Recently I’ve been making one of the biggest sins of my Legacy career: I’ve been playing basic lands. Izzet Delver is the new hotness in Legacy, and for good reason. The mana base is consistent and resilient to Wasteland. Dreadhorde Arcanist is, with no exaggeration, a two-mana Jace, the Mind Sculptor. In case that wasn’t enough, you also get to play Brainstorm.

My teammate and annoying bird on my shoulder telling me to play this deck, Harlan Firer, took down the Team Eternal event at SCGCon with a near card-for-card 75. I made the top 8 of this last weekend’s Legacy Classic, while teammate Drake Sasser made top 16. This puts our collective record at these three events at 24-6.

It’s safe to say that for the foreseeable future I will be playing this deck in Legacy. If you’d like to as well, then follow along as I go through card choices, sideboarding, matchups, and changes moving forward.

The Deck

Legacy Izzet Delver

Creatures (14)
Delver of Secrets
Grim Lavamancer
Dreadhorde Arcanist
Young Pyromancer
True-Name Nemesis

Spells (27)
Chain Lightning
Lightning Bolt
Spell Pierce
Force of Will
Lands (19)
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Bloodstained Mire
Volcanic Island

Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Null Rod
Winter Orb
Blood Moon
Force of Negation
Narset, Parter of Veils
Magmatic Sinkhole

Card Choices

Grim Lavamancer is a little awkward with the creature to beat in Legacy being Dreadhorde Arcanist at three toughness. Still, I think it’s an important tool to have in the mirror, against Death and Taxes, and just as a one-mana creature. I didn’t find that it fought with Dreadhorde Arcanist for the graveyard too much either.

It was only a few months ago that we were seeing Delver decks pushing up to three and sometimes four copies of True-Name Nemesis. Nowadays, one maindeck copy seems to be more common. I ended up playing two, because the Legacy metagam is incredibly fair right now. This card can invalidate opposing Dreadhorde Arcanists while also being a very good card against Death and Taxes, Grixis Control, Miracles, and other fair decks.

Having another free counterspell against decks like Sneak and Show and Storm is great. The awkward turns against combo where you have to choose between advancing your board state or holding up multiple pieces of interaction are the worst. Force of Negation alleviates that issue. It’s also more reasonable to hardcast than Force of Will, and is stellar against cards like Life from the Loam because of the exile clause.

Being so basic-heavy means this deck gets access to some of the best land hate among the Delver variants. Blood Moon, Back to Basics, and Winter Orb are all on the table as options. I went with a Winter Orb for its power against more basic-heavy control strategies to pinch their mana. Alongside that I played a Blood Moon where my teammate Harlan played only a Back to Basics. I think both of these options have their pros and cons.

Back to Basics can cut decks like Grixis Control or Four-Color Leovold off their nonbasic lands entirely, where Moon would still give them red mana. Back to Basics also doesn’t have the awkward interaction of giving Depths strategies a 20/20 if they destroy it with Dark Depths on the battlefield.

Blood Moon on the other hand isn’t blue and doesn’t get hit by Pyroblast against the Grixis and Four-Color strategies. Lands decks can also play more easily through a Back to Basics. They still have access to green mana to destroy it, and can just hit their land drops and make a 20/20.

Having no access to discard means our deck isn’t the greatest against Storm. Null Rod and Force of Negation fix this problem. Even though Storm isn’t the most popular deck at the moment, I still wouldn’t leave home without Null Rod because of its power against Death and Taxes, another unfavorable matchup.

Sideboard Guide and Matchup Analysis


Out: -2 Force of Will, -1 Wasteland, -2 Spell Pierce
In: +2 Pyroblast, +2 Abrade, +1 Magmatic Sinkhole

Normally I’m a big proponent of cutting all your Force of Wills, play or draw in the Delver mirror. The matchup is secretly a Jund-like mirror of attrition. That said, the power of Dreadhorde Arcanist is so high, that I’m happy to two-for-one myself if it means I can untap with my own little two-mana Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

I bring in all the removal to keep my opponent off their own Dreadhorde Arcanist. This matchup is much more about the red cards than the blue cards, so for that reason I’m only bringing in two Pyroblasts.

Death and Taxes

Out: -2 Spell Pierce, -2 Force of Will
In: +2 Abrade, +1 Magmatic Sinkhole, +1 Null Rod

This is a big point of contention I’ve had with the Death and Taxes matchup, but I leave in all my Dazes, play or draw, rain or shine, and on all days ending in “y.” “But what if they have Aether Vial?” people ask. Legacy specialist Maxtortion (Max Gilmore) summed it up pretty well to me saying “sideboard for the games you win.”

People tunnel vision too much on answering Aether Vial. Their opening seven-card hands will have it under 40% of the time, not accounting for when you will also have Abrade or Null Rod. Daze on the other hand is a beating if you’re able to answer Vial. You can advance your own board state, while answering their clunkier two and three drops.

I could go on about this topic for an eternity. Rather I urge you to try it yourself if you’re someone who has been stuck on the leaving in Force of Will plan.

Grixis Control or Four-Color Leovold

Out: -4 Force of Will, -1 Lightning Bolt, -1 Chain Lightning, -1 Preordain
In: +3 Pyroblast, +1 Magmatic Sinkhole, +1 Winter Orb, +1 Narset, Parter of Veils, +1 Blood Moon

If you’re playing Back to Basics, I would sideboard it in against Grixis. Otherwise I’m leaving in the fourth Preordain and only bring in Blood Moon against the Four color variants. I trim on the burn spells as they are largely just Lava Spikes, whereas Pyroblasts are much better answers to Baleful Strix, Narset, and Jace.

Magmatic Sinkhole is a recent addition that also cleanly answers Strix and all their walkers, even nonblue ones like Liliana, the Last Hope.


Out on the Play: -2 Force of Will, -1 Daze, -2 Wasteland, -1 Chain Lightning, -1 Grim Lavamancer, -1 Lightning Bolt
Out on the Draw: -1 Force of Will, -2 Daze, -2 Wasteland, -1 Chain Lightning, -1 Grim Lavamancer, -1 Lightning Bolt
In: +1 Winter Orb, +3 Pyroblast, +1 Magmatic Sinkhole, +1 Narset, Parter of Veils, +1 Flusterstorm, +1 Force of Negation

Force of Negation is almost a strictly better Force of Will in this matchup. Countering Swords to Plowshares and Council’s Judgment means they can’t be flashed back with Snapcaster Mage and it’s also reasonable to cast for three mana.

I generally approach the matchup with the mantra “Terminus doesn’t exist until it’s on the stack.” That is, don’t try to pace your threats to play around Terminus, because then you just lost to Swords, Snapcaster, Swords. Do the math on how each additional threat past two changes the clock, and make your decision accordingly. Win the fight over the first Terminus and you’re generally golden—you hopefully won’t give them the time to find the second.

Sneak and Show

Out: -2 True-Name Nemesis, -1 Young Pyromancer, -1 Grim Lavamancer, -1 Chain Lightning, -2 Lightning Bolt
In: +2 Flusterstorm, +1 Surgical Extraction, +3 Pyroblast, +1 Force of Negation

Surgical Extraction isn’t nearly as good in Izzet Delver as it is in Grixis Delver due to the lack of discard. Personally I’ve still found Surgical better than the cards I’m cutting, so I bring in one.

I didn’t include Winter Orb, but it is another card I’ve been back and forth on in the past for similar reasons to Surgical Extraction. It does nothing to stop their first combo attempt, but can significantly hamper their additional attempts should you stop the first.


Out on the Play: -3 Force of Will, -1 Chain Lightning, -1 Grim Lavamancer, -1 Preodain
Out on the Draw: -2 Daze, -1 Chain Lightning, -1 Grim Lavamancer, -2 Spell Pierce
In: +2 Surgical Extraction, +1 Blood Moon, +2 Abrade, +1 Force of Negation

Abrade is a reasonable answer to their sideboard plan of Trackers and Chalices, at worst it can nab a Mox Diamond. Spell Pierce and Daze get significantly worse on the draw.


Out: -2 Lightning Bolt, -1 Young Pyromancer, -1 Grim Lavamancer, -1 Chain Lightning, -2 True-Nemesis, -1 Wasteland
In: +2 Surgical Extraction, +1 Null Rod, +2 Flusterstorm, +1 Force of Negation, +2 Pyroblast

Storm follows pretty closely to Sneak and Show in my sideboard strategy. Cut the clunkier and slower creatures, bring in interaction. Surgical is better against Storm than Sneak and Show because of their Past in Flames lines, and Null Rod is a great tool at stopping a hellbent Infernal Tutor.

Card Changes Moving Forward

Dreadhorde Arcanist and Wrenn and Six are both very popular right now; Hydroblast is a great clean answer to both. I think the third Pyroblast is the “fifteenth card” in the sideboard right now, so I’d probably cut one for Hydroblast.

Bloodstained Mire, Arid Mesa, and Wooded Foothills all serve the purpose of having an additional fetch for basic Mountain. I find myself fetching basic lands more than duals, so having a fetch that can get basic Mountain or Island, rather than basic Mountain or a Volcanic feels better.

The second Flusterstorm doesn’t really come in for any matchups where I wouldn’t already be bringing in Force of Negation. After doing some quick math, I’ve found that free is less than one mana, which is important in matchups like Storm, Sneak and Show, and especially Rakdos Reanimator. For that reason, even with the downside of having to two-for-one yourself, I’m going to try out the second Force of Negation.

If you have any other questions on sideboarding, card choices, or matchups feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. Thanks for reading.

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