Apologies for formatting, sent from my phone. Been running RUG Delver/Horrors through the tournament practice room online, and been liking it a lot. Played 5 matches, Eldrazi, UW control, Humans, Affinity, and Jund. Haven't dropped a single match yet. Even beat UW control after they resolved two Supreme Verdicts, two Jaces, and Teferi.
Can't remember the exact list now, will post later, but I think the creature base was:
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gnarlwood Dryad
3 Thing in the Ice
2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Bedlam Reveller
Both Traverse and Shoal, 26 blue count, I think, and 3 Tarfire. Taken a while but I feel like I've managed to balance this combination, though the deck is not completely streamlined yet.
Probs need to go up to two Goyfs, and move Reveler to the board.
Dryad and Thing make creature strats a joke, Traverse/Snap/Reveler bury control while they're trying to kill our other threats, and Goyf/Delver provide quick clocks for combo. I was pleasantly surprised at how both resilient and fast the deck has been.
People boarded in grave hate and promptly died to Thing and Delver
Been a blast to play.
That 5-0 Faithless Looting and Pyromancer list is too cool not to try! Too bad it's so different from what I'm used to playing. I'm gonna make so many misplays trying to get a handle on that kind of build. I like having more clocks though, and using Looting to filter out dead cards is going to be a riot. Anyone have advice on playing that kind of build? It looks really tempo-oriented with all the Pierces and Snags. Chaughey, if you're out there, please, tell us about your list!
I don't think I could reasonably play that exact build (that is more Spell Pierce than I know what to do with), so I'm probably going to just take inspiration from it. I think this list would be my starting point.
I don't know exactly what I'd want the sideboard to look like, but I think I'd start there for the main. The sideboard in their list looks fairly similar to most sideboards I've seen here in that it has some extra counters and removal, some artifact hate, sweepers, and Tron hate. The Feed the Clans make me think that I should be worried about the Burn matchup, but I'll find out.
The thing I'm least sure on is the counter suite. Spell Pierce is definitely better for Peezy than Denial is, but I'm really used to Denial at this point. A split is probably best, but I don't think I could handle their 4/1 Pierce/Denial split. I also don't know if I can live with dropping Snare without jamming some games first. I also really want my 7th burn spell back in the list, but I think I'll at least try it like this first. I don't think I ever ran RUG with all 4 Denials, so I'm worried about my aggro matchups with the 4 Denial/Pierce.
Hey guys, I’ve now finished reading through ~6yrs of RUG Delver content on this thread, and wouldn’t you know, I catch up to present day with my list being discussed. What a tickle. Anyways, I plan on explaining my choices and play philosophy soon. I just wanted to formally say "hello" to the forums. You may not know me, but I feel I already know all of you.
Hey guys, I’ve now finished reading through ~6yrs of RUG Delver content on this thread, and wouldn’t you know, I catch up to present day with my list being discussed. What a tickle. Anyways, I plan on explaining my choices and play philosophy soon. I just wanted to formally say "hello" to the forums. You may not know me, but I feel I already know all of you.
Welcome to the thread and congratulation for yours 5-0s @Chaughey! Can't wait to hear about your deck choices. I like your changes by the way. They go in the same direction as my few tests drew me.
A couple of considerations:
What about midrange/control? What is your plan against BRx or UWx?
Aren't 4 looting a bit too many? I never manage to proficiently run more than 2 in RUG shell since we don't have cashback cards...
I'm loving the idea of Looting in Delver (although, I only got through a few matches so far), and I feel like the card selection it offers might go a long way to getting us to draw the "right half of the deck."
Requesting any and all details about your decisions and how matchups go with your build!
the card itself really isn't worth the card board its printed on...does it serve a purpose? Sure its a blue 1 drop that might not be a 1/1. I would not put it in a list and expect to win a PTQ or GP though.
So...I have a tremendous amount to say, but the preview warns me it’s spam. How should I go about posting? Multiple posts? Say way less? But then that seems bizarre. Someone help me so I don’t break forum rules or what have you.
Otherwise I had 3,911 words written up for you fine fellows, and that was only part 1! Haha.
*edit* I’m just going to break up my post. If I’m violating etiquette, just let me know!
