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Owen’s a Win – Delver, Continued

Last week, I wrote about UWR Delver and recently I’ve had Legacy on my mind. This week, I wanted to talk about the format in general, and how I try to beat Sneak and Show. I watch a huge amount of Magic coverage and I see people make mistakes very often against Sneak and Show which leads to it’s very high success rate.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that they have an unbeatable late game plan, since eight cards in their deck say, “I win the game,” and the biggest and best cards in your own deck are a one-casting cost, [card delver of secrets]3/2 flying creature[/card] and a [card batterskull]4/4 lifelink[/card]. The name of the game is dealing 20 damage as soon as possible while providing disruption.

For reference, here is the list I advocated last week:

[deck]Main Deck4 Ponder
4 Brainstorm
4 Spell Pierce
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Delver of Secrets
1 Batterskull
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Wasteland
4 Arid Mesa
2 Polluted Delta
1 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
3 Volcanic Island
4 Tundra
Sideboard
2 Meddling Mage
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Pyroblast
1 Grim Lavamancer
3 Rest in Peace
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Wear and Tear[/deck]

My version of the deck has and will always play 4 [card]Spell Pierce[/card]. I feel very strongly about the fact that this is just an overpowered card in Legacy and crucial to your plan of beating the unfair decks in the format. It confuses me why more people don’t play with more copies of this card, I see successful lists running two or one copies maindeck and zero sideboard when it’s just clearly outstanding in the metagame.

Spell Pierce is excellent in the mirror match too, since it plays very well against cards like [card]Brainstorm[/card], [card]Ponder[/card], [card]Stifle[/card], and [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]. Even ignoring how amazing it is against the actual cards [card]Sneak Attack[/card] and [card]Show and Tell[/card] I like how it plays well with [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], being able to cast [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] with multiple counter backup will lead to winning the game quite quickly.

I’ve found the best way to defend against Sneak and Show is to counter each and every [card]Ponder[/card]/[card]Brainstorm[/card] they come up with without using your final [card]Force of Will[/card]. This means that you should aggressively use your [card]Daze[/card] and [card]Spell Pierce[/card] without disrupting your own game plan. It’s fine to allow a [card]Ponder[/card] to resolve and you can easily win games that don’t play out in this manner, but I have seen far too many games where the Delver player loses with a [card]Spell Pierce[/card] and a [card]Daze[/card] in hand while the opponent resolves [card]Show and Tell[/card] with a [card]City of Traitors[/card] and [card]Lotus Petal[/card] to spare, while the Sneak and Show player has used every card in his hand to get to this point.

Some things that are important to remember about the matchup are, first of all, [card]Daze[/card] and [card]Spell Pierce[/card] do eventually become dead cards at some point. You’re playing against a deck with a ton of [card]Ancient Tomb[/card] and [card]City of Traitors[/card], so they will eventually have enough mana to pay for your counters. The lesson here is to use your counters while you can, either in the early game to stop cantrips, or create enough of a board presence to force your opponent to try and combo off before they can build up a strong mana base. Another thing to note is that your own deck has an incredibly low land count, so often you want to just fire off that [card]Spell Pierce[/card] so you get the best use out of all your mana every turn and it doesn’t rot in your hand.

One thing I think people forget about Sneak and Show is that it’s a two-card combo that requires exactly one copy of the creature that is best suited for the situation, and as many copies of both [card]Sneak Attack[/card] and [card]Show and Tell[/card] as it can muster, in addition to a good mana base of early game basics—enough red mana for [card]Sneak Attack[/card], the double lands to increase speed and be more resistant to [card]Daze[/card], [card]Lotus Petal[/card], and finally counter backup.

This may be getting a little hard to keep track of, but the point I’m trying to make is that [card]Brainstorm[/card] and [card]Ponder[/card] are massively important to that deck’s game plan, and when you can ensure that they draw 3 [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakuls[/card] and 1 [card]Show and Tell[/card], it’s much much better for you than the times they draw 1 [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] and 3 [card]Show and Tell[/card]s. They play four copies of all these cards, so if they don’t manipulate their library they have to get a little lucky to assemble the perfect combination of cards.

On top of the clear advantages you gain from having them get a random assortment spells, it’s also a great way to get a cheap win if you can [card]Spell Pierce[/card] their [card]Ponder[/card] and [card]Wasteland[/card] their [card]Volcanic Island[/card]. Preventing them from fixing their draws when you have a [card]Wasteland[/card] is something I strongly advocate. You are playing with [card]Delver of Secrets[/card]. You need the game to end quickly, or the power level of your cards shrinks immensely.

