This past weekend I competed in the Legacy Showcase Challenge on Magic Online. This is a monthly event that awards all top 8 competitors a qualification to a quarterly qualifier event for the Magic Online Championship Series. I played a non-traditional variant of RUG Delver and ended up just missing the cut and earned a 9th place finish, playing a lot of really close games. This week I want to discuss my preparation for the event, my thoughts on Delver right now and how I landed on my specific list. Then, I’ll review how the event broke down and talk about some of the more interesting matches I faced.
Delver in the Metagame
The last event I participated in was during Eternal Weekend, where I played a no-frills variant of RUG Delver. While the deck performed consistently and overall felt fine, leading me to an 8-2 finish in the first event (and 2-2 drop in the third), it wasn’t impressing me in the following weeks of testing. Since stock RUG Delver has been the de facto best deck in Legacy for a while now, players have been adapting to the archetype for a long time. While part of the power of RUG Delver is its ability to defeat anything that people bring to the table, there has been a notable increase of archetypes and cards that make things more difficult (such as Snow, Death and Taxes and Elves).
I have really been feeling as if the pull towards green in Delver is primarily Oko and Klothys. Oko is probably a given, but Klothys (as opposed to Tarmogoyf, Hooting Mandrills, and Sylvan Library) might sound weird. If you recall from my Manatraders tournament report, I am not a fan of Tarmogoyf right now. It doesn’t really add anything to the bad matchups, and doesn’t really help the deck dominate a game in the way I want it to. I do like Mandrils quite a bit more, but the amount of Swords to Plowshares in the format has greatly increased recently.
In contrast, Klothys has been overwhelmingly impressive in my games. It really helps swing the Snow matchup in Delver’s favor, while having additional utility against any deck with a lot of removal spells and/or Uro. Sylvan Library is still great, and certainly goes a long way against Snow, but in my experience that is the only matchup it excels in and there are other cards (like Narset) which work roughly as well.
Since I was viewing the green cards as relatively underwhelming, I decided to take a different approach to building the deck, and this is the list I ended up on:
Legacy RUG Delver Deck List - Rich Cali
This is an Izzet Delver list splashing green for Oko and Klothys and I have been very impressed with it. Young Pyromancer has fallen out of favor recently, mostly as a result of Plague Engineer, but it is still an incredibly potent card. Unlike Tarmogoyf, Pyromancer has a lot of potential to run away with games by itself and doesn’t rely on the graveyard.
Another boon to the archetype is being able to run 2 basics, which traditional RUG Delver cannot reliably do. There is a minimal emphasis on green mana in this list, and only needing a single green source on turn 3 makes it relatively safe to search up basics on turns 1 and 2. This minimizes the impact of Wasteland and Back to Basics without hurting your own game plan.
The green cards really add a lot to Delver’s tougher matchups. With out Klothys, Uro is extremely difficult to handle even with cards like Soul-Guide Lantern and Sulfuric Vortex. On the other hand, Oko does everything it normally does (that is to say, it does everything). Both of them provide additional dimensions to the deck at a relatively low cost.
There are some issues that come up with building the deck in this way, though. Losing the larger creatures, like Mandrills and Tarmogoyf, does come with a cost in Delver mirrors where most of the threats here die to Lightning Bolt. The trade-off is that being relatively immune to Wasteland will allow you to cast more spells in the average game, and Oko/Klothys provide additional resilient threats as the game goes long.
In addition, while the mana base has been relatively stable for all of the reasons I mentioned, building your mana base in this way isn’t completely free. Sometimes drawing the Mountain can lead to completely dysfunctional games, and only having 2 Tropical Islands does make it easier for opponents to cut you off of green permanently before you can resolve a green card.
That being said, the deck not only felt good in testing but it was a blast to play as well, so I was happy to register it in the event.