Anyways...hello again! I’ll start with a introduction of me as a M:tG player. I’ve had my gambling addiction since Ice Age, when Jester’s Capping people was “real Magic”, fell in love with Goblins during Onslaught and learned how much fun attacking could be, and then had my mind blown during Caw-Blade era Standard when I cast Mana Leak for the first time (and remember when 8th Edition came out, people were like, “Counterspell is gone?!?! Mana Leak sux wtf?!” lol).
I know, I know, Mana Leak should not have been the card that blew my mind. Preordain, SfM, JTMS, blah blah blah. But for me, having the power to say “no”, was nearly as intoxicating to me as turning little green men sideways (which when said out of context makes me sound like I have some interesting hobbies). But while I may have squawked more hawks for lethal than I can possibly remember, I couldn’t shake the feeling that while Caw-Blade could turn the corner at any moment, it still wasn’t fundamentally aggressive…and I was the kid Charbelching and Goblin Gooning people during Astral Slide Standard, so I had needs to fulfill (though, FWIW, because I explain all my thoughts more thoroughly than anyone asked for, I enjoyed Caw-Blade era standard more than any other before or since.)
THEN INNISTRAD WAS PRINTED AND MY LIFE CHANGED FOREVER. UW Delver showed me that with the help of a little inquisitive bug-man, we could be a mix of both Goblins AND Mana Leak, and I’ve been playing the little flying dude in every format its been legal in ever since (full disclosure, I played Twin before the ban, but that’s my only affair and I’ll be damned if “Deceiver beats” wasn’t the greatest hard mode challenge Modern could offer).
Now to present day—I’ve been playing some form of Delver since the Twin ban, mostly to heartbreaking near-successes and an even greater number of miserable flameouts. As we all know, Delver is a hard deck to play…the cards are miserably weak in an abstract sense! You flood past three lands! DELVERS NEVER FLIP OMG! But since I have a kid and live in Alaska (where MtGO is my only realistic place to get consistent, serious practice and obviously I like torture) I was satisfied to tweak all manners of Delver as a pet project until they unban Twin or I die, whichever happens first. All forms of all possible Delver lists were brewed and tested, with nearly all card combinations I could think of examined (outside of Grixis, because I’m of the opinion that if you want to play Grixis Delver, just play Shadow).
Initially, UWR and RUG provided the best win rates, probably for obvious reasons—UWR had some excellent redundancy in burn (esp. if you consider Geist a fancy Char), and RUG offered them delicious, big green fatty beats. But one was definitely better than the other! Long story short—UWR’s curve is way to effing high and I’m sure we all know why Geist can be a 0 or a 10. I also learned to hate-on-sight most three drops in Delver, at least main deck, unless they absolutely were game-ending in most scenarios. This meant the obvious Geist, but also Snapcaster Mage or cards like Vendilion Clique, who sure seem like they should be excellent, but actually make you realize the difference between “tempo”, and “midrange masquerading as tempo”. So while I lost a lot with both decks, losing felt better with old Goyfie-boy than it did my magical Ghost friend. Because holy cow three-drops are miserable.
