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Playing Grixis Delver: Part 2

Hey everyone!

I’m back with the second installment of the Grixis Delver guide. Last week we covered the mirror as well as the traditional rg Lands matchup.

Today, I’ll cover some of the more straightforward matchups to ensure there’s enough time to talk about all of the key pillars to have on your radar. I will discuss aggro, control, and combo:

  • Death & Taxes
  • Four-Color Control
  • Storm

Let’s get to it!

For reference here’s the list I’ll be using to sideboard. It’s the same as last week.


Four-Color Control

Here’s an example of what a Four-Color Control deck looks like:


Daze
In general, I like to approach this matchup as the aggressor. True-Name Nemesis will win if it resolves. You can protect it with Brainstorm against discard spells. Daze and Force of Will can counter their card advantage spells to ensure things don’t get out of hand.

Daze’s power hinges on how many basics the opponent can access in a game. If they have a consistent mana base that plays around Wasteland, your ability to disrupt needs to change. Four-Color Control plays between zero and three basics. The first basic is a Swamp and the second is typically an Island. If you see a second Island it means they can have Blood Moon in the sideboard. When they don’t fetch basics ,it might be reasonable to play around Wasteland because that is the decklist tradeoff they are making. Some lists play two Wastelands, but they may use them to pay for Daze.

Since Four-Color Control has so many options for spells, it’s good to play around the flex slots when you’re already winning. This means not overextending into Toxic Deluge, but also being mindful of protecting True-Name Nemesis from Liliana of the Veil and Diabolic Edict.

Old versions of Four-Color Control played Counterspell, but it’s pretty stock to play Hymn to Tourach instead. It’s likely too awkward to pad your hand against a potential Hymn, so just try and dump your hand to play around their discard spells.

I’ve seen many pilots search for their basics to protect from Wasteland, but they’re very color hungry. While their first two lands cannot be destroyed, simply Wastelanding the first dual they find will be annoying for them. I think it’s better to walk into all of the opposing Wastelands so I end up with more colors. Basic Island doesn’t cast many spells in the deck, so it’s not very scary. Swamp at least casts and activates Deathrite Shaman.

Despite the game going long Daze is very powerful in the matchup. Many of the impactful spells cost three or four mana.

Fatal Push
Lightning Bolt

There is a mix of Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt for early interaction. I value Delver the lowest because it can get blocked by a Baleful Strix. Deathrite Shaman is powerful because it can stop Snapcaster Mage. Go after their high-impact spells like Hymn to Tourach and removal first. Be sure they can’t cast Snapcaster Mage in response to your activation because it will fizzle the life loss. You can prompt them to play into your Deathrite activation by smoking out Snapcaster Mage with a Cabal Therapy. Since you don’t name a card until it resolves they must preemptively cast them and then you can name something else.

Remember the creatures can also be important due to Kolaghan's Command. Since there aren’t more than two Wastelands in Four-Color Control, it’s safe to get Tropical Island to exile creatures.

Leovold, Emissary of Trest is fairly annoying. The opponent will draw a card if you cast Lightning Bolt and Cabal Therapy or activate Wasteland. Gitaxian Probe can target yourself, but it won’t draw a card, so you may as well hold it to pitch to Force of Will. Deathrite Shaman’s life loss ability says “each opponent” so you are free to activate without them drawing a card.

Be sure to never cast Brainstorm when Leovold is in play because all you do is put two cards from your hand on top of your deck. Ponder can look at the top three cards and then you choose if you want to shuffle your deck.

Some lists play Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Gurmag Angler as a singleton, which means you should be aggressive with taking cards from their graveyard when you have the option. Gurmag Angler is more popular because it can’t be bounced by Karakas.

Force of Will is stronger in this matchup compared to other Blue decks because you can control which two cards are taken from Hymn to Tourach. If you hold onto a Delver of Secrets to pitch, it can stop your heavy hitters from being discarded.

Sideboard

In:

Out:

Pyroblast
The name of the game is cheap interaction backed by a threat when they are put off balance. Delvers get the axe because of Baleful Strix and other spells they will bring in to kill 1-toughness creatures, such as Marsh Casualties or Liliana, the Last Hope. Gurmag Angler stays because Forked Bolt and Grim Lavamancer can take out Strix and Snapcaster Mage.

Pyroblast is a pseudo-removal spell as it can counter Baleful Strix and Leovold. This is important, because killing Leovold gets them a card. It’s on your opponent to remember their draw trigger, so they can sometimes miss it.

