I may not have dominated the top tables at #PTKLD (8-8) but I did have a blast playing a fantastic G/B Delirium deck at the event (6-4 in Standard).
I’m of the mindset that tournaments are always fun even when you come up short. Magic is fun and getting to play on another Pro Tour in Hawaii is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. With that being said, Magic is a lot more fun when your deck is great…
I can say without a doubt that the Ann Arbor guys and I came up with a great build of a great deck for #PTKLD: G/B Delirium.
I’ve got to give Kyle Boggemes big time props for the deck because this list was his baby—he stuck with his intuition and rebuilt his version of The Rock without Smuggler’s Copters or lots of Sylvan Advocates, which is counter to what the majority of the lists had looked like.
We went through about seven or eight different configurations of the deck before finally settling on the 75 that all four of us (Max McVety, Tyler Hill, Kyle Boggemes, and I) registered at the PT. It says a lot about the work that went into testing and tuning this deck that all four players agreed on every single card choice and nobody disagreed with the final product.
We came to the conclusion that the deck was very good against everything that wasn’t Temur Aetherworks Marvel. Although we did underestimate the number of players that would sleeve up energy combo at the event (we thought it would be around 10-15% and it was more like 20+%), having a good matchup against 80% of the field was still a great place to be in Standard.
While it was tough playing a Rock deck in an Aetherworks-Marvel-heavy metagame, I do expect the number of Marvel decks to decline sharply in the coming weeks for a couple of reasons:
- The deck is wildly inconsistent. A good number of high-level pros played the deck and put up very medium finishes. It is capable of some truly outrageous draws but it is also capable of losing to itself, a lot.
- Blue control decks did very well this weekend and are the natural predator of Aetherworks Marvel because they pack permission. Marvel was certainly better in a metagame without a ton of Counterspells, but now that the whole world is in love with Torrential Gearhulk, I expect everyone besides the true fans to move off the deck.
In the same vein as “the rise of Torrential Gearhulk,” it is also worth noting that a grindy G/B deck is the natural predator of a removal-heavy U/W deck. G/B has better threats, tons of card advantage and recursion, and inevitability with Emrakul, the Promised End. We expected the Jeskai flash deck to be more popular than it was in Honolulu and one of the reasons we ended up not playing it was because it had a bad matchup against delirium.
What Does B/G Delirium Do?
B/G Delirium is a traditional Rock deck, which means that it is a grindy, removal-heavy, card and board advantage midrange deck. It wins by taking command of the battlefield via a swath of removal and powerful defensively-minded creatures and never giving it back. It also just so happens that we can easily tutor up and cast Emrakul, the Promised End, which gives the deck inevitability even against blue-based control.
The biggest strength of the B/G deck is that by virtue of being a midrange deck, it absolutely crushes the various aggro decks. As a team, we were something ridiculous like 11-2 against the various R/W, R/G, and R/B aggro decks we faced. What can I say—Ishkanah is one heck of a card!
Ishkanah has quickly become one of my favorite creatures of all time and that was before I even got to play with it! I love the flavor. Spiders have always been the quintessential defensive archetype creature type because they have reach and high toughness-to-power ratios. Ishkanah truly is the epitome of Spiderness pushed all the way to 10 in terms of Modern power creep.
Ishkanah is one of the lynchpin cards in the deck and it is the thing you most want to do on turn 5 in most matchups. With 4 tutors to find it (Traverse the Ulvenwald), the deck can consistently ensure that the amazing Spider can and will come down and stabilize the board for you.
There are very few decks that can mount much offense against Ishkanah, which is why the card is so great. It also produces 6 power and 11 toughness spread across 4 creatures for 5 mana, and has another relevant ability that allows you to win the game through stalled boards. Don’t underestimate the activated ability, because I won at least 4 games by using it! It is kind of insane that Ishkanah creates a board that makes it so that your opponent cannot attack profitably and then also has an inevitable ability built in that forces them to make bad attacks or die outright!
The other 2 lynchpins of the deck are:
Grim Flayer is a Tarmogoyf that also lets you significantly smooth out your draws. The team consensus was that nobody lost a single game when a turn-2 Grim Flayer connected with an opponent’s face. Getting to essentially scry 3, enable delirium immediately, and make the Flayer into a 4/4 trampler creates a lot of “nut draw” scenarios. Flayer is great on the second turn and a reasonable draw later in the game since your 2-drop will always be a 4/4 trampler that will let you play two spells spell in the same turn.
Traverse the Ulvenwald is a messed up Magic card. 1-mana Demonic Tutor for any creature is a big game and lets you always have whatever piece you need when you need it most! Whether it be a timely Ishkanah to stabilize the board or an Emrakul to promise to end the game, Traverse gives the deck a lot of consistency and resiliency.
So in short, the deck uses great removal and big cheap creatures to stymie early pressure and then clogs up the board with Ishkanah long enough to tutor for Emrakul and win. In a nutshell, that is what this deck is all about.
Outside-the-Box Card Choices
The team and I did come up with some neat technology that really pushed the deck from good to great.
The biggest thing was to move away from playing a ton of Sylvan Advocates or Smuggler’s Copters in the 2-drop spot and focus more on being a delirium synergy deck. We do play 1 copy of Sylvan Advocate:
The card is good and I was very happy to have one in my deck for a couple of reasons. First, we did want a fifth 2-drop because making plays before turn 3 is gas. But we didn’t want a ton of 2-drops to the point where we kept drawing them all game long. It is also worth noting that Advocate is a much better late-game powerhouse than it is an early game card, especially in a world full of Smuggler’s Copter and Toolcraft Exemplar.
There are plenty of times where I used my mana on the first 2-4 turns to do other things and then deployed my Advocate on a turn where I could “double spell” and have him be full size. In the late game, Advocate is one of the better cards to Grapple or Liliana back to your hand because it allows you to make 2 plays in the same turn while getting a threat that is worth much more than the 2-mana investment.
Basic as heck. Good old Murder was fantastic in this deck. In a world where you need to kill Vehicles at instant speed, Murder may not be flashy but it gets the job done. It was also a huge boon to have a little extra instant-speed removal against the R/G Pummeler Energy decks in order to break up their “Blood Lust + Berserk” combo kills.
I didn’t play against many planeswalker decks, so the upside of Ruinous Path wasn’t really much upside at all. In fact, I think we didn’t go far enough in cutting all of the Ruinous Paths for Murders because Path was easily the least effective and most sideboarded out spell in my main deck whereas Murder was fantastic.
I was skeptical about the Familiars but it was important to have cards with the artifact type in the deck for getting big, bad Emrakul online. Verdurous Gearhulk does the same thing (counts as an artifact) but is also a really spicy tutor target to smash damage through and protect our team from Kozilek’s Return.
It is also great that all 3 of the artifact creatures essentially enable half of delirium all by themselves in 1 card, which makes them very spicy to bin when you cast Grapple with a Grim Flayer in play since it will almost always instantly enable delirium.
Also, it is worth noting that a single artifact creature enabling exactly half of delirium inspired a wonderful song among my teammates and I (to the tune of Bon Jovi “Livin’ on a Prayer”):
“Wooooh, we’re half way there…
Woooooh ooooooh, livin’ on a Flayer!”
Simply having a couple of enchantments and artifacts in the deck went a long way toward making those late-game Emrakuls come down in time.
The sideboard was one of the strongest elements of the deck because it was very effective against the field. If I would have known that we’d play against so much R/G Aetherworks Marvel, I would have liked to have had a few more cards for that matchup but since I anticipate the deck falling off in the coming weeks, maybe that isn’t necessary. The best cards against them that we can play are Transgress the Mind and Pick the Brain. If you are looking to hedge against that awful matchup in the next week or so, you could easily find room for 2-3 more copies of these cards.
The matchup feels very bad, but because their deck is inconsistent and we do have some sideboard cards, it is possible to beat them. I played a close match against the deck as did Kyle, and Tyler actually beat the deck twice! (How lucky, right?).
The removal doesn’t do anything and the games are long over one way or another before Emrakul is even close to coming down. The consensus strategy seems to be deploy threats and get them dead before they can “go off.” The hand disruption helps to buy you time if you can get the Marvel out of their grip. It’s a bad matchup and every discard spell helps since it is the only real way to interact with them.
Vehicles is a great matchup. Obviously, they are very aggressive and we can lose if we don’t interact quickly enough, and so we lower our curve a little bit.
Liliana really earns her keep against these types of decks because they have so many spicy targets to attack with her +1 ability.
We need to grind harder and worry less about reactive removal spells. The cool thing is that Emrakul gives us a lot of late-game inevitability.
Board out removal for better removal and more card advantage cards.
The mirror is all about board advantage and card advantage, and eventually getting to Emrakul first. I’ve found that either somebody gets run over early or things get stalled out, and somebody gets Emrakul and completely Plague Winds the opponent’s board.
Most of the games get gummed up by dueling Ishkanahs and drawing lots of cards, so finding a way to get to Emrakul is really important. Hitting land drops is also a must. The best thing you can do is Transgress their Emrakul, the Promised End so that you can simply turtle up and wait. Planeswalkers are also really good in the mirror since they also generate card advantage and threaten to ultimate and win the game outright.
If you are looking for a deck that is a ton of fun to play and very well positioned against everything except the Aetherworks Marvel combo, I suggest you take this deck for a test drive. It really runs over Vehicle aggro, which is a great bonus in this metagame! At the end of the day remember: “There are very few problems that an Emrakul can’t solve.” If that isn’t a strong selling point for why a deck is great, I don’t know what is!