Delverless Sultai

I had in mind to write an article about this almost a month ago, but then the Pro Tour happened and I was busy writing about Limited and Modern. But now I can return to my beloved Legacy, and show you my favorite archetype: Sultai Midrange featuring Baleful Strix!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a large tournament in Italy: 4Seasons – Winter, with 192 players. I played Sultai Delver after seeing JPA93 go 7-0 in a Magic Online Legacy Challenge.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Sultai Delver in Legacy, and I love to play something different every time.

So I changed few cards, and this is what I registered:

Sultai Delver

Andrea Mengucci, 12th place at 4Seasons – Winter, 11 February 2018

I was learning how to play the deck throughout the tournament, including how to sideboard and adjust to my gameplay. I ended up sideboarding out Delver of Secrets, Daze, and Force of Will in half of the matchups—whenever I was paired against 4-Color Leovold and Grixis Control. I just didn’t like Delver at all, and I was always losing in game 1 to some form of card advantage that I couldn’t match.

I was the only player at 6-1 who couldn’t draw into the Top 8. I lost my win-and-in to Grixis Control. It was a fun tournament that taught me that I’m not a Delver of Secrets player. I don’t know how to utilize it effectively, so I decided to replace it with Baleful Strix.

Everyone should know their comfort zone, and exploit that as much as possible.

I went 1-7 in game 1s with that main-deck configuration, which doesn’t mean that the deck is awful or that I had bad matchups. I just didn’t know how to properly push an aggro-control deck like this.

On the other hand, whenever I was boarding in control cards for Delvers and Daze I just couldn’t lose, and I found myself playing for the Top 8 despite starting every match with a game loss.

This is what led me to take a deeper look at this deck, to adapt it to fit better my play style, to explore how much room I could make for Baleful Strix and whether a deck without Delver of Secrets could still play Daze and Wasteland.

I believe so. Despite the fact that Daze is bad in some matchups or when you are on the draw, it’s still an amazing card that does some unique things. And in the end, it’s countermagic, which is so valuable in a format like Legacy. Often the problem with 4C Leovold is that it’s too weak to combo decks, and its lack of Wasteland and Daze is a big part of that.

So after some tuning, here is where I landed.

Delverless Sultai

Andrea Mengucci

The closest analog to this deck is 4C Leovold, but there are some important differences. I decided not to trim any copies of Daze and Wasteland, despite the fact that those cards get way better when you have Delver of Secrets. Daze isn’t ideal in a deck with lots of 2-drops, so it’s rare to Daze on turn 1 unless you have a Deathrite Shaman in play or they play a game-winning spell.

Not playing a fourth color lets you play 4 copies of Wasteland, which are phenomenal against Dark Depths and Grove of the Burnwillows, whereas 4C Leovold just folds to them, and you can also get free wins if your opponent Ponder shuffles and misses land drops.

Wasteland is a threat by itself. It will hinder your opponent’s development before you even play it. Miracles has to fetch for two basic Islands, which makes it harder for them to play Council’s Judgment or Unexpectedly Absent. The same goes for Daze, since your opponent will play around it, and that’s an advantage that 4C Leovold doesn’t have.

Tarmogoyf fell off the map after Fatal Push was printed. It’s pretty bad when you face control decks playing Snapcaster Mage and Fatal Push, so don’t be afraid to board out Tarmogoyf in those matchups. Where Tarmogoyf shines is against decks with Lightning Bolt, or the combo decks where a 4/5 Tarmogoyf will put up a relevant and fast clock.

I couldn’t decide what was better for my higher mana cost slots, so I decided to play 1 of Leovold, True-Name, Tombstalker, and Jace. They are good in different situations, and in a format like Legacy with so much card selection, playing 1-ofs isn’t wrong at all.

Tombstalker is here mainly to beat Grixis Delver. Some might say that True-Name Nemesis and Leovold, Emissary of Trest are good there too, but dodging Pyroblast is such an enormous advantage that I couldn’t cut it.

I love Thoughtseize in these strategies when you lack a turn-1 play. The only drawback of discard spells is that they are dead in the late game, but with cards like Brainstorm and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, you should be able to control your draws.

For the sideboard, I chose not to change much. It was excellent for me and allowed me to customize for every single matchup.

I liked the 1 Snapcaster Mage, which is great whenever you board in Surgical Extraction, Flusterstorm, and Thoughtseize. I love to board out expensive threats against combo and Snapcaster is the perfect card to replace them.

Some people told me that playing Golgari Charm in combination with True-Name Nemesis is wrong, but I disagree. Golgari Charm is a great, versatile card for this deck. You can easily use all three modes. I’ve regenerated my Leovold and Tarmogoyf way more than I’ve killed opponent’s X/1 creatures.

So why play Marsh Casualties? That’s a concession to Mirran Crusader. Despite my many Edict effects, I still wanted some clean answers to Mirran Crusader, and even if having 5 lands is a hard ask against D&T, the games go very long and you often have all the mana in the world.

I love the Baleful Strix approach to this deck, and if like me you aren’t very good at attacking with Delver of Secrets, this might be the way to go!


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