4Seasons is coming up this weekend and we just had a Legacy Showcase Qualifier on Magic Online, so now is a good time to keep tabs on the metagame, if you’re going to Bologna yourself, or if you have other Legacy tournaments coming up locally.
I’ll take a look at some of the recent paper tournaments and see what we can learn from those results and combine them with the online trends. What are people bringing and tweaking and what should you be doing to further your chances?
Initiative Winter with cracks in the ice
Let’s sum up the basics before we get into the details. The current Legacy metagame has four pillars: Initiative, Delver, Fast combo (often Reanimator) and Saga decks (often Painter). Decks such as GW Depths, Lands and 4c control will be represented but are now few and far between. especially in the winners’ circle. Many control experts are even taking weekends off waiting for an eventual ban, because it’s so hard beating Initiative with control. That’s a shame, but that’s not the point of this article.
The last two big events on European soil were ELM qualifiers and they took place in Lyon, France and Birmingham, England. 100+ people turned up for these events and Initiative took the headlines. In Lyon, 4 of the 5 people who registered Initiative made the top 8 including the winner Romain Corgnolo. In Birmingham, two Initiative players were in the top 8 and Sahar Mirhadi won the event rocking her White Plumes and co.
I think Initiative players have an edge in the paper metagame compared to online because fewer paper players will have hedged sufficiently for it and maybe have less experience against the deck. Both things are connected – fewer people are playing the deck in paper compared to online, so it makes sense to not go overboard with the hate. That doesn’t change the fact that the deck is more or less broken, so people will be winning a good amount with it, and they will cut through an unexpecting field like a knife through butter on a warm summer day in Bologna. In other words, even if only 5-8 % play Initiative as opposed to 15-18 % online, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to beat it once or twice if you have a good run.
Online it has been performing but not without opposition and gone seems to be the days of Initiative crushing through the online metagame. The recent Showcase saw Sneak and Show win against Riddlestorm in the finals but further details such as match win percentages for different archetypes of the event aren’t available yet (Big thanks to the Legacy Data Collection Crew, by the way). The top 8 is here.
If you want to be prepared for Initiative you should therefore take note of what people online are doing in their deck building and deck choices.
So what to do?
If you are going to a paper tournament the short answer would be to play Initiative yourself if possible. If not, then you should take your estimates of how many people will be bringing the deck and be prepared to double those percentages, because the chance of meeting it in the latter rounds go up as the rounds proceed. That is at least my hunch. How do people go about having the best possible Initiative matchup without forgetting Delver, which is arguably the most played deck in both online and paper play? Creature-based combo, lightning-fast combo or playing Delver tweaked for Initiative seems to be the way. Painter 8-Cast is replacing the previous iteration of 8-Cast and Red Painter has long since been a solid choice for mono-red mages. Cephalid Breakfast has also been a decent choice for some time and it’s the kind of deck that is extra scary in the hands of a competent pilot and easy to lose against if you underestimate it.
My perspective as a Delver pilot
I’ll go through a few of my thoughts and deck construction choices here as an example of approaching the metagame. I’ve been trying several different versions of UR and Jeskai to figure out if something stronger than normal UR or URb with Snuff Out had been undiscovered. In the end, I couldn’t find a good build so I turned to the black splash. Julian Jakobovits also known as Jujubean_2004 on MTGO was the first to introduce Snuff Out in UR Delver off a single Underground Sea. He brought that to the Showcase Challenge in January (LIST). Since then it has been showing plenty of results online but most Delver pilots still seem to stick to UR, although that might be changing as we speak.
Snuff Out is so good because it gets rid of the big threats out of Initiative for free plus opposing Murktides, Cephalid Illusionists etc. In my mind, the perfect card for the meta in the context of Snuff Out is Third Path Iconoclast. It makes tokens that can take the initiative and that means that I don’t have to play bad cards focused on beating Initiative in the sideboard such as Unchained Berserker or Blood Knight. Iconoclast is weak to sweepers and Plague Engineer but for the time being, I think that’s a price I’m willing to pay (LIST). This is a screenshot of my Showcase Qualifier list (27/02/2023, 6-3 record), where I chose to play 3 Shattering Spree, in order for me to have a chance against Urza’s Saga and Chalice of the Void decks without destroying my own Iconoclast tokens, which is the consequence of Meltdown.
What will 4Seasons participants bring?
In paper magic we all know that a lot of us have pet decks that we’ll keep playing even though the time might not be right metagame wise. Therefore it’s always important to be ready for an open field and that also goes for 4Seasons. This doesn’t take away the core pillars of the competitive metagame but simply adds some matchup spice along the way.
Best of luck in your upcoming tournament be it 4Seasons or something completely different.
With love from the ELM crew,
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