PREs in the Spotlight: Heirloom Constructed

Hello everybody!

The introduction for this series provided to you an overview of the major single-player PREs at the moment. Starting with this article, I will try to focus on a single format in detail and the league matches and events that I have played since my previous article in each episode. Today, I present to you the real budget Magic Online format- Heirloom Constructed (Classic)!

Heirloom — A New Budget Format

Heirloom Constructed was born a few months ago with the idea to establish a casual-competitive format that is always and forever a budget format. Now, some of you will say that we already have a budget format called Pauper. While Pauper in general is a budget format, some (mostly Classic) utility cards are sold on the secondary market for prices far beyond what I would call cheap or affordable for a common! For example, Daze was selling for $10.50 when I wrote this article. For more samples, you can see my introduction to this series again. If you want to establish a solid model for a budget format, the main question to answer might look like this: How is it possible to fix the costs for a deck when prizes for cards on the secondary market are fluctuating? To answer that question for the Heirloom format, a Static Legal Card List is used to define the legality of cards. Only that List sets the legality of cards. The legality of the cards on that List is based on a tiered pricing system when the Legal Card List was first made and whenever it is revised with the following prices making cards legal at those times:

  • Common $0.05 or less
  • Uncommon $0.10 or less
  • Rare $0.20 or less
  • Mythic $1.00 or less

The Heirloom Constructed Static Legal Card List

To provide a stable environment without affecting the legality of cards by daily changing prizes the Legal Card List is only updated when a new set is released on MTGO, and the pricelist of MTGOTraders is used (as it is mostly the same pricing that many bots use). Major updates are done one month after a set release (special decks and sets do not count for those changes!) and affect all cards depending on the tiered pricing system. Minor updates occur once a week for 3 weeks after a new set is released, starting one week after that set is out. These minor updates will only affect cards that appear in the new set. Depending on their prices, those cards will rotate in or out of the list. Besides that the following occurs in the case of extreme price changes (quoted directly from the official Heirloom rules):

“Emergency Bannings will occur if a card on the list exceeds $0.25 for a common, $0.50 for an uncommon, $1.00 for a rare, $5.00 for a mythic. A card will then become unbanned in between major updates only if it returns to $0.10 for a common, $0.20 for an uncommon, $0.50 for a rare or $2.00 for a mythic. A card will not be banned or unbanned unless an official list amendment has been made. [...] A card that is emergency banned will still be legal for one week, a note will be made for when it was banned.”

Sounds difficult? It’s really not after you get familiar with the system by using it for a while. After you start discovering the Heirloom Universe, you will probably need to double check some cards to get an overview of the legal cards, but that’s due to the fact that the Heirloom PREs are Classic at the moment (and have such a large pool of cards to pull form). Because of that, the Legal Card List offers more than 7,400 unique cards for your deckbuilding!

To check your deck for legality some very useful tools were generated as well which are linked here and at the end of this article. Once you have a legal deck ready, the legality won’t change for months. When a new set is released you can check the weekly updates for the new cards of that set to add those to your deck. After one month, the major update of that list will add all cards that are legal for the tiered pricing system and will banish those that are not. That’s it! :-)

The Legal Card List in Practice

With the last update of the Legal Card List only 19 cards were banned (out of 7400), but 123 cards were legalized. That’s a total of not more than 80 format relevant cards in all, I guess. Not so much to figure out four times a year, right? In the past players only got confused while checking daily prices of the secondary market instead of the Legal Card List for legality. So if you concentrate on checking only that list, you are on the safe side!

The price tiering system leads to the fact most competitive decks for Heirloom Constructed costs only somewhere between 2-5 tix! If you would play mythics only (unrealistic), it would be a maximum of 60 tix, but there are only a few mythics legal (I guess around 11 in all), and even your lands would have to be mythics for that case. Up to now, the most expensive deck I saw in an event was around 12 tix (I built it myself ;-).

