Gearing Up For The Hulk Smash!

Brad Nelson almost hoisted another trophy last weekend! Well…sort of. Check out how close he came to yet another big Magic achievement by way of a decklist he adores! Will this archetype (and this card) find a way to dominate the #SCGBALT Standard Classic next weekend?

We thought it was almost over. After months of mindless slaughtering they finally told us the threat was being contained. Children allowed back into playgrounds to grow up carefree, and offices once again filled with diligent workers: the life we remembered from so long ago was almost back. No more peeking through blinds fearing the worst, or impatiently waiting for news reports in hopes of stability. The end of this horror show was near, and soon the sands of time would begin healing these traumatic scars.

That is, until we realized they had lied to us. The monsters in fact never fled from under our beds and the demons hadn’t yet vacated our closets. They’ve been there the whole time. The people in charge fed us a false sense of security, and we gobbled it up like blind sheep.

The threat is still real, people. No longer can we sit idly by for those we put in power to fix it for us. They have shown their true colors and set the precedent that they do not care about our futures. They are only interested in self-preservation, which is what we in turn must prioritize. Only together can we destroy that which haunts our dreams. United we stand, or divided we’ll fall. In a joint effort we can accomplish the one thing we all want! Brothers and sisters, I beg of you, join me now in a movement none have dared to try in the past. We are no longer sheep, but the shepherds bringing a new future to next generations playing our game.

This is what I ask of you!

We must rip up every copy of this abomination of a card on the planet Earth! Go door by door, street by street, city by city, and erase this piece of cardboard garbage from existence! Take Man-O-War with you for all I care; just end this suffering!

Are you with me?

You’re not? You say I’m being a hypocrite for indulging in the sweet, sweet tempo Magic this card provided all last season? Well, that was last season, when things were simple, Tracks were Tracked, and Company was Collected! Cards from days past shouldn’t still continue to be so good without being in green decks! Reflector Mage shouldn’t still be playable! It’s not fair!


Testing for the MOCS Playoff was radically different this time around compared to previous iterations of this event. Normally I’ll do my due diligence by running each Standard deck through a League before coming to any conclusions. After all, I’m not that arrogant to believe my initial inclinations about a format are correct before testing the waters. After five to eight Leagues, I’ll usually have a better understanding of the format and be able to select my weapon of choice in an objective manner rather than lazily choosing some comfort food.

This time around, I went with a big ol’ heaping plate of deep-fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

You see, I was in love with Eric Froehlich’s B/G Delirium deck he played at the Pro Tour the moment I saw him thrash someone on camera with Verdurous Gearhulk. It was such a beating that after the match, he got an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction for excessive force. Rumors spread throughout the hall that this was the main reason we saw him do so poorly on Day 2, that he feared the infraction escalating.

Nobody likes Dairy Queen.

If you read my last article, you already know this was a deck I was interested in building during testing, but I never got around to it due to being a big dumb idiot with a finger and a thumb in the shape of an “L” on my forehead.

I knew I was going to play this deck in the tournament at the end of the week, before I even built the deck on Magic Online and played my first game with it. The main reason for this tunnel-vision was simply lack of fire. I was burnt out, washed up, and beaten down by the relentless endeavors of greatness. Everyone thinks being a Magic Pro is living the dream, but most don’t know the true exhaustion that comes from flying all over the world to exotic locations with some of your closest friends while playing the game you’ve loved since you were served lunch in a sectioned-off tray. It’s a hard life, but someone’s got to do it.

I carry this burden so others don’t have to. You can thank me for my struggles sometime down the road by buying a copy of my second autobiography.

Let’s fast forward past all the drab stories from testing and tuning, winning and losing, that brought me to the here and now of talking about the deck. The only thing worth mentioning about the MOCS Playoff was that I lost the semifinals to stupid W/U Flash and its Reflector Mages.

And no, I don’t need any pepper to go with all this salt. My list is spicy enough!

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. B/G Delirium isn’t the best deck in the format. That title most likely goes to W/U Flash, given the deck’s utter dominance as of late. B/G Delirium is just the best deck in the market for those who like to do the things green cards do.

