Grixis Delver

grixis delver

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

If you’ve played standard recently you probably encountered decks running Thragtusk, Sphinx’s Revelation and way too many Shocklands. People will just spam these out often with no fear of reprisal and missplay all over the place without any backlash. Something must be done about this!

I wanted to punish these less optimal plays with something appropriate. Taking careless Shockland life loss just because you will recoup it when you cast Thragtusk or Sphinx’s Revelation is just wrong. You still need to know when and which lands to play at all times. Wouldn’t it be great to counter their Thargtusk and teach them a lesson? Well, you ‘can’!

Less and less players are using Cavern of Souls these days simply because there is no control deck to truly fear…yet. We need to do enough damage then counter their lifegain probably just once then throw in some more damage and go for the throat. One card stood out to me – something that reminded me of previous greatness:



duskmantle seer

Too cool even for flavour text!

Being very much in lover with the art, I absolutely wanted a chance to sleeve this baby up. I dreamed up scenarios which were very probable such as:

Playing him on turn 4, flipping a burn spell and having the opponent flip a Thragtusk. They take 5, you fly over for 4 damage plus burn them for 3. That’s 12 damage right there! I wanted something that would probably do some nice, quick and cheap damage. Enter the Delver.

delver 1 delver 2

                                                 Guess who’s back? Back again!

Yes, I was going to play this blast from the not-so-distant past again. I never really tried it when it was a ‘thing’ so what better way to do it when no one expects it? This thing was going to be played on turn 1, hopefully flip by turn 2-3 and assist me in doing quick, hard to prevent damage early on. I would also need to refill my hand once in a while in case I ran out of gas. Enter the other ‘Bob’ (For those of you who don’t know, he’s called Bob because it was Bob Maher’s Invitational card. Sort of like Snapcaster Mage is Tiago Chan’s Invitational card.) I am of course referring to Dragon’s Maze’s latest offering:

blood scrivener

Fine print: Not as good as Dark Confidant.

Finer print: not even close. After my friend tried it in his Black/White Zombies deck, he confirmed it was the worst card in his deck. I argued that it was because he couldn’t spam his cards fast enough (he was also playing Obzedat and Blood Baron). He needed more ‘aggressive’ low-cost threats aside from the zombies. He quickly subbed out his Scriveners for more Blood Artists and Cartel Aristocrats and started winning – a lot.

This strengthened my resolve to see the card played in a successful deck. I liked it a lot because it was a card I wanted to ‘break’. I immediately brainstormed at one of my local game shops with a couple of people and we all concluded that a Grixis Delver shell would be the best. After an hour or so we came up with this list:

Grixis Delver

4 Duskmantle Seer
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Blood Scrivener
3 Snapcaster Mage

15 Creatures

1 Runechanter’s Pike
3 Searing Spear
1 Turn/Burn
1 FarAway
2 Syncopate
2 Pillar of Flame
2 Desperate Ravings
4 Thought Scour
2 Unsummon
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Izzet Charm
1 Rakdos’s Return

22 Spells

2 Cavern of Souls
4 Island
1 Mountain
3 Watery Grave
4 Steam Vents
2 Blood Crypt
2 Sulfur Falls
3 Drowned Catacombs
2 Dragonsull Summit


2 Appetite for Brains
2 Essence Scatter
2 Ral Zarek
2 Rolling Temblor
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Dispel
1 Tribute to Hunger
2 Duress
1 Crypt Incursion

The first thing you will notice is that it is chock full of cheap draw spells so as to fully abuse the Blood Scrivener when we have no hand. Playing a Thought Scour draws 2 cards. A Desperate Ravings is rather nice as well ( netting us 2 cards).It gets sexier with the flashback. Even the versatile Izzet Charm nets us the best of our top three cards with an empty hand. We are basically trying to be efficient with our cards and get all the little advantages possible. Standard is however NOT the super efficient and mana-tight format that Legacy is. People play high mana cost cards and games tend to last on average past turn 6.

