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This Week in Legacy: The Delver Conundrum

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of This Week in Legacy! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're diving into the hubbub of the past few weeks of discussion surrounding the Delver of Secrets shells in Legacy. In addition to that we've got two Challenges to discuss, and as always a Spice Corner.

Before we get going I wanna give a shout out to the guys at ETERNAL DURDLES! Their 200th episode is now live, and I got to be a part of their celebration. Go check it out here and congrats on making it to 200!

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Delver - The Best Deck in Legacy

We're barely two weeks into Modern Horizons 2 on Magic Online, and already the Internet is rumbling on the Legacy format. Those rumblings? About these cards.

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Delver is certainly on everyone's mind as of late. The first week's results of Challenge events were very Delver heavy and Delver performance-heavy so of course the conversation has come around to the power level of the Delver shell in the Legacy format. Delver has been definitely a deck that is extremely popular and generally at the top of the metagame pretty consistently since the banning of Sensei's Divining Top (an era of which Miracles was the top deck consistently) and in many players' eyes the shell has been responsible for the bannings of several cards from Dreadhorde Arcanist to even Wrenn and Six and has been able to weather these bannings incredibly well because of the general power level of the overall shell that is Delver.

Now when we say Delver, I do have to be clear that we don't mean the card Delver of Secrets itself, although we can certainly discuss that, but Delver has become synonymous with the overall shell of cards that is built around Delver with Brainstorm/Ponder, Force of Will and Daze and now Force of Negation. This blue shell of powerful cantrips and interaction has been at the forefront of Legacy for quite some time now.

We've discussed the general power level of the Cantrip Cartel here before on this article series and we've discussed a little bit about how we feel about the general Delver shell before as well. This is nothing new to a lot of Legacy players, as this discussion has been had quite a bit in the past few weeks. Delver receiving not just two new hyper efficient threats but also a massive clock creature (Murktide Regent) definitely has exacerbated the situation and the overall conversation. If anything, Modern Horizons 2 has increased the frequency of these conversations and accelerated on the players that were already upset with Delver's prominence in the format, which was already being accelerated by the printing of Expressive Iteration in Strixhaven.

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There are a lot of suggestions at the forefront of how to correct this. I've been on record before saying that a ban targeted at Daze would be a good thing for the format. Other folks have talked at length about a ban of this nature and Daze has come up in plenty of conversations. Some have said that the bannings should be targeted at the newer cards making the problem worse (such as Expressive Iteration), some have suggested Delver itself (a notion that has sort of gotten a little worse given that we were just given two other one mana threats that are very good), and of course the eternal conversations about hitting something like Ponder.

As we'll see in our discussions on the Challenges later on here, Delver was indeed pushed back down to a sub 50% win rate over this past weekend after a strong first week performance, but I don't expect that to last long. Even being targeted, Delver has a solid way of getting around things it has always seemed. My long term expectation is that eventually Delver will work its way back into a position of strength in the format, even with the format really gunning for it. That being said, even I believe it is still too early to really tell whether we need anything to address these new printings as players are slowly figuring out what is good and what isn't in the post Modern Horizons 2 world. There's plenty to explore still with this set and Week One is generally always going to be Delver capitalizing on the fact that everyone is trying out new cards. Let's take a deep breath and consider going forward what changes could need to be made if any once we get there and not be too hasty. This set gave a lot of archetypes some real aggressive threats and flexibile answers. Cards like Prismatic Ending and Endurance are very strong for fighting Delver's current axis of low to the ground threats. We have some further cards coming in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms in the form of things like Portable Hole which are great at answering these cards.

I've always been of the mind of let's wait and see, and while I do believe that Delver is an issue systemic of the format to address (and a hard one to really fully address) I do think that because of the massive influx in cards that there might be a bigger picture to seeing how this set will long term shape Legacy. And maybe at the end of the day something does need to be touched inside the Delver shell. I do hope that something is likely Daze because a lot of the other options seem a lot less likely and a lot more costly overall to the format, and the newer cards here don't seem like they're bannable cards either.

