I was really happy to see my previous article go over quite well. I loved hearing everyone's favorite cards. Sudden Shock gets a shoutout for its simplicity. Everyone has one card that just gets them all flustered to the point of being a storm.
I think this form of interaction is something people seem to forget about when playing Magic. Not the interactions in the game but all the small interactions we have with our fellow players. In this case it was a simple comment on an article, but I know a few of you took the chance to really pour yourselves into your comments, and it means a lot to me seeing others who love the game as much as I do.
Luckily enough for me I got another opportunity to talk about something that I really near and dear to my heart:
The rest of this piece is not for you Legacy experts out there. This article is not for those who can Brainstorm while juggling knives. This article is for those who are figuring out Legacy on their own and want a bit more about Sultai Delver and all its goodness.
Oh and yes its Sultai Delver now, deal with it. [CEDitor's Note: Sorry Kent. It's BUG Delver. You're welcome Legacy aficionados!]
For those who have followed me closely at the Invitationals, I have had a good string of finishes with BUG Delver in a few flavors. I would like to say each list was part of an exhaustive testing process and was clearly the best 75 for that event, but the reality is each list was me picking the cards I loved in Legacy and playing cards to beat the ones I really didn't want to lose to. Simple I know, but trust me when I say mistakes were made... lots of mistakes.
Let's start with the Season One Invitational and the flavor of BUG Delver I went with:
For an understanding of how this list came around, let's go with some cards people will never cut from BUG Delver:
If we play twenty lands and four copies of all the previous listed spells, we're already at 56 slots in the maindeck. I understand four copies of Liliana of the Veil, Force of Will, and Ponder are not a given, but the reasoning behind playing three copies of such powerful cards is important. I played three copies of Force of Will, Liliana of the Veil, and Ponder in my maindeck simply because I didn't want to see multiple copies of them in order to execute my gameplan. I understand that Force of Will is a pillar of the format and Ponder is restricted in Vintage so it must be powerful, but those cards are just not that important to executing the gameplan.
Before I go any further let me breakdown how I view BUG Delver:
1) Play Delver
For those more comfortable with a picture, try this:
Now I am sure some of you would like something a bit more in-depth about this archetype, so let's break it down a bit more.
BUG Delver to me is all about disruption. No other colors let you play as much countermagic and/or discard as you see fit. You can attack their hand or their relevant spells, and you get to kill combo pieces in play with Abrupt Decay all while attacking for three in the air and cackling like a fiend. Thankfully with Brainstorm and Ponder in this lovely deck, you get to play a smaller amount of whatever disruptive elements you want while also ensuring you keep the decks core intact.
For the Season One Invitational, I wanted a heavy discard package as a means of combating all the combo I expected. Three maindeck Hymn to Tourachs alongside two copies of Thoughseize gave me a good mix of targeted and volume discard. To ensure I was seeing this disruption frequently, I went with Dark Confidant for my remaining two maindeck slots.
So for those keeping track, the seven flex slots for the Season One Invitational were:
This package allowed me to keep my opponents' card quality in check while also giving me a way to accrue card advantage in the all important Delver mirrors. I was able to play my fourth copies of Force of Will and Hymn to Tourach in my sideboard, as I felt at this event those cards were necessary in larger numbers against the combo decks, but putting them maindeck left me at a disadvantage against the fair decks like as Death and Taxes and Elves.
For the record, I believe Elves is a fair deck. It's just playing all of their fair cards at once, and getting an angry Behemoth in play makes people think it's not fair.
The 3/1 split of Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze was at first a nod to the Deathrite Shaman mirrors, but I later fell in love with having a bit more flexibility, especially against Dredge, from my two mana beaters.
After the Season One Invitational, I realized a few things about the deck:
1) Black mana is imporant
2) Batterskull is a problem
3) True-Name Nemesis is very very beatable
This meant my initial 60 was pretty bad. I played a Tropical Island over a Bayou in a deck with four copies of Hymn to Tourachs, I didn't play any real answers to Batterskull outside of Thoughtseize, and racing True-Name Nemesis isn't that difficult so stop being scared of the merfolk and bring some bigger friends to the party!
In typical fashion, I put the deck down for a while after the Invitational. A 7-1 finish with the list should have made it pretty clear that this was the Legacy deck for me, but sometimes I can be very dense. So instead of working towards a mastery of a very powerful Legacy deck, I decided to go on a wild journey of other Legacy decks and have a massive pile of nothing to show for it. Thankfully, prior to the Columbus Invitational I saw the light:
Boy does this thing get my heart rate up. Tombstalker is a dragon without all of those pesky restrictions like mana cost. I knew when I sleeved it up for the first time in BUG Delver that I was in for a very good time.
While my Season One Invitational finish was solid, I did make some pretty big improvements in my understanding of the deck:
1) Force of Will is just fine coming out of the sideboard in small amounts.
