“Hey, man! Do you play Legacy?”
“I’d love to, but I can’t afford to play Legacy.”
“You can play Burn! It’s even cheaper than Modern!”
“Yeah, but I hate burn. Also, it’s not as good in Legacy.”
How real is this conversation? Very. I’ve had this conversation, almost word-for-word with other players before. The chances are good that you’ve also had this conversation. Your grandma has probably even had this conversation! Okay, that’s probably going too far, but you get the point.
Legacy is an exciting and interesting format, but one that most players can’t afford. In Modern, you can actually play slightly-worse, budget versions of good decks and still eke out some W’s while you start upgrading one $50 card at a time. Almost everything in Modern is under $100. In Legacy, the original dual lands you need for any competitive deck are going to be at least $250 per land. A full deck is often as much as a decent, used car. Playing budget decks means playing something so bad that 0-X is almost guaranteed.
Grixis Death’s Shadow
Oliver Tomajko placed 3rd/4th in the StarCityGames.com Open this weekend in Philadelphia. A few copies of this deck have gone 5-0 online this month. This deck is sweet. This deck is competitive. Most importantly, this is cheap. Like, Modern deck cheap. Let’s look at the deck first, and then go over how you can get started with it on the cheap. This is the exact list that Tomajko played this weekend in the Team Constructed event.
One of the biggest barriers to playing Legacy on a budget are the lands. You normally can’t just throw in the Ravnica cycle of shock lands like Watery Grave or Steam Vents, because you’re also playing Daze. Playing those together can often mean going from the normal and acceptable 5 damage to yourself from lands in a Modern game to what could easily add up to 10 damage to yourself in a Legacy game as you pick them up and replay them. But, that’s exactly why this deck is beautiful.
Since the beginning of Magic: The Gathering, black has been full of ways to get powerful effects at the cost of life. One of the cards every French EDH/Duel Commander player has to be aware of is Snuff Out. Paying 4 life is great at helping you get to a crucial, low life total quickly. It’s also another card you can cast for free, along with your Daze and Force of Will, which is incredibly important in Legacy. This competes with Dismember for the “kill your creature, hurt myself doing it” role in the deck, and the right balance will take time to figure out as the new meta settles. Some of your sideboard cards also come with life payment abilities. Virtually everything you do now is a combo with your Death’s Shadow, even more so than the Modern deck!
The Budget Crisis
Come on, come on, listen to the moneytalk!
MTGGoldfish shows the deck at $2,075.48 at time of writing, but those prices are all very high. I pulled the market price from TCGPlayer and got a total of $1,675.91, with the main deck being $1,447.57 of that. That’s already pretty good, but let’s see what you can do to make this a little easier on the wallet.
Let’s start with lands first. Every fetchable land in this deck is a dual land. There are no basics. This means you can freely swamp out three of the Scalding Tarn for Bloodstained Mire without affecting the deck’s performance. This means the real starting price is going to be down to $1,517.21, with a main deck cost of $1,288.87. The Underground Sea is the most expensive card in the deck. It’s not necessary in most situations you’ll be in. You’re definitely going to notice that you don’t have until you get it, but the goal here is to be more accessible to begin your Legacy career. Switching it to another Watery Grave brings the list down to $1,029.37, with the main deck being only $801.03.
Now, it’s time for spells. Force of Will is the most expensive card we’re left with. You really can’t just drop them all, but while you’re starting it’s fair to swap one for a Misdirection. It’s definitely not as good, and there will be times where you really wish it was the real deal, but there will be situations where it’s also just as good. If you’re in a counter spell fight, you can redirect their counter spell to your Misdirection to counter it, or change their removal spell to their creature. With this one switch, the list is down to $952.31, with the main deck being just $723.97.
Last, it’s time to look at the sideboard. Legacy sideboards are challenging, just like Modern. Maybe they’re even more challenging. There are some things you simply have to have, like Surgical Extraction and Flusterstorm, but some other places where there is flexibility. Instead of writing a new sideboard, I’m just going to leave some other cards that get played in the sideboard that are cheaper than Bitterblossom or Liliana, the Last Hope. All of these are $20 or less:True-Nam Nemesis, Hymn to Tourach, Kolaghan’s Command, Painful Truths, and Pithing Needle.
Grixis Death’s Shadow in Legacy – Your Affordable Option
This deck is fully competitive now that there’s no Deathrite Shaman to steal the game if you get too low. It’s also incredibly cheap. If you make the changes I’ve suggest, you can get your starting main deck down to about $725, and you can easily get the total cost down to about $900 with your sideboard. That’s about the same cost as a Modern deck, and many of the cards (especially the creatures and lands) are also Modern playable. Your wallet even gets a two-for-one!