Legacy Showcase Challenge
These Challenges are some of the toughest Legacy events around. Every opponent is an experienced grinder, and matches tend to be really close and intense. I went 6-2 in the event, which was good enough for 9th place. Here is a breakdown of the matches I played:
- RUG Delver – Win 2-1
- 4C Loam – Win 2-0
- The EPIC Storm – Win 2-1
- Slivers – Win 2-1
- Snow Control – Loss 0-2
- Elves – Loss 0-2
- Oops, All Spells – Win 2-0
- RB Reanimator – Win 2-0
The first two matches were relatively straightforward. The basics came in handy and allowed me to dodge being Wastelanded early and my opponents’ draws didn’t really come together.
Round 3 against TES was against Bryant Cook and my matches with him are always extremely tight. I don’t really know what the general consensus is on the Delver versus TES matchup, but I find it extremely challenging. The presence of Echo of Eons makes it very difficult to prevent every spell from resolving and towing the line of Veil of Summer can be really hard. In general, if it becomes clear that at least one of their payoffs is going to resolve, navigating to a situation where Echo is the direction they have to go is the best choice. This gives you the chance to find more disruption to interact with them the next time they go off. This is essentially what happened in game 2, where I had to stop Veil from resolving, which meant I couldn’t stop the Echo, but the Echo yielded me enough disruption to interact with Bryant. Game 3 Narset was a key card and preemptively stopped my opponent from casting a tutored Echo.
Round 4 was against Sliver master Danielnunes, which I knew was going to be a difficult matchup. If you don’t have a lot of experience in that matchup, maybe this seems silly but Slivers can be a brutal deck to play against. Crystalline Sliver blanks all future removal, and often comes down in an uncounterable manner (either Aether Vial or Cavern of Souls). Meanwhile, they have a ton of evasive lords that make racing difficult. This match was extremely tight, and game 3 came down to me narrowly winning at 1 life, just barely disrupting my opponent and applying exactly enough pressure long enough to win the race.
Round 5 I lost pretty soundly against Snow. Even with a list more tuned for that matchup, it can still be very difficult. If you want to get an edge there, I highly recommend Daniel Goetchel’s Uro version, which seems to be much better against Snow than any Delver deck I have seen so far.
Round 6 was against Michael Bonde on Elves, which has become a lot tougher with the printing of Allosaurus Shepherd. My deck wasn’t optimized to fight that matchup, but even so there were a lot of judgment calls that I could have made differently to have a better chance. I think I have preconceived notions of how the matchup plays out from before Shepherd was printed that don’t really apply these days. Specifically, I lean in a lot harder on a fast Arcanist, when it is likely better to be a bit more patient these days.
The last 2 rounds were against some fast combo decks, which certainly had their scary moments. Fortunately, my draws came together better than my opponents’ and I was able to come away with a pretty solid record.
Only a single 6-2 made it into top 8, so getting 9th doesn’t really feel that bad here. I was happy that my decision to play a different list paid off, and 6-2 is definitely still a record to be proud of in my eyes.
Delver in the Future
I don’t know if this is the best way to build Delver these days. There are a lot of different variants of RUG going around right now and it’s difficult to tell which ones are correct. As I mentioned, Daniel Goetschel continues to play a list with Uro in the main deck, and that seems like it provides a serious edge in the Snow matchup. The stock list is still extremely stable and will likely always be a very solid choice. I liked the list I played, but do want to continue exploring other options. The green cards were invaluable, but one of the stars of this list was Young Pyromancer so I could see a shift towards Grixis being solid. I think that Grixis will struggle a lot against Snow, but it helps a lot against decks like Elves and Death and Taxes.
I’m going to continue to refine this list going forward as I am still enjoying it. I think the Vapor Snag will be coming out of the main deck for now, probably getting replaced by Chain Lightning. I do love having Null Rod in the board, but I think it might be a bit too narrow at the moment, so I’ll probably shift towards an extra copy of Blazing Volley for now. Legacy still feels really fun to me right now, so I’m happy to continue to explore what Delver has to offer.