Magic: the Gathering
Delver Decks. In a general context, the way Delver decks are used to constantly transition between proactive and reactive plays makes this category of deck extremely challenging to pilot, but very rewarding when piloted the right way. Understanding when you need to be the beatdown, when you need to respond to what your opponent is playing, when to protect your threats, among other things, makes these decks a great experience for its players, Whether to get good results or to improve your experience and understanding of the game or a specific format. When it comes to formats, despite not being a format that I actively play (especially due to the price tag of its staples), Legacy is one of my favorite formats to play and watch due to the significant amount of powerful cards and impactful interactions existing in the format. There is no other format with a great player base where you can play with
Force of Will,
Wasteland, powerful cantrips like
Ponder, and other powerful spells from other archetypes such as
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis,
Green Sun's Zenith, among others. Because of that, I see Legacy as one of the most exciting formats to play, as it's about having meaningful access to the best cards in the entire game and making the best use of them. And the icing on the cake is that Delver, my favorite archetype, is the best deck of the format. Or rather, Delver is the “fun police” of the format, the deck that manages to hold the unfair decks while playing well against the fair decks, and thus became the best archetype of the Legacy Metagame in the last eight years, losing this spot only when a truly broken deck appears in the format, when the broken deck is not a variant of Delver itself using one or another unfair card. After all, Legacy is a format with infinite interactions, and it's impossible to keep track of all of them when creating a new card for a new set. It's also not possible to understand the full potential of a card before its release, before the collective mind of the community does its job of trying to break formats with each new release. With Modern Horizons II, Izzet Delver gained new additions and made excellent results this weekend, and I couldn't resist the urge to test the new version of the deck this week and consequently prepare an informative tech deck for you to learn more about the current best deck of the format. Without further ado, I present to you the new Izzet Delver:
stainersonto win the Legacy Showcase Challenge this weekend, using a total of eleven new Modern Horizons cards, all of which are of great use for the archetype.
Wasteland. Another advantage of the Izzet version is the ability to consistently play
Expressive Iteration, which proved to be a strong card within all formats in which it is legal as a great way to obtain selection card and card advantage at a low cost. That said, I think we must dissect the deck to understand exactly how it works, and how it got straight to the top of the format:
Delver of Secretsis. The card that became a staple of the format allows the deck to have aggressive openings with a 3/2 body with evasion, which represents a clock of seven turns if the opponent can't answer it or get around it, something that is very complicated to do when you manage to spend the rest of the game responding to what they play and removing their threats.
Dragon's Rage Channeleror “the Red Delver,” as I've fondly dubbed it, may be harder to transform into a 3/3 Flying, but the Surveil ability and the quality of the cards you use, plus the threats that need to be answered immediately in the deck, makes enabling it, even on lists without
Mishra's Bauble, easier than it looks. Also,
Dragon's Rage Channelerinteracts very well with the rest of the deck due to Surveil, which can be used in several ways: either to take the bad top cards you left with a cantrip, or to make sure that your Delver will transform when responding to his ability with a removal, among other options. Finally,
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, a card that the opponent should try to answer at any cost early in the game, whether with blockers, counters or removals. Ragavan is exactly what people expected him to be in Legacy: If he stays on the board and isn't blocked, the albino monkey will generate an absurd amount of card and mana advantage every turn. First because Legacy is a format where cards tend to be very efficient in terms of mana cost, and therefore it is easy for you to even play cards of other colors with Ragavan because of the Treasure token it produces. And even if you don't and/or aren't interested in playing the revealed card, the Treasure produced is a huge advantage in a deck that uses so many low-cost cards. Thus, in many ways, Ragavan really reminds of
Deathrite Shamanin that he always threatens to generate a significant amount of value and mana since turn 1 and can simply dominate the game if the opponent doesn't interact.
Lightning Bolt. Green has
Hooting Mandrils, black has
Gurmag Anglerand its predecessor,
Tombstalker. And now blue has
Ethereal Forger, and while I consider these comparisons fair,
Murktide Regenthas a clock speeding function, commonly being a 6/6 or stronger in the mid or late- game and demands a lot more work for the opponent to deal with than
Ethereal Forager, which would commonly be used as an advantage card engine.
