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On the Recent Changes to Legacy and Vintage
By Stephen O. Bahl
This article is a follow-up to my "Analysis of the Legacy Banned List." Or, it kind of isósort of. Iím not really sure. I will be touching on the points I made in that article, but I wonít be revisiting it extensively and new readers could easily do without having read that old article. Firstly, I never expected that it would take so long for changes to occur in the format. I donít even remember how long ago I wrote that article, but itís been a while. Secondly, over the past year or so Iíve only barely followed the format (mainly by browsing some internet message boards on occasion to see if any cool new combo decks have been making waves). Thirdly, now that changes have finally happened, theyíve occurred simultaneously with changes to the Vintage restricted listóspecifically some interesting unrestrictions. And I am all about the unrestrictions.

Iíll start with Vintage, then move on to Legacy. In each section, I will start with unrestrictions and unbannings and continue with restrictions and bannings. Iíll conclude with a new analysis of the Legacy banned list (not as in-depth as my first one).

Vintage unrestrictions

Gush: This is the one I am currently guessing will make the biggest impact on the metagame. It was extremely good up until it was restricted, and even if the decks that broke it the most are no longer viable, itís still a very powerful card. The most obvious interaction is with Psychatog since Gush actually puts one card into your graveyard from your hand and replaces it with four cards, all while expending no mana (and it can even generate mana in some cases). Gush is a dangerous card to allow unrestricted if the conditions are right, but at the moment the format doesnít seem ripe for a Psychatog takeover or anything. Gush will see use, but unrestricting it seems safe.

Mind Twist: Itís kind of weird seeing Mind Twist leave the list. Itís been either banned or restricted since before I started playing. But at this point, unrestricting Mind Twist is sort of like releasing Dr. Kevorkian from prison. The card has lost its edge and it just isnít the bomb it used to be. Since Mana Drain scares the crap out of me, Iím a bit concerned about the implications of an unrestricted sink for Mana Drain that reads ďkill your opponentís hand.Ē However, Gifts Ungiven was also ridiculous with Mana Drain, and now itís being restricted. So maybe itís a fair trade?

Black Vise: Iím pleasantly surprised. Black Vise was a card that needed to go. The format was slow enough in 2004 that Black Vise could have been an absolute wrecking ball, but since then things have changed. The pendulum has swung in the other direction and is staying there. There is no competitive Vintage deck that Black Vise hoses. On the other hand, Black Vise unrestricted is great for casual players.

Voltaic Key: Honestly, I thought this card was already unrestricted. Well, it is now, so Iím not complaining. Voltaic Key is less scary than a number of other cards that left the list. It is nice with Workshop-based strategies, so it might find a home in a few decks, but no one is afraid of the big, bad key.

The Vintage restriction

Gifts Ungiven deserved to be restricted. It is harder to use than Fact or Fiction, which might be part of why we didnít see it dominating enough to be restricted earlier. But overall, itís a superior card. Mana Drain decks are good enough without being able to tutor for whatever they want (four times using one spell). This seems like it will be just the thing to balance the format.

The Legacy unbannings

Mind Over Matter: I called for an unbanning of this in my original analysis, and I think this was one card for which I was 100% right. Solidarity canít use MoMa. Sorcery-speed High Tide can, but MoMa costs six mana, which is a huge barrier. If MoMa makes High Tide a competitive deck, then fine. The format could use a reliable combo deck.

Replenish: This was another card I claimed should be unbanned, although I was not as sure of this one at the time. Basically, my experience with Replenish has been that itís overrated. It looks impressive when you do 84 damage off one spell, but cool, flashy kills arenít necessarily broken. Quite frankly, it was never demonstrated to me that Replenish is the ban-worthy powerhouse players seemed so worried aboutóas long as there isnít something already unhealthy about the format. If nothing else, Legacy players have access to Tormodís Crypt, which costs zero mana and stops Replenish by itself.

