*6/6/17 Edit: I’ve made a bunch of changes to this deck since January, due to ban list updates and other things. For the updated version, as well as some cool match reports, click here.
A new year means an update to one of this blog’s most popular posts, which is the Modern U/R Delver deck tech that I did some time ago. I picked the deck up again recently, and wanted to talk over the list in-depth, focusing on some of my recent changes.
This is my current list on TappedOut. For the most part, the deck breaks down into four main categories:
- Creatures to Kill Your Opponent With
- Card Draw/Filtering
For those who might not have played a Delver of Secrets deck before, typically you deploy your threats, answer your opponents’ spells and creatures via removal or countermagic, and then ride your last couple cards (hopefully a Snapcaster Mage and a Lightning Bolt) to victory, just before your opponent can turn things around.
I’m playing a pretty conventional set of threats, with full sets of Delvers, Snapcaster Mages, and Young Pyromancers, supported by two Grim Lavamancers. Note that my build’s very tempo-oriented and not super aggressive, so you won’t see Monastery Swiftspear or Stormchaser Mage here.
Every so often I consider putting Vendilion Clique in the Grim Lavamancer slots. However, Grim is very good against creature decks, and Modern is currently a pretty creature-heavy format. When you’re staring down Infect, Burn, or even Jund, you want Grim on your side, not Clique. Grim can even team up with the deck’s burn spells to take down something like a Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher (though this is of course a Plan B).
Using Grim efficiently against decks where it’s not very good, like Tron, can be key to sneaking out wins. Against Tron or other decks where it’s important to hold up countermagic but also get in every point of damage you can, don’t be afraid to attack with Grim if you’re pretty positive that you’re going to counter something the next turn. Tapping out for a Mana Leak and then missing a point of damage off of Grim’s attacks can and has cost me games, where a combo opponent ends the game at 1 or 2 life.
For card draw and filtering, I’m currently playing 4 Serum Visions and only 3 Gitaxian Probes. I wanted to fit some extra kill spells into the deck (again, Modern is very creature heavy right now), and the 4th Probe seemed to make sense as a cut, since there are a good number of aggressive decks that Probes aren’t stellar against. This hasn’t made the deck much less consistent. Our mana is pretty good and we can operate off of just two lands for most of the game, needing three or more only for Snapcaster Mage, Electrolyze, and Turn // Burn shenanigans.
While I’m on the subject, quickly, Turn//Burn is possibly more cute than it is good, but it does kill anything stone dead once you get to five mana (Goyfs, Goyfs, Goyfs), and it’s still a burn spell in combo matches where you’re racing your opponent’s draws. I personally really like it, but I understand if you’re skeptical. I suggest giving it a go for yourself before cutting it.
For other kill spells:
- Roast is a concession to the fact that we need a way to kill Tasigurs, Thought-Knot Seers, and Tarmogoyfs.
- Pillar of Flame is a concession to the fact that we have a very hard time beating Kitchen Finks.
- Electrolyze is just value (and teams with Grim very well).
- Lightning Bolt is Lightning Bolt.
- Vapor Snag is good for many weird things, including randomly bouncing Griselbrands out of reanimator decks, rebuying our own Snapcaster Mages, and bouncing Master of Waves. I always like to have a couple Snags, as they always seem to be handy.
For countermagic, I currently like 4 Mana Leaks (catch-all), 2 Spell Snares (there are so many good cards at 2 mana in most decks, barring Bant Eldrazi), and 1 Dispel (most good removal is instant speed, and this card is mostly for saving our Delvers or Young Pyromancers, though it does a lot of work against cards like Become Immense and Collected Company as well). I could see messing with this spread, but I think 7 to 8 pieces of countermagic is the right number.
Before I get to my current sideboard, let’s touch on the mana base. This deck’s mana base has gotten absurdly good since the printing of Spirebluff Canal. Being able to painlessly Serum Visions or Bolt on turn 1 is fantastic, and, in this deck, Canal’s downside is barely a thing. I don’t think I would play the full 4 still, as the deck needs its fetchlands for Grim to function, and the spread of basics and Steam Vents also feels right. But oh boy, is the mana super smooth in this deck now.
We play a lot more basic Islands than basic Mountains (4 to 1) because we play a lot more blue cards overall, and also we play Blood Moon in the sideboard. Blood Moon wins matches for this deck, and is one of the main ways we can squeak out wins against Tron or three-color grindy decks.
Bedlam Reveler has been putting in work in those grindy three-color match-ups as well, making sure that we end up with enough cards to kill our opponent after exhausting their initial bout of answers.
My current Affinity/artifact hate of choice is Smash to Smithereens, because while we’re the control deck in that match-up, we still want to get them dead as fast as possible. Magma Sprays are another concession to Kitchen Finks but can also come in against any deck with small creatures, as well as Dredge.
Dredge is also primarily what you’re looking to bring in Surgical Extraction and Izzet Staticaster for (I tried Electrickery over Staticaster in this spot for a bit, but Electrickery does not permanently solve the Bloodghast problem). Staticaster can also come in against something like B/W tokens or anything else that plays Lingering Souls.
Dispel and Negate provide extra support against combo or control decks, and Engineered Explosives and Echoing Truth can catch any sort of weird permanent that you might not have thought of before your tournament.
In general, most of the sideboard cards can catch a smattering of different decks from different angles. If you’re going to take the deck out for a spin at your own local shop, I think the main deck would be pretty fine as is (possibly adjusting based on whether you think Roast and Turn//Burn are necessary), but you definitely can and should adjust the sideboard to your own liking. This is just what’s currently working for me.
And that’s the deck, in its current form. While this is by no means the best deck in Modern, it’s the deck I consistently have the most fun with. And it’s the deck I keep coming back to, year after year.
Like the rest of you, I’m excited for what this new year will bring for our favorite card game (starting with exciting Aether Revolt spoilers)! Be back here in a couple weeks for some Commander-focused content, and then hopefully for another Modern deck tech straight afterwards.