Delver of Secretsis so strong on Legacy but can't reproduce the same results on Modern is because of the cantrips. While Modern makes it necessary to settle with cards like
Opt, Legacy has the best of the best cantrips available in the game.
Brainstormis, although it doesn't seem like, one of the most complex cards to play in Magic history and has its full potential in Legacy, where it interacts with Fetchlands, other quality cantrips, serves to protect your spells from discard effects (which are currently not that common in Legacy) and opens up numerous decision trees regarding which cards to keep, when to use, etc.
Ponderis potentially the second-best cantrip in Legacy, interacts very well with
Brainstormby clearing the top's useless cards, and looks at more cards than other options like
Expressive Iterationworks much like a “draw two cards and throw a useless card to the bottom” for two mana as you'll commonly play the exiled card with it in the same turn. It's important to point out that you should always prioritize putting the reactive card in your hand and the proactive card in exile, otherwise you'll only be “drawing” a card for two mana.
Dazeis a powerful card within Legacy, where mana needs to be used efficiently, and the fact that the deck uses
Wastelandfurther maximizes its value.
Force of Willis often a safety valve against unfair decks and combo decks, but it also works as a great way to protect your creatures against punctual cards at certain stages of the game.
Force of Negationbasically works with the same nature as
Force of Will, but with the advantage of being easier to hardcast, unlike the previous card.
Lightning Boltis the best at what it does. There's not much to say about it.
Forked Boltis a great meta-call for a format where you expect the mirror match to be frequent. The ability to kill two creatures for one mana is relevant enough right now. The card is also very useful against Elves, Death & Taxes, among other archetypes with small creatures.
Wastelandis technically essential to any proactive Legacy deck, as it is one of the most effective means of delaying an opponent's plan and a card they need to respect significantly when considering their land drops.
Wastelandis basically a crucial disruptive element in delaying the opponent's plays and also makes cards like
Dazerelevant for more turns.
Volcanic Islandseems like the right number for a deck that doesn't have a greedy manabase and tries to benefit from not giving too much room to the opponent's
Back to Basics, etc. Particularly, I would exchange them for snow basic lands. Merely because there is no cost to do so and it is beneficial if you exile cards like
On Thin Icewith Ragavan.
Pyroblastis actually a multi-purpose card in Legacy as the format is mostly defined by blue decks and its inclusion is a great answer for many options. From
Delver of Secretsto
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, going through a multitude of matchups where this card has a valid target.
Blazing Volleyis a cheap and efficient answer for the mirror, as it can handle multiple copies of the X/1 creatures the deck currently uses. The card is also effective against Elves and Death & Taxes.
Urza's Sagaand the fact that one of Delver's worst matches are Prison decks that runs
Chalice of The Voidand
Trinisphere, artifact hate spells are needed.
Abradedoubles as flexible removal against creature decks while also serving to respond to artifacts the opponent uses.
Null Rodbecome very relevant options as Affinity grows, as these can destroy multiple artifacts with just one spell and are very effective against artifact lands, as
Null Rodmakes it impossible for even mana abilities to be used and a
Meltdownto 0 essentially destroys all artifact lands on the opponent's board.
Surgical Extractionis still one of the best answers against both graveyard and decks with specific combos in Magic. The ability to cast an exile effect that can essentially lock a combo out or remove a major threat from the opponent's graveyard for free pretty much trumps the rest of the options in the game today.
Grafdigger's Cageis a more dedicated hate that prevents creatures from entering the battlefield from graveyards. The artifact is also useful against decks that use
Green Sun’s Zenith.
Submergeis a good answer for problematic creatures that commonly win the game on their own, such as
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis,
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrathor
Elvish Reclaimer(which tutor
Thespian's Stage), and also serves as an answer to creatures that will commonly create a higher clock than yours or effectively block your creatures well like
Ragavan, Nimble Pilfereror
Expressive Iteration, it suffers significantly when the opponent manages to slow down its clock, mostly with
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath.
