Some Bob With Your Bugs: Confidant in Delver

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Since Origins was spoiled I’ve been tuning iGrow, a Delver deck abusing Day’s Undoing to crush the midrange strategies that have historically oppressed my buggy buddy since Abrupt Decay’s printing. It worked, but at the cost of dedicating an entire sideboard to beating the aggressive decks that benefitted from my mainboard set of Undoings. With today’s metagame shifting away from midrange and towards aggro, iGrow looks less appealing, and I’ve begun re-tooling my first Delver brew, Counter-Cat (more on this deck in another article). But this week, something else had my attention.

dark confidant bob fixed dimensions

Monday night, a friend asked to borrow Confidants for a Jund deck he was putting together. As I dug Bob out of my Modern box, I realized how bad a time opponents would have trying to kill him through Disrupting Shoal. Something clicked, and I scribbled down a list that soon evolved into this one:


Disrupting Shoal: The Reason to Play Grow

I have to stress how integral Disrupting Shoal is to the tempo archetype in Modern, and specifically, to grow decks. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my four-part series on Modern archetypes.)Disrupting Shoal Grow plays the nastiest threats a format has to offer, ignoring tribal synergies in favor of raw efficiency. Its pilot sticks one or two of these creatures early, and protects them long enough to win, often depleting his cards and life as the game progresses. Ideally, the grow deck beats opponents with all its resources exhausted. For this reason, the player sitting across from a grow deck usually feels like he’s winning until the turn he loses.

Part of what enables grow is efficient countermagic, which Modern lacks. Our catchall answers, Mana Leak and Cryptic Command, boast costs so prohibitive (yes, two mana is prohibitive in this archetype) that grow decks struggle here; we can’t expect something like Young Pyromancer to survive the second turn in a format where half the decks run a set of Lightning Bolt. Tempo decks must then slow down to ensure the safety of their sparse threats, pushing them into midrange territory and eliminating a need for cheap creatures altogether. After all, if we’re waiting until turn four to play a threat, why not just cast Siege Rhino instead of Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration?

Disrupting Shoal solves this problem, letting us tap out for Pyromancer and counter Lightning Bolt in the same turn cycle.Dark Confidant The two cards we spend net us a boatload of advantage if we consistently untap with cantrips and Mana Leak. Additionally, most opponents won’t have multiple answers in hand, giving us time to draw additional countermagic and to carry the game away on the wings of our fragile, ferocious threat. Years of Jund domination have conditioned Modern players to fear card disadvantage and to shy away from Disrupting Shoal. But free countermagic has always been integral to grow decks, and Shoal shines brighter here than any other permission spell.

These last couple months with iGrow showed me how easy it is to carry a game after protecting a frail threat for that crucial, “open” turn – Shoaling a Bolt aimed at Pyromancer ends things right away in that deck. Saving Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration, Tarmogoyf, and Young Pyromancer with Disrupting Shoal may cost us a second card, but saving these threats lets us untap and attack with them . Bob offers something other than damage output for his protection, but the resource he provides has always granted tempo decks many victories regardless: cards.

Force of WillIn “Power Calls: iGrow and Broken Tempo," I wrote about how busted card advantage engines are in tempo decks. Bob might just be a 2/1, but as he draws us into removal, threats, and countermagic, his hits begin to add up, and opponents have difficulty overcoming him.

Just as Legacy players have established a "minimum" of 15 blue cards for Force of Will, I've found that 22 blue cards should be included to take full advantage of Disrupting Shoal in Modern grow decks. We require more than Force of Will does because of Shoal's "CMC" clause, which only allows certain blue cards to pitch successfully. Holding on to blue cards rarely poses an issue with 22 in the deck, since when we're ahead (we often are), we don't mind conserving a Probe or Snag in hand to secure our threat's leading position.