So where to go with RUG? Originally, I played a D-Shoal list, because I loved RUG Delver in legacy and it seemed like a FOW-ish card. And while I loved it in matches (opening hand) like Burn, Storm, Infect, etc. I found a couple of things over time. First, the card was an unacceptable top-deck. A lot of cards are unacceptable in Delver past a certain point, and esp with context (like a vapor snag against Lantern), but I found that even more than most, a turn-too-late D-Shoal was now forever dead, tilting, or kind of like a Browbeat style card where you do what your opponent wants and just counter anything because you can. Yes, I’ve paid to counter Shadows and the like with it, and yes, I can confirm it’s the worst Cancel I’ve ever played with in Modern. Also, while Modern is a cheap format, the casting costs are still variable enough for the card to be hit-and-miss even when my opponent plays a consistently low curve. Need to counter that Baral but you only have 1 CMC blue cards? Or stop a Goblin Guide but you only have another Shoal to pitch? I get that it can also do things no other card in the format can do (like counter both of the aforementioned while tapped out). However, it wasn’t consistent enough at even doing what it was supposed to be good at…so after roughly a year of hard-headed losing with the card, I finally switched it up and cut the Shoal. When I did, the remaining space was overwhelming and I didn’t know what to do! So I turned to the internet and that’s when I came to this forum and realized there was already a community hard at work on the list! But since I started at the beginning of the thread and worked my way forward…I found the forum was hard at work with the Shoal version, which I was firmly off of at that point (and no criticism btw, since I was reading posts from years ago about a totally different metagame). So I got weird with it (at least as weird as one gets when playing the best-in-class cards available to me like Bolt, Serum, etc) and cut cows and learned more as I caught up on the thread (Jordan, btw, you were 100% on the money about Mandrills, and I think it was your best find for the deck from what I read). As I did, these beliefs resulted:
1. The “stock” cantrips sucked. I played 4x Serum/4x Opt (or GProbe/TS before it) and then 2-4 “other” cantrips depending on the list (Thought Scour post-Opt, Peek, Sleight, etc). Outside of Serum Visions they all were terrible (I’m sorry, I know they’re “fine”, but give me back Preordaaaaaain). The deck missed G-Probe obviously, but it shouldn’t have missed it that badly right? Opt is okay? RIGHT?! In my testing, it wasn’t. And I hate Thought Scour, unless it’s providing a ritual, and even then understand it’s a ritual and that’s it…basically, I’d draw random weak crap, flood out and die. I didn’t feel like I was really getting card selection as much as I was getting middling velocity in a deck whose raw horsepower was more that of a pony’s. We needed the right tricky interaction at the right time! Not our fourth or fifth land. Or Mana Leak when all you need is a Lightning Bolt. Give me some control over what I’m doing! Because that’s what the tempo player must do to win—disrupt the opponent meaningfully at the right time to win with your relatively fragile aggression. Enter: Faithless Looting. I love this card to death, and will be surprised if I play less than 4x moving forward. It’s completely changed the way the deck plays. First and obviously, it gives you more chances of having exactly what you need at the right time. Two new looks for one mana is an excellent deal, and if you’ve played the deck extensively, you know what I’m saying when a frustrating amount of games (without FL) end with the opponent at sub-three (for example), and the next card you would have drawn was Lightning Bolt. With practice and pacing, FL will be that Lightning Bolt. Here’s a few tips for how I play them. First, I rarely go over three lands played, unless I have to play past three to make a certain play-or-die. This allows you to almost always have the fodder necessary when you do draw a FL, or if you already have one. Notice, my curve is low enough to facilitate this style of play. I’m even thinking about cutting the Snapcaster moving forward because it’s the only remaining three-drop I play main, and omg ew. But counting Hootie as a pseudo one-drop, my list plays 32 1CMC cards, 9 2CMC cards, and 1 3CMC. When everything you do (mostly) costs one, there’s almost no reason to ever play the fourth land. Outside of the corner cases where you should (like playing a goyf and you HAVE to hold that leak), the only time you should play a fourth land (in my opinon), is when you’re planning on flashbacking looting, and know you may need to play the card you looted for that same turn. In which case, you likely can on 4 because nearly everything in this deck costs 1CMC, or if you have two cards in hand that you want to loot away (and they’re not lands), you can draw a 2CMC and a land and still play it (like a goyf). But ultimately, those scenarios don’t come up much—statistically speaking, overwhelmingly you’re operating just fine of three mana, slinging 2-3 spells a turn, and hissing at all lands that come at you past four (generally). Now you can turn that hiss into a riotous looting session, and you’ll be blown away by how often the card disadvantage doesn’t matter, when all you needed to finish the game was a Vapor Snag and you got it because you drew two extra cards for one mana and cashed out lands or other dead cards that otherwise did next-to-nothing (which were serving as virtual card disadvantage anyways). Also, anyone who’s played with Shoals shouldn’t even flinch. This is card disadvantage that actually helps you win games! (I say this in all playfulness). I don’t count on it for flashback in most match ups, though it is the single reason why our formerly abysmal midrange/control game has become “passable” (which means we went from “get wrecked” to being a coinflip to a weighted coinflip depending on what type of midrange/control matchup). Fun fact: Loot-into-Hoot is also a real thing, and is why I play less Scours while still having Mandrills at 4. I’ll happily burn a FL T1 to enable a T2 Mandrill if the hand calls for it. I have no fear of eating an early Loot. There’s other benefits, but these are the main ones.
