The Season For Delirium

Bennie Smith takes a break from his commandment of the Commander format to bring you the Standard deck he’s most excited about this season! If you’re looking to mess with Seasons Past at #SCGINDY’s Standard Classic on Sunday, Bennie has the tools for you!

“This is the most Bennie Smith deck I’ve seen you play in a long time.”

The new Standard has had me feeling a bit lost. I really loved my U/W Eldrazi Dragon deck I played towards the end of last Standard. It had all the durdling good value plays that make me happy, while being able to close games very quickly with legendary Dragons so I didn’t lose to time. But without Crucible of the Spirit Dragon, I didn’t have enough Dragon/colorless lands to splash off-color Dragons while also having the colorless mana for Eldrazi Displacer and Thought-Knot Seer.

So recently I’ve been noodling with a lot of lists and sharing them here, but I haven’t been entirely happy with them due to how the metagame has been shaping up. I watched with eager eyes to see what the professionals brought to Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad to see how things might change, and that’s where I saw the deck that set my durdly heart aflutter!

Finkel’s deck was a thing of beauty, not least of which is it’s pure Golgari! Black for infinite removal options, some disruption, and some card drawing, and the green… well, the green was mostly for this ridiculous card:

Seasons Past certainly had my attention, but like most mere Magic mortals, I had not yet cracked the code on how to properly use it. Finkel’s codebreaker was Dark Petition, which allowed the deck to basically chain Seasons Past over and over until you exhausted your opponent’s options and finally got around to killing them.

As a fan of chaining Den Protectors over and over I am quite fond of having that inevitability, but I was a bit nervous about jumping on the Finkel train with such a dedicated control deck. The decision tree seemed incredibly complex, and as a control deck, one mistake can really screw up your chances for winning. I was also worried that I’d run out of time way too much running this deck and end up with a lot of draws, which isn’t fun for anyone.

There were a ton of other new cards I wanted to try out, ones that were plenty powerful and interesting: cards like Tireless Tracker and Duskwatch Recruiter. As I sketched out various decklists, I kept looking at them with a critical eye, realizing: “This deck gets crushed by Languish.”

Languish has certainly stepped up as a premier sweeper card in the new metagame, and all my ideas seemed to be trumped by that four-mana sorcery. All the sweet creatures had a toughness of four or less! Sure, you can play conservatively and try to play around Languish, but I could just see getting stuck in all sorts of problems trying to do that.

Maybe I let The Fear get to me too much, but eventually I decided rather than playing something that gets crushed by Languish, I should just play Languish myself!

For Friday Night Magic last week I ended up playing an Abzan build similar to Finkel’s deck but splashing white for Anguished Unmaking; Sigarda, Heron’s Grace; and Dragonlord Dromoka. I also included The Gitrog Monster and Mindwrack Demon. The thought was that I could dial back a little bit on the control angle and in exchange have some heavy hitters that can hopefully close games out quickly.

I ended the night 2-0-2: yep, that’s two victories, no losses, and two draws. Sigh. The draws came from playing other control decks that could kill everything I happened to cast, while I did the same to their win conditions. My friend Kevin wanted to thumb through the deck, and afterwards he said the quote that lead off this column.

He asked me what I liked about the deck and I said that I had been surprised at how good Traverse the Ulvenwald was. He suggested that I cut the white and make this more of a Traverse the Ulvenwald deck. I was intrigued. Traverse had outperformed my expectations almost by accident; what could I do with the idea if I worked at making delirium more often?

Two days later, after some brainstorming and scrambling for cards, I ended up making the finals of Game Day with this:

In the Swiss I beat Bant Company and an R/G Werewolf deck, and lost to a mid-range Monored Eldrazi deck. In that heartbreaking last game I needed to cast Mindwrack Demon to stabilize with three different card types in the graveyard, I milled over only those three card types, and the Demon’s non-delirium penalty knocked me down to burnout range.

I still made the cut to Top 8, where I beat a W/B Eldrazi deck and a Mono-White Humans deck. For the finals I faced off against the Bant Company deck I beat in the Swiss, and unfortunately my deck just stalled on lands in both of the games and it was over pretty quickly. It made me realize that running only 24 lands, even with Traverse the Ulvenwald, was being way too greedy, and the deck should have a minimum of 25 or 26 lands, since I had tons of ways to use my mana each turn.

