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When Delirium Goes Bant

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Hello everyone,

Two weeks ago, I predicted the rise of UW Flash. As Standard usually moves at a blistering speed, that is already yesterday's news. The new elephant in the room is GB Delirium, the best deck that consistently beats UW. This was all known information for me going into GP Warsaw. My starting point was trying to get UW to both beat the mirror and GB. I rapidly noticed two important facts about UW mirrors:

  1. They were very die-roll dependent. A bunch of games were just decided by whoever was on the play curving better. Cards like Smuggler’s Copter and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are almost entirely different cards whether on the play or draw. This tendency made me not want to play UW mirrors.

  2. The rest of the games were very grindy. Contrary to the other cards above, if both players have an Archangel Avacyn, the second one to be played usually trumps the first one, as it gets to block with indestructible. This incentivizes players to keep Archangel Avacyn in hand for as long as possible. That, combined with the tendency of 2/3s to be better at blocking each other than attacking meant games usually devolved into some kind of draw-go stalemate. This made me want to play UW mirrors.

I found it hard to optimize the beatdown plan, except maybe with the inclusion of Thalia, Heretic Cathar, also a great card against opposing Ishkanah’s, so I focused on the grindy part of post-board games. I started adding Glimmer of Genius, Void Shatter and Torrential Gearhulk to my sideboards. At roughly the same time Andrew Cuneo proved that adding them to the main deck may be an even better idea. Another card that overperformed was Bruna, the Fading Light. While Brisela almost never happened in this deck, especially in mirrors, occasionally bringing something back, combined with her absurd size made her a formidable late game card. I also noticed that I desperately wanted a sweeper to clear boards where I’d fallen severely behind. Unfortunately, sweepers are pretty bad in this Standard format. Not only are there Vehicles that can attack immediately after they happen, but there are also a bunch of effects efficiently preventing them, such as Selfless Spirit and Archangel Avacyn. Eventually I realized that I could kill two flies with a single angelic flyswatter: Descend Upon the Sinful. Between Indestructible and recursion (Grapple with the Past; Liliana, the Last Hope) exiling is insanely powerful in this format. Despite this, without the additional angel the effect didn’t prove to be powerful enough and UW had a hard time enabling Delirium. Thus, I started brewing new decks that could better accommodate such a card: my first prototype of GW Delirium was born.

When Angels Deserve to Die (And be Reanimated)

Not only was this deck a much better home for Descend Upon the Sinful but it was also a much better Brisela deck than UW. Grapple and Vessel meant that you would occasionally mill targets for Bruna and the whole Traverse + Lancers package meant you didn’t have to commit heavily and could still have access to the package. Most importantly you got to play Ishkanah, Grafwidow, one of the very best cards in the format and possibly the best card against UW Flash. Please note that, contrary to GB Delirium, Vessel of Nascency is much better than Grapple with the Past in this deck. It not only lets you find lands or creatures, it hits your removal spells and can even find a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Nissa, Vital Force. Quarantine Field is a card that has impressed me in any white deck. It is one of the very best late game cards in the format, while weak to Natural State, I’ve found it possible to play around that and the upside of having a removal spell that scales well with mana is amazing. This deck also desperately needed a way to deal with Planeswalkers. 

The question I got asked the most is “Why are you playing Consulate Skygate?” when the reasons seem obvious: This deck struggles against aggro decks and white doesn’t have great early removal. Yeah there’s Blessed Alliance and Immolating Glare, but a good player can play around those to a certain extent. Skygate is like a proactive removal spell you get to commit no matter whether they attack or not. Yes, they can remove it, but that’s usually at least an even mana trade and if they’ve played a removal spell instead of committing a creature that’s already a huge win for this deck. All you’re trying to do is to get to the lategame as intact as possible. Skygate also matches up very well versus vehicles, Vehicles incentivize people to attack with fewer but better creatures and Skygate is a fine way to buy time against a Smuggler's Copter. Lastly, it is an Artifact for Delirium, which matters a lot in this deck. Oftentimes I’d play a Skygate on turn two, block twice and then chump something large to have Delirium just in time for my turn five Ishkanah. I tested the deck online a lot and while Aggro matchups felt heavily unfavorable, I kept winning against them anyway. I consistently crushed UW and GB, so I was very happy with my deck choice. I shared it with my friend Simon Nielsen and he started working on the list. He noted its difficulty of beating a turn 4 Gideon in a curvy draw. I agreed that it was hard to deal with but I somehow always managed to win the games anyway, so I was not overly worried. I did not expect a lot of aggro and I expected a LOT of GB and UW at the GP. That assumption was correct.

Once you go Bant…

I went on to go 10-5 at the tournament. I faced Aggro once and lost. I faced UW five times and went 2-3. What went wrong? I underestimated the Gideon problem. The match against Aggro, as well as all three of the matches against UW I lost almost singlehandedly to Gideon. I was a victim of the small sample sizes that make testing Magic so very difficult. My intuition told me that Gideon was an issue but I dismissed it because I won most matches where they resolved it anyway. That is definitively not an acceptable attitude and I should have known better. Especially since Simon was also saying that Gideon was a problem. I should have recognized this and implemented measures. I didn’t, I lost.

