Spare me just three power
Attack you is all they heard
I'll transform you just like they always do
The blizzard of Indianapolis is long gone. The sun shone in Orlando last weekend, and Delver of Secrets claimed another SCG Legacy Open title.
Did it have Daze? Of course.
Did it have Force of Will? Yep.
I bet it had Brainstorm too. They always do.
Then what instead?
I have quite a disdain for Delver of Secrets. During the Innistrad Sealed PTQ season, I lost in the finals of multiple PTQs to Delver of Secrets flipping on turn 2. Did you know that it's a Human on the back side? An Insect Human—what kind of crap is that? Me and my Avacynian Priests will take our stinking boxes of Magic cards and go home.
I've actually never played a Delver of Secrets deck in any Legacy Open, be it RUG Delver, U/W/R Delver, BUG Delver, or any other flavor of secret delving. I've played a lot of decks with Delver of Secrets in them in testing, but I've never pulled the trigger. The main reason is that decks with Delver of Secrets in them tend to have an interesting dynamic where the strength of the pilot plays a huge role in the success of the deck but it can be neutralized by how knowledgeable the opponents you face are about playing against the strategy.
Delver tends to lean on cards like Daze, Stifle, Spell Pierce, and Wasteland to attack resources while pressuring with cheap and efficient threats like Delver of Secrets, Nimble Mongoose, Tarmogoyf, Young Pyromancer, Stoneforge Mystic, or Tombstalker. Because we're able to stymie our opponent's resource development, our cheap threats combine with our disruptive elements to allow us to quickly get into a position where we're casting multiple spells per turn and pulling way ahead of our opponents.
This strategy is great when you have the nut draw, but when you have an average Delver draw and your opponent isn't just jamming their spells into your Dazes and Stifles, then you can end up at a huge disadvantage.
I've been quite successful against opposing Delver of Secrets decks in the past, which has led me to usually play something other than Delver, but that's about to change.
I'm going to play a Delver deck this weekend at the Legacy Open in Columbus, and I'd like to talk about which Delver deck I'm going to choose and why.
First, let's take a look at the different flavors of Delver decks that we currently have available.
These four are the primary Delver of Secrets decks being played, with Grixis Delver falling out of favor after winning the SCG Legacy Open: Cincinnati in the hands of Eric Rill and BUG Delver being quite fringe even after winning last weekend in Orlando.
I don't think that Grixis Delver is where we want to be right now. With everyone being on a mission to conceal their identities to combat the True-Name Nemesis problem, playing a deck full of one-toughness creatures sounds about as smart as, well, playing a bunch of one-toughness creatures in a format defined by True-Name Nemesis. It's just not a very good idea.
BUG Delver is one of the decks up for consideration, and I really like the direction that Laurence Moo Young went with his list in Orlando.
I like that we don't have Stifle here. I really like being able to pressure our opponent's mana with cards like Daze and Wasteland, but I think that Stifle is something that's easy to play around. If we're waiting to try and "get 'em'" with our Stifles, we're giving them time to get back in the game.
BUG Delver has the same base Delver of Secrets core as the others of Brainstorm, Ponder, Force of Will, Delver of Secrets, and Daze, but by going BUG we gain access to some pretty awesome black and green cards.
Abrupt Decay is a very good removal spell, especially in Delver mirrors where being able to play a Delver of Secrets and Daze an early attempt to remove your threat goes a long way toward winning the game. Abrupt Decay is also very good at killing Stoneforge Mystic, which is quite important. Batterskull is traditionally a very difficult card for Delver decks to handle, and Abrupt Decay gives us a removal spell for the Stoneforge Mystic and for the BBD token if Batterskull does happen to make it onto the battlefield. Abrupt Decay is also quite good against Counterbalance, which can be a very problematic card for a deck that's packed full of one- and two-mana spells.
Hymn to Tourach is an old favorite of mine. I prefer my Hymns with a side of Tiago Chan, but here we eschew the mighty 2/1 for more hefty creatures in the red zone. When we're able to pressure our opponent with Delver of Secrets, Hymn to Tourach can be backbreaking. Hell, even when we aren't pressuring our opponent with anything, Hymn to Tourach can be backbreaking. I've won more than my unfair share of games with an early Hymn taking some key cards out of my opponent's hand.
Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf are some pretty impressive creatures. Deathrite Shaman helps us get to the point where we're casting multiple spells in a turn, and it can be pretty devastating when paired with Wasteland and Hymn to Tourach. Tarmogoyf is the perfect clean-up batter and does a good job of closing out games when you need him to. He's often bounced by Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but we can't all be perfect.
Tombstalker is definitely the questionable card in my eyes. I do like that it can fly over opposing True-Name Nemesis, but if we're going as far as to play Liliana of the Veil in our Delver of Secrets deck (which I absolutely love) and multiple copies of Golgari Charm in our sideboard, that can't be the only reason to play Tombstalker. I think we'd be better off playing our own True-Name Nemesis or Vendilion Clique and swapping Golgari Charm for Marsh Casualties.
