Fatal Push is definitely one of the most exciting new Aether Revolt cards from a Legacy perspective.

Prior to Fatal Push, black mages had to rely on Disfigure, which doesn’t kill a Tarmogoyf, Dismember, which sometimes kills a Tarmogoyf, or Murderous Cut, which only kills a Tarmogofy after you’re dead. The other option was to move into green for Abrupt Decay or blue for Baleful Strix for Tarmogoyf-killing needs. Now at last the green menace can be handled for the low, low cost of one black.

I’ve personally been playing a lot of BUG Delver online recently. My current list is still the same as in the league article, mostly because I’m too lazy to update the list rather than from any belief that this is anywhere near optimal:

BUG Delver

Creatures (12)
Delver of Secrets
Deathrite Shaman
Hooting Mandrills
True-Name Nemesis

Spells (30)
Brainstorm
Ponder
Stifle
Force of Will
Daze
Spell Pierce
Fatal Push
Abrupt Decay
Collective Brutality
Dismember
Lands (18)
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Wasteland

Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Grafdigger's Cage
Flusterstorm
Thoughtseize
Dread of Night
Pithing Needle
Diabolic Edict
Golgari Charm
Life from the Loam
Winter Orb
Krosan Grip
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Liliana, the Last Hope
Vendilion Clique

 

A lot of ink has been spilled on BUG Thresh at this point, but the deck is basically the old RUG Delver deck that used to be the dominant Delver shell before Grixis gained in popularity, with the red cards (Lightning Bolt) replaced by black cards (Fatal Push). Losing the reach of Bolt and sideboard Pyroblast hurts the deck a lot, but Fatal Push, Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman are all powerful additions to the deck which I think give it a slightly better late-game.

The elephant in the room, or, perhaps more correctly, the Herpestes peering in through the window, is the lack of Nimble Mongoose. Originally a staple of the old RUG lists, I feel Mongoose is a little worse these days with the popularity of Deathrite Shaman, Baleful Strix, and True-Name Nemesis. Certainly the card is absurd against any kind of control deck, but the lack of evasion and the potential conflict with delve threats and our own Deathrite Shamans had put me off trying the card. Nonetheless, people have been having success with Mongoose lists: our own Tom Brown took down February’s London Legacy Monthly with a Mongoose Dark Thresh build and HJ_Kaiser (aka Hans Goddick) 5-0’ed an online league with an interesting turbo thresh list here running full playsets of Mandrills and Mongooses supported by Thought Scour. Perhaps the card is worth another look?

Another interesting recent trend in the world of RUG Delver is a move towards very controlling decks with robust hard-to-answer threats. RUG expert Jonathan Alexander took a Delver-less RUG list to a 5-1 finish in February’s Legacy Challenge. His threat base of four Mongoose, three True-Name Nemesis and double Hooting Mandrills completely dodges Abrupt Decay and Fatal Push, and, with the exception of the apes, is Swords to Plowshares-proof to boot. Jonathan’s recent decks look more like Winter Orb control decks rather than the aggro-control Delver decks of old!

 

 

Jonathan’s lists got me thinking. If we can drop Delver of Secrets from RUG Delver are there other sacred cows that can be cut? Normally, Delver decks focus on playing the most efficient spells in Legacy. Daze epitomises this philosphy of efficiency: countering an opponent’s spell for zero mana and one card is about as good a trade as you can get in the game. The draw-back of having to return a land to hand isn’t a huge disadvantage for the Delver deck which can operate on a very low land count and is sometimes even an advantage since the returned land can be put back into the deck using a Brainstorm and shuffled away using a fetch land, converting it into an actual business spell. The problem — if there even is one — is that Daze warps the rest of the deck since it’s only really good in the early game when an opponent is constrained on mana. Delver decks try to prolong the early game by Wastelanding an opponent’s lands and, in the RUG and Dark Thresh cases, running Stifle to hit fetch land activations. Jonathan Alexander takes this one stage further with his Winter Orb sideboard, which can restrict mana-heavy control decks (*cough* Miracles *cough*) to playing with only a couple of mana each turn.

This might be insane, but what if the Delver’s deck mana denial plan is a sacred cow? Is it the deck’s vestigial tail? Are Stifle, Daze and Wasteland the deck’s collective appendix? Certainly, Daze and Wasteland are lackluster against Miracles, which is one of the most played decks in the format. Both cards are pretty weak against an opposing Deathrite Shaman, which is probably the most played creature in the format. Rather than jumping through hoops to prolong the early game, can we just play a ‘Delver’ deck that can go long?

 

Oops! There goes another sacred cow…

 

Mongoose Control

Creatures (9)
Nimble Mongoose
Snapcaster Mage
True-Name Nemesis

Spells (31)
Brainstorm
Ponder
Preordain
Fatal Push
Abrupt Decay
Dismember
Toxic Deluge
Force of Will
Spell Snare
Counterspell
Spell Pierce
Thoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek
Painful Truths

Planeswalkers (1)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Lands (19)
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Underground Sea
Tropical Island
Bayou
Island
Wasteland

Sideboard (15)
Delver of Secrets
Diabolic Edict
Flusterstorm
Surgical Extraction
Dread of Night
Fatal Push
Golgari Charm
Liliana the Last Hope
Nihil Spellbomb
Null Rod
Pithing Needle

 

I really like the idea of running hard-to-answer threats like Nimble Mongoose and True-Name Nemesis in this kind of shell. Blanking an opponent’s removal is a good way of generating virtual card advantage. If our opponents’ removal spells can’t hit our win conditions then that also means that we don’t have to run quite as many threats in the deck and can therefore devote more of our list to disrupting our opponent. The two sideboard Delver of Secrets are mostly intended as additional threats against combo decks, where you’re likely cutting clunky cards like True-Name Nemesis, and where additional pressure can be useful to close out a game before they fight through your disruption.

Diversifying the threat base seems sensible. Going all-in on the graveyard is fine for something like Dredge where the payoff in terms of power level is extremely high. However, it seems less wise for a more midrangey creature-based deck. I don’t want to be completely cold to Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void. True-Name Nemesis is great since there’s no graveyard dependence. The main problem is that it costs three.

In theory, I like running a lot of removal to help Nimble Mongoose connect. The ‘goose is great, but the lack of evasion means that it needs a bit of help to attack through whatever dudes your opponent happens to drop. Also, Deathrite Shaman is pretty amazing against Snapcaster Mage / Nimble Mongoose control so we need to be running enough removal to efficiently clear the elf/one mana planeswalker menace.

However, a Legacy deck can’t reasonably run much dedicated removal because it’s completely dead against a decent fraction of the meta. A grip of four Fatal Push, three Abrupt Decay isn’t going to get there against ANT. The standard blue tricks are to diversify interaction and to run cantrips to find what you need. Most Delver decks run something like 4-6 removal spells and 8+ counters (Force, Daze and some combination Spell Pierce, Spell Snare, Counterspell to taste). You can still lose game one to combo by drawing the removal spells, but at least you have fewer slots to change in sideboarding for games two and (hopefully) three.

Cantrips have a very real cost in that they don’t impact the board at all. It’s possible that eleven sorcery-speed cantrips (four Ponder, four Brainstorm, three Preordain) is too much air, but, unlike a really traditional RUG Delver deck, this deck does actually want to hit three to four land drops so we might be able to get away with it. Most of our business spells are very cheap in terms of mana too — the deck might be able to get away with this many cantrips since it’s usually the case that we’re looking for a one mana business spell.

 

So, will it work?

 

Enough waffle, and onto the billion Magic Online play point question: is the deck actually any good? I’ve run the deck through a number of online leagues to a 4-1 and a bunch of 3-2 and 2-3 finishes, so I think it has legs, but that the build isn’t quite there yet. It’s surprisingly difficult to pilot: most of the 2-3 finishes could have been 3-2 with better play and less wine consumption. In general, Delver feels like a 50/50 match-up; Miracles should be in your favour; the BUG combo decks (Food Chain and Alluren) are bad match-ups because they can out-value you; non-creature combo is generally ok. Baleful Strix is particularly annoying to fight against. We’re also a little weak to a resolved delve fatty like Gurmag Angler or Hooting Mandrills.

In term’s of changes to the deck, it might be worth running a couple of Night’s Whisper as a cheaper card advantage engine than Painful Truths. (Truths is so much better though!) We could also start to run our own Baleful Strixes to shore up the Delver match-up, although I’ve held off on doing that thus far because Strix doesn’t remove a blocker for Mongoose. It might be worth running a Life from the Loam somewhere in the 75 too and replacing a dual by the third Wasteland — mana denial is still good against some fraction of the meta.

However, the real painful truth might be that Deathrite Shaman is just too good not to run — the elf really does it all — so I’m likely returning to more traditional Delver lists for the immediate future. (Grixis or 4 colour variants seem strong in theory since Young Pyromancer can go wide through Baleful Strix and Pyroblast is an efficient answer to all of the blue creatures that folks are playing at the moment.)

Anyway, as always, let me know if you have any thoughts on the deck! It’s likely a good choice in a combo or control heavy meta, but weak against Chalice of the Void and the BUG creature combo decks. Burn is unwinnable, but any deck that can beat Burn isn’t durdling enough to be fun 🙂

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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