(by Dan and Bava from MagicGatheringStrat)
The GW Auras deck that uses auras to enchant Hexproof creatures to create one giant battleship creature (sometimes called a "Vultron") is known among Pauper grinders as "Hexproof" or "Hexchant". This deck has been on a downer lately, partly because of the abundance of Temporal Fissure decks in the Pauper Daily Events. The Stormpost decks using Temporal Fissure are in turn kept in check by mono blue Delver and today we are going to discuss how well Delver and Hexproof matches up against each other.
In the blue corner: Delver by cweaver
This is the Delver deck we have discussed before. Dan did a Pauper Walkthrough with Chris here:
This is the current deck list that Dan will be playing in this matchup.
This deck is and has been for a very long time a tier one deck of the format. It is especially potent right now as many of the decks that can handle Delver (such as UB Trinket Control) are kept in check by the Temporal Fissure decks that Delver does so well against.
In the red corner: Hexproof by Deluxeicoff
Deluxeicoff had a fantastic run with this deck right after the bannings in February. Dan did an interview with him about the deck. You can watch it here: http://puremtgo.com/articles/pauper-chat-deluxeicoff
Bava has played the deck quite a bit and has a lot to say about it.
Bava: Hexproof is, at its core, a very resilient deck. It is also often uninteractive. It is an archetype that sees play in Modern and Pauper and even currently in Standard thanks to Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker. Despite its power across formats, it is still not considered a tier on deck in Pauper, though it does pop up with results in the Daily Events from time to time.
Across the board, Hexproof can beat any deck that doesn't or can't mess with its game plan. Given a few turns to get going without disruption, and a moderately decent draw, Hexproof can often swing in for 10+ by turn 4 with any combination of first strike, trample, lifelink and unblockable. That is quite hard for anyone to deal with.
The Hexproof player's least favorite land to see fall on the opponent's board is a Swamp. Edict effects don't care about targeting and we are as vulnerable as anyone else to discard and rats of various ilk, including the Crypt and Chittering varieties. Swamps are tough but not unbeatable. UB Trinket Control is a horrible matchup.
Islands are almost as bad as Swamps, but for entirely different reasons. Instead of edicts we have to worry about counterspells, either in getting one of our creatures to stick (and we do not have many) or getting an enchantment that really affects the board to stick (and stay stuck). Most of our enchantments build off each other, so while we might stick a single Ethereal Armor, it doesn't mean much unless we stick 2-3 other enchantments to power it up. Otherwise the blue mage, particularly Delver, just plain outraces us.
Match 1: Delver vs Hexproof
From Dan's Delver point of view:
From Bava's Hexproof point of view:
Match 2: Delver vs Hexproof
From Dan's point of view:
From Bava's point of view:
The Delver sideboard plan
-3 Piracy Charm, -2 Phantasmal Bear, -1 Oona's Grace, +3 Boomerang, +2 Deprive, +1 Faerie Trickery
Since the walkthrough, Chris has actually removed Boomerangs from the sideboard. He comments: "Sadly, Boomerangs are no longer in the board because hexproof is just not a big part of the metagame anymore. I still think this match is okay without them, but they give you a big edge against hexproof. You aren't using Boomerang for their lands ordinarily, they're for dangerous enchantments that make it through your counterspells."
The Hexproof sideboard plan
Bava: While I am running Deluxeicoff's Hexproof build for this article, I have, unfortunately messed with the sideboard. Anyone who has heard Deluxeicoff bash Gleeful Sabotage would know he would have nothing to do with this sideboard. So instead of the sideboard I am running, I will talk about the one he recommends (and which is listed above), which includes 3x Asha's Favor, 4 x Moment's Peace, 4x Thermokarst and 4x Standard Bearer.
Of these, Asha's Favor is good tech against Delver, with all three abilities it grants being relevant in the matchup. First strike helps us attack, while flying and vigilance helps us defend and keep us ahead in the race. Standard Bearer could be good tech depending on what your opponent is playing. Having a flagbearer in play can help against Boomerang, but it’s not very helpful against anything else they might play. Most of the time, bringing in three Asha's Favor and taking out three Bond Beetles is the extent of our sideboarding efforts against Delver.
-3 Bond Beetle, +3 Asha's Favor
What the Delver player needs to think about
Dan did discuss these matches with Chris Weaver and these are things Dan did not necessarily think about properly in the matches above.
The Hexproof deck is very fragile. It will lose because it did not get the right combination of creatures, auras and lands. We can't do anything about the lands but we have just about enough countermagic to deal with the creatures or the auras. We must choose one of these and attack only that. Chris recommends attacking creatures, then enchantments that give trample and finally other enchantments. If the Hexproof deck does not have trample, we can chump block with Faeries and race it. Often, if you counter a creature, they may not have another in hand and the enchantments will be stuck in their hand, at least for a short while. A short while is all it takes for Delver to win this. This matchup plays similar to Delver vs. other Vultron decks, such as Infect.
What the Hexproof player needs to think about
Delver doesn't run as many counters as MUC, but all of its counters are effective against us, including Spellstutter Sprite. We, in turn, have very little to disrupt the Delver gameplan (we are not, for instance, ever killing sprites with spells). Hexproof has little in the way of its own tricks. We rely, then, on sticking a creature as early as possible. Thankfully, our creatures are cheap to cast, so we can often try and power two of them onto the board on turn 2, which means we can eat a counterspell and still get something on the battlefield.