While I was writing this article, the first major update for the Static Legal Card List was announced, and the first Heirloom Constructed Classic season came to a halt. It’s a great time to give you an overview for the metagame of the past season and some expectations for the upcoming season due to the changes of the Legal Card List!

Metagame Breakdown for the First Heirloom Season

While Heirloom is only restrictive by card prices, a lot of well know archetypes from more established formats are playable (with some minor changes to the lists). Besides those, some very creative and innovative decks and pilots show up at the events too. The meta of this format is so diverse and open to new ideas that it’s a great place for deck builders to flourish and win. Considering the budget aspect, you can even build and test a lot of decks without investing too many tix. I hypothesize that no other (budget) format provides such a balanced card pool and so many options to build a competitive deck! Now I will introduce to you some of those format defining and winning decks— not to say that the decks I neglect to mention are not competitive as well. :-)


One of the dominating decks for the first Heirloom season was a Goblin build:

This was the only deck that won two events (and also performed at a 3-1 record for another) for the first Heirloom season. As you can imagine, the fast power this deck develops is a threat for any and every deck in the Heirloom metagame. Another variation of this deck was successful as well:

Each Gobo deck is very fast and hard to beat, even with some of those hate cards in your sideboard:

Circle of Protection Red, Pyroclasm, Savage Twister, Tivadars Crusade, Infest, Silver Knight, Tivadar of Thorn, Teferis Moat

Beside little red men, some other tribes performed very well!

Elves hasn’t won an event so far, but it showed up here and there in different incarnations. Maybe it’s a sleeper that will have its time!?

For the power level represented by the Merfolk, it seems undervalued so far in the metagame! Maybe it’s you who has the skills to break the deck… ;-)

Combo Decks

I mentioned the diversity and balance of the metagame before. Here, we have some of the combo decks that could stand up to Goblins:

This is a very strong deck that fires a two card combo very easily and protects it well. This deck won the first event it showed up for and disappeared after that — strange! Today, it is no longer legal, because a key card of the combo (Splinter Twin) is now banned.

This deck was good right from the beginning of the Heirloom season. It showed up for the first time in the second Heirloom Classic Event ever and finished in first! Since artifact hate doesn’t seem to be very popular right now, it will still be a very good deck choice for future events!

Some other players and I tried to benefit from the cascade into Hypergenesis combo. Some went the hasty (fliers) way (Hellkite Overlord, Razia, Boros Archangel, Brimstone Dragon, Rorix Bladewinger, etc.), while others went with a slower but safer build with Blazing Archon, Stormtide Leviathan, Realm Razer and/or Kaervek the Merciless. My build shown above won the season final and benefits from the power of Where Ancients Tread combined with Magister Sphinx.


Decks based on the cycling mechanic have very good cards to choose from in Heirloom. Maybe the strength of this deck depends on the metagame of each event, but as long as Goblins are a dominant force in the events it seems to be a good choice!

Here’s a very successful deck- when it showed up for the first time, it took the whole event. I faced this build when we both stood 3-0 and lost with my mono blue Faerie control build because of the enormous number of token creatures powering Glare of Subdual.

This is another great example of how well an existing archetype can be transferred to Heirloom by replacing illegal staples here and there. It finished 3-1 and could easily do better next time!

We have here a very solid build around Magnivore similar to what you saw it in formats like Standard in the good old days. Heirloom is the place to benefit from those builds now, and it does so on a budget!

This is just an example for the general theme of that archetype. Very different builds showed up during the last season and finished in the top of several events!

This is my own fun brew that went 3-1 when I played it- winning the third round against Goblins and losing the finals in a close match against another Goblin build. It will be tweaked for future events with Mystic Speculations.

Finally, here is the above mentioned deck that gave me another great 3-1 record, losing the finals versus Lord Erman piloting the Ghazi Glare deck.

But these are only a few of what you might see or what you could build; there are many various archetypes like different mono-black decks, red-based burn variants, black(/red) discard, different Ramp builds, (blue-based) control, other tribes, and the list goes on! All the power provided by different mechanics in Magic can be tested and tweaked on a budget level for Heirloom. This is another advantage Heirloom generates compared with other budget formats (Pauper and Peasant), which can’t provide the same depths because of their rarity restrictions.

