Going into this past weekend, black-green decks were a bit under the radar. Yes, Winding Constrictor is clearly a powerful card, but it wasn't obvious how much play the color pair would get, with so much hype going towards Saheeli and White-Green Tokens. As it turns out, black-green decks didn't just do well, it stole the show.
No Emrakul? No problem! Black-Green Delirium has dominated the past few months on the back of Emrakul, the Promised End, and many expected delirium would suffer with it being gone. But as it turns out, the black-green decks are thriving, in large part due to becoming more aggressive. The late-game inevitability is no longer there for Black-Green Delirium, but that doesn't mean you don't still want delirium elements like Grim Flayer and Traverse the Ulvenwald. Brennan DeCandio showed just how potent it can be, taking down the SCG open with the deck.
This is definitely a very different deck than we are used to seeing, as old and new elements combine. Last season there was a Black-Green Aggro deck and this deck shows similarities to that one, as we have Verdurous Gearhulk in place of Ishkanah, Grafwidow. Verdurous Gearhulk is a card that is incredibly powerful, yet up to this point hadn't been played much. However, the bannings really helped out Verdurous Gearhulk, plus it works so well alongside some of the new Aether Revolt cards.
Previously, the turn after dumping a bunch of counters on a guy, the opponent could simply Reflector Mage that same creature and undo all the work, but now that is no longer an option. Not only is Verdurous Gearhulk able to create another huge creature, but the black-green decks also play Winding Constrictor to add more of those counters! This type of strategy doesn't need a ton a counter synergies to make Winding Constrictor good, but it turns out all the threats from Aether Revolt here do have that synergy naturally.
We have already mentioned Grim Flayer and Winding Constrictor as two-mana plays, but there is also another card that is a strong two-drop if you want it to be. I am of course talking about Walking Ballista, a card that has quickly become the chase rare of Aether Revolt. We already knew that Walking Ballista was a threat that also can break up the Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian combo on its own, but when you add in how great Walking Ballista is alongside Winding Constrictor, it being an artifact and having other ways to put counters on it, this may be the most important card in the deck.
On the surface Walking Ballista may not seem incredibly powerful, at least that was my first impression of the card. But it is all of the synergies in conjunction with how Walking Ballista matches up against other decks in the format, that makes it rival Hangarback Walker. We are not just talking about Walking Ballista in Black-Green Delirium, it is all over the place! Here though, I believe is where the card is at its absolute best. With a Winding Constrictor in play, Walking Ballista will become huge and can pick off the entire board of the opponent's if given the chance. My advice is use removal to take care of Walking Ballista or Winding Constrictor as aggressively as possible.
Playing a turn two Walking Ballista, and then following it up with Rishkar, Peema Renegade is also quite good. Rishkar, Peema Renegade is another one of those Aether Revolt cards that is seeing play in multiple decks, but this is probably the best home for it. While its main use is to help creatures attack, the ability to produce extra mana is an added bonus. Playing a turn four Verdurous Gearhulk is sweet, or making a huge Walking Ballista later in the game.
While new creatures make up a lot of the deck, there are some cards we are more familiar with as well. Mindwrack Demon previously saw play in Black-Green Delirium, and DeCandio has a full playset here. The reason it's here is the card is a great beater and can attack the planeswalkers out of the Green-White Tokens deck. The last thing you want to do while staring at Mindwrack Demon is cast a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. The eight artifact creatures mean hitting delirium isn't too difficult, and you are pretty unlikely to ever take damage from Mindwrack Demon.
Since this deck does get to delirium pretty easily, playing Traverse the Ulvenwald still makes sense. Even without a silver bullet like Emrakul, the Promised End to search for, Traverse the Ulvenwald is an effective way to cheat on lands, while finding any threat later in the game. Without Traverse the Ulvenwald this deck would need 25 or 26 lands, which is a huge difference. I can even see future versions of this deck going up the a fourth Traverse the Ulvenwald.
This Black-Green Delirium deck may not have the amazing late-game inevitability it used to, but it still plays out pretty well in the later turns. Traverse the Ulvenwald contributes to having better topdeck potential, and Tireless Tracker is still a great way to generate value over the course of a few turns. Oftentimes the opponent will need to immediately use their removal on the two-drops, and that means that a card like Tireless Tracker is more likely to stick. The Black-Green Delirium deck also is able to play plenty of removal of its own.