It’s important to learn from this, not do it again and if I wanted to play it again, take the necessary precautions. As it so happens, there was a Standard PPTQ I wanted to play last weekend. So, what could be done to deal with Gideon? There aren’t any cards you can play in Green or White, so I decided to look at splash colors. The two best options seemed black for To the Slaughter and Blue for Negate. I decided to go with Blue, I thought Negate would also help with a plethora of other issues, such as burn spells and vehicles. It also allowed me to try Tamiyo, Field Researcher instead of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. While I liked having a Planeswalker in the Deck to add to Delirium and provide another angle of attack, Gideon was good but rarely insane. I thought Tamiyo might be better. Boy, was I right. Tamiyo has overperformed. Not only as a decent way to gain tempo by -2ing, but also by completely taking over games with her + ability. The manabase takes a very slight hit, but nothing too terrible. I also added a Spell Queller to the sideboard as a tutor target in matchups with counterspells.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Versions:
Eldritch Moon (Foil)

Matchup Guide

As Standard is a relatively small format, I’m able to provide a quick overview of the matchups against the four most important archetypes:

UW Flash

The important part here is not to get out tempoed. The easiest way for that to happen is for them to resolve a Gideon on turn four on the play. Aggressively leave open Negate if they could be playing Gideon. Make sure you get to the late game by any means necessary, you will always win it. Sometimes they will oversideboard into a mediocre control deck, which is excellent for us. Most people nowadays play Spell Shrivel, so try to play around that if possible. Yes, they might bring in Fragmentize, but nonetheless Quarantine Field is amazing as it deals with all the most annoying cards.

Sideboard:

-3 Tamiyo, Field Researcher

-1 Grapple with the Past

+1 Linvala, the Preserver

+1 Negate

+1 Quarantine Field

+1 Ishakanah, Grafwidow

BG Delirium

This is an Emrakul mirror, in which you are usually favored because your removal exiles. Their deck is built around recurring key threats with Liliana, the Last Hope and Grapple with the Past and shutting down that engine by exiling their key threats is very important. Their removal doesn’t exile so your Grapples recur your most important threats. Nonetheless, sometimes they will just blow you out with their Emrakul. Post-board it is more even, with their discard, particularly Pick the Brain making up for lost ground. Don’t be afraid to run out threats, they have very little good removal, especially for Planeswalkers, so resolving a Tamiyo on an empty board is game breaking.

-1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

-1 Archangel Avacyn

-1 Linvala, the Preserver

-3 Consulate Skygate

-1 Pilgrim's Eye

+1 Negate

+1 Quarantine Field

+2 Tireless Tracker

+1 Emrakul, the Promised End

+1 Descend Upon the Sinful

+1 Sigarda, Heron's Grace

Consulate Skygate
Versions:
Kaladesh (Foil)

RW Vehicles

By far your worst matchup. Especially post-board, the amount of resilient threats between Planeswalkers, Vehicles and under costed creatures it is just very hard to concede. Your premier game plan is to try to stay alive as long as possible. Sometimes people don’t play around Descend Upon the Sinful and it can be very strong. If the game goes long enough we’ll usually win it anyway with Ishakanah, Linvala, and Delirium Angels from Descend, so boarding out our other win conditions is fine.

-1 Gisela, the Broken Blade

-1 Bruna, the Fading Light

-1 Archangel Avacyn

-1 Emrakul, the Promised End

-3 Tamiyo, Field Researcher

-2 Pilgrim's Eye

-1 Grapple with the Past

+1 Linvala, the Preserver

+3 Gnarlwood Dryad

+1 Quarantine Field

+1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

+1 Descend Upon the Sinful

+2 Blessed Alliance

+1 Negate

Jeskai Control

You have a lot of very resilient threats which match up well versus their removal. They also don’t really know what to play around. Sometimes you are clunky and get “out tempoed” by control, which in turn, sometimes can be fixed by Emrakuling them. All in all, a decent matchup.

-3 Consulate Skygate

-2 Stasis Snare

-2 Descend Upon the Sinful

-1 Linvala, the Preserver

-1 Pilgrim's Eye

+3 Gnarlwood Dryad

+1 Negate

+2 Tireless Tracker

+1 Emrakul, the Promised End

+1 Sigarda, Heron's Grace

+1 Spell Queller

Thanks a lot for reading. The next two weeks I’ll be busy preparing for and playing the World Magic Cup. Once I’m back I’ll write a report about how it went and I’ll start focusing on Standard again for GP Madrid.

Julian

About Julian Felix Flury

Julian Felix Flury
Julian Felix Flury

Julian Felix Flury is a competitive Magic player from Switzerland. He has been a fixture of the European GP circuit for a few years, accumulating many decent finishes. This culminated in the captaincy of the 2015 Swiss National Team. He enjoys brewing and thinking outside the box, and will routinely play his own decks if he thinks they're good enough. Also known by his Magic: The Gathering Online nickname "CharlieTheBananaKing" he regularly streams his matches on his Twitch channel.

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