Last weekend I went for a stroll through our nation’s capital with my good friend Hovermyr. We left some corpses in our wake, but hey, that guy has an appetite for destruction. I couldn’t stop him, and neither could our opponents.
I’ll be honest though; if you thought Hovermyr was anything other than a jacka** card or a “fun-of,” then you’d be wrong. You can make the case that Hovermyr blocks Moorland Haunt tokens, but that doesn’t solve the real issue. Hovermyr was in there for the times, the stories, and the look of horror on my opponent’s face when I’m swinging for lethal with a Hovermyr.
Over the course of the tournament, I drew it three times—once in my opener, which I mulliganed due to being land light, and twice in mirror matches where it did close to nothing. Obviously it’s not a card I’d play again (if, say, I was trying to win at the expense of having fun), but it did make the weekend more interesting.
Patrick Chapin and Gerard Fabiano love playing 20 questions with the audience, the coverage like the idea of featuring something sweet, and I can only imagine what the viewers were thinking when Josh Cho equipped Sword of War and Peace to his Hovermyr in top four…
I had to deal with several “wtf” looks and inquiries from players who were trying to wrap their head around why I would play such a card. The fact that I could share stories with Cho in between rounds about our Hovermyr shenanigans made the weekend a blast. This is a trend I will probably continue in the future.
The more I play with this Delver deck, and the more it evolves, the more and more it reminds me of Caw-Blade. They are vastly different decks with little in common, but certain trends are becoming apparent.
It’s the best deck with few bad matchups. I wasn’t scared to play against anyone. I lost to Humans when I had two unflipped Delvers for several turns and still only needed a single Vapor Snag to win on the spot. In game three, I lost because I took a bad line of play. Later, I lost a mirror match when he peeled Runechanter’s Pike to deal me lethal when a Sword, Gut Shot, or Vapor Snag wouldn’t have done it. Then, in game three, I again selected a bad line of play.
In the first situation, I was being beaten down by a Geist and a 2/2 Champion of the Parish. I could Midnight Haunting to kill his Geist and then Oblivion Ring his Champion, but he had a handful of cards that could have easily been Hero of Bladeholds. I decided the best course of action was to try and get him dead, so I focused on connecting with Sword of War and Peace.
Even if he had a Leonin Relic-Warder or Oblivion Ring, I could Ring it and continue swinging. The problem with my plan was that I had annihilated him with Sword in game two, and he quickly reached for his sideboard. He could have brought in any number of answers, including Mana Leak. He ended up having the Leak, and I lost a game I probably could have grinded out.
My second loss was playing for top eight and went down in a similar fashion. I Probed him and saw a hand that couldn’t interact with a Sword. When I went to equip the next turn, he had drawn a Vapor Snag, and I lost another game I probably could have grinded out.
These are the situations that separate the good players from the great players, and I failed that test. I would say that overall, I tend to err on the side of caution, but in this tournament, I played hyper-aggressively. The reason behind this is that, while most of my experience is from playing control decks, I can really push it in the opposite direction when playing a deck that needs to be played that way.
I needed to find that happy medium. In my second match, I knew his hand and could have played around any string of topdecks just based on the strength of my hand. Instead, I decided to take the easy win, but that plan would immediately fall apart if he drew exactly Vapor Snag in exactly the one-turn window I gave him.
Now, that might make it seem like I got unlucky, especially considering he sided two of his Snags out. However, I could have played around every single card in my opponent’s deck and chose to give that chance.
The moral of the story is that I could have beaten every single opponent I played against. Caw-Blade was more resilient and could play both roles better, but U/W Delver has its own perks. It’s faster, more unforgiving, and the format is slower.
Another problem is that players overvalue certain aspects of the Delver deck. You can’t just fight Moorland Haunt, Delver, Geist, or Sword and somehow beat the other aspects of their deck. They have several good plans, plenty of powerful cards, and aren’t linear enough to lean on one thing too heavily.
In the mirror, basically the only thing that matters is the equipment. That’s because nothing else trumps anything else. If you can fight the equipment, you’re playing a fair game. If any other deck tries to take that approach, they’re going to lose to the normal part of your deck.
And guess what? It will probably get worse before it gets better.
I’ve played this card in Legacy before! Trust me; this is one of those cards, like Gitaxian Probe, that is hugely undervalued. I see several lists with Runechanter’s Pike and only three Gitaxian Probes. That just isn’t right! In fact, I could write a “You’re Just Wrong” segment on how wrong it is. I’d play 61 in any deck with Pike before I played only three Probes.
At the beginning, I bet we’ll see this card as a two-of in places that it should be a four-of. After all, why not? There’s so much play with Thought Scour in the entire deck.
