The New Face of Pauper Delver

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Last week I wanted to write about the Minneapolis Legacy Open and how I was trying a few changes out in RUG Delver, but I just couldn’t put pen to paper. I’ve been trying out Preordain over Ponder and I’ve been pretty satisfied with it in practice and in theory but for whatever reason I just wasn’t interested in writing about it. Half of my disinterest in writing about Legacy at the moment has to do with the fact that everybody can plainly see the major trends in the format (Wasteland is REALLY good right now) while I imagine that it would take some actual results to get people interested in the more off-color points that I want to talk about (playing Preordain over the widely accepted Ponder).

At any rate, I just couldn’t find any motivation to write about what was basically the only thing in Magic that I was actively thinking about. My tournament was filled with one-sided games in both directions and the stories of my play don’t strike me as particularly interesting. Something from that weekend has been on my mind though.

The morning of the event my girlfriend and I were dining on a choice breakfast of coffee and bacon pancakes. When I left she said something to me that caught me completely off guard.

“Have fun!”

What was she talking about? Fun? At a Magic tournament? I honestly can’t remember the last time anybody told me anything other than “good luck” before an event. I assured her that “I almost never do” and made my way to the convention center, but her words, simple and unassuming as they may have been, stuck with me.

As much as I enjoy playing Legacy, I haven’t been having nearly the fun that I used to playing. Somewhere along the way I lost sight of what actually made me enthusiast about Magic. That is, and always has been, building new decks. Sure, I was trying out a few new slots in Delver, but the differences between Preordain and Ponder are subtle enough as to not alter the deck in any fundamental way.

I didn’t fully grasp my longing for a good deck-building session until I found myself getting thoroughly destroyed over and over playing my Pauper MUC Delver list against Mono-blue Fissure Post. Questions started stirring in my mind that hadn’t in months.

What could I have drawn differently to win that game?

Is there a way to make my deck more aggressive without sacrificing too much against Stompy/Monored and the mirror?

Is this just going to be a terrible matchup for me?

That last question woke something up in me that had been lying dormant.

I refuse to just concede this matchup.

When the Rubber Hits the Road

Refusing to lose. Such an irrational thought can only be derived from passion. The passion that led me to staying up until three in the morning and wake up again at seven just tinkering with decklists.

I couldn’t think of a reasonable way to sway the Fissure-Post matchup in MUC’s favor, so instead I asked myself what sort of cards would give Fissure-Post fits. For the most part I was losing to the deck’s Mulldrifters, so having a way to deal with all of them would likely give the deck fits. The first card that came to mind at excelling in the anti-Mulldrifter role was Pyroblast. A sideboard card, sure, but you can lose most of your game ones if you win most of your twos and threes.

The only existing deck that plays Pyroblast and fits my playstyle is Izzet Post, but that’s just another deck that struggles against Fissure Post due to its inability to apply early pressure. Kilnclops is a deck that can win quickly and has access to Pyroblast, but it plays a lot of “dead” cards like Assault Strobe when it’s not just winning and it matches up laughably poorly against MUC Delver. I considered trying to play a version of the deck that cut Kiln Fiend due to its weakness against Quicksand, nearly every removal spell and, you know, blockers, but realized that a deck dedicated to quick wins cannot be carried by just a one mana 1/1 and a three mana anything.

That’s when I started thinking about just playing UR Delver. Guildgates have made two-color manabases pretty reasonable in Pauper and I’d be able to utilize most of the spells I like from my usual deck of choice in addition to implementing the sideboard that I desired. The problem that I had for all of zero seconds was with replacing Spire Golem, but with Mulldrifter never being far from my mind this was an easy fix.

Taming the Beast

Outside of the fact that adding red cards would likely be to the benefit of a deck with red mana sources, there were a few other obvious implications to putting together UR Delver instead of traditional MUC. Gush loses a lot of its value and bounce spells/counters become less necessary, though they’re still obviously very powerful. Being red I definitely think it’s right to play fewer than four Vapor Snag, but considering that most of the deck’s red mana sources come into play tapped a few Snags come in handy against faster starts from aggressive decks. They’re also useful for the occasional rescue of your own Delver or to bounce your Mulldrifters.

Considering that I’d be playing at least four Terramorphic Expanse effects I thought Brainstorm to be an option for the deck until I started playing it. Brainstorm just doesn’t interact that well with CIPT lands/fetchlands. Ponder and Preordain are both abstractly more powerful and Think Twice actually generates card advantage, which is always good in a deck playing any semblance of a control game.

I initially perceived my lack of Spire Golems as an issue in Delver mirrors and tried out a Trinket Mage package with Bonesplitter to allow me to attack better in the “mirror” but despite his ability to “break” combat in that matchup as well as find red mana (Great Furnace) or a removal spell (Pyrite Spellbomb). Trinket Mage, while cool, was a bit expensive for what it did and the Bonesplitter was just miserable to draw against aggressive decks. It also turned out that Flame Slash was a good enough tool against Spire Golem and I haven’t really missed the utility or extra body at all.

