Taking Grixis Delver to 10th at the Super IQ

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This weekend was sunny, warm, and, here in the Northeast, the first real weekend of spring. The weather seemed to be an indicator that the Eldrazi Winter is coming to an end, and Magic players gathered at Black Moon Games in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, in order to celebrate their loss, or ride the deck into the sunset.

Forked Bolt art

I, on the other hand, decided to use this weekend as a final statement against the Eldrazi menace, and the warped metagame we have all come to know over the past few months since the Gatewatch failed and the Colorless Catastrophe was released upon unsuspecting players. Packing my trusty Grixis Delver, which I have been playing and fine-tuning since a dismal performance at Grand Prix Pittsburgh in November. I made the final tweaks, came up to the IQ from Vermont, and buckled in for the last battle before the impending bans.

But enough setup and prose! You’re here for a tournament report, and a report you shall get!


The Grixis Delver List

I finished in 10th at the Super IQ, missing Top 8 due to tiebreakers, with the following list:

This list was put together mostly in online testing (which, as we all know, is infested with Eldrazi), and local paper events. The Northeast U.S. is pretty well-known for playing a lot of aggressive decks, and thus my list is tuned to beat them.

You’ll notice the lack of land destruction, be it Fulminator Mage, Blood Moon, or Molten Rain.  Call me crazy, but it was entirely intentional. Moon is too much of a double-edged sword, and Fulminator is just a turn too slow to really be of any help against the Eldrazi. Instead, I decided to go for versatility in the sideboard, and to use a combination of discard, hard removal, and my favorite gender-neutral existential nightmare, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. I could go on all day about specific card choices, but I’ll get more into some of that during the report.

The Tournament

41 people registered for the tournament, so it was six rounds of Swiss with a cut to Top 8. My last IQ had about half the amount of people, and I managed to squeeze my way to a 4th place finish there, so I was feeling pretty good as I sat down across from:

Round 1: Matt - Bant Collected Company (Win 2-0)

My opponent led on Temple Garden into Noble Hierarch, so there were a few different angles his deck could come from. Either way, I quickly Forked Bolted his Hierarch and his face, and the game was on. His deck ended up being similar to the Knight of the Reliquary/Retreat to Coralhelm strategies that popped up a bit pre-Eldrazi, but featuring maindeck copies of both Reflector Mage and Meddling Mage! Game 1 was over pretty quickly due to an early-flipped Delver, and my being able to successfully cast a Gurmag Angler to block his Loxodon Smiter.

-1 Thought Scour
-3 Gitaxian Probe

+2 Dispel
+1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
+1 Dreadbore 

Probe isn’t fantastic against creature decks, especially on the draw, and I tend to pivot into a more midrange shell post-board.

Thankfully, Game 2 was over even faster than Game 1; my opponent stumbled on lands, and I resolved an Ashiok on turn three and proceeded to tick up for the entire game. My opponent was forced to Path his own creature in order to hit his third land drop, and Ashiok essentially gained me close to 8 life over the course of multiple attacks. Matt had also brought in his own Dispels, so I was quite glad to have brought in mine. All in all, an easy matchup, and great start to the day!

Round 2: JJ - U/W Eldrazi (Loss 0-2)

Ah, the enemy. I wish I could say that the games were close, and that I put up a valiant effort for the Battle for Modern, but this wasn’t the case. His hand had the perfect curve in Game 1, and my Forked Bolts and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration never looked more impotent. He lost a single point of life in the first game, and so with hardened resolve, I moved on to sideboarding.

-3 Gitaxian Probe
-1 Izzet Charm
-2 Spell Snare

+2 Thoughtseize
+1 Dreadbore
+1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
+1 Rise // Fall
+1 Grixis Charm

Whenever I bring in Thoughtseize, I always take out Gitaxian Probe. The combined life-loss is always relevant, and instead of spending two life for just a card and information, I’ll gladly expend a black mana and two life to take away one of their cards. Similarly, Izzet Charm has very few targets in either of the non-looting modes, and Snare hits very few cards period in the Eldrazi matchup. More removal, discard, and a Grixis Charm to answer any Worship shenanigans, alongside killing a Thought-Knot Seer, had my deck shift gears into a more controlling build.

TerminateMy opening hand was perfect in Game 2; Thoughtseize, Snapcaster Mage,Terminate, 3 lands, and a delve threat. I led on Thoughtseize, taking a Reality Smasher and leaving my opponent with lands and an Endless One. Unfortunately, he drew Thought-Knot Seer and took my Terminate after I had Snap-Thoughtseized him on my turn, leaving me with little to do as he proceeded to draw and cast a second Reality Smasher. Soon after, the game was over.

There was very little I could have done in that match. The Random Number Generator just wasn’t on my side. I probably could have left up Terminate in case JJ drew Thought-Knot, but the odds of that happening were 4/51, or about 7.8%. Still, the enemy may have claimed me, but I remained in the game for Top 8!

Round 3: Frank - Jund (Win 2-1)

He led on Swamp-Thoughtseize, so I had him pretty much pegged on some form of BGx. We battled over a very close Game 1, but I unfortunately ran out of removal, and he killed me with a Raging Ravine.

Rise FallSideboard:
-1 Izzet Charm
-1 Electrolyze
-3 Gitaxian Probe
-1 Thought Scour (on the play)

+2 Dispel
+1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver (on the play)
+1 Dreadbore
+1 Rise // Fall
+1 Countersquall

Jund is the other Modern deck I have spent quite a bit of time playing, so I was very familiar with both sides of this matchup. By removing the Probes and not bringing in Thoughtseize, I mitigated my own life loss while bringing in hard answers and options to fight the grind with Ashiok and Rise // Fall. Countersquall is there mostly for Liliana and any other non-creature haymakers they might have post-board, and Dreadbore is just Terminate #4.

I kept a very risky opener with just a single land, a Delver, a Dispel, and some cantrips. Although I didn’t hit my second land until turn three or four, my opponent had only a single Terminate with which to deal with my Delver. My Wizard naturally flipped on turn two, and I was able to Dispel Frank's removal. Combined with the life-loss my opponent faced from his own Dark Confidant, the bug finished off Frank, and it was off to Game 3! Bonus points: I cast the same, singleton Rise twice: I Ashiok Nightmare Weaverbounced his Dark Confidant and recurred my dead Snapcaster Mage, then used that Snap to flashback Rise and return Tiago and my dead Tasigur to my hand. Achievement unlocked!

Game 3 This was easiest of the match - another early-flipped Delver into a smattering of removal spells and a few Lightning Bolts. I did not have Ashiok while on the draw, and my opponent Thoughtseized my Rise // Fall on his first turn due to the advantage it gained me last game. Turns out I didn’t need any of it! 2-1 record so far, and geared up for the 4th round!

Round 4: Gian - Grixis Delver (Loss 0-2)

Gian is one of the people from my game store in Vermont, and I knew his 75 before the round started. It was unfortunate we had to do battle, and my luck didn’t improve. In game one I fought Tooth and Nail, but I ended the game with only a single Scalding Tarn left in my deck, alongside 30-odd spells. Turns out the person who draws all of their lands loses in the Delver mirror!

-1 Izzet Charm
-2 Mana Leak

+2 Dispel
+1 Countersquall

His build is a hybrid of Grixis Control and Delver, with Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek in the main, and a full playset of Terminate and Go for the Throat in his 75. I decided to shift to the aggressor, and lowered my curve, bringing in efficient answers for his instant-speed removal while removing the more expensive counterspells.

Unfortunately, I kept a solid one-land opening hand but never drew the second. I will admit I probably should have mulliganed, but being the aggressor and a card down while on the play is a pretty bad spot to be in, especially considering the abundance of mana in the previous game. Alas, the odds were not in my favor, and I suffered my second loss of the day. Gian played well, and I wished him the best of luck in future rounds.

Round 5: Anthony - Living End (Win 2-0)

My opponent mulliganed to five in our first game, and after quickly putting him on Living End, I plowed ahead for the win as he never drew a cascade spell. Anthony spent most of his time cycling his creatures while a Gurmag Angler and Delver teamed up. Not much to say in that game.

Rakdos CharmSideboard:
-3 Gitaxian Probe
-2 Forked Bolt

+2 Dispel
+1 Rakdos Charm
+1 Countersquall

I don’t like to bring in the discard spells while on the draw against Living End: if they don’t have a cascade spell in-hand, you’re essentially just helping them. The countermagic is much better, and Charm either clears a graveyard or buys you extra damage. It even kills Architects of Will in a pinch!

My opener featured a trio of Snapcaster Mage, a Countersquall, and lands. Perfect. Not perfect for my opponent was his lack of a cascade spell yet again. Anthony cycled creature after creature, and cast only a Simian Spirit Guide and a Beast Within, which never resolved. Living End is already a pretty good matchup for Delver, but it’s especially good when your opponent doesn’t get to cast their namesake card.

With this win under my belt, I was still in the running for Top 8, but I had to win my next round. Most of the other X-2s also had to lose.

Round 6: Collin - Elves (Win 2-1)

Collin was one of the other people from Vermont who came down to the tournament, and was the person who beat me at our own local IQ in the semifinals. I have to admit I was ready for vindication. I knew he was on Elves, but unfortunately, my first hands were miserable, and after a mulligan to five, Collin stomped all over me. My life total never changed, because he never declared an attack until it was well over lethal.

