How to build a Legacy deck in MTG | Magic: The Gathering


Legacy is my favorite Constructed format, and has been for as long as I can remember.
Like Modern, Legacy offers a huge range of strategies, and a diversity of experiences. And yet the card selection and improved permission spells of Legacy give you more agency over the games.
Like Vintage, you get to play with iconic and powerful cards. Legacy and Vintage have similarly engaging gameplay, but Legacy doesn’t have power cards to dominate games or homogenize deckbuilding.
Best of all, Legacy offers a boundless world of possibilities. It’s MTG’s biggest sandbox! In most formats, it’s best to identify the most powerful cards and build around them. But Legacy’s card pool is so deep that many cards can become gamewinners with the right support. And the most obvious offenders are held in check when players choose their interactive spells with them in mind. A good example is Murktide Regent causing a major uptick in Pyroblasts, Snuff Outs and Swords to Plowshares in the past year.
I’ve made a lot of my MTG career out of deck building in Legacy. Since this year saw the major bannings of Expressive Iteration and White Plume Adventurer, things have opened up and my excitement about brewing in my favorite format has been rekindled!
I’ll start with a retrospective on a few of my favorite Legacy decks, and then I’ll offer some general tips that will serve you wherever your Legacy journey might take you.
The year 2011 saw both the Legacy format and my pro career kick off (coincidence? Mostly yes, but perhaps not entirely). Starcitygames.com revitalized the unpopular format by featuring it heavily in their SCG Open Series. I played as many of the events as I could, and also tried my hand at the Grand Prix events I could make it to. GP Providence was my first breakthrough, with a Natural Order Temur deck of my own creation.
Natural Order Bant was a known deck at the time, but it looked much different, often featuring the Counterbalance plus Sensei’s Divining Top combo. In building the Temur version, I streamlined the combo, made the deck more aggressive, and tapped into the awesome sideboard options of red.
Noble Hierarch, Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique presented a very real clock that could either kill the opponent outright or else unbalance them while you set up Natural Order. Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning supported the beatdown plan better than Swords to Plowshares, and also contributed to your Goyfs being much larger (Chain Lightning is a sorcery, and creatures dying is better for Goyf than creatures being exiled).
But the single biggest lesson from this deck is how much sideboarding matters in Legacy. Ancient Grudge was my best card of the whole event, as I faced Stoneforge Mystic and Painter’s Servant decks round after round. Grim Lavamancer punished creature-based decks. And we all know by now how big an advantage Pyroblast can provide in blue mirrors.
Later that year, I returned to my first Legacy love, Mono-Black Pox, and reached the Top 4 of a Starcitygames.com Invitational. I’d played Mono-Black Pox as a kid, but the new printing of Liliana of the Veil brought the archetype to a whole new level (I know, it’s hard to imagine a time before that card existed!).
I think I did a nice job with the deck list, and Pox happened to hit pretty well for that metagame. Still, I think this finish reflects how incredibly wide open Legacy was at the time. The format wasn’t yet totally explored, and people hadn’t sharpened things to razor efficiency just yet. I think it would be tougher to get away with a deck like Pox in 2023.
My history with Liliana and Hymn to Tourach didn’t end there. Mono-Black soon evolved into Jund and Sultai, culminating in winning the Invitational in 2012.
This was a quintessential good cards deck, as I was able to leverage the recently-printed Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay (which was particularly good at the time against Counterbalance).
The story behind 2013’s Bant Stoneforge deck is rather funny. I saw a preview for the upcoming release of True-Name Nemesis and I thought it was the sweetest card I’d ever seen. I knew I wanted to build a deck with it as soon as it came out!
In the meantime, I sketched out this Bant deck to “practice” for when True-Name would become tournament legal. As fate would have it, I never put up a good finish with Bant True-Name. But oops, I did wind up winning the Open with the “practice” version!
Before long I sleeved up Counterbalances of my own, playing Miracles to good effect for years. I can’t take credit for Miracles, as it was a hugely popular archetype championed by tons of great players. But I did work hard on it and make it my own. My personal style was extremely controlling, with tons of basic lands and few cards that forced me to tap mana on my own turn.
“Never do anything unless you have to” was my mantra.
GP Louisville in 2017 was probably the highlight of my Legacy career. I won the Grand Prix with a deck which was completely my own creation. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only one playing something like it that weekend.
Sultai True-Name combined everything I’d learned from my experiences with Natural Order Temur, Sultai Midrange and Bant True-Name into one well-oiled killing machine.
The plan was to use the hyper-effective one-drops of Deathrite Shaman and Noble Hierarch to play one of the best three-drops in the format - either TNN or Leovold, Emissary of Trest - on turn two. The deck was well set up against Miracles, which was the boogieman of the format at the time, but also well rounded enough to navigate a diverse field.