[card]Force of Will[/card] is much harder to play with in this matchup because it counters all their great spells at any point in the game, so logic would dictate that you should hold on to it for as long as you can, and to be honest that’s usually how I play with it. Their only good answer to it is [card]Force of Will[/card] or [card]Misdirection[/card], but it’s still a great card to have. I don’t see myself using [card]Force of Will[/card] on a [card]Ponder[/card] very often, because the point of countering the [card]Ponder[/card]s is to strengthen your ability to resolve [card]Force of Will[/card] on their one card that matters the most, but I could see myself doing it on a [card]Brainstorm[/card] if I felt their hand was very bad.

Moving forward with the deck, there is a strong case to be made for playing [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] over [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. At first I thought that Geist was clearly a better card since there isn’t really a big difference between hexproof and protection from opponent, and in a deck that plays 4 [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card] and 4 [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s it seems relatively easy to keep the Geist from being blocked. If the opponent doesn’t interact with the Geist in any way then dealing 6 a turn is nicer than dealing 3.

Against combo Geist is a faster clock and only worse against [card]Pyroclasm[/card], which has been gaining in popularity. I did underestimate everything else the Nemesis does though, especially in regards to the creature matchups. [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] doesn’t match up very well against a [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], while a [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] will hold it off all day. The largest selling point in my eyes is that the Nemesis is ridiculously strong with [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card], of which this deck plays effectively 5 copies (counting [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] here).

I don’t know which card will be the better choice for a tournament like GP DC, but my gut tells me to go with [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card]. This also raises the question as to what I can do about opposing [card true-name nemesis]True-Name Nemeses[/card], and the answers are few and far between. I like my standard response to a card that costs 3 mana, which is to rely on [card]Wasteland[/card] and [card]Daze[/card] to keep it in check. This works more often than you might think, but it also doesn’t account for games that don’t go according to plan.

I also have [card]Force of Will[/card] and sideboard [card]Red Elemental Blast[/card]s, which is probably the best answer by far. If you want to put a card in your deck specifically for dealing with the Nemesis, I would have to resort to something like [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], which has limited applications in the format and is just an incredibly awkward card in this deck.

With a large resurgence of Death and Taxes recently, I still feel that UWR Delver is a great metagame choice and the only thing I can advocate to improve the matchup is to play more spot removal, either in the form of [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card], [card]Forked Bolt[/card], or even [card]Path to Exile[/card]. I think the most important cards in the matchup are [card]Mother of Runes[/card], which is a must-kill card. If they resolve [card]Mother of Runes[/card] and get to untap with it then you’re in for a tough road ahead.

Next most important is [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], but this can be contained more easily since it’s a more convenient target for [card]Daze[/card] and you usually have time to cast a [card]Ponder[/card] or [card]Brainstorm[/card] to find the removal you need—also [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] can become active before this card even gets cast.

I would also recommend trying some more [card]Wear // Tear[/card] if you’re worried about this matchup, past [card]Mother of Runes[/card] their best chance of beating you has got to be with [card]Aether Vial[/card] or [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card]. I say [card]Aether Vial[/card] because it will allow them to play all their spells much faster and ignore counterspells, where with Jitte it’s much more obvious what the card can do and it’s usually doing its thing in a longer game. In my eyes, this is totally solvable for the Delver player, since we have access to so much more removal and card draw where the Death and Taxes deck is just at the mercy of the top of it’s library.

The Delver deck can be customized for almost any metagame you expect, and in a lot of ways it’s one of my favorite Legacy decks I have ever played. I like the fact that the main deck has 4 [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s and 4 [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], so I can play like a Jund deck and slowly remove each of my opponent’s creatures while using [card]Ponder[/card] and [card]Brainstorm[/card] to prevent mana flood. I also like playing with [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], and [card]Daze[/card] since it allows me to play a quick tempo game and stop almost anything that my opponent will try to offer up.

In sideboarding, I can take out all my reactive cards for each of the matchups I face and transform into a deck with all the cards my opponents fear the most. I really do feel like I can win any matchup I face with the deck, and I’m surprised more people don’t play it. With 4 [card]Wasteland[/card]s—one of the best cards in the format— you will get free wins. It makes me nauseous when I see people play with 2 or 3 copies of the card, which is basically admitting that they don’t want to draw multiples. I love drawing multiple [card]Wasteland[/card]s! It’s one of the best feelings there is.

If there is anything you would like me to cover next week I can do that, or switch back to Standard or Theros Limited—you choose.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter

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