New Delve Delirium Delver Dominates Legacy


Modern Horizons 2 may not be out on paper yet, but its impact has already shaken Legacy to the core. Two new red one-drops and an improved blue Tombstalker left Blue-Red Delver the big winner of the first online tournaments. Is it finally time to nerf the most iconic deck of the format? Let's find out!

dragon's rage channeler

The most anticipated set of the year is here not just to change Modern forever. It has already landed in Legacy too, just like the first Modern Horizons did. However, this time it's not about undercosted planeswalkers like Wrenn and Six or scary graveyard shenanigans such as Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Rather, some cheap and efficient creatures have snuck into the most successful and arguably most hated shell of the format, the one that so far relied mainly on Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration for early beatdown.

For today's menu, let's review the new look of Blue-Red Delver, the reasons why the deck dominated the first tournaments, and what else is new here. At the end, I'm also chiming in on the oppressively omnipresent ban discourse.

A New Cast of Creatures


Let's kick things off with some numbers: The first Legacy Challenge after the introduction of the new cards yielded a Top 8 that was 50% Blue-Red Delver. At the second, three copies of the deck made Top 8, two made it to the finals, and overall it claimed 37.5% of the Top 32 ranks.

What caused this surge in popularity and performance? Well, it seems like a new trio greatly improved the deck's creature suite, largely displacing every other creature but Delver itself.

Not so long ago, the creature suite was made up of Delver, Young Pyromancer, and the now banned Dreadhorde Arcanist. Delver is always the best creature in the deck, but other than that, you can forget everything about these old creatures as well as those that tried to find a place in the meantime: Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft, Sprite Dragon, Ethereal Forager, or even past all-stars like True-Name Nemesis. Modern Horizons 2 has given us some new kids on the block—and they're on the attack!

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

ragavan ragavan

I bet nobody expected Kari Zev's pet to become one of the faces of the set. To me, this Monkey Pirate feels like a hybrid between Goblin Lackey and Robber of the Rich on steroids and may as well be the most impactful card among the three new additions. Ragavan feels like a Lackey/Robber because, if uncontested, it starts to generate both card and mana advantage, stealing your opponent's spells and creating Treasure tokens.

It works especially well in Legacy because most common spells are so cheap. And it fits so formidably into Delver because you can both protect it with your free spells and clear a path for it with cheap removal. My guess is this card is going to reshape the format such that you start games by considering if you have an answer for the Monkey or not. As if that weren't enough, it also comes with the dash ability, so that copies topdecked in the late game can have an immediate impact too.

Dragon's Rage Channeler

Dragon's Rage Channeler

This is another one-mana value Human to back up Delver with two interesting paragraphs of text. First, it surveils every time you cast a noncreature spell, an ability that is trivially easy to trigger here: each cantrip, counterspell, or burn spells can now add two cards to the graveyard, and you want to make use of that ability liberally. A full graveyard turns the Channeler into a tougher Insectile Aberration (relevantly immune to Forked Bolt) and also helps us cast huge Dragons quickly—it channels Dragons after all.

As if that weren't enough, surveil helps to flip Delver and improves cantripping, especially in combination with Brainstorm, so you don't get yourself Brainstorm-locked. But the following card remains the (literally) biggest reason why we need surveil …

Murktide Regent

murktide regent murktide regent

Hitting delirium with a deck that only includes four card types, all while exiling five cards to pay for Murktide Regent's delve cost, may sound like a tall order but evidently works (and works well). Notably, all of the deck's creatures can take over a game on their own, so often, when one fails, gets stopped, or destroyed, you can also shift gears and switch from a delirium plan to a delve plan. And when it comes to closing games, what could be better than a big, bad Dragon?

The closest comparison to a previous card is Tombstalker, the first delve creature that terrorized Legacy during the early years of the format but later lost its place amid creatures' power creep. Not only is Regent a full mana cheaper, it can also grow larger than a 5/5. It naturally replaces the previous blue delve flier, Ethereal Forager; even if the Elemental Whale offers some card advantage when it attacks, the 3/3 body pales in comparison to what Murktide Regent starts out as, easily a 4/4 and sometimes up to a 7/7.

Indeed, the Dragon can keep growing! If you cast a second copy, the first one in play will benefit from the instant and sorceries exiled in the process. You could even take advantage of a sideboard option such as Relic of Progenitus here.

murktide regent

What Else Is New?

Aside from the newcomers themselves, there is not much else that changed. The archetype simply runs the best and most efficient spells available to the "Prismari" color combination, the mandatory eight free counterspells backed up with some Force of Negation, alongside the best one-mana value cantrips everyone knows. Lately, Preordain has been removed and rapidly replaced by Expressive Iteration, the best and most impactful addition from Strixhaven, which usually ends up being a two-mana draw-two spell.

expressive iteration forked bolt

In the removal suite we find the usual Lightning Bolt complemented by another burn spell. Traditionally often Chain Lightning, now it seems that the format has evolved such that Forked Bolt is a much better choice than all alternatives, as it can still deal with opposing Delvers while opening up opportunities to get some two-for-ones in the mirror by killing Ravagan and Channeler at the same time.