The danger of cool things

We are trying to maximize the effectiveness of Blood Scrivener and Duskmantle Seer when in fact they are more like support cards (something I realized after quite a few games). We were trying to do too many effects that gained us small bonuses but that do not generate enough of an impact in the overall course of a game. This is basically greedy, for lack of a better word. We can’t hope to just play multiple card drawing spells in order to draw something ‘awesome’ because there is no big game-changer to draw. These spell were pretty much superfluous as we are adding card drawing on top of cards that already make us draw.

I know it sounds like I am repeating myself a lot in the previous paragraph, but it’s very important to get that point across. We just plain need more business spells. The majority of our damage will come from a burn spell, a Snapcasted burn spell, Delver or Duskmantle Seer.

Originally, I wanted to play 2 Bonfire of the Damned as it was a 1 cost when flipped for Duskmantle Seer and when you played an untapped land on turn 5, would allow you to ‘Pyroclasm‘ your opponent’s side of the board. This is rather nice and probably would clear annoying flying blockers out of the way (ie: pesky Longering Souls tokens). In the end, I was convinced to not play this card, much to my dismay. The argument being that Duskmantle and Blood Scrivener prevented me from ‘miracling’ the card since there was a greater probability that it would not be the first card drawn in the turn. It did really like it late game also as this deck had no other real late game cards (and no, 2 Duskmantle Seers is not going to cut it).

The finer points

We needed to figure out the deck’s manabase and it was not an easy task (to this day I am not really happy with it). One thing that was rather nice is that all our creatures play nicely with each other – they are all Wizards. So I dusted off a couple of Cavern of Souls and added them to my pile of cards. The main color, by far was blue followed by red and then black. Black mana was barely required really, it was only for 2 creatures in the deck.



blood scrivener duskmantle seer

Easy to cast, hard to properly make good use of.



Another thing we wanted to do is to maximize the use of the two good Grixis split cards for this deck while keeping their numbers low. This was of course due to not wanting to flip them to Duskmantle Seer and take 5 damage shots. I was probably more excited about Turn/Burn than Far/Away but both were worth trying out.



far away turn burn

Grixis-colored goodies!



We envisioned a few common scenarios where these cards would shine (a lot of which involved Geist of Saint Traft, Angel of Serenity and Restoration Angel. Turn could for example simply take away flying from a would-be Dusmantle blocker and burn the opponent for 2. Far could be played in response to them casting a Restoration Angel, bouncing their Restoration target and sacrificing their Angel. These are just quick example really, you could do so much more.

The finest point of all was that of the Runechanter’s Pike. Who played this cards still? No one, that’s who. We could finish off an opponent old school pike style! of course we would need to draw it amongst our 60 card pile. No problem right?

The Reality of it all

I sleeve up this 60 card monstrosity in nice blue non see-through Dragon Shield plastics. I don’t have to play a check list card instead of a real Delver of Secrets. Oh joy! I like the fact that the plastics are already sort of curved as it keeps the cards well together and doesn’t make them slip and slide all over the place.

I get to the store late due to our fabulous subway system experiencing technical difficulties, but the store owners decided to wait for more people to enter. Lucky me! Round 1 is called and I am paired against my roommate. Unlucky me!



round 1 banner

vs. Simon (BW Zombies)

Game 1 is basically me trying to contain the zombie swarm. With only 2 Pillar of Flame maindeck, it’s a rather tough task. Big daddy himself comes in to finish the job. Also, his turn 1 land was a Cavern of Souls, so much for any hope of countering anything save Lingering Souls of Cartel Aristocrat.

