FNM Hero: Selling My Soul to the Delver

Written by Jonathan Medina on . Posted in Competitive Magic, FNM

FNM Hero: Selling My Soul to the Delver

Jonathan Medina

Jonathan has written for gatheringmagic.com and starcitygames.com (as a premium columnist). He captivated the Magic community as he chronicled his journey to trade a single pack up to a piece of power nine. Now you can find him here every week as he tells his FNM Hero adventure.

Back in the Day (Which was a Wednesday, BTW)

My first “real” deck was a blue-based tempo deck. I built it after a long stint of getting my butt kicked at the local tournament. My inaugural card shop was a small store in Podunk, Vermont. We played Legacy because “no one could afford to buy the new cards” and everyone had been playing for years. Except me. Most weeks, I ran my janky “Extended” deck. But my competitive side was getting restless. One night after getting crushed by TJ Philips with his UW Landstill deck, I asked him, “What’s the best deck in Legacy?”

“Probably the one that won the Legacy champs,” he said.

I’d never heard of “Legacy Champs” and the idea of “net decks” had not yet completely solidified in my mind. I decided to do some research and I found this green/blue beast:

I’d like to say that it was love at first sight, but I didn’t know enough about Magic to be in love. I trusted TJ’s advice and set out on a quest much like I did a few months ago with this column. I traded almost everything in my collection for Tropical Islands and Force of Wills. After digging through boxes at the shop and buying stuff online, I was three Tarmogoyf and three Umezawa’s Jitte short of a full deck. I threw in some Quirion Dryad and tweaked the sideboard for my first Legacy tournament with a “real” deck.

I crushed it.

All it took was destroying my opponent with an unexpected Daze for me to be hooked. Since that day, I’ve been a blue mage. From that point forward, I’d play anything with blue cards. But there’s always been a special place in my heart for UG Threshold.

Present Day

Times haven’t changed. Blue-based tempo is still on top in the form of Delver of Secrets decks. And, once again I’m sick of losing and am now in search of the best deck. The Hero in me is hesitant to wield such an unholy weapon, but desperate times call for desperate measures. As Magic 2013 was spoiled, I felt the dark side tempting me.

One of the biggest drawbacks to being an FNM Hero is not being able to play with new cards that you like. For example, when Talrand, Sky Summoner was spoiled, I knew that I wanted to play with it. Between the disappointing 0-2 drop record last episode and the allure of returning to my roots, I was seriously considering changing decks again.

When I switched to red-green aggro, I felt like I jumped out of the frying pan and into a pot of slowly boiling water. Sure it’s luke warm now, but the end result is still the same. I don’t have the tools to put up consistent finishes with red-green. Cards like Sword of War and Peace (Feast and Famine), Cavern of Souls and Bonfire of the Damned are what make red-green a decent deck. Without those cards, the deck is not nearly as powerful. I also had to consider that M13 would bring more expensive “must-have” cards in the form of Thragtusk and Thundermaw Hellkite.

My mind started to wander. I knew that I could afford the core of the Delver deck but my budget would not stretch far enough for Restoration Angel, Geist of Saint Traft or Sword of War and Peace.  I started to dream up mono-blue Delver decks. But without confirmation from the hivemind, the move would be too risky.

I took a couple of weeks off and scoured the internet for mono-blue Delver technology. As fate would have it, a decklist surfaced from Star City Games Invitational. Shout-out to Adam Boyd for leaving his white mana sources at home.

Trading

I spent the next week trying to trade my red-green aggro cards for mono-blue Delver stuff. My buddy Bernie Wen was the first to step up and help. He traded me two Snapcaster Mage for two Huntmaster of the Fells*. Here’s the flurry of trades:

I showed up to the tournament on Friday with most of a mono-blue Delver deck. I signed up for Standard and paid the tournament fee and then frantically searched the room for the handful of cards that I needed.