Natural Order Bant by Reid Duke

Companion

1 Yorion, Sky Nomad

Deck

1 Atraxa, Grand Unifier

1 Bayou

1 Birds of Paradise

4 Brainstorm

1 Coiling Oracle

2 Daze

1 Dryad Arbor

1 Endurance

4 Flooded Strand

2 Force of Negation

4 Force of Will

4 Green Sun's Zenith

4 Ice-Fang Coatl

1 Karakas

1 Knight of Autumn

1 Leovold, Emissary of Trest

4 Misty Rainforest

3 Natural Order

4 Noble Hierarch

4 Ponder

4 Prismatic Ending

1 Savannah

2 Snow-Covered Forest

2 Snow-Covered Island

1 Snow-Covered Plains

1 Spell Pierce

4 Swords to Plowshares

1 Sylvan Library

1 Teferi, Time Raveler

2 Tropical Island

2 Tundra

1 Underground Sea

2 Undermountain Adventurer

2 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

1 Verdant Catacombs

1 Wasteland

4 Windswept Heath

Sideboard

1 Carpet of Flowers

1 Collector Ouphe

1 Endurance

2 Energy Flux

1 Flusterstorm

1 Force of Vigor

1 Soul-Guide Lantern

4 Surgical Extraction

2 Veil of Summer

1 Yorion, Sky Nomad

My latest project follows in my U/G/x Midrange tradition. It’s a Green Sun’s Zenith plus Natural Order deck that seeks to put Atraxa, Grand Unifier onto the battlefield. Read more about it here: https://strategy.channelfireball.com/all-strategy/cfb-pro-content/try-out-reids-new-legacy-mtg-natural-order-brew/
As promised, I’ll leave you with a few important tips about this format.

[Images: Snow-Covered Island; Wasteland; Ancient Tomb; Noble Hierarch; Aether Vial]

The first question you should ask about every Legacy deck concerns its mana base. What’s the plan for casting your spells, and how are you going to leverage your mana base to your advantage?
Some of the best strategies in Legacy center around mana denial. This includes the Wastelands and Dazes of Delver and the Blood Moons of Red Prison. Don’t just throw some lands in and hope it works out. Have a concerted plan for how you’re going to approach each game. Are you fetching basics to play around Wasteland or are you going for dual lands with the plan to fight over opposing Blood Moons and Back to Basics?
Are you accelerating for a big play on a key turn? If that turn is turn one, then you’ll want fast mana and Ancient Tomb. If that turn is turn two or three, then take a look at the green mana acceleration options like I do.

[Images: Brainstorm & Ponder]

Brainstorm and Ponder are awesome, and you should try to play with them. More than that, you should probably have a very good reason if you’re going to leave home without them. They vastly improve the consistency of your deck, and help you find your key cards. That’s important in a format where opposing strategies can range from Oops All Spells to Dark Depths to Red Prison, and you need very different cards to combat each of them.

[Image: Force of Will]

Force of Will is also awesome, and makes you feel much better heading into the unknown. It’s particularly great right now, as you need a plan against decks that do powerful things on turn one like Red Prison, Reanimator and Initiative.
That said, Force of Will is not always good in the way that Brainstorm is always good. It can be bad in grindy matchups, or against opponents who have tons of Pyroblasts. It can be appropriate to sideboard it out in certain matchups.
Keep Force of Will in mind when building your deck. You’ll need a high blue card count (minimum of about 19, but preferably more like 23 or 24). Importantly, check your sideboard plans and make sure you’re not dropping too low in any given matchup.

[Images: Daze; Wasteland]

Daze and Wasteland are powerful cards, and can reward you if you’re able to use them well. However, you should ask whether you’re playing the kind of deck that benefits from trading off land drops or if you’re playing the kind of deck that needs to have all of its lands on the battlefield for the late game.
Daze is a staple four-of in Delver decks. I’ve also had success playing a small number of Dazes in my Noble Hierarch decks, where you can jump ahead on mana and then press your advantage with a well-placed Daze. However, it doesn’t make much sense in purely controlling decks, as they’re never really happy to take a land off the battlefield.

[Images: Green Sun’s Zenith; Natural Order; Elvish Reclaimer; Crop Rotation]

Finally, many players (myself included) enjoy playing with tutors that let you search your library for key cards. These are powerful and appealing with the deep card pool of Legacy, since you can find the perfect weapon for any situation.
However, you also need to show restraint, as playing too many situational one-ofs can wind up weakening your draws. A good practice is to ask if a target is winning you games that you’d be losing otherwise. It’s easy to imagine using Green Sun’s Zenith to search for Scavenging Ooze, but how often will you need that when you have Endurance as well? Tarmogoyf is a great brawler, but if you didn’t have it, would you be fine searching for a value creature like Ice-Fang Coatl or Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath instead?
I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible in Legacy, and that’s the point! I hope I’ve inspired you to go have some fun in one of the greatest formats MTG has to offer. Enjoy!

Autor: 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.