Legacy Delver decks: In-depth and Sideboard Guide

Pablo Carrasco
07/03/2022 · 16 min read

Legacy Delver decks: In-depth and Sideboard Guide.

Who am I?

Hello everyone, my name is Pablo Carrasco. I'm terrible at limited, but a seasoned expert in eternal formats, specifically in Legacy and Vintage on MTGO. I'm also known as burrarun on Magic Online, where I've won many Legacy and Vintage MTGO Challenges and also became the Eternal Weekend 2020 Tolarian Academy Champion.

In this first article, I'll focus on Legacy and tempo decks running Delver of Secrets. We'll learn about how to play the deck, how to get the most out of it, and the right way to sideboard against the current meta with a complete sideboarding guide. Are you ready? Let 's do it!

What is tempo?

Tempo decks have their maximum expression in Legacy. They allow us to take control of the board by obstructing our opponent's game plan using a mix of creatures, effective counter-spells, and removal, while keeping them with a low land count. In other words, our plan is simple: not letting our opponents develop their game-plan to its fullest potential and take advantage of it.

In Legacy, the existence of cards like Force of Will, Daze and Wasteland enables this type of strategy, which has made tempo decks a Tier 1 archetype since its creation.

Example "old" version of the deck from a Legacy MTGO Challenge:

- click to open the deck -

Brief History and evolution of tempo decks

Earlier versions

We have seen many blue-based tempo decks along Magic history. The first decks with this game-plan were the classic Counter-burn decks, but with the release of Odyssey and the arrival of Nimble Mongoose, everything changed.

0.02 Tix
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Its inclusion allowed the blue-tempo decks to have a disruptive turn 1 drop that was tough to kill and capable of finishing the game on its own in a few turns. After it, Canadian Threshold dominated the metagame for several years.

Innistrad and the arrival of Delver

With the arrival of Innistrad, the deck acquired a new turn one drop - This time with evasion and a relevant power after you flip it. Since then, it has been the most iconic card of the deck, we're talking about the all-time great Delver of Secrets.

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Since then, the blue-based tempo archetype has been known by its name.

Delver decks and bans

Delver decks have always been under Wizards' radar. They have the potential to get out of control easily, and we have seen many examples of it lately. In fact, blue-based tempo decks can easily  shape the metagame when they have access to the "right" cards:

  • Generating early card advantage with Dreadhorde Arcanist
    2.12 Tix
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    $1.84
  • Abusing cards like the now banned Deathrite Shaman to get easy access to mana acceleration and graveyard interaction.
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    $8.49
    $7.98
  • Or even better: doing both things at the same time  with the also recently banned Ravagan.
    34.52 Tix
    $84.99
    $72.1

Example version "abusing" Deathrite Shaman:

Delver Decks post-Ravagan

It's no surprise that Ravagan was going to be banned. And thus, Delver decks have now a new chance to reinvent themselves and adapt to the new metagame.

Let's take a look at my latest version of the deck now that Ravagan is gone ;).

UR Murktide. Builder: burrarun.MTGO - Magic Online
Top4 in MTGO Legacy Challenge #12387454 [32 Players] 13-Feb-2022
Maindeck (60)
Creature [13]
1  Brazen Borrower   // $21.99
4  Murktide Regent   $23.99
4  Dragon's Rage Channeler   $1.79
4  Delver of Secrets   // $0.49
Artifact [2]
2  Urza's Bauble   $9.99
Instant [17]
1  Pyroblast   $4.99
4  Lightning Bolt   $1.49
4  Force of Will   $109.99
4  Daze   $1.29
4  Brainstorm   $0.99
Sorcery [9]
1  Chain Lightning   $3.99
4  Ponder   $1.99
4  Expressive Iteration   $6.49
Land [19]
1  Bloodstained Mire   $39.99
1  Mountain   $0.01
2  Island   $0.01
3  Volcanic Island   $1,099.99
4  Polluted Delta   $47.99
4  Scalding Tarn   $29.99
4  Wasteland   $27.99

Sideboard [15]
1  Submerge   $5.99
1  Rough/Tumble   // $0.25
1  Red Elemental Blast   $1.49
1  Null Rod   $119.99
1  Narset, Parter of Veils   $3.49
1  Force of Negation   $54.99
1  Flusterstorm   $23.99
1  Court of Cunning   $2.79
2  Surgical Extraction   /P $19.99
2  Meltdown   $16.99
3  Pyroblast   $4.99
Buy this deck:

$598.87 Tix @cardhoarder   $14.97 / Week @cardhoarder   $n/a @tcgplayer   $4,710.77 @cardkingdom  


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Export & Save: Magic online format Apprentice and MWS .dec


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Creatures

Now that we can't play the Monkey, our best solution is to increase the Delvers of Secrets count in the deck. With them, we now have  all of the most efficient flying creatures in the format in our deck, each one fulfilling a different function. Delver of Secrets and Dragon Rage Channeler will be our early aggressions creatures, while Murktide Reagent's role will be to conclude the games in our favor.

