Amonkhet Aggro Decks And B/G Delirium

The Boss didn’t go all-in on week one. The format wasn’t ready for it. Instead, he put up an excellent finish with one of the big decks right now! But don’t get too comfortable with Tom casting Spiders! He’s dying to break out the style of aggro decks you have come to expect!

Aggro decks tend to win Week 1.

Given there were only two days in between the emergency banning of Felidar Guardian, Open champion hopefuls didn’t have much time to prepare for the heavily affected new Standard that debuted in Atlanta this past weekend. It’s no surprise that the established archetypes of Mardu Vehicles and B/G Delirium were the top two most-played decks in Day 2 of #SCGATL.

Well, if aggro decks win uncharted formats, then why did I play B/G Delirium in Atlanta?

I tend to play a “safe” deck the first weekend of a new format. This is typically something midrange that involves a bunch of tough decisions and grindy elements. I want to get a heavy dose of the new format with a deck that has long games and has a fighting chance against nearly anything. This goes against the First Or Dead Last™ strategy that I employ for other tournaments. In fact, I don’t have expectations at all, but rather accept my fate of coasting into a Top 16 or Top 32 finish.

A sneak peek into the pre-tournament B/G deck I wanted to play:

And what I settled on.

For starting 4-2 (a legit 1-2 after byes) in the Open, I was quickly regretting my choice of B/G Delirium over an aggro deck that I’d likely be more comfortable with. After all, I’d put a lot of time and effort into Mono-Black Aggro and Humans decks, including W/R Humans. Once the dust settled, I was happy that Brennan DeCandio made Top 8 with B/G Delirium, as well as copies of the other decks I was considering.


  • The cycling cards and Clue tokens are good with Grim Flayer to draw a card you set on top of your library.
  • Watch out for Commit//Memory in response to Mindwrack Demon or the activation of either Liliana, the Last Hope’s -2 or Liliana, Death’s Majesty’s +1. If Liliana, Death’s Majesty is the best thing going, you might want to save up two Clues or cycling cards to guarantee you can keep whatever gets Committed, such as Liliana, Death’s Majesty herself.
  • You can sacrifice the Zombie from Return or Liliana, Death’s Majesty to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Remember that the -3 resurrection turns the returned creature a Zombie.

B/G Delirium got some new tools to work with from Amonkhet, but with the exception of Liliana, Death’s Majesty, they aren’t significantly better than pre-existing counterparts. Never//Return could be Murder or Ruinous Path. Dispossess could be Lost Legacy. Lay Bare the Heart could (and probably should be) Transgress the Mind. The cyclers could just be real, impactful spells, and Manglehorn is only “okay” without Felidar Guardian running around now.

Mardu Vehicles may’ve gotten fewer tools, but I’d argue they’re more impactful.

The mana in Mardu Vehicles has never been all that great. Spire of Industry sometimes isn’t active, especially after sideboarding. Canyon Slough allowed Andrew Jessup to go up to 25 lands with a decreased chance of flooding out. With cards like Sorin, Grim Nemesis in the sideboard, it’s nice to increase your mana sources.

Cut//Ribbons is powerful from the Cut side to kill anything from Glorybringer to a delirious Grim Flayer. We used to play Roast, and Cut honestly isn’t far off. The most relevant thing Cut can’t hit is probably Mindwrack Demon, which Roast couldn’t hit either. The freeroll bonus of Ribbons really puts the card over the top. Mardu Vehicles sometimes had trouble closing after its threats were nullified or the opponent sat behind a wall of creatures, like from Ishkanah, Grafwidow. Ribbons allows for that extra reach without having to load up on a ton of clunky creature-lands or Walking Ballistas.

Moving forward I’ll likely not delve too deeply into improving B/G Delirium, if any at all. Instead I’ll be focusing on the top performing non-Mardu aggro decks from SCG Atlanta.

I played Mono-Black Aggro in last week’s Versus Video against Michael Majors. I played a tight match against his B/G Delirium build where he ended up edging out the match with a combination of Flaying Tendrils, Noxious Gearhulk, and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. From my perspective, B/G Delirium looked pretty sturdy and like something that could function well in a wide-open metagame like #SCGATL.

Then, later in the week (because VS Videos take a week to edit before publication), I wrote about Bone Picker and its many possible shells, including an updated Mono-Black Aggro list that inspired Caleb Scherer to play the archetype to a Top 8 finish in Atlanta. I picked his brain about Bone Picker and various Mono-Black Aggro card choices that he felt were over- or underperforming.

I think it’s time for an updated list.

Never//Return was really good against the field and was a nice mana sink late-game and deserves all four slots. The land count felt a tad low, especially with Dread Wanderer, Scrapheap Scrounger, and Walking Ballista to soak mana too, so another land maindeck was justified.

Kalitas, Trator of Ghet is one of the better sideboard options for black, which brings an additional Swamp along with it when the time calls.

For a while I was undecided whether Gifted Aetherborn or Glint-Sleeve Siphoner was what I wanted. Ultimately, I think playing a combination of both is reasonable. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner gets the nod in terms of higher numbers played because it tends to function well in multiples. The first copy often eats a removal spell while leaving an energy counter around for the next one.

