Vs Grixis Delver
(last updated 5/31/18)
Worst cards (main): Phyrexian Revoker
Best cards (side): Path to Exile and other additional removal
Revoker targets: Deathrite Shaman
Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Numbers: 1
Deck Strategy and Key Cards
Grixis Delver is a tempo deck and a great one at that. It seeks to deploy an early threat and play “protect the queen” for a few turns while racking up damage. Alternatively, you can view it as “punching a hole” in the opposing defense and making the best of that opportunity. To reach this goal, it plays many of the best free and one mana disruptive spells Legacy has to offer. Daze and Force of Will are the backbone of this plan, with some combination of Cabal Therapy, Stifle, Spell Pierce, and Wasteland serving as additional support. These tempo-oriented cards are not suited for a long fight, and as the turn counter ticks up, the higher card quality of other decks often overwhelm the delver player. Opening hands without a threat can sometimes be a little sketchy and give opponents too much time to establish themselves. That being said, this deck is great at not giving the opponent the “one more turn” they need to stabilize and take over the game.
As far as the threat base is concerned, Delver of Secrets, Deathrite Shaman, Young Pyromancer, True-Name Nemesis, and Gurmag Angler are the usual inclusions. Your opponent may not have all of these, but I usually play keeping these threats in mind. I’m not one to be too poetic in my writing, but this is a beautiful creature suite. Deathrite doesn’t need to attack to do damage, Young Pyromancer often goes wider than a single removal spell quickly, and Gurmag Angler and True-Name dodge many of the format’s most common removal spells. Grixis Delver is surprisingly good at playing around opposing removal, and so it’s no surprise that this deck is played as much as it is. You will also see other threats from time to time, such as Baleful Strix, Dark Confidant, or Vendilion Clique.
The Matchup and Important Interactions
As the D&T player, you have inevitability. The longer the game goes on, the more likely you are to win. Cards like Mother of Runes and Umezawa’s Jitte are very likely to effectively win you the game when unchecked. If you can avoid dying to their first threat or two, you are likely in good shape. Your opponent is going to try to keep you off balance in the first three or four turns of the game to push early damage. Prioritize stabilizing the board over pretty much everything else and you should be fine. Your secondary goal is to disrupt their mana, but doing so once they have a problematic threat on board becomes slightly less important.
I often hear the advice “just play around Daze” and you’ll be fine. In many cases, this actually isn’t great advice. You have so many high-impact cards in this matchup that you can afford to lose a couple to counterspells. Remember that both of their primary counterspells have a drawback, either pitching a card to Force or a returning a land for Daze. In many cases, you are actually quite fine with either of those scenarios. Now if you have a game-winning card to protect, maybe wait a turn on that, but otherwise, you don’t necessarily need to live in fear of your spells getting countered. If you sit back and do nothing to advance your board or control your opponent’s board, you are likely putting yourself in a losing position.
In game one scenarios, it’s very difficult for Delver players to beat any piece of equipment. In most cases, you opponent will have no way to get the equipment off the board. They can try to stall via blockers like True-Name Nemesis or Gurmag Angler, but that’s about it. Once you’ve put the Delver deck on the defensive, things should be turning heavily in your favor. Similarly, Thalia and Sanctum Prelate often tax the opponent’s resources so much that it is difficult to do much of anything productive.
The core of your deck is very good against Delver, so you probably won’t sideboard more than about four or five cards in most cases. Phyrexian Revoker is certainly the worst maindeck card. While it shuts off Deathrite Shaman, it has no other targets in most cases. I prefer Rest in Peace as my tech there, as it also fights against Cabal Therapy and Gurmag Angler. Beyond that, you’ll want to bring in any additional removal you have, and a bonus piece of equipment doesn’t hurt either. I often trim Recruiter of the Guard as well. While searching up your Sanctum Prelate is very valuable, it can be difficult to find enough time to deploy both cards on non-Vial hands without taking too much chip damage in the meantime. If you are playing tutorable creature removal like Orzhov Pontiff or Banisher Priest, your evaluation of Recruiter will be different.
The Grixis Delver sideboards vary quite a bit. Pilot preference goes a long way in shaping those sideboards, and it changes a bit with the metagame as well. You should expect your opponent to trim some number of counterspells and low-impact cards for more removal and ways to deal with your equipment. As far as removal goes, expect things like Dread of Night, Forked Bolt, Kolaghan’s Command, Fatal Push, Electrickery, Blazing Volley, Grim Lavamancer, and Diabolic Edict. Ancient Grudge and Pithing Needle are the most common ways of mucking with your equipment, though things like Smash to Smithereens show up as well. Your opponent also may opt to bring in more discard.
Like with most Delver decks, this is a pretty positive matchup for D&T, perhaps somewhere in the 60:40 ballpark. Grixis Delver does a much better job of putting up a fight than something like RUG Delver though, so don’t treat these matchups like a bye. Like any deck, you do have the potential to just “get Delvered” in the first few turns of the game and lose without putting up a fight. However, in the games where that doesn’t happen, you should be in pretty good shape. As one of the most popular and better decks of the format, many people pick up or switch to the deck and have relatively little experience playing it prior to their events. Take advantage of their misplays and inexperience. There is a very large gap between a good and a bad Delver player, so if you find yourself saying things like “I never lose this matchup, it’s so easy!,” you might want to find some new testing partners…
Data as of 5/31/18
Win rate with WW D&T: 28-8 (77.8%)
Win rate with RW D&T: 19-16 (54.3%)