-$5, Illuminaudi Credit $0

I was striking out. No one had the cards that I needed. I walked up to the counter.

“Hey Jamie, I changed my mind about Standard. Can you take me off?”

“Umm… no,” he winced. “The pairings are already up.”

“Dammit.” I walked up to the pairings board.

I’d have to give my opponent the win and try to find the rest of the cards that I needed. When I got to the pairing board, I followed my name with my finger.

Jonathan Medina                               *Bye*

Man, I’m good at this game! I had fifty minutes to find two Snapcaster Mage, two Inkmoth Nexus and two Frost Titan. Minh, one of the local judges walked up as I was asking around.

“What are you looking for Medina?” he asked.

I gave him the list and he took out his trade binder. He had a Snapcaster Mage but I don’t think he was interested in trading it to me so we started trading for the Frost Titans. As we checked prices and pulled cards my buddy Nick Lutes walked up and asked if we were trading.

“Yeah, I’m looking for Snapcaster Mages. Do you have any?” I replied.

“I think I have some,” Nick said while pulling a couple of fat pack boxes out of his backpack. I search through stacks from Nick’s boxes while Minh flipped through my binder. After some negotiation we ended up with these two trades:

and

My deck was complete, thanks to Minh and Nick.

I had enough time before round two to score a Philly Cheesesteak from Al Brakas next door. I put the last few cards in my deck while I ate. I didn’t have Phantasmal Image so I had to improvise; I added two Vanishment and two Dissipate for the ramp and big creatures matchups. Here’s what my budget version of mono-blue looked like:

Round 2 – Naya Pod (DJ Webb)

I sat down across from a familiar face: DJ from Sci-Fi City. He wasn’t too excited to be playing against me.

“Just my luck. I get paired against Medina first round,” he lamented.

I shuffled up and he made a comment about me being favored in the Birthing Pod mirror match. I smirked.

Game 1

I started the game with an Island and a Delver of Secrets.

“Are you kidding me, Medina?”

I ignored the comment. “Your go, DJ.”

He mumbled, then played a land and tapped it for a Llanowar Elves. I revealed a Vapor Snag from the Delver’s trigger and flipped it over. I smashed in for three damage and bounced his Elf. He played another land and re-played his Elf. I played another Vapor Snag and an Invisible Stalker. He tried to get back in the game but my Stalker picked up a Runechanter’s Pike and demolished his life total.

Game 2

He started the game with a Plains. I played a Gitaxian Probe and saw that his only other land was a Mountain. “You kept a hand with no green mana?!” I asked with an are-you-kidding me tone. I started to beat him down with Inkmoth Nexus while he struggled to find a land. He finally found a Gavony Township which he played immediately to make a Blade Splicer. I Mana Leaked the Blade Splicer and continued to poison him. Three Mana Leaks later and DJ was dead.

What did I learn?

It is important to keep a Pod player off of their turn-one mana creature. A turn two Birthing Pod is really hard to overcome. If you Vapor Snag or Gut Shot their mana creature it gives you the opportunity to Mana Leak the Birthing Pod (or other three-drop).

2-0

Round 3 – UW Delver (Nate Peters)

I’ve played Nate with my Hero Birthing Pod list before and I’ve crushed him. I was hoping for the same result in this match.

Game 1

This was a quick game. I led with Delver then Ponder on the following turn. I didn’t get to “blind flip” the Delver but the Ponder would set up the flip for next turn. I had the opportunity to keep Runchanter’s Pike, Mana Leak or Mutagenic Growth off of the Ponder. I chose Mana Leak and passed the turn.

Nate drew a card and then played Ponder. He must have found a Gut Shot because after restacking the Ponder, he drew a card and killed my Delver. I should have kept the Mutagenic Growth over the Mana Leak. I couldn’t even cast the Leak, so I’m not sure what I was thinking. It’s crucial to keep the Delver alive–small nuances like this separate a good Delver player from the idiots (like me). Nate played a Delver and passed the turn. I drew my now useless Mutagenic Growth and played an Invisible Stalker. I played a Pike, but it was countered by Mana Leak. Nate slammed a Sword of War and Peace and swung. I activated Inkmoth to block and he Vapor Snagged it. I took 13. I’ll let you figure out who won this game.

