The History of Archetypes - Delver

Delver of Secrets is one of the most iconic Magic cards from the last decade. Today, I invite you to know the story behind the archetype that defined how we play Tempo decks nowadays.

• By Humberto • 11/26/20

This article belongs to the series The History of Archetypes:

1. The History of Archetypes - Delver

[card](Delver of Secrets) has always been present in some way in almost all formats where it is allowed and is, on several occasions, the best play you can make in the first turns of a game. The card is so influential for the game that, all by itself, it changed the entire structure of a renowned competitive format like Legacy and redefined an archetype then well known by several other names to a single one: Delver, and is still a reference in what tries to build a good Tempo deck. Today, we'll look at the story of one of Magic's most famous archetypes: - The Delver Decks. But before we actually get to the famous Mage ... Insect ... Thing, we need to understand how Magic got to this point, and it all started with Alan Comer. [center](Alan Comer's Legacy) In 1997, the American player Alan Comer brought to the world an idea and a deck design that would redefine the way of playing Magic forever: The Turbo Xerox [deck](70141) Alan took second place in the California Regionals that year with a deck that not only seemed like a great budget deck option since the deck used a total of zero rare cards, he also used only 17 lands and brought a new style of deckbuilding that contradicted some of the principles presented by Brian Weissman (the "Father of Control") in 1996. Instead of opting for a deck with a larger manabase and possibly using more colors, Comer intentionally opted for only 17 Islands. In his theory, a deck with less lands would have a virtual card advantage over the course of the game by drawing relevant cards more often than the opponent since, by using more lands, the opponent would be more likely to draw lands when he no longer needed them at some point in the game. In order to prevent the deck from getting mana screwed in the first turns of the game, where it is important that you can make your land drops in order to stay ahead of the opponent, Comer opted to use a large amount of Cantrips (low cost cards that allow you to select cards from the top or draw cards) to find your lands in the first turns, while you could use them to find the answers or threats you needed when you no longer needed lands to play. By presenting the Turbo Xerox theory to the world, Alan Comer became a major contributor to Magic as we know it today, and defined the way the decks we now call Tempo Decks behaved, becoming the basis of an important deckbuilding principle that accompanies the game until today, from Standard to Vintage, going through practically all competitive formats. The years passed, and the introduction and release of Mercadian Masques, which brought "free spells" in the form of [card](Gush) and [card](Land Grant), along with the launch of Planeshift, which brought what it would be the first major threat on Xerox decks made Alan Comer build ever more daring manabase decks and still have great results: [deck](70142) [card](Quirion Dryad) fell like a glove in everything that Comer tried to do with his decks because it was very easy to capitalize on its effect and make the Dryad grow into monstrous proportions with so many low cost spells or cards that could be played for free, thus establishing a clock the opponent needed to respond at any cost while being punished for trying to do so repeatedly thanks to the backup protection. The Miracle Grow had a low mana curve, stopping at exactly CMC 2 and had an enormous density of cantrips and "free spells" that allowed the deck to run smoothly with only 10 lands on its list, which were actually a total of 14 since [card](Land Grant) allowed the deck to fetch their [card](Tropical Island). [card](Daze) and [card](Gush) allowed the deck to reuse these lands while [card](Force of Will) and [card](Foil) allowed to protect their threats without having to hold any mana while [card](Winter Orb) would be the predecessor of the mana denial strategies we see today in Legacy as it punished decks that had a higher curve or tried, by other means, to use all their mana available each turn while the deck suffered little due to the effects that allowed them to reuse their lands. Finally, after finishing ninth in the 2001 Las Vegas GP, Miracle Grow became the "Deck-to-Beat" of that Season and enshrined Alan Comer as a major contributor to Magic and the history of Tempo Decks. [center](The Threshold Era) The launch of Odissey brought to the game two cards that would then become staples and create a new archetype between Tempo decks: [card](Werebear) and [card](Nimble Mongoose). For a deck that uses so many low-cost cards between cantrips, protection and removal, it's more than natural to be able to fill the graveyard fast enough that the Threshold creatures could grow and become