Sulfuric Vortexis a card that helps against this plan as it impedes lifegain and is also a difficult permanent to remove for many decks while dealing a constant source of damage to the opponent.
spectacularand pretty fun to play. It captures the very essence of what a deck with
Delver of Secretsaspires to be and adds consistency and value thanks to new cards, creating a true game-winning machine. I played several matches in Tournament Practice, until I got to the point where I felt safe enough to play a League with that list. That done, I ended the League as follows: 2-0 vs. Burn 2-1 vs. GW Depths 2-1 vs. Izzet Delver 1-2 vs. Bant Snow 2-0 vs. Show And Tell I finished the league with a result of 4-1. One particular feeling I had while piloting the deck is that it seems to be a step above the other decks in the format, or that the metagame still feels unprepared for it. I say this mainly because I'm not familiar with Legacy and haven't played the format actively since 2018, and yet I managed to get very positive results with the deck, even when making occasional embarrassing mistakes, such as putting a
Dazeon exile and
Delver of Secretsin hand with
Expressive Iterationor sequencing the wrong top with
Ponderin a game. Delver is not a deck that tends to be very permissive with misplays and small mistakes, and it's precisely this aspect that makes the archetype so fascinating, but when you have cards that are significantly more powerful than your opponent's, your margin for error becomes less punitive because your cards generate so much value that you will win the game even if you make mistakes. And that's where Ragavan comes in.
Ragavan, Nimble Pilfereris by far the most powerful card Modern Horizons II has brought Legacy and is probably the most powerful card the format has received since
Oko, Thief of Crowns. It's your perfect turn 1 play, ideally with a backup of
Dazeor some removal to deal with what your opponent plays and, from there, start accumulating value every turn. In addition, the Dash ability allows you to create multiple gaps and openings to use it and gain value in the same turn, which is important in games where you need to play reactively, or when your opponent is forced to spend their resources dealing with your other threats. There have been several games where my focus was just keeping Ragavan alive or the opponent's board empty, so I could attack with him using Dash and win the game with the mana and permanents he gave me.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrathon the board, as Uro is a significantly larger creature than Ragavan and generates more value than the albino monkey itself, despite being played many turns later. Other than that, it always seemed like leaving a Ragavan on the board or topdecking a Ragavan on an empty table would take the game on its own and I didn't even have to worry too much about letting the opponent spend resources on my other creatures, as long as they couldn't deal with him. The treasures he produces are pure mana advantage and there are many occasions where this allows absolutely explosive plays or even speeding up the threat that will close the game in the form of
Murktide Regent. Speaking of
Murktide Regent, although it seems counterproductive, there are several occasions where you use the
Dragon's Rage Channelerability to increase the number of cards in your Graveyard to play it faster, giving you a significant advantage in matches where you need to establish a race or clock fast enough not to allow the opponent to stabilize.
Dragon's Rage Channeler, by the way, has always seemed like an unexciting threat in the early game, but has always proved to be one of the best topdecks in terms of threats the deck could have, even ahead of
Delver of Secretson many occasions for the mere fact of not needing any other setup to work. That said, Izzet Delver's core was already well-recognized in Legacy, and it's no surprise that this deck has done so well in the last week, and the additions of Modern Horizons II have taken the deck to a brand-new level. The question remains whether this deck, which was a variant of the best deck in the format since before the set, will become overwhelming for the Metagame, as it was during the period when Legacy had
Wrenn & Six, or if the format will adapt and create ways to better interact with the new cards. Another point to consider is whether decks that commonly prey on Izzet Delver will continue to do a good job or will have difficulty keeping up with the consistency in threats and value that Modern Horizons II has added to the deck. As for changes I would make to the deck: particularly, I'm no Legacy expert to be able to dictate how lists should be used, and this list definitely has its proven result, but adding snow basic lands instead of common basics opens up some interesting little possibilities with Ragavan and certain cards that care about snow permanents, so I would consider making this switch since it's not like anyone is using
Reidane, God of Worthyin Legacy to lock snow lands. Another option to consider, and which players have already tried, is the inclusion of
Mishra's Baublein the lists, as this card makes it easier to reach the Delirium, it is a free cantrip that has several interesting interactions with Fetchlands. However, the deck is fine with this build and I can't really define whether it would be beneficial to weaken Delver or
Murktide Regentand even
Force of Willin exchange for strengthening
Dragon's Rage Channeler.