Stifle your Fetchland!

Temur Delver is the best deck in Legacy. 

It might have not put up a Top 8 performance at SCG Syracuse, but it utterly dominated the Classic in addition to being the most represented deck on day two of competition. 

Today I’m going to walk you through the deck. Where we’re at with the archetype now, where it’s been and where I believe it’s going. I’ve got Grand Prix Atlanta this weekend where I’ll be putting as many turn one Delvers on the stack as possible — so I’ve been putting the hours in.

Over the last few months the “stock” version of this deck has been aptly named: “No Bad Cards RUG’” due to the exclusion of the sometimes-mediocre Stifle and general raw power level of each card in the deck. This deck was popularized by Max Gilmore after he removed black from the original Four Colour Delver list. A stock RUG and four colour list are shown below:

[Deck Title= Temur Delver – Dylan Hand]
[Creatures]
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Dreadhorde Arcanist
2 True-Name Nemesis
4 Delver of Secrets
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Spell Pierce
4 Ponder
1 Spell Snare
4 Daze
4 Brainstorm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Force of Will
1 Force of Negation
1 Hexdrinker
3 Wrenn and Six
2 Preordain
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Wasteland
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
3 Volcanic Island
3 Tropical Island
1 Fiery Islet
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Force of Negation
1 Cindervines
1 Abrade
1 Flusterstorm
1 Vapor Snag
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Rough
1 Crop Rotation
1 Null Rod
1 Hydroblast
1 Pyroblast
1 Karakas
1 Red Elemental Blast
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

[Deck Title= Four Colour Delver – Jay Wojciechowski]
[Creatures]
3 Tarmogoyf
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Dreadhorde Arcanist
1 Gurmag Angler
2 True-Name Nemesis
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Thoughtseize
4 Ponder
4 Daze
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Preordain
1 Spell Pierce
3 Wrenn and Six
2 Abrupt Decay
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Tropical Island
1 Badlands
1 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Fiery Islet
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Plague Engineer
1 Tyrant’s Scorn
1 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
1 Golgari Charm
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Thoughtseize
1 Crop Rotation
1 Null Rod
1 Hydroblast
1 Pyroblast
1 Karakas
1 Red Elemental Blast
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

There are roughly five to ten cards different between a stock RUG list and a stock Four Colour list. It’s a small percentage difference in total quantity of cards, but Four Colour is a drastically more powerful deck in that it’s able to support [Card]Gurmag Angler[/Card], [Card]Abrupt Decay[/Card] and a slew of sideboard cards. The cost is of course a much shakier manabase. Stretching your mana base in a format with [Card]Wasteland[/Card] is generally too much of a cost to pay for an increased power level. If you all your cards can’t be cast off the lands you have in play then their power level is obviously zero. 

Given the choice between these two decks at the start of my testing process I chose RUG for the reasons I stated above. And as many other Legacy grinders have already concluded I found that the deck was great. It felt smooth, it was powerful and I was winning a reasonable amount with it. My largest complaint was that at times it was much clunkier than traditional Legacy Delver decks. Wrenn was hard to deploy when you were behind and I found that trading efficiency for power made the archetype much worse at utilizing the actual card [Card]Delver of Secrets[/Card].The current iterations of RUG leaning on Wrenn felt like a midrange deck that was capable of applying pressure early with Delver, but relied too heavily on Wrenn as a control element and finished the opponent off with [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card]. The problem with this is that RUG generally has a hard time answering resolved permanents so you’ve got to establish this insurmountable advantage in order to keep control of the board. 

Sometimes it feels like every threat is a must-counter. 

Naturally, I was dissatisfied with this kind of gameplay. I have been playing [Card]Delver of Secrets[/Card] decks off and on for nearly seven years to reasonable success, and have found that the best way to win with Delver is to either not allow your opponent to cast spells or counter them if they ever manage to put something on the stack. I started to work on a hybrid of two iterations of Delver. A combination of using the powerful, new cards, but also hearkening back to the glory days of [Card]Stifle[/Card] to entirely dismantle my opponent’s ability to play. 

This was my first draft. There were a lot of things I liked and some that I didn’t. A 5-0 was a great way to start testing, but that didn’t come close to meaning I had a completed deck. The things I found in this deck that were most ineffective were [Card]Hexdrinker[/Card] and [Card]Dismember[/Card]. In a deck with so much counter-Magic I found it hard to invest mana during my mainphase without lowering my shields. [Card]Dismember[/Card] could kill opposing [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card]s that resolved, but that was precarious as well. If it was necessary to counter or kill a planeswalker, like Wrenn, you’ll find that [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card]s have generally grown to be 5/6s making the entire reason to put [Card]Dismember[/Card] into your deck ineffective. This coupled with the great cost of life that comes with it and how that affects you in racing situations lead to me remove it from my deck entirely. 