The right turn one play

One of the most frequent questions is what is the best turn one drop: Dragon Rage Channeler or Delver of Secrets?

The short answer is that it depends on the matchup. Against combo decks, the right play is turn one Delver, since it can start dealing significant damage to our opponent faster than Dragon. On the other side, against any non-combo deck, the right play would be Dragon Rage Channeler. It will help us optimize our draws, and it fills our graveyard, getting everything ready for an earlier Murktide Reagent.

Another important aspect to consider is that, in some situations, we should keep our Delver of Secrets in hand so that we can play a Force of Will.

Finally, we must consider the interaction between Delver of Secrets and fetchlands while playing the deck. They can be really useful to help us avoid a bad draw by using them in our upkeep.

Library manipulation and card drawing

Legacy gives us access to the game's greatest library manipulation, allowing us to keep hands with even only one land!

Ponder and Brainstorm

When we take a look for the best cards to include, Ponder really shines, but in the late game, Brainstorm can function as a pseudo-ancestral recall in combination with fetchlands. Brainstorm can also be used to flip Delver of Secrets early in the game and protect our most important cards from discard spells.

We should also take into account that with the addition of Dragon Rage Channeler to the deck, both cards have increased their relevance, allowing us to quickly filter our entire deck easily.

Expressive Iteration

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Expressive iteration has improved the versatility of tempo decks, and it has also added more depth to the deck from turn three onward. It also has two major benefits: it allows us to get around key cards in the format, such as Hullbreacher or Narset, and it is the only card in our deck that provides card advantage.

All of them, along with Murktide Reagent, are the crucial cards we want to resolve in all our games. It's critical to keep an eye on our opponents' Dazes and Pyroblast to cast them at the right time.

Countermagic

In Legacy, we have access to the greatest counterspells in the game. This allows us to trade card advantage for board position, or defend ourselves from combo decks even if we're on the draw.

In the first turns, Daze will be the terror of our opponents, greatly increasing its value when combined with Wasteland. It will also allow us to counter some spells in the late game while shuffling our excess of lands. In fact, a perfect hand of a tempo deck will always include a turn one creature and a Daze.

We will use Force of Will and Force of Negation as our hard counters, they are perfect for neutralizing any combo deck while also keeping our opponents' biggest threats away.

Pyroblast is our most effective counter-spell in the deck against the majority of the decks in the format, allowing us to even destroy blue permanents. It's now our finest weapon against Kappa Cannonier, who is becoming increasingly common every day.

Removal Spells

Red offers us access to direct-damage spells, which has advantages over Fatal Push and Swords to Plowshares since they can also burn our opponent. Depending on the metagame, we may also use Chain Lightning or Unholy Heat.

Sideboard guide

When playing this deck, it's critical to know your role in the game. It will help us determine which cards we need and whether or not we should try to stabilize the board or try to win the game as fast as possible.

For this part of the article, we'll be using a popular version by Ozymandias, which made it to the top 4 in Mana Trader Series:

UR Murktide. Builder: Ozymandias17.MTG
Top4 in ManaTraders Series Legacy February 2022 [131 Players] 20-Feb-2022
Maindeck (60)
Creature [13]
1  Brazen Borrower   // $21.99
4  Murktide Regent   $23.99
4  Dragon's Rage Channeler   $1.79
4  Delver of Secrets   // $0.49
Artifact [2]
2  Mishra's Bauble   $9.99
Instant [19]
1  Pyroblast   $4.99
2  Unholy Heat   $0.25
4  Daze   $1.29
4  Force of Will   $109.99
4  Brainstorm   $0.99
4  Lightning Bolt   $1.49
Sorcery [8]
4  Expressive Iteration   $6.49
4  Ponder   $1.99
Land [18]
1  Wasteland   $27.99
1  Island   $0.01
1  Steam Vents   $23.99
1  Volcanic Island   $1,099.99
2  Scalding Tarn   $29.99
2  Misty Rainforest   $24.99
2  Polluted Delta   $47.99
2  Flooded Strand   $42.99
3  Wasteland   $27.99
3  Volcanic Island   $1,099.99

Sideboard [15]
1  Grafdigger's Cage   $2.99
1  Red Elemental Blast   $1.49
2  End the Festivities   $0.25
2  Force of Negation   $54.99
2  Narset, Parter of Veils   $3.49
2  Surgical Extraction   /P $19.99
2  Meltdown   $16.99
3  Pyroblast   $4.99
Buy this deck:

$594.20 Tix @cardhoarder   $14.86 / Week @cardhoarder   $n/a @tcgplayer   $5,680.21 @cardkingdom  


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Export & Save: Magic online format Apprentice and MWS .dec


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Other tempo decks (Delver variants)

  • The most essential element of this matchup is to determine our most powerful cards, which are Expressive Iteration and Murktide. They have an awesome performance in this match, even in game one, due to the low presence of Pyroblast in the metagame.
  • We must avoid being greedy and play Expressive Iteration with one mana open to prevent our opponents' Daze.
  • It may be worth tempting our opponent with our cantrips or low-value creatures in order to gain a tempo advantage.

