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 [card]Mox Emerald[/card]s. 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:

[deck title=PT DKA]
4 Glacial Fortress
9 Island
3 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Gut Shot
4 Mana Leak
1 Midnight Haunting
4 Ponder
4 Sword of War and Peace
4 Vapor Snag
2 Celestial Purge
2 Dismember
2 Dissipate
1 Negate
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Revoke Existence
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Timely Reinforcements

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 [card]Gut Shot[/card], 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 [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] doesn’t flip on a key turn, sniping a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] sent in to block your [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] 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 [card]Invisible Stalker[/card]s. There are far too many decks that have either no way, or too few ways to deal with a turn 2 [card]Invisible Stalker[/card], turn 3 [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]. 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 [card]Thought Scour[/card], 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, [card]Thought Scour[/card]. Running the 4 [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] 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. [card]Lingering Souls[/card] is a card that is very hard for Delver to combat effectively, as [card]Gut Shot[/card]s and [card]Vapor Snag[/card]s 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 [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] count. There are quite a few lists with 4 [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], 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 [card]Midnight Haunting[/card]. 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 [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card].

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 [card]Batterskull[/card], but the core remains the same. Here are the “core” cards in my sideboard:

1 [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] – Need at least 1 to swap Swords against Zombies, Wolfrun and Control
2 [card]Dismember[/card] – Must-have against Hero, good against Zombies
2 [card]Revoke Existence[/card] – 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 [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] – Don’t leave home without ‘em
1 [card]Celestial Purge[/card]–Great catch-all against U/B, kills [card]Bloodline Keeper[/card], Curse, Titan ect.
2 [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] – How else do you beat Thrun?
2 [card]Dissipate[/card] – Wolf Run, UB and other control decks

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

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 [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] and a Sword and bring in multi-purpose cards unaffected by Grudge like [card]Phantasmal Image[/card], Revoke etc. Matches where they have access to Grudge, but you are keeping [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] 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


2 thoughts on “Delving into Magic Online – Preparation for the MOCS”

  1. only one problem with delver…it’s boring and unimaginative as #%$* 😉


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