Delving into Magic Online – Preparation for the MOCS



The familiar Facebook chat sound goes off just as my cellphone buzzes. I grab my phone. My friend had just sent me a message letting me know there would be a Team Trios event on the last weekend of the month for three Mox Emeralds. I look up at the computer, and get a message from fellow MODO grinder Glenn Mcelwain (_Gmac_) “The MOCS this month is Standard, what should I play?” I run to check the MODO schedule. Damnit! The MOCS and the Team Trios event are on the same day, I am going to need to choose one or the other. Or will I? Looks like the event starts in the pm hours, and if I can get some byes… then I can play both, but another problem, the event is in Moncton, New Brunswick, and my apartment is two and a half hours away in Halifax. What to do?, what to do….?

As I am writing this, I am between rounds of a Standard Daily on Magic Online. The past three days have been a flurry of Standard Dailies and Standard 8 Mans in an attempt to get some byes for this season’s Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS), which is Standard. I have been running so poorly in limited, both sealed and draft, and I don’t feel like I have a good grasp on the format. To make some tickets back I decided to grind some constructed, and it has been going pretty well. Looking at MTGOStats, I can see that in the three days in which I grinded I played nine dailies and a premiere. I 4-0d six of the dailies and 3-1d the other three, top 8’d a Premiere, I also won five 8 mans, and made the finals in four. I am pretty sure my record over those three or four days was about 56-10. Here is my list, I am pretty sure it is only like 2-3 cards different from both my CMT Halifax winning list, and my PT-DKA 4-1 list:

The volume of games played in just those three days really helped paint me a picture of the deck’s matchups in the post Pro Tour metagame, as I got a chance to play against literally every deck I have ever seen in Standard. Quite frankly, I really like Delver’s matchup against a vast majority of them. I’ve been getting a few questions on card choices, matchups, and sideboarding. While this is not a primer and I will not be providing matchup-by-matchup analysis, I will answer some of the most common questions.

I want to address a few card choices in the list. While other Delver players became disillusioned with Gut Shot, the number of times I seem to want that card in my opening hand has been far too frequent. I also find that when I happen to draw it in a matchup where it has few uses, I normally can find a point in the game to gain a small advantage off of it, maybe not trading for a card, but ensuring a Huntmaster of the Fells doesn’t flip on a key turn, sniping a Snapcaster Mage sent in to block your Geist of Saint Traft or dealing that last point to a Planeswalker (or player for that matter).

4 Sword of War and Peace, 0 Runechanter’s Pike

Sword is by far the most important card in the mirror, certainly when you run 4 Invisible Stalkers. There are far too many decks that have either no way, or too few ways to deal with a turn 2 Invisible Stalker, turn 3 Sword of War and Peace. It just kills far too quickly and is extremely difficult to race. Not to mention the differences playing Pike would cause to my spells, I would want to play Thought Scour, and probably less Stalkers to increase my spell count. It is not a question of whether one is better than the other; they just belong in different builds. _Gmac_’s standard record is just as impressive as mine has been and he is running a split of the equipment, but there are other differences in the list that make the Pike better, specifically, again, Thought Scour. Running the 4 Invisible Stalker 4 Sword package allows for so many free wins in game one and a good sideboard allows you to adjust your plan according to your match-up. Also, let’s face it. Lingering Souls is a card that is very hard for Delver to combat effectively, as Gut Shots and Vapor Snags basically trade with ¼ of the card. Sword allows you to wholly ignore the tokens, they can’t race the sword, and they can’t block.

One of the frequent criticisms of this list is the Geist of Saint Traft count. There are quite a few lists with 4 Geist of Saint Traft, but I doubt there are too many lists with 4 Geists and 4 Swords. I found that it was just too many sorcery speed 3 drops, and I preferred the versatility of Midnight Haunting. I used to have more Hauntings, but found that I never wanted to draw more than one a game, especially with the option to rebuy it with Snapcaster Mage.

Sideboard/sideboarding is by far the most common question I get asked, no matter what deck I am presenting. It is very difficult for me to provide a sideboard guide, because I do not use sideboard plans myself.  I sideboard differently every single match based on the cards I see, how they are playing and how I decide to play the matchup. My sideboard is constantly changing, with the most recent additions being Jace and Batterskull, but the core remains the same. Here are the “core” cards in my sideboard:

1 Sword of Feast and Famine – Need at least 1 to swap Swords against Zombies, Wolfrun and Control
2 Dismember – Must-have against Hero, good against Zombies
2 Revoke Existence – The best multi-purpose artifact removal.  Great against B/W Tokens and Humans, good in the mirror. Also better against U/B as it can deal with curse.
2 Timely Reinforcements – Don’t leave home without ‘em
1 Celestial Purge–Great catch-all against U/B, kills Bloodline Keeper, Curse, Titan ect.
2 Phantasmal Image – How else do you beat Thrun?
2 Dissipate – Wolf Run, UB and other control decks

The sideboarding is pretty simple with this deck. I take out the Gitaxian Probes against the decks where the life loss is very relevant, and take out the Gut Shots when they are bad. I also tend to shave cards like Mana Leak, Geist of Saint Traft, Vapor Snag, Invisible Stalker, and Midnight Haunting.

I love playing Delver in this format. While it suffers from a few weak matchups that are becoming more popular, like Zombies and R/G Aggro, its matchups across the, currently very open, Standard metagame are very positive on the whole. Delver has the tools to beat anything, and by using a well-tuned sideboard your build can be ready for any matchup. At least for the current online metagame, I really like the setup I am using. There are so many free game ones due to the “combo” of stalker and sword. In most matchups opponents have only one or two cards to deal with the near-unraceable swings of a sworded stalker, and you can either set it up to play around it, or just risk them not having it.

While artifact destruction certainly hinders this plan post-board, your sideboard has many options. If you know they are boarding in Grudge, you can take out an Invisible Stalker and a Sword and bring in multi-purpose cards unaffected by Grudge like Phantasmal Image, Revoke etc. Matches where they have access to Grudge, but you are keeping Gitaxian Probe in also gives you a little advantage. Once you see the Grudge, you get to sculpt your gameplan around it, perhaps forcing them to tap out into a Sword swing, at which point the damage is already done before the Grudge hits. You can also use it to time-walk your opponent, making them play an artifact destruction spell over their bomb, giving you time to find counter-magic.

Hopefully my preparation will pay off, as I am both the Standard player for Team Trios and playing the Standard MOCS on the same evening. I will certainly be playing this list, perhaps with a few different cards in the sideboard, and I suggest that you give it a try. Got any questions or article suggestions? Feel free to send me a message on Facebook or Twitter!

Until next time,
Keep grindin’,
David Caplan
Goobafish88 on Twitter