I’ve been playing B/G Delirium online since its breakout performance at Grand Prix Providence this past weekend, and would like to share some thoughts about how to tweak the deck going forward and how to pilot the it against each of the most common archetypes you’re likely to encounter.

While the core of the more controlling B/G decks is relatively consistent, there’s a fair amount of room for customization at the margins. A Ruinous Path here, a Tireless Tracker there, and so on. I’ve played with two builds of the deck thus far: the version Seth Manfield took to the GP finals, found here; and the version Lukas Blohon used to take down the MOCS, which can be found around midway through this article.

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I ended up slightly preferring Seth’s mana base, which had only a single copy of Evolving Wilds, where Lukas played four to go along with his three main deck copies of Tireless Tracker. This is a slow deck. It generally takes the first few turns setting up and getting its feet under it before slamming all eight of them down with Ishkanah, Grafwidow on turn five. Since it is generally on the back foot in those first few turns, I’ve found the added stumbling block of additional comes-into-play tapped lands to be too great an obstacle.

Additionally, Tireless Tracker is a card that I’d be looking to trim. While it’s one of the best cards against control, it is poor against aggressive vehicles-based strategies and hit-or-miss against U/W Flash. When they have a fast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, draw Tracker is simply too slow. Trimming Tracker further obviates the need for Evolving Wilds.

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While I preferred Seth’s manabase, I ended up falling somewhere between the two when it comes to the particular mix of spells I want in the deck. While Mindwrack Demon sounds promising in theory, with its ability to fuel delirium and pressure planeswalkers, I’ve been burned one too many times by casting it hoping to stabilize the board, only to find myself taking four damage a turn. I just think the Demon is too dicey a proposition for a deck that often finds itself on the defensive.

I’ve had mixed results with Lukas’s decision to play two Transgress the Mind maindeck. I certainly want a bunch of them post-board in certain matchups, but they can be too tempo disadvantageous in aggressive matchups. I think I would look to move at least one to the board.

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Additionally, while it’s nice to be able to hold up two mana and cast either Grapple with the Past (Lukas played four) or Grasp of Darkness, in the end I found myself wanting a more balanced mix of Grapple and Vessel of Nascency. The Vessel is a clunker, but it gives you better selection and is much better at turning on delirium quickly for Ishkanah, which is really what the deck is all about. More than anything else, this is a deck about playing a delirious turn-five Ishkanah.

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[Beware delirious insects]

So, with that in mind, here is what I would play:

Creatures (14)
4 Grim Flayer
3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Pilgrim’s Eye
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Noxious Gearhulk
1 Emrakul, the Promised End

Planeswalkers (4)
4 Liliana, the Last Hope

Spells (19)
3 Vessel of Nascency
3 Grapple with the Past
4 Grasp of Darkness
2 Murder
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
1 Ruinous Path
1 Dead Weight
1 Transgress the Mind

Lands (23)
4 Hissing Quagmire
4 Blooming Marsh
7 Swamp
6 Forest
2 Evolving Wilds

Sideboard (15)
2 Flaying Tendrils
2 Dead Weight
2 Natural State
1 To the Slaughter
3 Transgress the Mind
2 Pick the Brain
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Nissa, Vital Force
1 Tireless Tracker

Important Matchups

Here are some thoughts about how the deck plays out against some of the matchups you’re most likely to encounter.

U/W Flash

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This is the deck to beat. The most important card on their side is, in my opinion, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Post-board I try to evaluate my opening hands with that card in mind and play out the first few turns with a plan to handle it.  In my experience, most of the games they win are games where they get out to a fast start, removing your first threat from the board with either Reflector Mage or Spell Queller and then landing a Gideon in a board-advantageous position, and killing you quickly. If you can maintain board parity until Gideon arrives or have an immediate answer like Ruinous Path or a delirious To the Slaughter, then you should be favored. Ishkanah is good here, so if the game draws out you should be able to turtle up behind Ishkanah until Emrakul, the Promised End arrives.

The Naturalize-type effects are interesting. They can be very potent in answering Smuggler’s Copter or Stasis Snare, but U/W decks aren’t flush with targets, so it is possible to go overboard. I prefer bringing in a single copy or maybe two. The few times I’ve gone to town on Natural State and Appetite for the Unnatural, I’ve been punished, and ended up with dead cards in my hand.

Vehicles

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This is pretty classic aggro vs. control matchup, with the unfortunate downside that the Vehicles deck can play the long-game much better than aggro decks of old. If they play a Smuggler’s Copter on turn two and you have the choice between playing a threat or holding up removal for it, I would generally advise holding up removal. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet has become more important in this matchup recently I’ve found, as Scrapheap Scrounger has become more and more popular. That, in turn, has made cheap removal more attractive and I wouldn’t mind finding a way to fit in more Dead Weight post-board. It’s also why I like having access to multiple copies of Flaying Tendrils. It’s unfortunate that Tendrils missees things like Inventor’s Apprentice, Vehicles and Depala, Pilot Exemplar, but it still hits Toolcraft Exemplar, Veteran Motorist and Thraben Inspector, among others, and being able to permanently handle a Scrounger can be crucial.

B/G Delirium (the mirror)

The mirror is pretty much a race to see who can get to Emrakul, the Promised End first. It’s unlikely that either player will be able to kill the other before Emrakul comes down. Play with this in mind.

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I’ve noticed several opponents on MTGO board out Grim Flayer, perhaps with the idea that two-drop creatures aren’t important in a long, drawn-out game, but I very much like the Flayer here. Not because he pressures their life total—although there are corner cases—but because he’s a great way quickly spill a bunch of cards in the yard for delirium, enabling you to cast Emrakul before your opponent.

Prized Amalgam Decks

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This is not the most popular archetype at the moment, but there’s enough of it. So I wanted to make a quick note about a mistake I realized I was making so that you and I won’t do it again. If your opponent has no Haunted Dead in the yard, just don’t block Haunted Dead. Let it hit you for two as often as it likes (while keeping Unlicensed Distengration in mind). You are much better off losing a couple life a turn than you are giving your opponent a way to discard Amalgams that might be stranded in their hand. When the graveyard deck wins it wins big. Returning Haunted Dead and binning Prized Amalgam is one of the chief ways they do that. So don’t be like I used to be, and just let them do that.

If you want to read more about one of the biggest decks in Standard, Vehicles, read this article from Austin Mansell.

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