Delver of Secrets is about the only thing on anyone's mind when it comes to Standard—and for good reason. This deck is yet another tempo-based aggressive deck that has taken over the format. Delver is far too flexible to ever fall victim to any specific answer for long. Depressing I know but there are weekly solutions to the deck and that is what I am here to talk about. It is time to start naming Giant on Cavern of Souls!
Solar Flare has been around ever since we first laid eyes on Unburial Rites. One of the biggest problems this deck had was Delver. Geist of Saint Traft was always a good card against control strategies but the biggest issue was Sword of War and Peace. Solar Flare had nothing but Oblivion Ring and counterspells to deal with the Sword and Delver had no problem dealing with those. Control can't afford to hold counterspell mana open against the hyper-aggressive blue deck and Oblivion Ring would only come down after the equipment got the first—and oftentimes fatal—swing. Things have been starting to change though.
Delver decks are slowing down because they're playing more Restoration Angels and with good reason. This card is very powerful against any deck that runs creatures but is not that impressive when dealing with a control deck. Since not many people play control though Delver players can sacrifice the edge against non-creature based strategies. The older Delver decks were much better against control and all had multiple Sword of War and Peace.
Michael Belfatto took down the SCG Standard Open in Columbus with a very interesting version of Solar Flare.
Now I don't really like Michael's decklist. Many of his numbers feel very odd to me and I don't see how he can execute a coherent strategy every game. However I feel this was the best deck to play at this event.
Almost every Delver player including myself was on Sword of Feast and Famine for this event under strict orders from our Magical God Gerry Thompson. Gerry and I disagreed on the correct Sword back in Nashville but I put my disagreement aside and just trusted him this last weekend in Columbus. Sword of Feast and Famine is a much stronger card in every single matchup except for the mirror and Esper. I don't even want equipment in the mirror match since it can oftentimes be too slow. The tempo loss from a timely Vapor Snag will just lose you the game. So the only matchup you really want Sword of War and Peace for is Esper.
Sword of War and Peace is by far the toughest card for a control player to beat. Every single creature Solar Flare plays is white leaving it very vulnerable to this equipment. Not being able to block is bad enough but it's very difficult to dump your hand fast enough to not just die to 2-3 hits from the Sword. This card alone is the main reason Solar Flare decks have always had a tough time in the format. Not only did most of the aggressive decks run the card but the aggro-control deck in the format always played at least two.
Lingering Souls starts to go a very long way if everyone is on the same version of Gerry Delver. This card will chump for days and gives the control player all the time he needs. While the card will not perform the same in every matchup I'm glad we can rely on this card against Delver for once.
There are a few decks out there that still run Sword of War and Peace but that isn't the end of the world. Green-based creature decks have a tough time beating up on tap-out control decks historically and the only reason it might steal a match here or there is because Sword of War and Peace exists. I don't mind playing a deck that only has to fear an occasional nut-draw on the play and the rest of the time only four cards in their entire deck.
This is the version of the deck that I am currently working on for the SCG Invitational in Indy.
I do have to say I am excited to see Griselbrand in action. The card seems like it could have some potential in the mirror match and that is exactly the type of effect you want. Karn Liberated is actually very weak in white-based control mirrors since it will oftentimes take a single card out of your opponents hand and get Oblivion Ringed. Griselbrand has a huge impact on the board the turn you cast it and should in theory allow you to easily win the game if you can activate his ability.
The reason I like this list more is that it is always going to have the same game plan. Control decks tend to be metagame calls rather than staples in the format. This wasn't always the case but Magic keeps getting more aggressive and a control deck has to be prepared for exactly what will show up. Day of Judgment / Wrath of God used to be a staple four-of in control decks and referred to as a catchall. Nowadays there is Moorland Haunt undying and flash which have given control decks a headache trying to deal with all of them. This is why you should only play a deck like control when it is good. You want your deck to be streamlined to beat what is expected and hope for the best when facing the unexpected. Situational one-ofs do not cut it anymore.
