The Rise and Fall of Legacy's Silver Age

Dawn of the Silver Age

The end of the Deathrite Shaman era was a momentous event for Magic: The Gathering's best format. Some cheered his demise and others mourned him, but none doubted that Legacy would be a changed place in his absence. Few knew that his passing would usher in one of the greatest environments Magic had ever known.

If the Pre-Innistrad period was Legacy's Golden Age, this was its Silver Age. The powerful Delver decks remained, but unable to totally triumph as they had. Death and Taxes rose from its weakened position to dethrone Delver as the preeminent deck in the format. Simultaneously, Death's Shadow also emerged onto the Legacy stage; a great innovation on the Delver archetype which showed the depth of the card pool as it paved another route to power for new players.

Their reign was brief. The Czech Pile decks shed their green spells and became Grixis Control, punishing these two deck types. Miracles and Ad Nauseum Tendrils were not far behind. They were not alone, as Sneak and Show, Stoneblade, Elves, 4-color Loam, and countless other decks reemerged.

Some were old decks were reborn as they might have been from just a few years prior. Others were reimagined from the depth of 25 years of cards or received fresh life from new cards, as was true for Goblins and BUG Leovold. New archetypes formed as well, with innovative decks like Grixis Phoenix breaking onto the scene.

For about ten months, Legacy flourished in way few formats had ever experienced. Decks were powerful, but creative. The metagame was dynamic, but self-correcting: no deck reigned or was forced out for too long. Any deck might have the opportunity for greatness on the right day. The field was not balanced, but it was in a sort of harmony. Legacy then was one of the greatest times and ways to play Magic.

It was not to last.

The War and the Dark Age

Even when clearly visible on the horizon, it may be hard to fully appreciate danger approaching. So it was with War of the Spark, which changed Legacy unexpectedly, immediately, and irreversibly. Most immediately felt was the presence of Planeswalkers with one-sided static abilities: several of these could unilaterally shut down entire aspects of the game, generate significant value for the caster, and were hard to interact with once resolved. Slower to be appreciated were low-cost threats that generated great value like Dreadhorde Arcanist. The weapons of WAR had changed the game. A format previously defined by closely fought, long battles of attrition and maneuver became about games often lost early and without real chance of recovery.

It did not improve. Modern Horizons brought several more cards akin to the threats of WAR. Others shattered the color balance in ways unseen since the time of Deathrite Shaman. M20 added yet another brutally efficient weapon for the stack wars, and Throne of Eldraine introduced the most egregious Planeswalker to date: one that made most opponent's deck construction decisions irrelevant while being a versatile answer and powerful game-ending threat as well.

Things only got worse. While the developers admitted their error in Oko, they doubled down on the game's direction. The Titans of the next set were overshadowed by an even more terrible decision: to recreate perhaps the most powerful spell in the game's entire history in an even mightier form. Though Underworld Breach was quickly banished to the banned list without apology, it still left the format in a miserable state.

Then came Ikoria, and the companion mechanic: a design so horrid it destroyed every format it touched. When the evidence became incontrovertible, the developers reluctantly reacted with a half measure that still left the blight to linger on in Legacy and elsewhere, with only a vague promise that they might address it later.

It had become obvious that whatever the agenda of the developers, they had forsaken the spirit of the game and their most loyal players. Slowly, the luminaries and most loyal players began to voice their dismay and spoke openly of quitting.

Gathering in the Darkness

A few players refused to accept this end. Motivated by both righteous anger and memories of a better time, they decided to carve out their own paths... and formats. It had been done before, it could be done again.

These players did not bide their time, but struck out quickly and suddenly. They built the forums and places from which this old vision could be restored. The Gathering was a fire passed down into the hands of its players, and it could not be denied. Communities sprouted up overnight around these formats. Activity was at first slow, but each day without change for the better inspired more to test the waters.

Will you join us, and experience Legacy at its finest?