Unlocking the Vault #80: Delve and Tell

A new Vintage Combo deck featuring Show and Tell and Omniscience has been making the rounds on MTGO. Does the deck have the chops to stay around?

Remember when Vintage Masters was nearing its release and some people were proclaiming that Vintage on MTGO might lead to some interesting new decks? Aside from the Grixis Slaver decks that popped up over the summer, not much innovation has been going on, sadly. Granted, events stopped firing for several weeks during the fall, but overall it seemed that the hype of MTGO would be overblown. That was until last week when I found this deck show up to finish 4-0 in a DE on November 30th:

It’s hard to tell if this deck was designed from the ground up to compete in Vintage, or if someone simply wanted to port a “Legacy deck”. Either way, I don’t believe that a similar deck originated from a paper decklist, so I’m going to assume that its existence is a result of Vintage on MTGO.

Now, as far as I’m aware, this deck doesn’t have an official name. It’s clearly a Show and Tell-Omniscience deck (“OmniTell” in Legacy), but it’s turbo charged with the Delve cards from Khans of Tarkir. Thus, I’m going to refer to is as Delve and Show, though I don’t have any belief that the name will catch on at all.

Nonetheless, let’s examine what this deck is. As mentioned above, it is a Show and Tell-Omniscience deck. However, past iterations of this type of deck have not taken off in Vintage. Prior to this deck list showing up in a DE, it only existed as a Legacy deck, though none of those used the blue Delve draw engines. A quick look into Morphling.de shows exactly 1 Vintage deck in the past 12 months featuring more than a singleton Omniscience in the maindeck. It’s far more prevalent in Legacy, but even there it’s been phased out to a certain extent. Most Legacy Show and Tell decks are simply “Sneak and Show” and lack Omniscience altogether. The lone OmniTell Vintage deck that I could find utilized 3 main win-conditions: Griselbrand, Blightsteel Colossus, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

The newest iteration of Delve and Show simply uses Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Emrakul. Why is this new version able to lower the number of win-conditions and still be successful?

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There are 6 blue Delve cards to help this deck find all of the pieces to win the game. Once Omniscience is in play, chaining Delve cards to get through your entire deck is trivial. From there, you either “hard” cast Emrakul to win the game, or, in a pinch, Jace them out. Obviously, the latter is the less desirable option.

There have been two main weaknesses, in my opinion, to Show and Tell decks in Vintage. First, is the sheer difficulty in casting a 3-mana sorcery in some games. Either you have to fight through a wall of countermagic, or you are Sphere’ed out by Workshop decks. The second problem has been that your opponent could drop his or her own Emrakul off of Show and Tell. The recent printing of Containment Priest only complicated matters, though admittedly a Priest dropped in from a Show and Tell won’t stop an opponent’s creature from popping in. To get around these problems, 987789987 has adopted Omniscience as Plan A and added Boseiju, Who Shelters All to make sure that Show and Tell can’t be countered. Omniscience fully avoids Priest and it’s hard to lose once it hits the table, especially with how many cantrips this deck has, even if your opponent just put his own Emrakul into play. In fact, all that is really necessary is getting Omniscience in play and having just a single Delve card in hand. With Omniscience, you no longer need to Delve in order to cast these cards since you can “pay” their normal 8 mana casting costs for free. With 6 in the deck it’s very easy to find another Delve card after casting the first. If you think that casting Cruise or Dig for 1 and 2 mana respectively with Delve is broken enough, then you haven’t lived until you’ve cast the card for free with no drawbacks.

Speaking of the cantrips, this deck packs 9, plus Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. The typical 6-pack of Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain are present along with 3 Gitaxian Probes. Probe is a card that fits this deck quite well. Besides being a free cantrip, it can give you (nearly) perfect information about your opponent, especially in Game 1 on Turn 1. This deck is capable of winning on Turn 1 with a little luck, so Probe can let you know if the coast is clear or not. Later in the game, it can also provide the same function (assuming you haven’t been able to get Boseiju out yet).

The manabase in Delve and Show is much better than previous Show and Tell decks. The Delve cards make running Black for tutors unnecessary leaving the deck to be entirely mono-Blue. This makes the deck less susceptible to Wasteland and color-screw.

