December 4th, 2011
Another FNM, another report. I played UR Delver because I really like counter-burn strategies (I played CounterHammer back when that was a deck in Standard, and then CounterPhoenix in Rath Block Constructed), and haven’t really had a viable shot at one for a long time, so when I saw this list online I figured I had to give it a whirl. I played pretty close to the original list:
It’s 61 cards because I meant to take out one Island for a Ghost Quarter but I miscounted and didn’t realize it until I was shuffling up for the first match. I should have stopped and fixed it, but I didn’t. My bad.
If I had had more time beforehand I would have tried to work in a couple copies of Desperate Ravings which seems good in this deck, but I really didn’t have time to tinker with it and wasn’t sure what to take out. As has been the norm lately, I didn’t have a chance to playtest it at all beforehand and played it cold. I know, I know, that’s a horrible strategy, but it’s where I am life-wise right now.
5 rounds, cut to top 8.
Round 1: Michael, playing homebrew Naya Golems
I have to say that I don’t know very much about this deck. I guess he did OK with it overall, but mostly what I saw out of it was land. Both games he cast Rampant Growth on turn 2 to get his third color and thereafter mostly drew land. Game 1 he dropped an Adaptive Automaton naming “golem” and I never saw another creature. Game 2 I got turn 1 Delver, flip, turn 3 Delver, flip on a Galvanic Blast. I hit him down to 7, he cast Day, I Volleyed him down to 2 and Blasted for the win. I took zero damage total. Good start on luck and did kill pretty quickly both games, but not exactly a strong test of the deck.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Zack, playing GB homebrew
Zach is maybe 15 years old and a slightly awkward teen, but basically a good kid as far as I can tell. Game 1 I flashed in a Snapcaster early to either counter or burn something and he got in a few times before eating some removal spell, which I followed up with another one, then a Delver which I flipped off a Ponder, then finished with burn. Game 2 was more about permission and removal on my end, letting me poke away with little guys until I had him at 5 and won on a Volley. First point of note: this deck definitely punishes bad decks.
2-0 matches, 4-0 games
Round 3: Paul, playing RDW
Paul is a good player and definitely knows how to pilot RDW, which is not as brainless as many people think. Game 1 we had a good back-and-forth but in the end he drew more burn than I did, which isn’t really a surprise, and he took it home while still at 7 life. Game 2 I was very land-light, stuck on 3 for many turns, but he got flooded and my early Snapcaster (brought back a Blast) went most of the way. Game 3 was awful. He got a really fast start, I didn’t, and my Delver sat for four turns in a row of drawing land. I did not get there, but overall it was a close match, as game 1 really could have gone either way.
2-1 matches, 5-2 games
Round 4: Weylin, playing Haunted Humans
Weylin is also a strong player and the Humans deck can be very good; he smashed me with it last time I played FNM. Game 1 I got a turn 1 Delver and flipped it turn 2, burned all his guys as they came out, and finished him off with another Volley. Game 2 he got the god draw, or at least a very good one: Champion of the Parish on turn 1 and a second Champion and a Doomed Traveler on turn 2, then a Grand Abolisher. I never really caught up with that. Game 3 was closer, and we both made some small mistakes that might have swung it. I opened with a Stromkirk Noble, him with a Traveler. I know his turn 2 was another Traveler but turn 3 he went for Geist of Saint Traft and I Leaked it. (That was his mistake.) I followed with a second Noble and he followed with a Grand Abolisher (which is what he should have used to draw out the Leak). We exchanged blows a bit, he got my larger Noble with an O Ring and then I drew all three Phoenixes. I did screw up in that something died when I had a Volley in hand and I volleyed the Abolisher rather than sending 5 at him, but the three Phoenixes were too much in the air for him to keep up and I won anyway.
3-1 matches, 7-3 games
Round 5: ID
My opponent did the math, figured out we’d both be in, and so I accepted the ID. This turned out to be a mistake, because my 10 year old was 2-2 but won in the fifth round and finished 9th. If I had played, then he would have gotten in ahead of the loser of my match. (He was playing mono-Black Infect, by the way.)
Quarterfinals: Joe, playing UB Control
Joe is almost certainly the best regular player in the store and my nemesis—I rarely beat him, because he’s better than me. It’s a game with luck, sure, but there’s enough skill difference here that it matters. Anyway, his build has Reassembling Skeleton and Sword of Feast and Famine, plus the usual suite of counters, card draw, and spot removal, a very tricky matchup. I mulled to six and kept a one-lander because it had three Delvers in it. Unfortunately, I could not get one to flip and Joe had all the early answers he needed for them (he runs Dead Weight main and had one, as well as a Ratchet Bomb, ugh) and even with a Ponder in the opener, I failed to get on enough early pressure and then fell too far behind in the land race. Game 2 was more competitive, as I got in a few hits here and there and had a Phoenix running, but he managed to get a Wurmcoil Engine, though he tapped out for it. He was at 6 life and I didn’t have the damage I needed to finish him. The only answer I had in my hand was a Vapor Snag, and what I should have done was Snag the Wurmcoil right away, rather than letting him untap and doing in response to combat, since he just Leaked the Snag. The six life he gained was enough to keep him out of burn range for a bit, and I never got there, ultimately dying to the 6/6. i probably should have won that game. Oops.
3-2-1 matches, 7-5 games
So, not bad, but certainly not great. Rounds 3 and 4 could easily have gone the other way. I probably could have won game 2 in the quarters if I hadn’t punted, but I still think the UB deck has the edge in game 3, at least against this build.
So, the deck. It’s a style I love, but I’m not in love with this specific build. Some thoughts:
• Galvanic Blast, which is really Shock in this deck, is really subpar. Incinerate isn’t l that great, either. This deck wants Lightning Bolt so badly it’s painful. If I were to play this again, I’d cut the Shocks completely, probably cut the Incinerates to 2 or 3, and run some mix of Arc Trail, Gut Shot, and maybe Geistflame.
• I have mixed feelings about Stromkirk Noble. When he’s good (turn 1, vs. humans), he’s fantastic, but otherwise he’s underwhelming.
• Brimstone Volley is amazing, but a little costly for this deck. 3 might be enough.
• Ponder is great with Delver, of course, but not so hot otherwise. I’d go to 3 and run a couple Desperate Ravings as well.
• I didn’t really like the sideboard all that much. Going to 4 Nobles vs. Haunted Humans was great and and Arc Trail very good in multiple matchups, and Flashfreeze has its place, too, but otherwise I’m not so sure. Manic Vandal and Steel Sabotage seem especially suspect.
Of course, I wrote this, and then a UR Delver list made top 4 of the SCG Open in St. Louis. That list is pretty interesting in that it completely foregoes Stromkirk Noble and uses a burn package more like what I’d switch to. The loss of Noble means the deck can lean on more blue mana and can thus support the Psychic Barriers, but seems like it might make Phoenix harder to cast. I like the sideboard Ancient Grudge plan but I’m not sure about 2 main deck Satchels. Don’t get me wrong, I love Satchel, but that seems like a sideboard card vs. control decks more than a main deck choice; I’d probably swap for the Arc Trails. The loss of Noble also seems like it’d make the deck softer to Humans, but I guess that’s what Mental Misstep is in the board for, and main deck Gut Shot probably also helps.
Anyway, it’s a great deck to play and I think it has solid potential to keep evolving well as the format evolves. The format, by the way, is fantastic. There are so many viable deck choices right now; the format feels completely wide open, and I love that.