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Week in Review – Delver, Titans, and Frost Walker

This week we had a bunch of Sealed Grand Prix events withfellow CFB contributor Haumph “Paul” Cheon making Silver in a month, and the first large American Legacy non-Grand Prix event in years. As a result, there won’t be a lot of Standard talk this week—instead we’ll be looking at some of the fallout in Legacy and Modern from Treasure Cruise departing both formats.

Treasure Cruise Banning Fallout

The stated goal of Treasure Cruise being banned in both formats was to increase variety and move away from blue deck dominance. As far as Legacy goes, this was really just a nice way of saying, “We don’t want everyone to play Delver.” Of course, Delver decks aren’t going anywhere even without Ancestral Recall to keep the value train rolling.

SCG Legacy Top 64 Deck Breakdown

Delver: 9 (BUG: 1111/UWR: 11/Esper: 1/RUG: 11)
Elves: 6
Storm: 5
Reanimator: 5
Death & Taxes: 4
Maverick: 4
Sneak and Show: 3
Miracles: 3
Shardless Sultai: 3
Esper Deathblade: 2
Omnitell: 2
Other: 12

(A number of lists were missing, so I didn’t have access to the full 64 lists.)

BUG Delver, 1st place at SCG Indy, Jim Davis

As my esteemed editor Andy wrote when the Cruise ban was announced, Bob was locked in a deep dark hole until the banning announcement. With all the prisoners freed from the boat, Dark Confidant is back in business, drawing cards and attacking for 2. Notably, this build has gone straight back to the anti-mana plans one emblematic of Delver strategies. This win, along with a few other Delver variants finishing in the Top 16, is a nice reminder that Delver isn’t going anywhere.

What’s more surprising is that all the Delver decks are branching off in different directions. The other BUG Delver lists all vary in some way. For example, one by Noah Cohen differs by utilizing Tarmogoyfs number 5-6 in the form of Tasigur, and instead of hating mana utilizes Liliana of the Veil and Hymn for a discard-based angle.

Meanwhile, RUG Delver builds almost look identical to their Modern counterparts with the usual Legacy upgrades. Jonathan Morris took a similar step to Noah and played three Hooting Mandrills as extra bulk in creature fights.

Without a billion removal spells in Delver anymore, Elves was primed for a return to center stage. While it didn’t have an impressive showing last week, this week showcased a pair in the Top 8 and the second-most represented archetype in the Top 64. Little green men should be widely represented as one of the best hybrid decks in the format for the foreseeable future barring a massive return to board control.

I’ll leave any in-depth analysis of Legacy to Caleb Durward or Bob Huang, I just find it interesting how strongly Delver continues to be represented. Dig Through Time also has its enthusiasts, but right now they seem firmly in the blue combo camp and less into the tempo decks.

Moving onto Modern, we have back-to-back 5K weekends won by more niche combo decks. First it was Bogles taking the crown and this week Amulet of Vigor combo walked away with the trophy.

Amulet Combo, 1st place SCG Indy 5K, by Stephen Speck

The return to pure midrange doesn’t seem to be happening, and Junk hasn’t roared back to dominate as some feared. While Siege Rhino has certainly made Junk more appealing, the Top 16 both weeks skewed heavily toward linear strategies. The most consistent performers are Affinity and Burn, despite the heavy sideboard bias people have against both of them.

As a big Affinity aficionado even before the bans, I’m high on the deck. Thoughtcast may not be Cruise, but it’s as close as you’ll get in the format and there are a lot of relevant options against hate that are yet to be explored. Tasigur and Hooting Mandrills are very real threats in Modern and can easily be played in the face of hate. Getting three of your artifacts blown up is less depressing when you get a 4/5 on the cheap which dodges the usual sideboard cards and helps if you start to flood. While the pure combo matchup isn’t good game one, with Thoughtseize or Chalice of the Void you can gain back a ton of percentage points.

If you have an upcoming Modern tournament the best plan in the short-term seems to be to pick a strong linear strategy you’re familiar with and just gun it. Even the seemingly outmoded ones that have been largely replaced in the metagame are picking up steam with the removal of Delver, and midrange decks have yet to properly adapt to the massive vacuum left by Treasure Cruise and Birthing Pods.

Deck of the Week

Temur Aggro, 3rd SCG Indy 5K, by Jacob Eckert

While I’m not actually a big Temur fan, some of the coolest card choices have come from those archetypes. This week we look at a deck where Frost Walker looks like a legitimate choice. Temur has suffered from having a really strong 2-drop, unlike Abzan which has a bounty of riches thanks to Fleecemane Lion and Rakshasa Deathdealer. Icefeather Aven is an amazing Limited card but not so useful in Standard.

Frost Walker has one job in this deck and does it well: putting out a relevant clock on turn two that can turn on ferocious in the late-game. While it indeed “dies to everything,” the number of cards that successfully kill Frost Walker and don’t kill every other 2-drop the deck can play are almost nil. The same goes for creature trades, though dying to Satyr Wayfinder is pretty embarrassing.

As for the rest of the deck, Shaman of the Great Hunt is great and one of the strongest 4-drops beside Ashcloud Phoenix. I’m not a fan of Lightning Strike here and would rather have cheaper or repeatable methods to clear the way. The quad-Crater’s Claws looks mighty fine though and one of the best reasons to pick this type of deck up. It’s a solid creature removal, and if you see 2 you can almost assuredly burn the opponent out if they don’t have a source of life gain.

Savage Knuckleblade looks underwhelming here and is likely just a carryover as another ferocious enabler. The strain on the mana and inability to get by Tasigur without a pump is one of the bigger knocks on him. In a deck where every other creature has evasion or a lower mana cost, I would consider alternatives. Chandra, Pyromaster or Outpost Siege look perfect for this deck if this is the configuration of Monsters you want to bring to the table.

That’s all for this week, next week we’ll kick it back to Standard.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: [email protected]

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