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Insider: Vintage RUG Delver

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I have been playing Vintage on Magic Online for a little over a month now and have been testing and tinkering with all kinds of decks from Burning Wish Control to BUG Survival of the Fittest to Control Oath. One deck I keep coming back to when it is time to register for Daily Events (DE) or play in the weekly IRL Vintage tournaments here in the Twin Cities: RUG Delver.

I began to like the deck while playing it in the two-mans on Magic Online and decided to take it to my local tournament, where I promptly 1-2'd due to many misplays and bad lines. I still really liked what the deck was doing though. I liked the combo and control matchups and the creature matchups weren’t unwinnable, so I decided to stick with it. And oh boy am I glad I did! In the last four events I have played this deck, two DEs and two local tournaments, I have gone 14-2. Here is the list that I have been running:

I have chosen to play the version without Tarmogoyf because of the presence of workshops and the advantage Trygon Predator gives you. The only matchup where I would really want Goyf is against U/W Angels since Restoration Angel is insane against you, but with that deck not being very popular on MTGO or in my local metagame I chose to run this version.

The sideboard is different depending on whether I am playing online or IRL. This list is a little closer to my online list, whereas my IRL list has less Dredge hate. As it is almost non-existent in my meta at the moment, the Ravenous Traps become Mindbreak Traps to help fights shops specifically when on the draw.

Shops is known for being a favorite against anyone when they are on the play and Mindbreak Trap helps because it doesn’t cost you two cards like Force of Will and it beats Cavern of Souls, which seems to be in every shops list these days. It also doubles as good hate against combo.

Matchups and Sideboarding

Control

I feel that you are slightly advantaged against most of the non-Oath of Druids control decks like Grixis and Welder Control. Your goal is to get ahead on board with a Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration or Young Pyromancer and counter every relevant thing they do.

You have Lightning Bolt and creatures to help combat their Jaces and some artifact hate in the main to make sure they have to work hard to Key/Vault you.

This means being careful with your mana and making sure that you do not tap out without a very good reason. This is where I have found most of my misplays and losing lines have come from. If you have counterspells in your hand and are ahead on the board, you probably don’t need to progress your board against control, you just need to make sure they don’t catch up.

Here is how I sideboard for the control matchup:

In:

Out:

You want to upgrade the Pierce to a hard counter and removal for Jace, the Mind Sculptor if it resolves, as well as Snapcaster Mage. Fire // Ice is not exciting against Jace and you have Bolts for Goblin Welder if you are playing against that version. I bring in the Dack Fayden as an additional threat and an answer to Blightsteel Colossus as you have no answers in the maindeck.

Workshops

The reason that I feel this deck is playable in a metagame where workshops are present is the fact that workshop decks have been moving towards maxing out on Thorn of Amethyst, in some cases cutting Sphere of Resistance altogether. The NYSE Open II had three Forgemaster Workshop decks in the Top 8 and there was a grand total of three Sphere of Resistance between the three decks. This bodes well for RUG Delver and its two maindeck Trygon Predators.

You are obviously an underdog on the draw. Chalice of the Void is very good against you, and many of your counterspells are dead against them, so you have to draw well game one but it gets better after sideboarding.

In:

Out:

If you are playing Mindbreak Trap in the sideboard than those also come in for the Misdirections. And if you aren’t, Misdirection is reasonable as shops usually have some number of Dismembers in their 75.

The key is using your counterspells wisely because of Cavern of Souls. Just letting a Thorn of Amethyst resolve because you can pay the tax might lead to them playing a Cavern on Golem, playing Lodestone Golem and you getting to watch that Force of Will rot in your hand.

Just do your best to trade one for one until you can land Dack Fayden or Trygon Predator and ride those to victory.

Oath of Druids

Since you are a creature deck you are obviously a dog in game one if they land an Oath of Druids. Making sure that doesn’t happen is top priority, and landing Trygon Predator puts you firmly in the driver’s seat. You get some help after sideboard for sure.