significant threats to the other side of the table. There were several Threshold lists during the course of Extended while [card](Force of Will) was legal in the format and were mostly in Bant's colors. However, it was with the release of Onslaught and the introduction of the Fetch Lands to Magic, along with the then first Legacy GP in history, GP Philadelphia in 2005, that the first incarnation of what would be known in the future as Delver Decks was born and gave start to the legacy of Threshold decks: [deck](70143) Pat McGregor made Top 8 at the event with a Threshold list using a mix of extremely efficient cantrips, along with [card](Lightning Bolt) and [card](Fire / Ice) that served both to keep the opponent's table empty enough and to speed up the clock when the game had already stabilized. The inclusion of [card](Mental Note) in the list demonstrates how much its main objective is to reach the Threshold as quickly as possible while taking advantage of the gaps left by the opponent each turn in which you managed to throw them back. [deck](70159) Lam Pham also made Top 8 in the event with a less All-In Threshold list and more similar to Miracle Grow lists, using disruptive creatures like [card](Meddling Mage) and cards that offer a significant amount of card advantage like [card](Accumulated Knowledge) and being able to raise your curve up to 4 to use [card](Mystic Enforcer), which was a very strong card at the time. The biggest inclusion for this archetype were the Fetch Lands, which finally allowed the deck to no longer need effects like [card](Land Grant) to shuffle, in addition to allowing a better construction on the manabase that, in reality, would still take some years to be optimized as we know it today in Legacy and would make a game plan that includes mana denial as a means of interaction in the form of [card](Wasteland). [center](Tarmogoyf & Team America) In 2007, with the release of Future Sight that brought two cards that would become staples in various formats: [card](Tombstalker) and [card](Tarmogoyf), in addition to the release of one of the best cantrips of all time in Lorwyn in form of [card](Ponder) and the best discard spell of all time in the form of [card](Thoughtseize), gave rise to a deck that would be another predecessor of Delver: Team America. Justin Cheung used this list to take the Australia team to the Top 4 of the 2008 Worlds National Team. [deck](70144) Team America emerged as a mix between two decks known in the format: RUG Threshold and Eva Green, a Mono Black suicide that existed at the time with a splash of green to use [card](Tarmogoyf) and cards like [card](Krosan Grip) on the side. The deck was much more focused on a disruptive gameplan with discard and counterspells along with mana denial through cards like [card](Stifle) and [card](Sinkhole) to potentialize your turns and the use of cards like [card ](Daze) at any point in the game and trying to take advantage of this delay in the opponent's game to win with creatures of low cost and huge bodies. As for the name of the deck, it comes from a time when information about decklists, especially for Eternal formats, was not as widely disseminated as it was today, and there was a big difference between lists and metagames according to the continent where the format was played. The name "Team America" ​​therefore came as a joke from the deck's creator, David Gearheart about the fact that many of the cards used by the deck were underused in the US Legacy events. The deck became very popular between 2007 and 2008, but ended up losing space according to how the Legacy metagame changed and the disruptive-suicidal plan of the deck became harmful in a metagame with where decks like Zoo or Merfolks existed. The RUG Threshold resumed its popularity due to a more flexible, less self-destructive and more far-reaching game plan and was now popularly known as Canadian Thresh because of David Caplan, a Canadian who specialized in the archetype, being considered the best player of Thresh of the season after making Top 8 at the GP Chicago in 2009. [deck](70145) Tempo decks established themselves in Legacy in the coming years, competing against decks such as those based on [card](Knight of the Reliquary) and [card](Stoneforge Mystic) known as New Horizons or Dark Horizons, in addition to decks like Zoo, Merfolk and Reanimator. [center](Delver of Secrets and the Reformulation of Tempo Decks) It was with the release of Innistrad, on September 30, 2011, that Legacy would change its face forever. [cardinfo](Delver of Secrets) [card](Delver of Secrets) does everything Tempo Decks need: It's a low-cost, evasive body that needs very little setup to grow, that sets a good clock and is capable of winning the game on its own if it is well protected. It is the absolute ideal card and the perfect starting play for low cost interaction and disruption stacks, and it didn't take long before the major Tempo decks of the format adopted the new card. [deck](70146) [deck](70147) And the card came out