Welcome Back, Legacy! The June 2007 B&R Changes

For those who have not seen the changes, they can be found in the announcement here.

Before we begin, I'd like to make a brief introduction. Those of you who’s interest was piqued by the emergence of Hulk Flash, I'd like you to meet Legacy. Hopefully, the two of you will get along. I know you started off on the wrong foot, but it's only getting better from here. Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to business.

June 1, 2007 was a good day for Eternal Magic. No matter where you stand on any issue surrounding the Banned and Restricted list, the mere fact that something was done speaks volumes to the attention Wizards is finally paying to the formats we love. It's been almost three years since the separation of the Type 1 and 1.5 banned lists, and in that time, we've seen very little change in the list of either format. While this could, on one hand, signify healthy and diverse metagames (which it does, in a way), it also neglects the idea that there may be underpowered cards that could contribute to that diversity sitting on the banned list for no apparent reason. Many of the Vintage and Legacy communities' proponents have advocated the DCI look at the list with that idea in mind for years, and finally they have been vindicated in their efforts.

Bringing Legacy Back
The most glaring change for Legacy is the banning of Flash. I've advocated this since day 1, even going so far as to email Aaron Forsythe on the issue (something I've never done before). The combo of Protean Hulk and Flash was simply too strong for the format, and will find it's niche quite well in Vintage, where a two mana, two card combo is merely strong, and not too strong. Three months from now, we may be seeing Flash show up on the restricted list, but let Vintage players have their fun breaking the card, too.

I'm surprisingly happy to have experienced GP Columbus the way it was. If you had the opportunity to make it to the GP, hopefully you can say the same. While the format was completely in shambles, it was one of those once in a decade events that lives on through the years in the stories we tell. It truly was the next coming of PT Tinker, and I'm thoroughly glad I could be a part of it. That said, now that the event has come and gone, the card is justifiably, and rightly, gone.

With Flash gone, the format could easily see itself return to exactly the point it left off at on April 20th. If the only action taken was to remove Flash, there wouldn't be a whole lot to say. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy deck design, that isn't what happened. We were given two new cards to play with, in Mind Over Matter and Replenish.

Three outta five ain't bad, right?
Mind Over Matter was banned as a remnant of the Type 1 Restricted list, due to its insane interaction with Tolarian Academy, Library at Alexandria, and Grim Monolith/Mana Vault. Note that none of these cards are legal in Legacy. It's true that in a vacuum, MoMa seems to be degenerate, but the extremely inhibiting mana cost, and the lack of any real broken combo associates makes for an underwhelming engine. Legacy's next best thing to Academy is Gaea's Cradle. Fortunately for all of us, Cradle is a green card (effectively), and requires a whole bunch of creatures to be in play. Those two requirements are the death blow for any potential combo. Paired with the UUUU required to get MoMa into play, you should consider giving up there. At that point, you're better off playing Priest of Titania and Staff of Domination. No one is dominating top 8's with those. If by some chance, you circumvent the mana requirements, perhaps through Academy Rector (why is Academy such a broken word in Magic?) or Replenish(!), you still need to find some way to be degenerate. Right now, it's not looking likely.

On the flipside of the issue, there's Replenish. Known in its heyday for two completely separate combos - Pandemonium + Saproling Burst, and Opalescence + Parallax Wave + Parallax Tide - Replenish opens up a lot of ground for development. At four mana and sorcery speed, it's potentially one of the more fair game-winning spells out there. Already the forums are buzzing with potential lists, and everyone seems excited to see the card return. While the old 1.5 format saw some play with Replenish, it was powered by Bazaar of Baghdad. It's yet to be seen if the combos can still compete with the loss of such an important draw engine/discard outlet.

The other deck drooling with anticipation over Replenish is Solitaire (Enchantress). Replenish gives Enchantress two significant components. First, it provides protection from devastating effects such as Tranquility and Pernicious Deed. Second, it allows the deck to circumvent countermagic, allowing it an actual matchup vs. control, something it previously lacked. Before Replenish came back, there was a string of events where Enchantress rode its positive Goblins and Threshold matchup to back to back to back top 8's, piloted by The Epic Syndicate's Zach Tartell. His list is an excellent place to begin looking if you want to abuse Replenish.

EPIC GWr Enchantress by Zach Tartell (Pre-Replenish)Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Windswept Heath
4 Savannah
6 Forest
2 Plains
2 Taiga
2 Serra's Sanctum

4 Argothian Enchantress
4 Enchantress's Presence
2 Sylvan Library
1 Seal of Fire
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Moat
4 Sterling Grove
1 Karmic Justice
1 Holistic Wisdom
4 Elephant Grass
1 Aura of Silence
1 Seal of Primordium
1 City of Solitude

4 Exploration
4 Utopia Sprawl

4 Solitary Confinement
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob

1 Sacred Mesa
1 Words of War

So what does all this mean for Legacy? Well, we can expect the format to go back to a similar pattern to what it was before Flash. It is not, like some pros may have led you to believe, Goblins vs. everything. When we left Legacy, combo was on the rise, with decks like TES and CRET Belcher becoming stronger and stronger. With those decks and Aggro-control being on top, we were seeing a resurgeance of control, such as Landstill, and prison decks; Enchantress and Stax were seeing an increase in play. With Replenish legal, expect to see a sudden spike in interest in Enchantress, and perhaps an enchantment-based combo deck will become viable. My guess is that PandeBurst won't be the one to make it, though. I would expect a lot of development in the next month or two, and hopefully by the end of the summer we return to a healthy, well developed metagame, like we had April 19th.

