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So You Wanna Play the Best Deck


Going into the Open last weekend in Knoxville Tennessee, I wasn’t sure what to play. This was mostly due to it being the holiday season and I was busy trying to get everything ready for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I didn’t have the time I would’ve liked to put into one of my brews. So instead I asked some close friends what I should play. The unanimous answer was B/G Delirium. People said U/W Flash and B/G were both tier one, but they believed B/G was the better deck of the two. So today I’d like to talk to you about the elephant in the room, we are going to talk about B/G Delirium. I made mistakes with the deck. Both in deck-building and game play. Even though I did this, the deck was still powerful enough to reward me a 23rd place finish. So, I want to pass my knowledge on the archetype to you.

I had little reps in with B/G Delirium, instead I was trying to focus on how to beat it. So, while I hadn’t played the deck itself much, I had played against it a lot and I knew what they were trying to do as the game progressed. That being said, I settled on a list. This was what I had sleeved up for the event.

I ended day one with a 7-2 record, losses where I could’ve won if I was just more familiar with the deck. I also learned that I wanted to switch some numbers around in the deck, but before we get to all that, let’s talk about the deck itself and what it’s trying to do.

What is GB Delirium?

Emrakul, the Promised End

Maybe you haven’t played Standard in a while and are just getting back to it, maybe you’ve been busy and are just now looking at Standard decks, or maybe you are just now ready to play B/G Delirium. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to start from the bottom and work our way up so anyone can pick this deck up after reading this article.

If you played long ago, during the stone age of man, then you remember an archetype called, “The Rock.” This is the perfect definition of that deck. It’s basically just a deck with creatures and spells that tried to get value over time while grinding the opponent out. It’s a midrange deck. Unlike typical midrange decks however, this deck does not fold to control decks thanks to our creatures that can generate value, but more importantly, Emrakul, the Promised End, which allows for the ultimate end game.

What does GB Delirium do, what’s the game plan?

Grapple with the Past
Delirium tries to set up the early game by getting cards in the graveyard with Grapple with the Past, Vessel of Nascency, and Grim Flayer. Grim Flayer is absolutely the best way to do this. Your opponent knows you are a grindy deck, but Grim Flayer can just kill them before you even progress to the mid-late game. He can get out of control so very quickly. If Flayer connects early, don’t be afraid to just throw those top three cards away, especially if they are different types and you’re not really looking for anything in particular. I see so many people just bin one card or no cards when the correct line is to just throw everything away and achieve Delrium as quickly as humanly possible. Don’t worry about throwing away in Ishkanah or a land, you can get them all back later with Grapple with the Past if you need to. You are also playing multiples of almost every card, so you don’t have to worry about losing a card forever if it goes to the graveyard. Standard has no Graveyard hate. The graveyard is an extension of your hand with this deck, don’t be afraid to fill it up. The bigger your graveyard is, the more Grapple with the Past starts to resemble an instant speed Demonic Tutor. That’s powerful. Grim Flayer is the best way fill up the graveyard.

Here’s what I think about when my Grim Flayer connects:

  • Do I 100% need to make a land drop next turn? If so then I’ll dig for one or leave one on top.
  • Do I already have Delirium? If I do, what are my missing types for Emrakul, the Promised End? You want to make her as cheap as possible.
  • What is the best card against my opponent? Figure that out and then dig hard for that Ishkanah, Grafwidow, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, or build toward that Emrakul. Even if you need Ishkanah and she’s on top, you should still mill her if you don’t or can’t achieve Delirium the following turn. Ishkanah is the best card in the deck but only if you have Delirium.
  • Always, ALWAYS think about, “what if they kill or remove my Grim Flayer next turn?” Would the card you leave on top still be good if Grim Flayer dies?

Sometimes you’re the aggro deck, other times you’re the control deck. Know your role in the matchup and mill accordingly with Grim Flayer.

The deck doesn’t take rocket science to play, but it does reward a pilot that knows what he’s doing. This is especially true in the mirror match. Since B/G Delirium seems to be the most played deck, let’s talk about the mirror match. I don’t want you going into it blind.