Dark Confidant: The Reason to Play Black in Grow

Grixis Delver: Firmly Midrange

Grixis Delver decks have done well in Modern since Tasigur, the Golden Fang began his reign. I want to specify that these decks are not tempo decks. Grixis Delver is a midrange strategy that usually disrupts opponents before it begins committing threats to the board, explaining cards like Kolaghan's Command and Snapcaster Mage. Tempo decks can't run so many high-curve cards, as they need to land threats early and dedicate the rest of the game to protecting their initial investment.

I’ve heard Grixis Delver players call Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration “the worst card in the deck.” To me, that makes perfect sense: why wouldn’t the best tempo threat be the worst card in a midrange deck? Still, these players often defend the deck against my categorization. I’ll argue that if a deck can play a tempo game, it doesn’t necessarily become a tempo deck. Consider Jund: sometimes, this deck casts Goyf, then Abrupt Decay and Thoughtseize, then Liliana of the Veil, then Maelstrom Pulse.Tasigur And by then, the Goyf has dealt lethal damage. In this instance, Jund committed a threat, then disrupted its opponent. It played a tempo game. But unless a deck utterly dedicates itself to reliably executing this gameplan, it doesn’t qualify as a tempo deck. Most of us can agree that Jund is designed to play in the opposite direction, tearing opponents apart with disruption before cleaning up the mess with a huge Lhurgoyf.

It’s okay that Grixis Delver is a midrange deck. A case can be made in favor of the Grixis Delver deck we’ve seen thus far, and that case relies on midrange’s undeniable strength in Modern. Unfortunately, Grixis Delver’s diluted gameplan does the archetype no favors. When it comes to midrange, I think Abzan (in metagames teeming with fair decks) and Jund (everywhere else) outpace Grixis Delver every time. But either way, I have little interest in the disrupt-then-commit strategy. To me, rewarding games of Magic involve the meticulous resource management only the grow archetype requires of its pilots.

Grixis Grow: Tempo, at Any Cost

To make Grixis Delver a grow deck, we first need to lower its curve. That means we trade clunky three-drops like Kolaghan's Command for grow staples like Disrupting Shoal. Then, we choose to either abuse Delve fatties with Thought Scour, or to find other cheap threats to back our namesake bug.Kolaghans Command I’ve chosen the latter option, because when it comes to grow in Modern, I don’t see what Grixis offers the archetype that Temur doesn’t. Tasigur and Angler? We have Hooting Mandrills and Tarmogoyf. Sideboard tech? We have Destructive Revelry and Feed the Clan. “Hard” removal? Who needs it? We’re tempo, not midrange! Bounce effects will do just fine, especially when they boast the supreme versatility of Simic Charm.

If the Tasigur/Shoal deck is just a worse Monkey Grow, we need a better reason to play black. Enter Dark Confidant. Like Young Pyromancer and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration, here’s a threat that dies to Lightning Bolt, but wins you the game if he doesn’t. Unfortunately, it’s too risky in a format full of Burn decks to run delve fatties and Dark Confidant. It’s possible that the Grixis grow deck is better with delve guys and no Bob, but in that case, we should just go Temur. Dark Confidant is the only reason to play black in a Modern grow deck.

Analyzing Grixis Grow

Card Choices - Mainboard

Monastery Swiftspear: A one-mana lightning rod to compliment Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration. Bob’s cards turn Swiftspear into a quick win condition, but if she eats a Bolt on turn one, she’s more than done her job. She also makes Inquisition of Kozilek and Gitaxian Probe better.

Young PyromancerYoung Pyromancer: A must-answer two-drop to compliment Dark Confidant. Instead of cards, Pyromancer gives us 1/1s for our trouble, which in a deck with eight highly effective removal spells can end games very rapidly.

Vapor Snag: As mentioned above, bounce spells frequently get the job done in tempo decks. Terminate’s expensive, colorful cost sometimes undermines its strength, and Snag can do a similar job for less. Snag also supports Swiftspear and Pyromancer in ways Terminate can’t, but it's Snag’s blueness that seals its inclusion here.

Mana Leak: Catchall countermagic that follows Disrupting Shoal perfectly, while pitching to the Instant once it’s passed its prime.

Darkslick Shores: The Dimir fastland feels right at home here, cranking out threats, cantrips, counterspells, or discard pain-free in a deck that wants to trade life for cards. The ETB condition is rarely relevant since our curve is so low, but I may want a third red land as I continue testing.

Card Choices - Sideboard

Spellskite: One of the sideboard's key components, Skite shuts down decks like Bogles and Infect while bringing our Burn matchup to favorable. Between the Shoals, the threats, and the Skites, that deck has a hard time overcoming our own aggression. Against other Bolt decks, the artifact Horror does a fantastic job soaking up removal spells aimed at Confidant and Pyromancer.

Inquisition of Kozilek:Inquisition of Kozilek A card I originally played mainboard, IoK shines turn one, paving the way for Pyromancer or Confidant to take over the game. It works with Shoal to ensure our game-winning threats go untouched, but loses value later on. IoK also syngergizes with Young Pyromancer and Monastery Swiftspear. I moved it to the board to max out on Terminate, but IoK still proves its worth against Bolt-heavy decks and linear aggro strategies like Burn.

Kolaghan's Command: My Affinity hate of choice, since it has other applications against non-Robots aggro decks. Along with Forked Bolt, KC improves this matchup enough that we don't need ultra-specific hosers like Hurkyl's Recall or Shatterstorm.

Remand: Complements Day's Undoing against midrange decks, which this deck has more trouble with on paper than green grow iterations, thanks to the fragility of its threats.


pyroclasmRed sweepers: No deck is perfect. This one hates Pyroclasm. Midrange Grixis decks and green grow decks run enough beef to ignore the devastating sorcery, but Grixis Grow doesn’t have that luxury. Luckily, Grixis Grow doesn’t struggle with Tron like its midrange cousins, and playing out threats one or two at a time should help immensely with this issue.

Midrange: Grixis Grow can never “go Kolaghan” against BGx. As such, it can struggle in game one against Abzan and Jund. I crafted the deck with this weakness in mind, including a set of Day's Undoing in the sideboard and building the mainboard to facilitate a transformation into iGrow. Undoing single-handedly beats decks shooting to win via incremental advantage, giving Grixis Grow the tools it needs to address midrange matchups.


I’ve saved the trickiest section for last. At this time, my testing hasn’t shown me what Grixis Grow does better than my other grow decks. Its advantages over Grixis Delver (the deck with Tasigur and Kolaghan's Command) are obvious, as they mirror the strengths any grow deck has over a midrange deck; conversely, that Grixis Delver deck also outperforms Grixis Grow against decks soft to midrange. Since the two Grixis decks occupy separate archetypical spaces, the real question here is what Grixis Grow gives us over Monkey Grow, iGrow, and Counter-Cat, and with my three days of testing, I don’t yet have an answer.

Insectile AberrationWhile it remains to be seen what Grixis Grow has on my other grow decks, I know the great power of grow in Modern, and in every format the archetype is supported. This deck's advantages over Tasigur/Command Grixis Delver (midrange) or Twin (aggro-combo-control) should be obvious to anyone, since Grixis Grow is of a different archetype: grow.

As with most decks, the larger a format's card pool, the more support grow strategies have. But unlike other archetypes, like midrange or aggro (both virtually absent from modern Vintage, for example), grow's competitiveness seems to increase exponentially as support for the archetype improves. That's because grow decks master the resource management at the very heart of Magic. So far, my testing with Grixis Grow suggests its viability. Adding its name to the roster of possible grow decks in Modern is a strength in and of itself, since grow naturally predates so many other Modern archetypes (combo, control, linear anything, and, since the release of Day's Undoing, blue midrange).

Introducing and Analyzing Sultai Grow

Another deck I’ve been messing around with forsakes red entirely. Tarmogoyf gives us some needed bulk, and Simic Charm helps recover the reach that leaves with Lightning Bolt. Charm also improves Disrupting Shoal while supporting our protect-the-queen gameplan, and Abrupt Decay tries to fill Bolt’s shoes as versatile removal.

Card Choices

Pack Rat: No Pyromancer in these colors, but we need another must-answer threat on turn two. With the extra blue from Simic Charm, we can afford a full set of Inquisition of Kozilek, making Pack Rat the perfect candidate for our extra killer. This threat is our funniest, since he basically stops us from playing Magic once he's resolved. After that, we're just playing Pack Rat. Rat gives us a tremendous edge against midrange decks, which is valuable considering we can't run an Undoing plan in the board without Lightning Bolt.

Abrupt DecayAbrupt Decay: Versatile and powerful. It's no Lightning Bolt, but Decay answers a plethora of random cards like Vedalken Shackles that can otherwise wreck us.

Simic Charm: One of the main reasons to go Sultai. Charm has proven itself in my Monkey Grow builds, and it's no less vicious here, combining with unblocked creatures for reach, saving our beaters from removal as deliberate as Abrupt Decay, and laughing at Wurmcoil Engine and Raging Ravine.

Mana Leak: Simic Charm handles expensive threats, and Decay deals with cheap fatties on the ground, so we don't need the effect as much here as we might in other colors. Still, I like having one copy for opponents to play around, and I love getting to 25 Instants and Sorceries in my Delver decks.

Gitaxian Probe: This card deserves a section here since its applications are less obvious than in Grixis Grow, where it supports Swiftspear and Pyromancer. Besides helping Goyf and Snapcaster, Probe gives us information that allows us to perfectly sequence Simic Charm, Mana Leak, Abrupt Decay, and Disrupting Shoal. It also provides another blue one-drop for Shoal. We run 23 blue cards in this deck, and Snag is too redundant with Charm to merit inclusion. I don't think life loss is a major issue here because Goyf helps out so much against aggressive strategies, so until we see a better option, I'll stick with the Probe.


No Bolts makes it harder for us to close out games than Grixis Grow, and Pack Rat doesn't do much against certain strategies. An inherently grindy color combination, Sultai Grow has less game against linear combo than the faster red decks. It may not seem like much on paper, but losing Lightning Bolt - especially for a grow deck - hurts like hell. More on Bolt's essential role in this archetype here.


TarmogoyfA resistance to Pyroclasm is the biggest draw to Sultai colors. Tarmogoyf is the best creature in Modern and has occupied a place of honor in grow decks since his printing. Pack Rat also packs a huge punch against anyone trying to out-grind us (most people), and the Decay/Inquisition suite answers enough random Modern cards to make this deck extremely well-rounded at the cost of the ability to switch gears instantly, formerly granted by Lightning Bolt.

Adam Fronsee and Sultai Monkey Grow

A week after my IQ win, Adam Fronsee reworked my list in a BUG shell and took 12th at a StarCityGames Invitational. While the deck's core obviously "got him there," I don't think this is a viable place for Sultai Grow. Fronsee's deck improves on nearly all fronts with Bolts, and I've already made the case for Mandrills over his black ilk. As stated above, I don't think there's any reason to play grow decks in black besides Dark Confidant, since we have everything else black offers us in Temur colors.

Bob and the Future

I don't know how much I'll test this deck in the coming weeks, since I consider Counter-Cat so well-positioned at the moment. I'm also anxious to get back to my German Wild Nacatls. But for Grixis Delver players proud of their colors but frustrated by the grindiness of their supposed "tempo deck," Grixis Grow seems like a strong starting point.

Jordan Boisvert

Jordan is Assistant Director of Content at Quiet Speculation and a longtime contributor to Modern Nexus. Best known for his innovations in Temur Delver and Colorless Eldrazi, Jordan favors highly reversible aggro-control decks and is always striving to embrace his biases when playing or brewing.

View More By Jordan Boisvert

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28 thoughts on “Some Bob With Your Bugs: Confidant in Delver

  1. I really like this deck! Another look at utilizing Modern staples in Grixis, interestingly enough without Snapcaster or Baby Jace. Looks like a fun, simple, and straight forward tempo-y deck! I also agree with you about Disrupting Shoal being one of the best (and underplayed) counters in Modern! Also, sideboarding Day’s Undoing seems like a better fit for the card, esp. with this deck. I look forward to seeing this deck progress!

  2. I love this article, especially given that I’ve done similar experimentation with Bob in Grow tempo decks. I’m thinking that Bob-fueled Modern Delver decks with Shoal have a chance to make a real splash in this format, and pull the archetype out of its relative funk. I do have a question regarding Snapcaster Mage’s fit in these decks – do you think it’s worth experimenting with maindeck IoK and Snapcaster over, say, Mana Leak and Monastery Swiftspear (or perhaps Young Pyromancer, if the curve is a concern)? I recognize that Tiago isn’t the best fit with Disrupting Shoal, but you have enough cheap and useful 1-drop spells that you’d want to recur with him anyway, and his ability to act as an Ambush Viper remains perpetually underrated. What say you?

    1. Initially, I had mainboard Snaps and IoKs. They were decent, but I don’t like IoK in this kind of deck generally. It seems better to me now in the sideboard.

      Remember we want to keep the Instant/Sorcery count at 24+, and more is always better. He’s the most expendable creature in this build, so I gave him the axe. Actually, I quite like Tiago with Shoal, since he gives us another valuable two-drop to pitch. Here’s why the other creatures are better:

      Pyromancer is one of the main draws to this deck, as it’s a cheap threat that carries the game on his own after Shoal saves him. Swiftspear, like Pyromancer, can generate a whole lot of damage, especially with cards from Bob. Snapcaster doesn’t do these things and is just worse at getting cards than Confidant or even Day’s Undoing.

    1. Both should be tested, but I started out with Leak and haven’t gotten around to Remand yet. But I like hard answers to problem permanents – no Decay in Grixis colors. I anticipate some trouble with linear aggro decks pre-board, and Leak is just better there; consider Burn and Bogles. Remand wins out in metagames infested with slower control/blue midrange decks, but I guess with that kind of knowledge, we should just play iGrow.

    2. As good as Remand is in several decks (especially in Twin), it is a iffy card in Delver. On the one hand, it generates tempo, especially, if you can “timewalk” the opponent. On the other hand, it really sucks against BGx and Bolts. This is especially problematic, if you are running without Shoals and/or have no Goyfs in the deck (you have no creature, which will survive a Bolt than).

      In these 2 versions, Leak is miles better, because it just says no to so many problematic things. The only Delver deck, where I really like Remand is Counter-Cat, and even there, it depends on which meta you are expecting (lots of midrange = Leak is better).


  3. Sultai deck needs 4 mishra’s baubles if possible – doesn’t help with shoal unfortunately, but it grows goyf, doesn’t mathetmatically hurt your delver flips, and has decent synergy with bob (flips for 0, can help you dodge painful flips by peeking and stacking triggers)

    1. Bauble doesn’t do enough in that deck. It hardly synergizes with Bob, since what would we cut for it? A land and three spells probably, and all our spells cost 1 or 2 already so we don’t save much life. 5/6 Goyf is also unnecessary with all the Simic Charms; we can pump him past fatties anyway. And Bauble isn’t great with Snapcaster Mage. I think all the creatures need to benefit greatly from the card for Bauble to earn its inclusion in grow decks, since getting the cantrip a turn late is a real issue.

      1. 5/6 goyf eats rhinos tasigurs and anglers and survives dismember. It also shortens your clock by a turn in the abstract 20 life scenario. That extra point of P/T is not to be underestimated.

        No synergy with bob? Come on – 0 dmg flips off of bob are the dream, and 2 life can be the difference between winning or losing vs aggro/burn decks. You can say its not enough, but saying a 0 mana flip that can also let you know and alter your top card before bob reveal is “notsynergy” is ridiculous.

