Building Legacy Maverick on a Budget

Budget Maverick and Upgrade Paths:

In the grand scheme of things, Maverick is among the more budget-friendly decks in the entire Legacy format (though Death & Taxes, Miracles, Dredge, and Reanimator all are contenders here too – for common decks). That doesn’t, however, mean it’s cheap – the bar to entry for Legacy is pretty high. As players spend time playing Magic, they will often accumulate huge collections and grow tired of some of their former favourite decks and formats. Were you a GW Hatebears player in Modern once upon a time? Perhaps you’ll have a home in Legacy with Maverick or D&T.

Whatever your reason for deciding to play Legacy, some folks will run into financial hurdles amassing a $2,000+ deck to play with (which is reasonable). Fear not – we’re here to help!

(Note this guide focuses on the paper experience.)

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The Maverick Basics:

Before we start going into detail on how someone might put together and upgrade a budget version of Maverick, we need to establish a bit of a baseline on what Maverick does, as well as the methodology for our process. At its core, Maverick does two things to win games: disrupt mana and play creatures to disrupt strategies. This means there are a few critical components to making a deck Maverick, which is perhaps a deeper list than most Legacy “shells” you will find. Maverick is truly defined by four cards: Knight of the Reliquary, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Wasteland, and Green Sun’s Zenith. The rest of the deck is largely an interchangeable pile of sub-packages and strategies, so we’ll start from there.


The must-haves and probably-should-haves:

As mentioned, any deck that wants to call itself Maverick needs to start with the following base:

4 Knight of the Reliquary

3-4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

4 Wasteland

4 Green Sun’s Zenith

The bad news is that these cards are a pretty big chunk of the value in a budget Maverick list, but the good news is that it means you can build a pretty functional Maverick 75 on a budget. From here, we can think about the next groupings of cards that are important to our general game plans: silver bullets and utility lands. Here are some extremely commonly played cards for Maverick that work on a reasonable budget and/or simply cannot be skimped on:

2 Gaddock Teeg

2 Qasali Pridemage

4 Mother of Runes

1 Ramunap Excavator

1 Tireless Tracker

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Swords to Plowshares

1-2 Scryb Ranger

1 Dryad Arbor

4 Wooded Foothills

4 Windswept Heath

To explain some of the decision-making here, you need to go a bit deeper into how games of Maverick often play out. Frequently, games are spent trying to use one of your Green Sun’s Zenith targets to keep your opponent off one of their primary strategies while trying to amass a board state that can kill your opponent (or lock them out of the game completely). Mother of Runes helps you keep your threats alive; Qasali Pridemage and Gaddock Teeg are important answers to things like Terminus, Tendrils of Agony, and most things out of Mono R Prison decks; Scryb Ranger makes your Mother of Runes and Knight of the Reliquary dramatically increase in effectiveness; Ramunap Excavator pairs with Wasteland and Thalia to lock a number of players out of games. You get the idea.

What waits for later:

There are a number of parts of Maverick that dedicated Maverick players will find it hard to part with, but the point of this exercise is that we’re boiling Maverick down to the bare essentials to help players get their foot in the door and start playing – and to do that, we have to make sacrifices. Hard ones. But it’s all going to feel better in the end where you can really appreciate the power of some of the secondary parts of Maverick and really start to abuse the deck’s versatility.

Most of the areas you can skimp on costs is in the manabase, which we’re doing. You’ll definitely take a hit here, and it’s one of the earlier places to upgrade parts, but here are some cards we’re going to omit at the start:

1 Karakas

1 Sylvan Library

1-2 Horizon Canopy

0-1 Maze of Ith

1-2 Umezawas Jitte

0-1 Gaea’s Cradle

0-3 Stoneforge Mystic

0-1 Sword of Fire & Ice

You’ll note two things here, which are that a) many of these things are one-ofs, and b) these are incredibly powerful effects. Why are we cutting them? We’re simply holding off on including them because they are marginal gains on average, but for this deck they come at a pretty penny in terms of real dollars. Those marginal gains add up quickly, and you should absolutely start upgrading when you can.

