Magic: The Gathering/Legacy Decks & Strategies
The below decks may be moved around between the tiers as new cards, trends, discoveries and interactions make certain strategies more or less competitive than they were previously. Please add to these primers any information or strategies that you have to offer.
Tier One Strategies
Threshold is an evolution of Extended Miracle Gro/Super Gro lists. With the low amount of lands and high density of control, it uses Cantrips to find land early game and more cantrips and control midgame-lategame. This deck wins by using Threshold creatures, such as Nimble Mongoose and Werebear. More recently, Tarmogoyf has also been adopted due to its efficiency. This deck has many variations. ÐIt ranges from 3-4 colors, and each of those colors give it a different form of control or win conditions. White which happens to the most popular, is splashed for Swords to Plowshares, Meddling Mage, and Mystic Enforcer. As for the Sideboard, it is splashed for Tivadar's Crusade, Armageddon, Jotun Grunt, Worship, and at times, Nantuko Monastery. Red is splashed for maindeck Burn (Lightning Bolt, Fire // Ice, and/or Magma Jet/Chain Lightning) and Fledgling Dragon, and Pyroclasm for the Sideboard. Black is splashed for Dark Confidant and Ghastly Demise, and Pernicious Deed, Duress, Darkblast, and Diabolic Edict for the Sideboard.
Goblins is a pure aggro build that usually uses Aether Vial and Goblin Lackey to speed large numbers of goblins into play to overwhelm the opponent quickly. Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Warchief, Goblin Matron, and Goblin Ringleader are staple cards used towards this effect with many maindecked or toolbox goblins for specific removals and damage sources. Some common cards are Gempalm Incinerators, Mogg Fanatic, Goblin Sharpshooter, Siege-Gang Commander, and Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker. Goblins usually runs a touch of direct damage aside from these in the form of Lightning Bolt or Tarfire, and some land based land destruction in the form of Dust Bowl or Wasteland. Goblins is generally mono-red but has been known to spash white for sideboarded disenchants or black for Patriarch's Bidding.
Tier Two Strategies
Survival decks involve using Survival of the fittest combined with early mana acceleration to search through a toolbox deck of well chosen creatures such as Anger, Genesis, Squee Goblin Nabob, Rofellos. There are several sub-versions of this deck that all play very different.
ATS (Angry Tradewind Survival) splashes blue in for Tradewind Rider and more control oriented cards (counterspell, force of will, mystic snake) and plays a slower paced game that involves using survival to find answers in creature form and Tradewind riders to lock the board. This build usually performs poorly against heavy aggro, such as goblins.
Survival combo. The original incarnations of this deck involved using recurring nightmare to reanimate fatties that were tossed in the graveyard with survival. The main creature focus of this deck were ones with come in to play effects such as Nekrataal, Uktabi Orangutan, Cloudchaser Eagle, Avalanche Riders etc. This deck is more aggressive than ATS, and in its time was THE survival deck. Also popular for quite some time now is to have a Volrath's Shapeshifter in play then toss multiple fatties or utility creatures with survival (such as morphling and krosan cloudscraper).These deck styles do not do well against decks with any type of disruption or control so they are currently not seeing much play.
Currently many players are working with R/G survival which focuses on using aggressive, efficient creatures to maintain board position, while survival guarantees finding answers in the early game and a finisher in the mid to late game. This has an advantage over previous builds which fall apart if the player can't resolve and keep a survival on the table. most versions agree on using burning wish to pull in key cards in poor match ups, namely against combo decks.
While this is a very fun deck to play; it can be rather expensive to build, and every incarnation seems to perform poorly against one of the main 3 archetypes(being combo, control/disruption , aggro).
Pikula & Variants Primer
Bw Pikula is a deck created by Chris Pikula, which happens to be a spin-off of Pikula's favorite decks from 96; Necropotence.
