I’m counting down the days until the RPTQ on Halloween. I’ve been trying a plethora of decks trying to figure out what I like and what I don’t. A Modern victory last weekend at the hands of Lantern of Insight bodes bad news for anyone trying to approach the format with Robots in mind. This has me believing that going down a different avenue might be best served.
For the past couple of weekends I’ve been attending a Modern event at a shop not too far from where I live. The first week I was there I tried the Grishoalbrand deck and lost in the semifinals to Grixis Delver. I lost both games and never drew what I needed to successfully combo out. Thus the problem with the deck, sometimes you simply won’t draw your combo pieces to win. Since there’s no plan B with the deck I wanted to try something else.
Todd Anderson took down the Modern open two weeks ago with Infect and that’s what I took to the shop last weekend. Ironically I played against the mirror match twice as I’m guessing Todd’s win was an influence of that. I lost in the finals to an Abzan deck and its endless supply of Lingering Souls and hand disruption. Infect felt okay but really acts like an extreme version of Heroic. I’m not much of a Heroic fan to begin with and that feeling carried over playing Infect. I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted to continue to play.
My buddy playing the Grixis Delver deck from the week prior had really been enjoying the deck. I liked it concept but was concerned about how the threats in the deck are dismantled from graveyard disruption like Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus. He also had a bit of a tough time against Affinity, even with Kolaghan’s Command. This lead me down a path of trying to figure out what sort of Delver deck I could implement to solve some of the fundamental problems of Modern’s current “best” Delver list.
A couple months ago there was another version of Delver that had gained a bit of mainstream popularity. The deck was Temur, utilizing Hooting Mandrills and Tarmogoyf alongside playing the obscure Disrupting Shoal. The deck lost out in popularity in favor of the Grixis version because of the hard removal of Terminate and the value of Kolaghan’s Command. Both of these lists have a fundamental weakness to graveyard hate in the form of Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus.
This got me thinking. If these version have trouble against those two cards, could I build a version that avoids that fundamental weakness but still has the early and cheap pressure threats the Delver decks rely heavily on to win? Last week I had mentioned decks that had been long forgotten in the Modern format that could be poised for a comeback. I didn’t mention Delver because there are current iterations of the deck today and to be honest it really didn’t even cross my mind at the time. However the original Delver lists of the past were Jeskai colors.
Sunday I went to Magic Online and built my first rough draft of the forgotten Jeskai Delver. I’ve spent the last few days grinding eight mans with a very high win rate, only losing a total of one match as I write this. I’ve been constantly tweaking the list as well, finding ways to make improvements in the main and sideboard. Let’s take a look at where I’m currently at.
The Creature Suite:
Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage are certainly the glue of all the Delver lists out there. There really isn’t much that hasn’t already said about the two. Young Pyromancer has come and gone in popularity depending on the meta game. I had considered running Abbot of Keral Keep over Young Pyromancer but I dislike having Abbot in a deck that plays multiple counterspells. I may be dismissing this prematurely and might possibly make the switch for the sake of testing it out. The final creature and main reason to play white is Geist of Saint Traft. In a format full of cheap removal in the form of Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Abrupt Decay and Path to Exile to name a few, none of which answer the legend. This leads me to believe Geist of Saint Traft might be the best choice of threat moving forward and the pivotal reason to be in Jeskai.
Serum Visions, Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt are the three mainstays here. The cheapest removal and card draw the format has to offer. Gitaxian Probe works best in decks with Young Pyromancer since you can follow him up with a Probe to get a free token in case your opponent has removal for the Pyromancer you’re still getting some value. Lightning Helix is a nod to the popularity of Burn decks in the format right now. It also just helps race other aggressive decks and gives you more reach which is always a plus. The Electrolyze is just another cantrip the deck wants and provides more reach and removal against the aggressive decks of the format like Affinity. Finally the counter suite I went with is Mana Leak and Spell Snare. The Spell Snares are a nod to how many relevant 2cmc cards are in the format and how important they are to their decks strategies. Mana Leak is the tougher of the decisions in the deck how it stands. It’s fighting with the other popular two mana counter in Remand. Both Mana Leak and Remand have their own positives and negatives but I went with Mana Leak for a couple of reasons. The main reason is Modern is a very fast format. I’d rather permanently solve a problem early than have my opponent get the opportunity to recast a problematic permanent or spell the following turn anyways. There are a few instances where I’d rather have a Remand. For example Living End never wants to see a Remand, or if you’re protecting your own spell from a counter by Remanding it. It’s even better against flashback effects from either Snapcaster Mage or just something like Faithless Looting. In the end I believe how it sits now Mana Leak is more of a hard counter and better punishes an opponent who’s trying to win the game fast or recover from a slow start.
I’m still tweaking with the mana as at one point I’ve had Eiganjo Castle and Moorland Haunt, in addition to no Seachrome Coasts and just maxing out the fetch lands. I wanted to add the Seachrome Coasts to alleviate some of the damage the mana base does to you to help fight the burn decks. In addition this also helps you fight decks with Choke in the sideboard. In doing so I needed to find a balance to ensure there would be enough red sources to cast something like Lightning Bolt on the first turn if needed. This is why I decided for a Mountain in the deck even though traditionally you don’t play any Mountains when you have Blood Moon in the sideboard. You also may notice a lack of Hallowed Fountain in the deck. One of the tricks of having so many Seachrome Coast is it starts to skew the mana in the direction of UW and you need to make cuts wherever you can. One such cut was getting rid of the Hallowed Fountain. This is still in the experimental phase and I may end up cutting a Seachrome Coast for Hallowed Fountain, but for now I’m trying it without.
This is where you have so many options for a format as diverse as Modern. This is especially true if you’re playing white since it has the most hateful cards in the format. The first thing I wanted to do was put some quantity of Blood Moon in the sideboard to help fight decks such as Tron, Amulet Bloom or Infect. Wear //Tear is a very flexible card that can come in against so many decks it’s exactly what having a sideboard is for. Stony Silence is a nod to not only Affinity and the new Lantern Control deck but to Tron as well. Rest in Peace although doesn’t combo well with our Snapcaster Mage is still a very important card against numerous decks. Any decks with Delve, Tarmogoyf, Dredge or Living End all rely heavily on the graveyard and Rest in Peace does the best job of shutting those strategies down. Timely Reinforcements is of course a concession to the quantity of burn decks of the format. I haven’t played the matchup enough to know how many of these are necessary if at all, but I look forward to finding out. One thing for sure is six life and three creatures is worth three mana. Having Dispel is a nice effect to have against a wide variety of matchups. It’s not great against certain decks like Tron and is why I left it in the sideboard. It is good enough to main deck however as BBD was playing three main in his Twin list. I wanted Pillar of Flame for not only the obvious cheap removal and direct damage but to exile pestering creatures like Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks. The Izzet Staticaster was recommended to me by my buddy playing Grixis Delver and said it has been awesome for him. I figure it’s worth trying out since it looks very powerful against certain matchups like Affinity or Elves. Currently I’m down to just the single Spellskite and I’m not sure how much longer it will be there. Granted it is one of the most flexible sideboard options available in the format for shutting down numerous decks like Twin, Boggles and Infect but it doesn’t mesh well with the Delver game plan. Finally the singleton Elspeth, Knight-Errant is giving me something against not only control decks but midrange decks alike. I thought Keranos, God of the Storms was a bit expensive and wasn’t sure if the mana could support a card that cost five mana so I went with Elspeth. It’s also a very potent combo with Geist of Saint Traft.
Moving forward there are some other considerations to make and I’m looking forward to exploring. First of all Jeskai Delver might have trouble going through an opponent. What I mean by that is both Young Pyromancer and Geist of Saint Traft have to attack on the ground through opposing creatures. This can be a difficult task if you’re playing against a deck like Abzan Coco. It’s possible I may want to push up the land count to 19 or 20 and add some Restoration Angels to help give the deck have another angle of attack. This would also push Abbot of Keral Keep in over Young Pyromancer as well, which is another aspect to consider. Doing this would also take care of another weakness of the deck when looking over it in that it’s inherently weak to Pyroclasm effects. Nothing in the deck currently survives a Pyroclasm and is something I working on to determine if that needs to be rectified or if it’s something you can simply play around. I also may consider adding some quantity of Threads of Disloyalty to the sideboard to fight against Jund decks as any time you can get a 2 for 1 out of them you’re doing it right.
Well that’s it for today. Spoiler season is in full swing as we are all preparing for Battle for Zendikar. Like many of you I’m excited to start brewing new Standard but I’m patiently waiting for the entire set to be spoiled. I’m also keeping a keen eye out on anything that may impact the Modern format as that’s what most important to me in the coming month.
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