2. The curve should stay as low as magically reasonable. I think we’re all in agreement on keeping the curve relatively low, and I might be a little hypocritical in cutting the free spell while advocating a lower curve (though remember I said reasonable). But what I mean is DON’T PLAY THREE+ DROPS. A lot of people I’ve talked to over the past year or so like them. They’re amazing magical cards, generally, but not for this deck. Vendilion Clique, Snaps, all my favorites, are just trashy, slow plays that make it so you have no prayer 50% of the time they’re in your hand because your deck isn’t suited to handle the demands of high card-quality. Outside of lucky, cheap mistakes like Lightning Bolt or Goyf, we play glorified Unsummons. We can’t afford nice things, so don’t try. I realize you can get blown out by Chalice and the like, but having a three drop is rarely going to save you from that sort of thing anyways. What I want to do every game is to; never be inhibited in my plans by my card-demands (like needing more mana than I have available); always have multiple plays available to me a turn; always run cleanly at my opponents throat with no stumbles, just graceful merciless death. Having three-drops make us a clumsy assassin who goes after their mark, but trips comically on the way and end ups putting the knife through their own throat.
3. 18 Lands is necessary. I want to play 17 lands so badly. I do! But I feel like with the FL, an extra land-in-hand can be a very good thing. One, because you’re often going to pitch lands to FL, which means you want to actually hit your land drops for the first three turns. What you don’t want to be doing is spending your time looking for them. This wastes our preciously narrow window to close the game, and makes your Lootings worse because you spent your SV looking for lands which should be pitched to FL, not played desperately because you kept a 1 lander. On that note, I almost never keep 1 landers unless they’re god-hands in the match or something too-nutty to pass up like triple Delver on the play with a SV for flips and I know I’m playing against something like Ad Naus. My general mulligan rule is “can this hand win the game by turn 5?” It doesn’t have to, but I should be able to envision a goldfish where my hand approaches that benchmark if I’m going to keep (in the dark). Playing 18 lands helps facilitate FL, but also helps me keep more 7 card hands under the aggressive guidelines, because less of my hands are “I’m going to have to dig for what I want” hands, which are the biggest trap in Delver, in my opinion. Those “dig, plz God just 1 tyme, omg” games are 50-50 at best, and those are terrible odds when you can just mulligan to an aggressive six where your chances to win go up pretty dramatically, even down a card. Remember, Tempo decks don’t care how many cards are left if their opponents are dead before they can cast them. Oh, and if 18 makes you draw too many mid-late game, no worries bruh! You have Faithless Looting. It takes some practice to remember to “prep” correctly, but once you get the rhythm down for how this list runs, you’ll be holding cards with future loot plans in mind to propel you into “exactly what I needed” victories! And while we’re on the topic of mulligans: I tend to keep way more loosely after 6 because Modern is punishing and you can’t be down too much and expect to reasonably win. But I’ll almost always throw back a 7 that isn’t promising some sort of aggression. And my loose keeps after mulls aren’t trash, btw, I’m just saying I may keep the “dig to find it” hand at 6 if it’s otherwise fundamentally sound. But more likely I’ll get that loose at 5. I almost never mulligan to 4, even with no lands. This deck can’t do it on less than that I don’t think (reasonably). For the record, I’ve won twice (out of two) when keeping a 5 card-no lander. Once against Burn, once against B/R Hollow-One. I reasoned my land should statistically be in the top two, I was on the draw both times, and I knew my match up got nearly impossible on four. Against Burn, he GG’d me into my land and I drew one for turn, and Hollow One cast Burning Inquiry and omg I was right back in the game. Lol.
4. 3 Pierce/1 Stubborn/3 Leak. Leak is straightforward. I wish we could play two, but bigger decks like Scapeshift etc. ask us to stay honest and play at least three. As for the 1CMC counters…Spell Pierce is the most underrated card in Modern, in my opinion. I think the world of this card, and it broke my heart to cut the 4th for a leak between my first and second list. But at the end of the day, more than 4 of the “Pierce/Stubs” slot was just a little too much. But I tend to prefer SP when choosing between the two. One, because it works most of the time the same way Stubz would, except with no conditional. I can’t say enough how much I value my cards just working, without having to jump through too many hoops. Admittedly, specifically against cards like Path on their turn three, when you specifically have a Hootie down, Stubz is unequivocally better. But when you’re racing towards the finish with your Delver and your opponent drops a turn four Gideon of the Trials, you’re so happy you ran Pierce. I love Stubz, obviously, hence the extra on my SB. But, I have a tremendous amount of respect for SP, would run 4 unquestionably if I didn’t play Hootie, and think it should see a lot more play in the format. That sort of “blanket” application is too saucy to pass up. Even for a sometimes-savage “one mana negate”. All that said, I’d be interested in trying a 2-2 split between SP and SD moving forward, but I don’t think I’d go further than that.