The things I did like about my deck greatly outnumbered the things I didn’t. Everyone was clowning me for playing without Wrenn. This card is so good you have to play it right? In my opinion I see Wrenn as a card that is no longer the king of the metagame. Wrenn is a card that shines against very few decks while presenting a menial threat against others. It’s obviously good, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to build my entire deck around it. Looking at the top performing decks and analyzing how Wrenn stacks up against each will help paint this picture more clearly:  

Golgari Depths 

Some might say this is the best possible matchup for Wrenn. A deck that relies on using non-basic lands to combo while Wrenn can feed you an endless supply of [Card]Wasteland[/Card]. The reality is that this deck is great at beating [Card]Wasteland[/Card] because it has to be. That’s how the archetype was built in the first place. In order to use Wrenn you have to activate your [Card]Wasteland[/Card] then return it, but often times the Depths strategies will be able to combo in response to your [Card]Wasteland[/Card] rendering Wrenn’s recursion invalid. Wrenn can run away with games against clunky or slow draws, but often your [Card]Wasteland[/Card] needs to stay in play and threaten their ability rather than enact it proactively.

Ad Nauseam Tendrils, Sneak and Show, Rakdos Reanimator

I grouped these decks together because the level of Wrenn’s threat is the same. It’s zero. Literally zero. Decks that put [Card]Griselbrand[/Card] into play within the first two turns or decks that put ten copies of [Card]Tendrils of Agony[/Card] onto stack generally don’t care if you have two more lands in your hand. 

Moon Stompy, Bomberman

Gone are the days of [Card]Cloudpost[/Card] and here are the days of [Card]Blood Moon[/Card] or [Card]Auriok Salvagers[/Card] each accompanied with ten copies of their appropriate basic land. Stompy decks in today’s metagame no larger are true big mana strategies that multiple [Card]Wasteland[/Card]s can devastate. These decks each try and present unbeatable board states within the first few turns. Playing a [Card]Crucible of Worlds[/Card] to dismantle these strategies is not how I would approach deckbuilding. 

Delver Variants

This is a matchup that I believe Wrenn can truly shine. In Delver mirrors both players have very few lands and an abundance of soft permission. Wrenn being on the battlefield can lock an opponent out of the game or put them in a position so the cards in their hand are completely ineffective. 

Snow Control

Another matchup where Wrenn can be backbreaking. This deck usually has three to four basics, but often times will need to search for non-basic lands to cast their spells. This is also a match up where the -1 on Wrenn can shine in order to remove [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] or a [Card]Baleful Strix[/Card] holding back your [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card]. 

If you weigh all these decks together then you see by my analysis that Wrenn is only actively great against two. Out of the entire metagame I want Wrenn against too few strategies to have it be the focal point of my deck. 

As for the rest of my changes, I think it’s important to outline the history of RUG Delver to see how the deck accomplished its goal in the past and how we can translate that to today. That’s where I got a lot of the ideas I used to build this version. 

The first list I think worth sharing is what many considered “stock” RUG Delver for years. This is the list I piloted to a Top 4 finish at Grand Prix Atlanta in 2012. 

[Deck Title= Temur Delver – Daryl Ayers]
[Creatures]
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nimble Mongoose
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Forked Bolt
4 Spell Pierce
4 Ponder
4 Stifle
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Force of Will
3 Daze
4 Brainstorm
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Wooded Foothills
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
4 Wasteland
3 Volcanic Island
3 Tropical Island
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Life from the Loam
4 Submerge
2 Mind Harness
3 Pyroblast
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

This was the best deck in Legacy for years and it was not close. At the time [Card]Nimble Mongoose[/Card] was a force to be reckoned with as a 3/3 was relatively large and Shroud meant that control decks often had to sit back with stranded removal spells. This format was also full of triggered abilities that [Card]Stifle[/Card] could find useful targets for beyond just fetchlands. At the time this deck had a full clip of [Card]Spell Pierce[/Card] to counter anything your opponent had the audacity of putting onto the stack. 

This next list shares many of the same properties of the one above in function, even if the format was radically different. 

