While most competitive players spent the past week testing limited for Grand Prix Richmond, I opted to keep jamming 60 card decks over 40. It’s not that I’m not loving this limited format (in fact I am!) it’s just that I knew I wouldn’t be making the journey to Virginia this past weekend, nor do I have any upcoming limited events either. In fact, I have but one singular Standard PPTQ that I’ll be able to play in this season. I know that sounds bonkers for a try-hard magician such as myself, but alas, life is getting in the way!

My wife and I will sadly be leaving New York City come the end of June, and moving back to my homeland, the always damp and gray Seattle. And while I’m excited to head back to “West Coast Best Coast” and start the next chapter of our lives, I will miss NYC and all it’s filthy humid charm. Cross-country moves are no simple task, so my weekends have already been booked with NYC Bucket List items and a whole lotta packing. So that means just one last NYC PPTQ for Austin.

So what’s the goal? Win the damn thing!

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been exploring and testing with G/B Delirium variants on MtGO. With no fear of getting combo’d, I was free with tap out for big fat haymakers and powerful spells. And after a handful of 4-1’s, I finally 5-0’d two back-to-back leagues on Sunday. Dropping only 1 game between 10 matches felt great and makes me feel comfortable enough to share my list with you.

Here’s what I’m jamming:

Abzan Delirium by Austin Mansell

Creatures (11)
4 Grim Flayer
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
1 Angel of Sanctions
1 Noxious Gearhulk
1 Walking Ballista

Non-Creature Spells (25)
3 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
4 Traverse the Ulvewald
3 Vessel of Nascency
3 Fatal Push
3 Grasp of Darkness
1 Dissenter’s Deliverance
2 Never//Return
1 To The Slaughter
2 Cast Out

Lands (24)
4 Blooming Marsh
2 Hissing Quagmire
2 Shambling Vent
2 Concealed Courtyard
2 Evolving Wilds
3 Scattered Groves
4 Forest
4 Swamp
1 Plains

Sideboard (15)
1 Fatal Push
1 Lay Bare the Heart
3 Transgress the Mind
2 Pick the Brain
1 To the Slaughter
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1 Dissenter’s Deliverance
2 Manglehorn
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Linvala, the Preserver
1 Descend upon the Sinful

First and foremost you’re most likely thinking, “why the white splash?” You might think it’s for the hot new card, Cast Out, but you’d be wrong. It’s for this bad dude:

Sorin, Grim Nemesis is an absurdly powerful card that hasn’t gotten to see much play in the past few months. Tapping out for a 6 mana sorcery-speed card used to mean death by one billion kitties, but that’s a problem we don’t need to worry about any more. He might not be the slam dunk 4-of that Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was, but he’s a powerful walker who provides a vital ability: life gain.

 

If you watched the first SCG Open after Amonkhet’s release, you might have seen Brennan DeCandio doing his G/B Delirium thing and trouncing people like the delirious mad man that he is. You might have also watched him lose a handful of grindy games to Mardu by being burned out from the back half of Cut//Ribbons. Appropriately, the back half of Never//Return can sometimes exile the graveyard fireball before we’re torn to shreds, but this is no longer a match up you can freely durdle away.

Before you could sit behind a wall of spiders and drain fools to death with Ishkanah, Grafwidow activations. But with the reach Unlicensed Disintegration and Ribbons now provides, we don’t have all the time in the world. Sorin, Grim Nemesis is great for cushioning our life total and insulating us from being burned out. The fact that his minus can zap planeswalkers, which the Mardu decks needs to load up on post-board, is equally powerful. In tandem with Liliana, Death’s Majesty you can do some silly things like shoot your own Ishkanah or Linvala, the Preserver and then immediately reanimate it with Lili to buyback some ETB triggers.

The 2nd best reason for the white splash also has to do with life gain. Shambling Vent is the best creature land in Standard and getting to play a few is almost worth the splash alone. Finding times to chip in with the lifelink 2/3 can mean the world of difference. Cast Out is of course gravy on top, and cycling enchantments at instant speed helps ensure we have delirium and sometimes surprises our opponents with sudden 4/4 Grim Flayer. The fact that Vessel of Nascency can find Cast Out is noteworthy, and should not be forgotten! This tidbit plus the emphasis on planeswalkers is part of the reason Vessel gets the slots over Grapple with the Past. Not to mention of course the fact that Vessel puts a more unique card type (enchantment) plus 1 extra card in the ‘yard. All and all, I think’s the better delirium enabler.

Angel of Sanctions might seem like a more vulnerable Noxious Gearhulk, but don’t forget that this creature hits any nonland permanent. This is relevant for the new indestructible Amonkhet gods, as they are particularly tricky to deal with, but more importantly it is relevant when dealing with Aetherworks Marvel. The legendary artifact is back on the rise and seeing quite a bit of play online. They’re generally short on removal, so the Angel generally can stick around and nab a marvel, or even an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (if our lands have not been blown up already). The prominence of Marvel is also one of the main reasons to splash white, as it gives us a fighting chance. The increase in discard spells is also for the pseudo combo deck.

Generally the deck assumes the control role, playing removal while you make land drops, and deploying threats whenever there is a slight reprieve. On the play you can be more aggressive, especially if you have a turn 2 Grim Flayer. I aggressively try to turn on Delirium, ensuring that my powerful cards like Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Traverse the Ulvenwald are turned on.

If anyone has any specific questions on card numbers or choices, please feel free to drop a comment below!

Lastly, I wanted to talk furthermore about sideboarding against Mardu. As I mentioned last week, most people are doing it wrong. Well, turns out this past week, I was too. A lot of my initial 4-1 records in leagues were because I was losing 1 round to Mardu every league. I was preparing for their pivot as they shift towards a more midrange deck, and I was boarding in Transgress the Mind and To the Slaughter, but I was making a huge mistake.

 

I was boarding out Grim Flayer. In my mind, the 2/2 simply didn’t do enough and lined up poorly against 2/2 Knight tokens. Thing is, to bring in all those midrange threats, they generally trim or cut their copies of Fatal Push. They can’t afford to leave the narrow removal spell in against you when they’re expecting discard, removal spells, and Ishkanah. And other than Knight tokens, the deck doesn’t block particularly well with Thraben Inspector and Scrapheap Scrounger. If they’re using Unlicensed Disintegration on your 2 drop, you’re trading up in mana, and if they’re casting it early to prevent you from getting a single damage trigger, there’s a good chance they’re not getting 3 damage off it either.

All those factors are important, but the most important thing is you need to pressure Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Gideon is bar-none the most important card post-board. It provides a fast clock that your spiders cannot block profitably. He dodges your cheap removal. And even if you have a Never//Return or a To the Slaughter, he’s always generating some card advantage in making a Knight token. Trampling 4/4 2 drops pressure the planeswalker and that’s simply where you need to be post-board. As soon as I started playing towards this goal, I started racking up 2-0’s against Mardu and finally earning those 5-0’s.

All and all I think the deck is a blast to play, and totally viable in this wild west of Standard. I cannot wait to see how the Pro Tour shakes up Standard and what the new metagame looks like. I don’t know if I’ll be sticking with Abzan Delirium come next week, but I’ll be raking in Treasure Chests in the mean time! If you have any questions about the deck or sideboarding, please feel free to ask!

At SCG Atlanta, we got our first look at Amonkhet Standard before the Pro Tour, and some decks certainly stood out from the crowd. Read this article from Roman Fusco if you’re looking for the best decks to emerge from the first Amonkhet Standard tournament. 

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