The Gifts Really Are Ungiven
Even with the high profile banning of Flash in Legacy, many people in the know realize Vintage has the bulk of the interesting changes this month. A few of the changes have been long in the making, with some out of left field to truly throw us all for a loop.

Gifts Ungiven was called for restriction by a great many people for a long time. For the most part, this ended about 2 months ago, as the rise of Ichorid meant the power of Mana Drain was declining. When a deck can win (with significant disruption) without ever casting a spell worth countering, control decks have a hard time utilizing the mana accel of Mana Drain. Gifts the deck has been on the decline for a while now, and it seems strange that they should be restricting it so long after its peak. The DCI's action seems to be a "better late than never" approach - however, late may not actually be better. On the other hand, Gifts does tutor for four cards, which is ultimately the reason it warranted restriction to begin with. Still, many were under the impression that Bazaar of Baghdad, Grim Tutor, and possibly even Flash would be restricted at the same time or before Gifts Ungiven. Nonetheless, the restriction of Gifts - which is much better than many of the other cards on the restricted list - is justified.

Coming off the list, Voltaic Key is essentially worthless. There is absolutely no reason for the card to be on the list in the first place, because it really doesn't do anything relevant. Wizards did a fine job of "not power-level" errataing Time Vault to stop the one good combo with Key, so I suppose at this point, your best trick is untapping Gilded Lotus. If that's the best we can expect from Key, I'm not jumping on eBay to pick up 20 of them. It was much more surprising to see Voltaic Key on the list, than it was to see it come off.

In 1994, Black Vise was REDIC. A one mana Lightning Bolt every turn was nuts in a format comprised largely of 4 Color Control. Welcome to 2007. It has been a long time since Vise was even good, let alone good enough to win games. You'll be lucky to eek out 6 points of damage with a Vise today, in a format largely known for dumping its hand, and games lasting two to three turns. While some have said the return of Black Vise foreshadows the return of dedicated aggro in Vintage, that seems pretty unlikely. In truth, Black Vise may find its best home in a Stax-like deck, comprised of significant lock components that inhibit your opponent from casting the spells in their hand. Those decks can easily utilize the Vise as their win condition, enabling them to soft lock and win in a short amount of time. Who knows, maybe Stasis will see a resurgence (unlikely).

Mind Twist. What a ridiculously interesting card. Steve Menendian has been a long time advocate of unrestriction, but many disagree. While in general, you lose as many cards as your opponent by Twisting on turn 1, there is a lot to be said for the word "random." One of the best parallels I can make is the comparison between Wrench Mind, and Hymn to Tourach. Certainly, Mind Twist requires a significant amount of mana - usually through a Dark Ritual or Moxen - to set up turn one, but a turn two or three Twist for 4 can be just as, if not more devastating. Many players see the random aspect of the discard as "unfun." The last card heavily associated with that word in Vintage was Trinisphere, which is now firmly seated on the restricted list. This is fundamental in the debate to whether Twist deserves to be seated next to it. Only time will tell for sure what the right course of action is with Mind Twist. More than any other card discussed, Mind Twist has potential to be extremely good, or extremely bad. That Wizards has given Vintage the opportunity to prove whether Twist is broken or not sets an excellent precident moving forward.

The last card on the Vintage change list, and the shocker to basically everyone, is Gush. Restricted due to its domination of the format in Gro-A-Tog (GAT), Gush has the potential to be just as busted as before, if not more so. One thing to keep in mind - Gush has never been legal as a 4-of in the format since Storm was released. While Aaron Forsythe was quick to mention that the GAT decks of old are now outclassed by the Storm decks of today, he failed to mention that those same Storm decks can utilize Gush to a devastating degree. The mere idea of a Storm deck with Fastbond in play, and Gushing up two cards, plus one Storm, and plus two mana for each card in their hand scares the heck out of me, and I know I'm not alone. I'm not certain what the DCI was thinking when they unbanned Gush, but I'm excited beyond belief to play it. Perhaps this allows decks like Turboland and Birdsh*t to reemerge as contenders - certainly it makes them more attractive as rogue decks at the very least.

The effect this round of restriction will have on Vintage is hard to grasp at this early time. We'll likely see the continued dominance of Ichorid and Long, although those Long lists may adapt to embrace Gush. A blue-based Storm deck seems inevitable, and early testing with extremely unrefined lists has been positive. Flash is an issue that will probably need to be addressed eventually. It's only going to get better as the format speeds up, and 2cards/2mana should not be underestimated. Gifts.dec is essentially dead as we knew it, but it was on the way out before June first anyway. Gifts will still see a fair amount of play as a one-of, probably moreso than Fact or Fiction does today. If decks like Birdsh*t and Fish adapt to include Gush, and in doing so become more of a force in the metagame, we could see a midgame control/combo deck like Turboland become strong. Vintage is a bit upheaved right now, and the fallout from this round of changes should make for some exciting and turbulent tournament results throughout the summer. I for one, am looking forward to the next few large events, to see what the minds of Vintage can come up with.

A Question in Closing
If Flash's errata had not been removed on April 20th, breaking Legacy and ultimately bringing itself to the attention of the DCI, would the same care have been given to the B&R lists this cycle? Would we have seen these changes regardless of the overpowered deck popping up? I don't have an answer, but I can't help but think we wouldn't have seen any change. The DCI has set a firm precedent for maintaining the status quo when they can - it's much less likely to stir things up than accidentally banning a fair card, or unbanning a broken one. Regardless of your personal opinion on Flash, or its effect on GP Columbus, perhaps it was exactly what the Eternal formats needed (temporarily, of course) to focus attention on the Legacy and Vintage B&R lists once more.


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