Where have all the Delvers gone?

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Over the past few weeks, I have written about a lot of cool decks. The one I'm still playing I shared in this column. It's basically the shell from last season's blue-white Delver of Secrets deck with red mana added. Usually when I create a new deck I have to put up a big finish with it before I feel vindicated. As it turns out, I still feel satisfied when other players prove the deck’s worth.

What I mean is that the Japanese recently showed this archetype is viable in the current Standard. Their innovation was the addition of Thundermaw Hellkite. I was moving towards Talrand, Sky Summoner, but Hellkite is even better. The other major change I had already adopted, which is cutting the Delver of Secrets altogether.

Here's the Japanese version:

Obviously this version is geared toward the midgame unlike the previous hyper-aggressive versions of Delver, but in this metagame that is not a problem. I have been saying since the start of the format that counters are a real thing and everyone should be playing them or playing around them. Hopefully now some players will start to listen. I have been continuously impressed by every counter available, including Syncopate, Dissipate and Essence Scatter. They are all good and you should consider them during deck construction.

This past weekend, two players at the Star City Indy tournament also showed us that the deck is real. Todd Anderson was the big name who did well with the deck, and basically he said that Syncopate was the card that makes the deck work. Being able to counter something on turn two is very important. If the game goes into double-digit turns, the card becomes worse but overall Syncopate is one of the lynch pins of the deck. Take a look at his list:

The two decks are quite similar, but Todd did make some important changes. The most notable change was to up the number of counters to a total of seven. Honestly, I think that is one too few. This is unconventional wisdom for current Magic, but I have been jamming more and more counters into my list as well so I am definitely on board with this "new" way of thinking. Also keep in mind that Snapcaster Mage essentially counts as a counter himself.

The reason counters are so good in this format is because the threats are so amazing. That seems counter-intuitive, but it is actually true. What removal spell can you play that will deal with the diverse threats in Standard? You need to be able to answer Geralfs Messenger, Thragtusk, Jace, Architect of Thought, Entreat the Angels and Silverblade Paladin just to name a few. Even if we were limiting the discussion to creatures alone, most removal spells can't measure up. That’s what makes a catch-all counterspell so amazing.

Another reason this deck is so powerful is because Geist of Saint Traft did not suddenly get worse when the format rotated. He is still one of the best aggressive creatures ever printed and players still have a hard time dealing with him. Clone effects are no longer a legitimate way to kill Geist and you make blocking difficult because of cards like Restoration Angel and Unsummon.

The rest of the threats in this deck are hard to deal with as well. Between your two flash creatures and tokens from Moorland Haunt, there is very little you do on your turn. The one card that breaks this rule is Thundermaw Hellkite, which until recently was missing a home in the metagame. He is so good that I am testing out a third copy main deck. Often over the course of the game you drop your opponent to a low life total and struggle to deal the final blow. Just like in baseball, Hellkite is your closer. You bring him in at the end of the game and he finishes your opponent off.

My list is constantly changing as I make adjustments to the metagame each week. Here's the current iteration:

One important change I want to discuss is the cut down to two copies of Azorius Charm. Recently, I have been unimpressed with this card and I keep removing more copies of it from my deck. I am not too far off from cutting it altogether. Against any aggressive deck like Zombies or Humans, the card does some major work by slowing your opponent down, but in every other match you almost always use the draw a card option. Cycling a card can be helpful, but I would rather play a spell that's relevant.

The one copy each of Mizzium Mortars and Cyclonic Rift is a recent change for me that came from cutting Izzet Charm. Once I cut Izzet Charm, I wanted a third Unsummon but the overload card seemed better in many situations. The same thing goes for Mizzium Mortars. I was going to play a fourth Searing Spear, but instead added the sorcery version because of the overload option. Once you take these things into account, the numbers in the deck start making sense. The spells basically break down as follows:

  • 8 counterspells
  • 3 bounce spells
  • 9-11 removal spells (depending on modes for the charm)

This is the type of thinking I use when I am making a deck. How many of each type of effect do I want? Playing less than four copies does make you draw them less frequently, but it also allows you to play a more diverse set of answers. If the two overload cards work out as well as I think they will, I could definitely see replacing the Azorius Charms with another copy of each. I am very happy with my current list and it's a solid choice for the metagame.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the…the…something about American, or colors, or temp…hmm…

Let’s change it up.

Until Next Time,

Don’t forget to have fun playing this awesome game of Magic!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
(I'm active on twitter again, so send me a message sometime.)

5 thoughts on “Where have all the Delvers gone?

  1. I tried the uwr version (similar enough) at our game day and wasn’t that impressed; I went 3-2 and felt the deck was too threat light for my liking. Control just had too many wraths, and it was too hard to reload after a board wipe. If supreme verdict was counterable it’d be a different story, but as it is, it just wrecks us too much. My current version (which I’m probably taking to GP Auckland this weekend!) is Bant, with green for Selesnya Charms (4) and watchwolf, both of which seem great. I’ve also obviously swapped hellkites for thragtusks.
    Charm does a lot of work, instant speed threat or answer to Angel of Serenity, and it’ll often let you swing with Geist and punch through a 3/3.

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