Howdy folks, it's Joe again, and we're back on track after our little foray into Vintage last time to talk about what is now considered to be one of the best decks in the Legacy format: Grixis Delver!
For the kids in the class that haven't been paying attention, Grixis Delver is the definitive tempo/control "Xerox" type deck of the format, playing efficient threats backed up with permission and removal to ensure they are able to maintain control of the game while presenting a clock to the opponent. You might be interested in Grixis Delver if you like interactive games where both players are fully engaged.
A Brief History of Grixis Delver
The roots of Grixis Delver jump all the way back to the very release of the Innistrad expansion back in 2011, as players became keenly aware of how strong
Delver of Secrets is quite quickly. At the time however, Grixis' strength was not exactly what it is today as other Delver variants such as RUG Delver and BUG Delver were considered to be far stronger in threats. RUG had
Wasteland, and efficient threats like
Tarmogoyf in addition to the flying insect, and BUG had
Hymn to Tourach.
Grixis began climbing a little once Return to Ravica was printed however, thanks to the little elf that could:
However, Grixis still wasn't quite as popular as other Delver variants, and with the release of Khans of Tarkir, very nearly disappeared from the format entirely. The printing of
Treasure Cruise allowed U/R Delver's strengths to shine which pushed out other Delver variants because the deck could push through and refill using Cruise very easily.
After the ban of
Treasure Cruise and the subsequent ban of
Dig Through Time, however, Grixis Delver began growing further and further, popularized by players such as Bob Huang and Noah Walker. Fate Reforged gave the deck yet another solid threat in the form of
Gurmag Angler, and the deck began growing and refining itself until it reached the form it's in today.
With the banning of
Sensei's Divining Top, Grixis has now become one of the format's top decks, just recently boasting 11 decks in the Top 32 of Star City Games Worcester Legacy Open. This has led to some current criticism of the deck and how strong it really is.
The Modern Look of Grixis Delver
Let's take a look at a recent list, this one coming to us from Star City Games Worcester Legacy Open from March 2018, the 1st place list from Drake Sasser.
Grixis Delver - Drake Sasser (1st Place - SCG Worcester 3/18)
4 Deathrite Shaman 4 Delver of Secrets 2 Gurmag Angler 2 True-Name Nemesis 3 Young Pyromancer 4 Flooded Strand 4 Scalding Tarn 1 Tropical Island 3 Underground Sea 2 Volcanic Island 4 Wasteland 4 Brainstorm 4 Daze 4 Force of Will 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Spell Pierce 1 Forked Bolt 4 Gitaxian Probe 4 Ponder 1 Abrade 1 Diabolic Edict 1 Dismember 2 Flusterstorm 2 Price of Progress 2 Pyroblast 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Cabal Therapy 2 Marsh Casualties
Efficient and powerful, Grixis is a solid and interactive deck. Let's take a look at some of the core card choices.
Delver of Secrets
The definitive name of the deck, Delver presents a flying clock that is sometimes near unbeatable when backed up by permission and removal. With 27 instant/sorceries in the deck, the chances of even blind-flipping Delver are very high.
The ubiquitous 1-mana "planeswalker", DRS provides Delver mana advantage, graveyard hate, and ways to grind longer games out.
Gurmag Angler / True-Name Nemesis / Young Pyromancer
The deck has seen different numbers of these in its various iterations, but it's a given that the deck is playing these cards for their versatility, efficiency, and synergy with the deck's game plan.
The "Blue" deck suite - Brainstorm / Daze / Force of Will / Ponder
The very reason alone to play blue in Legacy, being able to cast
Ponder, and of course
Force of Will. Being a tempo deck, Delver also runs
Daze as a way to out-tempo its opponents spells.
The most common limiter of the format's greedy manabases,
Wasteland provides great utility to Grixis Delver since it helps keep the deck's tempo on point while at the same time filling the graveyard to allow the Grixis player to cast
Gurmag Angler a little quicker than normal.
The "Burn" - Lightning Bolt / Forked Bolt
Playing red and not playing Bolt would be a bit of a crime, as its efficiency is unmatched for what it does. Being able to remove creatures and deal damage to the opponent is very important for a deck that wants to present and push through a clock.
