Solve the Equation - Can You Play "Legendary Matters" Cards in Any Deck?

(Relic of Legends | Art by Titus Lunter)

2022 Was Legen…Wait For It… Dary!

Feel like your deck just is not coming together? Welcome to Solve the Equation, where we take a look at the numbers and see what's making your deck and in-game decision-making fall flat.

Commander is Magic: the Gathering's most popular format, and its player base is only growing as high profile personalities such as Post Malone continue to play and promote the game. This trend has not gone unnoticed by Wizards of the Coast. The set Commander Legends was the first official full set made specifically for the EDH format, but almost every set nowadays feels like it was made for Commander. Every year we see more legends than the year before, and the EDHREC database now has almost 12,000 decks dedicated specifically to the “Legendary Matters” strategy.

This got me thinking: now that there are so many legendary cards running around, should we consider using legend-specific cards that we previously neglected? Are there enough legendary cards in the format to make “legendary hate” cards viable in the average deck? I dove into the numbers to get a better idea!

Your Deck Has How Many Legends???

First, I took a look at the most played creatures in the format. Of course, not all legendary cards are creatures, but the huge influx of legends is felt most greatly in the creatures category. Over the past week, 34 of the top 100 creatures appearing in the highest percentage of eligible decks are legends. This number is definitely notable, though the Top Cards list accounts for the highest percentage of decks rather than the total number of decks. Many of the “pushed” legendary creatures that have come out recently are multicolored, meaning they fit into fewer decks. This has a tendency to inflate the percentage of these cards compared to mono-colored or colorless cards that are eligible to appear in a significantly higher number of decks.

Okay, so there are a lot of legends seeing play, but are they all in one archetype? How likely am I to see these cards in the average game? I took a look at the top 25 commanders of the last 2 years and scrolled through their average decklists. 

The top commanders that play the fewest legendary cards are Sythis, Harvest's Hand and Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver, both with five legends, and Arcades, the Strategist, with only three. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain (42), Esika, God of the Tree (33), and Go-Shintai of Life's Origin (23) have the most legends on average. These decks are legendary themed or have a theme that cares about permanents that happen to be legends, such as Shrines.

Similarly, popular tribes often have many legendary creatures. If they aren't leading your deck, they're probably still in it. Edgar Markov (13), Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm (14), and The Ur-Dragon (20) all also have a solid number of legends, but the numbers don't drop off significantly after that.

I wanted to exclude “legendary matters” decks when pulling an average, so I pulled the top three performers out for the count. Even without them, the average deck contains 11.6 legendary cards. That makes it much more likely that legendary cards will hit the battlefield in any given game.

Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, Omnath, Locus of Creation, Isshin, Two Heavens as One, Breya, Etherium Shaper, and Shorikai, Genesis Engine all also have average decklists that contain 15 or more legends. This means 36% of the most popular decks are made up of 15% or more legendary cards. 

Now, I've thrown a lot of numbers your way, but all this means nothing if we don't apply it. What should we take away from these numbers?

Legendary Sorceries

The first cards that came to mind when I considered reevaluating older cards were the legendary sorceries from Dominaria. Three of these cards, Jaya's Immolating Inferno, Kamahl's Druidic Vow, and Primevals' Glorious Rebirth, still probably only fit into very specific decks. Comet Storm, Genesis Wave, and Living Death all have similar effects without the restriction, and their payoffs are much more consistent.

There are a few others, though. Karn's Temporal Sundering is priced similarly to the average extra turn effect, such as Time Warp, and for the extra mana we get a Boomerang effect tacked on. Our commander can obviously fulfill the requirement, but in any deck with enough legends, this card can have a huge swing in games and is relatively cheap in both mana and dollars. 

Yawgmoth's Vile Offering has less applicability, but it can still find its way into many decks. It's expensive for both a Reanimate effect and as a removal spell, but putting them together gives this card a lot of flexibility. A single mana pip makes it easy to splash in a deck with limited black, but the card really shines in a mono-black deck with Cabal Coffers, Phyrexian Tower, or other ways of making mass quantities of mana.

Finally, Urza's Ruinous Blast offers a lot more than initially seeming to on the surface. First, it is an exile effect, and exiling all nonland permanents frequently costs more and has more white pips, such as with Planar Cleansing. The rate is excellent, and if your commander is key to your strategy, you can be sure this keeps it around. Ironically, the only downside is that this card falls off in value if your opponents are playing many legends as well. This card is best used if you value your commander and no other board wipes can clean up the board and keep your commander around.

My Hatred Will be Legendary

We can always build our deck to support the cards we put in it. However, the bigger question surrounds our opponents, and whether they'll be playing enough legends for us to play cards that work against them.

Bounty Agent is an on-rate creature that fits nicely into any creature strategy, especially Human and Soldier tribal decks. Bounty Agent can snag an artifact or enchantment, but its bigger impact comes when it gets to hold the table hostage, as you can kill anyone's commander at any time. If you get this down early, it may discourage anyone from even playing their commander, making it more akin to the much more popular Drannith Magistrate.

Price of Fame is way too expensive at four mana, but if you can get the discount then it becomes one of the best Doom Blade variants. Surveil 2 is huge and is a big return for the downside of leaving up two mana. It fits nicely into graveyard-centric decks, and if you find yourself often targeting your opponents' commanders then this could be a solid upgrade to your Infernal Grasp.

Tale's End perhaps is the hate card that gets the biggest upgrade as more and more legendary cards are released. A Stifle effect has huge blowout potential, but it's far too narrow to warrant a space in most decks. Tale's End tacks on a counterspell that you know at the very least will hit your opponents' commanders. 9 times out of 10 this will probably counter the player who ramped out their expensive commander, but in the game when you counter Craterhoof Behemoth's ETB, you'll sense the true power of this card.

As more and more legendary cards continue to be printed, we should all keep an eye out for more cards like these. Inevitably, when Wizards of the Coast strengthens an archetype, they begin to bring in cards that counteract the effect. Legendary hate may not be their top priority at the moment, but if we continue to see a push in the 'legends matter' direction, that counteraction will come eventually.

In Conclusion

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty's legendary land cycle, most notable Boseiju, Who Endures, and Relic of Legends, are examples of some of the support that has come to the legendary archetype this year. Jodah, the Unifier and Dihada, Binder of Wills are two of the best commanders the archetype has ever seen. With Commander's popularity, I would not expect to see the influx of legends slowing down any time soon. We can use this to our advantage in deckbuilding by broadening our horizons and searching beyond the staples to find cards that can give us a leg up. Keep an eye out with every spoiler season for more cards that deserve a second look and might become staples as decks become more and more legendary.

Ben is a Michigan native who fell in love with Magic just a few years ago in 2019. He loves making big splashy plays in Commander as well as crunching the number to optimize his decks. Outside of Magic, he works in marketing and loves a great cup of coffee to start each morning… maybe with a splash of hot chocolate for his sweet tooth.

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