New Decks From Magic Online

After combing through decks that did well in Standard Daily Events on Magic Online, AJ Kerrigan found three interesting decks that he thinks are a start to fighting the Delver menace. Try one out at SCG Open Series: Phoenix!

Upkeep, reveal Ponder, flip Delver of Secrets. Booooring. This is the same old stuff we’ve faced from week to week at Standard tournaments across the world. There may be a lot of different variations of the deck, but from the losing side it’s all the same. Flip Delver of Secrets, take three, then play some other assorted three-drop that will assist in killing you. To some, maybe even myself, it’s fun to do that every week. But let’s be honest: it can get boring.

In an attempt to start writing more frequently, I plan to occasionally use Magic Online as a way to find interesting decks to write about. I will go through the Standard four-round Daily Events to find cool new decks that might be something worth giving a try. It’s no secret right now that Delver variants are the top dogs. This week I want to go over three decks that placed in Daily Events and see how they stand up against Wild Nacatl with flying.

This is a deck I’ve seen Sopet 4-0 with a few times in the past week or so. It’s a new version of a deck we’ve seen pop up a few times since the release of Scars of Mirrodin block. Brian Kibler started it all off by posting a few good results with his original version that included Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. In the past few months, a lot of Japanese players have been trying to bring this deck back into the limelight.

It doesn’t seem like this deck can properly compete with Delver variants. One of the main reasons Delver of Secrets is still on top is because there is a common misconception on how to beat the deck. It’s often thought that one-for-one spot removal can bring a Delver player to its knees, but that’s usually incorrect. Its creatures can pull out a lot of value, so trading with them one-for-one will often leave you behind. Snapcaster Mage virtually draws you a card if not better, Delver of Secrets is a one-mana 3/2, and you usually get up to four Spirit tokens for the price of a card. All of that doesn’t even consider the creatures that can’t be killed by spot removal like Invisible Stalker, Geist of Saint Traft, and multiple Drogskol Captains.

Wrath effects are a step in the right direction, but the knowledge gained by Gitaxian Probe can make it hard to get a whole lot of value off of them. The key to defeating Delver in my opinion is to drag it out to the later game and start playing trumps. An unanswered Liliana of the Veil, Curse of Death’s Hold, Gideon Jura, and Sun Titan are all powerful spells that can help you crush Delver variants. Notice how three of these cards gain you a lot of value (more than Delver can usually gain from Snapcaster Mage), and the other is close to a Wrath effect that sticks around.

The reason to me it seems that the list above can have trouble dealing with Delver is because it doesn’t play enough trumps. Two Curse of Death’s Hold isn’t enough game 1. You’ll probably only draw one, and it will probably get Mana Leaked. Your early game is also not very strong. This deck plays four pieces of spot removal, so it won’t be long before a Delver of Secrets sticks and takes the game. The deck also feels very weak to a Vapor Snag. A Delver player can afford to take a poison here and there, but once you start to get crazy with Livewire Lash equips and Mutagenic Growth, a Vapor Snag can set you very far behind.

Post-board, the deck brings in more answers to Delver in Mental Misstep, more Tragic Slips, and more Curse of Death’s Holds. Once again, you’re trying to fight the one-for-one battle that you will not win. More Curses help, but by that time the Delver player has Revoke Existence and Celestial Purge at the ready.

Overall, I don’t think this deck has what it takes to compete with Delver decks. The matchup probably isn’t terrible, and it seems like this deck has really good Wolf Run and R/G Aggro matchups (hint: Phyrexian Crusader is really good), so it might be an acceptable deck to play.

The next deck on the list is similar to something I tried to make work last year but had trouble finding a good list.

This is the most interesting deck you’ll see in this article. It seems that Griffim3 tried to merge Tezzeret and Venser and play the cards that synergized with both. For example, the Wellsprings both work well with Tezzeret and Venser. I’m not ecstatic about the game 1 matchup of this for Delver, though I think it still might be positive in the control deck’s favor. It has some good trumps along with the Venser + Stonehorn Dignitary lock, but I’m not sure how good a lot of these trumps are. Even if you resolve a turn 6 or 7 Spine of Ish Sah, without any follow-up it won’t really do anything.

Post-board it has the Trinket Mage package, which I’ve been advocating in Standard in control decks for a while. It also has a few more Wrath effects to bring in. It will become nigh impossible for Delver to overextend on the board at any time, giving you more than enough turns to set up your trumps. I don’t know how this deck stands up against everything else, though. The control matchups seem shaky at best, especially Esper Control. They have more counterspells, and their trumps come out hard and fast.

Overall, this is a decent deck to play at FNM, and with some work it can probably be tournament ready.

The last deck I want to talk about is a revamp of an old favorite.

When Wolf Run Ramp first hit the Standard scene, there was a lot of debate on whether the better version was Mono-Green or R/G. For all intents and purposes, the above list is mono-green even though there are a few red spells. It seems over time, Mono-Green was weeded out (I didn’t play enough Standard to ever use either version enough to know exactly why). The major differences between the two sub-types are the Dungrove Elders and Garruk, Primal Hunters. Obviously the two work well together, letting you refill your hand instantly.

This list looks like it wants to push out a Garruk or Primeval Titan fast. The four Birds of Paradise help you play a turn 2 Dungrove Elder as consistently as possible to get it around Mana Leak on the play. It seems like with consistent draws you can easily beat Delver. As long as they don’t nut draw you, you have a lot of game-winning threats. Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull, and Huntmaster of the Fells can all be difficult for Delver variants to overcome. The lack of Wrath effects make it hard for you to get ahead of a Geist of Saint Traft combined with a lot of tempo, though. A quick set up of Delver of Secrets and Geist of Saint Traft can be hard to catch up from.

Some of the choices also seem suspect, but I haven’t tested the deck so I’m not really sure. For example, Dawntreader Elk does seem a little bit sketchy. He can be fine when you lead with a turn 1 Birds of Paradise, but even then he’s still just a three-mana Rampant Growth. I also think the mainboard Ratchet Bomb is a little wonky. Maindeck Whipflare might just be a better option because I’m not sure what he’s really trying to answer with Ratchet Bomb that Whipflare can’t do faster. Against a Geist of Saint Traft, I’d rather have Whipflare. There are a few situations where Ratchet Bomb can be better, but there are also a lot where it can be worse.

Post-board, the deck fixes that a little bit with two Whipflare, a Ratchet Bomb, and a few Combust. It might be time for Mono-Green Wolf Run to come back on the scene. I don’t think this list is exactly where the archetype wants to be, but it’s pretty close.

To sum it up, Delver has become a true monster. We need to realize that the methods we’re using to fight it currently aren’t working. If you disagree with any of my evaluations, feel free to let me know in the comments. If you have a deck you’d like me to cover for next time, go ahead and post it in the comments as well. I’d like to take a look and maybe even feature it in my article. I’d love to see what you guys have been working on to defeat the Delver decks that are running rampant.

AJ Kerrigan

@AJKerrigan55 on Twitter