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Insider: Modern Izzet Delver and Eidolon Zoo

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Phone. Wallet. Keys. Backback. Did I remember to put my deck box in my backpack? Okay, it's there. Is that for sure the deck box I put my deck in? Those look like the right sleeves. I'll just double-check to make sure that the right cards are in here...

I constantly worry that I'm forgetting something. I have no idea when or why this compulsion started, and somehow despite this I manage to forget things from time to time. When I left home for GP Minneapolis, I must have left my ability to think clearly behind.

I know that I'm not perfect--as player or person--and I've certainly punted my fair share of games, but my tournament last weekend was outright embarrassing. My 6-3 record could easily have been 8-1 if I just played with a little more focus. My play was at best greedy and at worst foolish.

The silver lining from the weekend (outside of the Super Sunday Series top 8) was that I came up with a sweet list.

Cutting Young Pyromancer looks like a bold move, but the card really didn't fit the deck. Goblin Guide and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration are the pinnacle of efficient one-mana creatures--the very embodiment of tempo. Snapcaster Mage rebuys all of the excellent tempo spells in the deck, and is arguably the strongest card in Modern.

Young Pyromancer, on the other hand, is something of a grindy value creature. Randomly (and seldomly) he was amazing, but I could never shake the feeling that he was out of place. While writing my article on sideboard options, I had a pretty wild idea.


Mana intensive? Yes. Slowest element in the deck by a mile? Sure.

But it's good.

When I think of Vedalken Shackles, I think of controlling strategies. That is to say, that's what I used to think. Then I played a couple games where I Bolted and Snagged a creature or two before slamming Shackles on turn three. It felt real good.

Having a Shackles in play makes it a lot harder for a Splinter Twin player to combo off and also does a lot of work in the type of games that the rest of the deck struggles with--that is where your opponent just kills all of your guys. Obviously it doesn't have protection from Abrupt Decay, but I don't know that there's a great solution to that problem.

Hibernation was a card that I hadn't seriously considered until the day before the GP. Pod was a tough matchup, and I was looking for any way to solve it. I saw that Travis Woo was sideboarding them in his Ninja Bear Delver deck, so I thought I'd take it for a test run.

Long story short, the card definitely isn't leaving the sideboard, and a second might be warranted. It bounces the majority of their permanents and even hits the Voice of Resurgence token generated when you play it on their turn. That, and it gives you a pretty unreal tempo play against Hexproof.


I took this list to a grinder on Friday night and punted round three to a pretty mediocre U/W Control deck after dispatching Living End and Affinity. The Grand Prix itself went like this:

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: 2-0 vs. Affinity
Round 3: 2-1 vs. Affinity
Round 4: 1-2 vs. Nathan Holiday on Birthing Pod
Round 5: 2-0 vs. R/G Tron
Round 6: 2-1 vs. Izzet Delver
Round 7: 2-0 vs. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa on Birthing Pod
Round 8: 1-2 vs. Merfolk
Round 9: 1-2 vs. RUG Scapeshift

In round four I played right into an Orzhov Pontiff in what I believe would otherwise be a very winnable game. In round 8 I cast a second Shackles before activating my first Shackles, which ate all my mana and ended up costing me a game. In round 9 I can't really point to specific errors, but I know that I didn't play well.

That all in mind I was never disappointed in the deck and would absolutely play it again. I wouldn't change anything in the maindeck, and the only sideboard change that I'm considering at this time is making room for a second Hibernation.

Changing Gears

If I were looking for a different Modern deck to play though, I'd work on something like what Dana Kinsella played this weekend. He was playing Zoo featuring what has quickly become my favorite card from Journey Into Nyx:


After its Standard Open win in Knoxville, I think that people are starting to realize how good this card is. Comparisons to Pyrostatic Pillar are a bit short-sighted. Sure, you could never Lightning Bolt a Pillar, but it also never attacked you for two on top of punishing you for playing Magic.

Outside of being a maindeckable answer to Storm, a previously problematic matchup for Zoo, Eidolon also beats up on anybody trying to play Serum Visions. Snapcaster Mage also loses quite a bit of stock when it costs four life to cast him and the flashback target.

The only question on my mind is whether Eidolon belongs in Small Zoo or Big Zoo. It seems to me that the more time you take killing your opponent, the less the Eidolons matter. You could make the argument that having spells like Thundermaw Hellkite that don't ding you makes sense, but I think a more efficient and aggressive deck in general will give you better mileage.

I would recommend hedging against losing to your own Eidolon somewhat, but I think that just jamming these will do the trick:



Helix for the fact that you still gain one life with an Eidolon in play and Rampager not only for being a four-mana spell, but also a two-mana trick that won't trigger Eidolon.

Dana's list was heavily red, and I don't see a compelling reason to change that. Wild Nacatl into Eidolon of the Great Revel is probably the deck's ideal start. Here's a rough sketch of an Eidolon Zoo maindeck:

Dana was playing a 2-2 main-side split of Path to Exile, which I just went ahead and applied here. I know that you want all four in the 75, but I'm not sure what the exact configuration should be, so I just deferred to him as he's played this type of deck a lot more than I have.

To round out the sideboard I know I'd want something against burn, something against Twin, something against Affinity, something against Pod and probably some Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. You'll note the maindeck Pillar of Flame, which is largely a nod to Kitchen Finks. I would definitely want more of this type of effect in my sideboard.

Modern to Come

Come Modern PTQ season I'll be putting more work into both of these decks and hopefully I'll be able to see some success with one of them. It's entirely possible that Birthing Pod is the strongest deck in Modern, but it's both difficult to play and on the short list for decks to possibly see a ban in the near future.

Both of these reasons are keeping me off the deck, though I would say it's an excellent choice if you have access to it and can play it well. If you're looking for an alternative, I believe that both of the decks that I featured today are excellent options.

Next week I'll be dipping back into Standard. Specifically I'll highlight the Red Devotion deck that I top 8'd the Super Sunday Series tournament at GP Minneapolis with as well as examining other homes for Eidolon of the Great Revel in Standard.

Thanks for reading.

8 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Izzet Delver and Eidolon Zoo

        1. I won’t make any promises, but I will see what I can do. Been pretty busy with work and the girlfriend but I would be more than happy to set up a stream if I can make the time.

  1. I love the Eidolon of the Great Revel. I have thought it was the best card in the block since I saw it printed. Okay, maybe that is a bit strong and overstates his worth. But I still like the card quite a bit.

  2. I just played DanaK68 on MTGO and got trounced by his Eidolon both games. I was playing affinity. It was vicious. That card is not ok. Then I looked at its MTG stocks price. Below $2! I picked some up needless to say.

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