Hello fellow gamers. He’s back! Delver of Secrets certainly has a controversial past, usually cards that are over-powered tend to be this way. However, I will say as far as current standard is concerned, and from the relatively small sample size I have seen, Delver seems strong but fair. That could change as more supporting cards are printed and the standard block expands.
He is missing a lot of partners in crime such as Geist of Saint Traft and Snapcaster Mage, and of course Phyrexian mana cards like Gitaxian Probe that pushed him into unfair his first visit to standard. Still, he has made some new friends this time around including Alrund and a certain gold spewing dragon.
Recently I took this deck below for a spin in Best of One ladder after going 0-5 in with my Orzhov list. And I rattled off a quick 7-0 record and was able to get my rating back from 1800 to 1064. Granted that is a small size but the deck seems pretty promising.
Goldspan Dragon – This guy is a no brainer, and in fairness this deck is really about him more then Delver. He helps you rush out
Bloodthirsty Adversary – I have been quite happy with this vampire. I thought it might be the strongest of the adversaries (runner-up going to the white adversary) and so far, it has not disappointed. Unless you are absolutely desperate, this card should be considered a 5-drop and if you’re lucky you can cast it at 8 mana for super value. Bloodthirsty has some great targets to choose from which we will cover in the spells section.
Smoldering Egg – Smoldering Egg is an intriguing card, on one hand it is not exactly easy to get it to flip, but when it does, it lays a beating and quite quickly takes over the game. Alrund’s is obviously the dream here, as casting this pretty much guarantees he flips; then having a whole extra turn to lay a hurting on your opponent’s face and or creatures with the passive ability is generally game winning.
Egg acts as a respectable wall early on and it’s nice to have a decent 2-drop creature for Izzet. One sad thing to note is that when flashing back a spell with Bloodthirsty Adversary you do not get counters on Smoldering Egg as you actually paid no mana to cast the flashed-back spell.
Delver of Secrets – In standard currently there are not a lot of decent tools to make sure Delver flips. To me, Otherworldly Gaze is a really hard sell when it provides no card draw. The best tool you have to make sure the Insectile Aberration shows up is just a critical mass of instants/sorceries. Sometimes you get lucky and on turn 1 cast Delver, turn 2-flip. This of course pressures your opponent significantly, but sometimes it sits there as a 1/1.
With that, I think 3 seems like a fine number for this version of the deck. Furthermore, Delver is far less exciting to draw on turn 7 as he is on turn 1. That being said, I could see retooling this deck in a more aggressive fashion and keeping the curve low, maybe adding Moonveil Regent as top end. The main problem I have here is there are a lot of big bodied creatures running around and I am not certain red direct damage spells have what it takes to beat out Mono Green or Gruul. From my play testing it seems better to go over the top of these decks instead of trying to race them so Delver is more of a distraction than a finisher in this shell.
Alrund’s Epiphany – This is one of the focal points of the deck, casting this usually leads to victory. I would run 4 if I thought the curve could support it, but highly aggressive decks such as mono-white are still very prevalent right now in Best of 1 so best not to get too greedy.
Shatterskull Smashing – Acts as functional mana 25 and 26 and not a bad spell to cast on two targets to keep the board clean.
Expressive Iteration – If you are playing Izzet and you are not running four of these you are doing it wrong. Please avoid playing this on turn 2, this is a turn three spell.
Dragon’s Fire – I was experimenting with Frost Bite, but found the ability to do 4 damage occasionally with this by revealing a Goldspan (or even Ashmouth if you are lucky) made it the better choice. In addition, your mana base can stay cleaner and you feel less worried about running creature-lands when you don’t have to sweat your snow count.
Divide by Zero / Saw It Coming – Since we are best of 1, having access to some lessons in your sideboard is a critical source of card advantage. In addition, Divide by Zero can at least delay a Koma whereas Saw It Coming can only shrug its shoulders when the big serpent shows up. Other than that, Saw It Coming is a great piece of interaction.
