Reaching Threshold at FNM

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I’ve been missing FNM’s a lot lately, my job takes a lot of time, my fiancé and I are planing our wedding, and we’re in the process of relocating. Through some miracle, however, I managed to get away Friday evening this week to play the local FNM, and this week was Legacy. I chose to bring Canadian Threshold (which you might call RUG Delver, if you’re wrong).

My list can be found here on TappedOut.net. In short, it’s bog standard RUG, it’s my favourite competitive deck of all time, and I chose to play Nimble Mongoose this time, over Hooting Mandrills, partly because of nostalgic reasons, and partly because I think Nimble Mongoose is viable. I also knew we’d have at least one Miracles player and at least one Grixis Delver player, so Shroud would come in handy.

deathriteshaman.hqRound 1: Punishing Jund. Usually, Jund is a pretty terrible match-up, and I lost against this player last time we played, but for budgetary reasons, he doesn’t play with Tarmogoyf, meaning his deck is a bit slower than usually. That said, out of all the green decks in Legacy not named Elves, I think Punishing Jund is the one that can most easily replace Tarmogoyf with Scavenging Ooze and other cards promoting a grindy game plan. In game one, he mulligans to six and stumbles a bit on mana. These are situations where Canadian Threshold shines, and I outrace a 6/6 Scavenging Ooze for the win, about a turn before he would’ve stabilized.

In game two I have to tripple-counter a Dismember targeting my Tarmogoyf since I have only soft counters in hand, no other threats and no cantrips to look for some. Dismember did get countered, and Tarmogoyf went the distance while I burned his potential blockers.

Round 2: Sneak and Show. This match was pretty miserable, honestly. I mulligan to five in game one, mulling a 5-land, 2-soft counters hand first, and a 0-lander second, and I keep a hand of land, threat, 2 cantrips and a soft counter. He goes turn one double Lotus Petal, land, Show and Tell. I put in a land, he puts in Emrakul.

I board into lots of countermagic over some burn spells and win game two off of a single Nimble Mongoose while drawing more or less only countermagic.

In game three, he plays a turn two Blood Moon with Force of Will back up. GG.

delverofsecrets.hqRound 3: Grixis Delver. I lose game one after getting Wastelanded out, but I turn it around and win two quite exciting, close games. He had some awesome cards like Dig Through Time and Tasigur, but Nimble Mongoose was difficult for him to handle. I almost bought it when he two-for-one’d me with Engineered Explosives blowing up a Nimble Mongoose and an unflipped Delver of Secrets, but I topdecked better than him and won the long Delver mirror this time.

2-1 was good enough for second place on tiebreakers, and I walked away with a promo and a booster for my troubles. I also traded for a new EDH project I’m working on. All in all, a really sweet evening.

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Failed Resurrection?

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A while back, I wrote a post regarding the demise of Nimble Mongoose as a competitively viable creature in Legacy, due to Treasure Cruise‘s superiority as a graveyard-based one-mana spell. With the latter now finally banished from the format, things are looking up for our Mongoose friend again, no? Maybe not. There are more contenders for his spot in Canadian Threshold than ever – primarily, in my opinion, Hooting Mandrills. Thus, I feel the need to as objectively as possible compare the candidates with each other – bearing in mind Nimble Mongoose is one of my favourite creatures of all time – and lastly present a list with the new candidate included.

The similarities:
+- Both creatures are green, which means neither pitch to Force of Will, but neither dies to Pyroblast. There’s not much more to say about it, really.

+ Both creatures cost one mana to cast. This is a modified truth, really, since Hooting Mandrills might cost slightly more, but shouldn’t for most of the time.

+ Both creatures are quite large by Legacy standards, but Hooting Mandrills is larger which matters quite a bit, as we will see.

– Both are susceptible to graveyard hosers, but in slightly different ways. Hooting Mandrills won’t care if someone resolves a Rest in Peace after it has hit the battlefield, but Nimble Mongoose can be cast in an emergency even if Rest in Peace is in play.

