Legacy Delver Q and A: an Interview with Dylan Donegan


Greetings, readers. This will be something different I’m trying out. Hope you like it! So in the advent of SCG Philadelphia this coming weekend I decided to talk legacy this week. Well, rather, I decided to let someone who is great with one of the best decks in the format talk legacy. Dylan Donegan is a name you recognize if you follow SCG events at all. He spent time on the leaderboard last year and has notched half a dozen open top 8s and attended a few pro tours. Dylan is also the only person I know who missed a high school final exam because he won an SCG invitational. I caught up with Dylan, now a college student, and asked if he could take some time to educate us on legacy Delver strategies. He happily accepted the offer and provided awesome answers in a timely fashion, so thanks again, man! Anyway, here’s the interview we did earlier this week.

Kevin: Hey, Dylan, could you please give the readers a bit of biographical information so they know a little about you before we get into magic?

Dylan: My name is Dylan Donegan, I’m 18 years old and study Criminal Justice at East Carolina University. I’m very into music, sports, and of course, magic. My notable accomplishments include an SCG Invitational win (Seattle 2014), 6 open top 8s, a GP top 16 (Toronto 2015), and 3 pro tour appearances.

Kevin: Pretty impressive, dude! How long have you been playing magic and what format is your favorite?

Dylan: I started back in New Phyrexia in 2011 but I didn’t start playing seriously until 2013. My favorite format is legacy.

Kevin: You’ve been successful with several different delver decks in legacy. Which deck is your favorite?

Dylan: It has changed over the years but currently it is Grixis Delver.


Kevin: You’ve been playing Grixis Delver to some success lately, including a win at the SCG Classic in Cincinatti in Janury 2016. Why do you prefer Grixis to the other color combinations?

Dylan: I get to use my own tokens, DUH! (Dylan’s personalized SCG Invi Champion token is a 1/1 red elemental from Young Pyromancer. I would know because I have a signed one) But in all seriousness, the deck is great. Mostly it’s because it’s the delver deck that gets to play all the best cards. Deathrite Shaman is absurd, Cabal Therapy is awesome vs combo decks and I like being able to attack combo decks from multiple angles. Gurmag Angler (and delve in general) is busted and easily abused in legacy. I would never play a Delver deck without using the mechanic. Lastly, I would never play a Delver deck without Lightning Bolt.

Dylan Donegan

Kevin: How does Grixis match up against the other Delver decks heads up? Also, what’s the best Delver deck in a field heavy with other Delver decks?

Dylan: Grixis matches up well against the other Delver decks because Deathrite Shaman lets you get ahead and blank their Wastelands and Dazes. Also, Gurmag Angler is unkillable in any non Jeskai mirror match which is huge. If your only goal was to beat Delver decks then the best Delver deck is Jeskai because it plays the best late game and mirrors can tend to go long. Jeskai also has 7+ removal spells maindeck.

Kevin: What’s the best Delver deck in a metagame heavy with fair decks (Miracles, Shardless Sultai, ¬†Stoneblade, even Jund and Maverick fall into this realm)?

Dylan: Jeskai Delver for the reasons listed above. Also, Gurmag Angler is unkillable vs the non tundra decks you mentioned. So Grixis has some game in these matchups too.

Kevin: What’s the best Delver deck in a metagame filled with combo decks (Storm, Reanimator, Sneak and Show, Elves, etc)

Dylan: Grixis is the best vs combo because of Cabal Therapy and the fact that you can combine your discard spells with your pressure and counters.

Kevin: Do you ever sideboard Delvers out? How do you approach side boarding with Delver in general? Do you like a lot of 1 and 2 ofs to find with cantrips or do you prefer having 3 or 4 copies of cards in your board?

Dylan: No I never side Delver out. I typically board out Force of Will and Daze in some number in all non combo match ups, Daze comes out on the draw vs a ton of decks. A general rule I learned from Jacob Wilson is to never side out more than 2 Force of Will in any match up on the draw, the tempo is just too important in the deck. It’s hard for me to answer that specifically because generally I like side boarding multiple copies of high impact cards, but the fact that you see so much of your deck does allow you to justify some 1 and 2 ofs and they aren’t too hard to find.

Kevin: Could you provide some insight into the mirror matches? Delver mirrors are extremely skill intensive and can be unintuitive. Do you have any advice for playing mirrors (or just against other Delver decks) aside from just losing a lot until you’ve gained experience?

Dylan: It’s really hard for me to pinpoint exactly how to win Delver mirrors. Sometimes you will have your quick Delver, Daze, Wasteland draws and just run them over, but in general the post board games get very grindy. I try my best to make sure that cards like Daze, Stifle, and Spell Pierce don’t do anything, but you have to be able to identify when you can afford to play around these cards. It is very skill intensive and sequencing is everything.

Kevin: Relative to the other decks that played this card, how much did Delver decks get hurt by the banning of Dig Through Time? Treasure Cruise obviously completely warped legacy and the tempo decks were completely different. But while Dig was also a fantastic card for these decks, it was more of a staple and less of a build around. Are Delver decks better off when everyone has broken draw spells or when nobody has them? Corollary to this: Is Painful Truths a reasonable sideboard card for Sultai or Grixis Delver decks?

Dylan: While Dig Through Time was incredibly busted, it’s banning didn’t hurt Delver’s spot in the metagame at all. I actually think it helped because other decks (mainly miracles) lost the powerful card draw spell. I often found myself Digging for low impact cards like Ponder and Lightning Bolt. It really was at its worst in Delver decks but was simply way too good not to play. Painful Truths has been insane in my experience though I know some great players (Jacob Wilson and Hunter Nance come to mind) have not been fans, I will still be playing some copies this weekend.

Kevin: In closing, how would you suggest people who are relatively inexperienced in the format get into playing Delver decks? What’s the best “gateway” Delver deck? What are some very general tips (3 or 4 of them) for playing this type of deck?

Dylan: Temur Delver is likely the easiest to pick up because you will certainly get some free wins off the backs of the large green creatures. The deck is an aggro control deck and it is very tempo based. It plays out similarly to Abzan Aggro in standard. By that I mean you play a threat or two, answer your opponents’ cards, and ride your creature(s) to victory. Here are some general tips.

  1. Like I said earlier, never side out more than 2 Force of Will on the draw vs anything.
  2. Don’t be afraid to board out Wasteland vs decks (or players) that play around it, and it’s important to identify when you should do this.
  3. Make sure all 4 Dazes are in your deck on the play no matter what.
  4. Play Lightning Bolt

I hope this wealth of comprehensive and interesting information helps some of you on the edge of legacy or even those of you who have been playing for awhile. Even if you’re not a Delver enthusiast the information can help for the other side of match ups and is just relatively interesting in general. So again, huge thanks to Dylan for hanging out with me and educating me on legacy Delver. Next week’s article should be Eldrazi related in the advent of Grand Prix Detroit, which I’m attending and the store will also have a booth at. So come say hello in Detroit or Philly and as always, thanks for reading!

[Editors Note; If you are attending Grand Prix Detroit (Prereg here!), we are offering order pick up there! Order from our website, select Tournament Pick Up – GP Detroit. You can also can meet up with Dan Ward! Articles and Youtube]

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