Last updated on March 3, 2023

Dragon's Rage Channeler - Illustration by Martina Fackova

Dragon’s Rage Channeler | Illustration by Martina Fackova

We witnessed first-hand the way that Emrakul’s influence affected and destroyed the minds of Innistrad’s inhabitants back during Shadows Over Innistrad. I’ve talked about how this was represented with the madness mechanic, but that wasn’t the only thing that helped give shape to the horrors brought on by the Eldrazi titan.

Today I’m talking about delirium. No, not Delirium the card, delirium the ability. Which does feel pretty close to madness name-wise, but it doesn’t really work like it.

So let’s take a look at it, its history, and how it works!

How Does Delirium Work?

Ishkanah, Grafwidow - Illustration by Christine Choi

Ishkanah, Grafwidow | Illustration by Christine Choi

Delirium is an ability word that makes a creature or spell “better” if you have four or more card types in your graveyard. This can mean extra abilities, triggered abilities, even activated abilities.

The History of Delirium in MTG

Delirium first appeared in Magic during the Shadows Over Innistrad block in 2016. It was a representation of Emrakul’s influence on the psyche of the plane’s inhabitants, and the overall horrors of the plane.

Delirium was also printed in Modern Horizons 2 on top of Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon. There aren’t a lot of delirium cards and it’s an arguably small mechanic. It’s also not evergreen.

Delirium had a focus on green mana cards during its first appearance with white and black following close behind. Its next appearance made a complete swap and had the mechanic focus in red and blue cards.

What Card Types Count for Delirium?

Deathcap Cultivator - Illustration by Karla Ortiz

Deathcap Cultivator | Illustration by Karla Ortiz

Delirium checks for artifacts, creatures, enchantments, instants, lands, planeswalkers, sorceries, and tribal. Your delirium abilities will be set into motion as long as there are four or more of these in your graveyard.

Does a Card with Delirium Count Itself?

Yes, a card with delirium would absolutely count itself if it was in the graveyard and had an effect that activated while it was in the graveyard. That said, there actually aren’t any delirium cards with an effect that activate while the card itself is in the graveyard, so it’s a moot point. Maybe in the future?

Does “Legendary” Count as a Card Type for Delirium?

Legendary does not count as a type for delirium. Legendary is what’s called a supertype, which makes it not technically a type. Other supertypes include basic, snow, world, and ongoing.

Delirium doesn’t count subtypes either. Things like artifact types, creature types, enchantment types, land types, planeswalker types, or spell types aren’t considered for delirium.

Delirium vs. Threshold

Traverse the Ulvenwald - Illustration by Vincent Proce

Traverse the Ulvenwald | Illustration by Vincent Proce

Delirium is considered an alteration on the threshold mechanic, which first appeared in Odyssey back in 2001. They’re very similar mechanics with pretty much the only difference being that delirium cares about card types, while threshold cares about the number of cards in your graveyard. It’s quite literally a quality versus quantity thing.

I prefer threshold over delirium since it’s easier to get. And both tend to have very similar effects so it’s not like one is particularly stronger than the other.

It’s probably wise to at least consider adding cards from the other mechanic if you’re looking to build a deck around delirium or threshold. There’s some overlapping as you fill up your own graveyard.

How Easy is it to Get Delirium? Does it Happen Naturally?

Naturally getting four different card types in your graveyard can happen, but it’s not particularly common. Instants and sorceries are the easiest to get in there, followed by creatures. But it gets a bit harder when it comes to things like artifacts, enchantments, lands, or planeswalkers if you’re not actively trying to get them in there.

While delirium can be achieved naturally with relative ease, it’s very sensible to have several cards that allow you to throw things into your own graveyard if you’re playing a deck with a focus on the mechanic. If your deck isn’t delirium-focused but plays a few delirium cards, you should know that you’ll be playing them without their delirium effect more than once. It’s a drawback that needs to be considered when playing this mechanic.

What Are Some Tips for Building a Deck Around Delirium?

