The Legacy Gauntlet

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I've written this up so people will have a good idea of what the top decks are in Legacy.

It'll be updated over time, as I add more decks and decklists to it.

Remember, the DtB section is always available if you need more in-depth advice.

1. CounterTop

These are decks packing four Counterbalance and four Sensei's Divining Top, along with the usual suite of blue countermagic (Daze, Force of Will),  and Tarmogoyf. They mainly fall into two schools, NO Bant and Supreme Blue, with other variants occasionally cropping up as well. Both of these main variants play Rhox War Monk and Swords to Plowshares to handle the various aggro decks that have become popular recently, particularly Zoo and Merfolk.

NO Bant is characterized by Noble Hierarch and Natural Order, which is used to get Progenitus into play, a nigh-unstoppable monster which is even more formidable backed up by the CB-Top lock and countermagic.

Supreme Blue is distinguished by playing Red for maindeck Firespout, a great solution to aggro. Some variants play NO/Progenitus along with defensive creatures such as Wall of Roots, while others play more heavy control elements like Spell Snare and Vedalken Shackles.

Other builds include black builds, which universally have Dark Confidant and sometimes pack Stifle/Wasteland, and Trinket Mage builds, which use Trinket Mage as a toolbox card.

2. Tempo Thresh

These are decks that play the same basic blue-green shell as CounterTop (Daze, FoW, Tarmogoyf, Brainstorm) but opt for Stifle and Wasteland instead of CB/Top, a much lighter manabase (usually only 14 lands other than Wasteland), as well as full sets Spell Snare, Nimble Mongoose, and Ponder.

Almost all Tempo Thresh decks are Canadian Thresh, which plays Red as a third color for Fire/Ice and Lightning Bolt to deal with small creatures and finish off the opponent. They also include Rushing River, Wipe Away, Grim Lavamancer, and/or Vendilion Clique in the last two "flexible slots". Almost all versions omit basic lands due to the lack of space in the deck and the consistency problems they can cause.

3. Zoo

The quintessential Legacy aggro deck, Zoo packs Wild Nacatl and Grim Lavamancer at the 1-drop slot, along with some combination of Loam Lion, Kird Ape, and Steppe Lynx, Qasali Pridemage and Tarmogoyf as 2-drops, and one or two copies of Knight of the Reliquary or Woolly Thoctar as 3-drops. It has 21 land to accomodate its mana needs, and a suite of burn and removal spells featuring Chain Lightning, Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Lightning Helix, and/or Fireblast. Many versions opt for Sylvan Library to help the deck in the mid to late game, which is traditionally a weakness for Zoo decks.

4. Merfolk

This is also a Force/Daze/Stifle/Wasteland deck, but way too different from Canadian Thresh to go under the same heading. It features Aether Vial along with a collection of strong merfolk, with four of Cursecatcher, Silvergill Adept, Merrow Reejerey, and Lord of Atlantis. Most builds not packing Tarmogoyfs play a couple copies of Merfolk Sovereign and/or Wake Thrasher. The mana disruption plus tribal beats makes for a powerful combination, as Goblins taught the early Legacy players. But this deck doesn't have Goblins' card advantage - what gives?

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this deck is its absurd synergy with Standstill. Not only does it have Mutavault to beat down, with a full set of Wasteland to help keep manland advantage, but Aether Vial is absurd with Standstill, allowing you to drop your creatures even with the enchantment on the board, letting you assemble an army while the opponent is forced to choose between standing back or giving you 3 cards. Standstill is also a great play once you have board advantage with either Umezawa's Jitte or a horde of Merfolk, since the opponent has to do something, letting you draw 3 cards.

Some builds splash white for Swords to Plowshares and Sejiri Merfolk, while others go green for Goyf and other fatties.

5. Storm Decks (ANT and TES)

Storm is easily the most broken mechanic ever printed, and this deck seeks to prove it, killing the opponent as early as turn 1 or 2 with a literal storm of spells, followed by a Tendrils of Agony. Storm decks can be broken down into 4 components: Setup Cards, Ritual Effects, Protection, and Engines. Tendrils is the ultimate outcome of this equation.

Setup Cards are cards such as Ponder, Brainstorm, Top, and Mystical Tutor, which are used to set up one big turn in which you can play a lethal tendrils. Infernal Tutor is also a setup card, though it's pretty rare that it's played outside of the turn you go off; most of the time, you'll be sacrificing Lion's Eye Diamond when you use it. Builds splashing red will often use Burning Wish as well.

Ritual Effects are cards that generate surplus mana, such as Dark Ritual, the original one of these. Dark Ritual and the aformention Diamond (LED) join Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, and Cabal Ritual in generating large amounts of mana, allowing you to continue to play spells until you reach a lethal Tendrils. Builds splashing red will often

Engines are what these decks play with their ritual mana. These are cards that generate enough card advantage to be able to continue playing rituals until you can tutor up and play a lethal Tendrils, or give you access to specific cards that ensure that you'll be able to win via Tendrils. By far the most common engine cards are Ad Nauseam, Doomsday, and Ill-Gotten Gains.

Ill-Gotten Gains (IGG) works by returning multiple rituals and Infernal Tutor to your hand, so you can tutor either for another IGG (if you play another) or Tendrils, depending on your storm count.

Doomsday works by setting up a pile of cards that you can draw into (usually with Meditate) and from there win the game. It's usually combined with Sensei's Divining Top, but can work with Brainstorm and Ponder as well. It can also be used to set up an infinite storm combo with Helm of Awakening and two Tops, but this is very rare.

Ad Nauseam works by drawing you a bunch of cards, provided you have enough life to fuel it. Since most of the deck's setup, ritual, and protection cards cost between 0 and 2 mana, it's extremely effective.

Protection stops cards like FoW from ruining your day. Most builds pack some combination of Duress, Thoughtseize, Silence, and Orim's Chant to clear an opponent's hand of cards that could potentially disrupt your big turn (I call it that because it's not much of a combo as a bunch of rituals and tutor/draw effects).

As a result of their incredible speed, with an average goldfish of around turn 2.5, Storm decks have a very favorable matchup against almost any deck that's not packing Force of Will, even heavy-discard decks like Eva Green. They also fare very well against slow control decks, since their ponderous speed gives the storm player time to set up a hand to trump all the control deck's answers.

However, Storm decks fare poorly against decks with both blue disruption and a fast clock. Unfortunately for Storm,  these are some of the most abundant decks in Legacy - Merfolk, Canadian Thresh, and CounterTop all fit the bill. All highly disruptive and able to kill quickly, Storm has no way to stop their creature onslaught, and this onslaught denies it the time it needs to set up a hand that can trump all the answers these decks have.

6. Life from the Loam decks

Along with Dark Confidant, Shocklands, and Dredge Creatures, Life from the Loam (also a Dredge spell, but rarely seen in real "Dredge" decks) was immediately spotted for its extreme potential for abuse with cycling lands in Extended. Combo and Control alike abused the card, but Control proved a much better avenu. The most successful of the Loam decks were The CAL (Cycling Seismic Assault Loam), a deck designed by Makihito Mihara to abuse the interaction between Loam, Cycling Lands, and Seismic Assault, and Psychatog decks that used Gifts Ungiven to set up Loam.

Eventually, the Psychatog decks would fall out of favor (though similar loam setups would be employed by later legacy decks), but the CAL evolved into a more aggro-based strategy that came to be known as aggro loam, which played Terravore, a Burning Wish toolbox, Devastating Dreams, and often Dark Confidant. Countryside Crusher and Tarmogoyf were both amost universally adopted upon printing, though by the time the former saw print, Counterbalance decks had taken over the format and Aggro Loam, full of two drops, was left out of the question.

Aggro Loam was an obvious port to Legacy, mainly because of two cards: Wasteland and Mox Diamond. The former was an ideal loam synergent, while the latter was usually superior to BoP in a deck with so many lands and very capable of recurring them, and wasn't subject to summoning sickness. With the abandonment of cards like Cabal Therapy, since there were no more mana dorks to sack, and Birds themselves, the ported Aggro Loam decks were free to play a full set of Chalice of the Void (almost exclusively for 1) as their primary non-mana disruption.

Blue loam decks are a fusion of Gifts Rock, Gifts Loam, and Counterbalance decks. They use the cheaper Intuition as a Gifts substitute, to find Loam, various lands, etc. Many of the cards you can fetch are extremely synergistic - such as Academy Ruins/Engineered Explosives and Eternal Witness/Volrath's Stronghold - the Gifts Rock elements. Most of the rest of the deck's shell is Old Extended Counterbalance stuff - Goyf, Top, Balance, Counterspell, along with obvious legacy inclusions such as Swords to Plowshares and Force of Will. The deck omits Daze because it wants to get a lot of mana to get all of its engines going, and Daze sets you back a land drop (the vast majority of the time). These decks usually only play 1 or 2 copies of Loam.

(Personal opinion - few, if any, of the blue loam decks play Knight of the Reliquary, which I don't understand. It's very good in their deck, I could even see cutting some Goyfs for it.)

"Lands" is the last school of Loam deck that gets played in Legacy, and arguably the most powerful, as it by far abuses Loam the best. It uses Intuition to set up Loam and tutor for lands or combos, and uses Manabond and Exploration to accelerate lands into play. Four loams are included, as is one Engineered Explosives and, recently, people have started playing with Mindslaver, as the deck can realistically set up the lock via Intuition and get enough lands into play - as it wins with lands, it can take a while to claim victory - Mindslaver will usually get a concession from the opponent when activated with Academy Ruins in play. 3 to 4 Mox Diamonds are usually included, for additional acceleration.

Here's a few of the main (relatively unique) players in the deck:

Maze of Ith and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale - your primary defenses against creatures.
Mishra's Factory (and often other manlands) - the muscle, how you win, and can be recurred as creature defense and chump blockers. Able to trade or defeat creatures that are 3/3 or less on the defense.
Tranquil Thicket - Obligatory cycling lands, since there's room. 3 or 4.
Tolaria West - Tutors up any land in the deck.
Great job geek!

