Is Grixis Delver Dead?

Grixis Delver was the tier 1 of Legacy for a very long time, but it recently lost eight cards and it made people wonder if the deck was dead or whether it was still playable without those heavy hitters.

A lot of players tried their best to make it work, and above all Jonathan Sukenik did his best at PT 25th Anniversary and managed to pull a Top 8 finish.

His list was very different from the Grixis Delver we’re used to seeing over the years—no Young Pyromancer, no Grim Lavamancer, and no Bomat Courier (which was the substitution for Deathrite Shaman to keep the pressure up). He instead planned a slower route with more expensive threats, and two copies of Bitterblossom in the main deck!

His deck really got my attention, and last Sunday I decided to play it at a 150-player Legacy tournament.

Grixis Delver

Andrea Mengucci

The deck was good in theory. It has a good matchup versus combo and fights the good fight against control decks thanks to the resilient threats and Bitterblossom.

Daze and Wasteland are two insane cards I’m always happy to play since they have a unique effect that often just shuts off the game. Being able to counter a spell or play a Sinkhole for zero mana is unique, and if that’s topped with cheap and effective threats like Delver of Secrets and Deathrite Shaman, the deck is unstoppable.

And this was successfully happening before the bannings, since now without a real threat on turn 1, the Daze and Wasteland plan gets worse. During the tournament I often found myself trying to keep up, unable to play those amazing aforementioned cards (Daze and Wasteland) because they would have left me too behind.

I lost many die rolls and played many turn-1 Ponders. This meant that whenever my opponent tapped out on turn 2 for a Baleful Strix, a Hymn to Tourach, or a Counterbalance, Daze would have put me way too far behind, and those scenarios are more real now that Deathrite Shaman is out of the picture.

More 1-drops can be found in discard spells in order to keep at bay those annoying 2-drops. Speaking of which, I played three copies of Inquisition of Kozilek, a card I thought made sense since you don’t want to hurt yourself with two copies of Bitterblossom in your deck, but in reality I often missed with my discard spell, especially later in the game against a Brainstorm deck.

I also faced Eldrazi Post and Aluren, and died to their 3+ mana card that I could have gotten rid of with a Thoughtseize.

So I believe that by putting Inquisition of Kozilek in your deck you are handicapping yourself a lot, and Bitterblossom isn’t a strong enough reason for me to do it.

This archetype has to present multiple strong threats as early as turn 1, and the only variant that is able to do it right now is U/B Death’s Shadow.

U/B Shadow

Noah Walker, Top 4 at GP Richmond

I read on Twitter that Noah Walker has more than a 70% win rate at Legacy GPs, and that isn’t counting SCGs, which can easily be even higher than that.
Just as Guillaume Wafo-Tapa is the god of control decks, Noah Walker is the god of Legacy Delver, and so if he chooses to put down his pet deck and twist it a little bit, it must mean something.

You might argue with me that Death’s Shadow isn’t really a 1-drop, and therefore this deck doesn’t really have more of an explosive start than Grixis Delver, though the Reanimate + Street Wraith play is real, and that’s a strong turn-1 play against the popular Grixis Control decks.

Playing without Lightning Bolt in your Delver deck is never great, but I’m sure you can cope if it means getting to play a 1-mana 6/6.

On top of that, U/B Shadow is a budget deck. Yes, this list still runs two Underground Sea, but Ben Friedman at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary played with four Watery Grave, one Island, and one Swamp. This means that this deck is not only one of the best decks in Legacy, it might also be the best budget deck out there, making it possible for those who can’t afford normal Legacy decks.

Delver of Secrets has never fit my playstyle, and that also might have been why I didn’t do that well last Sunday with Grixis Delver. I know Grixis Control is out there though, and those Baleful Strix will never stop shining for me!

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