Game 2 is about false hope. I get off to a decent start with a flipped Delver on turn 2 and his turn 3 play is a Blood Artist and a Orzhov Guildgate. I get all excited when I land a Duskmantle on the battlefield. The excitement is quickly extinguished as my opponent drops some Lingering Souls into play, guaranteeing himself blockers for at least the next 2 turns. Oh and I am quite simply trapped between a rock and a hard place, since Blood Artist makes attacking a losing proposition as well. He flips a land with Duskmantle‘s effect while I flip… another Duskmantle! I basically die a rather sad death while wondering why I let them convince me NOT to put Bonfire of the Damned into this deck.




lingering souls

Public Enemy # 1 of this deck

round 2 banner

vs. Bruno (BG Zombies)

Oh joy! he leads off with a Diregraf Ghoul. I zap it on my turn with a Pillar and he plays a Lotleth Troll. Had I known, had I known. Who plays a turn 2 Lotleth Troll versus a red deck anyways?  he gets stuck on two lands and I’m still having tons of trouble killing him. He uses removal spell on all my guys plus I’m not drawing Duskmantle to really race him. He has me at 6, I Syncopate a Dreg Mangler and then use the Away half of Far/Away to make him sacrifice his Troll. I attack for 2 with my oh so threatening Blood Scrivener who has not drawn me any cards this game yet. He plays another Dreg Mangler that I can block, but choose not to so that I may get to untap and finally draw an additional card with Blood Scrivener. Unfortunately for me, Scrivener has 1 toughness and a non-morbid Tragic Slip is enough to send him into my graveyard. I don’t draw any kind of solution to the Mangler and end up grabbing my sideboard, ready to make Game 2 modifications.

tragic slip

What’s tragic is that it kills 11 out of my 15 creatures, WITHOUT the Morbid trigger.

Game 2 starts off with me keeping a Steam Vents + 3 Pillar of Flame hand as well as other cards. He does the usual Gravecrawler and I Pillar it. Victory! haha, yeah right! These petty burn spells only slow down the zombie hordes but don’t stop much. I actually start to fight back and do things like attack with Duskmantle Seer. He Abrupt Decays and Slips a few of my dudes but the Seer keeps going. As fate would have it, he flips a Liliana of the Veil to Duskmantle Seer‘s ability. While he does take 7 damage overall that turn, it’s not enough for me to win. He drops Liliana, makes me sacrifice my only creature and he’s back in the game.

Later on, he even manages to ultimate me the turn I dropped a Duskmantle Seer and a Delver of Secrets into play. I keep the 2 lands pile with Seer hoping to finish him off on my turn. It’s all for naught as he Tragic Slips my Seer and pretty much extinguishes my hopes of winning short of me drawing a couple of burn spells off the top. This does not happen as I am already not packing that many to begin with.


round 3 banner

vs. Jack (UB Mill)


I start off with a turn 1 Delver which actually flips on my turn 2. Well, at least I got that part right. He goes turn 2 Breaking/Entering milling me for 8. I attacked the following turn adding a Blood Scrivener  into the mix. His turn 3 is an Uncovered Clues. The clue I am uncovering is that if I lose this match, I’m going to toss my deck across the room (well, not for real, I mean some of those cards are worth money. I should however bring a crappy all commons deck and pitch it across the room when I want to rage, that way it will add to the ‘realism’.) He Breaks me x 2 next turn, but I’m doing damage with my dudes and he’s not doing much else really. He gets a Consuming Aberration into play but I am still flying over with my Delver. A Duskmantle Seer joins my end of the field and it officially does what it’s supposed to do: make my opponent lose life and win me the game. Phew! Finally!

The ensuing game is just weird. I start off rather decently then a Consuming Aberration resolves on his end with me having no actual answer for. At this point in the game the only 2 cards that can answer it is a Far/Away (my only one) and Unsummon paired with a Syncopate. I draw no such cards. I chump a couple of times but I am eventually consumed by his 18/18 blue/black horror.

