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Top 8 Swag

This weekend was the Annecy stop on the recently formed Bazaar of Moxen tour. I managed to luck-sack my way undefeated through the Swiss portion of the Legacy main event with a somewhat greedy four colour Delver list:

Peter White - 4 Colour Delver

Creatures (13)
Deathrite Shaman
Delver of Secrets
Young Pyromancer
Gurmag Angler

Spells (28)
Brainstorm
Ponder
Gitaxian Probe
Daze
Force of Will
Spell Pierce
Lightning Bolt
Abrupt Decay
Dismember
Lands (19)
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Wasteland
Volcanic Island
Tropical Island
Underground Sea

Sideboard (16)
Cabal Therapy
Surgical Extraction
Pithing Needle
Pyroblast
Grim Lavamancer
Envelop
Abrupt Decay
Life from the Loam
Ancient Grudge
Winter Orb
Painful Truths
Vendilion Clique

As far as the main-deck goes, it feels like there are about five flex slots in Grixis Delver. The core of 18 lands, 4 Delver, 4 Deathrite, 3 Pyromancer, 2 Angler, 4 Force, 4 Daze, 4 Probe, 4 Brainstorm, 4 Ponder, 4 Bolt has been pretty much unchanged since the deck first started putting up consistent results after the Treasure Cruise ban in early 2015. (Prior to the Dig banning you’d obviously run two of those, leaving three free slots.)

For a long time I had been running three Stifles, one Forked Bolt and a Spell Snare in the flex slots. Other people — notably Noah Walker — seem to prefer a general good-stuff package of two Cabal Therapy, Pyroblast, Spell Pierce and an additional threat. Stifle is generally a very bad card, but it increases the chances of being able to Daze a removal spell on a turn two Pyromancer; by Stifling their first Fetchland they can’t pay for Daze. It also helps to shore up the Miracles and Shardless match-ups while still being reasonable against a range of decks from Storm to Jund. Having said that, the card is almost entirely useless versus Eldrazi Stompy so changes needed to be made with the rise of that particular deck.

After discussion with a friend we decided to try to increase the number of Abrupt Decays in the 75 to combat Miracles and to answer Eldrazi lock-pieces. Decay is such a versatile card that it seemed worth running a few main-deck, but hoping to support multiple main-deck Decays with a single Tropical Island and four Deathrites is delusional rather than merely greedy. Enter the 19th land. One of the roles that Stifle played was protecting against Wasteland in the Delver mirror so replacing the triple Stifle package by two Decays and an additional land made a lot of sense to me. The final change was booting out the Forked Bolt and Spell Snare for a Dismember and a Spell Pierce. Again, Forked Bolt is lackluster against the Eldrazi deck, whereas Dismember can answer Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher and still kill a turn one Deathrite Shaman from BUG or Grixis. Spell Snare was mostly intended to answer problematic two-drop permanents like Counterbalance, Sylvan Library, Tarmogoyf, and Stoneforge Mystic, but Abrupt Decay deals with most of those so we have room for a more powerful non-creature counterspell.

The sideboard is a range of flexible cards: there’s the anti-combo package of Cabal Therapy and Surgical Extraction, the grindy Life from the Loam and Painful Truths package, Grim Lavamancer is another one-mana planeswalker for the creature-based match-ups and Winter Orb punishes decks that mistakenly think that Legacy is about casting anything more than a one CMC spell.

The sideboard Envelop should have been Invasive Surgery, but I accidentally left all of mine at home and was too lazy to pick-up a spare from the dealers on Friday. In reality you aren’t going to hit Delerium that often versus Miracles or many combo decks so the difference is pretty negligible. Having said that, Invasive Surgery is the *much* better card against Shardless and Lands. I don’t think I was punished for running Envelop at BoM in any of my games, but the lesson here is clear: don’t leave home without your Invasive Surgeries or you’ll suffer the public humiliation of top 8ing an event with a suboptimal decklist!

