As expected, we’re buried in spoilers, and so far I can’t say that Divine vs. Demonic: The Set has disappointed. We’ve seen some huge angels and some even bigger Grislebrand.
There’s powerful cards aplenty that we are used to seeing from large sets, and everyone’s getting ideas for new decks or looping some endless Miracles. Next week I’ll have my usual Prerelease Primer to get you started, and we’ll be diving deep into it on my podcast Brainstorm Brewery, where Jon Medina will be our guest. All in all, it seems like Avacyn Restored is going to be a hit among every crowd.
That said, this week I want to talk about what we don’t see from the new set. Inspired by Alexander Shearer’s article on Channel Fireball a few weeks ago, I decided to look at how the spoiled cards impact the top decks and what that means for us.
Unquestionably, the top dog is UW Delver decks in their many incarnations. Beating that deck is priority No. 1 for those of us not simply sleeving up Delvers and hoping for Mana Leaks to be on top of our deck. People have resorted to drastic measures in the last few months, with cards like Corrosive Gale and Gut Shot coming from seemingly out of nowhere to be relevant pieces of cardboard.
Looking at the last few years, we see that Jund got some goodies from Rise of the Eldrazi to help cement its position as the top deck (if not the only deck), and CawBlade last year got Batterskull to further cement its place as the best deck of all time (obligatory Flores reference).
Based on those experiences, we might expect the same to happen for Delver. A new 1-drop perhaps, to increase the deck’s nut draws, or another form of card selection to help with those Miracles. And while Temporal Mastery may fit into the deck and provide some free wins, it’s far from a slam-dunk inclusion at this point. So we must look deeper.
And, surprisingly, we’re coming up blank.
I see a lot of archetypes getting a big boost from the new set, and Cavern of Souls is probably the most absurd land of the last 10 years (pick yours up, this thing is going to be everywhere), but the Delver deck itself doesn’t have anything that immediately slots in. Quite the opposite, I see some cards that will hurt the deck more than help it (at least the most popular non-Spirits versions).
Let’s dig in. I’ll start with the cards that could see play in Delver, the cards that will adversely impact it, and what this means financially going forward. As of writing this, there are 158 cards spoiled, and we’ve seen most of the big stuff by this point. If card tags aren’t yet working, make sure to pull up your favorite spoiler and follow along.
Joining the Cause
The first card we have to look at is Temporal Mastery, the new Time Walk. I’m of the opinion this could work well as a 2-of in Delver decks and provide free wins out of nowhere, but there is a very real cost to playing the card and it certainly doesn’t take Delver to some new level.
By the way, this thing is insanely overpriced. It’s not quite Time Reversal 2.0, but it’s not that far from it either. I’m looking at $10-12 as the eventual settling price for this.
Here’s a quick rundown of the other cards I’ve seen mentioned of fitting into Delver decks.
- Silverblade Paladin: This thing is going to see play, but I’m not sure it’s in Delver. It could fit into the Champion of the Parish builds, but it’s not like Delver decks were lacking good options at the three-drop spot.
- Restoration Angel: Solid card and definitely a sleeper in the set, but blinking your flipped Delver back unflipped or resetting your Champion isn’t the strongest play in the world.
And that’s pretty much it. There are a few other ways the Delver deck can be built, but the bottom line is that there just aren’t any clear upgrades out yet for Delver decks.
Let’s move on.
If You Can Beat Em…
Let’s start with what I think is the most important card in the set – Cavern of Souls. We need to get this out of the way. This card is absolutely bonkers and I have a hard time even thinking of decks it won’t go in as a four-of.
This just became the best mana-fixing land in Standard. Playing those Diregraf Captains out of Zombies? Not a problem. What about Werewolves, assuming that Block deck eventually ports over? Done. And, in case you have a card or two that isn’t tribal, this thing produces colorless mana too.
If it did just what I described above, the card would be extremely powerful. But instead of stopping there, Wizards decided to make everything uncounterable too. Tell me, Delver players, how does blanking that Mana Leak you held feel? When a Ramp player can slam Titans without fear, it might be time to go over the top, not try to nickel and dime opponents with Spirit Tokens. And going over the top is not something Delver does as well as other decks in the format. When a turn 3 Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells can’t be Leaked, it might be time to stop sleeving up Delvers, without at least modifying the deck a significant amount.
Cavern of Souls is the real deal, and I honestly don’t think the Prerelease price of $20 is even that out of line. Tell me what this card doesn’t go in. It’s an auto 4-of in my Modern Merfolk deck. It’s an auto 4-of in Legacy Goblins and Elves. It’s an auto 4-of in Standard Zombies and Werewolves. It’s an auto 4-of in Ramp decks to slam down Titans. It’s an auto 4-of in my freaking casual Treefolk deck, for crying out loud. You need to be prepared for what this is going to do to the format.
Moving on to some other cards. Human Frailty and Righteous Strike both present one-mana options to kill Flipped Delver, so your entire turn isn’t wasted even if your Delver opponent has the Mana Leak. I’m not sure how big of a deal these two cards will turn out to be, but it’s another example of how this set is hurting Delver more than its helping it.
So What’s That Mean?
I’m not saying Delver is going to be a dead deck. Turn 2 flying Wild Nacatls are still good, and so is the plan of slamming equipment onto Hexproof dudes. But I don’t think Delver is going to be the clear top deck any longer without some changes. The deck relied very heavily on Mana Leak and Snapping it back with Snapcaster Mage. Huntmaster was already a problem; it becomes even more so now.
Financially, this means that the best option moving forward for Delver decks has to be Spirits or Hexproof, meaning the safe cards are Drogskol Captain, which has fallen off in price, and Geist of Saint Traft.
On the other side of the table, I see Zombies and Pod decks getting some new tools, and Huntmaster won’t likely be going any lower. Zombies may end up making a real comeback with Cavern to help out the mana and Killing Wave to possibly make an appearance, while Pod obviously gets better with every 187 creature printed.
The metagame is primed to undergo some changes, and there’s going to be money to be made by staying on top of it, which I’ll try my best to do for all of us.
It’s a brave new world in Standard. Learn to love it, or, at the very least, use it to make some cash.
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter