About Survival of the Fittest

So you may or may not have read my thoughts on the Legacy banlist. Despite the impression that many readers had, my number one wish for the format is to be interesting. The disconnect stems from the fact that I apparently have a different idea of what is interesting and what isn’t than most. Many players see Legacy as a format that is supposed to be very diverse and that is what makes it interesting to them. For me, it is more about the individual games I play; I like games with lots of decisions, regardless of the actual cards I’m using. Whereas others like to play against five different decks they have never seen, I am perfectly content playing Delver mirrors all day long.

One thing that is especially frustrating for players looking for diversity is the large representation of Brainstorm decks. I think the best Brainstorm decks are clearly better than everything else in the format; if you want to win a Legacy event, you’re giving yourself the best shot by playing one of those decks.

If this statement is true, there are two options.

The first is that you don’t consider blue dominance a problem. In that case, there’s no reason to have Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise banned – they are not the problem and they do not make it worse. If it’s better to cast Brainstorm than not to, it doesn’t matter how much better it is. (Obviously it makes a difference in the actual games because these cards are extremely powerful, but it does not make a difference in deck selection.)

The second option is that you do consider blue dominance a problem. This is a hard problem to address though, because this is not something that can be solved by bannings. Legacy needs strong blue decks to keep extremely fast combo decks like Belcher and BR Reanimator in check. Of course there’s the possibility that you enjoy playing Modern, but maybe it’s a good idea to actually play Modern then. (Not throwing any shade here; even though it’s been a while, but I play Modern every now and then myself. I just don’t think there’s any reason to have to funtionally identical formats with slightly different cards.)

The number one benefit of running Brainstorm is mitigating bad lategame draws. In close second is the ability to run low amounts of situational cards that you can find somewhat reliably with cantrips but still shuffle away if you don’t need them. Sound familiar?


When Survival was banned more than six years ago, many thought the banning was premature. (I had just been playing for a few months, so my personal judgement is irrelevant.) On top of that, Legacy back then looked nothing like it does now. There was no Delver of Secrets, Past in Flames, Griselbrand, Miracles, Deathrite Shaman, True-Name Nemesis, Shardless Agent, Eldrazi Mimic… The list goes on.

Unfortunately, the explanation for the banning of Survival is rather short. Basically, it says that the card is Show and Tell, not Omniscience (another strategy that did not exist back then).

I can confidently say that I am not scared to face Survival of the Fittest with either Miracles, Delver or Storm. Of course, I could be wrong and the card is indeed busted and it most certainly is going to push some decks out of the format… Only it really isn’t because those decks already aren’t top tier.

At the very least, Survival provides a very interesting deckbuilding challenge that I would not mind to take on at all.

What’s the worst that could happen?

There could be a deck out there that’s completely busted and destroys everything else in the format. In that case, the deck won’t even run rampant because this is Legacy and it takes really long for decks to catch on. Especially with the new B&R update schedule, this is barely an issue – there’s basically a slot for emergency bans now.

What good could happen?

Ideally, everybody would find a deck they enjoy playing that is actually good. The fact that Survival is highly customisable really does wonders here; just like there are dozens of different Brainstorm decks, there is a huge amount of things you can potentially do with Survival. There is a risk of turning the format into Brainstorm vs. Survival, but I guess that’s better than Brainstorm vs. Brainstorm for most?

 You might argue that I have not given enough reasons to unban Survival, but my stance is that there are simply no convincing reasons to leave it banned and it’s up to those that think it should be banned to show why it’s too good.

Thanks for reading!



4 thoughts on “About Survival of the Fittest

  1. RG Survival Advantage was one of my favorite decks. It was there since the very beginning of legacy, a holdover from extended seasons past, much like many of the other decks that have been around as long.

    The worst thing was seeing your favorite deck banned just because of vengivine. This deck that took so much time to learn, there was a creature for every situation. They claim that they couldn’t ban Vengevine, as there was still no reason that all of the tempo decks wouldn’t just “play survival anyway”. The thing is, they basically invalidated all of the other fair decks by printing DRS Decay and Delver anyways. Try to tell me you’d be ballsy enough to fetch squee in the face of active drs. Try telling me that Necrotic Ooze combo survival is a better deck than reanimator or sneak and show with mentor in the sideboard. You’d be laughed out of there!

    They should just ban vengevine, unban survival, and then we would finally have a maverick/nic fit deck that could compete with the big boys. It forces you to play with terrible situational cards that can’t even beat DRS or Terminus anyways. Loyal Retainers Iona out of some fair deck isn’t any scarier than Depths/Stage anyway.


  2. Without expertise, I agree the format can handle Survival. I don’t even think the worst case of Brainstorm vs Survival will come up. Combo decks are still viable despite blue dominance. I also think that diversity is the best way to keep the format interesting for everybody. A wide variety of options means a field in flux.

    I don’t agree that Brainstorm is on level with Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. It made UR delver the best deck in both Legacy and Modern. Brainstorm sculpts, selects, and improves opening hands. It does not generate raw card advantage. If we swap Ancestral Recall for Brainstorm, then very clearly blue becomes pretty much the only option in Legacy. Treasure Cruise is a lot closer to Recall than Brainstorm.

    As said, I’m hardly expert on Survival, but given that it would increase diversity I’m all for it. It’s a free tool for brewers both new and veteran. I’m not sure about Vengevine, but I also don’t see how it could be that much worse than what Reanimator (which I’ve played plenty) or Dredge are already capable of. I guess you can have a less dedicated combo deck, but the graveyard hate would mostly still be live.

    At the end of the day, I am happy with Wizards taking risks. Grave-Troll got re-banned in Modern, but that doesn’t mean to me that the un-banning was wrong. If that’s what happens in Legacy, then Survival will be a deck for awhile. And at the very worst, for a little while we’ll experience the tension of facing down a very busted monster in a format that’s full of monsters.

  3. I agree with the post along with most people’s sentiments regarding SotF. Vengevine was the card that pushed the deck’s power limits, however, still premature in the banning. If anything, Vengevine should have been banned as Survival was a fair deck.

    The reasoning Wizard had around banning Survival was to avoid risky future printing of creatures that could overpower SotF. To me that’s the same as banning Brainstorm because of risk for future cards that could be printed to make blue decks OP.

    In reality, we all know that there’s little money in Legacy and Wizard still keeps it around because they hold some value to the fans who played MTG in the early days. This is why we have collectible cards in the first place.

    It just sucks since I’ve been playing since 1998 and fell in love with SotF toolbox decks. Played it all the way to 2010 and when it got banned, it was so hard to get into other decks. The customization just wasn’t there. I still lurk on MTG every now and then hoping they unban Survival.

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