If I'm not playing a blue deck I tend to play BGx Midrange decks at competitive events. Since we see less and less of good blue based control decks, I have to look for a control deck in different colors. Last year when I needed to attend a Standard premier event I picked up a BGx Delirium deck and this time I did not regret my choice. That is often the case when I need to attend a Modern event. While I participate at competitive events I usually go there to have some fun and enjoy the games. Some decks are better at achieving that and oftentimes BGx Midrange decks are rather anti-fun decks. When I found out that this changed in Standard I was surprised and glad. In general, BGx Midrange decks are known for having an even win percentage against other decks. This means that it can beat any deck if you know how to pilot the deck well, but can also be beaten by any deck. This is actually the upside of the deck even if that might not sound like it for some. The other thing is - you need to draw the right part of the deck. This is the part with which I sometimes have problems and at some events my bad draws make me upset ruining my fun. There is one more thing that people do not usually say, these decks aren't usually good against combo decks or RDW.
When I used to play control decks the matchups were varied. Some matchups were really bad, some were more on the good side some were relatively even. The reason why I preferred to play a control deck even in an unfavorable meta was because the draws of a control deck could be often smoothed out. This way even when I lost a game due to bad draws I had fun because I could still do something to make it better unlike when playing a rock (BGx Midrange) deck where all I could do is hope that all the value packed in the deck would be enough to win a game.
When control decks started to be very dependent on their opening seven cards and the following draws that couldn't be really helped much I decided to rather play a rock deck in its most control-y form. These decks are either called [name] Midrange as they rightfully are or [name] Control which they are not based on my own definition of a control deck. But these Midrange decks play majority of their matches in a control role which can define them as Control decks for that metagame.
Not so long ago, one player asked me to help him with his Esper deck. Since I was new to the format I started from the beginning. I had to see what cards were legal in the format and what colors were good. While Blue and White was good, the cards weren't good for a control deck but rather a tempo deck. Black was the best friend with Green. While I was pondering about this the player dug up Ali Aintrazi's BUG Control list and put it together. It was also my deck of choice in the end but I had to make changes in order to be able to pilot the deck. The initial changes were as follows (as far as my brain remembers), but the deck later turned in something that you could hardly recognize as Ali Aintrazi's deck.
- -3 Languish +1 Liliana, the Last Hope, +2 Grasp of Darkness
- -1 Scour the Laboratory +1 Dark Petition
- -1 Den Protector +1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- -2 Choked Estuary, +1 Forest, +1 Swamp
- -1 Lumbering Falls, +1 Forest
When playing with BUG Control we both figured relatively soon that BG Delirium is more stable and that we could use Delirium to fully support Ishkanah, Grafwidow or cast Emrakul, the Promised End earlier. This at first resulted in Noose Constrictor in the deck, but getting mindslavered with this card in hand/play was too bad that we got back to the classic Sylvan Advocates and Grim Flayers. BUG Midrange wasn't really a fun deck, but it was a solid deck and mirror matches were scarce. The few blue cards in the deck made the deck more acceptable for me to play with it. I felt though that only Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Negate are the cards I'd keep in the deck and we both moved away from the blue color running only BG Delirium based on Brad Nelson's build that I also had to tweak a bit.
BG Delirium, the new midrange
When we were playing local Standard tournaments and PPTQs a long list of BG Delirium lists was produced from StarCityGames events, GPs and Standard MOCS. The 75 cards from each well placed BG Delirium deck were rather different. I wasn't really following what was going on, I was happy with my Delirium list that already brought me back both 340USD and 300tix I paid for it. Ignoring major events though meant I was blind to what could possibly be a better build or cards I totally omitted which is not a good approach if you want to do well in competitive events. My friend was the one to inform me that some players played Filigree Familiar, Gnarlwood Dryad or even Radiant Flames. None of those cards seemed to make sense to me so I stuck with the deck I had.
