Legacy Elves: Reid Duke explains his favourite deck | Magic: The Gathering

Today’s going to be all about my favorite constructed format - Legacy - and my favorite deck to play in it - Elves. This coming weekend is the North American Legacy Championship, and I’ll have my first opportunity to play paper Legacy since 2019! 

(Note: That event will take place between the time of writing and the time of publishing. So if you like, you can go look up how it went for me!)

What I Love About Legacy

Perhaps it’s natural for me to be a lover of Legacy. I’ve spent an entire lifetime with MTG, and I actually remember when old cards like Quirion Ranger, Gaea’s Cradle and Birchlore Rangers were printed. Legacy is now the final resting place for some of my all-time favorite cards. Needless to say, the nostalgia factor hits hard for me. 

However, I also love the diversity and gameplay of Legacy. Not only are there dozens (maybe even hundreds?) of competitive decks, but the decks are also wildly different.

In Standard, the lion’s share of strategies are shades of midrange. Maybe you’re a little faster or a little slower, but you probably have creatures, planeswalkers and removal spells, and you’re seeking to play that kind of game. In Legacy, you can assemble a crazy combo, you can light people on fire with Lightning Bolt and Price of Progress or you can lock people out of the game with Counterbalance or Glacial Chasm.

This makes deckbuilding and sideboarding fascinating. It also makes for awesome gameplay. You want to win the 15-turn grindfests, but you also have to prepare for games to end at any time, starting right from turn one (I guess that experience might not be for everybody, but I personally love it).

I also find Legacy to be the format where attention to detail matters most. Due to the enormous card pool in general, and free spells like Daze and Force of Will specifically, the number of possibilities you face each turn are virtually limitless. You never know when the order you play your lands or the timing of your spells might spring your opponent’s trap, which means you need to take each and every action with the utmost care. 

 What I Love About Elves 

While I’ve played many Legacy decks over the years, I’m a diehard Elves fan. For one thing, the strategy has changed little in almost a decade. That means it’s rewarded my long-term practice. It also means I still own the cards!

Here’s my paper version of Elves. I’ve laid it out on my Forest playmat, ready to be sleeved in green Katana sleeves and housed in my green Sidewinder deck box. Is it obvious what my favorite color is? 

Elves is a creature-based combo deck based around Glimpse of Nature and Natural Order for Craterhoof Behemoth. It very often wins the game on turn three when it’s allowed to do its thing. That doesn’t make it the fastest deck in Legacy, but it means it really packs a punch, and has more resilience than more all-in combo decks like Oops All Spells.  

Strategically, I like the positioning of Elves because it has inherent strengths against creature decks and against anyone trying to play a fair game. Against other combo decks, it has potent sideboard options like Thoughtseize, Collector Ouphe and Endurance 

Aesthetically, I like that the whole of Elves is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s rewarding to use weaker, less assuming cards to do incredibly powerful things.

"Oh you have an 8/8 Murktide Regent backed up by all the best spells in MTG history? Well, I’m gonna beat you with these three 1/1s that happen to combine in just the right ways."

Now that’s finesse!  

There’s also one card in particular that makes Elves absolutely awesome: Gaea's Cradle.

Gaea’s Cradle

In MTG, it’s good to identify cards which are power level outliers. Once you’ve done so, it’s good to put them in your deck and play with them! That means drafting Titania’s Command when you see it and getting Fable of the Mirror-Breaker into your deck in Standard.  

When you play with Gaea’s Cradle, you feel like you’re doing something that shouldn’t quite be legal in Legacy. After all, Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors are among the most desirable cards in the format, and look at the price they demand to produce just two colorless mana! Gaea’s Cradle frequently taps for five, six or even more colored mana! 

In my opinion, Gaea’s Cradle is the most powerful card that’s currently legal in Legacy, and Elves is by far the best deck for it. That makes you feel like you’re on the right side of things. 

One way or another, I suppose that Legacy Elves has joined Modern Jund as one of the decks I’m "known for." I try to release some strategy content about it - either an article or a video - somewhat regularly, and people seem to enjoy it.  

Recently, I made it to the finals of a Magic Online Legacy Challenge on stream. You can find that video here and the deck list here. (reiderrabbit’s 2nd place decklist. Note that it’s mislabeled as 4th place.)

As soon I cross the "t"s and dot the "i"s on this blog entry, I’m going to record a Legacy Elves gameplay video for the CFB Youtube channel. Whether it’s 2012 or 2022, you could catch me slinging my Glimpse of Natures and Elvish Visionaries. If I have my way, the same will be true in 2032 as well.  

Author: Reid Duke

Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFBUltimateGuard

Magic runs in the family for Reid. When Reid was five, his mom came home one day with two Magic starter packs for him and his brother Ian. They both hardly knew the rules but they muddled through as best they could with the rules inserts. 26 years later, Reid’s now one of Magic’s most successful and respected players in the world. Learn more about Reid.

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