Cook’s Kitchen – We have to go back!
This past weekend was Star City Games – Buffalo. I opted to run my UW Delver list that I’ve been pretty successful with, in the past and T.E.S. for the Legacy open. This would be my only chance to play T.E.S. in a large event anytime soon because of me taking a Storm hiatus at Jupiter Games.
It didn’t go so great. I lost round one to a guy playing Red Black Vampires because I mulligan’d game one and was a bit color screwed. Game two I couldn’t draw a Celestial Purge or Snapcaster Mage for the life of me, but that’s Magic. The tone of that match set the precedent for the rest of the day. I would go on to lose round five to a Dungrove Elder with multiple Rancors and then lose round six to a kid with Naya Pod, who had lethal on the table for multiple turns and just didn’t see it. Frustrating.
After dropping from the event, I had some time to think to myself. Aside from losing due to bad luck against Vampires, what made Naya and Mono Green Aggro such a problem? It was the ability to go larger than Delver, faster, and swarming the opponent. I began looking at my list and came to the conclusion that the deck doesn’t need white. I noticed this during the top 8 match-up between my friend Carl Dillahay (Who would later go on to win the event, congrats) and another UW Delver deck. I began to think of other color splashes, when I decided on Red. We have to go back! Back to Blue Red Delver! Although, not the same style of lists that were popular at the beginning of the year. Red has the ability to deal with swarms of creatures and larger creatures than UW Delvers.
Bonfire of the Damned is just plain ridiculous and the reason to go red. Bonfire is mass-removal that also can deal damage to the opponent in a racing situation, but more importantly Bonfire can break open a game. Bonfire just ends stalemates, the results of that card being played for its Miracle cost is ridiculous. Although, decks like Delver won’t be casting Bonfire for seven like Wolf-Run Ramp decks or even larger mid-range decks. With only twenty lands, I’d expect to see plenty of Bonfires for three or four. Without further ado here is the list.
You’ll notice a lot of old favorites, mainly because it’s still a Delver of Secrets deck. But the new additions are what really makes or breaks this deck. Let’s go down the line-up!
The mana base is really awkward, I’ll be the first to admit that. It comes at the cost of playing more powerful spells. But with only five cards in the main deck requiring red mana it shouldn’t be a huge issue. The only thing I would consider changing about the lands is swapping a Mountain for an Evolving Wilds. The problem with this is that it’s essentially another Enters the Battlefield Tapped land. Although, for the most part, Mountain is a colorless land with only five red spells. What a conundrum! Cavern of Souls doesn’t mana fix in this deck as it did in the Blue White list, but it does make all of your Wizards uncounterable! This means the only creature in the deck that can be countered is Phantasmal Image, pretty cool.
The creatures in this deck are the exact numbers of what my boy Carl “DillyDally” Dillahay ran in Buffalo. Talrand is just nuts! When I originally discussed the spoilers for this set I was wrong about this fish. Talrand completely trumps a lot of decks by taking flight in a format full of ground pounders – giving the Delver deck a huge advantage. If the deck untaps with Talrand in play I don’t see too many circumstances where Blue Red doesn’t win the game. What’s interesting to me is the ability to counter swarm the swarm decks with 2/2 fliers. It may not be as satisfying to others as it is me, but I think it’s pretty nifty. The only downside to Talrand besides not being able to fly itself is that it makes Bonfire a better card against Delver. It wasn’t that great before against UW Delver often being a one for one.
Augur of Bolas, anyone happen to remember this card the first time it was printed? I think it costed one more and was named Sea Gate Oracle? This card is underrated – It’s pretty damn good right now. While it’s not the best aggressive creature like a Delver of Secrets or Snapcaster Mage, it’s still plus one card in hand AND has a big butt to block. Seriously. It’s a wall against aggressive decks, which slows them down and forces them to over extend until Bonfire can get the job done.
Phantasmal being moved to the main deck was an easy choice, in these colors there’s not much else to put in these slots besides more Augur of Bolas. Which may not be a terrible thing after all, it could actually be pretty good.
Sword of War and Peace still gets the nod over Feast and Famine and Rune Chanter’s Pike. The reason being is that the ability to gain life and swing thing through Restoration Angel or spirit tokens is still very important.
Pillar of Flame besides being actual removal is key because it removes recurring threats such as Strangleroot Geist, Geralf’s Messenger, or Gravecrawler. Delver decks previously had the option to remove some of the recurring threats with Celestial Purge, but also being able to remove Strangleroot Geist is a big deal. The downside? Cards like Curse of Death’s Hold, Lilliana of the Veil, and Phyrexian Obliterator are better. The upside is that it’s more versatile as it can target a multitude of creatures and it can be thrown at the opponents’ head for damage. Even though we’re actually playing removal now, I’m still playing two Gut Shot – it’s great being able to pay for your removal spells with mana or life. Not causing a loss in tempo and its ability to be free with Snapcaster Mage are too good to pass up.
