#69 — Team America is nothing like Canadian Threshold.
I’ve been busy playing Delver decks these past few weeks. Not only have I played a lot of Canadian Threshold recently, I have also played my fair share of Team America. The Team America list I played is mostly based off of HJ Goddik’s version of the deck. (As a matter of fact, I’ve been playing with his actual cards, so shoutouts to HJ!)
In the beginning, I always tried to aggro out people – it seemed to make sense because the deck has fifteen creatures while being somewhat short on interaction. Turns out, if you try to Go Canadian Threshold on people, you end up running out of resources fairly quickly because this deck’s interactive elements are rather clunky and none of the threats are nearly as powerful as Nimble Mongoose, which is just very hard to answer for many decks.
Adjustments had to be made in both deck construction and playstyle, so let’s see what I’ve found out so far.
#70 — The deck is usually forced to play to the battlefield, but sometimes can’t do so efficiently.
This is the one major problem I have with the current list. You almost always have to play on the board (rather than the stack), but many of your cards are clunky, so it can get hard to cast two spells in the same turn. There’s a huge different between draws involving Deathrite Shaman and draws without it. Team America is very powerful when it can cast two spells per turn, but it can easily fall behind if you’re stuck casting cantrips and discard spells.
Most of the things I have learned about this deck are more specific variations of this statement, allowing us to identify actual problems with the deck and solve them.
#71 — Four removal spells are not a whole lot.
This was one of the first things I noticed about the deck. In Delver mirrors, you have the advantages of uncounterable removal and bigger threats, but if your opponent resolves three creatures, you will have a hard time winning. Especially draws with multiple Delvers or early Monastery Swiftspears are very hard to keep up with when you only have four removal spells in your entire deck.
This obviously extends to matchups like Death & Taxes and Maverick, but for those, your sideboard gives you the alternate plan of becoming a control deck with sweepers and Jace, whereas you only get to bring Submerges in Delver mirrors (but not even against all versions of Delver).
The low number of removal spells is also a major issue against Eldrazi decks. Not only do they have a lot of creatures (which you sometimes can’t counter thanks to Cavern of Souls, putting an even bigger strain on your removal), there’s another issue that crops up with regards to this list’s removal suite:
#72 — Abrupt Decay is extremely narrow.
This might seem off because one of Abrupt Decay’s main benefits is that it “hits everything”, but it really doesn’t. Sure, it can hit Delver of Secrets and Tarmogoyf the same as Counterbalance and Monastery Mentor. But it doesn’t deal with Nimble Mongoose, Gurmag Angler, Blinkmoth Nexus or Reality Smasher. There’s also the fact that it doesn’t do anything on turn one, which is an extra three damage from Delver of Secrets you’re taking or an extra mana your opponent gets from Deathrite Shaman.
That being said, dealing with Chalice of the Void, Umezawa’s Jitte and Liliana of the Veil, is great. I’m not advocating to cut Abrupt Decay for other removal spells (although I have played with three copies in the past), but this is just another factor that makes me want to include extra removal spells.
#73 — Zero Dismember is likely wrong.
It only took me a few games to figure out that I probably want a copy or two of Dismember, but I actually still haven’t included a copy in my list. It is a great removal spells though, thanks to its effiency and flexibility. Actually being able to adjust Dismember’s mana cost depending on the situation is a big benefit of running lands that tap for black mana. You can cast it on the cheap early, but you don’t have to invest a lot of life into when you draw it late. It also hits most of the creatures you have trouble dealing with, so it’s the removal spell I want to include the most.
#74 — (Almost) everything in the deck is high variance.
This deck’s greatest benefit is also its main weakness.
Team America is flexible to the point of volatility. You can never quite say for sure what is going to happen next – it might be a trump creature, a planeswalker or just a removal spell. This can make it hard to form a plan against the deck because it can be a fast aggro deck or a powerful control deck. You can shift roles between games with your sideboarding or you might just draw a specific portion of the deck.
The issue with this is the fact that it often lies beyond the player’s control what’s going to happen. Wastelands don’t mesh well with four mana spells and Hymn to Tourach can be anywhere between devastating and a blank.
I like that the deck is able to switch between roles, but I feel like there’s a way to make smoother transitions between playstyles possible.
#75 — You have to make Hymn to Tourach work.
This is the most important facet of the previous point. When you have a Delver of Secrets, you usually don’t care about the number of cards your opponent has in hand. What’s on the board is way more important; this includes whether your Delver stays on the board or not.
I think the pre-Delver versions of Team America made better use of Hymn to Tourach. They didn’t care as much about the efficiency of their creatures; the powerlevel was more important. When you grind your opponent down to zero cards in hand, Tombstalker and Tarmogoyf are much more impressive threats than Delver of Secrets and Deathrite Shaman. I also really like how True-Name Nemesis plays with Hymn to Tourach, simply because it requires such a specific set of cards to deal with.
I was very unhappy with Hymn in HJ’s original list, but since I’ve removed the Vendilion Cliques for True-Names, I actually quite like the card. It can still be risky to take a turn without affecting the board in creature matchups, but Hymn is much better against Shardless Sultai and Miracles now.
#76 — Team America’s manabase is not exactly the greatest.
Between Abrupt Decay, Hymn to Tourach and True-Name Nemesis, it can be impossible to cast all of your spells. I guess this is a good time to let a picture do the talking for me:
#77 — 36 permanents are a lot when you’re playing with Delver of Secrets.
There’s not much to it, Delver is not very reliable in this deck and Merfolk of the Pearl Trident is not a playable Magic card.
#78 — Sultai might be better off without Delver
When I’m playing this deck, I often feel like I’m playing an inferior version of Grixis Delver or Shardless Sultai. If you’re looking for a middle ground between the two, a modified version of this deck might be the solution. Double Delver draws are certainly great, but only if both Delvers transform, which, as I pointed out, doesn’t happen frequently enough in this deck. There’s also the fact that there’s no Lightning Bolts in this deck, which makes closing out games a bit harder.
I have also pointed out how big the difference between games with and without Deathrite Shaman is. Maybe there should be additional mana accelerants in the deck. My thinking was that Noble Hierarch was too bad because it doesn’t tap for black mana, but there’s another option that I never thought of until I played against it in the top eight of this month’s Legacy Challenge: Mox Diamond.
Maybe discarding a land is too big a cost, but maybe the payoff is high enough. I especially like that Mox actually fixes your mana and Life from the Loam is a card I’m currently trying out anyway.
I have not played this list myself, but I like many of the things it does, so check out this list by pow22.