- You can get rid of crappy cards on top of your deck you know about thanks to Ponder or Delver of Secrets.
- It fills your graveyard for effects like Snapcaster Mage, Moorland Haunt, and Runechanter’s Pike.
- It transforms Delver of Secrets.
You could also make a case that by playing four Thought Scours, you could cut a land. I think that’s correct, but you’d have to be willing to cut the basic Plains and/or skimp on Moorland Haunts, and I don’t think that’s what you want. Play this in a spell slot. It’s giving you enough gas that you should run out of things to do with your mana anyway.
This has to work. It needs to work. I have to make it work.
Lingering Souls is easily the most impactful card in the entire set. One could make a case for Sorin, Evolving Wilds, or Gravecrawler, but they’d be lying to themselves. Lingering Souls will be everywhere, and for good reason.
I definitely want to incorporate this card into basically every single deck, including Delver. Whether or not that’s doable, I have no idea. I will certainly be trying to find out though.
This is another game changer. As new sets get released, each deck becomes more powerful, but this is exactly what Control needed to stay in the league of decks like Delver and U/W Humans. I can only imagine how smooth MJ’s Five-Color Control deck is going to run now.
If necessary, Evolving Wilds will help out Delver decks looking to play three colors as well. This is the perfect control land but might not be what Delver wants. With so many one-mana spells, an “enters the battlefield tapped” land isn’t what you want, but it might be what you need.
This is exactly the type of sideboard card I wanted in my Delver decks. Dispel would be nearly perfect, but it doesn’t protect your Sword from Oblivion Ring. I’ll probably start Faith’s Shield in my sideboard as a two-of and go from there.
Before I go, I’d like to point out that the differences between the various Delver decks are very important to note, as it should greatly affect your sideboarding. Magic isn’t quite what it used to be. Back in my day, we had Smothers, and basically any other removal spell was Limited fodder. We didn’t have a choice but to play four Smother.
Similarly, our U/G Madness decks were essentially built for us.
Things are different now. While we have one fewer card per booster than we used to, it doesn’t really matter. In draft formats like OTJ and OLS, you were constantly scraping for playables, but that’s the opposite now. I’m surprised if I don’t have to cut at least four cards when building my draft decks, and sometimes it’s as high as ten!
These changes are very noticeable in Constructed, especially if you were playing back when U/G Madness was a deck. We have so many good cards available to us that decks like U/W Delver can have four or more different versions.
They aren’t equally as good, but they fit the play-styles of the various players, so there tends to be some deviation. In addition, it becomes a helluva lot harder to build the consensus best version when the metagame shifts every week, and we have so many different choices.
What you need to fight it: Spot removal
This deck doesn’t typically play equipment or Geist of Saint Traft. That lets you sideboard easier against it. If you have things like Phantasmal Image in your sideboard, you should bring it in. They don’t have Geist, but copying their Lord of the Unreal will probably lock up the ground.
What you need to fight it: Edict effects, artifact removal
While spot removal is insane against the Illusions version, it’s actually a lot worse against these versions. They have few creatures, and the ones that they have aren’t worth killing, or don’t die easily aside from Delver.
If you can kill their equipment, Delvers, and Geists, you should be ok. That’s kind of a tall order considering the amount of angles they are attacking you on, but that’s why the deck is so hard to beat.
Flagship cards: Porcelain Legionnaire
What you need to fight it: Spot removal, artifact removal
This version functions similarly to Illusions, just with different cards. With Legionnaire, they’ll probably have some cheap spell to protect it like Mutagenic Growth or Mental Misstep, so watch out for those.
What you need to fight it: Artifact removal but nothing really specific
This is probably the toughest one to beat. They defend like a control deck but fight like a hexproof deck. Game one, they might have a draw that resembles Illusions, which will force you to sideboard incorrectly.
This is where sideboarding based on what cards you see comes in. Do they have super aggressive stuff like Phantasmal Bear or Porcelain Legionnaire? Are they playing a more controlling game like the Hyper list? How much equipment do you think they have? What are they sideboarding in against you?
There are plenty of ways to customize the Delver deck, and because of that, you need to be able to sideboard on the fly. Infer things based on the cards they’ve already played and the way they approach each game. If they start taking an aggressive stance each time, there’s probably a reason for that.
Delver is a tough deck to beat, and Dark Ascension isn’t going to make it any easier. Next week I should have a playtesting video up, where I’ll battle an updated Delver list against W/B Tokens and some other new deck. Maybe Zombies?
GerryT (or Gerry Stompson, if you’d prefer)
First it was #banprobe, and now’s it’s #banhovermyr. What have I done?
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