Flusterstorm can counter clunky value cards such as Hymn to Tourach and Kolaghan's Command. Don’t be afraid to go after a Brainstorm with it as well, because sometimes it could put them off balance.

Stifle is great in this matchup. I can counter a fetchland activation to prevent the big colorful spells from being cast. It makes Daze more relevant when you don’t draw enough Wastelands. It can trade 1-for-1 with Snapcaster Mage’s ability, but that’s not ideal. Attack their mana and take note of what spells they can’t cast in case you draw Cabal Therapy without Gitaxian Probe.

A couple Lightning Bolts stay in because I need answers to Deathrite Shaman. That’s the easiest way for them to run away with the game. It’s awkward interacting with Leovold, but sometimes you gotta do it.

Overall I think this is a decent matchup, but it’s important to disrupt their mana. The games you lose are the ones that go late.

Death & Taxes


Aether Vial
This is a classic matchup where both players have a lot of creatures and a little bit of removal. It can be a challenging matchup in Game 1, but it improves games 2 and 3.

Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial can stop early attempts at countering creatures. I don’t value Daze highly on the draw, but Force of Will can trade off with the Vial. The matchup after board improves because you can cut these bad counters for artifact and creature removal.

An early Thalia can make cycling through your deck take a while. She is annoying to kill because Karakas can save her. Since she is legendary, your opponent may want you to waste a Lightning Bolt to cast the redundant copy. You need to pay a mana to cast Daze and Force of Will with their alternate cost.

Stoneforge Mystic acts as an Aether Vial for equipment. This can be problematic because Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls already make it difficult to counter creatures. The good news is Stoneforge Mystic provides inspiration for what to name with Cabal Therapy as does Recruiter of the Guard.

The version shown above is Mono-White, but they can sometimes play a single Magus of the Moon to find with Recruiter of the Guard. Since Magus is a human, it’s easy to cast off of Cavern of Souls. The other route to get Magus into play is Aether Vial, so be ready with a Lightning Bolt.

Sanctum Prelate
Once again, True-Name Nemesis is your best threat because all damage dealt to it by your opponent is reduced to zero. This negates lifelink from Batterskull and Umezawa's Jitte doesn’t get counters.

Sanctum Prelate is a common singleton to search for with Recruiter of the Guard. It will name “one” because the only spells in your deck it misses are the horrendous counters. Unless you play Kolaghan's Command over Forked Bolt, it won’t die outside combat once it has entered the battlefield. The spells cannot even be cast, unlike Chalice of the Void. It’s not crazy to run out useless spells to get elemental tokens or Deathrite Shaman activations, but you don’t have that option with Sanctum Prelate.

Wasteland ideally goes after Cavern of Souls to help Daze and Force of Will do anything. If you must destroy a Karakas, I would hopefully have seen their hand with Gitaxian Probe to ensure the opponent doesn’t have an extra copy.

Aether Vial gets very annoying when it’s on three because they can flash in Flickerwisp to counter a removal spell or mess with your Delver. Vial on one or two isn’t pleasant either, but there aren’t any blowouts besides running your creature into a flash threat. The only exception to this is Spirit of the Labyrinth. Make sure you don’t walk your Brainstorm into this because it’s a game-losing interaction. You spend a card to put two cards on top of your deck, much like Leovold.

Things are bleak so far, but we’re about to turn that around:

Sideboard

In:

  • +2 Ancient Grudge
  • +1 Forked Bolt
  • +1 Engineered Explosives
  • +1 Grim Lavamancer
  • +2 Diabolic Edict
  • Out:

  • -4 Daze
  • -3 Force of Will
  • Death & Taxes won’t sideboard much against you, as their maindeck lines up pretty well already. They can bring in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar because Delver will normally board out their Dazes and bring in removal.

    I’m not in love with Stifle in this matchup, but it has some applications. It counters Wasteland and trades off with triggered abilities from Stoneforge Mystic, Flickerwisp, and Recruiter of the Guard.

    Ancient Grudge helps significantly. Wait for the opponent to waste two turns casting and suiting up a creature only to use a Shatter with flashback. Aether Vial is still annoying despite playing only a single counter. Flash is no joke, and they are free to use Rishadan Port each turn.

    Diabolic Edict and Engineered Explosives are answers to Mother of Runes without summoning sickness. The Edicts can get awkward in the mid game because there are Stoneforge Mystics and Recruiter of the Guards laying around to be sacrificed. It’s better than Daze and Force of Will, so beggars can’t be choosers.