On the play

  • IN: +3 Pyroblast +1 Red Elemental Blast +1 Narset
  • OUT: -3 Force of Will -1 Daze -1 Mishra Bauble

On the draw

  • IN: +3 Pyroblast +1 Red Elemental Blast
  • OUT: -2 Force of Will -2 Daze.

Death and Taxes

In this scenario, table control is critical, and we must aggressively use Force of Will versus Vial and/or Mother of Runes to prevent ourselves from falling behind on the board.

We may include a Torpor Orb in our sideboard if we expect a lot of Death and Taxes in our local tournaments.

  • IN: +1 Meltdown +2 End the Festivities
  • OUT: -1 Pyroblast -1 Daze -1 Mishra Bauble

Key cards in this matchup:

Reanimator

  • IN: +1 Grafdigger's Cage +2 Surgical Extraction +2 Force of Negation +2 Narset
  • OUT: -2 Unholy Heat  -1  Pyroblast   -2 Lightning Bolt  -2 Murktide Regent

Narset will help us find our Surgical Extraction and block your Faithless Looting. She can also be used to cast a FOW.

Key cards versus reanimator:

Jeskai Control

  • IN: +2 Narset  +1 Red Elemental Blast  +3 Pyroblast  +2 Force of Negation
  • OUT: -2 Wasteland -2 Unholy Heat  -2 Bolt - 1 Daze -1 FOW

The fact that our opponent may have easy access to basic lands makes Wasteland irrelevant. On the other hand, Force of Negation is more valuable vs jeskai control decks because it can be hard cast in this matchup.

Key cards in this matchup:

Doomsday

  • IN: +3 Pyroblast +2 Surgical Extraction +1 Narset +2 Force of Negation.
  • OUT: -2 Unholy Heat -1 Brazen Borrower -2 Murktide Regent -3 Bolt

Surgical Extraction can be used in two ways: breaking the stacked deck after a Doomsday or removing all of the Underground Seas from the game after using a Wasteland.

Key cards in this matchup:

Against URO decks

  • IN: +3 Pyroblast +1 Red Elemental Blast +2 Narset +2 Surgical Extraction.
  • OUT: -3 Daze -3 Bolt -1 FOW -1 Wasteland

Knowing that they have access to the Carpet of Flowers makes the mana denial route less appealing. That's why Pyroblast is so much more effective in this matchup.

Key cards in this matchup:

8-Cast

  • IN: +2 meltdown + 3 pyroblats +1 red elemental blast +1 narset.
  • OUT: -2 daze -2 bolt -1mishra bauble -1 delver of secrets -1 unholy heat

In this pairing our best card vs 8-cast will be Meltdown followed by Pyroblast. We need FOW to keep away from the board  an early Chalice of the Void.

Key cards in this matchup:

Lands

  • IN: +2 Force of Negation +2 Surgical Extraction +2 Meltdown +1 Narset
  • OUT: -3 Bolt -1 Unholy Heat -3 Daze

This pairing will be really difficult being the key to stop Life from the Loam with Surgical Extraction and Force of Negation.

Key cards in this matchup:

Tips and Tricks

In this section, we'll provide some of the deck's interactions for the most inexperienced players.

  • If you have an untransformed Delver and a Mishra Bauble, you must break the Bauble in your opponent's turn. So, in your upkeep, you can order the triggers as it suits you.
  • If your opponent's only available mana source is a fetchland and he casts a spell, if you have Wasteland and Daze, you can counter his spell by destroying his fetch and casting Daze in response.
  • Your deck contains more instants than any other spell, prioritize keeping these in the graveyard when you cast Murktide.

Conclusion

Even with Ragavan banned, Delver decks are still popular, and they're my personal favorites of the format.

There are topics that we can expand on in a future article, like adding an extra color, or how we can adapt our deck to our local metagame. If you're interested in them please let me know in the comments.

I hope you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'd love to hear your comments and questions. And of course,if you like it,  don't forget to share it with your friends!

                                                                                           Best regards, Pablo Carrasco

If you liked this article maybe you will also find interesting on of the following ones Ragavan and three other cards banned in Duel Commander

Pablo Carrasco
Eternal formats expert
Eternal formats expert Pablo Carrasco is known as burrarun on Magic Online. There, he's had great success in Legacy and Vintage MTGO Challenges, winning many of them. In 2020, he even took home the Tolarian Academy Championship in Eternal Weekend. Pablo is a force to be reckoned with in any eternal format!

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Published: 2022-03-07 22:50:02
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