When Ponder left Standard, I stashed away my Delvers like old mementos, eagerly awaiting the day when I can break them out again. Even as I struggled to do well in Return to Ravnica Standard, Delver was always at the back of my mind. The timing just wasn’t right. Who cares about an early, evasive threat when the tools to protect him just aren’t there anymore?

Right around the release of RTR, I got into Modern. The metagame was completely different back then. UWR Delver was still a deck, and one that I’d probably have played, if not for the fact that I fell in love with the Kibler/Finkel UW list (the list that got me interested in Modern in the first place). I proxied the deck and played some practice games. I was impressed with how aggressive it could get, but was ultimately turned off by how quickly it ran out of gas as well as its relative inability to come from behind. Around the same time, the advent of Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay in the format pretty much killed the deck, so I put it away and didn’t think about it much beyond that.

Fast forward to January. UWR catches the Modern metagame off guard and wins two PTQs and a GP in succession. Only this time, the deck is playing with some new toys. I wrote about it immediately after the two PTQs, before the GP Bilbao win, and was impressed to no end. The deck has enough removal to rival traditional Burn decks, but unlike Burn, its world wouldn’t come crashing down at the first sight of a lifegain spell like Kitchen Finks.

It just so happened that we were also in the midst of Gatecrash spoiler season. My immediate reaction upon seeing Boros Charm and Skullcrack was to make a port of the new hotness for Standard. I threw a bunch of cards together that somewhat resembled the UWR Flash archetype that was already in Standard, and began making changes from there. Sphinx’s Revelation—too durdly; 25 lands—way too high; 12 creatures—way too low. After much tweaking, I finally arrived at something I was satisfied with.

And then I added Delvers.

Deck: UWR Delver

Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Restoration Angel

4 Thought Scour
1 Unsummon
2 Aurelia's Fury
3 Azorius Charm
4 Boros Charm
2 Mizzium Mortars
4 Searing Spear
2 Counterflux

3 Clifftop Retreat
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Island
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
1 Slayers' Stronghold

1 Dispel
2 Negate
2 Rest in Peace
3 Skullcrack
2 Paraselene
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Jace, Memory Adept

“Oh but you don’t have Ponder. Blah blah blah.”

“Where are your Mana Leaks, bro? Wah wah wah.”

Shut up.

I designed my deck to be a Burn deck. Delver is like a Rift Bolt. Play it, get three damage the next turn, everything else is gravy. But how do you flip Delver without Ponder, you ask? You do it the way the developers intended: by stocking your deck with instants and sorceries so that it flips consistently on its own without further assistance. The LSV Delver builds of old ran 16 creatures, 21 lands, two Swords and—most importantly—21 instants and sorceries. Yes, four of those were Ponder, but you didn’t always need Ponder to flip those damn things. Were that the case, there wouldn’t have been nearly as many people whining about “lucksacking” a T1 blind-flip.

The 22 instants and sorceries in my build is a good number to get Delver to transform consistently. There will obviously be some games where he just refuses to budge, but in testing, a T1 Delver almost always flipped in time to get in a concerted hit with your on-curve Geist of Saint Traft, if not sooner. We’re talking over 90% here—I took notes and shit.

Speaking of Geist, he too, should be treated as a burn spell. There is no obligation to protect him whatsoever (though obviously, if you can protect him, it’s typically in your best interest to do so). He is there to get in four damage. If he dies in the process, so be it. You have three more.

I took the list to TNM this week and was able to finish X-0, beating two copies of Red Deck Wins and Brayan’s signature UB Control. Delver did what Delver does, getting in one or two hits before leaving it to Geist and burn spells to clean things up. Boros Charms were awesome for me all night, as expected. Even against the red decks, where I’d typically side out two copies, they allowed me the flexibility of holding back a guy and eating an attacker, or go into full-on race mode with direct damage.

Aurelia’s Fury was probably the most suspect card of the bunch. 22 lands is not sufficient to get enough value out of it. I’d typically be on four to five lands, never reaching seven unless the game went long. This is also “old Delver” knowledge—there’s a reason Delver decks back in the day only boarded in fatties like Consecrated Sphinx against control, because they expected the game to go long— but in this case, I failed to carry it over during deck construction. Overall, Feeling of Dread might just get the job done more efficiently. That said, I didn’t get to play control all night, so I’ve yet to evaluate the card’s utility as a poor man’s Silence. The most use I got out of it in the games I played was a three mana Electrickery on a Stromkirk Noble. Less than exciting, to say the least.

Moving forward, I also want to experiment with Boros Reckoners. I went over how great that guy is on offense in my last article, but he’s just as good holding things down on the ground. Simply put: aggro decks, especially RDW, cannot attack through that guy without opening themselves up to a two-for-one. Being able to comfortably block a whole turn sooner than Angel and without fear of eating damage based removal is pretty big against aggro.

I’m also planning on changing the board to include some number of Izzet Staticasters. As much as I dislike the card, they are handy for the increased amount of Lingering Souls that I expect to see in the meta, especially with decks like Esper having real manabases now. I’ll tinker the build and try it out at FNM again this week.

Real Delver players flip in the dark, naysayers be damned.

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