As powerful as this deck appears, it is by no means unbeatable. It can take several turns to assemble the combo-kill and faster decks, such as Dredge and Storm can beat it to the punch. Workshop is still present to make casting Show and Tell difficult, too. Still, if the deck did manage to take off, there are ways to fight it, even if they are less than ideal. Cards like Jester’s Cap and Sadistic Sacrament can remove all of the win conditions in the deck. Meddling Mage and Nevermore can be played to prevent Emrakul from being cast. It’s also possible that hate cards such as Spirit of the Labyrinth, Eidolon of Rhetoric, and Ethersworn Canonist are enough to slow down the deck. The latter two in particular are likely more effective as this deck is simply not equipped to deal with beyond a maindeck Jace. Are these perfect solutions? No, but solutions do exist and nearly all of those cards have both been played in Vintage in the past.

One of the aspects of the deck that I think can use some work is the sideboard. Naturally, with any new deck, the sideboard is usually pretty crude. Specifically, I’m not sure what the Pithing Needles are supposed to be used for. An opposing Jace is a problem only if you try to cheat Emrakul into play without using Show and Tell. It’s a highly flexible card and can be used on things like Bazaar of Baghdad and Time Vault so I see it has purpose, but I think I’d rather see more Workshop hate for the deck or at least an all purpose bounce spell like Chain of Vapor or Echoing Truth, etc. Rebuild is a fine card, but can also be difficult to cast. Perhaps Hurkyl’s Recall is a better than the second Rebuild? I’d also like to see more Dredge hate, such as a Tormod’s Crypt or Relic of Progenitus. The one downside to being a mono-color deck is that it limits your sideboard options.

Having seen this deck in action and playing a few games with it myself, I can say that it is not a one-hit wonder. In fact, I believe this is the best deck that can abuse Dig Through Time that we’ve seen yet. I’ve avoided using the “B” word that gets thrown around all too often these last few months (myself included!). It will be interesting to see if this deck catches on, though.

One final note for this week: The World Championship was held last week and the Pros (Josh Utter-Leyton, specifically) unleashed some intriguing tech to drastically improve Jeskai Ascendancy in Modern: Fatestitcher. It took all of 3 days for someone to adapt it for Vintage and the early results were promising. Vintage players are familiar with Fatestitcher as a Dredge enabler, however in Josh’s deck it is a combo enabler letting the deck amass large horde of high-powered creatures and tapping opposing blockers to clear the way. Perhaps I can get some games in with the deck to review next time out!

Clan Magic Eternal
Follow me on Twitter @enderfall

  1. I’d be curious how you think this compares to Storm, i.e. is it just a worse Burning Tendrils deck in many ways? Taxing effects still have to be paid on spells cast from Omniscience, so Thalia and Spheres and Thorns and LSG’s wreck it. The advantage of S&T over Storm combo should be that you only have to resolve the single spell, but this requires you to resolve as many as Storm if not more.

    It seems built for a field of 90% blue decks. Jace is the only answer for a resolved hatebear, it can ONLY deal with artifacts not creatures, so Mox + Cavern + Thalia or Spirit of the Labyrinth looks like game-over. Dude needs black mana, a couple more tutors, and some more flexible sideboard options, OR needs a better alternative win-con than Jace for when his glass cannon breaks apart on him. Your suggestion of Echoing Truth, plus maybe a Merchant Scroll, would be reasonable if he wants to stay mono blue.

  2. Thanks for the comments, guys. Yeah, in hindsight, Show and Delve might be more appropriate…

    In relation to Storm decks, there are some similarities. Against Spheres, this deck is not really suited to perform. I think the sideboard has to pull a lot of the weight in that match-up, but really, it’s not all that different from Storm. Storm is hard pressed to win against Sphere’s without winning the die roll and combo-ing out on Turn 1 or 2. In a pinch, you can always throw more Emrakul’s into the SB to make Show and Tell more reliable against Spheres (instead of the Omniscience plan), though Duplicant is always going to be a threat.

    In other ways, this deck is superior to Storm. It’s impervious to color screw and particularly Wasteland and doesn’t use the graveyard besides firing of a Delve spell before it can find the combo. These are certainly positive aspects in its favor.

    In the end, is Storm a better combo deck? Maybe, but this kind of thing is always good to have around. Combo can use the “pick me up” with the number of Control and Tempo decks running around. Shops are always going to be an issue, but that’s hardly any different than every other deck out there.

  3. Another minor aspect that I prefer in this deck over Storm is that your life total is not as important. You don’t have to spend life to Vamp Tutor, or draw cards off of Necro/Bargain. This effectively lets you ignore what Delver players are doing as you can accurately gauge their clock better.