Verdurous Gearhulk is a beast of a card, and this is the deck that plays it best. It’s been a long time since liking a deck was my biggest reason for playing it, but with the margins being so small right now, I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Now you may be asking yourself, “If it’s actually any good, why didn’t more people play it last weekend?” Well, that’s most likely due to W/U Flash having the largest target on its head right now. It’s not too difficult to assume that most players saw the deck’s true potential be reached at Pro Tour Kaladesh when it beat up on all those Aetherworks Marvel decks.

What might have been difficult to predict was whether or not Marvel would show its face at the Grand Prix and MOCS the following week after such an embarrassing finish two weeks ago. Well, the answer to that riddle was no. Aetherworks Marvel did not show up in high numbers. Those who predicted a minimalized presence of Aetherworks Marvel next-leveled the metagame by bringing boring old B/G Delirium and rained venomous Spiders down from the heavens, securing two of the three titles this past weekend had for grabs.

Now that the dust has settled, we can begin to look at the metagame with enough data to predict trends for the following weeks. My prediction is that W/U Flash will lead most tournaments as the most-played deck, followed by B/G Delirium. Mardu Vehicles will be the third most-played which will be followed most likely by B/R Zombies. W/R Tokens, G/R Energy, and W/R Vehicles will lose popularity, and control will possibly find a way to combat this format, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I believe B/G Delirium is a good choice for those who want to play it if the metagame breaks this way.

Here’s the list I’m currently working on. I’m not going to get into any of the specifics of the deck just yet and hope everything gets sorted out when we talk about each matchup separately.

Let’s start with the bad matchups and work our way towards optimism, shall we?

The Bad Matchups

What can you say? This archetype has some fans.

The matchup comes down to stabilizing. I would rather trade creatures in combat in the early stages than use removal spells, given how limited they are and how devastating Electrostatic Pummeler can be. Battlefields will build up as you will be scared of attacking while they have a difficult time trying to find an opening for lethal. This is usually the stage of the game where you begin to take over, given your deck will be more powerful off the top. Smuggler’s Copter can be the best and worst card in the matchup. In the early stages of the game it’s sometimes too slow to be put onto the battlefield, given its one turn window of not interacting, but late-game it’s the easiest way to win the game by simply smuggling Verdurous Gearhulk’s counters over no-man’s-land.

I don’t mind keeping in Smuggler’s Copter on the play but have liked the strategy of sideboarding them out on the draw, along with Blossoming Defense, for everything in my sideboard that can kill a creature or clog up the battlefield. That even includes Natural State for Electrostatic Pummeler.

Without extensive data to actually know if this matchup is bad by the numbers, we’ll continue assuming so. This deck can go over the top of us so quickly with its top draws that it’s difficult to say otherwise. Thankfully, this deck is about as reliable as I am when it comes to putting the clothes in the dryer, so we can easily win thanks to the absurd fail rate. Just be aggressive and hope to cast Verdurous Gearhulk as early as possible.

Sideboarding is rather easy. Take out removal and hope that Transgress the Mind always hits Aetherworks Marvel. Natural State not being Appetite for the Unnatural does suck for this matchup, but I’d still bring it in to try to snag a Puzzleknot or Vessel before they can sacrifice it.

This matchup is close, but I do believe we are on the losing side of the fight. Lowering our number of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet will help out in this matchup, given how poorly positioned it is. W/U Flash loves playing against four-drops. They cost as much as possible to still get Spell Quellered; don’t beat Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on the play or draw; and run face-first into Archangel Avacyn. Sideboard them out!

The best way to win this matchup is to be aggressive and use Blossoming Defense to protect yourself from their big-tempo plays. They want the battlefield to be as clear as possible in the early turns to maximize the effectiveness of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but luckily we can have powerful draws in the early-game that can invalidate this mythic monster. Even a lackluster battlefield can take out Gideon, Ally of Zendikar when backed up by Grasp of Darkness and Blossoming Defense, but you really do want to save your removal spells for Archangel Avacyn or Spell Queller.

Sideboarding allows us to bring in Ishkanah, Grafwidow, but I wouldn’t expect this card to win the war. The best time to play The Spider Queen is during a race or if you must stabilize. I would much rather prioritize cards like Verdurous Gearhulk or Tireless Tracker when I can. The clue maker might seem out of place in this matchup, but remember that they can go for a Fumigate plan against you. Having a threat that can keep the gas revving is important, especially when its body is still good enough to attack Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Even though crewing Smuggler’s Copter is important, I still find Gnarlwood Dryad lackluster in this matchup. You don’t often see them attacking on the ground, which is the best use for this card.

