Magic tournaments have evaded me recently, but I was fortunate enough to find some time to battle in the Legacy Showcase Challenge this past weekend. I ended up going 7-2, landing me in 10th place, which I’m quite pleased with.
While the difference between Top 8 and Top 16 is quite substantial in terms of prizes, with Top 8 earning a qualification for the Legacy Showcase event, it’s hard to be too disappointed with a really solid result. That being said, my last few times playing this event I have missed Top 8 by pretty slim margins (a lot of 10th place finishes recently) and it would be nice to go the distance again.
Let me make it clear though that I’m not complaining, and I have had my fair share of extreme fortune when it comes to breakers, which I’m greatly appreciative of. Regardless, it was really nice to play some high-stakes Magic again and it really made me nostalgic for paper events.
This week, I want to go through my preparation for the event, why I ended up making the deck choice I made (Temur Delver), go through some of the specifics of the list, recap the event and finally comment on the metagame as a whole right now. That’s a lot to cover, so without further ado, let’s get into it.
Since the banning, I’ve been playing a fair amount of Legacy, entirely with different Delver decks. My primary conclusion is that all of the different Delver decks I’ve played seem pretty good. In fact, I’ve streamed a fair amount recently and the same question inevitably comes up every time: what’s the best Delver deck?
My answer is almost always the same: there isn’t one. I think that statement is wholly true and wholly positive for Legacy.
Delver decks have an abundance of options right now. Similarly, there are not only a wide range of viable non-Delver decks right now, there are an abundance of anti-Delver options that players can choose to play. What this translates to is a fair amount of ebb and flow in the metagame. Threats and answers in Delver decks need to change frequently to accommodate what you expect to face. I find this to be the best place for Delver decks to land in a format, as it means that as a player you will have to make meaningful deck choices that will seriously impact your results in any given event.
That is where I found myself leading up to this event and I had to settle on both a version of Delver I wanted to play and the specifics of the list. While I’ve been playing a decent amount of Legacy, I haven’t focused on any one Delver archetype. As I said, everything felt good, so I knew I’d have to narrow things down. While my sample size with any given deck list wasn’t tremendous, these days I have a relatively good understanding of what feels good or bad, so I was going to have to trust my gut a bit.
The one card that overperformed for me more than anything else was Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. My initial impression of it was that Uro was kind of clunky and would warp your deck a bit too much. However, after seeing its ability to dominate a game first hand, I had a really good feeling about it in Delver. While getting to three and four mana can be difficult in Delver decks, it provides a clear game plan by itself and makes excess mana really meaningful. It gives you a really clear strategy against control decks and it can dominate mirrors.
That being said, just about every threat in Delver can be adapted to at this point, and Uro is no different. Cards like Rest in Peace and Karakas can really mess with your plan and Blood Moon is essentially game over in many cases. Going a step further, the deck building restrictions that Uro places on the player means that you might be more exposed to certain combo strategies, as Uro itself doesn’t have much impact in those matchups and the need to play extra lands and cards that support it can be costly as well.
Right now though, I think the raw power of it is a bit higher than some of the other options and I wanted to lean into the potential of the card. That led me to choose Temur for the event.
I’d be surprised if no readers were asking this question, as Sultai is a pretty popular choice right now. The simple answer: Lightning Bolt. I write about this a fair amount whenever Delver comes up, but I think Lightning Bolt is an essential piece to Delver decks. I was really turned onto this idea a few years back by Lawrence Harmon as I was working on older versions of Sultai, and it’s really true. Sultai can grind down just about every opponent, but sometimes it really lacks the closing power that Bolt provides. In conjunction with Delver of Secrets, Bolt provides a necessary aggressive angle, in my opinion.
I did try Sultai in an effort to be comprehensive and it both felt good and performed well. My gut was still telling me not to leave the house without Lightning Bolt though, so Temur felt like the right choice to me.
Legacy Temur Delver by Rich Cali
I started with the base that Magic Online player Wakarock has been playing (I highly recommend giving them a follow on Twitter, as they’re one of the most trustworthy sources for great Delver deck lists). A lot of this deck is pretty normal, but I want to go over some of the specific choices in this list. First, let me clarify the changes I made to Wakarock’s list.
I wanted to lean into Uro as much as possible, and somewhat greedily added the third copy without adding any additional lands. I didn’t get too punished by this throughout the event, but there were a lot of times I needed to draw a land more than anything, so proceed with caution.
1 Sylvan Library
I sometimes feel alone in my opinion on Sylvan Library, but there are actually very few matchups where I want the card. It’s pretty slow, kind of clunky and doesn’t really work if you’re under pressure. Of course, it’s incredible in some matchups and it works really well with Uro, so it definitely makes sense to include a main deck copy or two, but if I was going to add another copy of a slow, clunky, card advantage card, Sylvan was the clearest cut.
I get a lot of questions about this creature as it hasn’t shown up a lot in Legacy recently. Hexdrinker is one of the few cheap threats that this list can support, since Nimble Mongoose and Hooting Mandrills can’t be included in a deck with Uro, but it more than holds its own. It gives you extra uses for excess mana and can completely dominate a late game. In addition, simply being a Savannah Lions on turn one isn’t too bad in some matchups. That being said, it’s really awkward to have it removed after committing mana to leveling it up and there are times where it doesn’t have enough immediate impact on the game. I could see trimming on these if you need to get more lands in the deck, but I’d certainly give it a shot first.
