Interview with Delver Champion Alfonso Zarzoso


Alfonso Zarzoso won the latest Manatraders Legacy Series with Temur Delver. He now joins us on Cardmarket Insight for an interview to talk about life, Legacy, the factors that influenced his deck choice, his experience at the tournament, sideboard plans, and the overall state of the format …

Greetings everyone! This week I am happier than ever since I finally had the chance to interview a fellow Spaniard. Two weeks ago, he won the Legacy portion of Manatraders' online tournament series.

About Alfonso Zarzoso

alfonso zarzoso
Alfonso Zarzoso, also known as AngusMTG on Twitter

Rone: Thanks for your time, Alfonso. First things first, could you please give us some background? Who are you and what do you do for a living?

Alfonso: My name is Alfonso Zarzoso and I have been working for over twenty years in IT consulting support for different companies.

Rone: Aside from working, what are your main hobbies when you are not winning at Magic?

Alfonso: Well, since I am married and have three kids, between taking care of them and my job, I have little time left for hobbies, hence I try to seize every moment available to play some Magic: The Gathering.

Rone: Fair enough. Regarding Magic achievements, what are your previous results in online and tabletop tournaments?

Alfonso: My best competitive achievement so far was winning the Eternal Weekend in 2018, more specifically the Vintage one. Aside from that, I have played several events with 200+ players, like Ovinogeddon in Italy where I made the finals, and last but not least Top 100 at GP Bologna in 2019. After an early 9-1 record, I finished 10-5. Overall, I don't consider myself a GP player looking for an entry into competitive level, rather I enjoy Eternal tournaments.

Tournament Report

Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration

Rone: Moving on to the article's main topic, what was your process to decide which deck to play?

Alfonso: Long story short, I love playing blue, aside from disliking combo decks, since sometimes you just chain cantrip after cantrip to find nothing and then you die. Normally I would prefer the controlling role — indeed I qualified for the Manatraders event piloting a Snowko shell. However, for competitive events, I much rather shift toward a more aggressive strategy like Delver, so games don't get too long and I don't get stressed about timing out, especially on Magic Online.

Rone: Why did you choose Temur Delver for the Manatraders Legacy Series?

Alfonso: Although there are different flavors of Delver variants, right now Temur is the best thanks to Oko, Thief of Crowns, a format defining card that sees play throughout different archetypes, and Dreadhorde Arcanist, probably the best red card in Legacy after of course Pyroblast. The stock creature configuration adds some green fatties in the shape of Tarmogoyf or Hooting Mandrills as your beefy creatures. However, since Swords to Plowshares is rising in popularity lately, I did some research, looking for alternative options.

dreadhorde arcanist
oko, thief of crowns young pyromancer

First I found some lists packing Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, but it also gets wrecked by Swords, so finally I came up with Young Pyromancer, a cheap threat that easily generates a board presence while synergizing with Arcanist — unlike Mandrills or Uro, which eat the graveyard. Finally, having Pyromancer smooths your mana base, enabling basic lands, so it could be considered a Izzet Delver shell with a light green splash for Oko and some sideboard cards.

Rone: Pretty interesting thought process. So where did this list come from and which changes did you make?

Alfonso: The list is directly from Rich Cali ("learntolove66" on Twitter), a famous Legacy expert who recently posted an updated version, which I submitted for the tournament, only modifying three cards in the sideboard. First, I removed the second Abrade for Return to Nature since I found the red modal spell redundant against Delver, whereas the green instant also works in graveyard matchups while destroying enchantments. Then, I proceeded to swap Null Rod for Ancient Grudge because it flips Delver, adds a token with Pyromancer, and against Death & Taxes the artifact gets caught by Skyclave Apparition. Lastly, Narset, Parter of Veils was too expensive for me so I changed it to Sylvan Library, a cheaper, more efficient way to gain card advantage, while the life loss can be mitigated with both Oko and Klothys, God of Destiny.

Rone: Now that we understand the reasons for you to choose the deck, how do you see it positioned in the current metagame? What are your best and worst matchups?

Alfonso: As we speak, Delver is at the top of the mountain thanks to its early aggression and a reasonable late game due to Oko. Then Snowko variants are also really strong and consistent, packing a high density of removal — that's another reason to play Pyromancer since the token army you end up generating is well suited to fight opposing Okos by pressuring them instead of deploying a single threat as I previously mentioned. Matchup-wise, there are no super easy ones, although you are favored against combo especially if you flip a turn one Delver. If anything, I found the Green-White Toolbox featuring Elvish Reclaimer and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove a scary one, since they are able to ramp pretty fast and win out of nowhere via Field of the Dead or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle combined with the Dryad.

Rone: Tell us about your overall experience during the tournament, and about the decks you faced.

Alfonso: Sure thing, I will try to summarize the tournament with the sideboard list I used. Since the whole event had open lists, it was easier to prepare for it from the beginning of each matchup.

  • Round 1: Eldrazi Post. 2-0.
    A slower version than traditional Eldrazi; suffers from Wasteland even more.
    Out : 1 Chain Lightning, 1 Vapor Snag, 1 Dreadhorde Arcanist.
    In: 1 Abrade, 1 Ancient Grudge, 1 Return to Nature.

  • Round 2: RUG Delver. 2-0.
    A different version featuring Ethereal Forager next to Delver and Arcanist.
    Out: 1 Force of Negation, 4 Force of Will.
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 1 Abrade, 1 Submerge.