Other Card Choices / Lists
The primary stock of Grixis Delver mainly looks like the list above, but there are slight variations on the main deck and sideboard. Take, for instance, the 3rd place list from SCG Worcester by Jeffrey White.
Grixis Delver - Jeffrey White (3rd Place - SCG Worcester 3/18)
4 Deathrite Shaman 4 Delver of Secrets 2 Gurmag Angler 2 True-Name Nemesis 2 Young Pyromancer 3 Misty Rainforest 2 Polluted Delta 3 Scalding Tarn 1 Tropical Island 3 Underground Sea 2 Volcanic Island 4 Wasteland 4 Brainstorm 4 Daze 4 Force of Will 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Spell Pierce 2 Stifle 1 Forked Bolt 3 Gitaxian Probe 4 Ponder 1 Pithing Needle 1 Abrade 1 Ancient Grudge 1 Diabolic Edict 1 Flusterstorm 2 Pyroblast 3 Surgical Extraction 1 Liliana, the Last Hope 2 Cabal Therapy 2 Marsh Casualties
Jeffrey's build is slightly different, with the same core creatures and the same blue suite, except he is also playing
Stifle as another angle of tempo attack. In addition, the spicy inclusion of
Liliana, the Last Hope in the sideboard is incredibly neat, considering how good the new Liliana has proven herself to be in the format.
In addition, Jeffrey's playing a wider variety of fetch lands than Drake's deck, which is smart given the wider array of cards like
Sorcerous Spyglass that are now seeing play in Legacy. Playing a variety of fetches like
Flooded Strand or
Misty Rainforest in your Grixis deck can sometimes throw your opponent off guard if they are not sure what deck you might be playing.
For the most part however, much of the main deck and even popular sideboard choices have been greatly homogenized to these two styles of lists, as analysis and experience have shown that this is currently the most powerful iteration of the deck.
Let's take a look at these two sideboards and talk about why these decks are playing the cards they are there.
Abrade is the new hotness in town when it comes to Legacy sideboards in red. For just 1R this card can either bolt a creature or destroy an artifact, and that versatility is pretty real.
Thanks to the rise of decks like Lands and Sneak/Show,
Diabolic Edict has found its way into many different sideboards as a solid answer to decks that rely on singular threats to get the job done. Edict is a nice clean answer to Marit Lage, Reanimator, and all sorts of decks like this.
While generally being a powerful card in the Storm matchup,
Flusterstorm's utility is also solid enough when trying to push through a threat and making it stick while your opponent wastes their countermagic trying to get rid of it.
Pyroblast is a very popular card in Legacy, since the format's inclinations trend heavily towards blue decks. Pyroblast allows Grixis to cleanly answer other blue decks including the mirror.
One of the most powerful and skill testing cards in the format next to
Brainstorm, the dark art of Therapy is one that is near and dear to my own heart as one of my favorite cards to cast. In Grixis, players get to abuse this card with
Young Pyromancer and
Gitaxian Probe for maximum value.
The graveyard hate of choice these days, Surgical provides a lot of utility as well versus combo decks by being able to strip a combo deck of its combo pieces post discard.
For BB this card kills your opponent's small creatures and not yours, which is really strong against decks that like to go wide (like the mirror match with
Young Pyromancer) or decks that run lots of X/1's like
True-Name Nemesis or Elves.
Liliana, the Last Hope
A powerhouse of a card, Liliana does it all. Being able to keep opponent's creatures in check (and possibly make bigger creatures pale in comparison to
Gurmag Angler) she can also return creatures and fuel Delve. And if you ultimate her? Well that's just gravy.
Another solid catch-all answer,
Pithing Needle has numerous applications from being able to shut off opposing
Wastelands to opponent's planeswalkers.
That's all the time we have for this article, I certainly hope you've enjoyed this brief look into one of the best decks this format has to offer. Next time, we're gonna keep up the hype train by continuing to look at various lists from other "Decks to Beat" in the format, by taking a good hard look at the current iteration of Miracles!
Until then, keep promoting and playing Eternal Magic!