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+ Immune to spot removal in all shapes and forms. This is especially great against decks like Miracles who will have to use Terminus to remove the threat, and can’t rely on building card advantage through Swords to Plowshares + Snapcaster Mage. Miracles is one of the best decks in the format, and I predict it will remain so after the bannings, meaning this upside is not to be underestimated.

+ Casting two is almost as easy as casting one. Multiples of Nimble Mongoose is just fine, and as long as there are seven cards in the graveyard, they all benefit, contrary to Hooting Mandrills.

+ Easier to cast on turn one and two, which means it might be better against decks like Goblins who will want to swing with a Goblin Lackey on turn two. Granted, this is a small upside, since Goblins are rare these days, but if you attend a large tournament without byes, you might just run into it in the early rounds.

– Dies more easily to Pernicious Deed, Engineered Explosives etc. Admittedly, this is a minor thing, since these cards are quite rare, but there will be match-ups where it’s relevant.

– Will need seven cards in the graveyard to be fully powered up.

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+ Is bigger than Nimble Mongoose, and that extra +1/+1 matters quite a bit in Legacy – it won’t be chump-blocked to death by a flipped Delver of Secrets, it will trade with a Batterskull token in an emergency, and so on.

+ Trample is extremely relevant for playing the tempo game, since Hooting Mandrills can’t be chump blocked effectively by tokens, or random x/1’s and x/2’s who populate the format.

+ Only needs five cards in the graveyard to be cast initially, and is always fully powered when in play.

+ More or less immune to the sweepers mentioned above, though again, it’s a minor thing.

+ Might make opposing Deathrite Shamans and Tarmogoyfs worse, in rare cases.

– Loses to Swords to Plowshares, Maze of Ith and other targeted removal not named Lightning Bolt or Abrupt Decay. This is quite relevant, since it turns quite difficult match-ups (Miracles, Death and Taxes, Lands) into nightmarish match-ups.

– Multiple copies in hand are more or less useless. This is also quite relevant, since Canadian Threshold generally wants to play spells reactively and save Brainstorms for as long as possible – using one to shuffle away chaff is fine in most cases, but having both extra uncastable creatures and extra lands in the deck as dead cards seems bad to me.

– Can potentially be awkward with your own Tarmogoyfs, but it’s unlikely.

Conclusion:
There is no clear winner between these two, and testing is surely needed. I don’t want to play the full set without cards to specifically fuel the monkeys, but adding a 19th land, a fetchland, to the standard list and augmenting the creature base with True-Name Nemesis is appealing to me. This gives us the following list:

9 fetchlands
4 Wasteland
3 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Tarmogoyf
2-3 Hooting Mandrills
1-2 True-Name Nemesis

4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Stifle
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
5 flex slots (Forked Bolt, Spell Pierce, Spell Snare, etc.)

I think adding another fetchland to help with both padding the graveyard and cast True-Name Nemesis is the way to go with this creature base. Testing will tell if it’s better than the old version of 4 Delver of Secrets, 4 Nimble Mongoose, 4 Tarmogoyf.

What do you think of these green beaters? Which will come out on top? Leave a comment!

The Superior Cruise

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I’ve discussed this card quite a bit lately, but that just goes to show how blown away I am by it. Hopefully, this’ll be the very last post on the card for a while, at least until I’ve been able to play with it in a few tournaments, and not just playtesting sessions. Deciding the first twentyfour or so cards in my Legacy decks has been very easy lately, even more-so than before. They usually go something like this:

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Treasure Cruise

But then – what to fill up the rest of the deck with? Do I want to go straight UR for a stable mana-base and quick clocks? Do I want to go RUG for disruption and Tarmogoyf? Do I want to go BUG for Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman? I’ve even played around with old DeathBlade lists, but haven’t figured out the manabase just yet, it’s still pretty much just as bad as before, although Treasure Cruise can take advantage of your lands getting Wastelanded. So which is really the best Treasure Cruise deck in an open metagame?