This is your typical lesson package. Teachings of the Archaics has performed pretty well for me. I only had Introduction to Prophecy as perhaps an easier way to enable Delver but to be honest it really hasn’t come up and I may just cut it in favor of another Mascot Exhibition or another Teachings.
Notable Card Exclusions
Crush the Weak – There have been times I wish I had this card, namely versus mono-white aggro, but there are other times I know when this card will not be impactful enough or worse yet, a dead draw. Also this takes out your own Delver which is a bit of a bummer.
Moonveil Regent – I still think this card will find a home, but this deck is not that. Regent needs to be the curve topper with a bevy of cheap spells and this deck does not really fit that bill.
Cathartic Pyre – I have noticed some Izzet decks running this burn spell. I do not like this card in standard Izzet. The alternate mode is not actual card advantage, unless you tend to run a lot of flashback cards. Remember if you try to use the Draw Discard mode while empty handed you get nothing as it stipulates you draw “that many cards.” In Historic Izzet where Arclight Phoenix is a thing this card will be right at home. Here it’s just another 3 damage spell with little upside.
Fading Hope – I like this card, Vapor Snag was pretty good with Delver of Secrets, and again if you are thinking of retooling this deck with Moonveil as your top end this would definitely be a card to consider. If the meta shifts to larger clunkier creature threats this might be worth thinking about.
Negate / Disdainful Stroke – This is where it’s tough being a BO1 grinder. These are great cards in the right situation, but it’s very hard to justify them main deck when they can turn up dead sometimes. Of the two I would be more inclined to add a couple Disdainful Strokes main deck if push came to shove, but for now we will rely on Saw It Coming. Often we have to trade mana efficiency for flexibility in the BO1 queue.
Behold the Multiverse / Memory Deluge – I have found that the deck rarely runs out of gas and this extra card advantage seems unneeded. Also, note that Behold cannot be targeted by Bloodthirsty Adversary. Something could be said of the mind games that come from Fortelling cards… Are they holding up a Saw It Coming? Is it a Behold the Multiverse? Or is it an
Heated Debate – I like this card as it’s certainly relevant against Goldspan Dragon and Esika’s Chariot. It blanks counterspells which is certainly relevant even if the unpreventable damage clause rarely is. I think this card is currently a victim of mana curve considerations as hopefully
Frost Bite – We talked about this already but it comes down to two things: One, it’s often better to do 3 to 4 damage versus 2 to 3 damage despite the extra mana. Two, we have to morph our mana base into something more awkward just to meet a condition that provides marginal impact. I think the real nail in the coffin for me is the printing of Den of the Bugbear and Hall of Storm Giants as they made Faceless Haven seem superfluous and therefore Frost Bite is no longer worth the effort.
This is a best of one guide so we will be eschewing a sideboard primer and sticking with helpful notes on the most common matchups.
This deck has really seemed to have fallen off as of late. Perhaps the low win rates we are seeing for it have influenced that. You are the aggressor of course. Try to apply early pressure and be very careful to not cast your Goldspan Dragon or Alrund’s Epiphany into potential counter magic.
Don’t be afraid to send in your Hall of Storm Giants if they have tapped out either. Generally, Alrund’s Epiphany decks tend to win against slower control decks by chaining some Epiphanies together with a big creature on board and this strategy applies here for us as well.
Mono Green Stompy
This is a tough matchup. Ideally Dragon’s Fire and Prismari Command (versus Esika’s Chariot) can buy you time to get your air force online. They have poor answers for Goldspan Dragon and Alrund’s Epiphany, so the trick is surviving long enough to make that matter. If you have to remove an Old-Growth Troll try to do it on their turn so they cannot create a Troll Token on your end step.
Mono White Aggro
Mono white plays out similarly to mono green except that your removal works slightly better on them. Luminarch Aspirant and flying creatures can be an issue so try to save your removal for this pesky cleric and it’s winged friends. Elite Spellbinder is also no joke as it can critically delay your plan, so it’s good to hide your Alrund’s Epiphany by foretelling when you can. I have not really seen Reidane, God of the Worthy as much these days and it’s really is an issue with your Alrund’s Epiphany. If this god does show up, you will be happy you left your snowlands at home.