The list coming together:

OK, so we’ve covered some of the top-level groupings of cards, but let’s see a full example list ripe for upgrading. Here’s the main board:

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Mother of Runes

1 Gaddock Teeg

1 Matsu-Tribe Sniper

1 Qasali Pridemage

2 Scavenging Ooze

1 Scryb Ranger

4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

1 Eternal Witness

1 Knight of Autumn

4 Knight of the Reliquary

1 Ramunap Excavator

1 Tireless Tracker

1 Palace Jailer

4 Green Sun’s Zenith

4 Swords to Plowshares

1 Blessed Alliance

2 Forest

1 Gavony Township

1 Ghost Quarter

1 Glacial Chasm

2 Plains

1 Riftstone Portal

3 Temple Garden

4 Windswept Heath

4 Wooded Foothills

4 Wasteland

1 Dryad Arbor

For anyone who has played a Maverick deck before, there are some glaring peculiarities – for instance, there are no Noble Hierarch‘s in this list. They’re incredibly powerful, and often can decide games, but they’re also pricey. The old reliable Birds of Paradise does just fine here. As far as this list goes, a huge chunk of the value is in Thalia, Green Sun’s Zenith, Wasteland, and the 8 fetch lands. It’s not really doable to skimp on that stuff and still have a real Maverick deck.

A sideboard might look something like this, though this is definitely something you can experiment with a lot based on your local meta:

1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

1 Garruk Relentless

1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

3 Veil of Summer

2 Ethersworn Canonist

3 Choke

2 Faerie Macabre

2 Oblivion Ring

Flexible, simple, cheap, and robust. We’ll go over some more flex/sideboard options later.


Starting to upgrade:

Now you’ve got your list, you’re playing with it, and you notice that it’s just missing something. What should you start doing to upgrade? First, we start with one of the most critical omissions: Karakas. Let’s junk that Riftstone Portal here – that was just to fill out our lands in a convenient way, but Karakas can save our bacon in a lot of games against Reanimator, Show & Tell, etc. It even saves some of our most critical creatures from untimely demise.

1 Riftstone Portal -> 1 Karakas

Next, you have also likely noticed that closing games just feels like it doesn’t happen fast enough. This is where you’re noticing the lack of exalted triggers from Noble Hierarch. It may seem silly, but those triggers can really add up. They can even attack on their own where a Birds of Paradise cannot.

4 Birds of Paradise -> 4 Noble Hierarch

After that, we’ll grab one card that often gets us out of a pinch and has some really nice value synergies with our core components: Horizon Canopy. Being able to fetch this with Knight of the Reliquary and recur it with Ramunap Excavator gives us a great value engine to grind games out. It might seem ridiculous, but it’s worth prioritising.

1 Glacial Chasm -> 1 Horizon Canopy

Here’s the point where we start to diverge from our core synergies to add more powerful, extraneous cards: Umezawa’s Jitte. Jitte helps you crush mirror matches, slaughter other creature decks, and race harder to close out games against control decks. It’s impossible to undersell the value of ol’ Umezawa’s weapon of choice.

1 Blessed Alliance -> 1 Umezawa’s Jitte

1 Matsu-tribe Sniper -> 1 Umezawa’s Jitte

Now we’re getting to the “perfection” piece of upgrading, where our deck really is resembling a fully functional Maverick deck. The last non-obvious upgrade: Sylvan Library. For anyone who has not had the pleasure of playing with a Sylvan Library, it feels a lot like getting to have your cake and eat it too. With the amount of fetching and shuffling we can do to our deck, Sylvan Library often helps us see an unreasonable number of cards in a game.

1 Eternal Witness -> 1 Sylvan Library

Lastly, we need to upgrade those Temple Gardens – ideally at least two of them – to: Savannah. Maverick has a lot of games that are tight and needing to shock in a pinch can truly be untenable down the road. Fortunately Savannah is one of the cheaper dual lands you can acquire.

3 Temple Garden -> 3 Savannah

Beyond that, there are some optional cards/packages that add more costs onto the pile but are often worth getting: Stoneforge Mystic and Gaea’s Cradle. Stoneforge Mystic, along with Sword of Fire and Ice, adds another dimension to Maverick that it sort of misses, which is being able to attack through annoying threats and stick things through Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Teferi without having to commit Mother of Runes activations to the cost. It doesn’t sound like much, but that amount of freedom is often the difference between winning and losing. As for Gaea’s Cradle, that’s also about adding in a lot more freedom to your game plan by being able to generate tonnes of mana to sink into things like Scavenging Ooze or bouncing/equipping a Batterskull.