[Deck Title= Temur Delver – Daryl Ayers]
[Creatures]
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kird Ape
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Treasure Cruise
3 Forked Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
4 Ponder
4 Daze
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
1 Pyroblast
4 Lightning Bolt
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
1 Taiga
3 Wasteland
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Flusterstorm
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Rough
1 Krosan Grip
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Pithing Needle
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Sulfuric Vortex
2 Pyroblast
1 Sylvan Library
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

I know, I know. This was a [Card]Treasure Cruise[/Card] deck and that card was completely busted. You can do anything you want and still win with a card that broken, but I believe there is value to be gained by analyzing the components of a deck like this. [Card]Kird Ape[/Card] is practically a meme at this point, but at the time it was relatively hard to remove. The other delver decks played three or four [Card]Forked Bolt[/Card] meaning that [Card]Kird Ape[/Card] was immune to half the removal they had to offer. My decklist packed three [Card]Spell Pierce[/Card] and one [Card]Pyroblast[/Card] in order to interact on the stack, something the other delver decks were lacking. This greatly increased my win percentage against both control and combo which proved crucial throughout the event.

Both these lists are years old, but in my eyes offer the same fundamental lessons. Threats that are effective against the common removal spells and large amounts of stack-based interaction is the key to [Card]Delver of Secrets[/Card] dominating the format. For Grand Prix Atlanta this year I have taken these philosophies and adapted the current iterations of RUG Delver to my liking. After nearly 100 matches with this deck in online leagues I feel like I’m in a place that it’s truly ready to succeed. 

[Deck Title= Temur Delver – Daryl Ayers]
[Creatures]
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Hooting Mandrills
4 Tarmogoyf
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Wrenn and Six
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Spell Pierce
2 Spell Snare
4 Stifle
4 Daze
4 Force of WIll
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
1 Preordain
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
4 Wasteland
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Submerge
1 Wrenn and Six
1 Winter Orb
2 Force of Negation
2 Flusterstorm
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Pyroblast
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Ancient Grudge
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

As you can see in my list I have moved away from [Card]Hexdrinker[/Card] to make my counter-Magic more effective while removing some of the vulnerability I had to opposing Wrenns. [Card]Hooting Mandrills[/Card] is a card that is extremely difficult to remove in [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card] mirrors and costs a single mana to deploy. I have kept the one-cost counterspells in their same numbers as both had been performing admirably. [Card]Stifle[/Card] is the card that catches the most flack, but I think it’s secretly an all-star in this style of deck. [Card]Stifle[/Card] might look stupid on turn three, but empowering [Card]Daze[/Card], [Card]Wasteland[/Card] and [Card]Spell Pierce[/Card] into the later turns of the game is extremely powerful. [Card]Stifle[/Card] also defends against opposing [Card]Wasteland[/Card]s in a way that creates a huge swing in tempo. And of course [Card]Stifle[/Card] can sometimes completely mana screw someone out of the game making a hand full of powerful spells useless. This is an avenue of victory new Delver decks don’t have access to. Sometimes, [Card]Stifle[/Card] and [Card]Wasteland[/Card] just offer you free wins which can pay off over a long tournament.

[Card]Wrenn and Six[/Card] might look a little awkward in my final decklist after all of my criticisms, but a completed Magic deck is 75 cards. It’s not a 60 card maindeck supported by a 15 card sideboard. I’ve decided that [Card]Wrenn and Six[/Card] plays a vital role in a number of matchups and is generally a powerful tool. Having access to Wrenn in game one is important, but it’s role in my deck is as a supporting piece rather than the star. Which I think is an essential conclusion to building this deck properly. 

This is the deck I plan on playing at GP Atlanta and I am very confident in both my list and ability to perform with it. My last piece of advice when playing a deck like this is to be aggressive. Killing your opponent is the best way to prevent them from peeling out on you. In a recent online league I played a turn one Delver while on the play that my opponent attempted to remove with a [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card]. Without a second thought I used [Card]Force of Will[/Card] to save my Delver while staring at a [Card]Daze[/Card] I could have cast instead. Being able to un-tap and deploy my [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card] was just too much damage too quickly to pass up on. Given the pressure I presented I knew my [Card]Daze[/Card] would still find a great target as the game played on. 

Edgar Magalhães was spectating this game at the time and was completely shocked I would take such a line. After explaining how things would play out over the next few turns and seeing them unfold was enough to convince him that in order to play a deck like RUG his mentality needed to change if he wanted to succeed with a similar strategy. If you choose to play RUG I encourage you to expand your normal methodology of approaching a game of Magic. RUG is a deck that provides some of the most unique, unintuitive lines of nearly any deck I’ve played and knowing when to take a line that will make you look absolutely foolish should it go awry is an important part of leveling up as a player. 