Note: If you want to play one of the decks given above please check their legality with the Legal Card List, because the list was updated after the first season finished!

New Metagame Expectations

With the last update of the Legal Card List essential cards for some of the established decks were banned. Goblins lose their Lords (Goblin Chieftain, Goblin King) but are still competitive with Shared Animosity and Quest for the Goblin Lord replacing those slots. Elves lost their only Lord (Elvish Archdruid) too, so for that deck it will be an issue that hurts, I guess. The Pestermite /Splinter Twin combo is dead now with half of the combo (Splinter Twin) being banned.

Besides the impact banned cards will have on the metagame, I would like to introduce some of the new legal cards that could affect the metagame for the future:

Steel Hellkite, Broodmate Dragon, Semblance Anvil, Platinum Emperion, Dragonstorm, Cruel Ultimatum, and the Vivid lands (Vivid Creek, etc.)

First impressions of decks for the new season revealed decks based on Dragonstorm and Cruel Ultimatum. With the Vivid lands, a base for multicolor decks (up to 5c) is a given. The metagame changes for the new Heirloom season will be discussed in one of my upcoming articles in 2011! Now, let’s head to some basic facts for your first steps into the Heirloom universe.


When and where?

The Heirloom Constructed Event runs every weekend at 11am (PST). The daily/weekly structure is Sa-Sa-Su-Sa-Sa-Su… For this week’s date, check the official event thread on the PRE Forum. The Heirloom community meets in game in the Heirloom channel (/join heirloom).


Some very useful tools were programmed by members of the Heirloom Community. A deck building tool by William Lawn Stewart can be downloaded here. A legality checker for your deck set up by Naproxen is linked here. On Tappedout, you can filter your card search by “Heirloom” and some other advanced features as well.

General Information and related Stuff

Articles by Xaoslegend — the artificer of Heirloom — are published here.

For information, discussion, an event calendar and links to all relevant sites and resources for Heirloom check out the Heirloom Website, the Heirloom Link Hub, the PRE Forum and upcoming editions of my series here on MTGOAcademy!

Next time, I will talk about the Tribal Apocalypse Event in general and the path I traveled to winning one of those events! :-) Hope to have you again!



  1. This was a nice read, thanks Nagarjuna!

    The meta is shifting to discard after the last two tournaments, and I guess we’ll see some more in the next one, before somebody finds a way to hate it out (or improve it?).

    I also foresee more Merfolk aggro/control and maybe a return of land destruction (that also stops combo decks).

    And I can’t wait for the Tribal/Heirloom combined event!

  2. Hey Nap,

    I thought myself about a discard deck that hates out the current discard decks :-)

    The combined event will be great, I have my deck ready!

  3. Now this is a great article. It gives lots of good information on a subject, a little personal stuff, but no useless tangents, and then finally when and where you can play and find people that play.
    Oh and of course the ready-to-use decklists. Ready to use for playing ór tweaking!

    This is how the Pauper Articles on MTGO Academy should be. Great job!

  4. Ya this article is really well done,

    Another great work in the annals of Heirloom history. It’s strange to already have nostalgia over such a new format heh. I agree that merfolk could easily be a dominant deck if people would cut it down to monoblue with a very low/brutal/disruptive curve. With the limited league going and the idea to participate in Commander in mixed games or all Heirloom games with Heirloom Commander decks there’s really nothing I need to do outside of Heirloom to satisfy my MTG itch these days.

    X, Heirloom Artificer-

  5. Thx for your comments guys!

    @Zage: I’m glad to hear that the information given were useful for you! I will bring up a similar introduction for pauper and other PREs as part of the series.

    @Xaos: The Heirloom constructed event is a tough competition! The metagame changes a lot on a very powerful level. I’m looking forward to beat the dominant mono black discard decks soon :-)