2) The mirror is about threats; make yours bigger and maybe flying for best results
3) Legacy is really hard
The first two parts are not a surprise to anyone. The 3/1 split of Force of Will is definitely a "thing" now, and I couldn't be happier. Not having to sleeve up four copies of a card because it's powerful is an important thing to recognize. This doesn't just apply to Legacy, as sometimes even I choose to put my Dragons on the bench.
The last point is the important one: Legacy is really hard!
I lost on camera, I lost off camera, I lost before I even started. I lost because I didn't realize how hard this game can be. Now while getting kicked around by the likes of Tom Ross and Jared Boettcher I realized why it's so hard:
1) Important decisions are never obvious.
2) People can show up with anything and have success.
3) Slowing yourself down is a skill that I still don't have.
I know I know, another list of obvious things, but lists make sure I don't forget things (like how Painter Servant combo kills you in your draw step not your upkeep).
Anyways, after watching my game against Jared at the Season Two Invitational, I realized I was completely lost playing that match. In game 1, I had three different lines to choose from, two of them let me win the game during my upkeep and the last lost me the game if Jared had the Painter's Servant.
At the time I didn't take the deep breaths I needed to realize Deathrite Shaman would kill him on his upkeep and wrap up game 1 for yours truly. Later in Legacy rounds, I faced off against the terrifying Infect deck piloted by The Boss himself. While my loss to Jared was due to me not slowing myself down and understanding what my deck did, the loss to Tom was due to me not being able to identify the important cards in an unknown matchup. I spent the entire match playing around perceived Stifles from Tom when in reality he had minimal copies in his deck. The really tilting part is after the event I realized that Stifle was among the least relevant cards against me from Infect.
As far as Tombstalker is concerned, it was a house at the Season Two Invitational. Being able to ignore Abrupt Decay and Lighting Bolt made any Delver mirrors about landing the big guy and turning him sideways. Easy game, right?
So to recap the decklist changes:
In the sideboard I brought some Krosan Grips to solve the Batterskull issue and some Golgari Charms for True-Name Nemesis and the rising popularity of Young Pyromancer thanks to Eric Rill and the Spy Kids.
So with months between events I changed a whopping three cards maindeck. Yet the deck felt completely different! I was completely shocked at how the smallest of changes make the deck work completely different in Legacy.
Fast foward to the Wednesday before the Season Three Invitational. I had the same cards in front of me again, and after a few hours of talking over testing results I couldn't find a good reason to change anything maindeck. I realize that comes off as an easy way out of working to understand the format, but frankly I loved how this 75 was working:
So this was the product of almost half a year of working on a deck.
Was this product perfect? Nope
Was I happy with it? Yes
Would I play it again? Yes
Few points of discussion from this list:
I decided I wanted to be able to swap out Tombstalkers in the matchup where it wasn't relevant. While having a big beater in the maindeck was nice, against the combo decks I really needed to ensure I had as close to perfect information as possible while also having an efficient threat.
Batterskull. So instead of playing matches where I had to grind out my opponents in order to beat their Batterskull, I just slid in two of these bad boys and started blowing up some living weapons.
10/10 would do again!
Seriously if you want to beat Batterskull, and to a lesser extent Miracles, sleeve up a couple of these guys and look for the pain on your opponents' faces as you blow up stuff. It feels good!
Wanna have a card in the mirror and also makes Miracles worry? Drop into your local Library. Every single time I put this in play I was able to leverage my life total against my opponent in a very favorable way. It's also a ton of fun to draw three cards a turn for some irrelevant life points.
One other thing I want to talk about is the ability for the deck to take on a complete different disruption suite. From the Season Three Invitational, a fantastic take on BUG Delver smashed its way to the top 8 in the hands of Peter Ingram.
This is exactly what I was talking about earlier when I pointed out this wedge gives us such depth in our disruption.
Peter chose to eschew Liliana and all maindeck forms of discard in favor of more countermagic in Spell Pierce and the tempo-hogging Stifle. By trimming some of the discard spells and three mana planeswalkers, he was able to trim down to eighteen lands and play the deck more like a RUG Delver variant with a heavy emphasis on attacking manabases and cleaning up with efficient threats. While I think this flavor of Delver is more flexible and brings a completely different suite of favorable matchups, I can't pass up on the power of Liliana of the Veil and Hymn to Tourach for now.
The BUG Delver variants are limitless, the cards are powerful, and the deck just loves to smash anything that stumbles. That sounds like a recipe for a long, healthy relationship. Now I just have to figure out what to give it for our anniversary. Maybe a Legacy Open title would be a nice start but for now I'm going to focus on learning as much as I can about the power house.
In the mean time, what decks have you always wanted to learn more about? New or old, it doesn't matter. Everyone has a deck they would do anything to be able to understand and pilot perfectly, so let me know which is yours.
Until next time, keep flipping those Delvers blind and making the ladies swoon.