Just Play RUG Delver

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I was recently inspired by a Cedric Phillips rant to try playing Storm in Legacy. I think that Cedric was really spot on with his evaluation of the current state of Legacy, and I agree that Storm is currently well positioned. I especially agree with his disdain for decks like Maverick, which plays the least playable basic land ever printed.

I borrowed Forrest Ryan’s copy of the GP Ghent list and took it to a few smaller Legacy tournaments. I found the deck to be both fun and challenging, and I was really enjoying playing it. I had to follow a lot of interesting lines and plan my kill turn a few turns in advance, which I found pretty enjoyable. My favorite play that I’ve made with the deck by far was Burning Wishing for a Gitaxian Probe that I boarded out to go off for exactly 20 the following turn.

But the fun stopped during the fourth round of the Legacy event I played last Thursday.

When my opponent sat down across from me I wasn’t convinced that he know where he was. He shuffled slowly, tanked on simple decisions and was playing double-sleeved despite not having any foils in his deck.

He was playing RUG Delver, which is one of the primary matchups that I wanted to play more on the Storm side. In game one he played a turn one Delver on the play, amateurly Brainstormed to flip it on turn one, and easily killed me before I could find the discard spells necessary to go off.

He continued to play a turn one Delver and Brainstorm to flip it on turn two every game in our match. This is actually the only reason there even was a game three, as his premature Brainstorm in game two made my discard spells MUCH stronger.

Even though he lost that game, his Brainstorm in game three was considerably worse. He had a Trop in play, Brainstormed on upkeep, revealed Force of Will (thanks for the info, bud), then didn’t have a land to play.

He showed me he had disruption, threw away his only way of hiding it, and Brainstorm locked himself off of lands all on turn one.

And he still won very easily.

The moral of the story, kids, is that everybody should just play RUG Delver. It doesn’t matter if you’re incompetent. It doesn’t even matter if you’re missing the dual lands - just buy them before an event and you’ll win back the money very easily. The deck is just insane.

Now, you might be thinking that playing RUG makes you a dog to the decks that I was trying to beat by playing Storm, but I would disagree with you.

The Maverick matchup isn’t nearly as bad for RUG as people seem to think it is if you know how to play it. I’m the type of guy that will always pack 4 Stifle, so Maverick is easier for me than those who don’t (Maverick is literally a pile of activated abilities). But even without it the matchup is fine.

If you’re really worried about it, pack a Dismember in the main and max out on Submerges in the sideboard. With this much removal you should really only be losing if you fail to recognize which creatures of theirs are important. If that’s your problem, then I’ll give you a hint - Mother of Runes, Knight of the Reliquary and Scavenging Ooze.

Thalia can be annoying if you’re choked on mana, but you’ll frequently be able to get it with your Forked Bolt or Fire/Ice. Also, Sulfur Elemental out of the board does wonders against it and Mom.

I’ve noticed that a lot of Maverick players have been adopting Cavern of Souls, which I feel is laughable. If they want to beat RUG, which is one of very few decks that actually cares about countering their creatures, they should just be fetching basics so that they can’t get Wastelanded to death. Cavern is unreal good in Standard, but a deck like Maverick should be much more worried about removal spells and Wastelands than the Dazes that they can easily play around.

Seriously, just play the matchup a few times. Don’t do stupid things like blow your only removal spell on a Noble Hierarch or Wasteland them when you’re behind. You should be golden.

In addition to being favored against Maverick, RUG clearly has an advantage against most combo decks. Sometimes they can just draw more disruption than you, but for the most part you are very capable of fighting them. To be entirely honest, there are only two decks that I’m worried about while playing RUG:


You have Islands. Fish hate Islands. Fish kill you dead.

Unlike Maverick, pretty much every creature out of Merfolk matters. You want to jam as much removal as possible if you want to realistically beat this matchup. Personally I’ve been packing three Red Elemental Blasts on my board and have had two Dismember in my 75 as of late.

Of course, Merfolk is by and large being hated out by everybody else as is. Even still, the REBs have a pretty low opportunity cost as they are good against many flavors of combo and the mirror as well.

The other matchup that concerns me tends to have less overlap with the rest of Legacy…

Death and Taxes

Before I begin this section, I will make it clear that D&T is not a real deck. Anybody playing it is blatantly disrespecting the Legacy format at large, and this is the exact reason that it can be such a tough matchup for RUG.

With a manabase of mono-Plains and a playset of Aether Vial, D&T can make a joke out of counterspells and Wastelands. Jotun Grunt and it’s gigantic backside couples with its ability to hose Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose are also quite problematic.

The one advantage that RUG has in this matchup is that D&T relies on the activated/triggered abilities of Mother of Runes, Mangara of Corondor and Aether Vial. Stifle really shines against decks like this.

If you’re not playing Stifle… Well, good luck. The one thing you can do is have Sulfur Elemental on board. It might look like a wasted slot, but it’s also good against Maverick and is worth boarding in against certain combo decks where tapping out for Tarmogoyf can be a huge liability.

