Delver of Secrets, A Rising Star in Standard

November 10, 2011 | Posted by Dee

In the last two weeks, I’ve been testing Standard a lot with Value Bant Pod. Last week, I didn’t see any Delver of Secrets decks but this week that changed. I saw many people playing this blue transform card.

I think its rise of popularity partly came from Lu Cai’s 2nd place finish last weekend at the Starcitygames Standard Open in Las Vegas. He ran a Blue/Red (UR) Aggro deck that used Delver of Secrets and burn spells to quickly kill his opponents.

Check out his decklist below.

Blue/Red Delver Aggro
Creatures (15)
Spells (23)
Lands (22)
Sideboard (15)

Delver of Secrets is pretty bad until you flip it. A 1/1 vanilla creature for one mana is not what you want to be playing but if you have enough sorceries and instants, then Delver becomes pretty good. During your upkeep, if you reveal an instant or sorcery on top of your library, Delver turns into Insectile Aberration, a 3/2 flyer. A three power evasive creature for one mana is awesome.

To manipulate the top of his library, Lu plays four Ponder. Ponder is also a sorcery so it transforms Delver.

The other cards that turn on Delver are either burn spells, bounce spells, or counterspells. There are not many flying creatures in Standard so the burn spells often go to the dome instead of killing a creature. With 12 burn spells and four Snapcaster Mage, this deck can burn you out very quickly. I started siding in Timely Reinforcements for this matchup because my opponents usually ignored my creatures and targeted me instead with Incinerates and Brimstone Volleys.

The only bounce spells are two Vapor Snags. Vapor Snag may not seem that strong but it does provide useful functions. First, it clears the way for your ground creatures to attack. Stromkirk Noble and Snapcaster Mage don’t fly so you need to clear blockers out of the way. Second, it makes your opponent lose one life, which can be important since you’re playing a bunch of burn spells.

Third, many decks rely of expensive creatures like Titans. By bouncing them for one mana, you get a huge tempo advantage because your opponent has to spend a lot of mana again to replay the creature. You could even have Mana Leak when they recast it. Fourth, Vapor Snag works well with Snapcaster Mage because it’s so cheap.

Fifth, you can bounce your own creatures to save them. This tactic can be pretty devastating against Oblivion Ring. I had a game where I cast Oblivion Ring to try to exile Delver. He bounced Delver in response. After he did this, the only non-land permanent on the battlefield was my Viridian Emissary so I had to exile my own creature.

It’s not surprising to see a full set of Mana Leaks in the main deck. Mana Leak is one of the best cards in Standard because many decks rely on expensive creatures and there is no one mana discard spell like Duress or Inquisition of Kolizek that can discard it. Also, Mana Leak combos very well with Snapcaster Mage.

Speaking of Snapcaster Mage, it’s perfect in this deck because you have so many cheap instants to recast. It’s particularly awesome as a chump blocker because you can flash it in to block and then after it dies, you can rebuy Brimstone Volley for five. In the mid to late game, Snapcaster Mage becomes a toolbox card because you usually have a couple different instants to recast in your graveyard.

The creatures other than Snapcaster and Delver compliment the strategy of dealing a lot of damage quickly. With all your instants and sorceries, your graveyard will be filled with cards. Grim Lavamancer turns them into Shocks that can go to the dome or clear the way for the ground creatures to attack.

Stromkirk Noble is like a Delver of Secrets without evasion so Lu only played two copies. Still, it’s not too hard to clear that way for Noble to damage your opponent because the deck has a lot of removal. Chandra’s Phoenix gives you staying power if the game goes long because you can return it from the grave by burning your opponent.

The sideboard has Spellskite for removal heavy decks. Manic Vandal and Steel Sabotage come in against decks with a lot of artifacts like Tempered Steel or powerful artifacts like Birthing Pod.

Steel Sabotage is excellent with Snapcaster. I got destroyed by this deck when my opponent cast Steel Sabotage to counter Birthing Pod and then he cast it again with Snapcaster Mage to counter Solemn Simulacrum.

Stromkirk Noble is great against Humans decks and decks without a lot of removal. Dismember is there to fight Mono Black Infect since Phyrexian Crusader has protection from red and you don’t care about life loss versus Infect decks. Also, Dismember can destroy bigger creatures like Hero of Bladehold that live through an Incinerate or Galvanic Blast.

Flashfreeze is one of the best cards against Primeval Titan decks. Also, it stops Slagstorm cold. You can bring it in for Mana Leaks to fight Mono Red decks more effectively.

Arc Trail is great against Illusions and other decks with a lot of small creatures.

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