Liliana, the Last Hope is good for sizing opposing creatures in tandem with Grasp of Darkness. Liliana’s -2 has a chance of filling your graveyard with recurring threats like Scrapheap Scrounger, Dread Wanderer, or Never//Return. However, if Liliana’s +1 isn’t relevant, then her worth as a card is questionable. Combined with legendary status, drawing multiples proved unwieldy. Where I once started with the full four copies, I’ve toned it down to just two in the maindeck and another in the sideboard.

Asylum Visitor was another two-drop creature on the brink of making the deck. I think there are enough spots, like against Bant Aetherworks Marvel or control decks, where you just want a creature that hits for three instead of two. Also, against very attrition-heavy decks, the bonus card every now and then proves useful. It’s a shame there currently aren’t any discard outlets at the moment to make use of the madness text. Perhaps Collective Brutality deserves a second look or some number of Cryptbreaker could slip in there.

While I don’t love discard in these sorts of aggro decks, you do need some amount against decks with sweepers like Kozilek’s Return, Sweltering Suns, Flaying Tendrils, Radiant Flames, or Yahenni’s Expertise. The metagame looks to be creature-heavy, but there are many matchups where you have to take out your spot removal for literally anything else.

The four copies of Scarab Feast are the only sideboard cards that I’m absolutely certain I don’t want to touch. Even as “half a card,” you need something to fight Delirium. They also come in against Torrential Gearhulk decks, both to stop the Flashback of their graveyard instant and as just a card to cycle since you have so much removal to take out. If you’re on the draw against them and load up with all four Scarab Feast, it’s acceptable to sideboard out a land, since cycling counts for some portion of a land drop.

Humans have been a tough puzzle to crack. The Mono-White build is consistent, but nowhere near the power level it had before Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir rotated. Glory-Bound Initiate isn’t enough. Gust Walker and Trueheart Duelist are lackluster.

Red brings nice options, particularly Hanweir Garrison. The trigger when it attacks is outrageous with either Metallic Mimic or Thalia’s Lieutenant. I would’ve liked to see some number of Bloodlust Inciter to pair with Hanweir Garrison to enable some really quick kills.

This is what I’m looking at for W/R Humans:

Gotta get Bloodlust Inciter in there for the really nutty draws. Expedition Envoy hasn’t really been pulling its weight with me recently without a critical mass of 2/1s early and I don’t mind letting it go.

The sideboard ups the curve in response to opponents assumedly attacking your small creatures with more cheap removal and sweepers. Here we’re taking a page out of the Mardu Vehicles playbook and adding planeswalkers along with Oath of Chandra and five-drop creatures in Archangel Avacyn and Glorybringer. Thalia’s Lieutenant and Metallic Mimic often get sideboarded out as often as Toolcraft Exemplar does.

Zac Caudillo and I were the backup feature match Round 11. I got crushed in two straight games before the main feature match completed one. My draws were pretty good too! It definitely impressed me as an archetype to work on.

Amonkhet really delivered the goods to Zombie tribal.

Before, the Zombie decks had to play with Prized Amalgam along with Haunted Dead and Voldaren Pariah to have enough power. Also, there really wasn’t any way to close out the game once you got your opponent low. Now both Plague Belcher and Wayward Servant ding down your opponent while you’re doing your thing.

The triggers get crazy when you have (sometimes multiple copies of) Plague Belcher, Wayward Servant, Diregraf Colossus, and/or Binding Mummy on the battlefield. Their effects spiral exponentially out of control and feel like a streamlined Sliver deck.

Diregraf Colossus has taken a while to find a home. This is it. It scales in power during the game Tarmogoyf-style, which paces your opponents’ more expensive cards. Notably, Diregraf Colossus creates a 2/2 Zombie on cast, which is good against counterspells but not a combo with Cryptbreaker Zombies. Couldn’t have two Diregraf Colossus triggering each other ad nauseam, right?

There’s an enormous amount of staying power, with Scrapheap Scrounger and Dread Wanderer ensuring that you can survive a wave of sweepers or simply smash with all of your creatures to get some damage through. Card advantage comes with recurring threats, while Cryptbreaker draws cards while in a standoff.

My first reaction to seeing the list was, “How do you cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar off only ten sources?!” I imagine the answer is “not often.” Also, twenty lands with four of them automatically entering the battlefield tapped seems low with fourteen three-drops. Without a ton of reps with the deck, this is the build of B/W Zombies I want to start with.

One more land goes in the maindeck and another in the sideboard for when you go higher on white spells. Binding Mummy is really impressive against any deck that tries to blunt your assault with blocking, like with an Ishkahnah, Grafwidow and friends. Scarab Feast is an easy inclusion for me as a safe sideboard card to load up on. The obligatory discard package remains for when those maindeck removal spells aren’t good.

Mardu Vehicles holds the top spot for now, but can a better aggro deck dethrone it? Mardu Vehicles is certainly more well-rounded and proven than any other current aggressive Standard deck.

The control decks are getting better too. Anything from Sultai or U/R or U/W or Jeskai showed up at SCG Atlanta, and all look to have legs to them. Will a solution be discovered to Mardu Vehicles in just over a week’s time? I’m leaning towards no, but that’s just me.

I’m rooting for Bone Picker, Wayward Servant, or Bloodlust Inciter to take down Pro Tour Amonkhet.