When looking across the sideboard, you’ll see two more Pillar of Flame. You really want to remove Zombies from the game, you can’t have them coming back to life. Combust is an old favorite, with Restoration and more importantly UW Delver everywhere, it’s pretty crucial to have the ability to kill these large creatures. The best part is that it’s uncounterable and doesn’t cost four life, I’m looking at you Dismember. There’s an array of counterspells out of the sideboard, the Flash Freezes I’m not sold on because of Cavern of Souls, but being able to counterspell enemy Bonfires is huge! Negate is for control match-ups. If Solar Flare begins to rise again, I could see these turning into Dissipates.
Zealous Conscripts is a bit out there, the idea originated during the trip to the last SCG Invitational. Eli told Nick Patnode to run three conscripts in his Delver sideboard since he was already running a fourth Cavern in the sideboard. Nick went on to steal multiple Planeswalkers and kill people with them. Stealing a couple of Tamiyos with eight counters on them, even a Giddeon once. It was really great for Nick that entire weekend and I’d like to try it out. I’m not saying that it’s stellar, but it’s certainly interesting enough to play for a few weeks.
Then there’s Arc Trail, I’ve had a love affair with this card since I played Mono-Red with Goblin Guides. I’m sad that it’s leaving standard soon and I haven’t been playing with it recently. It’s in the sideboard to act as a smaller, recastable (Snapcaster) Bonfire of the Damned against decks like Naya or Mono Green. Being able to two for one against those decks can really make or break the game, this is why I look at Arc Trail as a small Bonfire. This could be a bad comparison, but as long as you understand that two for ones are good – we’re good.
As for the Legacy portion, I ran good ole’ TES.
TES Event Decklist
TES Current Decklist
I was 4-1 in the Legacy Open going into the sixth round where I played against a Syracuse local named Colton Sandford. It was nerve racking because of my history against Colton with Renanimator, the guy always draws really well. That round was no exception. I would then get paired against Stax and then Dredge ending the day at a miserable 4-4. How awful.
I went home and brainstormed for a bit when I decided to check MTGthesource. It’s not common that someone on there has an idea that I like. Sure enough, there was main deck Empty the Warrens over Tendrils of Agony. I immediately dismissed the idea. Then after a couple of hours returned to it after considering how bad every hand I open with Tendrils in it is. It’s essentially a mulligan in the original seven. It then became apparent that I needed to test this change. So far, it’s been great over Tendrils of Agony. While it seems like an easy switch, it really changes the fundamentals of the deck. T.E.S. can now go off turn one with six generated mana instead of seven (Infernal Tutor + Ad Nauseam). This is a huge game changer and is only improved by the more spells that the deck can play on the opening turn. Because of this, it only seems natural to add more Gitaxian Probes.
The next change was swapping out the fourth Chrome Mox for the third Gitaxian Probe. I also tried the fourth Probe compared to the fourth Gemstone Mine, the Mine proved to be better. But the deck hasn’t missed the fourth Chrome Mox yet! The Probe has been incredible at creating and dictating the situations where Empty the Warrens is good or not. It sees if the opponent has a sweeper or not and if they have any counter spells or not. Probes value is through the roof, I’d like to see the fourth in the deck list but sadly there just isn’t any room. I think that the current list is about as optimal as it can be at the moment.
Moving on to the sideboard! You’ll notice a lack of Deathmark and Ill-Gotten Gains for the addition of two Karakas. Karakas bounces Emerakul, Griselbrand, Gaddock Teeg, and Thalia! Those are a good majority of the creatures this storm deck cares about. Not to mention it gets around Mother of Ruins. Karakas can easily be sided in against Maverick, Reanimator, and Sneak Show. What I’m having a hard time choosing is when is it appropriate to play Karakas. Before or after the threat has entered play? I’m unsure.
Deathmark was an easy card to cut, the second slot was a bit more tough. Ill-Gotten Gains is rarely used and is really only good in the aggro match-ups when you have an optimal graveyard with a spare Wish and/or Infernal Tutor. Gains has become worse with Empty the Warrens taking Tendrils place in the main deck. This can cause awkward situations where the deck is forced to make Goblins instead of having the option of going for the kill. All of this has left me choosing Past in Flames over Ill-Gotten Gains, if you don’t like the choice, it’s easy to flip-flop the two. But I believe this is correct. Past in Flames became much stronger when the deck began playing Gitaxian Probe in recent months. Now that the number of Probes has increased so has Past in Flames’ effect.
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep storming!
Bryant Cook on MTG the Source