From the events around the world you could see that Emrakul changed midrange decks. Some used Delirium just as a support and some really tried to make good use of it. To be able to get Delirium soon and to be able to cast Ishkanah on turn 5 and Emrakul on turn 6-7 the deck needed to be a bit 'diluted'. The types not really being represented before were artifacts and enchantments. The deck was also usually light on sorceries and getting a land into the graveyard wasn't easy either. For that BG Delirium decks started to feature Evolving Wilds in bigger numbers, Pilgrim's Eye, Hedron Archive, Vessel of Nascency, Dead Weight, Ruinous Path etc. But where was the right balance? I played with several versions of BG Delirium and I just couldn't play Hedron Archive or too many copies of Vessel of Nascency. I tried to be in the middle somewhere, but it seemed that the versions that performed were the ones relying more on Delirium.
Usually when a deck tries to implement something new, the change can break it apart and that is how I felt when playing with some versions of the deck. Adding synergies rather than strong cards in this type of decks often resulted in a worse version of a deck. I had similar feeling at first, some decks were too clunky because of all the card types that needed to be added and some decks couldn't consistently have Delirium when you needed it. With the right cards in good ratios though, the deck evolved into something different and even better. In the past, one part of a deck was dead against certain matchup. For example, these decks run a lot of removal which don't usually do much against control. Nowadays though the game's design is totally different. The archetypes are not that distinct as they used to be. All the decks tend to be more midrang-y and that actually works in the favor of a rock deck. Many decks are more proactive than reactive and those decks that usually are on the verge of proactivity and reactivity are known as 'control decks'. Lately card advantage spread through all the colors in Magic and all the decks needed to evolve. Aggro needs to be aggressive but have a mid-game plan or be more of a tempo deck, control needs to be proactive enough to keep up with value cards in the format. BGx Midrange without Delirium wasn't good enough anymore because it wasn't flexible enough and couldn't produce the card advantage other deck types could while sticking to their strategy. BG Midrange decks were given the same possibilities though thanks to Delirium ability. The deck became a more fluid deck - one that needs to take certain roles during game or gain speed while still being on the verge of the proactivity/reactivity. Delirium gave the players more options and more ways how to play the deck and how to win a game. This is something I was looking for it is this change that moved the deck more into the 'fun' category than 'boring' for me.
After the latest Pro Tour our stores are full of Mardu Vehicles and BG Aggro (Snek) decks but I still wouldn't give up on BG Delirium. The Pro Tour players were preparing for a certain expected metagame which resulted in these two decks being played. But I think that with time the metagame will show that more decks are viable. I was considering playing BG Snek but if one wants to be good with a deck they need to know how to beat the mirror. Since I was overwhelmed by playing this deck against other decks already, winning mirror matches seemed even less likely. The deck is insanely good but not fit for my hands. I personally think that BG Delirium can still thrive well among all those BG aggro decks and Mardu Vehicles. Fatal Push is a one mana removal that is very efficient and against aggressive decks it is the ideal removal. With little bit of help it can deal with CMC3 and CMC4 cards which is great as well (this translates to 'does not hit Gearhulks'). This means though that Mindwrack Demon becomes rather worse card once again (which opens room for Gonti, will the card prove still totally useless or it can finally be of some good?) while Kalitas got better because his ability can become relevant sooner and with less set up. I did not believe that Ishkanah would stay good and wanted to cut it completely, but still it is overpowered against some decks (notably Vehicles) and can be good against BG aggro decks if you can deal with Verdurous Gearhulk. Unfortunately this card is tough to beat if you aren't fast enough and can succumb to GB Aggro board presence (and all the +1/+1 counters).
Game Day usually means a new Standard format and I had no idea what to bring. I considered GB Aggro but decided for something more familiar. I brought BG Delirium because it seemed as a good choice against Mardu Vehicles and GB Aggro decks. I did not regret it. I walked away with these cards, which certainly made my Vintage decks happy.
The deck of course has weaknesses or rather worse matchups which is due to the fact how the deck evolved. Marvel decks is something this deck wants to avoid, and against certain control decks this deck does not fare well either. Mardu Vehicles fares well though against those so it is the classic rock-paper-scissors metagame. So far the meta is very GB Aggro and Mardu vehicles heavy so the metagame is actually favorable for BG Delirium. So if you'd like to try this deck out, now is the time.