Traverse the Ulvenwald again surprised me how good it was, especially in a deck that could achieve delirium so easily. A one-mana tutor really is rather ridiculous, but the card is perfectly fine burning it off early for a basic land. It puts a sorcery in the graveyard for delirium, it’s a one-mana target for Seasons Past, and it’s super-easy to snag it back later with Den Protector when you have delirium without Traverse in the graveyard.

I was also impressed with Hangarback Walker being such a great delirium enabler by counting as two card types. The trick is to avoid getting it exiled with something like Declaration in Stone. You can of course just cast it for zero and have it die immediately, but usually you need to run it out on the battlefield to fight against beatdown. It made me think about other artifact creatures I could add to the mix.

I was surprised that I liked Pick the Brain much better than Transgress the Mind. There were times when I really wanted to nab the Declaration in Stone that was going to exile my Hangarback Walker and I couldn’t do that with Transgress. I never got to fire off Pick the Brain with delirium, but I imagine it feels fantastic against slower decks. I actually think I prefer Duress in the maindeck, since it’s cheaper and hits what I want it to hit.

The Gitrog Monster was great. There were plenty of games where my opponent and I had both run low on resources, and I tutored up The Gitrog Monster and started drawing a lot of cards to put the game away.

Here’s what I want to run back for my next Standard tournament:

Yep, that’s 61 cards, but I wanted to go up to 26 lands to keep the lands flowing and also have enough basic lands to fetch with the various basic land tutors. I think Pilgrim’s Eye is going to be awesome, both as a way to keep the land drops going and as a card I’m happy to have die and go to the graveyard to cover half of my delirium. I’d run four, but I think I’m a bit crowded at three mana, especially if you consider Den Protector played with morph.

The change I’m most excited about is Sidisi, Undead Vizier! I was underwhelmed with Dark Petition, since pushing harder on delirium naturally means that you’re going to have spell mastery less often, and I was pondering just running zero copies when I remembered that Sidisi, Undead Vizier is still available in Standard. It made so much sense for this deck that I felt silly not thinking of it before. Now you can use your Traverse the Ulvenwald (with delirium) to go find Seasons Past via Sidisi, Undead Vizier! Its exploit ability even gives you a way to put Hangarback Walker into your graveyard (yay, delirium!) and make a bunch of Thopters.

In the sideboard, Evolutionary Leap and Ulvenwald Mysteries come in against removal-heavy decks to try to push past their removal and close games a little more quickly. I also want to give Autumnal Gloom a try. The deck achieves delirium very easily, it’s a card that can’t be countered by Ojutai’s Command, and once it transforms it’s immune to targeted removal and tramples over chump blockers. I had it my sideboard for Game Day and sideboarded it in a few times, but I never drew it, so it’s still just theorycraft. Has anyone else given Autumnal Gloom a whirl?

World Breaker was a card I sideboarded in a few times as a big creature to bring in against other grindy decks, since it’s a resilient threat that grinds down an opponent’s resources and is pretty easy to recur in my deck due to the Drownyard Temple I run for The Gitrog Monster. I’m tempted to move it to the maindeck, but I worry about it being just way too slow against faster decks, especially since I’ve moved all copies of Languish to the sideboard.

The fascinating thing about playing this deck is just how much you need to pay attention to the cards you play, even before shuffling up. Do I have the right mix of card types to maximize the chances of getting delirium? Do I need to play this sorcery now so I can achieve delirium three turns from now? Should I play this two-mana spell instead of another three-mana spell in order to maximize the Seasons Past I will eventually cast, even if it’s not using my mana the most efficiently? Ultimately, there’s comfort in know that any card that ends up in your graveyard isn’t going to stay there forever if you don’t want it to.

I think we’re just scratching the surface on taking advantage of some of the powerful delirium cards that we’ve been given, and hopefully we’ll have a few more added to the mix in the next expansion. Traverse the Ulvenwald is a really absurd Magic card if you’re willing to put in a little work, a one-mana tutor for a creature – or land, such as the mighty, mighty Westvale Abbey.

What sort of things have you tried out? Do you have any thoughts on what I should include in my deck?

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visonary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)