Grixis Delver Primer: Part Two

KevinJones

Welcome back! So, last week we went over the cards I played in the main deck and sideboard. We were also privy to the ridiculous spectacle that was my travel situation. This week we’ll be talking about the actual tournament and some of the side boarding choices I made. I won’t cover a sideboard plan for every deck in modern because that’s not a time effective endeavor, but I will talk about the most popular match ups and let everyone know how I boarded in the rounds I played. Let’s get into it!

The morning of the event started off in fantastic fashion as we stepped outside, jersey clad, into 95 degree Texas heat. We hopped in an Uber (Uber code wjcxk) and fortunately our driver was awesome! He had a huge shiny silver pickup truck, an Alamo sticker and a Punisher sticker on the back window, and numerous small trinkets with the names of popular gun brands on them. One perk of traveling around the country slinging cardboard is the chance to meet people who are every bit as diverse as America itself. This experience was no exception. It was cool to talk to someone who had many of the common traits of Texans. It made the trip feel very real to me and for that I thank our driver as well as the awesome waitresses and bartenders we met throughout our four day visit. Everyone did a great job of making us feel welcome in our very temporary homes. When we got to the site a quick resleeving of my deck was followed by an exhaustive search for a Countersquall that was fruitful at the cost of four whole dollars. The tournament was huge, capped out at 1,000 people. I wandered around during the end of round one and saw lots of the aggressive decks, mainly Burn, Zoo, and Infect. I also saw a fair amount of Jund and a few Grixis and Jeskai decks. Eventually round two was paired and I sat down in the feature match area to battle. My first few rounds went as follows.

Round 2: Win 2-0 vs Bradley playing Jeskai Control. Jeskai is a bad matchup game one and a good one post board. This is one matchup where Hero’s Downfall would’ve been way better than Dreadbore. I would’ve loved to board out 2 of the 3 Terminates but Dreadbore doesn’t answer Celestial Colonnade. I want all the removal that doesn’t go to their face in a pinch to kill Colonnade. I had to leave Dreadbore in because it’s so good against Nahiri, the Harbinger. It ended up winning me the match because it killed a random Elspeth, Sun’s Champion that my opponent was surely going to stabilize with.

Round 3: Win 2-1 vs Jeff Hoogland on Blue Kiki Chord. This match was on camera and I thought Jeff played pretty well. My deck definitely looked a bit scrappy here but it got the job done with a couple copies of Delver of Secrets.

Round 4: Win 2-0 vs David with Naya Allies. David is a former Massachusetts resident and we’ve battled before at the famed Jupiter Games legacy events years back. It was great to catch up with David and a pleasure to play him again. Unfortunately his draws were pretty bad and Tasigur, the Golden Fang backed by removal spells made short work of his allies deck.

Round 5: Loss 0-2 vs Andrew Jessup with Green Blue Infect. Against a great player and teammate was a poor time for my deck to not show up. I didn’t draw very many removal spells in game one and was forced to take a bunch of damage. By the time I had removal spells I was at a high amount of Infect damage and a timely Spell Pierce killed me as I was forced to play out all my interaction in combat. I missed a few too many land drops in game two and that was that.

Rounds 6 and 7: Wins, 2-1 and 2-0. I bounced back from my loss with a close 2-1 win over Paul’s 8-Whack Goblin deck and a convincing 2-0 win over Chris’ Scapeshift deck. These decks are both doing unfair things, albeit differently.The Counterspells shined in both of these match ups, as did the delve creatures.

Round 8: Loss 0-2 vs Timothy Thomasson with Blue White Merfolk. I feel like this match up is pretty bad. I was significantly far ahead in both games and just kinda lost. He played to his outs and hit them, especially in game two. The more I think about it the worse I think the match up is. They have a fast clock, interaction and disruption. Their interaction (Vapor Snag and Harbinger of the Tides) adds to their clock and is good against your delve creatures as well as your Delvers. I believe Cavern of Souls makes the match up even worse since it causes your counterspells to be dead. I didn’t have enough cards to board in to take out all the counters. Kira, Great Glass-Spinner is pretty tough to beat as well. Tim was a great player and a classy opponent, so hats off to him. This was a match up I hope to dodge in the future. His white splash also gave him Path to Exile which helps with Tasigur and early flipped Delvers.

