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Secrets of Delver: Four Ways Delver is Revolutionizing Magic (And How You Can Too!)

Morgan Wentworth
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 20:45

          UW Delver has been dominating Magic tournaments since Innistrad was released at the beginning of October. There have been many iterations of the deck played weekly at tournaments. At one point, for example, some people even played Delver with Intangible Virtue, an addition that made me happy from pure tokeny joy. People have been bringing innovation to the Delver board from the start. The problem with this is they are making these changes to out-Delver other Delver decks. When piloted by a player with enough experience and understanding of the deck, Delver can dominate most, if not all, of its Tier One matchups. For the casual player, this can be a problem. Who can compete when the Top Eight is full of Delver mirrors? Even if your local meta is not saturated with Delver, losing to the Delver player 2-0 match one can be disheartening. To some, it seems like Delver is doing things that other decks have never imagined doing. However, I have discovered what Delver is doing, and how you can do it too!
Step One: Play things
          Delver, through blatant disregard for life totals, plays several spells with Phyrexian mana costs to maximize their turns. A typical turn one play for Delver usually involves Gitaxian Probe, drop a blue source, play Delver of Secrets. Instead of having five cards in hand (if they are on the play), they have five cards in hand and intimate knowledge of what their opponent is doing already. Next turn, assuming they packed enough sorceries and instants in their deck, they will have an even bigger creature with evasion. It is not only important to have a turn one play, but a turn two play. Showing off a Mana Leak then swinging for three seems like a comfortable move to me. It doesn’t even require commitment to actually spending mana, because the threat of the Leak is much more effective than most two-drops that Delver can conjure up (other than two more Delver of Secrets). How can you replicate this? Play a card on turn one! Preferably, play a creature. Now you can match Delver card for card! No matter what colors you play, there is a one-drop that can advance your deck’s goals. Even Caravan Vigil makes a one-land hand much more promising.
Step Two: Keep your opponents from playing things.
          Vapor Snag keeps tempo in Delver’s favor. Your opponents can’t attack if their creatures have summoning sickness, and they can’t cast other spells if they constantly have to recast the creatures that you return to their hands. If they decide to play something other than that creature, they probably don’t have the luxury of waiting until they have the three mana needed to evade Mana Leak because of that Delver you have swinging in every turn. So just counter it with that Leak that you revealed earlier to flip your Delver! How can you replicate this? You may not be comfortable with letting your opponent recast their Blade Splicers. I’m not either. However, you can punish them from overextending their board with board wipes. Day of Judgment and Slagstorm are classic, Terminus pwns RB Aggro’s undying, indestructible, and recurring creatures, and Planar Cleansing is… another option? And there’s always trotting out your own counterspells if you’re in blue too. But let’s be honest… if you’re playing blue, why wouldn’t you be playing Delver?
Step Three: Use the element of surprise
          Delver gets to do a whole bunch of things at instant speed: draw cards, kill their opponents’ dudes, and lately, play creatures. For example, Restoration Angel has been putting extra Golem tokens on the board since 2012! You can just consider this practice for when green mages start sleeving up their Yeva decks. The point being, when playing against Delver one can expect angels and wizards to jump out at them like the battle was set at the broken jack-in-the-box factory. How can you replicate this? Never, ever play anything on your own turn again. Every other sentence that comes out of your mouth should begin with: ”In response to…” You’ll be doing that so often, they may even start to forget that Faithless Looting is a sorcery. Otherwise, try and get economy from open mana and creatures held back defensively by utilizing activated abilities on creatures.
Step four: Choose your draws beforehand
          It seems like it should be the first thing that you do, but the reason many people have for playing Delver is that they have so much luck that they blind flip their Delver turn two. No, cards like Ponder are useful to the Delver player because he can get exactly what he needs, whereas the green-white agro player that he is playing is playing off the top and hoping the Delver player doesn’t have a hard counter. How can you replicate this? The answer is quite obvious: cheat. I would have hoped that you had thought of it sooner. Or else you can add some kind of card filter, like the newly released Wild Guess, which allow you to drop dead cards and pick up new, hopefully more useful, ones. At second glance, Delver is not doing too much that is different from what most other decks try to do. Delver is not some god among decks… it just seems that way. Delver can be raced, and it can be out-controlled, and it can be overran. If Delver doesn’t appeal to you, there are definitely other decks that you can play and still be competitive. Thanks for reading!

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