Top 8 Modern Decks – Delver

Cheap spells, beatdown, card selection, and the ability to control what your opponent does—what’s not to love?

Delver’s strategy is my favorite way to play. I get to cast every card in my hand and know that I can only lose the game if I sequence them incorrectly. You know now why my description says I hate midrange—it’s essentially the opposite of Delver: cast one spell a turn and live with the results.

RUG Delver

Lucas Siow – GP Columbus Top 8

UWR Delver

Shahar Shenhar – GP Columbus Top 8

Right off the bat we got two different versions of the deck. At the time, Lucas’s variant was very new.

RUG Delver (or Temur Delver as we should call it nowadays), is entirely distinct from Jeskai Delver. You could even argue that Delver doesn’t really have a place there—the curve is much higher than any other variants and it’s not really looking to close the game early, especially with Vedalken Shackles in it. If we fast forward two years later, you see that Temur decks with Vedalken Shackles and Cryptic Commands just don’t play Delver of Secrets at all anymore.

Shahar was one of the first to popularize the deck in Modern. He got 2nd in a PTQ with a version very similar to this, and it eventually became one of the top expected decks going into Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, the 2nd Modern Pro Tour. Jeskai Delver was basically a Zoo/burn deck with the ability to place a counterspell on the critical spell of your opponent’s best turn. You could say that it’s the closest to Counter-Cat we’ve had since Philadelphia in 2011.

The Death of Delver

Once Pro Tour Return to Ravnica concluded, Delver basically disappeared for a good year and a half. This was caused by the emergence of Jund, which, with Deathrite Shaman, became one of the little blue creature’s worst matchups.

Even after the bannings of both Deathrite Shaman and Bloodbraid Elf, it took the printing of a new card to put Delver decks back on the map.

This card promised a lot for Modern and I have to say, it delivered. With a completely new look on how to build Delver decks from now on, Gitaxian Probe became a staple.

UR Delver

Caleb Durward – PTQ Finals

Caleb has been working with Young Pyromancer forever, and even if his list looks a bit odd with Batterskull and maindeck Blood Moon, he was one of the players that played it the most and put up some results with it.

At this point, it never really saw insane results outside of PTQs and local events until…

Needless to say, the card was busted, literally Ancestral Recall for Delver decks packing 4 Thought Scour and a flurry of cheap spells. What’s great with a bunch of cheap spells and card draw?

We suddenly had a new deck that warped the format. It now had definitive come-back potential as you could laugh at whatever Jund did by drawing three cards for one mana. Because of the powerful draw spells (Dig Through Time), Jund ceased to exist in that 3-month Modern era, until the ban hammer knocked Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time out of the format.

UR Delver Cruise

Pascal Maynard – Top 8 GP Omaha

But first, let me Top 8 a GP.

Latest Delver Technology

Grixis Delver

Sammy Tharmaratnam – ManaDeprived Super Series Top 8

Fate Reforged offered new delve tools to work with in Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Both are nowhere as good as Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, yet, they are certainly more healthy for the format. Along with Kolaghan’s Command, black is now the sole way to have a good, competitive Delver deck.

Terminate is extremely important as well to beat opposing Tasigurs, 5/5 Zombie Fish, and Tarmogoyf. This deck has the ability to power out one of these gigantic creatures by turn 2, but Jund and Junk remain tough matchups since they can answer those quite easily.

We are now back in an era where BGx decks are bad matchups for Delver, but at least they make up a smaller portion of the metagame than they did before, making Delver a reasonable deck choice.

General Tips

  • Keep your fetches and Thought Scour to get rid of an unwanted card you see on the top of your deck with Delver of Secret’s trigger. It’s a great way to get a free scry out of the little Insect. Additionally, if you have two Delvers it’s even better, because in between both triggers you can do it and have another shot at flipping the second copy.
  • If given the choice between casting Gitaxian Probe and Serum Visions, I like to start with Probe so you have the information on what you want to scry for. Furthermore, on a critical turn where you need to find a specific card this turn, Probing after scrying would be better as you get access to the scryed card immediately.

Sideboard Tips

  • When building your sideboard and even when you are actually sideboarding, make sure to keep your instant/sorcery count high, Delver is an incredible card when it flips, but abysmal when it doesn’t. 24 is the lowest number you can be comfortable with.
  • Between Thought Scour, Snapcaster Mage, and all the cantrips, you see A LOT of cards in a game.Build your sideboard to take advantage of that. A 1-of Hurkyl’s Recall for example will have way more impact than you think—there’s a better chance you see it throughout the game than a deck that plays 2 but does not have cantrips.


Thank you for reading and see you next week for the 7th deck of the series!


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