I realize that talking about card choices before showing the list can leave much of this discussion without context, so let’s get on to where I finally landed:

”Mulldelver of Secrifts”


4 Delver of Secrets
4 Mulldrifter
4 Counterspell
1 Deprive
2 Dispel
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
4 Think Twice
2 Vapor Snag
2 Flame Slash
2 Electrickery
2 Burst Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Firebolt


4 Izzet Guildgate
4 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Mountain
9 Island


4 Pyroblast
4 Hydroblast
1 Stormbound Geist
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Flame Slash
1 Electrickery
1 Shattering Pulse

The spell suite isn’t an exact science, but the split is based on the fact that your burn spells need to kill a ton of x/1 / x/2s or a few x/4s. That or be able to dome your opponent, but that’s not a good enough reason not to play Electrickery and Flame Slash, which do a TON of work against the aggressive decks. I’ve actually really liked having Electrickery over Serrated Arrows in the Delver shell as it both flips Delver and catches up when you’re behind much faster than Arrows. Granted it can’t kill two/three toughness creatures nearly as quickly, but there are plenty of other tools for that job.

At this point I’m actually not sure if Lightning Bolt is better than Burst Lightning. Outside of a very small set of creatures Pauper is defined by one, two and four toughness bodies. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find myself reversing that split.
Thus far the deck has been testing incredibly well. The mana has only caused me trouble in one game so far in a hand that I really should have just mulliganed anyway. Adding red to Delver has made the aggressive matchups dramatically better, as your plan no longer necessarily involves racing as you have a ton of removal to just one-for-one opposing creatures instead of trying to out-tempo them.

The only matchup that I think might have gotten worse is Affinity, considering the loss of Spire Golem + Quicksand which often made their attacks pretty bad, but having access to four Flame Slash post-board as well as Shattering Pulse could very well make up for this difference.

While we’re on the topic of bad matchups I might as well raise the point that GW Hexproof shouldn’t be consistently realistically winnable. You basically have Electrickery, Counterspell and luck as tools in this matchup. Fortunately the deck is super inconsistent and that type of strategy isn’t very inviting to strong pilots. I’ve managed to beat the deck twice so far with this list but all the credit for that goes to one opponent drawing poorly and the other making a savage punt. Adding bounce spells like Repeal and Echoing Truth can help improve this matchup, but it’s a pretty small portion of the metagame and I’m personally not very concerned with it.

Despite putting around 10 hours into battling the current list in two-mans (Pauper dailies are sooo sporadic and, too often, inconvenient) I haven’t run into Fissure Post yet. That said, I’ve posted a 14-1 record thus far with the deck, feeling extremely favored against aggressive decks and the mirror. My one loss thus far has been to GW Slivers oddly enough. I probably could have won had I respected Virulent Sliver more but I ended up losing game three to being poisoned while on 7 life a turn before I could have wrathed my opponents board with Electrickery with him being empty handed. Truth is I’m not that broken up about it.

This deck has been a blast to play thus far and seems very well-positioned. I highly recommend it, and have no intention of stopping playing with it anytime soon.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

15 thoughts on “The New Face of Pauper Delver

  1. Hello Ryan,

    I really like your articles on pauper.

    2 questions:

    – why 2 relic of progenitus in SD? I know they are few flashback spells but they seem not to be the prime menace in the format

    – why vapor snag+dispel over snap+deprive?

    Thx !

    1. Thank you!

      Relic doesn’t answer any extremely prevalent cards/decks in the format, but you basically can’t beat Tortured Existence without it and you don’t sacrifice much by having it. Sort of like having graveyard hate in Legacy- Dredge isn’t exactly popular, but when you run into it you sure are glad that you have hate. It’s also useful against flashback spells as you said and it’s good against monoblack control both to deal with potential Unearth/Grim Harvest and also to just be a sort of card in your hand which can’t be discarded.

      Snap is cheap in the sense that it untaps the lands used to cast it but it’s more expensive in that Pauper is a format which often involves 4+ spell stacks. When you’re fighting a counter war or against Vines of the Vastwood having the extra mana tapped during the actual action hurts you. Snap is better when you use it with lands which generate multiple mana or you want to cast it on your turn, but this deck does neither. As for Deprive, this deck is trying to get to 5+ mana (often 7 to cast Mulldrifter with counter backup) which makes picking up lands rather detrimental. Additionally, there aren’t that many actual creatures that you need to counter due to having red removal spells. Much like with Vapor Snag, this is largely a nod to being able to fight efficient counterwars. You get punished a little for having Dispel by Spellstutter Sprite, but this deck has been testing phenomenally against monoblue Delver.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Ryan,

    I am new to the MODO world and want to jump into playing. Do you still this this is the best Pauper deck and deck list?

    Any thoughts on where to start would be appreciated.

    1. I would not say that this is the best deck, no. I’ve cashed a few times with it but Fissure Post is currently the best deck. That said, it’s likely the most expensive deck- certainly one of the more expensive decks- and the learning curve/patience required to play it are both a bit higher than most decks. I’m actually going to be looking at a lot of the decks in Pauper week by week in the coming weeks breaking down cost and viability. The first deck I’ll be looking at is Goblins, which I’ve 3-1’d five or six Dailies with and scrubbed out of one with, which is very positive, especially for such a cheap deck.

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