Over the course of last weekend, there were a few delirium decks that managed to navigate the field full of Spell Queller and Collected Company in order to put up a solid finish. Noted SCG Tour® brewer and expensive sorcery connoisseur Ali Aintrazi piloted a Sultai list that was more controlling, building all the way to Emrakul, the Promised End.
Ali's exact list was hotly anticipated once he made the elimination rounds in #SCGCOL, since there are so many options for the deck and the exact numbers are tough to nail down in the early days of the format.
In perusing Ali's list, I came to a somewhat startling realization: this isn't really a delirium deck. Ali pulled the old bait and switch! Sure, he makes use of some cards with delirium, notably Traverse the Ulvenwald and Ishkanah, Grafwidow, but achieving delirium isn't something this deck is looking to accomplish on a regular basis. It's not dependent on it in any way, but given that it is built to play a long game, you can reasonably expect to achieve delirium eventually, at which point you can pepper in the most powerful delirium cards without having to suffer through having a team of 2/2 Grim Flayers staring at a Sylvan Advocate and Reflector Mage.
In reality, Ali's list is a Superfriends control strategy with four different planeswalkers supplemented by two different Oaths to grind small advantages over the course of many turns. Languish plays very well here, sweeping away the pesky creatures looking to attack your planeswalkers, and once your opponent has exhausted their resources dealing with your initial wave of threats, you can bury them with a late-game Den Protector or the game-breaking effects of Dragonlord Silumgar and Emrakul, the Promised End.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Oath of Jace, and Hedron Archive are the few concessions Ali makes to achieving delirium, but they are all solid cards in his normal strategy. Archive is the most questionable of the three, but between Den Protector, all the other card advantage in the deck, and the six creature-lands, you want plenty of mana, and being able to cash it in in long games is still excellent.
Ali certainly came prepared for a field of creature decks, which typically leaves you vulnerable to decks that are going over the top with huge threats, mostly ramp. But Summary Dismissal and Pick the Brain out of the sideboard represent excellent tools in the matchup, especially Dismissal, which can cleanly and efficiently answer World Breaker; Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger; and opposing copies of Emrakul, the Promised End.
With so much talk about how poor reactive strategies are early in formats, it's certainly surprising to see someone have success with just that kind of deck, but these are the strategies Ali Aintrazi has built his career on, and last weekend's metagame was not nearly as difficult to predict as some other new formats, given the highly-publicized power of Bant Company and Spirits decks.
Languish-based control decks have seen success recently, most notably B/W Control and Grixis Control, and this may now be the best of the bunch given its new additions.
- 2 Den Protector
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 1 Dragonlord Silumgar
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer