Legacy Prep on the Road to SCG Con
In my last article I talked about UW Delver as a part of my preparation for SCG Con. I’m going to continue that conversation this week as I go over the next two decks I have been testing: Grixis Delver and Grixis Control.
Grixis Delver was high on my list when I was choosing which decks to test. It looked like it shared many appealing qualities to UW Delver. Applying early pressure while also having a reasonably strong mid-game plan is what i’m looking to do and Grixis has always been great at that.
Having access to powerful cards, like Young Pyromancer and True-Name Nemesis, to back up the early Delver of Secrets seemed like it would close a lot of doors. The threat base still attacked from a couple of different angles, similar to Deathrite Delver, which would make it difficult for opponents to answer everything. Diversifying the disruptive suite by adding discard spells also helps against combo decks and control decks, alike.
All in all, this appeared to be a front-runner from the get-go. However, that’s just the deck on paper. How did I feel about the deck after testing it for a few weeks?
In a word: Disappointed. Here is the final list I was testing:
The first thing I noticed was that the mana felt completely dysfunctional. I tried a lot of different configurations, even going to far as to include both a Basic Island and Badlands and play 20 lands. I couldn’t get it to work consistently. Playing multiple color requirements early, 4 Wastelands, and Daze made everything really clunky.
While the threat base was once a really appealing feature to me, now it just felt inefficient. Young Pyromancer is extremely slow without Gitaxian Probe/Deathrite Shaman. True-Name Nemesis costs 3 mana in a deck with 19 lands and 4 Wastelands. There aren’t enough spells for Gurmag Angler to turbo it out with out the decks are built these days. Bitterblossom was the best of them, but it has horrible diminishing returns beyond the first copy and didn’t do anything against combo decks. Considering how awkward the rest of the threats were, Delver didn’t even feel that good to me as none of the follow-ups applied enough pressure to take advantage of it.
I realized that there was another reason I was having trouble: I don’t think Lightning Bolt is well positioned as a removal spell at the moment. I think there are a few reasons for this:
- Killing creatures on turn 1 isn’t quite as necessary as it used to be. When Deathrite was legal every fair deck needed a way to remove a creature on turn 1. Moreso, most of these decks were Deathrite decks, so having Lightning Bolt could help close the door more often. These days there aren’t that many creatures that need to die in the first two turns.
- Most of the decks that could play Lightning Bolt aren’t aggressive enough to take advantage of Lightning Bolt’s ability to hit players/Planeswalker. Aggressively slanted Delver decks were the number one place for it to show up, but they aren’t very good at the moment. Grixis Delver is more like a midrange deck and Lightning Bolt gets aimed at creatures far more than players in these decks.
- The most problematic creatures don’t die to Lightning Bolt. Any Eldrazi threat, Gurmag Angler, Tarmogoyf, True-Name Nemesis. All of them make Lightning Bolt look pretty embarrassing.
Creatures in Legacy have very wide range of characteristics at the moment which is why you see most midrange/control decks diversifying their removal suite. Since I don’t think Grixis Delver is much of an aggressive deck these days, I think it might be more suited to diversify, as well.
Overall, I am not currently considering this anymore for the event anymore. I do have some changes that I want to try out going forward, though. I’m going hard on every issue I had with this version to see what actually works for me:
I’m not confident in any of these changes, and this is likely just a worse version of Grixis Control, but I really want to push these ideas and see if I can start to like it. Specifically, i’m interested in trimming on Wastelands and Lightning Bolts to see how this would fare almost becoming a pure midrange deck.
It was basically the opposite of Grixis Delver. I wasn’t a big fan of the way this deck was constructed on paper. The manabase looked rough, the clock was incredibly slow, and the engine seemed a little bit on the weak side relative to the rest of Legacy. In addition, most of the games seemed like they’d go quite long, and not being able to answer Lands or resolved Enchantments seemed like a problem.
Once I got into the groove of this deck, though, it really impressed me. Here’s my decklist, which is relatively stock:
The manabase wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. Having so many Basics really helped against Wasteland decks, as well as Back to Basics. This deck just needs to safely develop its first 2 or 3 lands. Beyond that, it can easily find more as it starts to pull ahead. Playing around Wasteland and casting a turn 2 Hymn to Tourach was a bit annoying, as having 2 Swamps out that early isn’t optimal, but I actually felt like Hymn was almost better on turns 3 and 4, as opponents are more likely to have meaningful spells.
Speaking of Hymn, it is excellent in this deck. I’ve played some decks in the past that don’t really take advantage of it but this deck is definitely not one of them. Following it up with Kolaghan’s Command and/or Snapcaster Mage really drives home the hand disruption aspect of the deck.
I was completely wrong about the engine, as well. Snapcaster Mage, Baleful Strix, and Kolaghan’s Command works incredibly well in Legacy. Once this gets going, it is incredibly difficult for opponents to come back. This allows Grixis Control to use its mana incredibly well as the game goes on. Having 7 or 8 lands is actually a good thing in some matchups because drawing a single Kolaghan’s Command will easily allow you to use all of it.
I think that’s the thing I liked most about Grixis Control: It frequently uses all of the resources at its disposal. Every land permits access to more powerful plays. Every card either answers a problem, generates advantage, or digs for one or the other. Playing 12 cantrips, counting Baleful Strix, makes the game plan very consistent. It is relatively linear for a Legacy control deck, but I like how concise its gameplan is.
As far as problems are concerned, this deck just can’t deal with Enchantments. Luckily, most of the enchantments played right now are manageable. Sylvan Library and Counterbalance are great, but they can be managed by generating card advantage. Others, like Bitterblossom, can really put Grixis in a tight spot. Liliana, the Last Hope goes a long way, but it’s really difficult without it. Rest in Peace is annoying, but not that popular right now. If hard to deal with Enchantments were more popular, i’d consider trying to add something to the sideboard to help against that, but for now, i’m content just staying the course and trying to power through them.
Lands, both as a card type and a deck, presented some serious issues as well. Blood Moon does help in the post board games, but it’s not a reliable strategy. Never being able to remove something like Maze of Ith or Rishadan Port can become a real problem. The 4 relevant pieces of graveyard hate in the board definitely do help, but it still feels like a problematic match up.
The other issue I was having was against Storm. This deck doesn’t even remotely present a fast clock. It is disruptive, especially in the post board games, but it still takes a really long time to close the door. Even keeping in Gurmag Angler doesn’t help that much as it doesn’t get played that early in this deck. I think I want to try adding a Vendilion Clique to the sideboard to help here, but I don’t know if that will even do enough. The match up is still close, so I am likely overreacting, but I feel like it should be a bit better.
This deck is definitely leading the pack right now. Part of this might be recency bias, as I have been playing this a lot recently and haven’t played UW Delver in a few weeks. I still like UW Delver a lot, though, and down the stretch I will definitely be pitting these two against each other. For now, though, I have to move on to my last deck and give it a fair chance: Miracles!
Next time I will report on how Miracles went, and then break down which deck I have chosen to play.
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