"No Bad Cards" RUG Delver
“No Bad Cards” (NBC) RUG Delver is named as such as a tongue-in-cheek way to differentiate it from the deck that plays Nimble Mongoose and Stifle. The main point of divergence is that instead of playing narrow, situationally powerful cards that a skilled opponent can sometimes invalidate, the deck is full of live cards with broader applications.
As such, this deck does not play like Canadian Threshold. Canadian Threshold operates on a primary gameplan of not letting your opponent resolve anything while you clock them out with a cheap threat. NBC RUG Delver instead plays like a hyperefficient Jund deck.
With the new cards in War of the Spark and Modern Horizons, I don’t think that Canadian Threshold is where you want to be anymore.
I’m not saying Canadian Threshold is dead, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it take down a tournament. The cards are still powerful, and if they line up correctly against the things your opponents are doing, you’re going to win those games. Do that enough times in a row and you win a tournament!
My problem with the deck is that it used to be that if an opposing threat slipped through, you could still sometimes deal with it. The new threats, however, are so powerful that situations that used to be going “a little wrong” are now going horribly awry.
NBC RUG Delver doesn’t play Stifle, so it can’t rely as much on making sure your opponent can’t cast spells. However, it’s far better suited to actually answering the spells your opponent casts. Let’s take a look at what Canadian Threshold looks like now, and compare it to NBC RUG Delver.
"No Bad Cards" RUG Delver
The key difference, aside from Stifle, is the variation in threatbase. Canadian Threshold, specifically, is playing Nimble Mongoose, while NBC RUG is playing Dreadhorde Arcanist.
There’s a lot of literature about what makes Nimble Mongoose such a potent threat in Canadian Threshold, including the “turbo shroud” plan of just playing a Nimble Mongoose or True-Name Nemesis one at a time against control decks, pressuring with Winter Orb, and forcing the opponent to waste their precious mana and find their non-targeted removal, which you can then counter!
The current problem with Nimble Mongoose isn’t with the Goose itself, it’s that Wrenn and Six is too good to not play. Unfortunately, Wrenn and Six eats at your own graveyard too aggressively to reliably achieve threshold. I really wanted to try playing Barbarian Ring with Wrenn and Six in this shell, but couldn’t get threshold online enough to make it happen. Sorry little guy, a 1/1 Shroud isn’t going to cut it. Or I guess it does cut it, by which I mean it gets cut.
The other threat that NBC RUG Delver is playing is Dreadhorde Arcanist. Min and I have waxed poetic about the power of this card, and have likened it to a 2-mana Jace, the Mind Sculptor, provided a critical mass of 1-drops to support it. Between Dreadhorde Arcanist and Wrenn and Six, NBC RUG Delver has six threats that put you up one card every turn. This deck is definitely not a Delver deck in the classical sense; it is something much more powerful. It generates tempo, but has the staying power that Canadian Threshold lacks.
How does this deck generate tempo? Dreadhorde Arcanist only has 1 power, and Wrenn and Six doesn’t even attack! The reason these cards generate tempo is that they demand an immediate answer. If they don’t get answered promptly, you pull so far ahead on card advantage that your opponent can’t come back. Delver of Secrets must be killed quickly, then your 2-mana haymakers must be stopped on sight, and then Tarmogoyf comes down and closes the door on your opponent so fast that they can’t find another removal spell in time and they lose.
An aside on Fiery Islet vs Lonely Sandbar:
Players have caught wind that having a land that says “Draw a Card” is a great way to supercharge Wrenn and Six. The debate is between Fiery Islet and Lonely Sandbar. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Fiery Islet is a functional UR land, meaning that it works for casting your spells as you need it to, and then can convert itself into a fresh card when you no longer need the mana. Lonely Sandbar doesn’t quite perform the same way. As a land, it enters tapped and only adds blue mana.
However, I don’t think of Lonely Sandbar as a land. In my build of NBC RUG Delver, I actually cut a Preordain to try this card out. It’s more of an uncounterable Reach Through Mists, but one you can recur with Wrenn and Six. The reason to play Lonely Sandbar over Fiery Islet is that recurring it eats your land drop for turn, while cycling Lonely Sandbar does not. Lonely Sandbar allows you to draw extra cards, and then convert your card advantage into tempo and board advantage by casting several spells per turn.
