A trend I'm seeing in the published results from July is a marked uptick in spell-based aggro-control strategies. Most of those are of the UR Prowess variety, but plenty of Delver of Secrets decks are making the rounds, too. We'll cover those more academically next week. Today, I'd like to unveil the build I'm currently working on, which reworks Stormwing Temur Delver around Traverse the Ulvenwald.
On June 30, TUBBYBATMAN scored a 5-0 with a Temur Delver list almost identical to the Stormwing list I'd posted a week prior. He'd changed the two flex spots, and cut a pair of Opts for Flame Slashes. Finally, Mutagenic Growth was cut for Blossoming Defense.
While I remain skeptical of the Muta swap, I hear dude on snipping the Opts. These decks certainly walk a fine line when it comes to interacting versus cantripping, and mustn't spend too much time treading water; at their bests, our cantrips should fuel our gameplans, not overshadow them. I may have overestimated Stormwing's vulnerability without instant-speed cantrips protecting it at all times; many Modern decks don't run 4 Lightning Bolt.
Tracking down TUBBYBATMAN to pick his brain also led me to his latest Temur Delver build, which maxes out on both Stormwing Entity and Traverse the Ulvenwald. A few quick games with the list and I was hooked on the duo's incredible synergy. I've spent the last week working on such a list.
I Get Delirious... Again
Traverse the Ulvenwald grabbed my attention the day it was spoiled, revealing itself to work exactly the same way as my all-time favorite creature, Tarmogoyf. I'd go on to feature the sorcery in different aggro-control builds and finally slot it into Temur Delver, yielding a build I was very confident in and took down a PPTQ with. When Gitaxian Probe was banned, I turned to Traverse to save the shell, a task that proved too demanding for the humble spell—by which I mean the deck's threat suite had become too graveyard-centric for such a plan to work in Modern.
"Traverse for Stormwing"
Enter Stormwing Entity, a creature that's wonderful alongside Traverse as well as totally grave-independent; no Rest in Peace will shoot down this duck. Entity is a sweet creature to Traverse for because the act of doing so fulfils its condition, essentially turning every delirious Traverse into a three-mana Stormwing.
So is the creature worth three mana? Absolutely, just as Tarmogoyf is—er, was. I mean, who are we kidding? Traverse Shadow is all about three-mana Goyf, even post-Push. But a huge benefit of grabbing Stormwing instead is its "scry 2" clause. In many of my games, Traverse-Stormwing sets up more cantrips which lead to more Traversing, creating a chain of sorts.
Of course, running Traverse means abandoning the Hooting Mandrills-Thought Scour package, which cannibalizes delirium. But I think such a move could be well worth points against graveyard hate, as well as the option of better abusing the graveyard in lieu of any.
U Trippin... Slow
Allow me a moment to extoll the virtues of Mishra's Bauble. In my first Stormwing Delver build, I omitted the artifact, fearful of running too many non-instants or sorceries lest I'd have trouble powering out the bird. But Bauble and Stormwing actually play very nice together.
For one, the issue of having Baubles and needing to pump out a Stormwing almost never occurs, as Bauble freely cycles into a new card. Sure, we'll have to wait until next turn to have a go at Stormwing, but we tend to have other things to do with our mana on such a low land count.
Then there's Bauble's palpable synergy with Stormwing. As it does with Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration, which Bauble helps flip when the two are paired, the trinket is actually great alongside Entity. Cast with Stormwing in play, Bauble provides a free prowess trigger, as the many new jacks on UR Prowess know all too well. But its most attractive dimension is setting up a pseudo-Preordain. Stormwing comes down to scry 2, and Bauble is free to fire off looking at the opponent's top card, only to draw a stacked Denial or Bolt for the opponent's turn. Or if we really need a specific instant and fail to see it with Stormwing, we can bottom-bottom and have one more chance to draw it. Just like the real thing!
Of course, Bauble is all but a necessity in decks built around quickly reaching delirium. It's not uncommon for us to find ourselves with three card types on turn three, but lack the fourth, be it sorcery or creature. Bauble, and also Tarfire, alleviate this pressure.
More Than a Flex
When it comes to one-ofs and bullets in general, I think this deck is poised to take advantage of a wealth of options. Between Serum, Bauble, and Traverse-chaining Entities, we have access to plenty of library manipulation, making it quite achievable to find niche answers as needed.
Spite and Blitz serve to remove big creatures in the late-game. Both have their benefits: Spite costs one, scries one, and adds a sorcery to the graveyard; Blitz hits planeswalkers, removes pesky recursive creatures, and fires at instant speed. At first, I preferred Spite alongside Stormwing specifically, since it's meant to be cast in the main phase and therefore lends itself to reducing the creature's cost. But the ability to grow Stormwing with Blitz in response to an enemy Bolt is also relevant. As of now, I like a split of these to supplement the removal suite of 4 Bolt, 3 Tarfire.
Mutagenic Growth is a holdover from my original Stormwing Delver build. While it was phenomenal with Hooting Mandrills, it's still great with Stormwing and Goyf, and I really like the ability to dig for it with a landed Stormwing and a Serum, Manamorphose, or Bauble to beat Bolts.
I definitely think a fourth Tarfire or Stubborn can be run in these slots; in fact, I started with full sets of each. But I found them a little situational for game 1, where Tarfire would clog against creature decks and Stubborn floundered without a beater in play. Compared with Stormwing, Mandrills is a lot easier to slide out on turn two, especially with Denial backup, in Traverse-less Thought Scour builds.
Some early runs with the deck made me wonder if we couldn't support one Hooting Mandrills naturally, meaning without Thought Scour. Sure, it eats delirium, but a lot of the time that turn two Mandrills with Denial backup will just win the game. Besides, having just one lets us Traverse for and then cast it if we're light on mana or want to hold up interaction, a line I've employed multiple times so far. Snapcaster often functions as a Demonic Tutor of sorts, and since it can be scooped up by Traverse, having one in the deck gives us massive utility in the mid-game... especially alongside the slew of one-ofs we already run and can flash back!
I'd call Borrower the most off-the-wall of these options, and will admit that so far in my testing, it hasn't been superb; on just 16 lands, we are far from optimized to wield the Faerie as a primary plan, unlike other Temur Delver shells. What Borrower does for us, though, is insulate against a range of random strategies in Modern's lower tiers that can nonetheless show up and ruin our game 1: prison decks, enchantment-based combos, etc. Not to mention big planeswalkers or huge creatures. It just outs anything. While Borrower isn't much of a head-turner on its own, having a two-mana bounce effect to search with Traverse makes the sorcery that much more pliable.
Flipping the Script
I'll say this: Stormwing Entity has me more excited about actually playing Modern than I have been in quite a while. The last deck I built that really jived with me, or so I felt, was Six Shadow, which barely lasted a month before some bans neutered it. The cards I'm throwing around now feel decidedly safe on that front, and are a blast to cast; the question remains whether I can cobble together a mix that's consistently beating the top decks. When the work is enjoyable, though, anything is possible! Join me next week for an exposé on the other ways Delver is making its comeback this month.