Delver of Secrets has long reigned as a dominant mainstay of the Legacy format, and while it’s had minor success in Modern over the years (especially when powered up by Treasure Cruise, back before it was banned), it’s never broken into Modern in the same way as it has Legacy.
There are a few reasons for this, but the principal one is Modern’s lack of cards such as Brainstorm and Ponder. To illustrate this point further, when Delver was legal in Standard, back in 2012, it was an incredibly dominant deck there as well, and it wasn’t a coincidence that Ponder was also legal in Standard at the time.
However, in today’s Modern, a deck that’s flush with cheap instants and sorceries is currently amongst the best in the format. Izzet Blitz relies on a multitude of one and two-drop spells to power up its creature suite, and it’s not too much of a leap to imagine Delver of Secrets flourishing in such an environment.
In fact, MTGO player beaker07 was brave enough to make that leap and cooked up a spicy Temur Delver deck that was good for a 5-0 finish in a recent league. It caught my eye as a potential budget deck – while there are some expensive cards, I’m confident we can sharpen the pencil and make some adjustments. Let’s have a look!
Modern Temur Delver by beaker07
As ever, the mana is a real hit to the hip pocket. By now, if you’ve followed Modern on a Shoestring for the last few months, you’ll know that we have solutions in that regard – painlands and pathways are our best friends in this respect, subbing in for fetches and shocks. Incidentally, pathways are great in this sort of deck, when the third color is just a light splash. They’re at their best in either a two color deck or supporting a lighter splash, and less useful in color-intensive decks such as Jund.
Outside of the mana, there’s only a handful of cards that really sting. Most of the spells in the deck are pretty cheap, the majority of them being commons or uncommons. Critical to the deck are the cantrips that let you set up a Delver flip in coming turns. While you don’t have Ponder, Preordain or Brainstorm, you do have Sleight of Hand and Serum Visions, which do a serviceable impression of the Legacy staples. I think playing the full eight is the right call here. Best of all, these cards are cheap to pick up.
Really, the only issues here are in the creature suite, with Soul-Scar Mage and Snapcaster Mage. For what it’s worth, I still think Soul-Scar Mage is a good buy at this point. Its price has been creeping up in recent weeks, as Izzet Blitz has established itself as one of Modern’s most-played decks, and I think there’s a lot of room for the card to rise in price. While it would be relatively easy for an eventual reprint to pop the price bubble in the long run, I don’t see it being reprinted any time in the short to medium term. It’s a safe-ish buy, I think, but you can still shave a copy or two.
As for Snapcaster Mage, well, there’s not much you can do there. The card is $60 for a reason – it’s not only enormously powerful, it’s also truly iconic and a favorite of many. It’s far too rich for this budget’s blood, however, so it’ll have to get the chop. This does make the deck worse, of course, but not so much as to completely undermine its viability. It would be nice to be able to run the old Bolt-Snap-Bolt to close out games, but not being able to do so doesn’t completely incapacitate the deck.
After making these adjustments, here’s where we end up landing:
Modern Budget Temur Delver by Riley Knight
I’ve cut literal hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of cards without really gutting the deck’s power level. The mana is a bit worse, and the late-game suffers for the lack of Snapcasters, but overall I haven’t made too many compromises to power level and the deck still operates on the same axis.
Looking at it again, however, I wonder – how necessary is the green? Sure, Atarka’s Command is a sweet card, and it’s nice to have Veil of Summer in the board (and Life Goes On against Burn, I suppose), but do you actually need the green splash?
Not only does it put less pressure on a somewhat compromised mana base, it also significantly lowers the deck’s price tag. Veil of Summer is a $12 card, and cutting Atarka’s Command saves you a little bit as well, especially when you can work in replacements such as Light Up the Stage, a card that comes in at one-third of the price of Atarka’s Command.
You can tweak the sideboard to compensate for the loss of Veil relatively easily (I think not playing Aether Gust is a little loose, given it hits every single commonly-played deck outside of Azorius Control and D&T), and you leave the Mutagenic Growths in, irrespective of green mana. Izzet Blitz still plays Mutagenic Growth as a straight-up two-color deck, so there’s no need to make a change here.
You’re left with a deck that’s lean and mean, ready to flip some Delvers and play a tempo game from there on out. One of the best things about this deck is its modularity – you can sub in and out cards like Spell Pierce, Vapor Snag, Burst Lightning or even something bigger like Bedlam Reveler, depending on what the metagame calls for. And, thankfully, none of these options are going to break the bank.
Modern Budget Izzet Delver by Riley Knight
Izzet Blitz is a known quantity in Modern right now, and I like this new experimental direction that’s being taken with Delver. Instead of taking to the skies with Stormwing Entity and Sprite Dragon, you can enjoy the feeling of utterly demoralizing your opponent on turn two with a blind Delver flip, then beating them around the head with a 3/2. It was fun in 2012 in Standard, and it’s still fun now!