Izzet StaticasterSideboard:
-3 Gitaxian Probe
-1 Electrolyze
-2 Mana Leak

+1 Grixis Charm
+1 Rise // Fall
+2 Dispel
+1 Dreadbore
+1 Izzet Staticaster

The two life is extremely relevant against Elves, while the information is not. Similarly, Thoughtseize is just paying two life to take away redundancy, so it stays in the board. Otherwise, answers to Collected Company and Chord of Calling came in the form of Dispel, while Rise // Fall and Dreadbore came in to fight on the dual axis of removal and discard. Izzet Staticaster was to quickly clean up a mess of X/1 Elves that would inevitably hit the table, and Grixis Charm was there to fight any Rest in Peace nonsense: the delve creatures are quite important to the matchup.

Forked BoltGame 2 had a rough start, and even though I mulliganed to six, I scraped my way to a very, very close win. Our life totals were both 1 before I was able to attack for lethal with a duo of flipped Delvers. One flipped early in the game, got in a few hits, and then a second one came down around turn four to finish. This game really underscored the importance of a clock in the Elves matchup.

Game 3, I did nothing to my sideboard, and found myself in the same situation as I had at our local IQ - trying to stay alive, in the same Game 3, against the same Elves player. The fates finally smiled upon me, and I opened with a Forked Bolt into a Tasigur into a Snap-Forked Bolt. This was enough pressure and disruption to ensure Collin never gained his footing. He did cast a Collected Company late in the game to try establishing a board, but hit only two Heritage Druid. With that, I found myself at a 4-2 record, anxiously awaiting results to see if I could squeeze into the Top 8.

Going Forward with Grixis Delver

As you probably have figured out from the article's title, I did not make the Top 8 cut. The two people I lost to had both lost their Round 5, and Gian had also lost his sixth round. JJ, my other loss, made it in as the third seed, but that was not enough for me to make it in on just 12 points. Thus, I walked away with only a playmat and a free month of StarCityGames Premium.

Thing in the IceLooking forward, I can safely say Eldrazi Winter seems to have ended. With the impending ban announcement next week, Spring will have finally arrived, and with it, a whole slew of new cards from Shadows Over Innistrad. I am most certainly going to stick with Grixis Delver in this upcoming unknown metagame, as I expect it to look quite a bit like the pre-Oath of the Gatewatch metagame. I think my sideboard changes were correct, and although I never cast a few of those cards, and although I only boarded in 11 of my 15 across the matches, that was entirely due to pairings; no Affinity, no Burn, no Lantern, no Fish. They'll get their chance next time. That said, I’m not sure how much Shadows is going to add to Delver, because I’m not entirely sold on Thing in the Ice. Only Future Jeff has the answer to what it’s going to look like!

Thanks for reading! I know Grixis Delver isn’t the most popular deck out there, but I think it’s an excellent choice if you put the hours into it, and it really favors tight gameplay. May your Local Game Stores be Eldrazi-free, and may your pet decks do well! I hope mine will, someday.

4 thoughts on “Taking Grixis Delver to 10th at the Super IQ

  1. Congrats on a strong finish, and welcome to Nexus! I enjoyed your article, esp. being a Grixis player myself. Someone is finally taking notice of Ashiok! I’ve toyed with this card in the sideboard, but nothing serious. It seems like such a fun card and could help find answers for those long grindy games!

    Thing in the Ice seems like a good fit in a Delver deck, but like you said, only time will tell, and I look forward to what future Jeff has to say!

    1. Hey, thanks so much for the kind words! I absolutely adore Ashiok in the sideboard, as it sort of doubles as a life-gain spell and an alternate angle of attack. Plus, nothing better than attacking your opponent with their own Reality Smasher!

  2. Thanks for the write up! I have been thinking about Rise // Fall for the sideboard in my Grixis Delver deck for a while. What match ups would you bring it in/absolutely never bring it in against? Also, how do you feel Grixis Charm has been performing? Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, and the question!
      Rise // Fall comes in mostly against the other grindy decks of the format (BG/X, Grixis, etc.) and against most combo decks that aren’t graveyard-based (Scapeshift, Titan Breach, Ad Nauseam). There aren’t very many matchups where both half of the cards are used, but it sort of doubles as a 4th Kolaghan’s Command in Rise, and an extra discard spell in Fall. I really like it in the board, as it can generate some serious advantage
      Grixis Charm is okay. I really like flexibility in my sideboard cards, so when I needed an Echoing Truth effect, I turned to Grixis Charm. It’s nice as a one-of, but I wouldn’t bring it to every tournament. It’s usually cast as a worse Dismember, but sometimes it gets there. It gets a little better in a more Pyromancer-heavy build, because the third mode becomes much more relevant.

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