The Legacy ban

Like I said, I havenít been following the format very closely. I just finished up a quarter of nothing but biology classes at school, so I didnít have much time on my hands anyway. When I saw ďFlash is bannedĒ I was a bit puzzled. I think it went something like this: ďFlash? Which one? Not Flash Gordon. I think this is a rapper. No wait, this is definitely a Magic card. Itís an older one too. Itís not from Weatherlight. I think itís from either Visions or Mirage. And itís a blue instant. Yeah. Definitely a blue instant from Visions or Mirage. Doesnít it stop spells from being countered or something? Why would they ban that? Iíd better look it upÖĒ

Surprisingly enough, I was almost right. It is a blue instant. It is from Mirage. And I guess you could use it to prevent your creature spells from being countered. But it does so very much more. Well, now it doesnít, because itís banned. But before it was banned, it could do a lot. Mostly in the time between the removal of its erratum and the time it was banned. This is very likely the only reason that Flash didnít make the original Legacy banned list. At the time Legacy (then un-named as a format) was introduced, Flashís textbox looked something like thisÖ

ďChoose a creature card in your hand. You may pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2. If you do, put that card into play. If you donít, put that card into your graveyard.Ē

This text was based on a series of Sixth Edition errata aimed at correcting for overly powerful interactions. Other victims included Karmic Guide, Great Whale, and one of my favorite cards: Iridescent Drake, but thatís another story. Last summer, WotC removed a number of such errata, and I think Flash might have been one of the cards involved in this. I forget. In any case, itís back to doing what the text on the card itself actually says. So now, Flashís textbox looks more like thisÖ

ďYou may put a creature card from your hand into play. If you do, sacrifice it unless you pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2.Ē

The obvious difference is that now, Flash can put creatures into play even if you donít pay the mana cost. This allows creatures with comes-into-play or leaves-play abilities to hit the board and use such abilities at instant speed for two mana. Which creatures work best with Flash? Does it matter? The possibilities are ridiculous. The only issue is finding the right setup to murder everything else in tournaments. The configurations that ended up dominating were based around Protean Hulk and could kill on the first turn. Fun. So yeah, the only problem with this ban was that it didnít come soon enough.

Revisiting the banned list

Since I already covered the obvious things in my other article and they havenít really changed, all unmentioned cards that are on the banned list are probably there to stay, and rightfully so.

Black Vise: Since it was just unrestricted in Vintage, one might speculate that it could also see its ban lifted in Legacy. But Legacy is, at the moment, slow enough that Black Vise could be a serious problem. There would be little point in exchanging the formatís powerful aggro decks for aggro-control decks that have similar clocks and demolish control decks with Vise.
Verdict: leave banned

Earthcraft: The format is developed and Iím not even sure if squirrels would be competitive, let alone first tier.
Verdict: unban

Worldgorger Dragon: This card suffers the same problem as Replenish. Itís not necessarily fast enough to be first-tier. And even if it is, the post-sideboard matchup will finish it. The better Dragon is, the more graveyard hate its opponents will have ready.
Verdict: unban

Land Tax: In the article explaining the recent changes, Aaron Forsythe acknowledges that there was call from the Legacy community to unban Land Tax. The primary reason for not lifting the ban appears to be that Land Tax is ďboring.Ē Firstly, I disagree with this. Having played with and against Land Tax, Iíve never found it to be a boring card. Secondly, this is the sort of thing I was worried about when Trinisphere was restricted in Vintage. Itís not such a huge concern that Iím going to dig up old forum posts for this article, but Trinisphere was essentially restricted because a minority of players whined a lot. It wasnít dominating the format and the metagame was balanced and diverse. Some people, myself included, thought this set a bad precedent. Land Tax is not dangerous enough to leave banned in Legacy.
Verdict: unban

Hermit Druid: Iím still not sure how good this can be in Legacy. It definitely shouldnít be unbanned until testing is done on it, and even then it should not be unbanned alongside anything else. Since two new cards were lifted off the banned list, it makes sense to exercise caution for a while.
Verdict: undecided

Mind Twist: Thereís no Mana Drain in Legacy. I can think of no good decks that would be pushed over the edge by Mind Twist. If it really makes no impact in Vintage and testing reveals that it probably wouldnít be all that great in Legacy either, it can be unbanned.
Verdict: undecided

Gush: Unlike in Vintage, Gush doesnít seem very threatening. It should have been unbanned in Legacy first. Hopefully itís being considered for the next round of changes to the lists.
Verdict: unban

I concluded my 2005 analysis by saying that I wanted to see Mind over Matter, Replenish, Worldgorger Dragon, Hermit Druid, and Gush unbanned. Two of those five are now unbanned. And the two that were are probably the most innocuous of the bunch. So this is a big step in the right direction. As it stands now, I hope to see Worldgorger Dragon and Gush unbanned and some consideration given to Land Tax, Hermit Druid, Earthcraft, and Mind Twist.

Read More Articles by Stephen O. Bahl!

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