Going Mad – Modern & Legacy & Vintage – OH MY!

By: Derek Madlem

Maybe you spent this last weekend underground, or on a boat, or even on a smaller boat than that (the kind without free WiFi), but there were a couple of fairly substantial tournaments this weekend that you may or may not have heard about.  While you were not glued to the screen honing your Magical craft via proxy Wizarding the rest of us tuned in to see some pretty sweet things happening on coverage.


My Horse

Since the moment I first saw Evolutionary Leap, I knew the card was abstractly powerful and that it was only a matter of time before someone broke it. I sang praise for Evolutionary Leap from the rooftops and the world was split as to whether this card was hot garbage or hot fire… turns out it might actually be hot fire. Chris VanMeter proved that Evolutionary Leap is not “slower than Chord of Calling” by piloting a sweet elves list that was capable of churning through the entire deck to find and cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn as early as turn two, thanks entirely to Evolutionary Leap.

How did it this dream scenario string of shenanigans go?

Turn 1: Forest, Nettle Sentinel
Turn 2: Forest, Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid…tap for three, play an elf to net some mana and then stick a Cloudstone Curio or Evolutionary Leap to generate as much mana as you could possibly need.

The Evolutionary Leap method sacrificed the elf to burn through and find another elf and net one mana at each step until casting a Regal Force or Emrakul

Cloudstone Curio bounced an elf to replay at a net gain of net two mana per cast, then cast Elvish Visionary and draw the whole deck or just play an Emrakul to end the game.

Vanmeter didn’t crush the open with this deck, but it did do well enough to show “proof of concept” and silence many of the haters. A lackluster performance with a new deck on it’s first outing doesn’t prove it’s bad, it just gives us a baseline to tweak and tune from.


Evolutionary Leap has only climbed about 25% since this deck showed up on camera while it’s partner in crime, Cloudstone Curio, has casually tripled up. We’ve seen Cloudstone Curio spike before and come back down to Earth, but this time it’s more likely to stick as it’s been tempered in the fires of battle rather than it’s price being based on a theoretical synergy with Beck // Call.

Evolutionary Leap is still a really cheap card in the grand scheme of things (hovering around $2.50 as of writing this article) so it’s not too late to pick up a playset or even a small mountain of them. I’m fairly certain we haven’t seen the last of this card as new innovations are sure to continue bubbling up to the surface. For those keeping score at home this now means that two out of my three pet cards from Magic Origins are seeing some serious action, now I’m just waiting on Woodland Bellower to bring me the Triple Crown.


Modern Shakeups?

Ultimately the Modern event was taken down by the format’s greatest antihero: Jund. Herrera’s Jund list featured mostly just the usual suspects but added a little spice with a card I’m pretty fond of: Abbot of Keral Keep. The top 32 decklists of this event show a diverse and robustly healthy format where everybody gets to play pretty much any style of deck they want…and Splinter Twin didn’t even make top 8.

Meanwhile in sunny Philadelphia…

Eternal Weekend was in full bloom with 744 players sleeving up Legacy decks to battle for a really big Tundra and glory. The only thing more surprising than the Legacy turnout was the reality that this event would have been even larger if it wasn’t for the World Magic Cup Qualifier running alongside it, peeling off a non-zero number of players. Reaching 750 players for a non-SCG non-GP event proves that Legacy is alive and well in the hearts of Magic players.


So what was hot? How about Dig Through Time showing up in six out of the top eight decks and making a strong case for the ban hammer. With so much of the blue’s primary arsenal pairing well with Dig Through Time, it’s hard to imagine a world where Dig doesn’t get banned in Legacy (and likely restricted in Vintage). Dig Through Time is painting itself into a corner financially, quickly turning into a terrible long-term pick with very few chances to curve out. Even the FOIL copies are going to have a hard time paying off big if the only place to play them is going to be Vintage, Cube, and Commander…especially when you factor in the prerelease versions.

But then there’s Splinter Twin…in Legacy. Max Ansbro was able to pilot Splinter Twin to an impressive 10-1 record in the swiss portion of the event. It’s easy to write this off as Max simply being an “archetype master” because Legacy is a format that rewards players for knowing their decks just as much as it does playing a good decks, but dropping only a single match in eleven rounds of swiss at the year’s premiere Legacy event is no small feat. 

splinter twin

What’s this mean for Splinter Twin? It definitely brings the card to center stage and only embolden’s any case against allowing the card to continue being legal in Modern. Do I think that a card being Legacy playable is reason enough to ban it in Modern? If that were the case we’d have seen Abrupt Decay, Tarmogoyf, and Delver of Secrets banned a long time ago. What it does do, though, is amplifies the conversation that’s already being had. Splinter Twin is not disproportionately strong in Modern, but it is an abysmal deck from a user-experience perspective…nobody likes to be on the losing side of “HA HA GOT YOU!” combos backed up with a pile of counter magic.

Ultimately I think that the success of the Legacy Twin deck has more to do with Dig Through Time than it does Splinter Twin so I don’t expect much to happen to the price of Splinter Twin any time soon outside the potential for one of Wizards’ lazy “Pro Tour” bannings just to shake up the format. Banning Splinter Twin in Modern right after reprinting it would be an embarrassing mistake for Wizards so I doubt we even see a shakeup banning at this point.

