RUGs vs other Delvers (RUG primer, part 3)

RUG Delver is, as I’ve stated before, the premiere Delver deck of the format right now. Team America (or BUG Delver) might be a stronger deck in some match-ups, and Patriot (UWR Delver) has delverofsecrets.hqa better long game than RUG in some cases, but overall, no other “Delver” deck can match RUG in terms of consistency and, above all, abusing Delver of Secrets. All three strategies have their inherent strengths, and all three are popular in today’s metagame. Today, I’d like to discuss how to beat these mirror or quasi-mirror matches consistently, one step towards winning tournaments with RUG Delver.

Vs. the mirror: Something one needs to understand about these Delver mirrors is that the games often will get very grindy. Sometimes one player out-draws the other player, Wastelands all the lands, and just wins in a very one-sided affair, but more commonly, the players take turns killing each other’s creatures and sometimes going “draw-go” for several turns. Delver of Secrets is notoriously frail in the mirror match-up since it dies to all spotremoval in the deck (usually around 6 spells). Nimble Mongoose is great since it dodges all forms of removal, but it is chump-blocked to death by all of the threats on the opponent’s side of the board. Tarmogoyf is very powerful in the mirror-match since RUG lacks single answers to it aside countermagic. Since both decks run Lightning Bolt and often Forked Bolt, interesting board states may arise with both players having Tarmogoyf in play but neither can afford to attack, for fear of getting blown-out by a post-combat burn spell, thus swinging the “Tarmogoyf war”.  RUG pilots can use this to their advantage.

Another important thing in the mirror is playing around Stifle to avoid blow-outs. If you’re on the draw, fetching in your opponent’s upkeep forces him to Stifle using mana that could otherwise be spent playing a threat, or a cantrip, or an answer to one of your threats. Keeping mana-heavy hands is also important, as is playing tightly. Even dropping a third or fourth land to prevent a blow-out, or prevent them from shutting off your Submerges in post-board games might be worth it, or at least more-so than against most other opponents.

In sideboarding, bring in Submerge and Red Elemental Blast / Pyroblast, take out Force of Will and then Stifle. Stifle might be a great card for mana-screwing them, but they will play defensively against it most of the time unless you have lots of pressure on the board anyway (at which point Stifle is likely to be win-more), and Stifle only has opposing fetchlands and Wastelands as targets in the mirror.



Vs. Team America (BUG Delver): Team America is essentially not a very good Delver deck, but it is an excellent Deathrite Shaman deck and an excellent tap-out tempo deck. Their spells are generally more powerful than ours, they have Hymn to Tourach for raw card advantage, which is great against decks that can’t generate card advantage on their own, they have Abrupt Decay for an uncounterable answer against our Delver of Secrets and Tarmogoyfs, while we can’t answer theirs very easily. Team America, however, is a mana-hungry deck and wants to play lots of spells in the early turns of the game. Their mana-base seems stable at a glance, but considering they want to resolve spells for U, BB and GB within the first few games, they really need you to miss Wasteland and they need to resolve a Deathrite Shaman. Kill him on sight every time, if possible.

Post-board, Submerge can really be a blow-out against them, save them for important creatures.



Vs. Patriot (UWR Delver): Patriot lacks Stifle but has a few must-answers in its deck – Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull can not resolve pre-board, since it will basically counter the entire RUG deck. It’s possible to utilise Stifle effectively to either turn Stoneforge Mystic into a Squire, or Stifle the ETB-trigger on Batterskull, forcing him to return it to hand and play it again, or kill the Stoneforge Mystic and then Daze or Force of Will the Batterskull. True-Name Nemesis is an even harder nut to crack, since we can’t interact with it at all outside the stack. It is, however, only a 3/1 unless equipped, meaning it can be raced by Delver of Secrets. It does kill Nimble Mongoose every time, and stops Tarmogoyf cold. It should never be allowed to resolve, simply.

Artifact hate in the board is essential, even if they play few artifacts, they either constitute serious threats on their own (Batterskull), or they turn True-Name Nemesis into a huge threat and impossible to race (Umezawa’s Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice).

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