Game 2

I was ahead until Nate cast Timely Reinforcements. He found a Restoration Angel before I found the pressure that I need. It wasn’t long before the Angel picked up a Sword and finished me off.

What Did I Learn?

This is supposed to be a good matchup for me but it felt very one-sided. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t assemble Pike plus Stalker combo fast enough in these games to win. I also need a way to deal with a Sword. I made a note to pick up some Steel Sabotage.

2-1

Round 4 – Frites

I knew that this guy was playing Frites. He’s been playing the same deck since Frites first hit the scene. I was worried that I didn’t have Phantasmal Image to fight his legendary threats.

Game 1

He led with a Faithless Looting and passed the turn. I played a Delver and passed back. He played Mulch for his turn. My Delver flipped (I know, I’m such a boss!). He played a Lingering Souls and passed the turn. Speed bumps. I swung with my Delver, he double-blocked and I Vapor Snagged a token to save my Delver. He played a Birds of Paradise and flashed back Faithless Looting. His Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite was joined by an Unburial Rites. I dug for a Mana Leak with Ponder but I failed to find one. He flashed back Unburial Rites and smashed me with his Birds. It only took a few more turns to kill me.

Game 2

He had a turn-three Unburial Rites but I had the Mana Leak. The game went into a grind and I couldn’t push enough damage through the Lingering Souls tokens. Unburial Rites eventually got there. Elesh Norn is such a beating.

What Did I Learn?

I have a really weak matchup without Phantasmal Image or graveyard hate. I don’t want to invest in Images since they won’t be in Standard for much longer. My plan is to wait for the release of M13 and get some Clones.

2-2

Round 5 – No Show

This was a strange tournament. There was a guy who was too high, tired or drunk to actually play Magic. He fell asleep mid-round in round four and some of his friends took him home. After round four a group of players in the X-2 bracket dropped to Cube. My opponent forgot to drop so I ended up with a free win. Brandon Young Wolf was paired against the sleeping guy who also forgot to drop. We hung out and played some games during the fifth round.

What Did I Learn?

Never drop from a tournament. You never know when you’ll get the sleeping guy for a free win.

3-2

Since the tournament had shrunk and I had a winning record, I snuck into to top eight and got my money back.

+$5, Illuminaudi Credit $5.

Thoughts on The Switch

This was my first time playing the deck. I need to get some more games under my belt before I can say whether this deck was a good move for FNM Hero. I will say that I enjoyed the deck’s power level. Despite my misplays, I was still able to pull out some wins. It feels like this week’s record is the worst that I can do with the deck and that’s a good thing. The cards that I still need for the deck are totally in reach for the credit that I expect to win with this deck.

I decided not to play another FNM until after M13 released. This will give me access to Clone, Talrand, Sky Summoner and Augur of Bolas. Luckily for you, the M13 release has come and gone and you’ll get the scoop on how I fared next week.

#MoreFNMHero

A few weeks back, I made the announcement that FNM Hero would be bi-weekly. Shortly after that, Legit MTG went through some behind-the-scenes changes. These changes required my focus and attention which made FNM Hero less consistent. This prompted a lot of feedback from you guys via Facebook, Email and Twitter. With each correspondence, I realized how much FNM Hero means to some of you. I appreciate all the feedback and I’ve decided to raise the priority level of FNM Hero to match other Legit MTG business. This means that the column will be returning to a weekly schedule. Thanks for keeping me honest.

See you next week!

Jonathan Medina
@mtgmedina on Twitter

Art By: Polish Tamales

*Keep in mind that these trade were done over a month ago when Huntmaster and Snapcaster were equal.

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