Thantis, the Warweaver - Illustration by Jehan Choo

Thantis, the Warweaver | Illustration by Jehan Choo

Play a reasonable number of fodder cards along with some sacrifice outlets. This makes it easier to fill your graveyard with different card types, and you also get to take advantage of the effects of the cards you’re sacrificing and the cards you’re sacrificing them with if you’re playing it right.

I think you should also play threshold cards in a delirium deck. The mechanics are very similar and it’s gonna be pretty easy to just add three more to get threshold once you have four in your graveyard to get delirium. You’re already looking to fill up your own graveyard, so why not take full advantage of that?

It should go without saying that these should be graveyard-focused decks. Golgari () and Sultai () colors are ideal for this. You can also aim for a more Rakdos () style of play that isn’t focused on the graveyard but on sacrifice. Sacrificing your own permanents will fill your graveyard all the same, and delirium doesn’t really care why or how you’re getting the cards in there.

How Can You Beat Delirium Decks and Strategies?

Delirium isn’t a particularly strong mechanic. It can give you some advantages and it makes the cards that have it better to play, but it’s not game-breakingly good. Not yet at least. Regular removal and counterspells take care of almost any cards that play the mechanic.

If you’re looking to make a delirium deck pretty much useless, you want graveyard hate cards. Think things like Tormod’s Crypt, Planar Void, Rest in Peace, Bojuka Bog, and Rakdos Charm. There are a ton of cards you can use for this, and you get the added bonus that they’re great against Sultai and Golgari decks because you also ruin their strategies.

There are a total of 49 cards with the delirium ability. Eight of those are from Modern Horizons 2 while the other 40 are from the Shadows Over Innistrad block, with 14 from Eldritch Moon and the remaining 27 from Shadows Over Innistrad.

French Descend Upon the Sinful

Fun fact: there was a small typo when Descend upon the Sinful was translated into French. The correct translation for ”sinful” is “pécheur,” but “pêcheur” was the word used, which translates to “fishermen.” This means that the French version of the card isn’t Descend upon the Sinful but Descend Upon the Fishermen. No one knows why French Avacyn hates fishermen so much, but she did go crazy thanks to Emrakul during Shadows Over Innistrad.

Eldritch Moon

Shadows Over Innistrad

Modern Horizons 2

Best Delirium Cards

Dragon’s Rage Channeler

Dragon's Rage Channeler MH2

I can’t start this list with anything other than Dragon’s Rage Channeler. A must-have for any graveyard/delirium deck. Having a 3/3 flying creature that attacks each turn with surveil 1 for is absolutely incredible. You can pair it with Gnarlwood Dryad which plays in a very similar way.

Grim Flayer

Grim Flayer

Next up is Grim Flayer. Its advantages are similar to Dragon’s Rage Channeler. Delirium makes it a 4/4 with trample, and you get the added bonus that you surveil 3 whenever it deals combat damage to a player. This can be a massive advantage in a delirium deck.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow

Ishkanah, Grafwidow

Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a pretty solid card by itself, but what makes it noteworthy is that it’s the only multicolored spider tribal commander. Thantis, the Warweaver is a close second, but it’s not really a proper tribal commander.

Traverse the Ulvenwald, Unholy Heat, & Deathcap Cultivator

Cards like Traverse the Ulvenwald, Unholy Heat, and Deathcap Cultivator also see some play since they’re good cards that become even better if you get delirium.

Wrap Up

Grim Flayer - Illustration by Mathias Kollros

Grim Flayer | Illustration by Mathias Kollros

I find delirium to be a pretty fun ability. It has some good cards and it’s the kind of ability that I like a lot; the ones that make you think of less conventional or straightforward strategies for your deck. It’s always nice to have some mechanics that make formats drift away from the more common playstyles.

How do you feel about delirium? Did you play it back when it was in Standard? Would you play it in Commander or Modern now? Feel free to let me know what you think down in the comments or through our Discord.

That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!

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