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The Ape's Guide to Legacy


By and large, Legacy is one of the fairest, most interactive formats in Magic. The best decks are mostly midrange and control decks looking to slog it out in long games of Magic. That being said, long interactive games of Magic are not for everyone. Sometimes you want to just sit down, shuffle up and play a game that lets your basic instinct to kill your opponent as fast as possible take over.

Sometimes you need to let your spirit guide you:

Simian Spirit Guide

Today, we are going on a journey exploring all "Simian Spirit Guide Approved" decks Legacy has to offer: decks that are not interested in being interactive; decks that are interested in ending the game sooner rather than later.

For those who are unfamiliar with these decks, I am going to rank each deck, on a scale from 1 to 10, on three different axes that I feel are important for this style of deck:

Speed -- How quickly does this deck end the game? Does the game literally end on the first turn when you combo, or does it end a few turns later?

First Turn Consistency -- How good is the deck at doing what it wants to do on the very first turn of the game?

Ability to Play Through Disruption -- Can the deck beat interaction? Are we hoping they don't have it or can we play through it?

Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen!

First stop on our Legacy Ape Tour is a deck that is a real hoot:

Just kidding!

All right, no more monkey business! Let's start with Legacy's most iconic turn one combo deck -- Goblin Charbelcher:

Speed: 8

First Turn Consistency: 8

Ability to Play Through Disruption: 5

This deck has both literal and figurative turn one kills. For a literal turn one kill, it utilizes fast mana, rituals and Land Grant for Taiga to put Goblin Charbelcher into play and activate it to deal a lethal amount of damage to our opponent.

Because we cannot always generate 7 mana and we do not always have a Goblin Charbelcher handy, we have a backup plan that generates figurative turn one kills with Empty the Warrens. Thanks to Burning Wish, we have seven virtual copies of Empty the Warrens, and we can often put over a dozen Goblin tokens into play on the first turn, allowing us to attack twice to end the game by turn three.

If you thought a deck with just one land in it was wild, wait till the next stop on our Legacy Ape Tour. Check out this no land deck appropriately titled "Oops All Spells":

Speed: 10

First Turn Consistency: 10

Ability to Play Through Disruption: 3

This is the most brutal stop on our list of first turn kills. No figurative turn one kills here. When we go off, the game is over. This is also the most consistent turn one deck here today, because it only needs to assemble four mana and one of its eight enablers:

Balustrade Spy
Undercity Informer

We can use either of these creatures to flip our entire deck into our graveyard. This puts copies of Narcomoeba into play. We sacrifice these to flashback Dread Return, putting Underworld Cerberus into play. We then sacrifice Cerberus to Cabal Therapy which returns Spirit Guides, Laboratory Maniac, Street Wraith, and Wild Cantor to our hand. We then use the Spirit Guides and Wild Cantor to get our Laboratory Maniac into play. Finally, we cycle a Street Wraith while Laboratory Maniac is on the board to win the game.


The downside to this combo, especially postboard, compared to the traditional Goblin Charbelcher deck, is that it gets disrupted by common Legacy graveyard hate cards like Surgical Extraction and Tormod's Crypt. Thankfully, we can simply sideboard out our entire graveyard combo and bring in copies of Goblin Charbelcher and additional mana to ramp it into play.

No one ever expects the next stop on our Ape Tour through Legacy:

Speed: 9

First Turn Consistency: 7

Ability to Play Through Disruption: 5

This is probably the most complicated deck on our tour today in terms of executing the combo. Essentially, we use our fast mana to play Cruel Bargain and Infernal Contract to draw through our deck, generating Storm count and mana. We then end the game either with Tendrils of Agony or by firing off a Goblin Charbelcher if we have removed all the lands from our deck. This deck can be a bit more volatile than the others on our list, because if we fail to go off while ripping through your deck, we generally lose the game to our own Summoner's Pact triggers.

I actually wrote an entire piece about this weird deck late last year, so if you would like to learn more about it, you can check that out here.