I feel like this matchup favors Izzet. Koma, Cosmos Serpent is an issue so finding a Divide by Zero is key. Don’t forget you have an Introduction to Annihilation in your lesson board to help with itas well. Goldspan Dragon, as in most matchups, is key here. The only answers they have to it is Cyclone Summoner, Divide by Zero, or tapping it with a Koma, Cosmos Serpent token, and he comes online faster than they generally can deal with. Saw It Coming will be very important against their Alrund’s Epiphany. For some reason most Simic lists do not run their own Saw It Coming so you don’t have to worry about that.
Izzet Dragons / Mirror Match
This really comes down to who can resolve Alrund’s Epiphany and Goldspan Dragon first (or at all). With that in mind, try to keep open some mana at all times to prevent this. In short, be very wary of overextending. Note that neither you or your opponent has a good answer to Hall of Storm Giants. Opposing Goldspan Dragon should be killed on sight even if it means having to use multiple burn spells, better to never let it touch the board though.
I feel this matchup favors Izzet. The biggest threat with this deck is Immersturm Predator, and just like Koma, Cosmos Serpent, having Divide by Zero, and in this case Saw it Coming, will be very helpful. They also of course have Goldspan Dragon, but they do not have
Valki, God of Lies can be annoying either by stealing your Goldspan Dragon or by lucking into an Alrund’s Epiphany on the top of your deck. Again, Divide by Zero and Saw It Coming are all stars here. Kill Kalain, Reclusive Painter early and often with Dragon’s Fire as it will keep the opponents other threats more manageable.
Orzhov Blood on the Snow
Liesa, Forgotten Archangel will be a concerning card versus Goldspan Dragon. It is worth spending two cards to remove this threat if you have to. These can tend to turn into slow grindy games, but my advice is to try to end it sooner than later. Orzhov tends to have inevitably to it so your best path to victory is very similar to winning versus Dimir Control. Chaining Alrund’s Epiphany together for a big combat sequence.
Before that, if possible, try to get in some early damage. Don’t be afraid to trade some life early on as Orzhov doesn’t have haste creatures and has limited instant speed cards so a few pecks from an Eyetwitch is not much to worry about. Saw It Coming and Divide by Zero will also provide significant tempo swings as it hurts to get your Blood on the Snow returned to your hand or countered. I have not seen this deck switch to Infernal Grasp yet, but they still often have Soul Shatter which can be a bummer for your Goldspan Dragon or Hall of Storm Giants.
Tips and Tricks
This deck can steal games surprisingly quickly. Even if you feel like you are in the losing position, play it out and don’t give up. Drawing an Alrund’s Epiphany off the top can quickly shift the momentum.
When assessing my opening hand, I love to see Expressive Iteration and at least 2 mana. You are very likely to hit your third mana on turn 3 with this. As mentioned above, avoid the temptation to play Expressive Iteration on turn 2 and squander card advantage.
Prismari Command can be a tough card to play right and since all four modes are extremely helpful which makes it even more daunting. I generally refrain from using the looting ability unless I am flooded on mana and need to find some gas. Early on I love to make a treasure token to get Goldspan Dragon online a turn faster. Sometimes the play is obvious, if they have Esika’s Chariot out, blast it. The best time to do it is while it’s vehicle trigger or the crew trigger is on the stack, this way you can avoid Snakeskin Veil and also prevent 4 damage to your face as the creatures used to power the vehicle are tapped down.
This goes without saying, but don’t reveal cards with Delver of Secrets that are not instants and sorceries. Knowledge is power.
Always play Smoldering Egg as early as possible even if it means holding back on Dragon’s Fire for one turn. However, do not play Bloodthirsty Adversary if it can be avoided until you can flash back at least one spell.