Deck Tech: Esper Tokens with Gerry Thompson
It’s no secret that there are a number of top decks featuring Delver of Secrets. Even limiting the color combinations leaves you with a handful of distinctly viable strategies, any of which could surpass the others on a given week. This week, Gerry Thompson and Brad Nelson came to game with an Esper list eschewing Drogskol Captain and using Intangible Virtue to boost its token forces.
Virtue has proven itself to be a formidable anthem across formats, even earning the banhammer in Block Constructed before Pro Tour Barcelona could demonstrate its power. In Delver, a tempo deck that revolves around controlling the opponent’s clock while pushing onto the board aggressively, Virtue can be game-breaking. In token mirrors, the player with Virtues will easily defeat the player without them, thanks to the boost and the vigilance, while against control decks the card is often a Drogskol Captain that doesn’t die to their sweepers.
Where does Virtue shine? Everywhere, frankly. Once the enchantment resolves, it changes how your opponent has to evaluate each iteration of tokens you create. Considering that you’re always making two at a time—if not more—the threat grows quickly! Midnight Haunting makes a return to the big show in this archetype, functioning ideally in conjunction with Mana Leak, Snapcaster Mage, and the plethora of other instant effects available to the pilot.
Gerry and Brad have hedged against aggressive strategies like G/R Aggro with a pair of Timely Reinforcements in the maindeck, and it’s paying off so far. “Most of the decks have creatures, and since your deck is kind of slow, they come out of the gates faster... You don’t need to gain 6 life, but if you do you come out way ahead,” Gerry sad. “We felt there would be more creature decks than control decks, otherwise we’d play Midnight Haunting instead.”
The sideboard features some specialized solutions to problematic permanents—namely Sword of War and Peace, which Revoke Existence and Steel Sabotage both answer effectively. Opposing anthems can also be troubling, but Negate is a hard answer to such spells… and more. Phantasmal Image continues to play a variety of roles, while Hero of Bladehold might turn some heads.
I like Thought Scour because it interacts with their Huntmasters—you don’t have to have a Vapor Snag every time. Against control decks it lets you play a Snapcaster at the end of their turn after they sweep you. Probe is pretty good to get information… see if they have a Ratchet Bomb to know if you can overextend.” Also, this version of the deck operates at a very different pace in the mirror. “You can’t afford to pay a bunch of life in the early turns to get information. You’re the control deck, not the aggro deck. Our curve is a little higher, so we want more cantrips; which ones you play doesn’t really matter.”
In post-board games, most opponents will lack both creature removal and counterspells, making the power four-drop even more incredible than usual. Those cards simply aren’t good against this particular brand of Delver, and that makes sideboarding real creatures all the more threatening. “Those have been pretty good,” he said. “Against most Delver decks I’d expect them to take out Vapor Snag, at which point they just lose to a Hero.” It also sidesteps Corrosive Gale and Ratchet Bomb, two popular answer cards.
Each player has one loss midway through Standard, with the mirror and Heartless Summoning claiming those honors. If you want to check the deck out now, scroll down a bit.