5. 4 Bolt/4 Snag/2 Forked Bolt is the best removal suite I’ve found against an open field. There’s a lot of debate, Tarfire, Simic Charm, etc. But at the end of the day, again, I prefer versatility and cheapness, and nothing beats these guys at that. I wish I could play more Forked Bolts, I wish I could run a Dismember (Roast is so trashy), but basically without getting too deep, these spells work at covering big and small things, keep the board clear, and establish tempo while dealing damage. Adjust as you like, but I think this package is pretty much optimal against a diverse metagame. Oh, and Tarfire is way way too cute when you could just be cutting up multiple creatures at once. Forked Bolt is OP. Esp when our “sweepers” tend to suck.
6. 15 creatures is a necessary evil. I played 12 for a loooooong time. Then I went up to 14. Then 15. Why? Because everything dies in this format. EVERYTHING. Even an Etched Champ eats it to Eldrazi and Mutavault. And remember that miserable midrange matchup? They kill everything too! So, I play a couple Pyromancers, and while they’re rarely an “A+”, they’re usually a solid “B” and provide a steady stream of threats if our other dudes got lit up along the way. Or just to provide you with a higher density of creatures to open with to lessen mulligans. Or if you have too many, you just loot away the excess into Hootie food (nom nom nom). With FL in the list, you can afford to run a few more creatures to help solidify us against the reality that Modern has a lot of removal for creatures. And when they don’t, you ship them to the yard with FL and find something better to do than flattering your opponents with immolation. Either way, YP is the best threat in a long list of mediocre. I’m waiting for the day they print something better, but for now he’s been serviceable. And btw my card evaluations are really critical. I’m not saying YP is “bad” by any means. He’s just not as good as the Holy Trinity of “Delver/Hoots/Goyf” and you shoulnd’t expect him to be. But when you’re facing down an early Hollow Four and a Gurmag angler, you’re very very happy to have him. He can swing races nothing else in the deck can. I board him out all the time though if I don’t think things are going to die. The other creatures are stock and obvious. Though seriously, let’s cut that Snapcaster already. I’m thinking a 3rd YP, but we’ll see. That only slightly sounds better.
7. The flex spots for this list are: the third mana leak, the two thought scours, and the Snapcaster Mage. I have no interest in cutting any of them atm besides Snapcaster Mage, but honestly I think emotionally it may be too hard to give up on Tiago entirely. We’ve been through so much together *tear*
8. The sideboard is a product of two things: what I think the deck is weak to, and also the MTGO metagame. Notice my Tron and Burn hate? There’s a lot of Tron and Burn online. Even if we had stellar matches against them (they’re good, I wouldn’t say stellar), you’d want some hate just because of the frequency you see them with. It’s not like it’s every other match, but probably once a league on average, and sometimes twice. I play pretty much exclusively online and grind grind grind, so you lose enough to them and you vow “never again”. Lol. As for the rest of it, it’s pretty stock. Ancient Grudge/DRev are basic necessities, I think SD is the best additional countermagic, cards like Deprive and Negate cost waaaaay too much to be consistently effective in my opinion, Firespout is just fine enough, certainly better than Anger, and I think Pyroclasm is fine but preference based between it and FS and clearly I like the latter. I find that extra point matters in helping the Humans match up in particular (getting to ~probably~ still beat a board that’s only activated Thalia’s Lieutenant once is a god send. If they rip more than one, yeah, you were probably dead anyways). And returning to the FtC and the Damping Sphere—I think Burn is a solid but too-close-to-not-sideboard-for kind of match. We can certainly wreck them with a quick goyf and some counterspells. But what I’ve noticed in particular are their hands with multiple creatures where our hands sometimes can be light on the removal (esp in this build where you want to board out the snags postboard). If they drop GG into Taylor Swiftspear x2 or Eidolon or whatever, and you don’t have Lightning Bolt at the ready, you’re in serious, serious trouble. And while you can stabilize, obv FtC closes the door hard instead of making me sweat. Esp since you’re probably taking a baseline 4 from your lands even with conservative shocking. So I like the FtC, esp with how common burn is online, but cut them as you see fit. The Damping Spheres have a ton of cross-utility besides Tron as well, hosing Bloom, Storm, KCI, and even hilariously against opponents like Ad Nauseum (which is a positive match generally, but I’m making a point here). So when I’m playing in wide-open field that resembles Day 1 of a GP, I prefer to be extremely versatile. At least as much as possible.
