum we were surprised by absence of 8 Cast, which underperformed at PLC, but still seems like a strong option, with Chalices, card advantage and various angles of attack. If we can be pleased about anything in this section, it’s the previously enforced lack of stickers, space-dogs, clown cars and other „attractions”, which not a single participant missed and neither did we.
Obviously enough, there is only one dragon-elephant in the room. As often as you could have heard the phrase “paper and MtGO Legacy are totally different environments”, 20% of delver players among 60 competitors in our Trial is quite exact representation of online metagame.
Even though there is some variety between Delver lists, they were hardly critical to the final scores. Land count varies between 18 and 19, including single Mystic Sanctuary in half of the 75s, while amount of basics ranges from 1 to 3, with obligatory Island in each of them. All numbers of Mishra’s Baubles were registered and only one deck did not include titular Delver, once more replacing it (by the hand of Krzysztof Mazurek) with Snapcaster Mages. Not a single UR player included Ledger Shredder in his strategy, however other Modern-reminder: Steam Vents, appeared in six singletons. The most “daring” differentiations from stock 75 were several Predicts and traditionally wild “Musiał Stompy” version with Sprite Drakes, Stiffles and oldie-but-goldy True-Name Nemesis. However attuning own deck to one’s personal preference can create small edges in mirrors-matches, general homogeneity of all Delvers makes aforementioned differences insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Delver is (sic!) unquestionably the best deck of the format, absolute Tier 1 from top to the bottom and to despair of all non-UR competitors.
Yet… Is it already Tier 0?
Tempting as it is to shout out loud, that UR can do no wrong, especially considering that it won entire tournament, it would be rather far away from the truth.
Firstly, we need to address the mirror-matches played by Delver pilots – in 63 matches of Swiss played by all of them in total, they had to face one another 15 times (nearly 25%), with half of the Murktide lovers duelling their “twins” twice and only 3 of those 12 hadn’t had to look in the mirror at all during entire event. Excluding the obvious, yet very punishing variance related to playing the best and most popular deck in the format, we can look closer at Delver’s results against all other matchups. During Swiss, the Legacy bogeyman reached winrate of 41% (20 out of 48 non-mirror matches won) versus other strategies. Far from thrilling, especially combined with approximately 7 points won by each Delver deck during 6 rounds of the tournament (5 points vs non-mirrors). As we’ve already analysed, all blue-red 75s were quite similar, so what was the key factor to, quite laughable, performance of the best deck in the format?
Let’s start with the most obvious suggestion – lack of skill or experience. Among dedicated experts playing the deck exclusively for many, many years in its more or less expressive iterations (Konstancja Strużyna, Michał Musiał, Łukasz Bocian), we’ve also had Top8ers of several previous tournaments we’ve made (Krzysztof Mazurek) and even MtGO Legacy Challenges (Bartosz Kryda). Even if being better at playing the best deck was important for the only two UR finalists, only one of the other 10 Daze-mages missed his win-and-in due to lost mirror-match, finishing 4-2.
Where extremely bad matchups to blame then? Beyond fratricidal struggles, Delver players in total played against 27 combo (winning 13 / loosing 14), 13 aggro (+6 / -7) and 8 control (+0 / =1 / -7). Not that much of a hostile meta (especially with only 2 dedicated Delver-killers in form of Naya Depths and not a single strategy exceeding 4 representatives). Of course, keep in mind that our categorisation of the archetypes isn’t beyond questioning (with MonoB Helm counted as combo and MonoR as aggro, while both are assembled around prison shell), yet 0 % winrate vs control decks cannot be overlooked.
Especially deadly to Legacy Tier 1 were Jeskai builds, despite their significant differences (main deck Mentors in one, classic Stoneblade shell in second, Shark Typhoons in third etc.). UWx players mutilated Delvers with 100% winrate, thanks to abundance of the best removal and utilisation of the same tools that make UR so horribly potent. One could argue, that results of our Trial are too incidental to draw any valuable conclusions. If Jeskai is really that strong versus Delver, why does it have only 1,6% of the online metagame? Well, suffice to say, our control mages (6,6% of tournament’s metagame) ended their match in a draw 6 times. The toll on the MtGO timer isn’t smaller, which usually is the key to minuscule popularity of the deck in online events. One could still argue, that our sample is too small to be representative for anything. Well, let me point out, that MTG Goldfish data shows 6 pilots operating the deck over the last 30 days, while we’ve registered 8 for our Trial.
Some of the older players probably remember ancient times, where Wizards were still about Magic and Magic, in the most obscene simplification possible, was about paper / rock / scissors interaction – combo beats aggro, aggro beats control, control beats combo. As different as MtG (and Legacy even more so) is now from those heuristics, I cannot convince myself, that putting UR Delver out of “fair” and “aggro” categories was totally unfounded prejudice. Deck capable of seeing 10 cards with combination of two 1-mana cantrips and 1-mana creatures, producing 2-mana 8/8 dragon which dwarfs a Griselbrand, in my humble opinion leans further towards combo, with all advantages and – apparently – weaknesses of such shift. Even though Jeskai proved to be excellent weapon against our dragon-elephant, none of them reached Top 8, while 2 best UR players did. Remedy to a poison? Maybe not quite, but definitely an option and hope for the better future.
To all our wonderful, noble partners and patrons, without whom an event like this wouldn’t be possible. Most of all to Ultimate Guard for so many great pizes and accessories!
To European Legacy Masters for welcoming us to their initiative and granting invites to the grand finals in Bologna!
To all Legacy players in Poland, no matter their score nor even final attendance, for keeping the format, the passion, the Magic itself more alive than ever, despite the worst efforts from WotC and other forces of evil.
To all members and friends of Legacy Academy – you / WE did it again, folks. Who would have thought 2 years ago, right?
To Rafał Tarnowski and Akademia Nicol Bolasa for making our livestream possible once more, with the great commentary from Grzegorz Jezierski and Kuba Kaliszczak!
To Błażej Kurowski for another marvellous artwork, admired by all participants of all tournaments we’ve made so far.
To Marta Podkomórka, author of our photo gallery that will soon be added to the site in full glory!
To our judges – Witek Waczyński and Paweł Ostrowski, for keepeing everything calm and balanced, as all things should be.