Next up, we are going to take a look at another graveyard based deck that aims to effectively end the game on the first turn:

Speed: 5

First Turn Consistency: 7

Ability to Play Through Disruption: 6

While this deck will never literally end the game on the first turn, it does effectively end the game with the board states it creates. Thanks to fast mana and cards like Entomb and Faithless Looting in conjunction with cards like Reanimate and Animate Dead, we can often put Griselbrand or the disruptive Chancellor of the Annex into play early. What this deck gives up in speed, it makes up for in the ability to play through disruption thanks to Thoughtseize, Collective Brutality, and the aforementioned Chancellor of the Annex. Postboard, to dodge graveyard hate, we often board into Sneak Attack as an alternative way to put our creatures into play.

Next, we are going to take a look at a decklist that is truly epic:

Speed: 7

First Turn Consistency: 7

Ability to Play Through Disruption: 7

While the Storm deck ANT (Ad Nauseam Tendrils) is fairly well known in Legacy, its slightly faster cousin, TES (The Epic Storm), is also a powerful choice. This is probably the "safe choice" as far as these decks go. Unlike decks like Spanish Inquisition and Goblin Charbelcher that just fold to Force of Will, TES packs disruption in the form of Duress and Cabal Therapy to fight through countermagic. TES also has the added benefit of playing powerful Blue filtering like Brainstorm and Ponder to sculpt exactly the hand it needs to combo off.

While TES is capable of literal turn one kills by generating a large storm count and using Burning Wish to fetch Tendrils of Agony, more often than not, TES creates figurative turn one kills by generating a large number of Goblin tokens with Empty the Warrens.

If you want to learn more about this deck, there is a fantastic website you can find here where people who play it a good deal have lots of good tips posted.

Next up, we have a deck that is near and dear to my heart. I have played this archetype to a number of reasonable finishes in paper and digital Magic events:

Speed: 6

First Turn Consistency: 3

Ability to Play Through Disruption: 9

Actual first turn kills with this deck are fairly rare, but they do happen. A literal first turn kill involves the following sequence:

Ancient Tomb + Simian Spirit Guide to cast Seething Song

Cast Sneak Attack and activate to put Griselbrand into play

Draw cards with Griselbrand to find Worldspine Wurm plus another Spirit Guide to attack for 22

What happens more often than not are figurative first turn kills thanks to Blood Moon and Chalice of the Void. We also have a non-zero amount of hands that Through the Breach or Sneak Attack a Worldspine Wurm into play on turn one, attacking for fifteen and leaving behind fifteen power worth of tokens to finish the game on turn two.

You will notice I ranked Big Red fairly high on its "Ability to Play Through Disruption" which may seem odd at first glance -- after all, we are not playing any counterspells or discard whatsoever. This deck plays through disruption by constantly asking must-answer questions over and over again. Can you answer my Chalice of the Void that will lock you out of the game? How about this Blood Moon? How about this Sneak Attack? How about this Through the Breach?

Recently, I wrote a much fuller primer on this deck that you can find here.

Finally, I would like to close out today's monkey business with an interesting new deck that recently took 9th place at an event in Japan:

Speed: ?

First Turn Consistency: ?

Ability to Play Through Disruption: ?

I have left question marks for this deck, because unlike the others here, I have not played with it enough to really have a good gauge on where it falls. It seems like it should have nice consistent mana with 16 swamps, and Thoughtseize and Collective Brutality should allow it to play through some disruption.

Postboard, it has the plan of additional Grave Titans and Grim Monolith plus Lake of the Dead to fight through graveyard hate by simply hardcasting the reanimation targets.

Wrapping Up

In closing, and just so everything is above the board, I would just like to say that the rankings under each decklist are entirely subjective; they are my opinion. Your experience with a given deck may differ, and that is okay. These rankings are meant to serve as a baseline comparison between different archetypes for people who are unfamiliar with them.

Legacy is a really deep and complex format. It offers decks which fall almost everywhere along the Magic spectrum that are all competitive to varying degrees. Even my article here talking about decks capable of winning on the first turn is not an exhaustive list. I am sure there are several more obscure decklists that did not get mentioned here today. If you know of any good decks that our friend Simian Spirit Guide would approve of, feel free to list them in the comments below with your own thoughts on them!


--Jeff Hoogland

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