DeCandio played more removal than most decks in the format are right now; the four Grasp of Darkness are an obvious instant-speed way to kill Felidar Guardian, which is a big draw. With Green-White Tokens being more popular, the need to kill planeswalkers is even more important than ever, which is why we see both Ruinous Path and To the Slaughter. However, the removal spell that stands out the most is the new one, Fatal Push. This card is actually great against the Black-Green deck itself, and as a way to get an edge in the mirror I could see going up to four main. Cracking Evolving Wilds provides another way to trigger revolt at instant speed.
The sideboard here is geared towards the expected metagame for week one. Lost Legacy is primarily for Felidar Guardian, but can also be used against any Aetherworks Marvel decks that might still be running around. There are a few different singleton creatures, and all can be found with a Traverse the Ulvenwald, which is why you only need to have the one copy of each of those creatures in the sideboard. There are also some threats here for midrange mirrors and control, like Nissa, Vital Force and Ob Nixilis Reignited. The other card in the sideboard that stands out is Yahenni's Expertise. This is one of the big reasons vehicle decks have an uphill battle.
This version of black-green is clearly well put together, but it was not the most popular version of the weekend. Other versions decks have actually gone a bit more aggressive, and added an energy theme. In doing so, you lose the delirium cards like Grim Flayer and Traverse the Ulvenwald, but what takes its place is still powerful.
When comparing this list to DeCandio's we see the counter synergies are still present. In fact, Guajardo has gone one step further and is playing Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. DeCandio's list didn't have any planeswalkers in the main, yet Nissa Voice of Zendikar definitely works well alongside the two-drops. There will be plenty of spots where you want to immediately minus Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and get aggressive. This is not the type of deck that is trying to tick up to an ultimate.
The energy creatures also play favorably alongside Winding Constrictor. Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra can mean spending energy adds two counters instead of only one. Bristling Hydra is a sizeable threat, and this Black-Green Aggro deck definitely values the ability to give its creatures hexproof. Beyond Bristling Hydra, we also see Blossoming Defense, which helps stop the opponent winning by loading up on removal. Against DeCandio's version of Black-Green Delirium the path to beating it is killing all of its creatures – this version makes that plan a lot more difficult.
With Grim Flayer gone, there needs to be another two-drop in its place. We already talked about Longtusk Cub, but Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is even more interesting. This deck generates enough energy to make Glint-Sleeve Siphoner into a reliable source of card advantage. When first looking at Glint-Sleeve Siphoner you could see the card was clearly very powerful, but it wasn't clear where exactly this card would fit in. A big reason to add an energy element to Black-Green Aggro is it allows you to play Siphoner.
In the sideboard we see Transgress the Mind rather than loading up on Lost Legacy. This helps the deck to better prepare for many decks, rather than specifically targeting combo. Heroic Intervention is another sideboard card that has popped up, and it is sweet against control decks. A very similar list to Guajardo's is Stephen Dykman's, who was runner-up in the Open.
At this point, we see many of the same cards are overlapping across all three lists. This list also has an energy theme, but makes a couple different card choices. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Aether Hub are in both energy decks, so both those cards seem like must-haves. Servant of the Conduit as an early ramp creature is present here and the energy it creates is nice as well, but Aethersphere Harvester is the card that stands out the most since the other two decks neglected to play vehicles at all. Aetherspehere Harvester is an aerial threat, like Mindwrack Demon, but the ability to give it lifelink is what makes Aethersphere Harvester a nightmare for any aggro deck. A three-drop that is very difficult to remove from play, and can have lifelink and flying is a scary card to face down.
With various iterations of black-green performing well, the natural question becomes what to do moving forward. Picking up Black-Green Aggro makes a lot of sense, but there will be plenty of players looking to beat it instead. I would start to move towards adding more early removal spells to decks in general. Breaking up Winding Constrictor and Walking Ballista early is necessary, in order to force the black-green decks to fight fair. If Winding Constrictor is taken away the counter synergies become less impressive, and you can play a normal game of Magic without getting immediately run over.
Thanks for reading,