Round 9: Win 2-1 vs Josh with RG Valakut. Game three of this match was the closest gameĀ I played on day one. I had Crumbled his Valakuts to dust only for him to untap and Through the Breach Hornet Queen into play. What the hell?!?! I was so mad, but I was also alive. Between careful management of my removal spells, and attacking exactly when I had to, I was able to manage the tokens. Two turns before his last 1/1 token was poised to kill me he drew a Primeval Titan. The Titan would’ve easily finished me even without the Valakuts. Luckily I had drawn my one Vendilion Clique and it stole his Titan and blocked the token. The next few turns involved a standoff where he held a lethal Bolt and I held the Countersquall he knew about. I also had a second one he didn’t know about and he decided to go for it when he drew a Summoning Trap a few turns later. I Countersquall it and he Bolts me. I squall that too. Then I’m able to win a few turns later with Tasigur and a couple running Snapcaster Mages. I was very fortunate to win this match and Josh took it in stride, partially because he “wanted to play legacy anyway.”

After squeaking into day two on the thinnest of margins I was just happy to be playing some free magic on Sunday. After an awesome Texas dinner, and some unbelievable gelato, we headed back to the room for some much needed rest. I slept great and woke up ready to battle. Little did I know how strange the first three rounds would be.

Rounds 9,10,11: vs Bant Eldrazi all three times. Win 2-1, 2-0, 2-1. My round 11 opponent was Max Dresslar. Our game two was the closest game I played in the entire tournament. I was able to survive after he top decked back to back Reality Smashers. The one Vampiric Link on a Tasigur bought me enough life to top deck a Kolaghan’s Command on the last turn I could to squeak it out. This match up seemed very close to me. It is definitely one of the match ups where Delver of Secrets pulls it’s weight. Similar to the Merfolk match up, you have way more counterspells than you can possibly board out. I left in one Spell Snare because of Spellskite and the possibility of Rest in Peace. It’s probably better to leave 1-2 Mana Leak in because it’s better if they happen to not draw Cavern of Souls.

Round 13: Win 2-0 vs Tuan with GW Bogles. My opponent was sitting next to me the previous round and had played Jim, so I was paying attention to the match. I knew he was playing Bogles, a nightmare match up for Grixis decks. However, the combination of a heavier focus on counter magic and cheap proactive threats like Delvers and delve creatures gave me the draws I needed to win 2-0. I also think my opponent’s draws were very bad and he was admittedly inexperienced with the deck. The deck is fairly straightforward but it has some important decisions and I would say with confidence that it’s not as easy to play as people tend to think.

Round 14: Win 2-0 vs Pete Ingram with Jeskai Control. I was paired up to my teammate at table one and he elected to concede since it would lock both of us for top 8. I was in the zone and ready to battle a win and in and was slightly relieved/disappointed when I was paired against Pete. I’m not sure what I felt initially but after the concession locked us both for top 8 I felt great. I knew there was still work to be done, but it had been awhile since I had even cracked the top 8 of an open. It’s odd to get basically scooped into top 8 and something like that has never happened to me before. As a team we have the goal of putting as many of us in the Players’ Championship as possible. When Pete is locked for top 8 regardless crushing me out of contention (12-3 would only make it with great breakers) undermines the larger goal we have as a team. Like I said, it’s a strange situation, but it means several of us are going deep in the same tournaments. So in that regard I think it’s a good problem to have. Pete, Andrew, and I all shook our round 15 opponents’ hands and drew into the top 8. Jim was playing Jacob Baugh but was mathematically locked for 7th even with a loss. Jim lost and ended up in 7th. Occupying half the top 8 with my teammates in an event I really didn’t even want to attend was a surreal feeling. I was growing frustrated with my mediocre performances as of late. I felt like I was letting the team down and not pulling my weight. This event marked the dissolution of those sentiments. I know one event doesn’t actually change much, but it does provide confidence and I did throw a few “told you Grixis doesn’t suck” jabs at the other guys on the team. I can’t thank these guys enough for putting up with me week in and week out. We all have our own quirks and the team mentality requires you to sacrifice a bit of yourself at times. That can be tough for some people to reconcile with, but all these guys have given their all for us to ride this awesome experience as far as it goes. I’m not even referencing stuff like concessions. Lots of energy is put into all the work that it takes to get there and shuffle up with a deck in hand and a yellow jersey on. Getting there is half the battle. So I just wanted to thank these guys for being awesome teammates and for giving me someone to share the anxious flights, late nights, and long days with.

