The secrets of Delver

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A few weeks ago Corey Baumeister, Shaheen Soorani, and I took down an SCG Open in Philadelphia. While Corey and Shaheen took care of Standard and Modern respectively, I was delegated with the delightful task of playing Legacy. Team Trios is an awesome format, and it allows for your squad to really show a mastery in the way they prepare for an event. It had been awhile since the last time I played the format and I had a lot to learn in a very short amount of time — the last time I played was before the printing of Leovold, Emissary of Trest

Needless to say a lot has changed since then. In the last few months alone additions like Wrenn and Six, Karn, the Great Creator, Narset, Parter of Veils and even Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.

I’ve always been drawn to the combination of Delver of Secrets, Daze and Wasteland, so naturally I looked toward the powerful tempo strategy for the event.  After some tinkering and studying I decided to play the newly powered-up Four-Colour Delver deck at the Open. 

Today I’d like to tell you how I arrived at my conclusion, and walk you through all of the other options Delver has to offer. Delver is always going to be a force in Legacy, but in the short term after the printing of Wrenn and Six the deck has become a bit of a puzzle to build. There are just so many new tools in Legacy, and sifting through them all can be a little tricky. So let’s start with my list from the Open: 

Four-Colour Delver


Pros:

Across all formats, when you add colours to your deck you can often expect the power level of your deck to rise. Simply put, with this version you’re playing all of the best cards. Tarmogoyf is great in Legacy right now because it’s frankly one of the hardest creatures to kill in the entire format.  What this version offers you that many other midrange blue decks don’t is the ability to both play and kill Tarmogoyf, as the addition of Abrupt Decay answers it cleanly and also removes Wrenn and Six with ease. Leovold itself is also very good against the other three and four colour control decks that are roaming around trying to go bigger than Delver. 

Where you see the largest advantage is in your sideboard. Plague Engineer is a great tool against True-Name Nemesis and Young Pyromancer while also being a fundamentally extremely powerful card. Liliana’s Triumph is great in Delver mirrors and is an always-important answer to Marit Lage. Finally, Thoughtseize is great against combo/control matchups and can even come in against decks that are packing hard to answer permanents like Blood Moon. Your average Delver deck often only interacts on the stack, but the addition of discard allows for proactive interaction that can really help swing your combo matchups. 

Cons:

Obviously when you add colours to your deck the mana isn’t going to be the greatest. You have to play Badlands in your Daze deck and you’re playing Leovold in a deck with four Wastelands — it can be a little awkward. That being said, Wrenn and Six fixes a lot of these problems by itself if you can position yourself to get it into play. Being able to rebuy fetch lands and even duals that have been put into the graveyard by Wasteland is incredibly powerful. 

While I can definitely understand why someone would have reservations about playing a deck with such a greedy manabase, this deck is incredibly powerful. You are very weak to cards like Blood Moon and Back to Basics. That being said, where you falter against hateful permanents you become stronger against the opposing Tarmogoyf strategies and decks like Golgari Depths. 

Izzet Delver


Pros:

With straight Izzet Delver you can be confident that you are playing the most consistent version of Delver that the format has to offer. You have access to a bunch of basic lands that allow you to facilitate your game plan effectively each and every game. One of the format’s most defining cards in Wasteland is pretty weak against you, and you’re able to play your own hoser in Blood Moon.

Cons:

You’re not playing Wrenn and Six in your Wasteland deck, whereas almost every other blue midrange deck in the format is. This just means that the top end of your draws are going to be slightly less powerful than your three colour opponents. And by choosing to stay two colours you become inherently weak to format-defining threats like Tarmogoyf and True-Name Nemesis

My problem with Izzet Delver frankly starts and ends with the fact that you are not playing Wrenn and Six — the card is just that good. Having a high basic count is very nice for a deck like this, but I think that not being able to combine Wrenn with Wasteland puts you at a fundamental disadvantage in the current format. While this deck doesn’t have many cons listed above, I would argue that your deck being weak to Tarmogoyf is almost a non-starter. In a format this powerful, being consistent sometimes just isn’t enough. With a deck like this it sometimes feels like you just can’t let any of your opponents threats resolve, and that’s just not how I want to feel headed into a tournament. I know there are many people out there that believe that Izzet Delver is the best version of Delver out there, but I am currently not one of them.


The goose is loose… 

To put in your Constructed deck.

This deck is something that I haven’t tested, but I think could be good.

Pros: 

You have access to Tarmogoyf and Wrenn and Six, which as I’ve mentioned is something I’m looking for. With Temur you get a bit of the best of both worlds from the two decks I’ve shown you above. You get to  play an Island in your deck which allows you to play around Blood Moon a little with Hydroblast. Narset does an interesting impression of Leovold, Emissary of Trest and I think it can even be better in some spots if you leave it on five loyalty, particularly against cantrip-reliant combo decks like Storm and Sneak & Show. 

Cons: 

Your mana is a bit better than the four-color version, but you are still weak to Blood Moon and Back to Basics like Delver traditionally has been. You also don’t get access to the power that black has to offer, which is going to reduce your post-board interaction quite a bit. Lastly, you have a difficult time dealing with Tarmogoyf (outside of having your own) and True-Name Nemesis

With all of these super powerful threats in Legacy these days, a lot of the games come down to how you chose to sequence your threats and answers. Gone are the days of trying to be as efficient as possible. Now, it’s about power. So, through my testing I’ve decided I want to be able to play all the best threats and answers to ensure that in the war of threats versus answers — I come out on top.

I will be testing this Temur version for SCG Richmond where I will be playing with Brian Braun-Duin and Shaheen Soorani. Your mana is inherently better than the four-color version because you don’t need to get black mana to cast your spells. While black gives you better game against some matchups, I’m not 100 per cent sure it’s necessary. If this doesn’t end up to my liking, I am very likely going to run back Four-Colour Delver for that tournament as my record in Philadelphia was quite strong.

I’ll probably be cutting an Ancient Grudge in my sideboard for a Hydroblast — you’ve got to kill those Wrenns after all. 

Happy Delvering, I hope your Wastelands are always game-breaking and you always draw that key Daze.