By replacing the Necropotence with Dark Confidant, and splashing White in for Vindicate, Swords to Plowshares, and Gerrald's Verdict, it created a perfect monster for the format. By mana screwing the opponent, and heavy discard, as well as Dark Confidants to keep the engine going, disruption and threats come constant.
Some other versions replace Red for Terminate and Blazing Specter, and Green for Pernicious Deed.
Faerie Stompy Primer
Faerie Stompy is a monoblue aggressive deck. This deck uses blue flying creatures such as Cloud of Faeries, Mulldrifter, Sea Drake, Serendib Efreet, and Sower of Temptation. This deck also uses Trinket Mage to search for Relic of Progenitus, Sigil of Distinction, Engineered Explosives, and Seat of the Synod. If a player controls a Chrome Mox and Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors but no other lands in play, Sea Drake's "comes into play effect" will not trigger.
- 4 Chrome Mox
- 4 City of Traitors
- 4 Ancient Tomb
- 9 Island
- 1 Seat of the Synod
- 4 Sea Drake
- 4 Serendib Efreet
- 3-4 Mulldrifter
- 3-4 Cloud of Faeries
- 4 Force of Will
- 4 Chalice of the Void
- 0-2 Umezawa's Jitte
- Sword of Fire and Ice
- Sword of Light and Shadow
Tier Three Strategies
Angel Stompy Primer
Angel Stompy is an accelerated White Weenie evolution that uses Turbo Accelerants, such as Ancient Tomb, Chrome Mox, and/or City of Traitors. The deck uses Equipment as Draw Engines and Removal such as Sword of Fire and Ice and Umezawa's Jitte, while using utility creatures and beaters to abuse the Equipment. The deck was created by Zilla from the Source.
It's most famous moves are...
Turn 1: Ancient Tomb, Chrome Mox, and Facedown Exalted Angel. Turn 2: Play Plains, Tap Plains, Chrome Mox, and Ancient Tomb, Flip Exalted Angel, and attack.
Some versions of Angel Stompy splash Blue and/or Black for Spectral Lynx, Meddling Mage, Duress, Srendib Efreet, and Brainstorm.
Stax is a Prison deck ported from Type 1.
It uses Trinisphere, Crucible of Worlds, Tangle Wire, Uba Mask, Chalice of the Void, Sphere of Resistance, and Smokestack to create a board lock, and restrict the number of spells being played.
This deck uses a mana base of Ancient Tomb, Crystal Vein, and City of Traitors with Mox Diamond for extra speed. These land are very synergistic with Crucible of World because discarded land to Mox Dimonds can be replayed as well as replaying sacrificed Crystal Vein or City of Traitors. Crucible also allows the Stax player to replay sacrificed lands from Smokestack. Although the deck is much less powerful than the flame vault stax deck it is still a strong rogue deck seen with a top 16 place at worlds by Brandon Adams.
Flame Vault Stax is a Stax deck utilizing Flame Fusillade and Time Vault to inflict infinite damage. Also Time Vault could combo with Stasis and Smokestacks skipping infinite turns winning by decking. Time Vault was errataed to fix the combo and any power Time Vault had to create a prison lock.
Newer versions of the deck are designed by Chris Coppola and Brandon Adams.
Red Burn Primer
List & Explanation
The best burn decks runs a base with only the fastest most efficient burn spells available and very few if any nonland permanents. Thus these decks make up for their inability to draw cards by making all of the removal and bounce in your opponents hand worthless. Magma Jet also serves a similar goal in making sure that the cards you draw are indeed cards that help you win. Spells:
- 4 Lava Spike
- 4 Chain Lightning
- 4 Lightning Bolt
- 4 Mogg Fanatic or Thunderbolt
- 4 Rift Bolt
- 4 Magma Jet
- 4 Incinerate
- 4 Flame Rift
- 4 Flamebreak
- 4 Fireblast
- 4 Mountain
- 4 Snow Covered Mountain
- 4 Plateau or Mountain
- 4 Bloodstained Mire or Barbarian Ring
- 4 Wooded Foothills
Explanation of the Alternatives
Lighning Helix/Plateau - There are two types of metagames, those where nonbasics and Wastelands run rampant, and those where nonbasics are few and far between. In the former, while the life gain and the ability to sideboard Disenchant are great reasons to splash white, the added versatility of Disenchant is offset by the added vulnerability to Wasteland. And the life gained by running Lightning Helix is offset by the life lost from Plateau since running a playset of Price of Progress is a must in such metagames. Thus, Lightning Helix is best thought off as an alternative to Price of Progress in those precisely those metagames where nonbasic lands and Wastelands are few and far between. In such metagames, Lightning Helix compensates for the life loss associated with the incredibly effective Flame Rift and Flamebreak.
