If Legacy has taught us anything over the past five years, it’s that you just can’t keep a good Delver of Secrets down. As the default tempo creature in Legacy, nearly every combination of Blue + X has made it to the top 8 at some point in time. Be it the tempo oriented RUG Delver, the attrition-based BUG Delver, or the discard heavy Grixis Delver, Delver of Secrets has been a Legacy staple since its creation. However, over the years there has been one Delver variant that has waxed and waned in popularity, but it has the power to out-speed the other version, hitting hard and fast with reckless abandon. That’s right, this week we are breaking down UR Aggro!
While this list does prominently feature Delver of Secrets, there are several key factors at work that take this above and beyond the capacity of a regular Delver deck. What gives this deck the aggressive power to punch in damage turn after turn is the combination of Monastery Swiftspear and recent Oath of the Gatewatch heavy hitter, Stormchaser Mage. The combination of haste and prowess gives these two creatures the ability to produce some serious damage in a short amount of time. Because of the nature of Legacy, this deck has access to a treasure trove of instants and sorceries that cost 1 or less mana to cast, thus giving you the power to trigger prowess several times in a turn. A curve of, say, Monastery Swiftspear into Stormchaser Mage into three instants or sorceries can deal at minimum 10 damage just from attacking. Factoring in the sheer amount of burn spells this deck is packing and the incidental life lost the opponent may incur from using fetchlands, you can very easily get a kill as early as turn 3!
This is what gives the deck such an advantage over traditional Delver decks. You have other threats to go along with your Delvers, so you can branch out beyond having to sit back protecting a singular creature. As well, the deck has three copies of Snapcaster Mage to give you even more reach than these other Delver lists, which have typically eschewed Snapcaster in favour of more disruptive cards like Vendilion Clique. Snapcaster Mage acts like Lightning Bolt 5-7, or even something explosive like Price of Progress 3-5, since you can drop a Snapcaster and flashback these spells on the opponent’s end step to deal massive amounts of damage. This gives you a way to push through those last few points of damage should the opponent stabilize the board in the mid to late game.
The spell suite is fairly typical for this style of deck. It’s a mix of burn spells, cantrips to find your burn spells, and countermagic to force your burn spells through their countermagic. Brainstorm and Ponder make up the best possible cantrips you can play in Legacy, giving you both a way to set up flipping your Delver of Secrets and a way to dig into your burn spells to close out the game. Force of Will and Daze fill out the counterspell package, as they’re among the cheapest counterspells in the format. Force of Will is a no brainer, as it’s pretty much the only way you can interact with a turn 1 combo deck like Charbelcher or Dredge, while also affording yourself the flexibility to counter an opponent’s counterspell while tapped out. Daze, on the other hand, is more of a tempo card, used primarily for stopping the opponent from interacting with your early threats by taxing their removal when they’re light on lands.
Finally, we have the burn package. Between Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Price of Progress, and Fireblast, the deck has a lot of ways to go to the face. Lightning Bolt is the quintessential burn spell, capable of removing blockers and burning opponents at instant speed, and the tried and true “R for 3 damage” formula is both efficient for Legacy and cheap enough to use effectively with Snapcaster Mage. For some sorcery speed action, Chain Lightning fulfills a lot of the same roles, basically acting as an additional set of Lightning Bolts. There is a slight drawback against Red decks though, as the opponent can pay RR to make a copy of Chain Lightning to deal 3 damage to something of yours, so it’s best to cast this when they are tapped out. Price of Progress is an absurdly punishing card given how greedy Legacy manabases are right now. With decks often forgoing even a single basic land, dealing 2 damage for each nonbasic a player controls can often be a drastic life point swing, especially at instant speed. Finally, Fireblast is typically the last spell of a game to be played simply because the cost to play it for free is so steep. Fireblast can be played at the expense of two of your Mountains, meaning that it’s at its best when you’re unleashing a flurry of spells to trigger prowess multiple times. Once you decide to pull the trigger, Fireblast deals a very solid 4 damage to whatever you aim it at, which at that point should often be enough to end the game.
While the maindeck is fairly noninteractive, the sideboard looks to make up for this by giving you a lot of ways to both interact with the opponent, as well as push through damage without the need for casting any additional spells. Flusterstorm is one of the definitive Storm hosers, as for a single mana you can counter every copy of Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens. Flusterstorm also has the advantage of winning counter wars by putting all of its own copies on a single opposing counterspell, thus forcing through whatever you initially cast. To help fight combo decks, the sideboard also includes a pair of Spell Pierce as a cheap counterspell that can also hit targets that Flusterstorm can’t, such as enchantments, artifacts, and planeswalkers.
One of the biggest threats to a deck like this are cheap, efficient creatures. Since we primarily want our burn spells to go to the face, we need a card like Grim Lavamancer to help run damage control on the opponent’s board state. This is especially important for breaking board stallers like Young Pyromancer and picking off opposing Delvers which can threaten to trade with your attackers. Grim Lavamancer also acts as a way to somewhat control the effectiveness of beatsticks like Tarmogoyf by removing certain card types from your own graveyard to keep them at a manageable size.
Playing an aggro deck can be tricky against decks packing the tried and true Stoneforge Mystic/Batterskull package, as they can quickly outrace you by gaining back all their life. This is where Sulfuric Vortex really shines, as not only does it prevent the opponent from gaining life, it also deals 2 damage to them each upkeep, which when backed up by burn and evasive creatures can put some serious pressure on their life total. As well, to backup Sulfuric Vortex the deck also runs Pyrostatic Pillar for the continuous chip damage without having to invest too many cards. While traditional Burn decks have jumped ship over to Eidolon of the Great Revel, Pyrostatic Pillar has two distinct advantages in a deck like this. The first is that it can’t get picked off by removal like Eidolon, while the second advantage is that being 1R over RR allows you to cast Pillar with basic Islands in play. This is especially important when your own Price of Progress becomes a factor to your own life total and you’re forced to fetch basics over Volcanic Island. Speaking of Price of Progress, the sideboard also includes a third copy to really punish three-colour decks like Shardless BUG, as well as decks like Lands and 12Post that try to play multiple nonbasics as early as possible.
Finally, the sideboard includes a full set of Surgical Extraction to help combat the faster graveyard decks like Dredge and Reanimator. Surgical is pretty much the best graveyard hate for this kind of deck because not only can it trigger prowess at instant speed, it can also gain flashback with Snapcaster Mage, effectively letting you strip all the copies of eight different cards in the opponent’s deck. As well, unlike Tormod’s Crypt and Grafdigger’s Cage, you can cast Surgical Extraction even if you’re on the draw and they’re comboing off on turn 1. This can dramatically increase your odds of surviving against these incredibly fast decks.
Stormchaser Mage has revitalized a version of Legacy aggro that was previously thought extinct. The combination of evasion, prowess, and haste make this card a fast and efficient threat in a format that has been somewhat lacking in the aggressive Red deck department. The sheer aggressive potential of this deck’s threats, in combination with some of the format’s most powerful burn spells, can make quick work of most opponents. With traditional RUG Delver playing the de facto role as the aggro deck in Legacy, I think that Stormchaser Aggro has what it takes to outrace and overtake the king of the hill. So if hitting hard and swinging for the fences with an all out aggro deck is your way to play, then take to the skies and chase some storms!
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