monasteryswiftspear.fullUR Delver – Bob Huang of Team America fame has already explored this deck and took it all the way in a StarCityGames Open a few weeks ago, which I wrote about in “The hidden gem of Khans“. It is obviously a very powerful deck – going straight UR means a stable mana-base, and even though you lack green for Tarmogoyf, the deck has very potent threats in Monastery Swiftspear and Young Pyromancer. However, the deck has few ways of interacting with the opponent sans the 8 free counterspells and a suite of burn spells for your opponent’s creatures, meaning that the UR build Huang took to first place will suffer against unfair decks, which he himself admits in his article about the tournament. As Swedish metagames often are combo-tastic, straight UR Delver is not an option for me. It might be for others, if they play in fair metagames.

Patriot (UWR Delver) Example list on TappedOut.net. Adding white to the mix grants access to more and better spot removal i Swords to Plowshares, and also gives the deck Stoneforge Mystic to win the long games and generate virtual card advantage. The deck will not resolve Treasure Cruise as early as UR Delver, since it has fewer free spells, though I suppose a cheeky pilot could try to squeeze in a few Gitaxian Probe (horrifying pun unintended). The deck’s manabase is more unstable than UR’s, but the deck itself is arguably more stable. The list in the link above is what I’m toying around with right now, the deck seems well-suited to take on other Delver variants, but is weaker than the next deck against Miracles and unfair decks. A big upside compared to the next deck, however, is that Patriot is unaffected by common graveyard hate, like Rest in Peace. Sideboarding out a couple of Treasure Cruise is a viable strategy if it means the opponent will be sitting on dead cards for the rest of the match.

deathriteshaman.hqTeam America (BUG Delver)Example list on TappedOut.net. Delving into black and green grants access to the best creature in the format, the one-mana planeswalker Deathrite Shaman, and also Tarmogoyf which is sometimes strictly worse, but almost always a lot faster and more mana-efficient than Stoneforge Mystic and its likes. The same colours also grant the deck Abrupt Decay, which not only answers Rest in Peace, it also kills most of the format’s creatures as well as other problematic permanents like Counterbalance. Especially the latter is a huge wrench in the machinery for the aforementioned Delver lists. However, cutting red means no red blasts in the sideboard, which is a huge downside, and it also means not playing Lightning Bolts and other cards for quickly finishing off an opponent at low life totals. I can’t recall the number of games I’ve lost because I couldn’t keep a threat on the table against Miracles and similar opponents, with them at single-digit life. It’s very frustrating, but a reality against these decks. Team America has the best match-up against the unfair decks, however, out of these candidates, which might make it a consideration for some.

Canadian Threshold (RUG Delver)Example list on TappedOut.net. Last up is the old faithful Canadian Threshold, these days with zero cards with the eponymous ability. Thought it saddens me to say so, I think the RUG colours will be the ones that will have the hardest to keep up in the new metagame, should Treasure Cruise be the real thing. It does have some things going for it – Tarmogoyf is just as huge and fast, Lightning Bolt is great utility and the access to both red blasts and silver bullets like Ancient Grudge in the sideboard should not be underestimated. Still, the old Nimble Mongoose is obviously incompatible with Treasure Cruise, which means the deck loses one of its biggest selling points, should you want to play the full set of Treasure Cruise. I don’t think the list linked above is anywhere near optimal, but I think it’s a decent skeleton. Young Pyromancer is the new threat to go for, and though it does carry some resilience, and it plays better with the reactive spells of the deck then Monastery Swiftspear, for example.

 

My conclusion is that in a fair metagame UR Delver or Patriot is the superior choice, with the former being a bit faster but less resistant than the latter. In an unfair metagame, however, I’d much rather be on Team America, as long as there’s no Burn decks around.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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).