The Rathe Times logo

A Shadow Falls Over Living Legend

Living Legend is still a new format, having been utilized in only two rated events since its inception. Despite its limited time in the spotlight, it has undergone some big changes since the Starvo-dominated Battle Hardened that occurred during Worlds 2023 in Barcelona. With Starvo pulling off a complete sweep of the Top 8 and almost the entire Top 16, LSS decided it was time to rein in the formats fabulous overlord.

  • Awakening is restricted
  • Channel Lake Frigid is restricted
  • Crippling Crush is restricted
  • Hypothermia is restricted
  • Oaken Old is restricted
  • Star Struck is restricted
  • Warmonger’s Diplomacy is restricted

They came at Starvo from every angle, though notably all the changes are restrictions rather than outright bans, which means that these cards can still be played as singleton copies.

Card image of Awakening (Blue)

Awakening remains my choice for the most broken card in the game. It's a free catch up card into aggressive decks and serves as a mirror breaker when playing opposing Starvos. It was already generally run as a two of, but restricting it to one copy will reduce the frequency of Starvo's absurd comebacks.

Card image of Crippling Crush (Red)
Card image of Oaken Old (Red)
Card image of Star Struck (Yellow)

The busted power attack suite. I've heard about (and experienced) games where Starvo doesn't actually fuse much, if it all, but these attacks backed up by any amount of disruption can still just win games.

Card image of Channel Lake Frigid (Blue)
Card image of Hypothermia (Blue)
Card image of Warmonger's Diplomacy (Blue)

Finally, the heavy hitting disruption. Channel Lake Frigid, Hypothermia, and Warmonger's Diplomacy each have some amount of counterplay, but three of each of them backing up Starvo's primary gameplan just made for too much for opponents to play around. These cards will remain potent as singular copies, and with each of them likely steal a turn cycle worth of breathing room.

B&R Fallout

In the wake of all these restrictions, we had to wait nearly half a year to find out if Starvo's circus had left town for good. The Battle Hardened at Pro Tour: Los Angeles was our next chance to see the format in action. Official stats for the hero distribution in the event weren't published, so you'll have to settle for the Top 8, a Bryan Gottlieb tweet, and my anecdotal account as a player in the Battle Hardened, but what I saw during the event was very promising.

The final count for the top 8 was 4 Chane, 2 Lexi, 1 Viserai, and 1 Kano. Without looking any further, that's 5 different heroes in the Top 8 and at least 7 in the Top 16, which is certainly an improvement over infinite Starvo. There was also some Fai and Briar representation, and in fact the only LL'd hero (at the time) I didn't personally see anyone playing was Oldhim.

Living Legend Takeaways from LA

  • Living Legend Terms of Engagement: You need to be doing something unfair

For players with experience in other TCG's with eternal formats, this probably goes without saying, but since LL is FAB's first such format, I think it bears repeating. This format is for everyone throwing the most powerful things in the history of the game at each other and seeing who comes out on top. There are a number of different playstyles to choose from, but Living Legend isn't a format where every playstyle will excel. In particular, midrange or numbers decks are likely to struggle. Full power Chane, Fai, Briar, and Viserai would laugh in the face of many of the recent headliners of CC like Kayo, Victor, or Dori.

  • There are more viable decks in this format than you think

Chane, Starvo, Prism, Viserai, Lexi, Briar, Fai, Kano, Iyslander. That's just an inexhaustive list of the decks people were playing in the Battle Hardened. Imagine if we had a whole season or even just some more consistent rated events to give players more reason to explore the format. Vynnset, new Prism, and OG Dash are each heroes that I think could have a place in the format. While it might be an uphill battle for Dromai to make her mark in LL given that her natural predators (Rosetta Thorn and Luminaris) are back, I've been slain by dragons enough times to know better than to ever count out the Empress's fanatical followers.

