The biggest stories from Pro Tour Kaladesh were Aetherworks Marvel combo decks, and the W/U Tempo decks that were able to prey on them. Now, a few weeks later, Kaladesh Standard is starting to become more predictable, and we’ve had a new contender establish itself as one of the best decks in the format: B/G Delirium.
The finals of Grand Prix Providence was a B/G Delirium mirror match between Wang Yichen and Seth Manfield. The weekend’s Magic Online Championship event was also won by B/G Delirium in the hands of the esteemed Lukas Blohon. B/G is built to beat the many fast creature decks of Standard, and also shines against W/U Tempo.
In a format where blocking is difficult, and where it can feel impossible to claw back from behind, B/G Delirium is one deck that actually has a reasonable chance of “breaking serve”—winning a game where it’s on the draw. The defensive green creatures—Ishkanah, Grafwidow, Gnarlwood Dryad, and Sylvan Advocate—paired with black removal give the deck a fighting chance on virtually any board state.
Wang Yichen, 1st place at GP Providence
Note that there’s a wide range of possibilities within the B/G Delirium archetype. Some, like Wang Yichen’s version, are slow and defensive, stretching all the way up to Emrakul, the Promised End. Others will be faster, using any combination of Smuggler’s Copter, Grim Flayer, Scrapheap Scrounger, Gnarlwood Dryad, and Blossoming Defenses. Don’t think you’ve figured your opponent out just because they played a Hissing Quagmire on turn 1.
What all of these decks will all have in common is a desire to fill the graveyard quickly, and plenty of black removal spells. They’ll all be hard to dismantle due to Traverse the Ulvenwald, Grapple with the Past, and Liliana, the Last Hope letting them play with their graveyards and libraries, in addition to the creatures they’ve drawn. They’ll also all be at least a bit slower than the red and white aggressive decks, and this is likely the best weakness to try and exploit.
Beating Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Perhaps the most important card in B/G Delirium (at least the slower versions) is Ishkanah. In a format where aggro is great but board sweepers are unexciting, Ishkanah is the best “stabilize the board” card available. Many decks will have trouble fighting through the Spiders at all. Even if they can, Ishkanah will have bought the Delirium pilot enough time to get their feet underneath them and produce additional lines of defense.
You can achieve this goal either with deck choice or with individual card choices. Decks that strive to control the game, or cast their own Emrakul, the Promised End, for example, don’t care as much about Ishkanah.
Beating Liliana, the Last Hope
Another powerful tool that B/G has access to is Liliana, the Last Hope. In combination with spot removal and defensive creatures, this card will give many opponents fits.
Again, there are two approaches you can use to improve your chances against Liliana, the Last Hope. (In a perfect world, you’ll use both!)
First, limit your use of 1-toughness creatures. The problem is that many of the 1-toughness creatures in Standard are simply so good! Think of Toolcraft Exemplar, Veteran Motorist, Selfless Spirit, and Cryptbreaker, just to name a few. If you must play with these cards, consider pairing them with Always Watching or an emblem from Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in order to give you a fighting chance against Liliana, the Last Hope. This will also have the convenient side effect of making Weaver of Lightning less devastating against you.
Second, look for cards that can kill planeswalkers at a profit. The best examples are haste creatures. I was ready to give up on old Lili early in my Pro Tour testing after having her killed by Lathnu Hellion half a dozen times. If they can’t feel safe casting their planeswalker on an empty board and ticking up, then it’s probably not a card you have to be too scared of! Reckless Bushwhacker, Fleetwheel Cruiser, Goldnight Castigator, and Reality Smasher can do a similar job.
What To Do
- Make their removal spells line up incorrectly. In order to beat Vehicles, B/G players emphasize instant-speed removal like Grasp of Darkness. As such, they can be vulnerable to planeswalkers like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Nissa, Vital Force. Additionally, they’ll sometimes have a hard time with 5-toughness creatures, so cards like Woodland Wanderer, Verdurous Gearhulk, and Goldnight Castigator have some appeal.
- Go over the top. Aetherworks Marvel and Temurge, which cast Emrakul faster, are the natural predators of B/G. Very few of their cards can stop you from playing Emrakul on turn 6 or 7.
- Burn them out. B/G is very good at stabilizing the board, but not quite as good at stabilizing their life total. Cards like Key to the City and Fevered Visions will give them fits. Packing your deck with Unlicensed Disintegrations, Fiery Tempers, and other burn spells can be an effective strategy as well.
What Not To Do
- Don’t fold to Ishkanah, Grafwidow or Liliana, the Last Hope.
- Don’t try to grind them out. Traverse the Ulvenwald, Grapple with the Past, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Vessel of Nascency give them far too many devastating late-game topdecks. You need to be able to win the game against B/G, or else you’ll be a sitting duck.
B/G Delirium had a great weekend, and is surely a very good deck. That said, I also believe that it has plenty of weaknesses as well, and won’t remain the top dog forever. Use the advice I’ve laid out in this article to ensure that you’re well prepared to beat it.