Price of Progress - This card can be an absolute bomb against those decks that run multiple nonbasic lands. While many of the current decks fit this mold, a few decks run no such nonbasic lands and thus it is debatable if this card should be maindecked or sideboarded. If you choose not to run it, splash white and run Lightning Helix.
Barbarian Ring - This land has the slight disadvantage of not being saccable to Fireblast. It's a tough call. On one hand, it is very effective against Blue based control strategies and thus warrants consideration in decks running Lightning Helix. But on the same token, in mono Red builds running Price of Progress, the added vulnerability to both Wastelands and your own Price of Progress is just not worthwhile.
Mogg Fanatic - This is an excellent one drop creature that finds its way into most burn decks. Though it violates the no nonland permanent rule that burn decks live by, the fact that it can be sacrificed to deal damage compensates for this. The only reason not to run this would be in an almost entirely creature dominated environment where it will never get through to deal even as much damage as a Shock. But even then, it still warrants consideration.
Thunderbolt - This is an excellent alternative burn spells that replaces Mogg Fanatic in high toughness creature dominated metagames. It can also be used in burn decks that can't afford the Plateaus for the white splash though they play in areas where running Price of Progress is not worthwhile. It can even replace Flame Rift in environments where such life loss unacceptable.
Flame Rift - The main reason that Flame Rift is used is because that one extra damage lets you win the game a full turn faster a third of the matches you play. But it can replaced in metagames where you often find yourself being outraced.
Chain of Plasma - This serves the same purpose as Thunderbolt, as an alternative burn spell. But Thunderbolt is almost certainly the superior option. Chain of Plasma has the small but still relevant liability of being bounced back in situations where you don't have any cards to discard or simply don't want to discard (when you are holding a Fireblast for example). A good opponent would never bounce back Chain of Plasma unless it is advantageous to them. Thunderbolt on the other hand has no real drawback since there are so many other burn spells in the deck that can deal with creatures when necessary. In addition, the ability of Thunderbolt to destroy four toughness flying creatures when necessary is actually a positive.
Flamebreak - Burn wants to aim everything for the dome without caring about the creatures that your opponent is casting. This card lets it do that by clearing the board of opposing creatures while still dealing damage to the dome. Leaving this card out of the deck is not an option.
Popular Cards That Shouldn't Be Run
Volcanic Hammer - This is yet another alternative to Thunderbolt and Chain of Plasma. It shouldn't be run, simply because the sorcery speed is a bigger drawback than the drawbacks of either of the other cards. Playing your cards at the end of your opponents turn is a critical component of playing burn decks, and this interferes with that plan. Incinerate in just a much better card.
Grim Lavamancer - While a few people feel that this card is ultimately too efficient not to run, it clearly violates the no nonland permanent rule and also is a bit too slow. These are the same reason that a number of other nonland permanants such as Ankh of Mishra, Sulfuric Vortex and Cursed Scroll are not utilized in this deck.
Ball Lightning - While the main reason this card fell into disuse, Mana Drain, no longer exists in Legacy, it's high casting cost makes it only usable as a finisher. And the fact that this a creature that can be targeted by removal or blocked makes it an unreliable finisher at that.
Reprinted with permission from the original author Centroles.