I’m not going to say much about the top 8 matches as they were all covered.

Sideboarding with Grixis Delver is pretty flexible and oftentimes obvious. Unsurprisingly, the issues lie in the gray areas. Ancestral Vision is often swapped for Delver of Secrets. Jeskai, Grixis Control, Abzan Midrange and possibly Jund are decks where you might seek to win an attrition game instead of a tempo based game. It often depends on play style though, if you think such a plan is overly anticipated by your opponent you can leave the Delvers in and get ’em. I also like doing this when there’s a short amount of time left in the round and am much more likely to do it on the play than on the draw. I’ll go over some of the more common match ups.

Burn:
-2 Remand, -1 Vendilion Clique, -3 Terminate, -1 Dreadbore
+2 Countersquall, +2 Magma Spray, +1 Vampiric Link, +1 Kolaghan’s Command, +1 Dispel
The BR removal spells often cause you to take damage and blue mana is essential early to keep Spell Snare on. Magma Spray kills everything the Terminates kill anyway, just be careful of Atarka’s Command and prowess tricks.

Affinity:
-2 Remand, -1 Mana Leak, -1 Dreadbore, -1 Gurmag Angler
+2 Magma Spray, +1 Kolaghan’s Command, +1 Engineered Explosives, +1 Vandalblast
Your cards are very good here. Mana Leak stays in as a concession to the power of Etched Champion but countering any 2 or 3 mana spell is usually fine in a pinch.

Infect:
-2 Remand, -1 Spell Snare, -1 Mana Leak, -1 ?
+2 Magma Spray, +1 Kolaghan’s Command, +1 Engineered Explosives, +1 Dispel
Take damage, stick threats with mana untapped, don’t cast your removal unless you have more or have to. Be careful of their Spell Pierces on Snapcaster turns. Don’t be afraid to leave Tasigurs, Anglers, or Aberrations back to block. The match up is about forcing them to act.

Jeskai:
-4 Delver of Secrets, -1 Terminate, -3 Lightning Bolt
+4 Ancestral Vision, +2 Countersquall, +1 Kolaghan’s Command, +1 Dispel

I was pretty happy with how I played (excusing the turn against Pete in game three where I thought I had another K Command in the graveyard and had to sheepishly Electrolyze him with my Snapcaster Mage). Most of you probably know that I was able to grab the trophy after three close games against Andrew, who played his Infect deck masterfully, as usual. Those matches are covered and they were pretty interesting to play so I can imagine them being great to watch as well. It was great to be holding an SCG Tour trophy again after an almost 2 year drought. Thanks to everyone who watched me from home in New York, it’s great to have friends and family that support what you do. Thanks to all the people who had kind words to say over text or on social media. Thanks to everyone at Kirwan’s for a warm welcome back to work and for letting me write this extremely wordy two part article. And lastly, thanks to the SCG guys for giving us this awesome forum to sling our spells and make our own stories.

Jim and I ended up at a Jazz club late Sunday night that was literally underground. Sometimes my life feels normal. I go to work during the week, play some softball, hang with my girlfriend, and play some magic at the local stores. Just the same things most of my friends in my town do. But then it’s midnight central time on a Sunday night and I’m in an underground Jazz bar in Texas wearing a bright yellow jersey and talking about life with another professional magic player. Not what I would’ve expected when I was in college and staring off into the perceived abyss that is one’s late 20’s. It might be objectively weird and cause me to fly way more than I want to but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The arc of competitive magic is so awesome and so unique that sometimes I feel like a secret agent in the real world. Maybe that’s slightly hyperbolic, but it’s interesting to have a whole world that you’re a part of that most people have little to no understanding of.

“You were in Texas last weekend, why?!”

“I’m a professional Magic: The Gathering player. My teammates and I are funded to travel the country competing in tournaments to garner exposure for our brand and the brands of our partners. It’s an interesting life but I like doing it.”

or

“The Daddy was born to battle. So the Daddy must battle. If he’s called to Texas for the battle, he must go! Through wind, rain, missed flights and state lines, the Daddy must battle on!”

Which answer do you guys think I gave?

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Kevin Jones

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