  • Chane might be too good

No, this is not a call for bans or restrictions, it's just something that might be true and I am confident LSS is already on the lookout for. Chane brings a powerful aggressive gameplan and compliments it with impressive late game inevitability. When Chane was in CC they curbed both game plans by suspending Seeds of Agony and banning Plunder Run. For Living Legend, I think restricting Art of War would be the simplest way to take Chane's aggression down a notch. With only a single copy he'd be just as likely to banish it as to draw it, much like Soul Reaping. Unrestricting Channel Lake Frigid would give a boost to Ice heroes relying on disruption in order to keep up and could work as subtraction by addition. That said, even though Chane's performance was good enough to take half the Top 8 and win the event, it was nowhere near dominant enough to warrant any changes as of yet.

  • Starvo isn't dead

Any rumors of his demise have certainly been exaggerated. While the B&R announcement taketh away, Heavy Hitters giveth Starvo some new toys to work with.

Card image of Concuss (Red)
Card image of Smack of Reality (Red)

Smack of Reality (first printed in Round the Table) in conjunction with Goliath Gauntlet and a Starvo fuse gives him a way to reset Soul Shackles or Runechants. Concuss has some big shoes to fill as it tries to hang with the likes of Oaken Old and Crippling Crush, but it slots easily into some of the spots vacated by Starvo's bigger attacks. Starvo fused Concuss for 8 dominate go again followed by a frosty four is still a 4-card 12 threatening two forms of disruption and leaves a spare card to arsenal for Crown of Seeds. He may be digging a bit deeper into the Ice card pool to keep his ratios intact, but Starvo is going to be just fine.

  • Living Legend is really sweet

The games I've played of LL have all been pretty fun and interesting. I hasn't felt to me like there are more non-games in LL than CC. Of course, there will always be polarizing matchups, but that is true of every format. The aggro mirrors are an intense exercise in extracting every point of value you can possibly find to make sure your opponent is the first one blocking. Control decks have strong tools that can swallow whole turns if opponents don't account for them accordingly. The swings are swingy and the power level of what people are doing is immense, but isn't that what we signed up for?

  • New Sets have an impact
Card image of Balance of Justice
Card image of Nasty Surprise (Blue)
Card image of Sonata Galaxia (Red)

New sets have a subtle but potent impact on the format. Heavy Hitters gave us Balance of Justice and Nasty Surprise as generic cards with great potential to make a splash, as LL has a lot of discarding effects and plenty of Art of Wars and Three of a Kinds being played. Sonata Galaxia, Aether Arc, and even Dissolve Reality (I saw someone next to me play this at the LA LL BH) are also seeing some play.

Part the Mistveil seems poised to impact the format as well. Aspect of Tiger: Body and Rowdy Locals seem like solid inclusions in Fai, while Stonewall Gauntlet could serve as an important defensive tech piece against the formats many go wide decks looking to abuse Art of War. Battlefront Bastion is a great popper option against Illusionists of any flavor. Chane is getting his own pseudo-Bloodrush Bellow in Prismatic Leyline (that comparison is an oversimplification, but the potential is certainly there). And even Kano adds another weapon to his arsenal with Kindle.

Conclusion

Living Legend is an awesome format that deserves more time in the spotlight. It's the kind of format that will evolve slowly over time, rather than being completely shaken up whenever new sets drop, which makes it uniquely positioned to attract hero specialists and people seeking a higher power format. I suspect that, long term, LL will replace Blitz as FAB's #2 competitive format, and I wouldn't be shocked to see it included as part of a the next 3-format World Championship. Currently, the next chance to play rated LL will be at Pro Tour: Amsterdam in July, and you better believe I'll be playing in that LL Battle Hardened if I'm not in the Pro Tour Top 8.

We begin our coverage of the new Living Legend format with a survey of the landscape - and a sample of what you might see.

With our first Living Legend event behind us, it's time to talk about the second string of contenders, and what angles they'll need to shoot to make their mark in a Starvo world.

Discussion (0)

You must be registered and logged in to participate in discussions.

Read next...

The curtains have fallen on Act 1, and Dromai is left standing beside the throne of the fallen Emperor. Where should a Draconic Illusionist player go to bide their time through intermission?

by: Alex Truell

3 months ago

Kassai has brought our attention to the peculiar plight of Young Living Legends.

by: Alex Truell

7 months ago