Like I said, though, D&T is not a real deck, so you shouldn’t have to play against it. But lord knows that I always find a way to play against the only guy in the room playing it.


While I think that I have grown some as a player simply by picking up Storm for a spell, I just can’t bring myself to not play RUG in any event where it matters. It can be tuned to beat basically any metagame and its bad matchups are few and far between.

If you take the time to actually learn how to play the deck and Brainstorm well, like so few other players have done, then you will see great success with the deck. This I promise you.

Good luck, high five.

-Ryan Overturf

13 thoughts on “Just Play RUG Delver

  1. I think you are underestimating the diversity of the format at large as well as the significant advantage you have while playings "rogue" or "fringe" strategies, many of which are legitimate decks but just don't have the numbers of players behind them or that lack a pro player to promote the deck, There are just too many decks in Legacy to keep track of. RUG, since we're talking about it eats it pretty hard to any "fair" deck. Many of which aren't completely helpless against the combo decks of the format. You'd be suprised. As Michael Fassbender has so eloquently put it: "Try harder." You've only scratched the surface.

    1. The advantage of playing rogue strategies is nowhere near as heavy in Legacy as in formats like Standard or Modern as the disruption available is generally not going to be very narrow. Spell Pierce is pretty all-encompassing in terms of combo decks, sans Dredge, and Force of Will is a catch-all if I ever saw one. It shouldn't be too hard to tell if I want to Lightning Bolt your creatures or not.

      I'm not sure which "fair" decks you are referring to that make RUG eat it. I already discussed how the Maverick matchup isn't actually bad. Burn is also close/favorable as is Deadguy Ale.

      I would argue that you're just playing RUG poorly if you blindly assert that it's "bad against fair decks". It's a useless statement as there is almost zero context and the statement is already, in part, false.

      1. Huh? I'm not sure I follow you. There is a huge advantage to playing rogue strategies, one of which is that SB space is limited. You can't board for everything only the decks/cards you have problems with. Yet there is still the possibility of playing 8 different decks in 8 rounds. This isn't uncommon.

        There are decks that can grind you out or just trump you completely. Chalice for 1, for example is brutal. Any of the MUD decks can do this pretty easily. I'd much rather be on the Nic Fit side of the table. Even decks that were previously pushed out of the metagame like Merfolk can beat you if you expect Bolts to do most of the heavy lifting. 8 LoAs is very good here.Miracle with EE? Another trump. Even something like a "bad" deck like Affinity is faster than you and has silly opening hands.

        1. What I'm saying is that you aren't going to be playing any particularly narrow sideboard cards in Legacy. If you have a card like Spell Pierce on your sideboard it is going to come in against combo and control decks alike. Tormod's Crypt is strong against Reanimator, Dredge, and decks like the awful Storm build with 4x Past in Flames. Just because you play against 8 different decks doesn't mean that you won't have tools against all of them. You get 15 sideboard slots and any slots that only address one particular matchup are wasted slots. I don't waste my slots.

  2. I know people don’t consider burn a real deck(it is crap) but it destroys rug. To say its only really weak against 2 decks is laughable. Legacy is very diverse.

    1. Burn is a close matchup, to be sure. Does that mean that I'm worried about it? No. A couple-three Blue Blasts on the board makes sideboarded games favor RUG by a fair, if not massive margin. I talked about the two decks that are actually bad matchups in my experience, not the ones that are close.

  3. You keep mentioning Brainstorming "properly". There are many times I'm convinced that using Brainstorm proactively to keep up pressure when you are ahead on board is the correct thing to do….. aka I've a got a flipped Delver and a couple counterspells in hand and I'd like to just tempo them out. Do you ever use Brainstorm in this proactive manner? From your comments, it sounds like you are almost always using it reactively.


    1. I do use it proactively from time to time, but it's very contingent on what is in my hand. I generally like to cast it at the last possible moment as a rule, but sometimes this means to use it proactively. If I assess the board/game state and it looks like I need a clock and/or I have two Brainstorms then I will do so proactively, but the longer you wait the more like an A-Call your Brainstorms become.

  4. Honestly I think you are being an asshole against your opponent. I like playing mtg and RUG deck, I am not a great at this game but I simply play it for fun. Just because the guy didnt use brainstorm with the correct timing does that mean he is ‘incompetent’? I hate it when people who think of themselves as “good” players make fun and put down people who are just trying to learn and make their best. “Hey this guy didnt use brainstorm at the right moment everybody laugh”. I think there are far worse mistakes than using brainstorm at the bad time.

    1. Competent: having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully.

      If you are making plays that increase your chance of losing and decrease your chance of winning (incorrect plays), I would say that’s a pretty spot-on example of playing incompetently. I think you are taking the criticism of this random person’s bad plays (and they are bad) a little too personally. And as far as misplaying brainstorm, I’d like an example of a “far worse” mistake.

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