Starting the final game, I am simply too discouraged to continue playing. I must however move forward and see this thing through. It’s actually a very short game as he finally reveal a Breaking/Entering to Duskmantle Seer. That’s 8 loss of life for those of you keeping track at home! I swing in with the Seer and win on the following turn with a Searing Spear. Hallelujah! Oops! wrong deck …



breaking entering

That’s right, punish the greedy Duskmantle Seer!

round 4 banner

vs. Rene ( BW Zombizzles)

Just my luck getting paired against every Zombies player in the room. I get it already! the deck is super soft to Zombies, Zombizzles, the swarm the Walking Dead, the white walkers, etc…

I will spare all the unnecessary details we already know about this match-up. I did however manage to draw a lot of extra cards off of Blood Scrivener. They were for the most part largely inefficient against the Zombie swarm. I even ‘drew’ more cards with Seer, but nothing that would do me any good. In fact, I wouldn’t even have been able to tutor for a card to get me out of this mess. This is probably a sign that the deck: the time where you cannot even fathom an ‘out’ or series of events that would lead you to win the game (aside from opposing missplays, though opponent forgetting to attack is not on the top of that list).

The second games starts of by looking somewhat optimistic with me attacking thanks to Duskmantle Seer but of course he is negated by a Lingering Souls on the following turn. I can hope to drop another Seer and ‘burn’ him out, it is rather unlikely though as he plays about the same mana curve as mine possibly lower even. I consider my options and just go for it. Nothing better I can do at this point as my sided in Rolling Temblors don’t really do all that much if anything at all. I flip twice to Duskmantle and he rewards me for his misuse by killing me.


lingering souls

This card eats my deck for breakfast

The sad truth

Nothing this deck ever did aside from attacking with Delver and revealing cards with Duskmantle ever seemed very relevant overall. Sadly, I would rather try the more low cost, aggro, burn route over rely on a 4-drop that may end up killing me just when I am turning the tide. Izzet Charm seemed to be by far the worst card in the deck (not much to counter versus what I faced. It’s mainly there versus early Sphinx’s Revelations anyways.

Desperate Ravings would be cool if I am hoping to draw ‘miracled’ Bonfires, Olivia Voldaren or even something like a Talrand, Sky Summoner. Thought Scour seemed like an ‘ok’ Turn 1 play barring a Delver of Secrets but I would much rather have had it be an early burn spell.

The deck was ambitious to say the least. It tried to play creatures that don’t necessarily see much play (save McSnappington). It probably would have been much much more effective as an outright burn deck with cards like Bump in the Night and Vexing Devils. That is a story for another time (soon, I promise).

Here’s a preview:




four color burn

The darker side where Duskmantle has been completely replaced by emperor Blood Scrivener

Coming soon, once I get more live playtesting in. I promise.

Wait, there’s more

On a side note, I asked local player/write Charles Trottier for his input on the deck and here’s what he suggested:

4 Sulfur Falls
4 Steam Vents
4 Watery Grave
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Blood Crypt
3 Dragonskull Summit

3 Thought Scour
3 Mizzium Mortars
4 Think Twice
2 Izzet Charm
2 Syncopate
1 Dissipate
4 Far/Away
3 Turn/Burn
1 Stolen Identity

3 Talrand, Sky Summoner
4 Augur of Bolas
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Goblin Electromancer

Charles, who is a blue mage at heart completely took out the 2 main cards that were the focus of the deck and instead make it into a Talrand/ Goblin Electromancer deck. He was however, not aware that the Fuse spells (split cards) do not count as 2 separate spells when cast. Also he was under the impression that Goblin Electromancer reduced each half of the card (not so!).

I obviously hated the list. I would have still hated it if the Electromancer/Talrand combos were applicable. Your thoughts?

Dragon’s Maze Preview: Varolz, the Scar-Striped and more

wave 4

Blood Scrivener

blood scrivener

Kind of like a Dark Confidant that works under the old ‘Hellbent’ mechanic

Zombie decks have always had a big problem with the 2 cost slot and this is probably the best candiate ever. Not so far back I had encountered red-black zombie list that actually ran Walking Corpse. For real! these were lists from Magic Online events. Hard to believe.

Now that the Standard Zombie rage is pretty much officially dead, we get this fabulous card. Even the quote is awesome:

bleed the fine print

A classic!

Zombie decks tend to be for the most part aggressive ( hard to believe since they move so slowly). These kinds of decks tend to run out of cards rather quickly. They flood the battlefield with ‘ahead of the curve’ style creature ( Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler) and aim to take your opponent’s life total down to Zero as soon as possible.

