Hello TCGplayer readers! Today I'm going to be talking about delirium, a new mechanic from Shadows over Innistrad, and what we can expect out of this mechanic for Standard. Delirium requires you to build your deck a certain way — much differently than what we're used to. Instead of adding strong cards that we want to play, we have to look for different card types that are not typically in Standard decks like enchantments and artifacts. Most decks in Standard will play at least four different card types in their decks but just playing out your decks normally will not give you delirium. This is a mechanic you have to work for to turn on.
Delirium is either on or off. This means that before you have delirium, your delirium cards are in their "off" state. Many of the delirium cards in Shadows over Innistrad are weak when they are off. Take Moldgraf Scavenger. You'd never put a 0/4 creature with no other abilities in your deck. A 0/4 vanilla is simply not a card for Standard (or any format for that matter). However once you have delirium, it becomes a 3/4, which is above the curve for a creature that costs 1G, and is even comparable to Tarmogoyf. When you play Moldgraf Scavenger on turn two, you're going to want to get delirium as quickly as possible or else you will have an embarrassing little 0/4 that will have no impact on the game. That said, once delirium is "on," your delirium cards will be on for the rest of the game. You will no longer have to do extra work to get cards into your graveyard as graveyard hate is notably absent from this format.
So how can we achieve delirium? Obviously, you are going to want to play many different card types in your deck. You're also going to want to play ways to get cards into your graveyard in an unnatural way. Playing creatures and trading them combat is a great way to get creatures in your graveyard and casting Planeswalkers and aggressively using their minus ability will get Planeswalkers in your 'yard, but what about the other card types? Here are some ways that we can achieve delirium quickly.
Evolving Wilds. Evolving Wilds is the only reasonable fetchland in Standard right now. There are plenty of strong lands that have sacrifice effects, like Foundry of the Consuls and the Blighted cycle from Battle for Zendikar, but those lands are way too slow for purposes of delirium. Evolving Wilds will be the best land for any Standard deck that is looking to get delirium as quickly as possible.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. He seems to have synergy with many of the mechanics in Shadows over Innistrad, making him more powerful than ever. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is great at enabling delirium because unlike self-mill effects, you can choose what goes in your graveyard. It also allows you to achieve delirium at instant speed.
Tormenting Voice. Tormenting Voice is a way to get two different card types in your graveyard (a sorcery and whatever card you discard to it) for very little cost. The awkward thing about Tormenting Voice is that it's red, a color that has almost no delirium cards. Delirium is mostly in black, green, and white, and it may not be worth splashing red for a delirium enabler. However, if double-striking Scourge Wolves are your thing, then by all means go for it!
Magmatic Insight. This card plays a similar role as Tormenting Voice, but is a bit less versatile because it forces you to discard a land. It's a great alternative if you don't want to play Evolving Wilds.
Gather the Pack. This is the strongest self-mill effect we have, as it can put up to five cards in the graveyard should you choose not to take a creature. While you don't have much of a choice as to what enters the graveyard, five cards gives you a good shot at hitting what you need.
Hangarback Walker. Hangarback Walker is a strong creature that you're happy to put in your deck anyway, but it has the added bonus of giving +2 to delirium. There aren't many artifacts that are strong enough for Standard so having a card that is both a powerful creature and a delirium enabler is great. Remember that you can play this for zero mana to have it go into your graveyard immediately if you are eager to get delirium right away.
Kiora, Master of the Depths. She is another self-miller, but reveals less cards than Gather the Pack and doesn't get going until turn four.
Angelic Purge. It's actually quite hard to get delirium in white, but Angelic Purge is a fine way to do it. This card is definitely below the curve as far as white removal spells go, but it can put a land or other card type in your graveyard if you really need it. Also of note, this card works well with Demonic Pact in that you can sacrifice it once you've used three of the modes. I think I found the next deck I'm going to build.
Call the Bloodline. This is a card I like a lot. It reminds me of a more fair Zombie Infestation. Call the Bloodline is much stronger as a madness enabler, but it's great at giving you delirium too.
Mindwrack Demon. Mindwrack Demon is really interesting, as it is a self-enabler. It's much different from all of the other delirium cards in Shadows over Innistrad because it doesn't give you a bonus for achieving delirium, it just nullifies a downside. That said, this is a great enabler as it not only provides a 4/5 flying body but it also mills four cards. It can give you delirium by itself.
Vessel of Nascency. This card is slightly worse than Gather the Pack, but if you want extra copies of Gather the Pack, this is your card. The plus side of playing a few copies of Vessel of Nascency is that it guarantees an enchantment in your graveyard, which is difficult to do without self-mill.
Dead Weight. Dead Weight is back and it plays a great role in delirium decks. It's one of the more efficient ways to kill small creatures early in the game and it's an enchantment in your graveyard. With Jace, Vryn's Prodigy being one of the strongest cards in Standard, you can bet that Dead Weight will make it into the maindeck of most black decks.
Descend upon the Sinful. White is a big delirium color in Shadows over Innistrad limited but unfortunately many of the cards are not good enough for Standard. The exception is Descend upon the Sinful. This is one of the best sweepers we've had ever had since the bar for white sweepers became five mana. Six mana is not usually worth it for a wrath effect but if it leaves behind a 4/4 angel then I'll happily put it in my deck. One interesting thing about this card is it's not going into a dedicated delirium deck. You're not going to want to play this card in the same deck as Inexorable Blob or Moldgraf Scavenger. However if you're deck is going to achieve delirium naturally, then Descend upon the Sinful is a powerful card.
Deathcap Cultivator. The main colors for an aggressive delirium deck are black and green and coincidentally this guy makes both black and green mana! This is a great mana creature because it gives you mana early but unlike most mana dorks, Deathcap Cultivator is not a horrible late game topdeck, as deathtouch allows it to trade with much bigger creatures.
Inexorable Blob. This card is just awesome with delirium and once you attack twice with it, the game gets out of hand very quickly. This is the kind of card that must be dealt with if you have delirium.
Moldgraf Scavenger. Moldgraf Scavenger is great at being a defensive creature early but once delirium is turned on the game will turn around quickly. Imagine having three Moldgraf Scavengers in play. The turn that you get delirium you are suddenly attacking for nine and your opponent will not usually have any idea when it's coming.
Traverse the Ulvenwald. The perfect delirium card. It helps you get delirium early by getting a sorcery into your graveyard and then late game it finds any creature or land you want. You'll usually search up your win condition - likely Mindwrack Demon - but the ability to get any land with delirium, not just basic, is very useful. There are lots of utility lands in this Standard format: Rogue's Passage, Westvale Abbey, and Blighted Fen are just a few. It's unlikely that you're going to search up a land in most scenarios but I like that the option is there.
Mindwrack Demon. As I mentioned before, Mindwrack Demon is both an enabler and a win condition. He's good right now because he dodges a lot of the removal in the format, like Grasp of Darkness and Languish. Most importantly, his fifth toughness makes him match up very well against Archangel Avacyn, one of the more powerful cards to come out of Shadows over Innistrad. At four mana, we are definitely going to want four of these guys in any delirium deck we play.
To the Slaughter. It's a weak removal spell without delirium but excellent with it. If you're playing a dedicated delirium deck you'll want to have a few copies in your deck. As an instant it's a great way to destroy a Planeswalker before the opponent has a chance to put a wolf or a knight ally into play.
Now for some decklists!
This is not a delirium deck, but it's a deck that wants to have delirium turned on so that we make the most out of Descend upon the Sinful and don't die to our Mindwrack Demon. We're playing the aforementioned Demonic Pact with both Angelic Purge and Anguished Unmaking to remove it.
Sorin, Grim Nemesis is amazing, and I hope that it finds a home in white/black control. There aren't many Planeswalkers that have a plus ability that can actually win you the game. Most Planeswalkers have plus abilities that gain you a card in some way and Sorin, Grim Nemesis is no exception. Sorin, Grim Nemesis can plus for the rest of the game and actually kill your opponent if you reveal the right cards. Sorin, Grim Nemesis seems great in a deck like this and I look forward to playing with him more!
This is what a typical aggressive delirium deck will look like. We have plenty of early creatures like Moldgraf Scavenger and Inexorable Blob as well as Mindwrack Demon at the top end. There are plenty of different card types to help us get delirium quickly and four copies of the strongest self-mill spell, Gather the Pack.
This is more of a traditional "The Rock" deck with lots of ways to control the board and big haymakers to finish the game. Languish is an important card in this deck because it's good in an open format where people will be trying out various tribal decks with small creatures. Your own creatures have good synergy with the three maindeck Languish — they either have five toughness or leave behind tokens when they die.
Corrupted Grafstone is a nice way to ramp and we have a good shot of having it turned on by turn three if we are able to play a turn one Traverse the Ulvenwald or Dead Weight.
Unlike Delirium Aggro, it's tough to call this a dedicated delirium deck as we don't really need delirium and we certainly don't need it early. However we are playing some cards that get better when we have it.
There are some exciting cards with delirium in Shadows over Innistrad and many options of how we can execute on this mechanic. You can either go all-in with green delirium creatures and play a deck that isn't really good unless you have delirium turned on, or you can play a deck with some of the stronger delirium cards and work on turning on delirium over time.
That's it for this week! Next week I'll begin tackling the tribes of Shadows over Innistrad!
Enjoy your prerelease and happy brewing!
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