Vs UR Delver
(last updated 5/31/18)
Best cards (side): Path to Exile and other additional removal
Revoker targets: Likely none, possibly Grim Lavamancer
Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Numbers: 1
Deck Strategy and Key Cards
UR Delver is somewhere between a tempo deck and a burn deck in terms of its archetype. Like other tempo decks of the format, it takes advantage of free and inexpensive spells (e.g. Daze and Force of Will) to press an early advantage. Unlike the other Delver decks though, it does not fight on the mana axis. You won’t usually find cards like Stifle or Wasteland here. Instead you’ll find a hearty burn package. Cards like Price of Progress and Fireblast give the deck far more reach than your typical Delver decks.
UR Delver is sort of an interesting deck in that it is particularly customizable. You can build a very sleek and efficient deck or you can opt to go bigger for a stronger end game. This is largely due to the flexible creature base of UR Delver. Monastery Swiftspear, Delver of Secrets, and Stormchaser Mage form the core of this creature base, but from there, there’s really quite a bit of variation. Hyper aggressive builds might include Goblin Guide, midrange builds might opt for Grim Lavamancer, Snapcaster Mage, or Young Pyromancer, and then there are end game bombs like True-Name Nemesis, Cryptic Serpent, and Bedlam Reveler as well. Now you obviously won’t see all of these in any one deck, but these are the options. Your average UR Delver deck is probably going to run somewhere between about 12 and 14 creatures, so expect two or three of these flex creatures in any given build.
UR Delver is not a deck that gets a ton of respect in the Legacy format. It’s often seen as a budget deck or a gateway deck to other Delver variants. While that is true to a certain extent, UR Delver sometimes gets kills from seemingly unwinnable spots and absolutely needs to be respected as a real contender, even if it isn’t necessarily tier one all the time. With a couple of prowess creatures on board and a few lands, cantrips leading into more cantrips actually represents a huge amount of damage. Combined with free spells like Gitaxian Probe and Fireblast, the deck sometimes can generate silly amounts of damage in a single turn. You probably aren’t as safe as you think you are at any given time. The deck effectively plays 8 copies of Lightning Bolt and more copies of burn spells beyond that. “If they just don’t draw a burn spells this turn, I’ll win!” Good luck with that…
The Matchup and Important Interactions
You have the inevitability in this matchup, but your opponent is going to come out of the gates much faster than you. It’s your goal to stabilize the board and let your higher quality cards take over the game. The issue here is that the creatures in UR Delver can be a real pain to block. Flying in the early turns on the game is tricky for us, and prowess makes blocking largely unprofitable even for creatures like Thalia that normally wall early threats! Do not be afraid to throw away creatures on blocking duty, especially Revoker, who isn’t likely to do much of anything here.
In game one scenarios, it’s very difficult for UR Delver players to beat any piece of equipment that actually connects. In most cases, you opponent will have no way to get the equipment off the board. They can try to stall via blockers or burn you out, but that’s about it. Once you’ve put the Delver deck on the defensive, things should be turning heavily in your favor. Similarly, Thalia and Sanctum Prelate often tax the opponent’s resources so much that it is difficult to do much of anything productive.
Be aware of your own lands in this matchup. Price of Progress can range from a dead card against you to a monstrous spell that does 10 or 12 damage. Generally speaking, playing out your basics first in this matchup is highly preferable, and as the game goes on, when you can, leave a Wasteland untapped to destroy your own lands in case of emergency.
I also like to consider how much damage my opponent can likely deal to me each turn. Now, I know that sounds obvious, but once prowess creatures and free spells like Fireblast jump into the picture, things get a little more murky. When you have the option to play it safe or take a risk in this matchup, I often take the more conservative line. You need one body and one piece of equipment to win this matchup. Many of your resources are expendable, and if you view your cards as acting as Healing Salve, it actually doesn’t feel too bad to throw them away for little value.
Many recent builds of D&T have started running more 3 drop creatures over Serra Avenger, which did have a serious impact on this matchup. It was our only creature that served both a strong offensive and defensive role in this matchup, and it was our only 2 drop flier for Vial.
The core of your deck is very good against UR Delver, so you probably won’t sideboard more than about five or six cards in most cases. Phyrexian Revoker is certainly the worst maindeck card. I also think Recruiter of the Guard is way too slow here to matter. You’ll want to bring in any additional removal you have, likely including the slower Council’s Judgment; while it isn’t ideal removal, it does deal with some problematic cards on the other side of the table like Null Rod or Sulfuric Vortex. Ethersworn Canonist also buys you considerable time in this matchup, so I’d bring those in as well.
The UR Delver player is likely to bring in a few things to deal with your equipment, most notably Smash to Smithereens. That card is devastating and, quite frankly, often proves impossible to beat. A Smash in response to your equipping a Jitte usually feels like a Time Walk that does you three damage. You can play around this to some extent with patience and taxing their resources, but since we are on the defensive in many cases, time isn’t necessarily a luxury we have. Otherwise you may see Null Rod, Pithing Needle, or Abrade as additional or alternative hate.
Your opponent likely has a couple of annoying things in the sideboard for this matchup. These can range from additional creatures like True-Name Nemesis, Grim Lavamancer, and Izzet Staticaster to things that will eat your creatures like Forked Bolt, Rough, or Sulfur Elemental.
This matchup is won and lost on very narrow margins. Mistakes on either side are very costly. Matchups frequently come down to just a couple of life points in either direction, so decisions about where to point burn spells can be very tricky for your opponent. Manage your life total, and try to have a picture of where the game is going to go over the next few turns.
Game one is significantly easier than the post-sideboard games. When your opponent has no answers to Jitte, life is good. Outside of that, generally speaking, we are going to be favored on games where we are on the play and unfavored on games on the draw. I frequently find myself winning games 1 and 3 of this matchup. Don’t be afraid to mulligan your average and slower hands. Opening hands that contain Vial are considerable better than those that don’t here, and the same can be said of hands with Thalia and Stoneforge. Overall, this matchup is probably favorable, but I’m not particularly happy to be paired against this deck.
Data as of 5/31/18
Win rate with WW D&T: 4-1 (80%)
Win rate with RW D&T: 1-0 (100%)