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Sebastian  P.

The Legacy format: History, Decks and Offline potential

A quick introduction to the creative madness that is Legacy.

12/26/2016 by Sebastian P.

"This article is part of 60cards article competition"



Over the past weeks I've been getting back to Pokemon TCG Online and I figured it would be appropriate to dedicate this blog to the one thing that brought me back: the Legacy format.
Since Legacy is so far only played online, we'll first look at the history and the general concept of the format, in order to give the offline crowed ( or real life, whatever term you prefer) some context, before moving on to decks, strategies and various cornerstones of the format. Finally we'll take a look at some pro and contra arguments that would encourage, or prevent yourself from picking up the format offline.

So without further ado, lets dive right in.

Music tip for this blog: Animals as Leaders – The Madness of Many


Until march 2016 the PTCGO client did feature 4 distinct formats. Theme, frequented mostly by new players, who'd battle it out with pre-constructed decks, Standard and Expanded, which you are all familiar with, and finally Unlimited. Unlike its real life counterpart, a format that spans from the first set till the latest rendition and thus gives the player truly “unlimited” potential ( although it more or less just evolves around turn 1 kills), the online Unlimited only dated back till the Heartgold & Soulsilver era. The format would hence feature some pretty powerful cards, such as Junk Arm, Dual Ball, Lost Remover and many more, while simultaneously leaving out the game breaking cards from the Diamond & Pearl era, like Broken Time Space.
The format was, for a long period of time, a playground for users of any skill calibre, as beginners would often flee to the format, after getting annoyed by Night March, Toad and other decks in Standard or Expanded, whereas players with a higher ELO would create the most broken / fun decks, that the vast selection of cards could offer. The land of milk and honey, so to speak.

Though everything that rises eventually has to fall and my beloved Unlimited empire started to crumble on the 12th of August, 2015, when Ancient Origins was released outside of Japan.
I don't want to re-open the whole Shiftry discussion again, so I'll just lead you towards the major point: Shiftry was official banned from sanctioned tournament play on the 1. of September, but unfortunately Unlimited isn't an officially sanctioned format and thus the card remained untouched
( its Unlimited after all, banning cards goes strictly against the whole philosophy).
If we'd just play in a tournament setting, this whole issue would have been resolved rather quickly, as finding a counter to the deck isn't particular hard and with a more versatile kit, offered by the larger card pool of the format, Shiftry would have been pushed away with ease. Sadly, the majority of time on PTCGO you'll just grind in versus matches and therein lies the dilemma, because losing doesn't matter to much ( unless you care about your ELO rating), if you can simply start another game within seconds. Since Shiftry was furthermore quite easy to pilot, the format was divided into Shiftry players, the anti Shiftry players (Wobbuffet and Baltoy), as small amount of players who'd add some tech cards against Shiftry, but otherwise play a regular deck and an even smaller percentile, who'd simply play there usual deck, without regards to the overall “meta”.
Finding a satisfying match during that time felt a bit like looking for the needle in the haystack.

It took the developers 7 months, in order to come up with a satisfying solution, which more or less sums up the effort that TPCI puts into this product, and thus the Unlimited format was removed from the game ( or rather banished into friendly matches only).
In order to keep the cards from the HGSS era relevant to the gameplay, they simultaneously launched a new format called Legacy, a non-rotating format, spanning over 16 expansions, from HGSS, till Legendary Treasures.

Strategies, Decks and key cards

A major aspect that makes the format unique is the fact, that it features a set of expansions which were never legal at the same time. The 2011-12 season with HGSS to Dark Explorers comes close, yet we are still missing 6 expansions in the grand picture. It is also important to note that the format is non-rotating, which means that no new set will be added to the Legacy format, nor will an older set rotate out. One a first glance one might argue that the format would hence grow stall over time, as no new sets also mean that the best decks will be discovered in a rather short period of time.

While this argument is certainly true, one has to factor in that Legacy, unlike its tournament sanctioned counterparts, isn't really a format that is meant to play super competitively, but rather a way for players to explore new decks, old cards and fun mechanics, that haven't been seem together.

Before we take a look at a couple of major role players in the format, I want you focus your attention on some Standard and Expanded staples that aren't in the format. The biggest difference lies arguably in the Supporter cards, as Legacy does not only lack VS Seeker as an effective tool to re-use cards in the discard pile, but also a couple of well known Supporters, such as Lysandre, who you'd find in every competitive deck, since his first print in the Flashfire expansion.
Another area that feels kinda neglected is the Stadium card slot. While the latest expansions made sure that players would be keen to find over the right stadium in play, Legacy takes a step back to a time, where Virbank City Gym, Sky Arrow Bridge and Tropical Beach would duke it out on there own, with an occasional guest appearance from cards like Lost World, Alph Ruins, or Frozen City.
The latest notion on the trainer card department is the lack of useful cards to thin out your deck.
Acro Bike, Battle Compressor, Trainers Mail, we are used to find everything we need with relative ease, which simply isn't the case in Legacy.
The format naturally also lacks certain Pokemon, that have been shaping up the meta game for years, most notably on that regard are probably Yveltal EX, who would feel right at home in the format, as well as the ever so lovely Shaymin EX.

