Deck Tech: Spectral Flight Delver with Caleb Durward
Caleb Durward's Delver list can make some very different moves when compared to traditional builds.
It’s no secret that Caleb Durward has been enjoying a lot of success in Magic lately, across a variety of formats. He’s been chipping away at Standard with a unique version of Delver, playing a significantly different plan from most players and maindecking cards that most of them sideboard, and many might never even think to play! We’re going to examine the archetype from the context of these underplayed heroes to determine what sets them apart, and why you might consider playing them.
Caleb’s strangest staple has been Spectral+Flight, which he maintains is an integral element of his success. “People have a lot of answers to Swords as Swords become more and more standard—a lot of Delver decks run a Divine+Offering,” he explained. Spectral+Flight not only dodges that removal spell, but actively punishes players for drawing it. “It’s not as good against Revoke+Existence, but sometimes all you really need is a Shock.”
Playing the deck like a blue Sligh deck, Caleb knows the value of 2 life, especially in the mirror. “The fact that you can spend two mana to jump a Snapcaster and get in 4 damage is better than trading Snapcasters. Usually, I hold it in hand until I can Probe them and know that it’s good.” Above all, Spectral+Flight is efficient at what it does. “It’s only a two-mana investment—it’s even cheaper than Pike. With Spectral+Flight, you can get it down and still leave two up for Leak.” That’s a big play to make on turn 4. “Sometimes I board down to one if I bring in two Swords, but I never take them all out.”
Splitting Thought Scour and Think+Twice, Caleb has like both for different reasons. “I started playing two Think+Twice, but if you ever draw both of them the game will never get to the point where you can flash them both back in a reasonable time period,” he said. “Since I’m running Dissipate, the flashback does leave me something to do when I hold three mana up. That lets me play a control role much easier.”
The smaller cantrip is popular, but Caleb likes his bullet copy. “Thought Scour doesn’t have a ton of value in my deck, but it still finds creatures for Moorland+Haunt and increases the deck’s velocity. It’s good in topdeck mode, since it can be better than topdecking Gitaxian+Probe by quite a bit.” Hitting a creature for Moorland+Haunt in the late game can be a massive swing.
Caleb’s also playing three additional counterspells in the maindeck: two Dissipate and Mental+Misstep. “Dissipates are great against everything that’s not Delver,” he said. “A lot of people thought B/W Tokens was your worst matchup, but Dissipate makes it better! You have more ‘win the game’ draws, and it’s an answer to Geist in the mirror.” In many matchups, Dissipate is back-breaking. “It’s insane—I feel like I’m pre-boarded against Ramp, control, and Tokens.”
As for Misstep, which he is also sideboarding… “Mental Misstep is underplayed right now, considering all the Delvers out there. You can Misstep their turn 1 play and Snapcaster it to get their turn 2 play a lot of the time, which is just filthy,” Caleb explained. All of that leverages his aggressive plan!
Most players stick to Phantasmal+Image, but Caleb has divided his Clones. “If Phyrexian+Metamorph copies a ground creature, I can jump it with Spectral+Flight—Phantasmal+Image can’t do that, obviously. Also, while I don’t run any equipment maindeck, Metamorph lets me copy opposing equipment.” So why isn’t Metamorph just better? “I didn’t want two Metamorphs because the cost is prohibitive and Image is a more efficient answer to Geist,” Caleb said. “The split ensures I don’t draw two of the wrong one.”
Makes sense to me: here’s Caleb’s list!