Anyways, I have a lot more to say, and I haven’t answered everyone’s questions, but I will, I just had a lot to say upfront. Specifically, I’d still like to address “the midrange problem” and share my spreadsheet data on my match ups. I’ve played something like 270 matches with the list and can give reasonably accurate impressions of different matches and how they go with the deck by game. But I thought I’d start first with what I think about my list and why.
And Ashton, yes I’ve played the white splash, both for the CC version in the RUG shell, but also generically as a UWR deck. But what do you mean more specifically? I’ve even tried stupid things like “Black RUG” which was basically my current list but with Fatal Push to “solve” the Goyf matchups. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t worth it across the spread.
Thanks for the write up! It was pretty thorough. I'm sure we'd all love to see your data on matchups with your build!
Personally, I'd like to hear a bit more about your changes from the previous list to your current one. Things like supporting all 4 Mandrills, dropping Traverse, and really focussing the sideboard on the archetypes you mentioned.
On Midrange matchups, I think your mainboard is actually better positioned than most. Midrange still probably isn't good, but Vapor Snag can go a long way to getting under them, and Looting away dead cards for more threats (of which you run plenty) is huge. I think your sideboard could be tuned to help a bit, but that depends on how heavily you focus on others.
Thanks a lot for posting here! Every time I move away from the deck because I feel it's just not good enough, I come back to it because the shell is just so much fun. So I'm glad someone is having success with it! And congratulations btw
List looks super cool, really want to give it a try. At first glance, my only change would be to cut the 3 Feed the clan from the board and replace them by 3 Huntmaster of the Fells which, while not being as good vs burn still does the job and has much more uses in other matchups.
@Chaughey: Thanks for your posts. Very useful. Can't wait to read the rest.
About 3 drops. I may agree maindeck, since you're already playing 3 3 drops in YP and snap (and rarely even mandrills). I slightly disagree post side since 18 lands and cantrips let you manage specific game-changer higher cmc spells. I partially agree with MeraSC since I dislike Feed the Clan even if it can be useful in some MU. I'd play 2 Huntmasters and 1 basilisk collar. With the full set of mandrills it's nuts.
First off, congratulations to Chaughey on your recent finishes! I will definitely be trying that list out.
So, apologies for my last post being so messy. I've now taken the time to put my thoughts down properly, and although I haven't discussed the matches I've played in detail, I have mentioned the odd interaction that I've come across that I think is worth pointing out. Fair warning, the post is quite long:
I have been looking at RUG Delver as an archetype over the past few months and pondering how to address some of its traditional weaknesses:
1. Difficulty in dealing with large resolved threats due, primarily, to a lack of hard removal.
2. A tendency to run out of gas in longer games against grindier decks.
3. The need for a high threat density in many match ups conflicting with the need for a high instant and sorcery count for Delver.
4. Splash damage from graveyard hate neutering the deck.
I wanted to find a configuration that solved or at least partially remedied these issues whilst keeping the deck centred on the tempo plan. I wanted to be able to come out of the gates running, apply pressure and disrupt my opponents from the first turn, but I also wanted the deck to be capable of going long, grinding out my opponents, and dealing with their late game plans. I wanted it to be resilient to hate to boot. I wanted a deck that had it all.
