The Captain’s Log – Paolo Cesari’s RUG Delver

“The Captain’s Log”

Hello all, my name is Paolo Cesari. Some of you may be thinking “why are you writing this article?” Well with my recent success at the Jupiter Games NELC circuit there has been some interest in my deck lists and thoughts. First a brief background about me as a magic player.

Like many of you I started playing this game with my brothers making our own rules as we went. I remember playing woolly mammoths at instant speed with my brothers at our dinner table because we didn’t know any better. When I was 18 I started playing in completive magic and since then I have been playing a mix of Standard, Legacy, Vintage, and Limited.

Legacy is what I would consider my strong suite. I think it is a great format that rewards people for tight game play and planning. The importance that is placed on every detail in Legacy is magnified so much more because of the power level of the cards. Results are easily seen immediately, making each decision so much more crucial.

My speciality in Legacy is RUG Delver. I have been playing this list for some time now and since the beginning I have been firm on my opinion of the deck. So to start off I will go through the list and explain each card choice.

Let’s start with the manabase. 18 lands is the right choice for various reasons. The first thing to consider is that the list is running stifles. This card is amazing at protecting your land and causing huge tempo shifts (and this is exactly what you want this deck to be doing). The next reason for 18 lands is the fact that the list is running 8 draw effects, brainstorm and ponder. When used properly these cards are a lot closer to ancestral recall effects. The choice of fetch lands should be obvious (any blue will due). You want 8 fetches here. Being able to manipulate your hand and library is so important and being able to shuffle away dead cards in the mid to late game is crucial to the success of this deck. Moving on to the actual mana producing land, this deck has 10 (including wastelands). Some may think that is just way too few, especially when your wastelands are typically never on the field more than a turn but the last thing a tempo deck wants to do is flood.


[[Image of Tarmogoyf]]Next let’s discuss the creature package. I chose to run the standard package, 4 Delver of Secrets, 4 Nimble Mongoose, and 4 Tarmogoyf. Delver of Secrets is just obvious in a deck full of instants and Brainstorms, it is rarely a 1/1. Tarmogoyfs are simply amazing. They are what you want to be playing in both the early and late game. He grows out of Lightning Bolt range very quickly and is not easily dealt with outside of Swords to Plowshares. Enter Nimble Mongoose, the bane of any deck whose removal is based on Swords to Plowshares. This card is an all-star, being untargetable is astounding. This forces decks to find alternate ways to deal with him. Some people choose to play 1-2 Scavenging Ooze, replacing Tarmogoyfs, but I choose not to because of my sideboard choices that we will get to later.


Next is the card draw package. Four brainstorm and 4 ponder are very standard, but these cards are the best at what they do. Many people have already gone into detail on how to play brainstorm properly and that may be a topic for a later date, but here is a quick cheat sheet. Hold your brainstorms until you know exactly what you are looking for and are able to shuffle away the trash you don’t want. I chose not to run Thoughtscour this event even though I was running two in the last event I took first place in. I played the card regularly and every time I drew Thoughtscour, it was mediocre at best. Mediocre is something that you never want to aspire to in legacy.


[[Lightning Bolt]]Now for the removal/ reach of the deck. Those are the old standbys, lightning bolt. One of the most simple but effective cards in magic… ever. The ability to kill small-to-medium sized creatures, while also being able to close out games is extremely versatile. I also run one forked bolt because drawing this card in the right match-up such as elves or maverick is amazing but drawing it against combo is miserable.


[[Image of Spell Snare]]For the counter/disruption package I run 4 Force of Will, 4 Daze, 3 Spell Pierce, 2 Spell Snare, and 4 Stifle. Force is an unfortunate necessity against combo decks. It provides you with disruption while not stifling your tempo, but at the cost of card disadvantage. Daze was built for this deck. Being able to counter something for no mana and also being able to return a land in the late game to then shuffle away with a Brainstorm is exactly where RUG wants to be. In a format where there are so many awesome instants Spell Pierce is where you want to be as well. Spell Snare on the other hand some people are not on board with, but it is an awesome card I assure you. It gives you game when you are on the play, which is huge in Legacy. It allows you to counter a turn two spell while also holding up Stifle mana. Key cards that Spell Snare counter in Legacy include Stoneforge Mystic, Tarmogoyf, Burning Wish, Thalia, and Counterbalance to name a few. Finally the card that has heard the most debate in this list…Stifle. I hands down love this card and have argued it to many people who are disbelievers.


[[Image of Stifle]]Stifle deserves its own section of this article. It is a card that has been cut from other RUG builds before and I have always been a staunch defending of including it. Stifle offers a completely different line of play opponents have to play around. You hold one mana up on their turn and if it’s decent player across form you the thought process should be; “why is a tempo deck not utilizing all of its mana on their turn?” “Do they have a Spell Pierce or are they just planning on Brainstorming on the end of my turn?” In my experience the more you give your opponent to think about, the more likely it is for them to get sidetracked from their own game plan and make a suboptimal play. Stifle is exactly what RUG needs. It provides versatility in that it has an interaction with just about every deck in Legacy. Worst case scenario it still pitches to Force of Will. It is instant speed land destruction spell against fetch lands which causes an amazing shift in tempo (which again is what this deck wants). It kills interactions that are crucial in Legacy such as miracle for Terminus, as well as countering so many come into play abilities. I cannot rave about this card enough. When people were cutting Stifles from their RUG lists it was driving me crazy. Between Wastelands and Stifles there is a significant amount of disruption to use towards the win. Also Stifle turns Daze on in the mid to late game when otherwise daze would be irrelevant.


Think of this scenario. Your opponent has a Tropical Island, a Volcanic Island, and a Scalding Tarn in play. They are casting Tarmogoyf with the Trop and Volc, trying to conserve their fetch land to utilize it properly with a Brainstorm later in the game. Now that Daze and Stifle you are holding in your hand become prime cards. You Daze the Tarmogoyf. When they crack the fetchland to get one mana to pay for the Daze you then Stifle the fetch. Once the Daze gets cast, this puts your opponent in a situation to choose either to let his Tarmogoyf be countered by the Daze in order to play around Stifle or to walk directly into a Stifle and then lose both the goyf and the fetch. Let them choose, either way you are getting value out of your cards.


Wow talk about a long winded first article, but to be honest this is just the tip of the iceberg there are so many crucial interactions in Legacy and RUG is a live matchup to just about every deck. There is a reason this deck has been on top for a long time, it is resilient, quick, effective, and powerful. I hope you have enjoyed this article and next week I will discuss my sideboard options. There may be a general consensus on what is “right” for the main deck in RUG, but sideboards vary from metagame to metagame as they should. Hope you all enjoyed the article and see ya next time.

Paolo Cesari

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