Rolling with RUG Delver in Legacy

Rich Cali
September 30, 2019

Legacy has been in the spotlight over the last few weeks with SCG Syracuse and GP Atlanta, and I managed to make my way to each of them with my trusty Delvers and Tarmogoyfs in tow. 

The Main Event

I went into the Open ready to learn. While my testing had been going well, online testing always leaves gaps in my game. The Legacy metagame online does not perfectly reflect what people will play in paper. To that end, this tournament was perfectly timed to act as field-testing for GP Atlanta.

Here is the decklist I submitted for the Main Event:

Here is the breakdown of how the Open went:

Death and Taxes (Loss) 1-2

Manaless Dredge (Loss) 0-2

Humans (Loss) 1-2

It didn’t take long for me to learn that I was woefully unprepared for Aether Vial/Thalia decks. This event perfectly illustrates why online testing isn’t comprehensive. I played against exactly 1 Death and Taxes deck in my 3 or 4 weeks of testing and I lost that match. This led me to the conclusion that it would not be very popular and was likely not well-positioned as a result of Wrenn and Six decks being over-represented.

This led to overconfidence in my deckbuilding: My sideboard had next to no Red removal to bring in. I trusted that 5 removal spells, Wrenn and Six, and Dreadhorde Arcanist would be enough to handle most creature match-ups. This would free up valuable space to include more answers to Marit Lage, which is a creature I wanted to be prepared for. Round 1 was the wake-up call I needed to see that I was misguided and Thalia decks could still be a serious problem. With the Humans pairing in round 3, I was certain I misbuilt my deck and spent some time thinking about potential changes.

On Jace, the Mind Sculptor

I love Jace, so it didn’t take much convincing for me to fit it into my sideboard. On paper, I really like the idea. This version of Temur tends to hit its land drops more often due to Wrenn, but needs a way to close the game when you get into the mid-to-late game. Jace not only fits that space perfectly, it doubles as a potential answer to Marit Lage, which was a good enough reason for me to play it.

The issue is that Jace is taking up a spot in the sideboard that I actually don’t like in deckbuilding. It isn’t functioning as a solution to a specific problem, but is more acting as an extension of the primary gameplan. While it does help in the Control matchups as a means of taking over a late-game, this deck isn’t actually lacking in that ability as it stands. Jace just helps it do it a bit better, but that’s not what I needed help with. 

When I chose to include it, I didn’t know what I needed help with so adding in a Jace seemed relatively harmless, but after being confronted with what my deck was lacking (namely, removal), I’m not looking to return to Jace any time soon.

On Removal

When I played against Death and Taxes, I noticed that I was glutted on ways to destroy artifacts, which would allow the creatures to take over the game. I don’t really feel comfortable leaving home without Ancient Grudge, but it felt far too narrow in practice, especially when I already had a dedicated Artifact destruction spell in Return to Nature

This is what led me to Abrade, which I thought would help solve the issue of creature removal, while also not leaving me cold to Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere. I figured adding 2 copies over the Jace and Ancient Grudge would help shore up that specific issue, even at the cost of being inefficient.

As a bit of foreshadowing, the extra removal was excellent, and I was really happy to have it throughout the Classic. However, this led to the deck feeling way too clunky post-board, and led to a lot of situations where I was be glutted on 2-drops and it would be difficult to double-spell. I generally like leaning in on cheaper spells, especially with my Delver decks, and while this version can cast its 2-drops consistently, I think having more spells that are castable at 1 mana is important.

The Classic

This is the list I submitted for the Classic:

And here is how it went:

The Mirror (Loss) 1-2

TES (Won) 2-0

Elves (Won) 2-1

Miracles (Won) 2-0

Eldrazi Stompy (Won) 2-0

Doomsday (Won) 2-0

Miracles (Won) 2-1

Mono-Red Painter (Won) 2-0


Omni-Tell (Won) 2-1

The Mirror (Won) 2-0

The Mirror (Won) 2-0

After starting with another round 1 loss, I was extremely fortunate not to pick up another for the whole event and won! It certainly did take some mental fortitude to overcome the 0-4 start to the weekend, but I just kept looking forward and was able to keep myself focused and in the moment. 

I actually made a pretty big mistake in game 3 of round 1. After a Wasteland, my hand was pretty land-light but I had a Submerge which could answer his Delver of Secrets. I went to cast it, then realized he didn’t have a Tropical Island, just a Volcanic! This made him aware of the Submerge and he didn’t search up a Trop the entire game. Definitely a valuable moment to learn from, and not a mistake i’ll be making again soon.

A lot of different cards really pulled their weight on the way to the top 8. Null Rod was key against TES, drawing 4 Lightning Bolts against Miracles let me finish them off through what was almost a lock-out, 2 Dreadhorde Arcanists let me out-card an Experimental Frenzy (!) from the Doomsday opponent, and even Chain Lightning allowed me to defeat an Archon of Valor’s Reach out of Elves.

The Elves match was actually really interesting because they showed me an Elvish Reclaimer in game 1, which led to me aggressively playing around Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths for the entire match, which was integral to me winning. I wasn’t sure exactly what would get cut for that, so I didn’t have perfect information, but it definitely goes to show that familiarity can be really helpful (although, determining that Reclaimer = Marit Lage isn’t a particularly difficult leap).