Two Elesh Norn Grand Cenobite is something that I really like lately. The card is one of the highest impact spells since it kills half of the creatures on the battlefield right when it comes into play regardless of if your opponent deals with it. You can rely on the card to resolve since the maindeck utility land of choice is Cavern of Souls over Ghost Quarter. Wolf Run Ramp is slowly losing ground in the format making Ghost Quarter less of a necessity and allowing you to hedge against the biggest deck in the format.
The most important thing to remember in this matchup assuming they have Sword of Feast and Famine is that they are the aggressor. Older versions of Delver had the ability to use control's "tap out" turn against them with an assortment of Snapcaster Mages Moorland Haunt triggers and Sword of War and Peace swings. Without the powerful equipment this no longer happens. Now the best thing they can do is play Restoration Angel and hit you for five. Use this to your advantage and do not be afraid to get some pressure on the board since they will have a much more difficult time dealing with Lingering Souls and Sun Titans.
The sweetest thing about your opponent playing Restoration Angel is that you can still chain your Sun Titans and Phantasmal Images while also getting your troops in the air. When you cast Sun Titan with a Restoration Angel in play you can clone the Angel allowing you to Blink the Titan and get back another Phantasmal Image. Not only does this let you get all of your guys on the battlefield but you can also defend the skies.
This matchup is a bit different if your opponent has Sword of War and Peace. You will have to play a bit more cautiously and try to use your Ratchet Bombs as a way to kill a Sword of War and Peace when it comes into play with access to five mana. It is not the easiest thing to do but it will come up if you watch for it. Just control your life total more and do not rely on your creatures to do the fighting for you. Trade card for card whenever you can and make sure to not get blown out by the Sword.
This is one of your better matchups. Go for the Throat Lingering Souls Oblivion Ring and Phantasmal Image go a long way at helping you deal with early aggression. Use this to your advantage and take as little damage as possible. Your goal in this matchup is to survive as long as you can since your late game is much more powerful than theirs. Do not get stuck in the mindset that you have to pull off some crazy Sun Titan chain against them so you can get way ahead.
Forbidden Alchemy should only be cast when you absolutely have to or have nothing else to do. Do not take a hit from something you didn't have to because you feel casting Alchemy is a better use of your mana or some other convoluted reason. Forbidden Alchemy is your late game engine in these matchups not your tool to do cool things with Sun Titan. You can simply one for one them until they slow down since half of their deck is mana. You will draw better than them without using any of your draw spells as the game goes on.
Birthing Pod decks are much different than other creature matchups. They always have a stream of good creatures and powerful strategies. You do not want to give them much time but they are slow enough that you can get in a Forbidden Alchemy or two. Use this time to set up a decent size Sun Titan chain or Elesh Norn. Do this sooner rather than later in these matchups since given enough time these decks will beat you in the card quality game.
This is the best matchup for Phantasmal Image. Make sure you use this card to go along with your current game plan. Just because you can copy a Blade Splicer does not mean it is the correct play. There will always be a sweet target for a Clone against Pod decks and you should use your generic spot removal to deal with anything you don't "need" to Clone.
The mirror match comes down to timing more than anything. Constantly tick up Ratchet Bomb to help solve any problem you might have and think through all of your plays. The best course of action is to try to be the last person with a Sun Titan so do not simply run yours onto the battlefield without a game plan.
Most players will want to execute different game plans after they sideboard. This is where having the biggest trump card is usually best. I think this card is Griselbrand but that might not be the case. Try random things out in testing and go with something you are comfortable with. I am the kind of person that likes to draw more cards and eventually mill opponents out using Nihil Spellbomb against Lingering Souls. The worst thing you can do is try to Titan them out after sideboard so make sure you have something in your fifteen with a different angle of attack.
Zombies is a pretty decent matchup. They do not have anything you should be afraid of except for Grave Crawler and Geralf's Messenger. These cards are the way they beat you so make sure you save Oblivion Rings and Celestial Purges for these cards. Nihil Spellbomb is also a decent answer to these cards in sideboarded games. Protect your life total and kill them with Sun Titans. It's that simple.
Next week I will be getting ready for the SCG Invitational in Indianapolis and do not really want to talk about Standard. What do you guys want me to write about? Please comment bellow with your suggestions and I wish the best of luck to you guys in the following week in any tournaments you will be playing.