1 Scavenging Ooze -> 1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Umezawa’s Jitte -> 1 Sword of Fire and Ice

1 Gavony Township -> 1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Ghost Quarter -> 1 Gaea’s Cradle

But what about the spice:

One of the best parts about being a Maverick player is having the ability to flex on people by way of spicy fun-ofs in your list, or wacky sideboard cards you can tutor with Knight of the Reliquary, Green Sun’s Zenith, or Stoneforge Mystic. Your one-of cards can truly feel like all-stars. Here are some cards that weren’t mentioned above that are worth considering:

1 Dark Depths + 1 Thespian’s Stage

2-3 crop rotation

1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking

1-2 Sanctum Prelate

1 Sylvan Safekeeper

1 Prowling Serpopard

1 Wayward Swordtooth

1 Sigarda, Host of Herons

1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty

0-2 Tomik, Distinguished Advokist

There are a tonne more cards you can consider. Generally my rule of thumb is to ask “Is it a green creature?” and “Does it seem sweet?” and if so, give it a try.


Splashes and different routes:

Commonly cited as the best version of Maverick, most lists feature a black splash which offers some powerful cards to help us gain ground in some of our toughest matchups. Specifically, here are the most common cards included as a result of the splash:

2-3 Thoughtseize

0-3 Zealous Persecution

0-2 Plague Engineer

0-2 Abrupt Decay

0-2 Assassin’s Trophy

Most notably, these cards help us against Death & Taxes, Storm, True-Name Nemesis, Elves, Miracles, and other go-wide strategies. These are some of our toughest matchups, and even with limited experience in them it will become clear how useful this splash can be.

A less popular variant of Maverick these days, but still a strong deck in its own right, is the red splash Punishing version of Maverick. The basic idea is adding the following cards:

3 Grove of the Burnwillows

3 Punishing Fire

1-2 Taiga

1 Plateau

1-3 Pyroblast(SB)

4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (moved to SB)

This version may come to thrive again in the future if 4c control decks or other value-based decks become dominant, being able to recur both lands and Punishing Fire is a powerful strategy against decks trying to play fair and win by grinding games out.

Bringing it all together:

At the beginning of this article, I went over what the core aspects of a Maverick deck are and how you can build around them on a budget – then take them to the next level. There are a tonne of options here, and even some that come before building something as recognisable as Maverick. For instance, you could play Llanowar Elves or Avacyn’s Pilgrim over Birds of Paradise. You could pass on fetch lands and Wastelands and start with a disruption package including Aven Mindcensor. Perhaps you’ve already got some of the expensive pieces here and have to skimp elsewhere.

Whatever the case, I hope this guide has helped you get your footing with a plan to playing Maverick in Legacy.

A huge thank you to Jordan Munson for putting this piece of content together. I know many players who have reached out for a guide like this and I believe it can really assist in getting those who can’t purchase the whole deck at once. Feel free to reach out to Jordan for any further queries or comment below.

If you enjoy this content you should check out CBRMTG’s Budget to Tiered series where they do the same for other decks in Legacy.

About Douges

Hey! Douges here - Founder of the GreenSunsZenith. I've been playing Magic since 2013 and Legacy since 2014. I'm a Death & Taxes pilot turned Maverick fan who created the GreenSunsZenith as a resource for both beginners and experts of the Legacy Maverick archetype. You can reach out to me through my social links below. I stream via Twitch on Thursday nights (7:30pm AEST) & Sunday mornings (10:00am AEST). Please let me know if you don't find anything on the site that you'd like to see. If you'd like to support the GreenSunsZenith, I have a Patreon account you can support the platform through :)

2 thoughts on “Building Legacy Maverick on a Budget

  1. Would you think it is worth it to play a splashing (UG/WB/GB/RW) Horizon land instead of Riftstone portal? If so, which one? They seem better in the grind+save quite a penny when compared to Canopy.

    1. Hey Plamenaks, apologies for the delayed response.

      You sure could, depending on the splash in your deck (if any) the draw ability of these lands really help if you get flooded in the mid game. Riftstone Portal really has to be in your graveyard to get the full value of the card which isn’t always easy to do, so I could see someone will a little bit more of a budget shifting towards the draw lands.

      The WB one allows you to pay for Surgical Extraction, a small buff but worth noting.

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