So, after taking a look at all of the toys we aren't allowed to play with, let's open up some presents and see what the format holds in store for us.

Bring the pain

Although less important, I'll start with our cast of strong attackers first, as taking 6 prizes before our opponent can do the same is still the main way to win the game ( though it's certainly not the only one in Legacy).

Pokemon EX / non-EX

We find a lot of Expanded All-stars in the rooster of Legacy, including Keldeo, Virizion, Genesect, Landorus, Mewtwo, Rayquaza, Ho-Oh and many more. All of them certainly see play in the format, but with the lack of Muscle Band and certain supporting Pokemon (.i.e. Bats of Landorus), the majority of those offensive Pokemon had to find some new friends, in order to stay relevant

Non-EX attackers have some clear advantages in the format, not only due to Silver Bangle, but also due to the fact that only a few archetypes have reliable energy acceleration, resulting in a lot less OHKO scenarios and more trading of wild swings, witch usually favours the non-EX attacker.
The most popular ones include Tool Drop Trubbish, Vilify Weavile, Vengeance Flareon, Hexed Flame Nintales and Plasma Kyurem.

Pokemon Legend

One of the unique features in the HGSS era were the so called Legend Pokemon, two separate cards that'd need to be combined, in order to form a combination of two legendary Pokemon, like Palkia&Dialga, Raikou&Suicoun, and others. Those Pokemon rarely do see play though, as they are hard to set up, requiring a good amount of energy to attack, while doing mediocre damage at best. On top of that they'll also yield two prize cards ( since they are two Pokemon) and they take up extra slots in your deck, since the top and bottom half wont do anything on their own.
The sole exception to this rule is Lugia Legend. Not only is the lovely bird equipped with a powerful and yet easy to set up attack, our poster boy from the Silver Edition does furthermore only yield a single prize card resulting in favourable trades against Pokemon EX.
Still a bit clunky to set up, but fun to play never the less.

I got your back

The list of supporting Pokemon stretches from disruption , in the form of Garbodor and Vileplume, to energy acceleration with Celebi Prime, Eelektrik, Blastoise, Feraligatr Prime and more, over to card draw with Smeargle, Cleffa and Magnezone Prime and finally down to simple, yet effective tools, like Virizion, Jirachi and Darkrai-EX, Exeggcute, Mr. Mime, Pichu and so forth.
Thanks to this wide range of possible back bones, the format features a wide variety of different archetypes, that tackle different approaches to win the game and usually offer more variety to the game than the simple “attach an Energy and hit for a lot of damage”.

A paradise for creative minds

The core of any competitive deck are the trainer cards and with 16 usable expansions you're going to have a blast fine-tuning your deck towards your personal play style. The elephant in the room is definitely Junk Arm, as the card provides the stability and the consistency that you need, in order to run some set-ups, which aren't as straight forward. Since the interaction with the discard pile is otherwise rather limited, Junk Arm is usually an auto 4-off in any deck, it's basically the VS Seeker of Legacy. The format furthermore features two reliable sources of energy acceleration through trainer cards, in the form of Dark Patch and Colress Machine, which are both limited to a specific type of Pokemon and thus only appear in certain decks, while simultaneously helping those decks in getting a significant advantage over their opponents.
We talked about the Stadium cards a bit before and with a lack of real alternatives you're going to face more Virbank City Gyms than you can count, as the card not only pushes the last 30-60 damages in the non-OHKO meta, but also provides a check against the other popular staple: Sky Arrow Bridge. The 3rd major contender for the stadium spot is Tropical Beach, which is used primarily in decks that require an evolution line to work and hence can skip their initial attack for card advantage, though you won't see the card to often, as is is one of the rarer items in game and finding someone with trade-able copies can be quite bothersome. Thankfully the card is more or less the icing on the cake, rather than a must-have.
In terms of Supporter cards we got the best of two worlds. On the one hand we have Professor Juniper and N, two all-star cards that we all know and love, alongside some situational supporters from the same era, such as Skyla and Colress . On the other side we got the HGSS era supporters, featuring the ever so lovely Professor Oaks New Theory, Twins, Seeker, Judge and Pokemon Collector. While Jirachi-EX is certainly a format staple, one has to keep in mind that you aren't likely to get your supporter cards back from the discard pile, thus running a weak line of situational supporters isn't really common, due to the lack of VS Seeker, unless the deck is centred around drawing a bunch of cards.
Last but not least we also got the Ace Spec cards, primarily Computer Search, Dowsing Machine ( which is the only way to revive supporters) and G-Booster, than fill in their usual roles in each deck.