as a common, which means Pauper also found some use for it: [deck](70148) The Mono Blue Delver was, for many years, considered the best deck of the format by a significant margin, and only lost this position when a broken deck existed in Pauper. However, now we can move away from the eternal formats for a while and go to the Standard of the time. Standard that included cards like [card](Snapcaster Mage), [card](Gitaxian Probe), [card](Liliana of the Veil) and [card](Primeval Titan). And, although it was not initially a popular option in the format, it did not take long before players realized that there was a good base for a good Tempo deck there between [card](Vapor Snag) [card](Gitaxian Probe), in addition to a difficult to kill threat in the form of [card](Geist of Saint Traft) and a way to recast spells with [card](Snapcaster Mage), and that was how UW Delver was born, which was gaining better and better additions during the new sets released like [card](Thought Scour) and [card](Restoration Angel), to the point of becoming the absolute best deck of the format and making Wizards need to print a specific hate for the deck in M13, [card](Thragtusk). [deck](70149) After the rotation, [card](Delver of Secrets) did not make any significant results in Standard with the arrival of Return to Ravnica, which brought [card](Deathrite Shaman) to the deck versions in Legacy, which we will comment later on. Although the card occasionally appears in Modern, it was never necessarily considered a Tier 1. And I think the main reason is due to the fact that [card](Ponder) and [card](Preordain) are banned from the format, leaving the deck with relatively mediocre card selection options when compared to Legacy and Pauper as [card](Serum Visions). However, the launch of Khans of Tarkir in 2014 gave [card](Delver of Secrets) an archetype where it could not only prevail, but become almost unilaterally the best deck of the format: [center](Khans of Tarkir and the new Ancestral Recall) Khans of Tarkir brought to the archetype two very important cards for its future: [card](Monastery Swiftspear) and [card](Treasure Cruise). [deck](70150) Although [card](Monastery Swiftspear) is a great addition for decks that use low cost magic and few creatures and is still used today in Tempo decks and in decks like Burn and Prowess, it was [card](Treasure Cruise) that took UR Delver to the top of the format, as the card allowed the deck to play aggressively with its resources and at the same time easily catch its breath by using the pseudo- [card](Ancestral Recall) better than any other deck. Delver then had his place in the sun at Modern, with a list that managed to be aggressive while having a late-game with a lot of reach thanks to the inclusion of the card. Ultimately, [card](Treasure Cruise) took Delver to the top of Modern, Legacy, Pauper and proved to be a card too strong for any eternal format, being subsequently banned from all formats except Standard and, in this way, [card](Delver of Secrets) was once again a card rarely used in Modern, but the philosophy behind the construction of Delver decks was later used for the development of decks like Grixis Shadow and Izzet Phoenix. [center](Deathrite Shaman & Grixis Delver) In 2015, Fate Reforged brought a more compact version of [card](Tombstalker) that would start a deck that would become the best Legacy deck for 3 consecutive years: [card](Gurmag Angler). [deck](70151) Grixis Delver was the best deck of the format but by no means was it an oppressive deck. On the contrary, there were those who considered him the "Ideal Best Deck", because all he did was be efficient in containing the format around him without necessarily being too representative and without forcing the other decks to adapt too much against him. Explaining in more details, Grixis Delver was considered a good "best deck" because all it did was interact and force a fair game, a balanced and resource-oriented game. It had the means to punish combo decks with disruption, had the means to press Control decks with threats, and could play a "normal" Magic game where both are making their threats and interacting with the opponent by trading resources. But what was really admirable on the deck was his ability to attack from several angles: You had [card](Delver of Secrets) for a plan where you needed to put pressure on your opponent as soon as possible, you had [card](Young Pyromancer) for games where 1-by-1 removal was relevant and placing more creatures on the table was the best option, you had [card](Gurmag Angler) as a way to punish your opponent for spending too many resources against its first threats, establishing a fast and easy to protect clock, and it still had [card](True-Name Nemesis) as another mid or late-game threat and, finally, it had [card](Deathrite Shaman) that made it all work, served as a hate for some combo decks, a way to balance the damage taken and still served as a way have some reach on the opponent's life points at any stage of the game. But [card](Deathrite Shaman) was for many years already being a card that defined Legacy's behavior as a whole and was defined as a strong limiter for the format and to some decks, while also being a strong incentive for decks with greedier manabased to appear and it is not uncommon for you to read articles or comments from that time saying that Legacy was a format where some games revolved around interacting with a [card](Deathrite Shaman). Ultimately, Legacy took one of the most impactful direct interventions the format has ever had on July 2, 2018, where [card](Deathrite Shaman) and [card](Gitaxian Probe) were banned. [center](Foil, UB Delver & The Blue Monday) On December 7, 2018, Ultimate Masters brought to Pauper [card](Foil), a card forgotten in Magic since the time of Miracle Grow and that never had the opportunity to shine, but that found a set of two cards that already interacted very well with the counter back in 2001: [card](Gush) and [card](Daze), giving UB Delver, a deck that tried to operate as closely as possible like a Legacy deck, the push that it needed to establish itself as the absolute Tier 1 format. [deck](70152) The amount of "free spells" that the deck had was so high that the deck hardly needed to worry about conserving mana to make a threat and this always allowed it to have a significant advantage over opponents in terms of mana efficiency. You could make a [card](Gurmag Angler) as early as turn 3 and protect it with [card](Foil), you could tapout at various times and make sure that a combination of [card](Gush) with [card](Foil) could guarantee that you would not be thrown back during the match. Therefore, on May 20, 2019, the event that became known as "Blue Monday" took place, where [card](Gush), [card](Daze) and [card](Gitaxian Probe) were banned from the format, removing some of Pauper's most famous staples. This ban clearly altered the format's structure, as these cards had been part of Pauper's metagame for years and it was not much expected that a direct intervention on these cards could ever happen. However, UB Delver led this trio of cards to become much more than just a "support" for blue decks and made them a centerpiece of a deck that managed to generate a lot of value with effects that, naturally, should generate some disadvantage for the player when used. [center](Delver Decks Today) Despite the Blue Monday, UB Delver, as well as all other Blue Tempo decks in the format, has restructured and today is one of the main decks of Pauper's Metagame, with a total of 6.2% of the decks present in the format in the last month. The deck has increased the number of lands, and today it can play a game more focused on late-game with cards like [card](Thorn of the Black Rose) and the newly added [card](Fall From Favor) [deck](70153) Despite not being as popular as it once was, Delver Faeries is still a deck that makes results and has also benefited from [card](Fall From Favor). [deck](70154) In Legacy, Temur Delver is the best deck of the format today in terms of results, and has received major additions in the past 2 years such as [card](Oko, Thief of Crowns) and [card](Dreadhorde Arcanist), allowing the deck to operate similarly to how the old Grixis Delver operated, thus becoming the almost perfect "Fun Police" of the format. [deck](70155) However, this is not the only Delver variant in the format, since UR Delver exists and also puts up some good results. [deck](70156) Although not a Tier 1 format, [card](Delver of Secrets) still appears occasionally in Modern and has gained many additions since 2014. This list of UR Delver made 5-0 in a league in September 2020. [deck](70157) And last but not least, [card](Delver of Secrets) is allowed in the current season of Penny Dreadful (which runs until February / 2021) and makes some results in events of the format. [deck](70158) [center](Conclusion) [card](Delver of Secrets) is a card that already has a lot of history in Magic, redefining the way some of the most renowned decks behave and being a reference today for construction and discussion regarding Tempo decks. There is a popular saying that where a deck like Delver is the best deck of the format, the format is usually healthy, and despite rare exceptions as was the case with Pauper, the presence of a Delver deck among the Tier 1 of a metagame presents in fact a certain balance in the format, since the deck consists of trying to interact or combat the most diversified strategies and often serves as the deck that does not allow other decks to become too oppressive. And, in particular, I intend to continue using my 3/2 for one mana in turn 1 and hope for him to flip blindly in turn 2 as long as Magic exists, since Delver is my favorite archetype in the entire game. Which deck would you like to see in the next The History of Archetypes? Here are some options for you to choose: Elves Goblins Mono Black White Weenie Leave your option in the comments and see you next week !

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