The Best Standard Shells for Delver of Secrets
Hello everyone! Today I’m going to be brewing with one of my most beloved cards ever, Delver of Secrets! Delver was introduced right around when I started playing Standard (OG Innistrad) and I absolutely loved the play patterns the deck had to offer. So to say I’m excited for a Delver reprint would be a pretty substantial understatement.
Even better though, Delver felt too good back when it was printed, but the surrounding power level of Standard is lower than it was back then leading me to believe that Delver will be strong, but far from overbearing! Nothing better than building around a strong, but sweet card!
So the first thing I did when brewing the Delver lists is try to establish a baseline of what Delver decks did back when they were Standard legal. Let’s take a look at a few different takes on it.
So the exact cards the deck is playing doesn’t matter particularly much (but do you see the power level of these decks), but the ratios of the threats/spells and the average CMC of the deck. Since Delver was so popular, it was more or less solved at this point in the format so these ratios are tried and true in a format that was significantly stronger than this one so they should still transfer reasonably well. So the golden ratio seems to be 16 threats, 21 lands, then 20-23 spells.
The threats and spells ratio should be easy enough to keep, but we have an advantage that the old decks didn’t, MDFCs. We can pack more spells AND lands in our decks because we have cards that are both! That will heavily influence our deck building and allow the decks to play more lands without having to sacrifice the ratio.
So the second thing to figure out is what color combination you want your Delver deck to be. Instead of just talking about them, I’ll provide at least one list per two color combination and talk about what I like and dislike about it. Let’s get into it.
I was pretty against the idea of a Monoblue Delver before I built it, but as I put the list together, I became somewhat impressed. You have a good amount of interaction and your threat base is rather good. The most glaring hole is that there is a lack of creature interaction, but you do have some bounce spells and you can counter them as they come down. I doubt this is the best option, but probably not a bad one either.
Although the Delver decks were historically Azorius or Jeskai, I don’t think this is where we want to be either. They played UW mostly for the threats: Geist of Saint Traft, Blade Splicer, or Restoration Angel, not for the spells. We don’t have threats that are quite as strong as those (thankfully), but we still have some reasonable options. This list is still lacking good creature interaction beyond Fading Hope and Skyclave Apparition and the mana is a tad clunky, but this still looks reasonable.
Simic was a tough nut to crack as it’s not known for it’s spell quality for the most part. The best I could think of is going the Snow route to get access to Ascendant Spirit and Blizzard Brawl, but it’s not like Brawl is that good in this deck. Realistically, this is probably the worst color combination for Delver as you don’t get access to any better threats nor really any better spells.
Now this I can get behind! This deck feels pretty streamlined and has a super nice mix of threats that work well with the deck’s theme and solid interaction that Black unsurprisingly gives us access to. The curve of this deck is a bit higher so I wanted to play more lands/MDFCs, but flooding out should still rarely be an issue. My main contention is that the threat density of the deck is still a tad low, but considering Sedgemoor Witch and Poppet Stitcher create additional (albeit small) threats and Ebondeath, Dracolich is hard to keep down forever, it should still be enough. You could always play some Iymrith, Desert Doom as well if we’re concerned about threat density. I think this is going to be one of the better shells for Delver, but still probably not the best one.
I think out of all the 2 color combinations, Izzet is almost certainly the best. You get access to solid threats and spells, exactly what you want in your Delver deck. With that, I don’t have just one potential list for Delver, but 3!
The first version of Izzet Delver we have is the most classic interpretation of the deck I could think of. All of the threats like seeing instants and sorceries, we play a solid 23 instants and sorceries, and “25” lands with MDFCs. You have a slew of proactive plays and nice refueling capabilities with Expressive Iteration, one of the best cards in Standard.
A slight alteration to the other Izzet deck, this version goes for the Snow package to get Ascendant Spirit and Frost Bite. Although this version will be better in mirrors and against small creature decks since we play 8 Shock effects, it does have a worse mana base as we can’t really justify playing MDFCs or the AFR creature lands. This is probably a slightly worse version than the previous list, but could be better depending on the exact meta.
The final version for this article is a blend between Izzet Dragons and the tempo Delver plan that’s more common to the archetype. I’m a little suspect of this version as you’re playing significantly fewer threats than the other versions, but Smoldering Egg seems absolutely nuts with Alrund’s Epiphany. I feel like there could defiitely be something here and would likely need some play testing to flesh out the exact issues with the deck.
Now that we covered all the 2 color combinations, let’s put the various versions in order from what I believe are the worst to the best versions of Delver.
- Simic Delver
- Azorius Delver
- Mono Blue Delver
- Big Izzet Delver
- Dimir Delver
- Izzet Snow Delver
- Izzet Delver
As I said before, I think Izzet is simply the best color combination for Delver. You could hypothetically go 3 color as well, but the mana in Standard doesn’t support it that well and there are very few incentives to go outside two colors, so I don’t think it’s a great idea right now.
What Delver deck are you most excited by? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading!