Today I’m going to write about sideboarding with B/G Delirium. I’ll have a base list, but I understand not all lists and sideboards are the same, so I’ll try to explain the thought process behind each decision and what type of card you’re interested in, so that you can extrapolate it to your own sideboard.
Emrakul: A second Emrakul is basically mandatory. You really want it against the mirror where it might get Transgressed, and you also want access to it in any blue control matchup.
Natural State vs. Appetite for the Unnatural: Natural State is considerably better versus U/W since it kills Copter and Stasis Snare for only 1 mana and you don’t care much about the life gain, but it’s also worse than Appetite against decks like Marvel and Colossus.
If you expect an even distribution of those decks, then you should play at least some number of Appetites, but U/W is more popular than those two decks put together by a lot, so Natural State gets the nod here. I do not think you really want 3 of them, though, so I’d rather hedge a little and play 1 card that’s good against your worst matchup (Marvel). For whatever it’s worth, Appetite is a little better now than it was before since some Marvel decks have moved to a more grindy approach rather than just having 8-9 “I win” hits, so there’s a higher chance you’ll survive the first activation.
Kalitas: At least 1 Kalitas in the sideboard is also mandatory, as it’s your best card against the graveyard strategies (like Zombies) while also being quite good against some of the more burn-centric aggressive decks. I’d play Kalitas main instead of Mindwrack Demon, but since most people play Demon nowadays I’m going to use that for sideboarding (but it shouldn’t be very different either way as both get sided out in the same spots).
Pick the Brain vs. Transgress vs. Lost Legacy: I like 1 Lost Legacy in the mirror and against Marvel (you can’t name artifacts, but you can name Emrakul), but having multiple Lost Legacys is a concern as the card often does not impact the game in any way. My inclination is that the first Lost Legacy is the best hate card, but the second one is worse than Transgress or Pick the Brain, hence why I play only one.
Transgress is overall a much more versatile card than Pick the Brain, and you want it against a deck like U/W. Pick the Brain is better against Marvel (since it sometimes gives you a Cranial as a freebie) and better in some spots in the mirror since it can snag Traverse, which is one of the most important cards. There’s also an issue with having too many Pick the Brains, however, since turn 2 is mostly a “free” turn, and turn 3 is the turn where things start happening, so having to skip on Tracker or Liliana because you must cast a discard spell can often set you too far behind.
To the Slaughter vs. Ruinous Path: Both have pros and cons and it’s really hard to decide which one is better, even within the same matchup. Ruinous Path is better for when you need to kill a planeswalker immediately out of a deck that also has creatures (such as Gideon from U/W or Chandra from a red aggro deck). To the Slaughter is better in the spots where you can maneuver to get a 2-for-1 or when instant speed is relevant.
While I normally like Ruinous Path a little more (as I want to be able to kill their Gideon or Chandra all the time), there are 3 hidden advantages for To the Slaughter that make me accept a 1-1 split or even a 0-2 configuration: First, it has more applications (deals with Emrakul and Bristling Hydra, for example). Second, it kills Ormendahl, and third, I think being an instant is better in post-board games. Against decks like the mirror and Marvel you often want to take out instants (Murder, Grasp), and you board in sorceries (the discard spells), so having another instant in your sideboard makes it easier to reach delirium and to have cheaper Emrakuls. Personally, I still like one of each.
Gonti: I’ve seen some people play Gonti for the mirror, but I don’t love it. It’s only good in the games in which the deathtouch body matters, and that’s not very common, as a lot of the games just ignore it (with Liliana or by being Emrakul games). I’d rather not play it.
Nissa vs. Ob-Nixilis: I like Nissa a bit more because it’s better at being aggressive. Both are great in a stalled board, but sometimes you just have to kill them, such as when they are playing Marvel. Nissa has been worse than I thought it would be when I saw it, but it still kills them quickly. If I have 1 slot, I’d like to play 1 Nissa. If I have 2 slots, I’d consider a 1-1 split.
Plummet: Plummet is strictly for U/W—it kills Copter, Spell Queller, and Avacyn even through Gideon emblems, and it’s cheap. The main issue I have with it is that you’re already bringing in a ton of reactive cards against U/W, and having mismatched answers is a real issue, so right now I’d have 0, but it’s certainly not a bad card.
Dead Weight: This is a generic answer to fast aggro decks that helps you get delirium. I don’t love it, but you can play 1-2.
Gnarlwood Dryad: This is similar to Dead Weight. It’s worse at getting delirium, but it’s usually better once you already have it. If you’re just going to use it as a 1-mana removal spell, then it’s worse against decks like R/B and Vehicles, but being able to search for it, grab it with Grapple, and recur it with Liliana are important considerations, and it’s also good against Bristling Hydra (and, if you need a beater, you can board it in against some combo decks). I like it a little bit more than Dead Weight.
Flaying Tendrils: I think this is a better version of Dead Weight. It’s not the same card, but it comes in against similar matchups, and it has a higher impact—it wins you games no other card would and it’s often unexpected since not everyone plays it. The cheat sheet for Flaying Tendrils is basically “if they have Scrapheap Scrounger, board it in—otherwise, don’t.” In post-board games against the aggro decks you cut all your discard and often Ruinous Path, so it’s not even that much worse than Dead Weight at getting delirium.
Tireless Tracker: Good for grindy games, and also for games where you need pressure.
My Recommended Sideboard
I’ve already gone through this matchup in detail in an article a while ago, so you can just refer to that for explanations. With this list, I’d sideboard as follows:
On the Play
On the Draw
In this matchup, you want to take out creatures that are weak to Reflector Mage and Spell Queller, such as Demon or Kalitas. I like keeping Grim Flayer regardless, though, because it gets under their counterspells (especially on the play) and it can threaten Gideon. Liliana isn’t great, but I like having a couple for delirium and for a stalled late game (it’s a late-game card that goes around their counterspells), and in a game where everyone has so many reactive cards, it’s not uncommon to ultimate her as your opponent sits there with counterspells in their hand. It’s certainly better on the play than on the draw.
Post-board, the games slow down since both players take out a number of threats for reactive spells (removal/discard for you and counterspells for them). This means you have to be careful not to remove too much power from your deck. It also means you’re less likely to be under pressure, so you can afford to play around their counterspells more—don’t just jam an Ishkanah on 5 if you don’t have a reason to. It’s much better to wait until you have 7 mana.
I used to think Tireless Tracker was bad in this matchup, but after playing and watching it a bit more, I now think it’s fine in sideboarded games. It’s weak to Reflector Mage, and a little weak to Spell Queller, but it’s also a decent threat that gets under some of their counterspells and generates value in grindy games, which is often how games go after sideboarding. Basically I think Tracker is bad game 1, but once people slow down and have counters, then I like it more.
Sideboarding here is tricky because “Marvel” can be many different decks that sideboard in many different ways. I’ve had opponents bring in planeswalkers, I’ve had opponents who bring in counterspells, and I’ve even had an opponent kill me with Elder Deep-Fiend and Drowner of Hope after I Pick the Brain’d his Marvels.
Right now, I believe most versions are R/G-based and will maindeck or at least sideboard Chandra, so you want the planeswalker removal all the time. If you see no planeswalkers, then you can cut the Ruinous Paths for game 3. You can leave in some removal for Servant of the Conduit if you really want to (in which case you should cut more Lilianas), but I think you don’t care that much about it.
Other sideboard cards that you would bring in: More of whatever you’re already bringing in (discard, Trackers, Appetite, To the Slaughter), Mindwrack Demon, and Ob Nixilis. You basically want anything that disrupts them or pressures them.
In this matchup, you want things to slow them down because you’re winning the late game most of the time. If you have extra cheap removal (such as Dead Weight), then you want to bring it in. If you do not have Flaying Tendrils, you probably want to keep in a Liliana or a Vessel.
I don’t like to bring in the Appetite most of the time, but if your opponent has Fevered Visions then you definitely want it, and I’d cut a Liliana. If they are strict W/R and not Mardu (i.e., they don’t have Scrapheap Scrounger) then Flaying Tendrils gets a lot worse, but I think you still want it.
It’s also possible to play To the Slaughter. They’ll definitely have Gideon, but if they don’t have it in play then To the Slaughter is quite bad, and even if they do have Gideon you need delirium for it to do anything. I don’t like boarding it in very much, but it’s certainly not awful, especially if you already have Flaying Tendrils to get rid of Thraben Inspectors.
Some people like siding out Emrakul against aggressive decks, but I believe this is a mistake. Your whole deck post-board is geared toward stalling the game under the assumption that, if it gets to the late game, you will win. Emrakul is the reason you win. If you don’t have it, then in a lot of games you’re going to draw hands with five removal spells and you’ll eventually lose on turn 20 to a Gideon, or a Depala, or a Key to the City. When I play B/G, I don’t take Emrakul out against anyone.
The sideboarding here is almost identical to Vehicles, except you want Appetite for sure because they also have Key to the City, and gaining life is more important. I don’t love To the Slaughter here either. They also have a lot of bad creatures and they might not have as many Chandras as the W/R decks have Gideons, so even if you like it against W/R I definitely would not bring it in here. Ruinous Path is also quite bad against them, but at least it kills Chandra for sure, no questions asked.
“Control decks” is vague, but it should include most Grixis/Jeskai builds.
Some people like Lost Legacy against control decks, but I’m not a fan unless they’re really short on kill conditions. If they have Stasis Snare, then you can board in Appetite since it kills that and the blue Gearhulk.
You’ll want to bring in any random grindy cards that you have, such as Ob Nixilis or more Trackers. You mostly just want to take out removal. If you see creatures such as Kalitas, you can keep some removal in, but try to aim for the ones that kill more than just Kalitas. You really should not have any Grasps in your deck post-board, for example.
That’s what I have for today! If there are any matchups you’re worried about and I didn’t mention, please let me know in the comments.