Delver decks in Modern have long been playable, but rarely tier one. The archetype’s quality fluctuates, in large part because of its inconsistency. Modern doesn’t have Legacy’s cantrips or disruption, and Delver is stuck in a weird limbo as a result. It has a wide answer package, efficient threats, and some amount of filtering, but also inconsistent draws and a couple terrible matchups.
As I see it, the two biggest flaws of Modern Delver variants are their inability to grind and lack of consistency. Using Death’s Shadow as a model, and with the addition of Jace, Cunning Castaway, the archetype may be primed for a comeback.
This is a rough draft of the list I plan on testing:
4x Fatal Push
1x Mana Leak
2x Spell Pierce
2x Jace, Cunning Castaway
1x Blood Crypt
1x Steam Vents
2x Watery Grave
Ultimately, there aren’t that many changes to the core strategy. However, Jace fills two rolls with one card, which the deck has desperately needed.
First, Grixis Delver is uniquely primed to take advantage of Jace’s +1 ability. Between Young Pyromancer tokens, Flash creatures, and fliers Grixis can go wide and evade the big ground blockers that define the format. Unfortunately, hitting with multiple creatures will only result in one loot trigger per turn. Unless, of course, you get to ultimate Jace, but at that point you should be winning already.
Grixis Delver is also the deck in the format that can best take advantage of looting every turn. While no deck would turn it down, Delver lists are built around large, but varied, answer packages. Game ones can be decided by one draw step yielding a Lightning Bolt instead of a Terminate, for instance. Further, this is an archetype that simply can’t make use of excess lands, making flooding a game ender. Turning lands into spells can solidify a winning position, or even help turn a game around.
Second, Jace offers a steady supply of tokens, should they be needed. In addition to offering protection for Jace on an empty board, the Illusions fuel the planeswalker’s looting ability. Delver can only afford so many dedicated creature spots, which results in draws that feel threat-lite. 2/2 Illusions may not feel like much, but they do add to the clock, and can jump in front of larger creatures when you need to win a race.
Having versatility is key to the success of the Delver archetype, especially Grixis Delver. The deck needs to be able to fill a variety of roles. Jace, Cunning Survivor offers the kind of flexibility the archetype needs.
A couple notes on some other cards:
Claim//Fame is not something I’m completely sold on yet. I don’t think it had the splash everyone was expecting, but the synergy with Young Pyromancer is simply too good to pass up, at least for the time being. I haven’t tested this specific list, but I have run a similar version through my FNM gauntlet, where Claim//Fame has performed pretty well.
Yes, I’m only on three copies of Delver of Secrets. My creature package generally plays four Delvers and 2 Pyromancers, but I do believe Pyromancer to be incredibly well positioned right now. Going wide has a lot of value in the current format, and being able to chump block big dumb idiots out of Death’s Shadow and Eldrazi Tron is quite good.
The maindeck counterspell package is incredibly hard to build. Spell Pierce is better than Stubborn Denial in this list, but still a little suspect. Mana Leak and Countersquall are more flex slots than anything else, and there’s a legitimate argument to putting all the counterspells in the sideboard.
On the topic of the sideboard, it’s currently built mostly to fine tune specific matchups. Since the maindeck counterspells and removal aren’t good in every matchup, refine the answers package post board is essential. That being said, I could see an argument for putting cards like the second Kolaghan’s Command in the main.
Ultimately, I don’t know how good this deck will end up being. But I’m excited to test it, and other shells for this new, three mana Jace.