The Good Matchups

This right here is the main reason to play my more aggressive build of B/G Delirium right now. Normally the slower variant of a deck wins the mirror, but luckily for us, we’re different enough to not be considered a mirror. Regular B/G Delirium loves blocking, while my B/G Delirium loves attacking through blockers. Iskanah, Grafwidow normally shuts down any assault on the owner’s life total, but Grim Flayer and Verdurous Gearhulk backed up by Grasp of Darkness and Blossoming Defense is the perfect formula to create a highly effective bug spray.

Just be very aggressive and hope they don’t draw a high density of their limited removal spells. They are trying to get to Emrakul, the Promised End, which takes some time off to cast cards like Grapple from the Past and other delirium enablers. This is the time we use to build a formidable force.

Tireless Tracker is great for this matchup, since they will be trying to keep our battlefield clear. Sometimes you just run out of spells, making Liliana, the Last Hope and Tireless Tracker vital to not run out of things to do with our mana. Even though they play Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Emrakul, the Promised End, that doesn’t mean we don’t want Grasp of Darkness for the early creatures they most certainly have. We have to board out Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to make room. He’s just too slow when being aggressive and they can go over the top of the card too easily.

I added a Noxious Gearhulk to the sideboard for this matchup but have yet to test it. It seems like it could be nice to have an answer to a resolved Emrakul, the Promised End, since I’ve played many games with a defensive 13/13. It might not be worth it, though.

All three of these matchups play out similarly enough to group together. They are the aggressor and can do so quite efficiently under the right conditions, one of which is being on the play. It’s sometimes difficult to win these games on the draw if they kick things off with Toolcraft Exemplar, but even then a Gnarlwood Dryad can shut that down before it ever gets off the ground. Preserve your life total and hope Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet can stabilize things for you.

The two cards sideboarded out in these matchups are some number of Verdurous Gearhulk and all copies of Blossoming Defense. Bring in Natural State; Dead Weight; Ishkanah, Grafwidow; and anything else that is good in the early-game. They have a tough time beating a healthy mid-game backed up by Liliana, the Last Hope, so we don’t really need Verdurous Gearhulk to make our squad combat-ready.

This cluster of Prized Amalgam decks forms our easiest matchups. For starters, we play Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in high numbers, but even after that, we have so much meat. Don’t try to contain them because you won’t. Instead, focus on building up your battlefield just as quickly, but bigger, because your cards are the color green. The only card we have to worry about is Voldaren Pariah, but that’s not even an issue if Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is on the battlefield.

You’ll want to leave in Grasp of Darkness for their Voldaren Pariah and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, but cut Blossoming Defense, even though they want to kill yours. That’s because we want to transition into battlecruiser Magic and bring in all of our heavy hitters. Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Noxious Gearhulk come off the bench to play alongside all four copies of Verdurous Gearhulk. We want all this beef since interacting on a small scale will only play into their gameplan. They want to trade, given their cards’ ability to constantly bounce back from the graveyard. Don’t play their game. Just make all of your creatures huge and squish them!

I’m currently under the opinion that we are slightly ahead against most control variants, but that could change if they learn to evolve. For now though I like these matchups. Just be aggressive and time your Transgress the Minds well. Sometimes I will save them to push a spell through countermagic, but most of the time I want to cast Transgress around turn 4 or 5 to get either a planeswalker or Torrential Gearhulk.

Keep in Blossoming Defense, and cut Grasp of Darkness if they don’t have Thing in the Ice. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is also an obvious cut during sideboarding. We don’t have a lot of cards dedicated for control, but the ones we do have are great. Bring in Tireless Tracker; Nissa, Vital Force; and Transgress the Mind.

Want (Balti)More?

Well, I hope you enjoyed your time with me today. This weekend is going to be a nice break from tournaments that I will most certainly be enjoying. If I get enough rest and relaxation, maybe I’ll look into Legacy a little in preparation for the SCG Tour stop in Baltimore next weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve played Legacy and I’ve always enjoyed my time at the Baltimore Convention Center. If you can, you should try to make it, and if you do, I’ll see you there!