Deck Tech: RUG Dreadnought with Joe Leigh
Joe's judge foil combo has given his RUG list more reach.
Sitting at 3-1, Joe Leigh has been surprising opponents with what looks like a typical RUG Delver list, packing one very unique gem: Phyrexian Dreadnought. One of the most maligned cards in RUG Delver, Stifle has found new utility in Joe’s deck, enabling a powerful threat that presents a two-turn clock as early as the second turn.
The deck pretty much came to Joe once he knew the cards he liked. “I wanted to play RUG Delver, that was for sure,” he said. “I’ve also always wanted to find a home for Dreadnought and hate all the cutesy decks—I learned from a bunch of Natural Order decks that Goyf just wins the game on its own.” Another major threat to back the big guy is definitely helpful, and it added value to Stifle in the late game, beyond its properties as a blue card. “It also makes Stifles better in the late game, as I can sculpt my hands to drop Dreadnoughts.”
Packing Tarmogoyfs, Joe decided to cut what he considered a weak link in the archetype. “I decided the combo of Stifle+Naught would be better than Nimble Mongoose,” he said. “Getting threshold takes a long time, so it’s just a 1/1 most of the time. I also don’t like tapping out on turn 1 for a Mongoose—it just never seems good.” The plethora of cheap counters, creatures, and burn spells can make a single mana a hot commodity. Dreadnought might be more costly and riskier than Mongoose, but he’s also way more powerful.
The gains of adding Dreadnought are actually big in two matchups where RUG Delver has traditionally struggled. “It improves Mono Red and Dredge—the matchups where they can’t interact with it and it’s just a two-turn clock. Turn 2 with Force of Will backup is surprisingly good against a lot of decks, too,” he explained. Considering that Dredge and Burn are two of the fastest-growing decks in the format, packing a special weapon against them has given Joe’s list new life.
Of course, you can’t always play a cheap 12/12. Swords and Path are both problematic, which is on reason Joe looks to his sideboard for help. Employing that Hatfield plan, Joe can sideboard into a pseudo-Counterbalance deck. “I like to bring that in game 2. Game 3, I usually bring Dreadnoughts back in when I’m on the play.” Keeping his opponents guessing and on their heels, Joe can use Counterbalance to replace Dreadnoughts or protect them, depending on the matchup.
After playing a few rounds, Joe has figured out a few changes that might be worth making. “I saw a lot of lists running the one Top maindeck, so I might go down to three Dreadnoughts. I like the consistency, but I feel that changing one card wouldn’t change much.” In the sideboard, he’d like to add another Ancient Grudge to improve his Affinity matchup—the one loss he’s taken so far.