You young whippersnappers don’t know how good you got it!

Back in my day we walked fifteen miles to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways! Worst yet, we did not have access to a convenient, uncounterable removal spell in the form of Abrupt Decay. We either zapped it with a Lightning Bolt, or sent it farming with a Swords to Plowshares. If neither one of those did the trick, well that means most times you would be plum out of luck! Now those were the good ol’ days. For you see, those were the days Phyrexian Dreadnought roamed the land.

That little firefly in the bottom right corner of the art? Look again.

What Killed the Dinosaurs?

Before Griselbrand. Before Emrakul. Before even Progenitus. There was Phyrexian Dreadnought. It was the biggest, baddest, B.A.M.F you could cheat into play. For 1 generic mana (and a few tricks) you could get a 12/12 trampler to crush your opponent. The original combo was with Illusionary Mask. How does it work you ask? I have no flipping idea. I first laid eyes on Illusionary Mask 15 years ago, I still to this day have not managed to get all the way through reading Illusionary Mask before falling asleep. All you really need to know is that it works, but as soon as Stifle was printed in Scourge, Illusionary Mask quickly fell by the wayside in favor for a cleaner and simpler blue instant. Illusionary mask

Fun fact, understanding Illusionary Mask qualifies you for a perfect score on the English section of the SAT

With Stifle (and sometimes its modern cousin Trickbind) you are able to counter the triggered ability on Phyrexian Dreadnought. The whole “sacrifice creatures with power 12 or greater” part. So at the end of the day Phyrexian Dreadnought reads, one generic mana put a 12/12 Trample artifact creature into play. That seems pretty good to me.   


Love is love, I don’t care what weird stuff you two get into on your own time

The problem with Stifle/Dreadnought though, is the same with all “cheat a fatty into play” combos; it is inherent card disadvantage. You are spending TWO cards in order to get ONE card into play. Card disadvantage is a pretty subtle topic that I don’t really have time to get into here, but trust me when I say that it is one of the quickest ways to lose a game of Magic. Stifle/Dreadnought players were willing to accept this card disadvantage because the payoff of a huge creature early in the game was usually worth it. That was until Abrupt Decay was printed.

Abrupt Decay was like rubbing salt in the wound. Not only did the Stifle/Dreadnought player spend two cards and a whole turn to get a big dumb monster into play, their opponents had an instant speed, uncounterable answer to brush it aside like nothing. It’s a pretty bad feeling setting up the combo and feeling so overjoyed when you get the turn two 12/12, only to have your opponent shrug and say “Abrupt Decay it”. Considering decks like Reanimator and Sneak and Show were operating on the same card disadvantage principle without opening themselves up to decay, Stifle/Dreadnought was too much of a liability. The once proud Phyrexian Dreadnought began to fade into obscurity, nestled in between Morphling and Hypnotic Specter, in the “used to be playable” retirement binder.

That is, until today.

The BUG with Twelve Legs

Spells (29)
Abrupt Decay
Toxic Deluge
Force of Will
Torpor Orb

Creatures (14)
Delver of Secrets
Deathrite Shaman
Phyrexian Dreadnought
Gurmag Angler
Lands (18)
Underground Sea
Tropical Island
Polluted Delta
Misty Rainforest
Academy Ruins

Sideboard (15)
Vision Charm
Toxic Deluge
Pithing Needle
Relic of Progenitus
Sylvan Library
Baleful Strix
Krosan Grip

The Creature Package

What I love about this version of Stifle/Dreadnought, is that it’s really easy to win the game without ever pulling off the combo. Deathrite Shaman, Delver of Secrets, and Gurmag Angler are all hefty threats on their own. Its creature package is almost identical to traditional BUG Delver, a.k.a “Team America” lists. We are basicly subbing out Tarmogoyf for something that hits a little harder.   


The Unholy Trinity: Stifle, Daze, Wasteland

If you were playing legacy back in 2012, you will remember how absolutely oppressive these cards were in RUG Delver, the unarguable top deck of the day. The idea is simple; land a turn one threat, then keep your opponent from doing anything for the next few turns by destroying their lands so they can’t pay for Daze. Whether it’s a Delver of Secrets, or a Phyrexian Dreadnought, by the time your opponent can claw their way back from “mana screwed island” they will already be dead. As an added bonus Stifle also has plenty of other uses when it is not countering fetch lands or cheating Phyrexian Dreadnoughts into play.




The Bread and Butter

Brainstorm, Ponder, and Force of Will are pretty much auto includes in any Delver deck. The fact that we are also a combo deck puts double importance on having eight cantrip effects in the deck. (If you did not know, a cantrip is any card that replaces itself, usually with some card selection attached. Ponder, Brainstorm, Preordain, Serum Visions are all examples.) Thoughtseize and Toxic Deluge are a bit of a flex spot, they are not absolutely essential, but they help in various match-ups.


Abrupt Decay

Hey if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. This deck has 26 one drop spells, twenty six!!! That’s almost half the deck. With all the Chalice of the Void running around in legacy right now we can’t afford to not play Abrupt Decay. Add in the fact that our mana base is extra susceptible to Blood Moon, and we have no other sources of removal, Abrupt Decay ends up putting in more than its fair share of work.

Odds and Ends

One card I wanted to point out of the sideboard is Vision Charm, not only can it be used to counter the Phyrexian Dreadnoughts trigger by phasing it out while the sacrifice is on the stack. You can also use it to save Dreadnought from any incoming removal. If you are feeling really cheeky, you can use Vision charm as a qsudo Silence by turning all of your opponents lands into a color of your choice during their upkeep.

Academy Ruins is a nice addition in the mana base. You don’t lose too much for having to use it for its colorless mana, and in the long games it can make sure you can play Dreadnought after Dreadnought, while keeping a Torpor Orb on the table through any artifact destruction.

The Spicy 61st

This one was so spicy I had to add a second copy. Torpor Orb is a solid card all on its own, even when it’s not helping you resolve Phyrexian Dreadnoughts without Stifle. Lets run down a quick list of some of the tournament staples that Torpor Orb laughs at.

Snapcaster Mage

Stoneforge Mystic

Vendilion Clique

Venser, Shaper Savant

Thought-Knot Seer

Ashen Rider

Elvish Visionary

Baleful Strix

Phyrexian Dreadnought

and many many more.

I could go on and on about how cool Torpor Orb is, but I think this picture sums it all up pretty nicely.

Torpor orb

See you all next time! 

Jerry Mee is a Boston Native who has been playing Magic since Onslaught Block. Primarily a Legacy player, he cohosts the weekly Leaving a Legacy Podcast found on He can be reached on Twitter at @Jmee3rd

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