Once we stick a creature, we need to power it up. While Silhana Ledgwalker is often unblockable in other matchups, it is often just a more expensive 1/1 in this matchup, since Delver has so many flyers. That means, first off, that we don't get any cheap shots in for the early rounds, even just for one damage at a time. It also means that more often than not, a single Rancor on a Ledgewalker, isn't going to give us a good clock. We can't afford to throw our creatures away in trades, even if we do get the Rancor back. There is just too much risk that we will not be able to stick another creature, so we really have to value what we have onboard. Even assuming we have a lot of creatures, letting your Rancor return to hand and then trying to recast it might just be an invitation for Spellstutter Sprite to join the party. In short, value what you have on the board, don't make trades if you don't have to and try to cast through counterspells until you get to a board state that allows you to attack safely.
Sticking enchantments follows more or less the same rule as sticking creatures. You can, depending on your opponent's mana, try and power down two enchantments in one turn (if he's got three or fewer islands, he'll most likely only be able to counter one of your enchantments). Cast the one you want to see countered first. He may let it stick, so even if it gets through, don't assume he doesn't have the counter for the next enchantment. Of course, you have to cast it anyway to find out. If your opponent has plenty of mana on the board this works less well. Any point that he is regularly leaving four or more mana open is pretty troublesome. At this point I like to bait counters as much as possible, playing as many things as I possibly can that I don't care too much about losing, hoping I can either get him to tap out or run out of countermagic so that I can play the enchantment that will win me the game.
Counterspells aside, Delver only packs a couple of spells we need to watch out for. And since Delver decks vary so much, some of them will have all of these and some of them will not have any of them. Here are the cards to look out for:
Boomerang: I'll start with this one because while it isn't played in a lot of Delver decks it is played in the deck Dan is using and impact the matches. Boomerange is a two-fold danger. If we are dependent on a single land in play stacked up with Utopia Sprawls then a Boomerang can set our mana situation way, way back. Not only does that affect our mana, but it also lessens the value of cards like Ethereal Armor and Ancestral Mask that want lots of enchantments on the board. The other danger playing against Boomerang is that we'll think we are safe to attack with our enchanted creature, only to get one critical enchantment removed, then have the creature blocked, then our creature dies and we lose any other enchantments on it. For instance, my Gladecover Scout is sitting pretty with a Rancor and Ethereal Armor on it, making it a nifty 5/3 with first strike and trample. Our opponent as a spire golem in play, so we decide we can attack. After we declare our attack, our opponent boomerangs the Rancor, blocks the now 2/2 scout and sends it and the Ethereal Armor to the graveyard. It's at least a 2-for-1 and probably better in terms of tempo and establishing control for the Delver player. What can Hexproof do about this? My advice is not to play around it unless you know he is playing Boomerang. Like I mentioned earlier, most decks do not. If you have seen them, and know your opponent has one, adjust your attacks accordingly. It will slow you down and cost you a lot of tempo, but make sure you can attack and survive even with one of your enchantments getting bounced.
Piracy Charm: More common and easier to play around than Boomerang. We are looking at the discard effect, here. If you know your opponent is playing these, pay attention to how much land you need in play and keep extra land in your hand. That way you don't have to discard those precious enchantments/creatures you are hoarding up to try to get through his counterspells. Chris's sideboard plan against Hexproof is to take out three of the charms and two bears, adding the Boomerangs and more countermagic, so you may see the Charms in game one and may or may not see them after that.
Fade Away: Its pretty rare to see these in Delver but its another card to think about. Don't play around it unless you know your opponent is packing it, at which point think about whether or not you are leaving any mana open.
Curfew: A more common card in Delver sideboards, but still not highly played. Play around this like you do around sacrifice effects, e.g. make sure you have at least a couple creatures on the battlefield before you go suiting up one with a ton of enchantments.
Enchantments that will win Hexproof the game
The enchantments Hexproof need to win will vary. As the Hexproof player, you almost always want trample from either Rancor or Armadillo Cloak. To avoid trading you also either need first strike via Ethereal Armor or enough straight up toughness that you can power through the Delver defenders. So I guess the winning formula is usually something like this: Hexproof guy and (Rancor or Armadillo Cloak) and (Ethereal Armor or Ancestral Mask). Essentially we are a three-piece combo deck trying to get our combo together through countermagic.
Closing thoughts from Dan & Chris
Chris has this matchup at 60/40 for Delver and that might very well be accurate. This was the first time I played the matchup and as it is quite different from other Delver matchups, the Delver player is rewarded for practice.
Chris had the following to say about the first match:" I think Game 1 was winnable, but the way it would have had to play out would have been an entirely different game. i.e. lead off with a Brainstorm(since you know he's on hexproof), then play Cloud of Faeries and leave up counter protection for his creatures. Hexproof operates on a similar principle as Infect, pumps without creatures are worthless, so it's best to not let creatures hit the table. If you have to, swing with creatures until it's mandatory you block."
Closing thoughts from Bava
I think this is a pretty even matchup. I hate to say it but I think a lot depends on the luck and the draw each player gets. Delver needs to have counterspells at the right time or a Boomerang when it matters or the Hexproof player can kill him in just a couple turns. Hexproof needs its combination of cheap creatures and cheap enchantments and it needs to stick them early before Delver can get control. This is a matchup where the first few turns mean a lot; it's not impossible for either deck to come back if it gets off to a bad start, but it is incredibly challenging.
More Pauper Content from MagicGatheringStrat
Pauper Walkthroughs: Simic Stormpost with ShaffaWaffa5
Pauper Walkthroughs: UB Trinket Control with Power T
Pauper Walkthroughs: Stompy with Deluxeicoff
A Pauper Chat with Deluxeicoff (partly about Hexproof)
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