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L-R: Scrub, Scrub, Top4 Vintage, Top8 Legacy and Scrub

Onto the tournament:

Round 1: ANT 2-1

I forget exactly how these games played out since I wasn’t really keeping notes early in the tournament. Cutting the Stifles from the deck and adding a bunch of permanent hate can’t have helped this match-up though.

Sideboarding:

Out: 2 Gurmag Angler, 2 Abrupt Decay, 2 Lightning Bolt, 1 Dismember, 1 Tropical Island

In: 3 Cabal Therapy, 2 Surgical Extraction, Envelop, Pyroblast, Vendilion Clique

I find Angler too slow here — you don’t need that many threats since they often aren’t too focused on killing your guys. (Sometimes they bring in Decay and Disfigure, but that dilutes their combo.) Keeping a couple of Lightning Bolts hedges against Xantid Swarm, plus the reach is useful to close games out as quickly as possible.

Round 2: Shardless 2-0

Again, I don’t have any notes here. Usually it seems that the player who can maintain Deathrite supremacy wins the Deathrite mirror and Grixis is favoured in that respect because it runs main-deck Bolt in addition to Decay and Dismember. I expect that I Bolted his Deathrite, made my own, then Wasted some of my opponent’s lands and killed him before his second Ancestral Vision came off suspend.

Sideboarding:

Out: 4 Force of Will, 2 Daze

In: Envelop, Pyroblast, Painful Truths, Abrupt Decay, Life from the Loam, Grim Lavamancer

Force of Will is horrible against Hymn to Tourach specifically and value.dec in general. Envelop is obviously substantially worse than Invasive Surgery here, but it’s still a reasonable counter for Ancestral Visions and Toxic Deluge. You aren’t too worried about Liliana — Pyromancer wrecks her. Lavamancer helps to win the Deathrite war and clears a path through Strixes (Striges?) and Shardless Agents.

Round 3: Blue/Red Delver 2-1

Extremely close round. My opponent opened Island, Ponder, go, so my assumption was Miracles. A Probe revealed the horrible truth.

Sideboarding:

Out: 2 Daze, 1 Force of Will (likely switched depending on whether I was on-the-play or on-the-draw)

In: Pyroblast, Abrupt Decay, Grim Lavamancer

It wasn’t really clear how to sideboard here since there are so many different builds of the straight blue/red list. I wasn’t sure if he had Price of Progress or was on a Wasteland plan; running both seemed like a nombo. Against Wasteland I’d want to keep the second Trop, while against Price I’d probably want to cut it. Envelop seemed like it would be awesome against Price of Progress and Chain Lightning, but terrible against anything else. Should I have brought in Pithing Needle for Lavamancer? Do I bring in both Pithing Needle and my own Lavamancer?

Game 2 I see Wasteland which suggests that he isn’t running Price of Progress.

Game 3 he opens with Lavamancer, which seemed pretty good against my hand of zero removal spells, Pyromancers and cantrips. I begin jamming threats into the Lavamancer, which at least slows down his board development since he has to keep dumping cantrips into the graveyard and activating the Lavamancer. Eventually we end up in a racing situation with a Deathrite Shaman and an unflipped Delver on my side of the table against Lavamancer with one card (a creature) in graveyard, an unflipped Delver and a True-Name (?) on his. My Delver flips revealing Dismember and I tank for much longer than I should have trying to figure out if I could keep it or if I need to shuffle it away with a fetch to try to find a Bolt or Decay. The game state is such that I *have* to kill his Lavamancer, drain him for 2 with my Deathrite and fade a removal spell for a turn to win so the only real question is whether I can afford the life-loss from Dismember. In the end I keep the Dismember, fade the removal spell, get the girl and take the match.

Round 4: Black/Red Reanimator 2-1

Game 1, I lead with Deathrite, which is immediately killed by a Firestorm dumping Griselbrand and another reanimation target. Next turn he Reanimates Griselbrand, draws seven then casts Petal, Ritual, Ritual, Grave Titan. I scoop.

