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.
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.
|Izzet Delver by stainerson, 1st at Legacy Challenge #12299442|
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!
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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