Tombstalker does attack for five, though, which can kill people fairly quickly.
Overall I do like the BUG Delver deck, and if I were in the market for some Tarmogoyf action, I'd rather play this deck over RUG Delver. But alas, I am not.
I'm in the mood for something mystical. Something forged out of stone.
Ok, that last one was pretty "Brian Braun-Duin-ish."
Stoneforge Mystic is one fly honey, and I'm excited to play some U/W/R Delver.
Players like Owen Turtenwald and Jacob Wilson have been tearing up the Open Series with U/W/R Delver, and Stephen Mann took the deck to the Top 8 of the Legacy Open in Orlando this past weekend. We'll use his list for reference.
We still have the disruptive elements to go along with our Delver of Secrets with Daze and Wasteland, but we also get Spell Pierce in the maindeck here. Brainstorm, Ponder, and Force of Will are all usual suspects, but being in U/W/R gives us access to two awesome removal spells.
Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares are perfect for killing problematic creatures like Delver of Secrets and Stoneforge Mystic, but Lightning Bolt has the added bonus of being able to be aimed at the dome. Whether we need to burn our opponent out or just kill a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Liliana of the Veil, Lightning Bolt is perfect for us.
Again, we're missing Stifle here, and for the same reasons as before I'm happy about it. I'm not a huge fan of Stifle right now since I'd much rather close out the game with cards that actually do something.
Besides access to two premium removal spells, going U/W/R also gives us Stoneforge Mystic and the Equipment package of Batterskull, Umezawa's Jitte, and Sword of Feast and Famine out of the sideboard. Stoneforge Mystic has long been a force to be reckoned with in Legacy, and with the printing of True-Name Nemesis, she's only gotten better.
Batterskull is such a difficult threat for a lot of decks to deal with, and combined with Delver of Secrets, Stoneforge Mystic and her Equipment package gives this deck the potential to put a lot of pressure on early and a way to grind out the game if it goes long.
True-Name Nemesis has changed the face of the Legacy format in terms of fair decks. If your game plan doesn't involve Griselbrand, Show and Tell, Tendrils of Agony, Craterhoof Behemoth, or Narcomoeba, you're either playing True-Name Nemesis or building your 75 with the mini Progenitus in mind.
True-Name Nemesis has a couple different functions in this deck. With Delver of Secrets and Lightning Bolt doing a lot of damage to our opponent, if they manage to stabilize, they're usually going to be at a precariously low life total. True-Name Nemesis does a pretty good job of cleaning up once the rest of our team has been handled. With protection from the other player and basically everything they control, we can expect our True-Name Nemesis to get in the last few points of damage that we'll need to close out the game.
Since our opponent only has a few ways to interact with our True-Name Nemesis, naturally Equipment becomes quite potent. Umezawa's Jitte goes from very good to absurdly good when we get to put it on the True-Name. Sometimes game states degenerate into a position when you're putting a Batterskull on your True-Name Nemesis and having a good old time.
The fact of the matter is that our opponents are trying to kill us. They want to win, but fortunately for us in addition to being quite the menace on the offensive side of the game, True-Name Nemesis is a great defender and can hold off armies of creatures trying to do us in.
In a nutshell, the maindeck of U/W/R Delver is awesome, but the sideboard is the nail in the coffin for me. I think that U/W/R Delver has some of the most potent sideboard cards in the format, and they always play very well with the strategy of the deck and impact the games in which they are drawn.
The two cards that I'm most impressed with?
The format is in this unique place where people are trying to go over the top of True-Name Nemesis with combo decks, and Meddling Mage is great against these decks. Delver of Secrets already puts on a lot of pressure, and Meddling Mage is both a disruptive element and a part of our aggression that threatens to end the game quickly.
Most decks that are hampered by Meddling Mage are usually only playing a couple answers for it, so as long as we can protect it we have a good shot at winning the game.
Rest in Peace puts in a lot of work against combo decks, anything with Tarmogoyf, and any of the new Lands decks that have popped up recently. Being able to completely shut off the graveyard is an important effect to have access to, and with Rest in Peace we can even be a bit proactive about it since it removes graveyards when it comes into play and prevents cards from hitting graveyards after it's in play.
Against decks that are leaning on Abrupt Decay to remove our creatures, Sword of Feast and Famine is a good option. Not only will it protect our creature from their removal spells, but it will also help us out-tempo them with the untapping of lands and can help to empty their hand since they're under an immense amount of pressure if we have a Sword of Feast and Famine going to work.
Growing as a Magic player is one of my goals for this year, and what better way to try and take my game to new heights than to expand the range of decks that I'm comfortable playing. I'll definitely be in Columbus this weekend to delve my way through the Legacy Open.
Now if only I could find something to play in the Standard Open. That seems like a monster of a problem.