In:

Out:

Games two and three are about protecting Cage and making sure you can counter Show and Tell. Oath’s plan in game two is to Abrupt Decay your Cages or resolve Show and Tell. Since this is the case, make sure you use your Misdirections wisely and do your best to protect your Cage.

BUG Tempo/Fish

This is one of your most difficult matchups because they max out on Abrupt Decay and have Snapcaster Mage to cast them again. Misdirection is one of your best cards in the matchup and your Lightning Bolts and Fire // Ices have lots of juicy targets like Deathrite Shaman and Dark Confidant.

Many times this matchup leads to lots of removal pointed at creatures and fighting on the stack, them attacking your mana and eventually both players are in topdeck mode. This is where I feel RUG has the edge. You are running 10 cantrips and with the light manabase you are less likely to flood and will usually draw better than them.

Their advantage is that they have fewer, but more powerful tutors like Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor. You definitely have some good cards in your board for the matchup, but so do they.

In:

Out:

The counterspells are dead against their creatures, Grudge has no relevant targets and Snapcaster essentially costs three mana to do anything relevant and you will often be operating on two or less. Red Elemental Blast is to make sure they don’t gain an advantage with their Snapcasters and to counter True-Name Nemesis.

The Umezawa's Jitte and Fire // Ice are to keep Deathrite and Bob off the table. Jitte also helps to fight against Darkblast, which is very good against you. You need to either tempo them out with counters and a Pyromancer in play, flip an early Delver or land a Trygon, which is one of the reasons the latter is still in after sideboard, along with the fact it holds a Jitte quite well.

Dredge

Dredge probably has to mulligan to one for you to win game one. Having been on the Dredge side many times, I can attest this is one of the easiest game ones for the deck, as you have no combo element to your deck that you can mulligan to and no maindeck hate cards.

You just have to hope they brick really hard and you nut draw them with Black Lotus, multiple Delvers and Time Walk--which might still not be enough.

In:

Out:

Obviously your goal is to land Grafdigger's Cage and protect it at all costs. Mystical should get Ravenous Trap every time and nothing matters beyond that.

Combo

This is where the Delver has the advantage in game one with your cheap creatures to apply pressure, 13 counterspells to stop them in their tracks and 10 cantrips to keep the gas coming.

This is the matchup where you don’t go to the sideboard for much unless you are playing Mindbreak Trap, which in that case you would board as such:

In:

Out:

You are really just getting as many dead cards in your main out for cards that at least interact is some way. Redblast has plenty of good targets out of the combo deck like Windfall, Timetwister, Ancestral Recall, Ponder, Brainstorm, Tinker, Mystical Tutor, etc. And Trap is obviously good if you force them to go off without the luxury of waiting to find a discard spell.

RUG in the Current Metagame

Again, I feel that RUG Delver is very well positioned at the moment with Workshop decks leaning more toward cutting Sphere of Resistance and mainly relying on Thorn as their secondary form of taxing their opponent.

BUG Fish and RUG Delver are the two most represented decks on Magic Online right now with BUG being 18% of the metagame and RUG being a little over 16% of the meta (see here http://www.mtggoldfish.com/metagame/vintage). With this being the case RUG will not be dominating or be the top dog anytime soon, but these two are definitely competing for that spot, with BUG currently having the edge in my opinion, but RUG Delver is not far behind.

With all this said, Young Pyromancer will be rotating out of Standard soon, but is firmly cementing itself as a big player in the eternal formats. If these drop after leaving Standard I would look into picking them up, especially if you can get foil ones in trade at a good price.

Also with creature decks making up 34% of the online metagame, Toxic Deluge is prime to see more play. As I have said before it's my pick for the most underplayed card in Vintage, which should eventually lead to a price increase. Deluge has also only been printed in one set, so don’t let this be the Hurkyl's Recall that got away.

Give RUG Delver a try at your next Vintage event, and make sure to let me know how you did and what you think of the deck moving forward.

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