Weeks before the Pro Tour, green/black seemed like a clear strategy that would improve with Eldritch Moon added to the mix. It gained a lot of powerful cards and it finally gained some reasons to actually care about delirium in Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Emrakul, the Promised End. Traverse the Ulvenwald was always a powerful card—it just needed a home.
Green/black was really the only strategy that I cared about when spoiler season rolled around. I wrote an article about how busted Emrakul was and another about green/black tools and how they might reinvigorate the archetype. It was really the only thing on my mind from Eldritch Moon, so I guess it’s no surprise that I ended up playing it at the Pro Tour, even though the rest of my team came up with the list, not me.
The list performed well for us, earning what I have heard was the best Constructed win percentage at this PT out of the bigger teams. I was not one of the people that got to reap that benefit.
Steve Rubin ended up in the same boat as me, having a strong Limited record tainted by our Constructed performance. I personally went a mediocre 5-4-1 with it. I think the reason that we failed while the rest of the team had success with it was mostly our positioning within the tournament. Emrakul was the singular dominant force at the event, and the various Emrakul decks rose to the top of the standings.
Since Steve and I did well in Limited and had good Day 1 showings, we ended up starting from the top and having to play the other decks that were putting up good performances, and our deck was weak against those strategies. I played against Bant Company once, and the other 9 matches I played were 5 mirror matches, 3 against Temurge, and one against ramp.
I don’t think our list was well-positioned for that field. We were an Emrakul deck, which was the right place to be, but we were worse at Emrakuling than the other Emrakul decks. We were slower at assembling Emrakul, and we were poorly positioned at beating opposing copies of Emrakul.
I think Green/Black Delirium is still a reasonable strategy moving forward, but it can’t look the way this deck looks. This deck was designed to prey upon decks like Bant, GW Tokens, and White Human strategies and is pretty weak in a field full of Elder Deep-Fiends and Emrakul, the Promised End.
Here are some of the flaws in our list, and how they can be improved.
We Didn’t Assemble Delirium Well Enough
We didn’t realize that the Pro Tour was just going to be about who can get Emrakul, the Promised End out the fastest. As a result, we didn’t assemble delirium very well. We didn’t even have an enchantment or artifact in our main deck, meaning the cheapest that Emrakul could cost was 8 mana.
Another flaw was that one of the ways for us to achieve delirium was with Grim Flayer’s triggered ability. Dealing combat damage with Grim Flayer was just a pipe dream, I’m afraid. I know a lot of my teammates had success with that card, but it was extremely poor for me. I wish I was just playing Runeclaw Bears. At least then, I wouldn’t have had the false hope of it being something more.
Grim Flayer is kind of a catch-22 in the worst way. Dealing damage with Grim Flayer is a great way to assemble delirium, but without delirium it is nigh-impossible to ever connect with the card.
I’m confident that I would have won at least one, and maybe even two additional matches at the Pro Tour if I had ignored the advice of my teammates and just sided out all 4 copies of Grim Flayer in every matchup, no matter the circumstances. Instead, I kept leaving them in and kept drawing them on turn 5 when they didn’t impact the board in any meaningful way, even as a 4/4.
They were great against ramp, but that was about it.
We Had Too Much and Not The Right Removal
This was a fear I had in selecting this deck for the Pro Tour. If the other teams showed up with a deck that was resilient to removal spells, then we were in for a world of hurt.
It turns out that nobody really did that, but they did show up with decks that were resilient to our removal spells. Ultimate Price and Languish both proved to be really poor against the field, especially cards like Elder Deep-Fiend, whereas cards like Murder would have been way better.
We also only played 3 Ruinous Path, and I found myself losing to Liliana’s ultimate many times throughout the event. I think with access to a 4th Ruinous Path, or a better way to pressure Liliana that didn’t involve 2/2s for 2, I could have possibly avoided one or two of those losses.
We Relied on Multiple Pieces To Generate Card Advantage
Our only real source of card advantage came in the form of Tireless Tracker. The problem is that to generate an advantage off of Tracker, you need both Tireless Tracker and lands to use with it. When you get both going, it’s a really effective engine, but I frequently found myself in situations where I was flooding out without a Tracker or that I was drawing a bunch of Trackers but was stalling out on 3 or 4 lands, and couldn’t use them to any effect.
I think the solution to all of these problems comes in the form of cutting out Grim Flayers and cutting down on some of the removal spells in order to slot in more engine pieces. I wanted to try out Grapple with the Past in testing, but nobody else seemed interested in it, and I never got around to it. I think we made a big mistake by overlooking this card. It’s basically Grisly Salvage, a card that saw a lot of play and was extremely powerful the first time Innistrad rolled around.
Moving a list in this direction would help accelerate how fast Emrakul comes out, make cards like Traverse the Ulvenwald and Ishkanah, Grafwidow better, and ensure that the deck doesn’t have issues running out of gas in the late game.
I think Team EUreka’s version of the deck was a move in the right direction.
I don’t really like the red splash or the Distended Mindbender package in their deck, as they don’t have a lot of creatures to sacrifice for emerge, even though I think Distended Mindbender is the 2nd most powerful card in the set behind Emrakul.
What I do like is Vessel and Grapple, and I think a lot of their sideboard cards, like To the Slaughter and Transgress the Mind, can be moved to the main deck since a lot of the cards they were weak against, such as Hangarback Walker, are on the downswing.
Moving forward, I’m looking at a deck along these lines:
GB Delirium, Updated
This is definitely a rough concept and will need some refining, but I think this version of the deck does a better job assembling delirium and has the tools to beat other Emrakul or emerge decks thanks to Transgress the Mind and sideboard options like Infinite Obliteration and Pick the Brain.