        Finding space is trivial, you cut 1 copy each of various utility spells since you’ve gained dig and will hit those spells more often anyways.

        Is all of that enough to make up for not being a shoal-able card and not being able to leverage prowess or delve? I don’t know. Jund hasn’t been interested in bauble despite running bob and goyf (and even a singleton tasigur) so maybe its been tested and found wanting – but to me it looks like it has potential.

        1. Goyf is really the main reason to run Bauble here, since BUG can’t play Swiftspear. The thing about its interaction with Bob is that, to pull that off, you need to have:

          1) a Bob out (you’re already winning)
          2) a Bauble on top of your deck

          If you reveal a land and not a Bauble, you get the same benefit. If you reveal a nonland, nonbauble card, you lose one life, or two at most. So running the Bauble really didn’t do that much. The times it will be relevant with Bob are scarce for this reason.

          Also, I don’t think Bauble provides “dig.” Sure, you can scry with a fetchland, but again, that’s a dream scenario – you have to have a Bauble, not want to pop it for a card early, have a fetchland, AND have a Bob if you want to set up your top card. For what? So you don’t lose one life on your next upkeep? I’ve come to realize by playing a lot with Sleight of Hand that the “dig” you get off two cards is negligible enough to make it unplayable in most decks, even decks in which it does a ton of work on paper (iGrow). If Sleight hardly digs, Bauble really hardly digs.

          Making space isn’t trivial, since we need to maintain 22 blue cards for Disrupting Shoal. If we cut “utility spells” from the BUG list, the only real options are Inquisition of Kozilek, Pack Rat, Abrupt Decay, and a land, I guess. (The other slots aren’t options; they’re Goyf, Confidant, and blue cards.) I just think the possible cuts are better in the deck than Bauble. With such an all-in bomb-two-drop plan, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice, respectively, the cheapest protection we have for the two drops, one of the two drops in question, or the most versatile spell this side of Lightning Bolt and one of the reasons we can go BUG in the first place. I’m fine with cutting a land if we play 4 Bauble, but it’s the other 3 Baubles that are hard to make room for.

          I know 5/6 Goyf is the bee’s knees. I wrote about it in my Banana Phones article, which one user even sleeved up and won a PPTQ with (check the comments; link below). The card is sweet in green Delver decks, but probably not in this one.

    1. I don’t usually think it’s worth it to play very bad cards for the purpose of making other bad cards good, unless doing so attacks a specific part of the metagame. In Modern, Burn has a sizable enough share to make these strategies even worse. The Suicide Delver lists aren’t tempo decks at all, they’re bad aggro decks. I tend to think most other linear aggro decks, like Burn, Zoo, and Bogles, are better-rounded and occupy unique spots in Modern, whereas Suicide Delver occupies the same space as some other aggro decks without properly addressing the problems those decks have. But you’re welcome to post a list if you want more comments than that.

    1. well there aren’t many writers so that makes him what.. worse than sheridan and trevor? lol.

      I’m one of the poor schmucks who bought in on $20 days undoings based on Jordan’s analysis and I still don’t think his writing is bad. He needs to knock one out of the park to make up for the undoing debacle, but at least he’s trying unusual stuff like simic charm. I don’t need to read an article that tells me to cast thoughtseize into tarmogoyf.

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    1. I’ve played +/- 10 matches with the Grixis Grow list and like it very much. I believe +1 Vapor Snag, -1 Terminate will prove beneficial. Makes me want to splash Mr. Robert into Monkey Grow!

    1. Not sure what you mean. Stuck on red, you mean you can’t get to black mana? That hasn’t been an issue for me, but it still sounds like a problem you could remedy quickly by swapping some fetches if you run into it often.

  5. Have you done any more testing since this article went up?

    Really like the look of it but would have to invest in quite a few cards so want to make sure you think it’s competitive 😉

    1. I definitely do, but I’d advise anyone to play some games with a deck before buying into it if they have a limited budget and lack Modern staples. It’s important to enjoy what you sleeve up!

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