Mirror Match

Grim Flayer

Grim Flayer

Game 1 can be grindy but I found it usually snowballs out of control with whoever connects with an early Grim Flayer. If the person on the play has a Grim Flayer the game can be decided almost solely on that, especially if the player knows what he / she is doing when connecting with Grim Flayer. If you’re on the play and connecting with your Flayer you’ll want to try to hit removal spells, Liliana, the Last Hope, or turn Delirium on for your Flayer so it doesn’t trade with an opposing Flayer or get shut down by a Liliana, the Last Hope. You’ll want to be prepared for a Mindwrack Demon or Ishkanah, Grafwidow. Grasp of Darkness and to a lesser extent, Liliana, the Last Hope helps a lot here since they let you bash throw the spider (it’s unlikely it will be delirious at this point in the game) or the demon. Just keep in mind when your milling with Grim Flayer that you don’t always need more. It’s usually better to get removal to clear the way for the one you have. An unchecked Mindwrack Demon or Ishkanah will shut down your Grim Flayers if you can’t remove them.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow

Ishkanah, Grafwidow

The game will sometimes get to the point where you both clog the board up with Ishkanah, Grafwidow. Just keep in mind you want to avoid killing an opposing Ishkanah if possible to avoid it being recurred and then threatening to kill you in a couple of turn cycles with its drain ability. Speaking of the drain ability, don’t forget it about it! It will feel bad when your opponent starts activating his Ishkanah first and you realize all of the sudden you’re losing five or more health and you’re going to lose the Ishkanah race because your opponent drained you first.

Emrakul, the Promised End

This is usually what it will come down to. The mirror can easily be a race to who gets to Emrakul first. That’s why it’s so important to reduce her cost in general, but especially in the mirror match. This is where all your years of playing poorly come into play. All the games and matches you’ve punted because of silly mistakes. I hope you remember what you did, because it’s going to come in handy when you’re taking control of your opponent. Make sure they punt the crap out of their game. Make them pick nothing with Traverse the Ulvenwald while seeing their whole deck. Grapple and Vessel for nothing. If they have a bunch of clues, crack them and make them discard their best cards to maximum hand size. Make them make awful attacks, etc etc.

Things to keep in mind with Emrakul is you’ll usually want to play Ishkanah first so you can set up a true Plague Wind affect with her. Consider animating Quagmires and suiciding them to keep your opponent off Emrakul if it’s early enough in the game for it. Last but not least, keep count of Delirium. Don’t get caught with your pants down by a turn six Emrakul. While rare, it does happen.


This is where things get tricky. I’ve talked to a lot of players about Sideboarding for the mirror match to see what they do. Some bring in no hand disruption and treat it like you would a Jund mirror match in Modern. Others bring in all the hand disruption and try to pick apart the opponent’s hand. You’ll even see some players board out all their Grim Flayers on the draw because it’s not as good on the draw as it is on the play.

So, what are you supposed to do? Well I’m not 100% sure, and quite frankly I don’t think anyone can say for sure what the correct line is for certain just yet. I can however tell you what I usually did. On the draw, and on the play.

On the Draw

Take out

Bring in

On the play

Take out

Bring in

Traverse the Ulvenwald
I didn’t always do this, but it is what I settled on toward the end of the day. They are both very similar where on the draw I just bring in the last Dead Weight to deal with an early Grim Flayer or Tireless Tracker. I always left my Grim Flayers in because I believed the card to be very good early on and it allowed me to snowball if it just hit once. I also wanted to focus on the Flayer plan in the mirror match, but with it and when facing against it. It’s very easy to get steam rolled by a Grim Flayer when you’re holding Traverse the Ulvenwald, Vessel of Nascency, Transgress the Mind, and/or Grapple with the Past. So, I didn’t want to durdle too much in the mirror match. I also don’t bring in Transgress the Mind because if the game goes to an Emrakul war where you’re both recurring Emrakul, I didn’t want my opponent to Mindslaver me and remove my Emrakul with my own Transgress the Mind. Pick the Brain is opponent’s only, so I was safe from my own Pick the Brain.

Tireless Tracker and Gonti were my card advantage cards in the mirror. Gonti was great because it was basically like Impulsing your own deck and picking a card from those four cards that was immune to Transgress the Mind and Pick the Brain. On top of that he could block and kill Ishkanah or Grim Flayer. He could also bash through or trade with either of those cards all because of deathtouch. So for 4 mana you get to Impulse and create a 2/3 Deathtouch body. Not too shabby.

Where to go from here

My list had some things I didn’t like. For one it was 61 cards and I really wanted access to a second Noxious Gearhulk in the 75. If I had to play in a tournament tomorrow, this is what my Delirium list would look like.

This is where I’d settle. I feel like Aetherworks Marvel decks will be played more and I want to be ready with another Noxious Gearhulk and To the Slaughter in the main deck and Lost Legacy in the sideboard. Lost Legacy also isn’t bad against the mirror match where you can neuter any threat of a looming Emrakul. Unless of course people adopt Gonti from my list and steal your Emrakul with Gonti. So Luxurious . . . 

As always, thanks for reading and I hope this has helped you to be a better Delirium pilot or at the very least understand what the deck is trying to do.

Until next time,

Ali Aintrazi

Follow me @Alieldrazi

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