I know you want it, so here you go: a sideboard guide. Don’t tie yourself down, but this is a great starting point. Decks like RUG need to adapt on the fly so keep that in mind. And as for play / draw sideboarding, I find that I basically never sideboard out [Card]Daze[/Card] — it’s just too powerful. Generally speaking, I tend to think that the play or draw doesn’t change things as much as others believe. Matchups are more linear as your roles are defined within sideboarded games. 

Sideboard Guide

Temur Delver

[Card]Stifle[/Card] is worse on the draw and Pierce on Wrenn is important so that swap is made. [Card]Hooting Mandrills[/Card] has trample and can attack past True-Name. This is relevant in several match ups. 

Play

-2 Pierce, 4 Force

+2 Pyroblast, 3 Submerge, 1 Wrenn

Draw

-2 Stifle, 4 Force

+2 Pyroblast, 3 Submerge, 1 Wrenn

Golgari Depths

Stifle is powerful here. Snagging [Card]Wasteland[/Card], Hexmage, or a Reclaimer activation is ideal. [Card]Stifle[/Card] on [Card]Dark Depths[/Card] will not work as the ability will simply trigger again. [Card]Stifle[/Card] can be used to disrupt them for a turn so Wrenn and [Card]Wasteland[/Card] can take over. 

-1 Bolt, 2 Snare, 2 Pierce

+3 Submerge, 1 Wrenn, 1 Grudge

Ad Nauseam Tendrils

I find Red Blast to only be medium so I only have one. A surgical or Cage to stop [Card]Past in Flames[/Card] can make Stifle much more difficult to beat. Watch out for [Card]Empty the Warrens[/Card]. 

-4 Bolt, 2 Wrenn, 1 Mandrills

+2 Negation, 1 Cage, 1 Pyroblast, 2 Fluster, 1 Surgical

Rakdos Reanimator

Mulligan to good hands. They’re going to shove and you need to be ready. 

-4 Bolt, 2 Wrenn

+2 Negation, 1 Cage, 2 Fluster, 1 Surgical

Sneak and Show

[Card]Griselbrand[/Card] bad. Emrakul bad. Don’t let them get into play. [Card]Stifle[/Card] on Annihilator can come up sometimes so keep it in mind. 

-4 Bolt, 2 Wrenn

+2 Negation, 2 Fluster, 2 Pyroblast

Snow Control

Don’t be afraid to play slow. Fight over their card advantage and win on your efficiency. Wrenn is critical to remove Strix without being disadvantaged in terms of resources. [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card] can finish off planeswalkers and remove [Card]Plague Engineer[/Card]. 

-2 Bolt, 4 Force

+1 Winter Orb, 1 Wrenn, 2 Fluster, 2 Pyroblast

Moon Stompy

Keep competitive hands. [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card] and Mandrills can overpower many of their draws so get them into play early. 

-2 Stifle, 2 Wrenn

+2 Grudge, 2 Negation

UWx Miracles

Use [Card]Force of Will[/Card] when you need to. Watch out for Mentor as it can snowball. [Card]Winter Orb[/Card] is your best card here. [Card]Rest in Peace[/Card] is very scary, but not played much atm. [Card]Stifle[/Card] on [Card]Rest in Peace[/Card] will keep [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card] large and essentially trade one for one if necessary. 

-4 Wasteland, 2 Bolt

+2 Fluster, 2 Pyroblast, 1 Winter Orb, 1 Wrenn

Izzet Delver

True-Name and burn spells is how they cheese you. Play with these in mind and let your green creatures do the heavy lifting. 

-2 Force, 2 Pierce

+2 Pyroblast, 2 Fluster

Selesnya Depths

I think this version is harder than Golgari Depths, but [Card]Submerge[/Card] is much better here, as is bolt. 

-2 Snare, 2 Pierce

+3 Submerge, 1 Wrenn

Stoneblade

Be wary of [Card]Back to Basics[/Card], True-Name and [Card]Rest in Peace[/Card]. This matchup is likely unfavorable, but Grudge and [Card]Winter Orb[/Card] can throw a wrench in those plans. Wrenn is less powerful as they have ways to pressure it. 

-2 Bolt, 4 Wasteland

+2 Pyroblast, 2 Grudge, 1 Fluster, 1 Orb

Death & Taxes

This match up is actively unfavorable given the current decklist. [Card]Winter Orb[/Card] is rather effective against this deck if you can keep [Card]Aether Vial[/Card] off the table. 

-2 Pierce, 2 Stifle

+1 Wrenn, 2 Grudge, 1 Orb

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