B/G Delirium might have been the toast of the town this past weekend, but U/W Flash was the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Delirium made up half the Top 8 in Santiago and three-quarters of the Top 8 in Warsaw, but in both cases Flash ended up on top, taking home the trophy and coating the outside of the breakfast cereal (to continue this tortured General Mills metaphor).
I played Delirium myself last weekend to unimpressive, Corn Flakes-level results. That is, in part, on me. The deck offers many decision points thanks to cards like Vessel of Nascency and Grapple with the Past, and I made poor choices too many times. But I think that is also, in part, due to an in-built inconsistency with the deck, as synergy-dependent as it is. It not only needs specific mixes of cards for each matchup (except, perhaps, Ishkanah, Grafwidow in all of them), but it needs to find them while facilitating Delirium.
U/W is the definition of consistency. Look at any given U/W Flash decklist and you’ll be met with line after line of beautiful fours.
I think this difference in consistency is a partial explanation of why, in several weeks of playing both B/G Delirium and U/W Flash, I’ve found Flash to come out on top in what is supposed to be one of its worst matchups. (The other part of the explanation is likely too small of a sample size).
Having now played the matchup from both sides, I’d like to share some thoughts about how the games tend to play out from the U/W perspective against B/G Delirium—its primary predator—as well as against some of the other more common matchups you’re likely to encounter.
[Current list, for reference]
It’s by now common knowledge that the most important card out of either player’s deck is Ishkanah, Grafwidow. A delirious Grafwidow is very hard for U/W to beat, especially when it comes out on curve on turn five.
U/W decks have been adding Thalia, Heretic Cathar recently in anticipation of the increased presence of Ishkanah, and Thalia is a potent spider balm. There are games—especially in Game 1 before the Delirium deck has had an opportunity to get properly configured for the matchup—where a couple early dorks, like a no-value Reflector Mage and Thraben Inspector can poke through enough damage that the extra turn of attacks thanks to Thalia is often enough to bring it home. I’ve been playing two in the maindeck, copying GP Warsaw Champion Gabrielius Kaklauskas, and they’ve been stellar. I’m not sure you can play more than two due to her legendary status, but I can’t see them being cut from the maindeck.
The other angle of attack to which the Delirium deck is vulnerable is planeswalkers. Gideon can be a big problem for B/G if they don’t have either a Grim Flayer or Ruinous Path to answer it quickly. Especially post-board, B/G tends not to play to the board earlier, which makes Gideon a fast clock. Jace, Unraveler of Secrets has been appearing as a one-of in many U/W sideboards, and it’s great out of the board in this match-up, even thought it was initially intended as another axis to fight the control deck son. I’d like to start playing two copies.
The post-board games do tend to play out pretty differently from Game 1. In Game 1, U/W wins (when it does win) by getting out to a quick start and following it up with some combination of Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Archangel Avacyn, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to shut the cellar door before spiders can come crawling out of the basement. The post-board games are slower. I bring in cards like Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light—alongside Jace—and try to stretch their removal.
One advantage that U/W deck has in these slower games is that the deck is not especially vulnerable to Emrakul, the Promised End, especially if you board out Selfless Spirit (as you should, because of Liliana, the Last Hope). Cards like Reflector Mage and Stasis Snare can only target the opponent. As a planeswalker, Gideon’s abilities aren’t particularly vulnerable to opponent’s shenanigans. It’s more than possible to get Emrakul’d and win through the trigger (so long as you have a Stasis Snare or counterspell ready for the creature itself).
Cards To Bring In: Big threats, like Gisela and Bruna. Planewalkers, like Jace. Counterspells. An extra Declaration in Stone if you have access to it.
Cards To Take Out: Selfless Spirit. Some number of Reflector Mage, which don’t have many appealing targets. I sometimes trim Spell Queller as well since many of the Delirium deck’s key cards cost five or more.
As you might expect, cheap interactive spells are the key here. Fragmentize is an enormously important sideboard card. I play two and wouldn’t consider going below that. It (of course) hits Smuggler’s Copter, but can also be a big help simply by handling a Scrounger for a turn. That’s not to mention those fine times when they happen to have Stasis Snare against you and you can buy back a threat.
One comment about Stasis Snare is that against Vehicles and in the mirror match you should be careful about attacking Gideon into Stasis Snare mana. Many of U/W’s creatures are relatively insubstantial. Opponents tend to hold their Snares for your ‘big’ threats, so be wary of what seem like open attacks with Gideon.
At the same time, the Vehicles decks have serious late game, so it’s important to know when to turn the corner and start attacking. If you sit back on your laurels too long, they’ll eventually be able to recoup card with Depala, Pilot Exemplar and you aren’t a deck that has oodles of removal.
Cards To Bring In: Cheap removal spells. Fragmentize. Immolating Glare. Negate if they are a more vehicle-heavy build with stuff like Fleetwheel Cruiser, and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Linvala, the Preserver.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar might be in the deck mostly for Delirium, but she’s pretty good at fighting mirrors too. She can steal games by allowing you tempo out your opponent, preventing them from crewing their Smuggler’s Copter on time and getting attacks in through their newly summoned Selfless Spirit and Knight tokens and such. And she is also makes playing against Archangel Avacyn (semi-)easy mode, since you don’t need to worry about an ambush blocker as along as she’s around.
But that’s not the meat or soy-based alternative of the matter. The key to the mirror is patience. Cards like Negate are especially helpful here. Both players have many ways to interact at instant speed, so try to hit your land drops and let your opponent tap out on their turn first by trying to stick a Gideon or a Jace. Generally, each player will play out stuff like Thraben Inspector or Selfless Spirit on the first couple turns and then things will turn into something of a staring contest, with neither player wanting to run their spells into Quellers or their Copters into Snares. Sitting back on Negate to counter their planeswalker and follow up with your own big threat, like a Jace is usually game over.
I say Jace specifically, because Gideon is not at his best in this match-up. I go back and forth on how many copies of Gideon I want post-board. On the one hand he dies pretty easily. But, on the other hand, his emblem can give you a big edge when you have all the same creatures as you’re opponent. On my secret third hand, sometimes Gideon just wins games. I generally go down to something like two copies post-board. Know that this is a place you can trim.
Be very careful about getting your Stasis Snare blown up in Game 2 and 3. It will happen, so be cognizant of what’s underneath and try to answer strong ETB cards like Linvala, the Preserver by other means, if possible. The big angels like Linvala, Gisela, and Bruna are generally pretty good here. Gisela in particular lines up well against opposing Avacyns that have been around for a while. It’s possible to get clogged on expensive cards, and I might even want to add another land to my current sideboard, but in general I bring most of the angels in.