A few others I think should be mentioned for Gauntlet purposes (into archetypes):
-Loam Engine Decks
-ANT/Belcher (combo decks)
-Stax/Pox/Eva (resource denial decks)
Yeah. I intend to address the various important engines, as opposed to individual decks.
Finished the Storm and Merfolk write-ups. The Storm one in particular is very detailed.
Finished the Storm and Merfolk write-ups. The Storm one in particular is very detailed.

The part about Storm is very nicely written. However, I don't think many Storm players use the IGG Loop to find another IGG with IT. I rather chain IT with my abundant mana and then go for ToA.

Since when does Storm have problems against Canadian Thresh? My experience shows the matchup is somehwat unfavorable preboard, but postboard it gets a lot better.
I know that it looks unfavorable on paper, but my experience tells me the MU is good for Storm.
It's much closer than other blue decks, but I'd put it around 60-40 in favor of Canadian Thresh.

I'll get that part about IGG
typing corrections:
fire/ice = fire // ice
Sygg, the River Guide = Sygg, River Guide

content suggestion:
add Loam Lion to the zoo cards

Overall, very well written and informative /thumbs up! 
Loam Lion will not be played in Zoo.

He is a Kird Ape in W and while 2/3 for 1 mana might not be a bad body, Kird Ape is considered to be the worst creature in Zoo. However, he is R and while this may not be a huge plus on first sight, it is, because Zoo generally wants to run more R than W because R provides what W can't: Reach.
You play W for PtE, Qasali and Nacatl, some builds play W for Thoctar and Knights, but they take up 2-3 slots of the deck only and, honestly, Sylvan Library seems to compliment the decks strategy much more instead of random lategame "bombs".

W is only a splash, Zoo wants to make sure it has access to G for the beats and R for the Burn. Adding Loam Lion to the deck makes fetching Taiga worse, because you always need access to G and R, but not always to W.

The difference may seem marginal and you may say I'm nitpicky (sure I am, Combo is a very nitpicky deck!), but the difference is there and there is no reson to play Loam Lion over Kird Ape if you have access to Kird Apes.
well, i'll take your word for it. tbh, I don't play zoo and i'm not really a fan of the archetype either :P

I've heard zoo players talking about the card, so I assumed it could fit in some builds. But maybe it was more of a 'new card hype' thing than a rational card slot consideration.
I also don't like Zoo and would play pretty much every other deck before I play it, but I frequent the Zoo primer on theSource and I read the Zoo players' discussion about Loam Lion and, well, after thinking about it, it sounds logical to me.
It's pretty much as if they printed a W version of... say, Cabal Ritual. Storm players would talk about it, but no one would play it as it reinforces a very small aspect of the deck that should be kept small.
You don't want Loam Lion in Zoo for two reasons:
1. Kird Ape is bad.  You don't need more.
2. Adding Loam Lion over Kird Ape makes your fetching decisions much harder.  With Ape in the deck, first-turn Taiga is nearly always your best option. 
Loam Lion might be better in blue infested metas, though, since it doesn't get hit by BEBs. I don't play Zoo, though, so that slight advantage might not actually be worth it; I'm not sure, but it might be a meta call.
When they use BEB to kill your Kirds instead of Lavamancers or countering your Burn, then you have already won, I guess.
Or abyssmal draws, which means they will win anyways.
I also don't like Zoo and would play pretty much every other deck before I play it, but I frequent the Zoo primer on theSource and I read the Zoo players' discussion about Loam Lion and, well, after thinking about it, it sounds logical to me.
It's pretty much as if they printed a W version of... say, Cabal Ritual. Storm players would talk about it, but no one would play it as it reinforces a very small aspect of the deck that should be kept small.



Yeah, makes sense. I can also imagine that playing zoo would be a pretty dull change for an ANT player, both in terms of creativity and thoughts/turn :P
If the control player uses BEB on Kird Ape, then if I've already run.  They're either in a really bad situation, or just a bad player.
updated with loam primer
I think the Tempo Thresh thing needs a bit of an update. Tempo Thresh as such has been declining in popularity based on what I've heard. Some of the cards in it just don't seem as strong as they used to be.
Where's Goblins in the original post?
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Burn ?

Burn is not a competitive deck.

I think Show/Sneak decks are worth a mention.  

So I've been out of magic for several years and am curious is enchantress still competative at all in legacy?
This page needs a serious update

Anyone in contact with it's creator?

I could do some work in here...

Given how little of the Legacy community uses this forum, it probably makes more sense to just direct people to:

http://www.mtgthesource.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?23-Decks-to-Beat

 

The Source keeps their 'decks to beat' section up to date, which provides a good breakdown of whatever decks are currently "in style" at large competitive events.

 

http://mtgtop8.com/ is an excellent source for finding out which Legacy (and other format) lists are competing regularly for top 8 positions.  It gives you a percentage based analysis of the Legacy meta based on which lists are reported to have top 8'd.  You can drill down to look at the lists by competition and by player.  For larger tournaments they include top 16 and I believe top 32 also for very large events.

 

One caveat is that you should offset their time filter by at least a month, maybe two.  So "last 2 months" really means from 1 to 3 months ago or therabouts.

 

 

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