An Analysis of Legacy's Banned List


By Lennie Brookes (AKA Qwerty)

Currently, Legacy is one of the healthiest formats in Magic: The Gathering. You can look at the top 8 lists of many different events and in each list see a plethora of different decks. So why am I writing this article? There are a few reasons. First, I want to; second, I believe some of the cards on the banned list should not be there.

For your reference, here is the Legacy Banned List.

I am going to focus on some cards which I think have been overlooked by Wizards simply because they were, or are, too powerful.


I’ve talked about banning Force of Will and Survival of the Fittest on MTGS and MTGN. Even though both cards fit Wizards' own rules for banning, they also contribute to keeping a stable meta. Not to mention, if either were banned, none of the cards I am going to list could possibly come off of the banned list.

Entomb
As tutors go, Entomb is very specific. If you cannot take advantage of your graveyard, you cannot take advantage of Entomb. This drawback led to it only being played in Reanimator type decks in old Extended.

What would happen if unbanned?:
Worldgorger Dragon is on the banned list, so that monster can't rise from the dead. However, deck types revolving around the Reanimator effect will appear. Is this bad? Not really. Another deck in the meta will just make it more healthy. Is it easily stopped? Swords to Plowshares is the deciding factor here, as any deck could splash white if it wanted to deal with a reanimated creature. In addition the graveyard hate in Legacy is a lot more effective than it has been in extended for a long time.

Hermit Druid
When Hermit Druid got banned in Extended, it was due to the fact that Extended could not handle a Hasted 20+/20+ Sutured Ghoul. It was just too fast for Extended.

What would happen if unbanned?:
Without a doubt Angry Hermit would raise its head in Legacy. Angry Hermit, coupled with the mana base in Legacy and cards like Shallow Grave, it would be even faster. Is this bad? No, it is yet again another deck added to the meta. Decks are already assuming control early in the game and this would just add another. Is it easily stopped? Yes, for the same reasons as Entomb and a few more cards. Hermit Druid by itself is a small creature at 1/1 and has a casting cost of 1G. Any creature control in the meta can kill it. You also see the wider use of Stifle and the better counterspell base of blue. Which can stop Angry Hermit from dominating rather well.

Land Tax
Without a doubt, Land Tax is the most debated card on the Legacy banned list. A lot of people have argued against Land Tax's unbanning, but I think a lot of the reasons they give are skewed. The most popular argument against Land Tax coming back is that it allows white to draw cards. While this is theoretically true, what people miss is that it doesn’t net you card quality other than guaranteed mana drops each turn. It thins the deck, but in the early game this is less important and, to be frank, the decks that would play this won’t last into the long game (with the possible exception of BwBS). The last argument is in my view the silliest, but has some mild validity. The argument is that the card does not fit white's place on the colour wheel because of the excessive cards that are effectively drawn. I think this comment is complete and utter trash. If that were the case, why isn’t Swords To Plowshares on the banned list?.

What would happen if unbanned?:
What Land Tax will do is enhance aggro decks a little more and give a possible rebirth to Parfait. Is this bad? Why would making the aggro decks stronger against control and aggro combo be bad? It could be abused with Scroll Rack, but you have to cast it and activate it. This generally means that the Land Tax player is at a mana disadvantage (having less land than the opponent in play). And casting and triggering the Scroll Rack is a lot harder to pull off; than a turn one Land Tax. Is it easily stopped? Of all the cards listed here Land Tax is one of the hardest to stop. That said, it is also the least powerful listed. After Land Tax hits the table it is often there for the duration of the game unless it is being utilized by the Scroll Rack combo. Even then, the Scroll Rack will still be destroyed first in a lot of case’s.

Skullclamp
Skullclamp is another hotly debated card. Many people are still sore about its abuse in Standard and Extended. Moreover, they think it would allow the creature decks to dominate. This is partly true. My main counter argument to this was that before the September bannings (in Legacy), Skullclamp had hardly any impact on the format. Yes, it was played, and it definitely helped decks, but not on the same scale that it did in Standard and Extended.

What would happen if unbanned?:
Obviously, Aggro would rise in power. This would be a good thing, as currently the meta has been getting more control and Aggro-combo oriented. Decks like Red/Green Survival Advantage and WW would become more playable (note: the former was playable anyway). Is this bad? Maybe, I think it is that "maybe" that is keeping it on the list. Although I think the benefit is worth the risk; it would be easy to put it on the "watch list" like Doomsday. Is it easily stopped? Yes and no. In Legacy there tends to be more Artifact hate, and there is a lot more first turn denial. Blue is actually good as a mono-color and not a support color. In addition, equipping is sorcery speed meaning that creature control can deny the Clamp as well.

Vampiric Tutor
This is one of the few cards that was almost universally agreed shouldn’t be on the list. For the life of me I cannot figure out how they banned Vampiric Tutor, but not Survival of the Fittest. If you rate either on a power scale, Survival of the Fittest comes out on top 80% of the time. I cannot give an argument for why this card was banned, so I will just move on.

What would happen if unbanned?:
Black would be played in top tier decks, combo would become more reliable, and multi-purpose decks other than Survival of the Fittest-based decks could appear. Is this bad? Nope; currently, combo decks are very stagnant in the Legacy metagame. Giving them a reliable way of doing things will help them immensely. Is it easily stopped? Yes, but most of the time players will let the Vampiric Tutor resolve and then simply counter the tutored card, Brain Freeze it or use denial such as Duress if the player is building up combo pieces.

This is the meat of the article, but other cards were discussed and here is the general consensus on the cards that should not leave the list, that were put up for discussion on unbanning.

Frantic Search
This is a poor card. However, it can make combo too good and can be abused for the storm engine. Or any combo deck for that matter.

Gush
Giving blue anything for free is bad. Giving it draw for free is very bad. Unbanning Gush could also spawn a new age of Tog and its sister decks.

Mind Over Matter
Even with Tolarian Academy banned, the amount of mana that this can help produce is obscene. Its other applications are broken and sick as well. Imagine it coupled with Isochron Scepter, the control player just discarding land he no longer needs.

Replenish
This very nearly made the first list, but its ability to swing games in one go knocked it straight off the list onto here. Now in this case I think the color wheel has been pushed too far. It is card advantage as well as denial evasion at the same time.

Conclusion
When Wizards first made the banned list for Legacy, they took the Extended banned list and the Vintage B/R list and slammed them all together. Looking back, I think they made a mistake. Legacy has already evolved into a wildly varied metagame. They banned some cards just because they were banned in Extended or restricted in Vintage which seems a very bad way of doing things. It’s a while until Extended rotates and Legacy gains a major influx of players. They could have been using this time to perfect the format and make sure that only cards that needed to be on the banned list; were on the banned list.

Qwerty
&Yawgmoth's Will>>>>:bmage:


Thanks to Static, Someone, and Wolfwood for first reading and giving feed back, Feyd_Ruin for the great IMG tags, Senori, Tawnos, and Goblinboy for formatting and editing help. Everyone in Banned List threads I have started on both MTGS and MTGN: Without you people I would not have been able to write this.

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