With these lofty ambitions in mind, I began my theory crafting. I knew that I wanted to start with two play sets of one drops. Real one drops; the kind that can be cast on turn one without assistance. The reasoning behind this was fairly simple; I wanted to be able to cast a one drop turn one and hold up counter magic, and to have the choice between casting a one drop and spell or a two drop on turn two. This is where tempo wants to be. Drop a threat immediately then sit back and disrupt. I didn't want to be spending games waiting until turn three to do this. I also figured this would take some of the sting out of losing the coin toss - I would still be able to drop a threat and disrupt my opponent’s crucial third turn on the draw, and that’s exactly what this deck needs to do.
Delver was a given, obviously. Goblin Guide was a write-off from the get go; helping opponents make their land drops is pretty much the opposite of what this deck wants, so no-go there. Monastery Swiftspear was another powerful option, but apart from the odd game where it was insane, it often just got stonewalled by bigger threats or turned up too late to the party to make a difference. Hooting Mandrills is undoubtedly strong, and I love the card, but it didn’t quite fit my criteria here. It can’t be cast turn one, it cannibalises the yard for Goyf, and requires the deck to run what I consider to be subpar cantrips to fuel it. Now I’m aware the decks that go in that direction are worth playing and obviously have the potential to be very successful, however, that was old ground and I was looking for something different. More importantly, those decks still suffer the weaknesses mentioned above, and the whole purpose of my brewing was to address those weaknesses.
So the two cards I had my eye on were Gnarlwood Dryad and Narnam Renegade. Both these cards had potentially good rates, and deathtouch goes a long way to helping with the deck’s inability to handle large resolved threats. The starting point was simple, I would be greedy and attempt to make the one with a high power threshold and better topdeck potential work. I was returning to Delirium, and I honestly was not entirely convinced it would pan out given past attempts to make it work in the deck. However, Delirium opened up the possibility of trying Traverse the Ulvenwald again, which I’ve always felt had the potential to ease the tension between threat and spell density in Delver.dec, and the Dryad had another property that made another threat candidate look even more appealing: its Horror subtype.
I’d played a fair amount with the UR Pyromancer/Thing deck that the Vieren brothers debuted at PT rivals of Ixalan and was fully aware of the power of Thing in the Ice in creature match ups. The insane tempo swing of bouncing your opponent’s board and leaving yourself with a 7/8 was often enough to win games on its own, particularly when you’ve already forced your opponent to exhaust their removal on your other cheap threats. The Thing also did a pretty good job of walling a lot of modern’s early threats, and allowed you to dump him and then win just by interacting with your opponent. The Evacuation effect provided the deck with much a much needed answer to fatties and hexproof creatures, and the fact the Dryad stuck around after the bounce was just gravy. It was also important to me that Thing wasn’t dependant on the graveyard, and it’s pretty handy that it also pitches to Disrupting Shoal. Oh yeah, as a side note, bouncing Snapcaster Mage with Thing is great. Bouncing Delver doesn’t matter, because the board is empty apart from your 7/8 and 3/3 Horrors.
The combination of Dryad and Thing had pretty much covered the hard removal issue. The deck was now cable of stalling large creatures, and the act of bouncing them via Thing with a Dryad on board often felt like a combo finish, providing enough damage to finish the opponent in a single turn or take them deep into burn range, making the win almost inevitable.
In terms of the rest of the threat suite, I was keen to try Traverse, because I would already be attempting to reach Delirium for Dryad, it upped the threat count with eating into the Delver’s Instant/Sorcery count, and I was also excited at the possibility of having access to Bedlam Reveller in the main without it being a liability. It also provides flexibility to choose between your various threats, helps you hit your land drops, and triggers Thing. Even when Delirium is turned off, finding a basic is often surprisingly relevant in a deck that boards in Blood Moon, and it really helps smooth out one-landers. Traverse also allows a few silver bullets out of the board in games where grave hate won’t be an issue. Combining Snapcaster and Reveller with the Traverse plan (and a couple of Snags for good measure) gave the deck the ability to grind with the best of them, making 15 creatures feel like 20+. It also provides a Demonic Tutor type effect to some lines of play. Need a bolt? Traverse-Snap-Bolt. Need a particular creature? Snap-Traverse. Empty hand? Traverse-Reveller. Short on land/need fixing? Traverse. Need to blockers/to grind? Traverse-Snap-Traverse-Snap-Traverse-Reveller etc… You get the picture…
Now we just add a Goyf or two for pure efficiency, and we’re pretty much there. I don’t want too many because I prefer Thing in my two slot for these reasons:
a) It pitches to shoal.
b) The bounce effect is crucial to the way the deck’s late game works.
c) It stops the deck folding to graveyard hate. Opponents who take a turn to play RIP get punished by Delver and Thing.