In general, I have really liked the Miracles matchup since Wrenn and Six/Arcanist entered the equation. However, they do have a lot of tools to make things pretty difficult and that was illustrated quite clearly by game 3 of my second match against the deck. My board consisted of a Tarmogoyf and Wrenn and Six on 5 loyalty, which felt like a comfortable spot to be. However, there was a major weakness in my gameplan: The reliance on the graveyard. This meant that their top-decked Rest in Peace really shut out my pressure! I had to fight tooth and nail to battle back from that AND hope they got unlucky for the rest of the game but after they flooded out a bit, I somehow came away the victor.

After defeating Painter for my win-and-in, I was extremely pleased to make the top 8. My opponent in the top 8 played next to me in round 7, so I knew they were on Omni-Tell (and that they had Isochron Scepter/Mandate of Peace in their deck). I couldn’t possibly know exactly how wacky their decklist was, though, and after Surgical Extractioning them in game 2, I definitely had to read some cards. They transitioned into an Aria of Flame deck, presumably as a response to Crop Rotation for Karakas, and attempted to control the board with Bolts and Abrades. Fortunately, those cards don’t effectively kill a Tarmogoyf and I was able to kill them before Aria was able to deal the last few points of damage in game 3. Nick's list was really cool and can be found here.

Speaking of Surgical Extraction, I actually used it extremely aggressively in this match as very underwhelming Gitaxian Probe. It was really hard to get a read on what they had, so I figured it would be useful for me to see their hand. I don’t think this is often correct, but it worked out perfectly this time, and I was able to manage my spells really well and formulate clear gameplans in order to win games 2 and 3. It’s not like Surgical is a particularly good card in the matchup, and not every card in my sideboard has function here, so bringing in a 0-mana Telepathy-effect certainly seemed defensible.

As for the Semis and Finals, I wasn’t excited to play Temur mirrors. I find the matchup both very swingy and very intricate, which makes it hard to rationally and emotionally wrap my head around. Sometimes you lose because you cast a cantrip using the wrong dual land, and sometimes you lose because they had Wrenn and Six with Daze and Force of Will. These two extremes blend together and it’s really hard to figure out exactly what could have been done better.

A side-effect of this is that I have difficulty explaining the games really well. This is primarily because I don’t particularly find myself good at playing the mirror match. Most of the decisions are small, but lead to a large advantage. I’m pretty good at making a lot of small decisions correctly, but I think the thing I need to work on the most is my ability to evaluate which cards matter and when. So many cards trade back and forth, and all of the threats have the ability to win the game depending on the specific context of the game. I need to spend a lot of time honing in on those characteristics and really gather a more holistic knowledge of the matchup.

That being said, these games all played out like Delver mirrors and I don’t have any interesting commentary about them. Chalk that up to my inadequate assessment ability. 

Victory and Post-Tournament Changes

After those two matches concluded I was the Classic champion! It was exciting to be back in the same convention center and be able to diversify my Syracuse hardware (it was a plaque this time instead of a trophy). I will never stop being grateful for all of the love and support I received from so many people I know, and I feel so fortunate to be in this situation.

As for Atlanta testing, the changes I want to make are as follows:


-1 Chain Lightning

+1 Magmatic Sinkhole


-1 Abrade

+1 Dismember

While these changes are very small, they feel pretty good to me. Chain Lightning just doesn’t kill enough in this format, and Sinkhole, while slightly awkward at times, is very strong. I definitely wanted more ways to kill Tarmogoyf in the sideboard, and as I mentioned, Abrade felt a bit clunky as a 2-of, so Dismember checks both of those boxes.

GP Atlanta

GP Atlanta was an extremely fun event. I have been having a lot of fun playing this Legacy format, and I was just happy to play a ton of Magic this past weekend. I ended up going 11-4, good for 52nd place, which is actually my best GP result to date.

Here is how the event broke down:

Jund Loam (won) 2-0

Miracles (loss) 0-2

Miracles (won) 2-0

Bomberman (won) 2-0

Infect (won) 2-0

Aggro Loam (won) 2-0

Temur Delver (won) 2-0

BG Depths (won) 2-1

BG Depths (loss) 1-2

Temur Delver (loss) 0-2

Izzet Delver (won) 2-0

BG Depths (won) 2-1

Temur Delver (loss) 0-2

4c Snow Control (won) 2-1

Storm (2-0)

Overall, this event went pretty smoothly for me. I don’t think Miracles is positioned too well in this metagame, but just like in the Classic I played against it twice. The issue I have with Miracles is that Wrenn and Six has allowed the premier aggro deck of the format to not only diversify its threat-base, but also play a longer, card advantage-centric game. That being said, I do think Back to Basics is a well-positioned card, but I don’t think Terminus is the way to go at the moment.

For me, the rest of the event wasn’t particularly abnormal. The games were good, I was both lucky and unlucky at certain times, and made my share of good and bad judgment calls. I still recommend this deck to anyone looking to play a lot of real Magic games over the course of an event.

Looking forward, I don’t have any events to prepare for on the horizon. If I did, I think the only change I’d recommend at the moment is cutting 1 Dreadhorde Arcanist for 1 Hexdrinker. I sided out an Arcanist against my Delver opponents a lot, and I think having a cheaper threat that scales well is likely better at the moment.

RUG Delver seems to be the best deck in the format, so if you enjoy flipping a Delver, its a good time to play Legacy.