Sideboarding:

Out: 2 Gurmag Angler, 3 Lightning Bolt, 1 Dismember, 1 Tropical Island

In: 3 Cabal Therapy, 2 Surgical Extraction, Envelop, Vendilion Clique

Abrupt Decay seems reasonable post-board as a potential answer to Animate Dead and/or sideboarded Pithing Needles (on Deathrite).

Game 2, I keep a hand with Deathrite, Daze and Force of Will among other things. He Firestorms the Deathrite, I Daze, he pays with Simian Spirit Guide so I have to Force. Young Pyromancer and Cabal Therapy end up clearing out his hand.

Game 3, I keep a hand with Delver and double Surgical Extraction, which turns out to be good enough.

Round 5: Miracles 2-0

Game 1 was a real nail-biter. My opponent stumbles on lands, but my only pressure is a Young Pyromancer and tokens. It looks like Peezie is going to get there until my opponent hit a Terminus. Thankfully I have Decay in hand for his Counterbalance so that I can continue playing Magic and a Pierce for a Jace, but I can’t find any additional pressure. Things take a turn for the worse when he makes his second Jace, then miracles an Entreat for two the following turn leaving one mana up to pay for the Daze that has been rotting in my hand for most of the game. All very mildly irksome. He’s on six, though, and I’m holding a Bolt in hand so a second Bolt *might* just take the game. I draw the Bolt. He tries to Plow an Angel to gain some life and Daze takes the game.

Sideboarding:

Out: 2 Lightning Bolt, 2 Daze, 1 Tropical Island, 1 Deathrite Shaman, Dismember

In: Pithing Needle, Abrupt Decay, Painful Truths, Pyroblast, Vendilion Clique, Envelop, Winter Orb

I’m not sure if cutting a Deathrite is correct, but I find too many Deathrites awkward in this match-up. It’s good against Snapcaster Mage, but it’s also the slowest threat (two damage per turn for one black) and tends to encourage you to overcommit to the board into Terminus. It’s possible that I should be trimming one or two Wastelands here too, keeping the full set of Dazes.

Sadly game 2 was a bit of a one-sided affair. My opponent mulliganed, kept a one-lander and failed to draw the second land for one or two turns too many. I think I ended up shuffling away a Beta Winter Orb with a Ponder at one point because it didn’t seem that relevant against an opponent with one land.

Round 6: Shardless BUG 2-1

I forget what happened games 1 and two 2 other than we split the games.

Sideboarding as before:

Out: 4 Force of Will, 2 Daze

In: Envelop, Pyroblast, Painful Truths, Abrupt Decay, Life from the Loam, Grim Lavamancer

Game 3 I keep a slightly awkward hand of multiple Wastelands, one fetch, Pyromancer, Decay, and possibly a Bolt. The Pyromancer basically prices me into fetching a Volcanic Island, but that means I’m not casting Decay for a very long time. Obviously I draw a second Decay to make things even worse. Hymn takes a Decay and a Daze, but eventually I draw into a black mana producing land, an Angler and a counter for his Toxic Deluge.

Round 7: ANT 2-0 (Feature match)

Game 1: I keep triple Force of Will, Deathrite, Angler, Pyromancer, land. Opponent wins the die roll, drops two petals and goes into the tank before passing. A Probe puts him on ANT so I just have to hope that he doesn’t Therapy my Forces. I make a huge mistake on my penultimate turn by attacking with a Deathrite when I should have held it back to either hard-cast Force of Will or double-drain end-of-turn, but am not punished (except in Twitch chat).

Sideboarding, as per the previous ANT round:

Out: 2 Gurmag Angler, 2 Abrupt Decay, 2 Lightning Bolt, 1 Dismember, 1 Tropical Island

In: 3 Cabal Therapy, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Envelop, 1 Pyroblast, 1 Vendilion Clique

Game 2: I think he keeps a disruption-heavy hand. Turn 1 Duress takes Envelop. I have Deathrite, into Delver, then draw Pyromancer, which is all a little threat-heavy for the match-up, but allows for the blow-out turn 3 play of Pyromancer, into Probe seeing Brainstorm, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, which I follow up by by Cabal Therapy. Opponent casts Brainstorm, I respond with Force of Will, pitching Brainstorm and leave my opponent with two fetch-lands in hand.