This is the first take on Delver I’ve played since the ban where I’ve liked Stifle. Stifle is often too easy for opponents to play around and it isn’t good in a pretty wide range of matchups. However, pairing it with Uro as an extra bit of synergy (by Stifling the sacrifice trigger – make sure you stack your triggers correctly) makes me think that Stifle is excellent here.
The sideboard Karakas does three things that I love: it answers Marit Lage, provides an engine against control in conjunction with Uro and acts as an additional land when I sideboard out Wastelands against decks with a lot of basics.
1 Pithing Needle
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to include here, but I was chatting with Bob Huang and he said he liked Pithing Needle as an answer to Aether Vial, which kind of convinced me to include it. I know it’s awkward in the face of Skyclave Apparition these days, but it’s cheap enough to have an impact early and make some of the Vial decks’ setups awkward. It’s also just, you know, Pithing Needle, so it answers other things too.
The Showcase Challenge had a whopping 243 players, which meant a nine-round event (although, if you follow me on Twitter, you might notice that I thought the event was only eight until my Round 8 opponent pointed this out to me). It’s awesome to see such an excellent turnout, but knew it’d be a long day. Here’s how my matchups went:
- Round 1 – Oops, All Spells (Win, 2-0)
- Round 2 – Bant Miracles (Win, 2-1)
- Round 3 – Goblins (Win, 2-1)
- Round 4 – Mono Red Prison (Loss, 1-2)
- Round 5 – 4c Control (Win, 2-1)
- Round 6 – Doomsday (Loss, 1-2)
- Round 7 – RG Lands (Win, 2-1)
- Round 8 – Mono Red Prison (Win, 2-1)
- Round 9 – UW Gyruda Bomberman (Win, 2-0)
It was an intense day of close games. My favorite events are the ones where I can learn from both my wins and my losses, and that was certainly the case here.
In Game 3 of Round 2, I went against my experience and instinct and shaved a Lightning Bolt for a Surgical Extraction. In general, I never recommend this against control decks or even Uro decks, but it looked like my opponent was leaning into Uro pretty heavily.
Lightning Bolt can be awkward, as it doesn’t really answer anything efficiently and it’s pretty poor in the face of Uro. However, what it does is help maximize your ability to close the game after an aggressive start, which is generally my preferred plan against control decks. On one of the last turns of the game, with my opponent at three, I cast Ponder and, lo and behold, there’s Surgical Extraction, not Lightning Bolt. I ended up barely squeaking out a win a turn or two later by sticking a creature, but my error was not lost on me. This is, of course, a bit results oriented, which is also not lost on me, but I recommend leaving in Bolts for this exact reason and I doubted my experience.
Another valuable lesson was just how potent Uro can be. Throughout the event while chatting with friends, people were questioning how often Delver can reliably escape an Uro. Well, this came up for me in almost every single match and it was dominating against Goblins, Four Color Control and Lands. When you’re including three to four copies of the card, it really becomes a reliable engine and, when evaluating your game plan mid-game, you should highly consider leaning into it.
My loss against Doomsday in Round 6 was indicative of the costs to playing Uro I was discussing earlier. My deck list was built to battle against fair decks far more than against combo, and I really felt that here. Relying on a three-mana card as a part of your plan is far too slow and it requires a lot of deck building requirements. In all three games, my opponent easily cast and resolved a Doomsday, and I was only barely able to sneak out one of the games. I bet this would be a similar problem against a deck like Omni-Tell, so be mindful about what the costs of playing Uro are.
The same was true against Mono-Red Prison to some extent. Blood Moon aside (which is obviously devastating against this deck), while Uro does provide a game plan that can power through a Chalice of the Void, sometimes that might mean you draw too many clunky cards. This happened in Round 4, as my opponent easily ran through me with a fast Goblin Rabblemaster start. I adapted and started bringing in Rough // Tumble, which was not usually part of my plan against these decks, but relying on slower cards to be a game plan does make Rough a bit better.
I find this Legacy format to be excellent, and I have seriously been loving every moment of it. That said, there is a so-called elephant in the room that I would like to address: was it right to keep Uro in the format?
I do think there are some real costs to including Uro in your decks. Usually, it has to be associated with extra lands, namely extra dual lands, which does eat up some space for interaction and basic lands. That means that it’s hypothetically able to be punished more easily by cards like Wasteland and Blood Moon.
However, the fact that it’s so devastating in fair matchups is a knock against it, but it isn’t always game over when it comes down. Now that there’s no pressure to have removal that can kill Oko, Thief of Crowns and Dreadhorde Arcanist, the format opens up quite a bit more space for other answers.
In addition, graveyard hate is especially effective against these Uro decks, and I’ve found cards like Nihil Spellbomb to be excellent right now. Rest in Peace is another card that really concerns me when I’m playing Temur, so I think there are some solid adaptations to be made.
All in all, I’m not really offended by Uro right now. It’s powerful enough to occasionally just lead to losses by itself, for sure, but I have felt like my opponents (as well as myself) could beat it if I dedicate the space to it, or choose the right deck for the job.
All of this being said, it was awesome to play some high-stakes Legacy again. It’s been a long time, and I love the thrill of competition that comes along with it. The flow of the metagame feels really nice right now, which drives my excitement to battle. I’ll be looking forward to the next event I can play in and maybe I can improve on my finish a bit.