Dig Through Time having the ability to search up and piece together multiple pieces of combos (however bad) only furthers the case for its banning in Legacy and there’s probably a strong case to be made for restricting it in Vintage for the same reasons.


Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has found his way to Legacy and this pretty much sums up how I feel about it:

At this point I’m still just dumbfounded that people continue trying this card but even more so dumbfounded that it keeps showing up in high profile finishes. Did I mention there were also four copies in the 5th place Grixis Control deck for the Modern open?

I’m to the point now where I am almost forced to acknowledge just how good Jace is and take him for a test drive. Apparently Merfolk Looter was just on the cusp of greatness for all these years just waiting for some sweet Delve spells to push it over the top.

I want to say that Jace is probably just a flash in the pan, but it’s starting to look like he might be a multi-format all star in addition to being a casual favorite. I really feel gross typing this: Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is likely the second best Jace ever printed and as time goes on, we’re going to wish we had those FOILs, so grab them now while they’re only casually stupid-expensive.


The slow death of Vintage has been a greatly exaggerated “fact” for years now. This year featured the largest Vintage Championships turnout yet with over 460 players, that’s over a hundred additional players compared to last year’s turnout.

Dack Fayden

Breakout cards in Vintage are often irrelevant as far as #mtgfinance is concerned because the market for these cards just isn’t that deep. That said, there’s a very good reason why FOIL Dack Fayden is nearly ten times the price of a non-FOIL Dack Fayden – Vintage players are willing to spend money.


While it’s easy to point out that Dack Fayden is snowballing in popularity in Vintage, the real breakout card from this event came from Magic OriginsHangarback Walker. Normally I would just pass this off as Vintage being Vintage; ridiculous things happen all the time in Vintage – people attack with Slash Panther, people play a NON-FOIL copy of Polluted Delta from Khans of Tarkir right next to their hand-painted Mox Emerald, some people even go so far as to white-border their entire deck using acetone and an eraser… these people are occasional savages that will occasionally do savage things. Some of these things are easy to ignore, but what I can’t ignore is a card showing up in decks ranging all the way from Standard to Vintage. Enter the Hangarback.

We’ve already seen Hangarback Walker make it’s presence known in Standard and Vintage, and there are murmurings of it’s power in Modern affinity…how long until Hangarback fills in the gaps and shows up in Legacy? When a card has such a strong cross-format appeal, there’s significant upside to picking up FOIL copies – just look at Abrupt Decay as a great example. When a card defies convention and sets up (work)shop in multiple formats, it’s likely to be a player for a long time and I think Hangarback is on the cusp of that level of greatness.


5 thoughts on “Going Mad – Modern & Legacy & Vintage – OH MY!”

  1. Hey Madlem, hope you are doing well.
    What do you play in Legacy cause I think you are over reacting to Dig Through Time? The card is great but I don’t think it’s oppressive. I currently play UR delver/Grixis Delver and I’ve actually had to cut down to 2 Digs. More people are running the Grixis/4 color delver variations and Deathrite is a real issue for Dig decks. And in my local group there’s a lot more Rest In Peace being brought in. I’m not going to go back through all the deck lists but I feel like Dig is mostly a 2 of in those top decks except in OmniTell…and if Wizards wants an unfair card to ban how about Show and Tell? Do I hate my Miracles opponent casting Dig to find the answers he/she needs? Sure. Do I love countering it with a $1.00 twenty year old common in Pyroblast? hell yeah! lol

    I’m just for less bannings and letting people adapt which doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion unfortunately. I thought Cruise was banned too soon in Legacy…I saw Notion Thief in Vintage doing work and Spirit of the Labyrinth had just been printed, Misdirection exists, etc so people could have used their brains when building a deck or side board for cruise….such a terrible idea I know.

    Legacy is supposed to have brokenness. I wouldn’t have starting playing legacy if I wasn’t so interested in all the crazy decks and interactions. And I also wouldn’t be interested in continuing to play if a silly Blood Moon (or Choke) couldn’t win me the game on turn 3…the fairest combo in Legacy 😀

    And if Evolutionary Leap can produce turn 2 kills in Modern shouldn’t/wouldn’t it be worthy of a banning? Lame to think about right?

  2. sorry, had a typo and should say “started playing legacy…”

    Also, if I look at your article with less opinion and more from a financial perspective I see what you are saying about Dig. But remember when there was some legacy event where Elves was the top 4 decks? I don’t think Wizards or anyone should overreact just yet. If Wizards wants to do anything they should reprint Rishadan Port so players could afford Death and Taxes. I don’t think “really good” cards should be banned, but financially I may have to consider what you are saying an maybe even move a few of my foil Digs. I really do think it would be a terrible idea to ban it from Legacy but I don’t control that. Later D

    1. I just think that Dig Through Time is more powerful than other cards that existed within the same space. Mystical Tutor is banned for power level reasons and it doesn’t even put the cards in your hand AND is restricted to specific cards types whereas Dig can grab any two cards and have them ready immmediately.

  3. How do you feel about foil evolutionary leap? Is the foil multiplier already too high or do you think foils will double up if non foils double up?

    1. I might be the wrong guy to ask, I preordered a playset at $20, which is not looking like such a great buy now. Long term, I like them a lot. It’s only a matter of time before Leap is a card people are comfortable playing and it starts slotting into Commander decks as well as being a powerful card advantage engine

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