    Forked Bolt lines up well against their swath of 1-toughness creatures. It needs to immediately kill Mother of Runes should that enter the battlefield early. Killing the extra Recruiter of the Guards can make your Diabolic Edicts more effective.

    I expect to lose Game 1, so I need the removal plan to win both the second and third game. This can be tough as you will be on the draw in the final game.

    Storm


    Gitaxian Probe
    Delver decks are the lowest to the ground Blue strategy in Legacy. This means grinding is more difficult, but you are better against combo. Storm is by no means a bye because they’re capable of winning on turn one.

    Force of Will is the most important card in the matchup, but you don’t always know what you’re up against Game 1. All is not lost as Storm will spend early turns sculpting their hand to find a discard spell to make sure the coast is clear. Gitaxian Probe is dangerous for them to resolve because they know what free counters are in your hand which could mean you lose on that turn.

    Their maindeck discard is fairly stock at this point: Duress and Cabal Therapy. The Therapies will blind name Force of Will.

    Daze can lose value quickly, so I like to fire it off on cantrips. Remember that every time you counter a spell, it builds storm. The combo player may be anticipating you countering a spell to get them to the lethal Tendrils of Agony.

    It’s important to be aggressive in this matchup because their discard provides inevitability. This means I want a threat on turn one, like in most matchups. Casting a turn one Ponder to find a Force of Will or Daze is also acceptable assuming you have no protection in hand.

    Cabal Therapy
    Delver of Secrets is a good threat as damage matters even when they’re not at one. Storm uses their life total as a resource with Gitaxian Probe, fetchlands, and Ad Nauseam. If they can’t build up enough mana to cast multiple Infernal Tutors to build storm, Ad Nauseam may be their only way to win. Attacking Storm is like making them discard cards in this case, as they hate going below six life. They don’t want to lose by revealing Dark Petition.

    Cabal Therapy is a key card in the matchup as it can take two cards. Infernal Tutor on a non-lethal turn can be a blowout as they reveal a card and search for the same copy. If you don’t know their hand and don’t have any protection, you can cast it blind. Key cards with four copies include: Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual. I don’t like naming Lion's Eye Diamond because they may have put them into play if drawn already. Storm may hold onto their artifact mana until it’s time to combo to build up the spell count. The problem with this approach is that the spells are vulnerable to discard and Chalice of the Void.

    Deathrite Shaman is once again the best creature to have on the first turn. Exiling cards from their graveyard is important because you need to be aware of threshold for Cabal Ritual. If they cast Cabal Ritual with a barren graveyard, it nets one Black mana, but threshold nets them three Black.

    Don’t worry too much about Wastelanding their Volcanic Island, as Storm can generate the single Red mana they need with Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal. This changes if Volcanic Island is the only dual on their side of the battlefield and you just want to take a land from them.

    Overall this is a good matchup as far as Game 1s go against a deck as fast as Storm.

    Sideboard

    In:

    Out

    Post-board games are more favorable as you can counter a wider range of spells without burning a Force of Will. The Storm player will need to respect cards with different names before going off. It’s easy when all they do is play around Force of Will, but Flusterstorm, Surgical Extraction, Stifle, and Pyroblast complicate things.

    Stifle should go after fetchlands in the early game. It can’t counter mana from Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal, but can stop storm triggers from Empty the Warrens and Tendrils of Agony.

    I’m not a fan of blindly taking a key card from the graveyard with Surgical Extraction unless I have Cabal Therapy in hand and I need to get an idea of what to name. You can also counter the threshold component on Cabal Ritual if the number of cards in graveyard are less than seven after Surgical Extraction resolves.

    Pyroblast doesn’t counter any of the payoff spells, but it goes after the cantrips. I fire it off at Ponder, Preordain, and Brainstorm any chance I get. Since I have plenty of interaction that costs mana I don’t want to squander my resources because that’s how Storm gets an advantage.

    Flusterstorm can counter payoff spells even through Lion's Eye Diamond and Cabal Ritual because each spell casts increases the number of copies. It can, in theory, counter most copies of Tendrils of Agony.


    Overall, Grixis Delver is a very strong choice for the current Legacy metagame. It’s proactive, but each other deck holds inevitability in some way. Keep that in mind and you will win more games. I’m sad to say, but getting value is less important than usual with Grixis.

    There are plenty of other matchups that exist in Legacy, but now you have a general sense of how things play out against the main pillars. If I missed something, feel free to sound off in the comments.

    Thanks for reading!

    —Kyle


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