Regardless, we should have more data and a better understanding once we're a solid month into the new normal of Legacy, and that is data I'll be continuing to promote and push so we can make more informed decisions on the state of the format.

Legacy Challenge 6/12

We're now week two in of Challenge events with Modern Horizons 2 and the first event of the weekend is the Saturday Challenge. This event, thanks to the efforts of the Legacy Data Collection project, had just 64 players in it which is the current minimum number of players for an event. In fact, it looked possibly like the event might not have fired if not for the real hero of a person who queued into it with a 56 Swamp 4 Urza's Saga deck just so the event could fire. This is on the low end at best of these events as they're typically at around 70-75 players on average. Hopefully this isn't a trend for the Saturday events.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet for this event here.

As we've continued to see, UR Delver and Delver as a whole is really well represented in these events as it is definitely a popular strategy. When you're the most popular strategy in a format, people come gunning for you though, and this week flipped the conversation on its head as players fought to metagame Delver, and well, they actually succeeded. Delver had a sub 50% win rate in this event with the most populous amount of decks at 11/64, and it was Bant Control that led the charge here, followed by GW Depths and Hogaak.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Bant Control 1st Ozymandias17
GW Depths 2nd Sharkcaster_Mage
Hogaak 3rd ecobaronen
Red Prison 4th Basuta
Sneak and Show 5th raton
UR Delver 6th cabbatsu
Elves 7th Testacular
Food Chain 8th mei0024

One Delver pilot scraped their way into this Top 8, but it was the streak and success of the Bant Control deck at the top by Matt Vook (Ozymandias17) that really took our breath away.

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Matt stated on Twitter that he built to approach the UR Delver matchup for this event, so things like main deck three copies of Endurance and also Engineered Explosives in lieu of Terminus are really pushing that angle. Endurance seems like it is poised no matter what to take point in the Bant Control lists because of how strong it is in a number of different matchups but also having a solid stat line vs Delver (a 3/4 with Reach is nothing to sneeze at). Prismatic Ending is a four-of in the entire 75 here, and it's easy to see why because of how strong the card really is.

In Second Place we've got GW Depths!

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Again we see some Endurance action, the card really is that strong after all, but also we've got some Urza's Saga in the mix as well with a main deck Retrofitter Foundry as a fetch target for it. It's super interesting seeing Retrofitter in so many lists when before it was a mainly Ninjas staple card. The card is insanely strong though so I'm happy to see it see more play.

Further down the Top 8 we've got MONKEYS AND GRISELBRAND!

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Ragavan joining the team with Sneak and Show is not quite what I expected, but I totally get it. Put a threat into play that needs to be dealt with and accelerate your mana for your Show and Tell or Sneak Attack at the same time? Seems grand.

Also in the Top 8 we've got Elves by our good friend Testacular!

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GRIST! I love this card and my limited experience with it so far is that it is really strong. I'm excited to see it make it into an Elves list. Seems really powerful there as a way of adding to creature count for Gaea's Cradle and also Wirewood Symbiote is an Insect! Also seems great for killing opposing creatures like Emrakul, etc. Removal you can Natural Order or Green Sun's Zenith for is really powerful for sure.

Just outside of the Top 8 we have a showing by Reeplcheep on CURSES!

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Definitely a solid list. I'm a big fan of Sudden Edict here. Gives this deck a really powerful way of dealing with certain threats for sure.

Further down the Top 32 we've got some MADNESS going on!

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This deck is stupendously sweet. Lion's Eye Diamond pulls its weight in spades here, enabling everything from both Rootwallas and Vengevine to Ox of Agonas. Insanely sweet deck.

Also in the Top 32 we've got a little Stax action going on!

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It warms my heart seeing actual factual Smokestack and Tangle Wire. Not going to lie.

At the bottom of the Top 32 we've got a sick Yorion GW Depths list by CoolUser.