This card has a slight difference with the great Bob: it happens whenever you draw a card. I think the best use for this is when you cast an Altar’s Reap. You get to draw a total of 3 cards if you had none to being with. You would sacrifice a Gravecrawler of course. This is a lie of play that may very well become common in the new Standard format.

The bottom line is that this card is probably the hottest Rare to be spoiled thus far in Dragon’s Maze. You should probably rush to get your playset if you are an avid Type 2 player. I see it hitting the 10$ mark and maintaining or exceeding that value in the near future.

Bred for the Hunt


Simic’s Coastal Piracy

Another hand refilling card, this time for the Simic Guild. This one requires a slightly greater effort since your boys need to get through  to the other side successfully. It’s even the same rarity as the original printing of Coastal Piracy ( Rare printing would have  been disappointing).

It’s a cute card for the most part and will see fringe play in decks featuring cards like Cloudfin Raptor and other ‘Evolve’ creatures. Probably a cheap little 50 cent uncommon for some time to come.

Oh yeah….

fifty cent

I couldn’t resist

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker

mirko vosk

Turbo mill?

He’s like 4 x Balustrade Spy. Well, to be fair, he does need to connect with your opponent’s life total. Also, why 2/4? Is anyone else noticing this abundance of 2/4 creatures? is it just me? As with most legends, packing 4 in your deck is just asking for trouble. This holds even truer for this particular piece of cardboard, as its ability requires combat damage and is not an ‘enters the battlefield’ ability like the countless ones we are used to.

I would compare him to something like a Scalpelexis in that you are for sure milling at least 4 cards but maybe more. They both have great toughness so they can also block something and survive the turn they come into play and can’t immediately attack ( Damn you Summoning Sickness!).

This is probably going to be 1.50$ for the whole time it will remain Standard playable. It might gather up casual steam later on as they become more ‘scarce’, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

Obzedat’s Aid

obzedat's aid

Nice! I can understand this language!

So this nice little card is a Sorcery that allows us to Return any permanent from our graveyard back into play.

“Woah! “Every Commander deck that can run this card, ever!

Bring back anything from Legendary lands to planeswalkers. It might find its way into a few Standard deck here and there but this is purely casual goodness! It’s going to end up being very very popular in years to come once it’s out of print.

For the time being, I see it starting at around 3-4$ and then settling down into 2$ territory once the initial ‘hype’ wears down.

Rot Farm Skeleton

rot farm skeleton

It’s a me! Skeletor!


Rot Farm Skeleton can’t block.

2{B}{G}, Put the top four cards of your library into your graveyard: Return Rot Farm Skeleton from your graveyard to the battlefield. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.

Golgari gets a card that goes back to its Ravnica mechanic: Dredge. This mechanic is often associated with degenerate manaless Legacy decks and the like, but this card takes a different route. Instead of skipping a draw step it allows you to slowly mill yourself and get a non-blocker in the process.

I think it can realistically be a 2 of in a Junk or 4-color reanimator style of deck to keep  the self-mill going if you are unlucky and don’t draw Faithless Looting or Grisly Salvage or even Mulch.

It’s probably going to go for …. no not 50 cents. More like a quarter. I recommend storing a playset of these, you never know…

Sire of Insanity

sire of insanity

Take that you miser!

This is a nice little ‘throwback’ to Rakdos’s roots of emptying hands. You know that annoying guy in your playgroup that plays Commander and always seems to have infinite cards in their hand? Problem solved!

The symmetrical effect prevents us from fully abusing of it in constructed play. Well, that and its mana cost. If only they made another hand-concealing card like Bottled Cloister but that would always be active and allow you to cast the ‘hidden hand’ cards.

It’s about a buck now and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it dwindle down into the land of Bulk Rares. Not many people are going to be happy about opening this bad boy in their Dragon’s Maze boosters.

Varolz, the Scar-Striped


Oh great, more Trolls!