Round 8: The Eldrazi Menace (2-1)

Opponent offered the draw. I should probably have accepted, but tie-breaker arithmetic is hard so I decided to play it out anyway, greedily seeking the top seed.

Game 1 was an interesting race. He had an early Mimic, but no lock pieces. Daze took care of a Thought-Knot Seer and Wastelands kept him off the five mana that he needed to cast the Reality Smashers in hand, allowing a motley crew of Deathrites and elementals to get the job done.

Sideboarding:

In: Life from the Loam, Ancient Grudge

Out: -2 Daze

I haven’t actually played this match-up much at all so I’m really not confident about my sideboarding here. Daze is generally good against a deck hoping to cast four or five drops, but Cavern of Souls makes countermagic look pretty bad. I think you have to keep the Forces for lock-pieces, especially on the draw, so Daze got the cut. The rationale behind Loam was that I might be able Wasteland-lock my opponent out of the game.

Game 2 he completely runs me over. After this game I realized that I wouldn’t really have time to mess around with Life from the Loam, especially against a deck running 24+ lands, and that we’d need to race so I cut the Loam for a Daze.

Game 3 he mulls once keeping five lands and Mimic, then scries into Chalice. I have a Bolt for the Mimic and a Decay for the Chalice.

Round 9: ID

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Quarter Final: ANT 1-2 (Game 1 is a feature match)

This was the same guy that I faced on camera in round 7 so it was good to see him in the top 8.

Game 1: I keep a fairly threat-heavy hand of Deathrite, Young Pyromancer, Bolt, Angler, plus some mana and Daze as a single piece of disruption. Having played against Damien in the Swiss I know he’s on ANT and I’m skeptical that this hand will get there. Still, with a decent number of dead cards in my deck game one I’m not sure I can mull into a substantially better six. Deathrite attacking ANT’s graveyard is weak disruption and the hand is playable, so I keep. He floods out and the clock of Deathrite/Young Pyromancer is quick enough to get there.

Sideboarding as before:

Out: 2 Gurmag Angler, 2 Abrupt Decay, 2 Lightning Bolt, 1 Tropical Island, Dismember

In: 3 Cabal Therapy, 2 Surgical Extraction, Envelop, Pyroblast, Vendilion Clique

Game 2: I forget the details, but am duly crushed.

Game 3: I keep a cantrip-heavy one-lander with a Deathrite and a Force of Will, so open with Deathrite. If I remember correctly, he takes my Force turn one with a Duress or Therapy. Turn two I draw a Probe, fire it off for life and see a fairly explosive hand with two LEDs and an Infernal Tutor, but no second land, no Brainstorm and no Dark Ritual. The Probe draws me into a Pyromancer and I spend a bit of time trying to figure out if I should tap-out for the Pyro or try to Ponder into disruption. In the end I went with the Pyro line. He drew Probe, into Brainstorm, into land and Dark Ritual, then went off by tutoring for Past in Flames. In retrospect, the odds of him drawing mana or a cantrip into mana plus acceleration were high enough that I should have gone with the safer play of cantripping into disruption. Still, if you’re playing a deck that hopes to curve Lightning Bolt into Abrupt Decay it only seems appropriate to take the greedy play.

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Overall, the deck feels awesome. I’m 23-5 in rounds played with the deck since going to 19 lands and adding the main-deck Decays and that’s in spite of some somewhat sloppy play in more than a few matches. At this point I’ll likely continue with the greed is good philosophy at GP Prague next month!

Peter White

Thanks to Tom Brown for the lovely pics of Annecy

Peter
Peter is a lover of Legacy, especially durdly tier-three creature decks. On rare occasions, he has been known to flip a Delver of Secrets in a futile effort to maintain positive cash-flow on Magic Online.
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