At this point we could go on and on, but it figures that we should look at a couple of deck lists at this point, not only to give you a better overview, but also as a great deal of fun in the format revolves around finding new cards and mechanics, you haven't used in a long time, so I don't want to spoil everything for you :).

The big four

Although there don't exist a particular deck to beat in the format, some archetypes clearly hold an edge over the rest of the field. Thus we'll now take a look the the four best decks in the format, according to my own opinion.
Please note that I currently only own a fraction of my old collection, as I gave my cards to a couple of friends when I left the game earlier this year. Thus I'm still in the process to get everything back, hence you'll see some missing cards in the decks.

Turbo Genesect

Genesect is without a doubt the poster child of the format. It does not only provide an incredible fast energy acceleration with Celebe Prime and Colress Machine, but also has its own inbuilt Lysandre, an answer to the omnipresent Hypnotoxic Laser and the ability to OHKO any card in the format as early as turn 1.
You can furthermore customize the deck towards your own preference, i.e. some people run Metapod, in order to prevent easy knock outs by Ninetales or Victini, some run the deck more control oriented, featuring Lost Remover and Garbodor, and others focus more on the classic combination, utilizing Virizion as an attacker, rather than a simple bench warmer.


Energy acceleration is a recurring theme in this list and Rayquaza + Eelektik are no exception on that regard. The deck yields the first turn, in order to set everything in motion, hence the Tropical Beaches and the Pichu, who help you getting those Tymo onto the bench. From that point on it's pretty straight forward, Victini works as a check against Genesect decks, as well as an answer to non-EX attackers and Rayquaza just OHKOs everything in its wake.
As with Turbo Genesect you are able to customize the decks towards your own preference, including a more diverse attacker line-up(i.e. Zekrom + Raikou EX), bench protection via Mr.Mime, Keldeo + Floatstone to check Lasers, or a slightly different trainer set-up.

Evil Weavile

As mentioned earlier, the format isn't only inhabited by powerful EX attackers, but also by a bunch of little dudes, who have some serious punching power. Weavile takes the crown among those decks, as it is easy to set-up, relatively difficult to disrupt and and, above all, very adaptable towards the given metagame.
The trump card in the deck is certainly Exeggcute, whom you've already seen in the other decks. Personally I'm very found of the card, as it offers you a more flexible choice with Junk Arm, Computer Search, Ultra Ball and so forth, while demanding nothing more than a single slot in your deck.
The deck also benefits from Silver Bangle, alongside the darkness specific combo of Dark Claw and Dark Patch, allowing you to attack without a delay from the second turn onwards.

Sableye Control

The 4th spot in this list was a hard choice, because Sableye Control isn't a very popular deck, due to its slow play style, that has no where near the charm of ploughing through your opponents Pokemon one by one via Genesect, Rayquaza and so forth. Never the less the deck has some rather unique features, making it worthwhile to showcase. In a diverse format such as Legacy, one can undoubtedly claim victory in many ways, frustrating your opponent to the point of surrender is probably my favourite though. If you ever had the pleasure to play with, or against Sableye, you basically know what's coming your way. Denying your opponents resources, until they eventually run out of cards, energy, time, or patiences. Unlike the popular Expanded version, this deck can actually take prize cards from your opponent, mainly because you always have to play proactive and not reactive, thanks to the lack of Puzzle of Time. A game plan that solely relies on controlling your opponents board is thus too fragile.


This concludes my personal choices for the best 4 decks in the format. I'm also going to show you a couple of other decks, that aren't as strong / popular as the above mentioned ones, but certainly stand their own in the format with ease, just to showcase how diverse and fun Legacy can be, enjoy :).

Team Plasma

Ninetales + Amoorguse

Durant Mill

Lando Control

Lugia Legend

Turbo Feraligatr

RL potential

Alright, we are almost finished, just one question remains: does the format have any potential to be played outside of the online game ?


- a pretty diverse meta game

- 16 expansions, spanning over different eras of the game, allowing a creative and unique deck building / playing experience

- providing a good way to recycle older cards, one they rotate out of Standard

- sharing a certain card pool with the Expanded format allows tournament veterans an easy excess

- a nostalgic trip down memory lane


- not profitable for TPCI, as the sets are out of the print run, hence cards will be sold on the secondary market

- although diverse, certain decks tower above the competition

- non-rotating format, can grow stale over time

- certain mechanics are overused (i.e. Laser, Smeargle, Junk Arm)

- probably hard to find other players, outside of your own play group

In conclusion, there is little chance that we will see Legacy emerge on a larger scale, especially as an official tournament format. Should you already have a big collection and/or a certain love for older sets, then you should definitely try out the format though, whether it's online, or offline with friends, a good time is pretty much guaranteed.

Alright folks, that about raps it up for today, I hope you had a good time and I'll see you next year.

Take care,

Sebastian P.

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