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$5k MTG Legacy tournament canned over “toxic” card fears

Local Legacy gamers “do not want to continue playing a format where Grief is legal”, US Magic the Gathering store Owl Central Games says.

MTG Legacy card - Grief alternate art, a black magic card showing a humanoid form composed of whispy vapor

A US Magic the Gathering retailer pulled the plug on a Legacy tournament with a $5k prize pool scheduled for July 20, stating that “the perceived health of the Legacy format was toxic” within the community. It points the finger at Wizards of the Coast’s most recent banlist update, which left the powerful and contentious card Grief playable in the format.

Owl Central Games began “primarily as an online retailer”, assistant manager Cameron Lantz tells Wargamer, but has operated a brick and mortar store selling Magic: the Gathering and other trading card games in Pennsylvania since 2015. It has run cash-prize tournaments since 2021 “as the business re-emerged from the pandemic”, and has run three 61-seat Legacy $5k events since August 2022.

Magic the Gathering players at Owl Central Games, Pennsylvania

The store’s marquee tournaments ordinarily “come within a seat or two of selling out”, Lantz says. “Folks will travel anywhere from two to three hours away by car” to attend, coming in from New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington to make it to the Millersville store.

But pre-sales for the latest $5k have been extremely low. “At this time for previous $5Ks, we will typically have sold out more than half of the available seating”, Lantz says. But “at the time that we decided to cancel the event, we had only pre-sold six seats”.

It’s abnormally low for the store, “a measurable indicator of the community’s relationship to the format”. A blog post from Owl Central Games announcing the cancellation cites “in-depth discussions between our events team, store leadership, and entrenched Legacy players” which came to the conclusion the “greater Legacy community feels that Wizards of the Coast should have banned Grief from Legacy for the health of the format”.

MTG Legacy card - Grief, a black magic card showing a black elemental spirit emerging from a tree

“To put it succinctly”, Lantz says, “Legacy gamers in our area clearly do not want to continue playing a format where Grief is legal”. The most recent MTG banlist update from Wizards of the Coasts was on June 24; WotC banned no cards whatsoever.

For those who don’t play any eternal formats, Grief is a potent black creature printed in the MTG Set Modern Horizons 2. It’s a 3/2 Elemental Incarnation with Menace that costs two generic and two black mana. When it enters the battlefield you can look at your opponent’s hand, choose a nonland card from it, and force them to discard it.

That would be perfectly playable, but it has the additional powerful MTG keyword ‘Evoke’. This allows you to pay an alternate cost – in this case, exiling a black card from your hand – to cast the spell, with the caveat that you then have to sacrifice it.

In Legacy this can be combined with several one mana black spells, including ‘Reanimate’ and ‘Not Dead After All’, which put Grief back on the battlefield. That gives you another chance to attack the opponent’s hand. This package of Grief and a one mana reanimator spell has earnt the nickname ‘Scam’, and shows up just about everywhere. Here’s YouTuber Crucible of Worlds running it in a Domain deck, of all things:

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While evoking and reanimating Grief on turn one requires you to invest three cards to rid your opponent of two, you get your opponent’s best cards. It’s particularly punitive if your opponent has mulliganned down to curate their starting hand.

According to the statement on Owl Central Games’ website, “We have not come to this decision lightly and it truly pains us to have to go in this direction”, and the team looked “at a variety of alternative options” before deciding to cancel. Lantz tells us: “It’s never our goal to offer something that our community doesn’t want” – and as far as she and her team can tell, the regional Legacy community doesn’t want Grief.

Check out Wargamer’s guide to the MTG release schedule to know when to expect upcoming sets (we’re very, very excited for Bloomburrow). We also have a handy guide to all the MTG Arena codes to unlock free cards for your MTG Arena decks.