After getting an ‘Unleash lord’ on the Rakdos side, we are now introduced to a ‘Scavenge lord’. No, I’m not talking about the people that pick up all the random commons and tokens up after a draft… This guy is pretty legitimate. His stats are average but imagine … Trollfinity!

A modern deck featuring low costed artifact dudes and this guy! I’m just trolling. Or am I?

I think the Phyrexian Dreadnought interaction is one to be explored for Legacy to say the least. Just cast it, let it die then pay a whole mana to put 12 +1/+1 counters on your mega Troll. It’s missing a few things and can probably run the regular Stifle, Trinket Mage package to become BUG Stifle-troll-nought!

phyrexian dreadnought

Grab some while they’re cheap!

Ah! the Death’s Shadow hike now begins to make sense! Was not sure why playsets were moving left and right. I’m kind of glad I stockpiled them (probably not the next Stoneforge Mystic, but still…)

This is one troll that is here to stay and is surely the real deal. I see it starting at 4-5$ and maintaining a 5$ price tag because it just allows us to do awesome things. The sacrifice outlet is a nice bonus too!

Zhur-Taa Ancient

zhur-taa ancient

That’s one big Mana Flare!

Here we have another huge Beast for the Golgari guild. It’s got a nice ability, five mana is not out of the question for something this size. Of course the drawback is that in the Standard format your opponent will get to use the ‘bonus’ first. If he’s playing a small weenie rush deck, who cares? You can then ‘rev up’ all your mana and cast a huge Devil’s Play/Clan Defiance on your turn.

I’m not going to try to convince you guys that this thing is the bomb. I know I’ll pack it in my RG Beast Commander deck that is in development. I just need a good Gruul Commander (I could always go with the Borborygmos default). It allows you to not have to sink too much mana into things like Contested Cliffs activation and Arena. Fight Fight Fight!

It’s probably going to start and end up as a 1$ card, but who cards right? It will probably be on everyone’s big creature Commander deck want list.

Breaking / Entering

breaking entering

You get one when you partake in the Release Event

Sweet pair of effects. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or engineer to explain it to you does it? Mill someone, hope they flip a sweet creature and Reanimte it from their graveyard. Oh! yeah, it also gains Haste!

I think a lot of you are familiar with Glimpse the Unthinkable

glimpse the unthinkable banner

This is what happens to you when you mill 10 cards, according to Wizards of the Coast.

Glimpse is a ridiculously expensive card considering that Mind Sculpt is a common and comes close enough to 10 in itself. It does however not allow you to mill yourself. Breaking, on the other hand does. Why would you want to mill yourself? We just came out of Innistrad block not too long ago or have you forgotten?

Either half of this card would have been fine as its own card really. It just becomes awesome when you can do both effects. The downside really comes with EDH/Commander. It forces you to play colors you may not want to play for cards you would love to cast on their own. Fortunately, card  redundance is something Magic: the Gathering has always been good at. You will notice this even when I compare new cards with old ones, long forgotten (I tend to do that a lot, I know).

Had it not been the Release promo card, I would be more hopeful as to this card’s future ‘value’. I think it will forever be banished to 2$ Rare territory for the remainder of its stay in Standard. (This is good news for most casual players as obtaining these should not be too hard).

Turn   / Burn

turn and burn

Ooooh! an Instant!

Finally we have this little gem of a card! It encapsulates everything we wanted to illustrate about split cards, that of course being:


That’s the bottom line!

It changes things in combat , hopefully in combat involving opposing ‘flashed in’ Restoration Angels. Take that you wannabe sneaky mage!  ‘Turn’ their Angel and burn their other dude to finish him off with whatever damage he already took from one of your creatures.

Turn’em and Burn’em!

This is the modern day Fire/Ice. Well, technically it’s Electrolyze, but you get the point. It’s the great little instant Izzet Mages have been clamouring for. Pick them up at 1$ now because it’s sure to be in high demand.

What are you waiting for?

Go ahead and Pre-Order your Dragon’s Maze Singles today!