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Cursed Scroll and Phyrexian Furnace as Urza's Saga targets is all I've ever dreamed about in life. Sick list all around.

Legacy Challenge 6/13

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the mid-afternoon Sunday event, which had 95 players in it overall.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet for this event here.

Bant Control rose in great numbers to continue to fight the Delver decks, which again had a sub 50% win rate as both it and Bant Control made up the two most popular decks in the event. Elves also performed incredibly well, and so did Hogaak.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Mono Green Cloudpost 1st into_play
Bant Control 2nd LeoFa
Hogaak 3rd yamakiller
Doomsday 4th sawatrix
Elves 5th Fu-Chan
Bant Control 6th Darthkid
Depths Combo 7th shadow_PT
Sneak and Show 8th JPA93

For once a Top 8 with zero Delver in sight, which is interesting at least to the conversation had this week on the topic of Delver. At the end of the event it was Tony Murata aka into_play that took it down on Mono Green Cloudpost!

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Yavimaya really shores up some weaknesses of this in terms of sometimes needing to create green mana and being unable to because of the lands in play. It also lets you be a little more free with Cavern of Souls and still be able to tap it for mana for Crop Rotation if you need to do so.

In Second Place we had Bant Control.

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This is much like Matt Vook's list, targeting at Delver decks specifically with cards like Engineered Explosives. The Bant players are pretty determined to make this work!

In Third Place we've got Hogaak!

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The main deck construction of this deck really doesn't change much at all, it's pretty much a well oiled machine. The sideboard options are interesting especially since Run Afoul is good against plenty of decks right now. 

At the bottom of the Top 8 we've got Depths.

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This is a pretty straightforward list. I always really enjoy seeing Rite of Consumption in the sideboards of these decks as an alternate way of winning with Marit Lage.

Outside of the Top 8 we've got some Death and Taxes!

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Not only does Solitude offer some versatility but we see our first real look at Kaldra Compleat in a list, replacing Sword of Fire and Ice (which is in the sideboard) right next to Batterskull. This is definitely a powerful equipment and I won't be surprised to see it show up in more lists going forward.

Also outside of the Top 8 we've got a sweet UW Bomberman variant that isn't a Stompy variant.

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This is sacrificing the Chalice function of the normal Bomberman variants for being able to cast Brainstorm + Ponder and countermagic. With Esper Sentinel in the mix, it's a great way to approach the archetype for sure.

Around the Web

  • Our good friend Matt Vook wrote a really solid article on the reasoning behind banning Daze in Legacy. Check it out over here.
  • THE LANDS ACHIEVEMENT SHEET! I want to see more of these for other decks now.
  • Everyday Eternal is back with Episode 103! Check it out here.
  • Leaving a Legacy had on the wonderful Rich Cali last week. Check it out here.
  • Phil Gallagher with Deadguy Ale! Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

A neat take on the Karn Echo shell with Urza's Saga. Definitely seems interesting as a more blue artifact midrange strategy without the Echo of Eons / Hullbreacher synergy at all.

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Eric Landon with the spicy Reanimator targets!

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Painter with Ruin Grinder is pretty sweet.

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Merfolk with some new cards! Tide Shaper and even Svyelun of Sea and Sky!

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Food Chain Goblins is something super sweet. This deck can easily win via infinite mana with Squee, the Immortal and Pashalik Mons.

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xJCloud with some real spice. All these cards like Squadron Hawk and Battalion Foot Soldier are great at enabling Solitude because they inherently allow you to fetch copies of themselves to your hand, giving you extra cards to pitch to Solitude.

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What I'm Playing This Week

I'm playing the UW Affinity list but also still messing around with this list as well. Seems pretty fun so far, but I haven't really had a good opportunity to see Archon of Cruelty in action much. I have seen Grist though and that card is pretty amazing.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for continuing to support the column and join us next week as we continue our journey into Legacy!

As always you can reach me at Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the /r/MTGLegacy Discord Server and subreddit.

Until next time!

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