Since you’re able to still play lands, you’re able to cast more spells in a turn as you develop your mana, instead of having to either choose to use Fiery Islet or make a land drop, you can do both!
While I prefer Lonely Sandbar, lots of good players are preferring to play Fiery Islet in NBC RUG Delver instead due to being better as a land. I’m open to the possibility of being wrong on this, but I urge you to try Lonely Sandbar over Fiery Islet.
There’s another deck with an identical threatbase, and it is the sister deck of NBC RUG Delver: 4-Color Delver. Let’s look at what a typical 4-Color Delver deck looks like right now:
This deck and NBC and RUG Delver are basically the same deck. 4-Color Delver trades access to the best cards Black has to offer, like Thoughtseize, Abrupt Decay, Liliana's Triumph, and Plague Engineer, for a very shaky manabase. While a resolved Wrenn and Six essentially unlocks your colors, the deck forces some awkward sequencing.
If you want to Thoughtseize with Daze backup on Turn 1, you’re going to have to fetch up an Underground Sea, which means you won’t be able to cast a Wrenn and Six on Turn 2. If you lead on Volcanic Island into Delver of Secrets, you won’t be able to cast Abrupt Decay on Turn 2, meaning that Aether Vial or Chalice of the Void is sticking around for at least an extra turn, which is long enough to start getting picked apart by a Rishadan Port or get that Abrupt Decay sniped by a Thought-Knot Seer.
These examples are kind of worst-case scenarios, and the games often play out much better than this, but it’s worth pointing out that awkward sequencing is a serious downside to 4-Color Delver.
On the Fiery Islet vs Lonely Sandbar debate, I think that Fiery Islet is definitely correct in 4-Color Delver, since you are more likely to need the land and the colors it provides.
With 4-Color Delver, it feels like when you’re casting your spells as you need them, you can’t lose. However, it comes up a little too often that that’s not the case. NBC RUG Delver trades a moderate decrease in power level of your cards for a much better manabase.
If 4-Color Delver can’t lose when it can cast its spells, NBC RUG Delver generally doesn’t lose when it can cast its spells. Fortunately, with a much more stable manabase, that scenario arises a lot more. For your viewing pleasure, I recorded a league with NBC RUG Delver, shown below!
I wrote a sideboard guide for NBC RUG Delver, available below. You'll notice that this deck keeps in Force of Will more than you'd usually do in Delver decks. Since so many of the threats in this deck generate card advantage every turn you untap with them, it's not a big deal to put yourself down a card if you're going to recoup it one turn later, or extend the game long enough to get to the point where your threats can snowball you impossibly far ahead.
Moving Forward and Cutting-Edge Tech:
There are a few things I want to try as potential innovations in the NBC RUG Delver shell. The first of these is Crop Rotation somewhere in the 75, and Karakas in the sideboard. With an active Wrenn and Six , Crop Rotation can give you access to a Wasteland, your Fiery Islet/Lonely Sandbar, or this Karakas, which is great against what I believe to be the best deck in the format, Reclaimer Depths. I think that if you're playing Crop Rotation, the scales tilt in favor of Fiery Islet, since the land would enter the game on the battlefield, not in your hand.
I’m not sure if the deck needs a board-sweeper. Between Dreadhorde Arcanist and Wrenn and Six, you often have enough card advantage to trade 1-for-1 with the go-wide creature decks without a sweeper. However, the sweeper (Rough // Tumble) is fantastic against stuff like Empty the Warrens, or armies of Goblin Rabblemasters and Legion Warbosses.
Playing an extra Vapor Snag in this slot, like I did in the above recorded league, allows you to have an extra way to answer a Marit Lage token. Also, since the deck has so much built-in card advantage, casting the world’s best Unsummon is actually more reasonable than it might look at first glance.
I strongly recommend this deck, provided access to the cards. I’ve had some pretty absurd success with NBC RUG Delver so far, and hope you find the same.
Written by Max