Regarding new sideboard technology, Meltdown and Shattering Spree show up in several lists to deal with the new and improved Affinity shells buffed by Esper Sentinel, Thought Monitor, Nettlecyst, and the absurdly large Urza's Saga's tokens while taking care of Chalice of the Void, one of the best answers to our strategy. Some sideboards also pack Court of Cunning as an alternate win condition for the mirror that enables delirium and makes it easier to cast Regent by milling ourselves. Experiencing an increase in popularity too is Gut Shot, which makes for an ideal answer to Ravagan and Channeler on the draw or when playing around Daze.

Wrapping Up. Bannings Ahead?

This is just the beginning. There are tons of Modern Horizons 2 cards with an incredible potential to test out in Legacy. Alas, everything goes so fast in the internet era that some people are already clamoring for bannings targeting Delirium Delver, due to the success of the newest iteration. With three efficient one-mana threats that can be protected at barely any drawback, maybe, is time to get rid of Daze?

Personally, I don't think that would be a good idea. If anything, it is far too soon to ask for a ban. Let's give the metagame some time to adjust, and if anything should be done in the end, please Wizards, choose the newly printed cards that are pushed too far rather than the iconic cards we all love to have in our favorite format.

Anyway, that's all for today. Please share your thoughts on the new Delver and the discourse around it in the comments below. As usual, thanks for reading—until next time.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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vimcc(23.06.2021 09:27)(Edited: 23.06.2021 09:27)

The fact that you can almost play this deck in Modern (except iconic cards from Legacy like ponder, brainstorm or wasteland) is proof that the power creep is real. I personally feel like you said "My guess is this card is going to reshape the format such that you start games by considering if you have an answer for the Monkey or not". I think the design of Ragavan is pushed too far, you should be able to get a treasure/steal the top card of your opponent library but not both. I love the pirate flavour about "stealing" things tho, and the art is just awesome.

eternalphoenix(19.06.2021 23:46)

The powercreep is real... Wizards gone too fast too far. Powercreep is a problem in many fields not only Magic and given the age of the game it comes natural we will always get v2. 0 of a already decent card, giving it any minor bonus over the original to make it a "straight up better card". But looking at the format over the last 2-3 years shows a worrying trend in my opinion. We dont talk about 1-2 format breaking cards we talk about several cards per set (i think those cards we discuss here are not as bad as wrenn and six or hogaak, but still) - and we only talk about legacy here... Standard is broken on a regular schedule by now, just not powerfull enough to bring change in Legcy (yet) but still enough to influence modern at times.
Maybe its time to make room for "new" strategies instead of giving the already known strategies even better options. But I know thats way easier said than done.

RonePro(21.06.2021 16:47)

@eternalphoenix: very interesting insight; lately it seems Wizards is having hard times designing new cards and instead of creating new archetypes based on a mechanic, they simply create one or two cards with that mechanic superior to the rest (I am talking about Escape and Uro). I personally miss the Affinity and Madness times,

Peacefulfrog(09.07.2021 02:51)

But they do design new mechanics regularly, don't they?
Like Eldraine has Food and Adventure, Icoria has Mutate, Strixhaven has Lessons and there's plenty more than I can think of right now.
It seems to me that, more often than not, mechanics are being dropped and forgotten after an expansion or two, receiving a few cards here and there at best. Only rarely they revive something like Morph or Cycling. Like, why bother becoming invested in something like Mutation, Party, or the new DnD Spiel in the first place?

legolto(16.06.2021 17:33)

This deck will just make turn 1's "Chalice of the void = 1" wayyyyyy more powerful ;)

RonePro(21.06.2021 16:45)

@legolto; INDEED!!! Chalice players should enjoy this new Delver shell without any bouncing effect in the main. Thanks for your comment :)

Negace(16.06.2021 16:13)(Edited: 16.06.2021 16:31)

I fully agree it is still very early to make any judges. Metagame just need to adapt, as you wrote. We can remember when BR Reanimator terrorized the field for a month before everyone got ready for it. Honestly, I think this is still far from power of Izzet Delver with Dreadhorde Arcanist. Without Pyromancer or Drake, such build is much more fragile to cards like Leyline of the Void. And those sees play a lot. Half of the threads would be useless or even uncastable with Leyline on the table. And the decklist above does not have a single answer to that permanent (or Rest in Peace). No Brazen Borrower, no Echoing Truth,... The bans. Recently, legacy got flooded with combo decks. Delver archetype keeps combo decks in line for ages. I would be really surprised if there will be any bans mentioned in the article. I would be really disappointed too.

RonePro(21.06.2021 16:43)

@Negace, thanks for your comment I really enjoyed it! You are totally right, with both Channeler and Regent, Leyline of the Void suddenly becomes a problem; as you mention, hopefully we won't suffer any bannings in Legacy for a while

SRADracer(16.06.2021 14:07)

People always call for bans when a new set arrives and some cards are in a deck that wins 1 challenge

RonePro(21.06.2021 16:41)

@SRADracer: That's totally right, we are now used to that behaviour, but I am confident that the metagame will adapt (more chalice decks) and ultimately, the next set can fix the issue with new cards.

suneloon(16.06.2021 09:38)

Great read! Thx! This is very spot on: "please Wizards, choose the newly printed cards that are pushed too far rather than the iconic cards we all love to have in our favorite format." I think a lot of Legacy players feel this way.

RonePro(21.06.2021 16:38)

@suneloon: thank you so much for your comment; as a Legacy lover, I am happy to see other players think the same about protecting old cards from the sins of new ones. Cheers.