  • Round 3: Death and Taxes. 2-1.
    Getting rid of the artifacts (Aether Vial, Equipment) is key.
    Out: 1 Force of Negation, 1 Vapor Snag, 3 Force of Will (on the play)/2 Force of Will, 1 Daze (on the draw).
    In: 1 Abrade, 1 Ancient Grudge, 1 Sylvan Library, 1 Blazing Volley.

  • Round 4: U/R Delver. 2-1.
    Featuring Sprite Dragon, it runs faster than we do and packs a total of five Pyroblast effects.
    Out: 3 Oko, Thief of Crowns, 1 Force of Negation, 1 Force of Will.
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 1 Abrade, 1 Vapor Snag.

  • Round 5: RUG Delver. 1-2.
    Same list with Pyromancers and basics. Volley comes in for the Pyromancer feast. This is the only round I lost.
    Out: 1 Force of Negation, 4 Force of Will.
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 1 Abrade, 1 Blazing Volley.

  • Round 6: RUG Delver. 2-1.
    Third mirror match, this time around with Uros, therefore I added Klothys to deal with them.
    Out: 1 Force of Negation, 4 Force of Will, 1 Vapor Snag.
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 2 Klothys, God of Destiny, 1 Submerge.

  • Round 7: G/W Toolbox. 2-1.
    In this matchup you need to run as fast as you can; leave the Okos as they are too slow.
    Out: 3 Oko, Thief of Crowns, 1 Force of Negation.
    In: Vapor Snag 1 Submerge 1 Abrade 1 Return to Nature (for Dryads).

  • Round 8: G/U Omnitell. 2-0.
    Removal goes out, all countermagic and answers go in.
    Out: 1 Oko, Thief of Crowns, 1 Chain Lightning, 2 Wasteland, 1 Vapor Snag, 2 Lightning Bolt.
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 1 Return to Nature, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Sylvan Library.

  • Quarterfinals: RUG Delver. 2-1.
    This version ran Tarmogoyfs and Hooting Mandrills.
    Out: 1 Force of Negation, 4 Force of Will.
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 1 Klothys, God of Destiny, 1 Submerge.

  • Semifinals: Snow Miracles. 2-1.
    Out: 1 Chain Lightning, 2 Wasteland, 1 Vapor Snag, 2 Lightning Bolt 1 Force of Negation, 2 Daze (on the draw)/2 Force of Will (on the play).
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 2 Klothys, God of Destiny, 1 Return to Nature, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Sylvan Library.

  • Finals: Five-Color Snow. 2-0.
    Since he plays Plague Engineer only one Bolt goes out compared to the previous matchup.
    Out: 1 Chain Lightning, 2 Wasteland, 1 Vapor Snag, 1 Lightning Bolt 1 Force of Negation, 2 Daze (on the draw)/2 Force of Will (on the play).
    In: 3 Pyroblast, 2 Klothys, God of Destiny, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Sylvan Library.

Rone: During the tournament, what was the most difficult game situation you faced? Or the easiest, if any?

Alfonso: In the semifinals, I was facing Legacy GP winner Marc Vogt. For game three I was on the draw, so I decided to play extremely aggressive in order to win that match. After a few turns, I had Sylvan Library, Klothys, and an Elk Food token in play, while Marc had two Astrolabes in play and an Uro in the graveyard that could turn the game in his favor if it escaped. The hardest choice was to reduce my life total down two 4 in order to draw with the Library to find a Surgical Extraction to exile Uro, even if that meant an uncontested Oko could transform his Astrolabe and attack me for lethal. Luckily, my risky approach paid dividends and ended up winning that game.

sylvan library surgical extraction

Rone: Before we move on from the tournament itself, let us know, what do you plan to spend the prize on?

Alfonso: Funny you mention it … Since a whole online session playing takes a lot of time, right before starting the tournament, my kids asked my what the prize was, so I told them, "If I win, we are going to Disneyland Paris." So it seems that will be their reward once we are able to travel again.

The Current State of Legacy

Rone: For our final section, I would like to dive into your thoughts about Legacy. Is it healthy as it is? Would you ban any card or even unban anything?

Alfonso: Right now it's undeniable that Oko is a very strong card for the format, but personally I consider Dreadhorde Arcanist even better! Often I find myself boarding out the Simic walker in certain matchups, whereas the Zombie Wizard stays against all strategies except for Eldrazi, where I usually trim some copies. About bannings, I am usually against prohibiting cards, rather the opposite. In my opinion Arcum's Astrolabe feels even more degenerate than Oko, since it allows five-color mana bases so easily without any drawback. Another main suspect could arguably be Veil of Summer, a card that sees reasonable play but has put another nail in the coffin for Storm. Speaking of unbannings, as we saw in recent years, there are still old cards that could easily be available again like Black Vise or Worldgorger Dragon without any harm; Yawgmoth's Bargain for example is way worse than Griselbrand.

Rone: Do you think the format is still viable or even affordable for tabletop purposes?

Alfonso: Well, it's undeniable that the money investment to access the format is huge; nevertheless it also is an investment. While some Modern staples have rocked-bottom like Tarmogoyf, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or even Zendikar fetch lands, the original dual lands keep going up in price. So it's totally up to you if you want to spend the money on them. Worst case scenario, Legacy will remain available at a cheaper cost on Magic Online.

Thank you so much for your time, Alfonso. I hope you keep on winning, so we might have you back soon!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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LittleWulf(11.12.2020 13:26)

Time for a Delver Ban. Five Delver matches... Like onyl Delver decks in the Format :(

MakutoPro(10.12.2020 22:41)

This format interview/deck review it is quite interesting / thanks