(Recently, I’m thinking the second Goyf may be necessary, either over the fourth Dryad, or moving Reveller to the board).
All good right? Yup, just one thing. Delirium. I’m sure many of you know that it’s not as easy to achieve as we’d like. The good news is that, although it’s not ideal, we’re usually okay with waiting a turn or two before Delirium allows us to really turn up the heat, because Dryad and Traverse both do relevant things against a lot of the field without it - trading with creatures/removal, and fixing our mana etc. Also, we’re not actually super reliant on it for the deck to function. And while it’s not trivial to achieve, it’s also not too difficult. We have options:
1. Mishra’s Bauble. I tried this, of course, and it’s more or less fine with Delver thanks to the pseudo scry effect in combination with fetches, but it was miserable with Thing. Not for me, thanks. EDIT: This card also defies the point of Traverse, which is to increase the threat count and lower the land count without cutting instants and sorceries.
2. Tarfire. This is A+, and honestly almost all that is required. I think 2-3 is fine. It has the added benefit of pumping goyf and the extra burn is relevant when you send your Thing across and empty board. FWIW, I don’t miss Forked Bolt against Lingering Souls and co, thanks to Thing taking care of them.
3. Thought Scour. Instant speed is nice, but a bit too pot luck, perhaps. It has a reasonable chance of dumping or drawing you into whatever you need for Delirium, but it’s not the most reliable. Being blue for Shoal is relevant if you’re on that plan though.
4. Faithless Looting. This is probably the second best pure enabler, as it’s cheap and we get to select exactly what hits the yard. It is card disadvantage, but this deck has a lot of ways to generate CA and we can often dump lands thanks to Traverse.
5. Chart a Course. Ah Chart, you sly old dog, is there nothing you can’t do? I love this card here, it’s straight up card advantage when you need it, it’s blue for Shoal, and the secret mode (draw 2, discard 1) really shores up Delirium. I like the added flexibility over Looting, and for this reason it’s been my pick after Tarfire up to this point. It’s the other part of the Snapcaster engine that allows this deck overrun control. Just remember to sandbag lands.
6. Obviously fetchlands. Duh…
The rest of the deck is fairly standard, Serum Visions and Bolt are obviously maxed out, and the choice between various counters and sideboard cards is a matter of personal preference. I personally love Shoal. It does work against the evils of turn one Vials and Chalices that can cause this deck serious problems, and it allows Thing to be flipped on turn 3. The card disadvantage is picked up elsewhere in the list and the tempo gain can be huge for the deck, plus, if it’s dead, just dump it Chart or Reveller, NBD. I think Spell Pierce is worth it in some number, even if it’s dead in some match ups. I have used it to flip Thing by targeting my own spell and refusing to pay, so the fact that it’s at the very least a one mana instant can be relevant. On the mana base, particularly Botanical Sanctum over Spirebluff Canal, we need more green than red thanks to Traverse and Dryad, and Scooze from the board, and I wanted painless choke-proof blue green source to provide resilience to attacks on our mana base. The basic mountain is definitely needed for traverse to have maximum colour fixing before Delirium.
1. Thing in the Ice is a ridiculous magic card. It covers a lot of bases in the main deck that we otherwise have to rely on boarding for, such as sweeper effects and dealing with fatties.
2. Dryad and Thing really mess with aggro decks.
3. The combination of Traverse, Snapcaster, Reveller, Chart, and bounce effects lends the deck serious grind potential.
4. A quick clock coupled with disruption generally makes combo a cakewalk.
5. Delver and Thing stop graveyard hate from wrecking us, and the delirium cards still do relevant things without four types in the yard.
This deck has the ability to handle everything that is thrown at it, offers complex decision trees, has a high number of flex spots, and rewards tight play and deck building. I believe I have made huge improvements to the weaknesses I mentioned at the start of this post, however, the list is nowhere near perfect, and I would appreciate input from anyone willing to give it a spin. Though I'm happy to field any questions, Please try it out and see what you think before making assumptions - I was pleasantly surprised by its speed and resilience.