Matt Plays Modern – UR Delver Deck Tech

This weekend’s SCG Regionals are approaching quickly, and while I’ve been taking my time choosing a deck in the wake of the Splinter Twin banning, it’s now time to lock in on a choice. As a refresher, this is roughly what I can play with the cards I have access to (links go to each archetype’s MTGGoldfish page, not what my exact build would be):

As you can see, it’s not a very long list. With the format mostly torn between linear aggressive decks and Tron, it seems like Grixis Control is out. I’d rather be piloting a Delver deck because I know them better, and they’re likely slightly better positioned anyways.

That narrows my choices down to Grixis Delver vs. straight UR Delver. As you can likely infer from the title, I’ve chosen UR Delver. Why is that?

Why UR Delver Over Grixis Delver?

Grixis Delver is a good deck, but I think it has some noticeable shortcomings that are exacerbated in the current metagame. First off, Grixis Delver is inherently a midrange deck much more than it is a tempo deck. Sometimes it’ll stick a Tasigur on turn 2 and run away with the game against aggro. Just as often though, it’ll sit there playing bad cantrips for the first couple turns, looking for something to do, while hurting itself a lot with its own mana base. Grixis Delver likes to get into the grind of multiple Snapcasters and Kolaghan’s Commands and Lightning Bolts. That grind is a lot less likely to happen at this point in the format. Burn will likely beat this grind. Infect will likely beat this grind.

Secondly, Grixis Delver can’t play Blood Moon well, and the deck is pretty dependent on the graveyard. Both of these facts make it less good against the remaining big mana decks, Tron and BxEldrazi (although it does make up for losing Blood Moon by being able to play Fulminator Mages). So the deck loses some percentage against aggro, and it loses some percentage against big mana decks. Overall, it seems like it’s not quite the place to be.

Straight UR Delver, by contrast, takes very little pain off its lands, has enough quick interaction to fight Affinity and Infect decently, and can even beat Burn with lucky draws. It can also hang with Tron and BxEldrazi using countermagic and land hate. We lose some percentage against Jund style decks, but those aren’t a large part of the format at this point, and they’re still beatable.

UR Delver is by no means the best deck in the format, but it’s good enough to play and seems decently positioned in the meta. Also, I know it inside and out, whereas I’ve only been piloting Grixis for awhile. So UR Delver is my choice going into this weekend.

Tempo vs. Aggro

Right now, it seems like there are two schools of thought on UR Delver builds. There are straight-up aggressive builds, built around triggering Prowess and Young Pyromancer as many times as possible on your turn and going all-out at the opponent. And there are more tempo-style builds that seek to stick a threat, control the opponent’s plays, and ride to victory through interaction.

I’ve always been an interaction-oriented player, so I’m biased towards the more tempo-style builds. I also think the aggro version of UR Delver is just strictly worse than Naya Burn. Give me a Mana Leak over a Mutagenic Growth in my UR deck any day. So we’ll be building a more tempo style deck here, not an aggressive Prowess build.

What’s in the 75?

This is my current list going in to the weekend. I’ll also list it out in block quotes below, but opening the link above is probably a much better use of your time:

Now, I want to get into some of the individual card choices that I think actually matter, outside of the deck’s core of Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Young Pyromancer, and Lightning Bolt.

Mana Leak vs. Remand vs. Deprive vs. 1Mana Counterspells

I’ve gone back and forth on the numbers for this set of cards based on my own preference and the expected metagame over the years. With cheap, aggressive cards and Eldrazi with cast triggers looming large, Remand seems like it’s currently near its worst. For that reason, it’s been pushed out of the deck completely. In its place are the three singleton one mana counterspells, Spell Pierce, Dispel, and Spell Snare. Each of these does fine work, although their situationalness has been a hindrance at times. They’re useful for countering both the opponent’s threats and interaction. They seem a lot better than Remand at this point.

Mana Leak and Deprive are pretty good against both aggressive and big mana decks. The three mana cost on Mana Leak is a real check on everything from Lightning Bolts to Karns. When that won’t quite cut it, Deprive is there for backup. I love packing some Deprives against Tron to catch their last threat before a Delver or Young Pyromancer finishes clocking them. It’s less good against aggressive decks, where you often want to quickly stick all three lands in your average three land draws to interact relevantly, but it’s nowhere near as awful as Remand.

Pillar of Flame, Forked Bolt, and Vapor Snag (a.k.a. The Not Lightning Bolt Club)

I like to pack eight one mana burn spells into my UR Delver decks, with the exact split of the last four spells being variable over time. Forked Bolt seems great against the one toughness creatures coming out of Infect and Affinity decks. The real question here is whether to play Pillar of Flame or Burst Lightning. Playing Pillar of Flame is a hedge towards the fact that this deck realistically can’t beat a Kitchen Finks and/or Voice of Resurgence, and its possible we’ll play against those. Also, having to pay five mana for the kicked version of Burst Lightning is not completely unrealistic, but it’s also not a great goal to have. Gut Shot is a consideration here, but I don’t think it does enough outside of just Affinity and Infect.

Vapor Snag is our blue version of Path to Exile, with the secondary ability to re-buy Snapcaster Mages if need be. I usually don’t leave home without at least two, and I’m packing three here because I wanted to cut one Gitaxian Probe.

Vendilion Clique vs. Grim Lavamancer

Grim is better against aggro, and aggro is king right now. Clique is good against big mana and combo. These cards often switch between the main deck and the sideboard.


First off, I’ll admit that the current sideboard is probably not optimal. The last time I ran straight UR Delver at a tournament was in the Treasure Cruise era, and things sure are different from then.

That said, here’s my rundown:

  • Against aggressive decks, we’re looking to trim down on expensive, do-nothing cards and bring in more interaction. Likely, some combination of Engineered Explosives, Izzet Staticaster, cheap, relevant countermagic, and artifact hate is coming in. Mana Leaks, Deprives, do-nothing situational counters, and Gitaxian Probes are the first cards to come out.
  • Against combo, we have the one mana counters, Vendilion Cliques, and some other catch-alls depending on the actual combo being used. We can take out some small burn spells and Grim Lavamancers.
  • Against big mana, we have Spreading Seas, Blood Moon, and Vendilion Cliques that can come in. We’re again likely trimming small burn spells and Grim Lavamancers.
  • Against midrange, we have some options depending on what’s good. Roast, Engineered Explosives, Blood Moon, and Spreading Seas are all reasonable depending on the opponent.

It’s definitely possible that I should be on Molten Rain and Smash to Smithereens over Spreading Seas, Vandalblast, and Shattering Spree. I might even change that up before this weekend. Right now, I just don’t have access to those cards.

And that, as they say, is that. I enjoyed justifying my card choices, and I think doing so puts me in a better position going in to this weekend. I’ll be back next week with a tournament report!

2 thoughts on “Matt Plays Modern – UR Delver Deck Tech

  1. Pingback: Matt Plays Modern – U/R Humans Don’t Quite Get It Done in Chi-Town – Matt Plays Magic

  2. Pingback: Why Fact or Fiction is the Best Magic Card – Matt Plays Magic

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