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By: gwyned, gwyned
Nov 02 2011 12:06pm
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I. Introduction

Welcome to this special Monday Pauper Deck Challenge Double Feature. Innistrad has at last come to Standard Pauper, and with it the rotation of Standard, creating a brand new metagame that promises to be quite a different experience from what has come before. Last week, I gave a quick summary of my thoughts going into the new season and highlighted what I saw as the potential new decks to emerge. Although I predicted that Aggro strategies would be more pronounced in the new metagame, as it turns out viable Control options may emerge more quickly than I anticipated. In Part One of this double feature, I want to cover one such decklist that I piloted to a Top 4 finish in MPDC 15.01, which I have tentatively nicknamed Izzet Delver.

One of the more interesting 'flip' cards to be released in Innistrad is Delver of Secrets, and it is for this particular card that this deck is named. As you will see, the power of this card is dependent upon the number of useful Instants and Sorceries one can squeeze into the deck. At least in Standard Pauper, the colors that typically have the strongest set of these cards are Blue and Red, which in combination is otherwise known as Izzet, named after the guild in Ravnica that combined these two colors. Hence this deck's moniker, Izzet Delver. Now, with that bit of nomenclature out of the way, let's take a look at how this deck shaped up.

But before we get to that, let me remind you that the goal of this series is to highlight relevant information about the Standard Pauper format from the results of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, commonly referred to as MPDC. MPDC is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. You can also check out any of my previous articles by clicking here.

II. The Decklist

Izzet Delver
played by gwyned in MPDC 15.01
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Aether Adept
2 Spire Monitor
9 cards

Other Spells
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Incinerate
4 Think Twice
3 Chandra's Outrage
3 Mana Leak
3 Silent Departure
2 Cancel
27 cards
12 Island
8 Mountain
4 Shimmering Grotto
24 cards

Spire Monitor

III. Building the Deck

As I mentioned above, in order to take full advantage of Delver of Secrets one is required to have a large number of Instants and Sorceries in the decklist. This is somewhat counterintuitive for Pauper, as the format in general is much more dependent on Creatures than other formats. Since the deck would not be able to utilize a large number of creatures to win the game, I was left with two other options: 1) Include a large number of permission spells to protect the Delver and ride it all the way to victory; or 2) Find another path to victory. Since milling or decking strategies are almost never good in Pauper, and since Infect is too creature intensive, the only victory condition left outside of Creatures is to burn an opponent out. This would require dedicating many of the card slots to burn spells, greatly reducing the number of other control elements the deck would be able to include.

Once this decision was made, it was time to figure out which spells were going to be the most effective for this strategy. Here's the cards that made the cut:

1. With the loss of Foresee, I wanted to find a strong card-drawing and card-filtering option, and Forbidden Alchemy is currently the only real option for this effect. While keeping the best of your four next cards is certainly good on its own, that in itself is far weaker than Foresee, since one only gets access to one of the cards. The fact that it can be replayed using Flashback helps negate this disadvantage somewhat, but it was quickly apparent that my best choice was going to be including as many other cards with Flashback as possible. If even one of the three cards that ended up in the Graveyard could still be cast, this is enough, in my opinion, to boost Forbidden Alchemy up to the level of Foresee. On a sidenote, since I did not plan on playing Black, this also meant that I would need to include Shimmering Grotto so that I could eventually pay the Flashback cost.

2. Knowing that I wanted to include Flashback spells, Think Twice and Silent Departure were then obvious inclusions. Think Twice, while not as overtly powerful as Divination, has the advantage of being an Instant, allowing one to hold up mana for other spells and then cast it at the end of your opponent's turn if no other action is needed. Similarly, while Silent Departure is not as strong as Unsummon since it can only be cast at Sorcery speed, the fact that you can get a second use out of it makes it surprisingly effective. Its ability to delay an opponent and even reset Bloodthirst or Transform cards would prove time and time again to be an important part of staying alive long enough to burn an opponent out.

3. Next, I needed to figure out which Burn spells I wanted to include in the list. With the loss of Lightning Bolt, the next best options were Incinerate and Brimstone Volley. Both of these, while a bit costly, are excellent removal, with the latter having the important advantage of becoming a virtual Lava Axe assuming you can activate Morbid. I considered including Geistflame, but its low power led me to relegate it to the Sideboard, despite the fact that it otherwise seemed a perfect fit for this deck. After also considering Shock, I ended up instead including Chandra's Outrage, for its ability to hit both a creature and an opponent as well as being one of the few ways to deal with an opposing Stitched Drake, which I expected to face often.

4. With my card slots dwindling, I went ahead and examined all of the counter spells that existed in the format. With the loss of Deprive, and lacking any Artifacts for Stoic Rebuttal, I ended up with Mana Leak and Cancel in the main deck and Negate and Psychic Barrier in the Sideboard. The fact that I was including so many other Instants in the deck made this permission suite much more effective, since I could simply cast other cards if an opponent's turn did not warrant counterspells.

5. Finally, I decided that it would be wise to include at least a few other creatures to give me some more options to delay an opponent while I assembled enough damage to defeat my opponent. Aether Adept is perfectly suited for this role, giving one an effective 2/2 body while also delaying development on the opposite side of the virtual Battlefield. Additionally, ever since the release of New Phyrexia, I have been looking for a list than can make effective use of Spire Monitor. While not great against an opponent with lots of removal, the ability to ambush an opponent with its Flash mechanic seemed to have a good deal of synergy with the other effects I was including in the decklist.

IV. Decklist Strategies

Izzet Delver is very much a Control deck; probably further down the Control end of the spectrum than most other decks I've played. Much like some of the "Draw, Go" decks common at one time in Standard, it is not usual for one to take no action on your turn other than to draw a card. Ideally, one finds a Delver of Secrets within the first couple turns, flips it immediately on the next turn, and then is able to protect it for the next several turns while it strikes for a significant amount of damage. Given that almost half of the cards in the deck are Instants or Sorceries, your odds of flipping a Delver are very high. However, this is by no means necessary. Aether Adept and Silent Departure are both capable of delaying an opponent's development for several turns, and Mana Leak is even better in this role early in the game. In fact, once an opponent knows that you are playing multiples, often he or she will wait for the extra three mana before casting a vital spell, giving you time to generate significant card advantage even if you don't actually have a Leak in hand. More often than not, one can simply pass the turn back holding up enough mana for some sort of permission spell, and instead cast Think Twice, Forbidden Alchemy, or a burn spell at the end of your opponent's turn if he or she fails to play anything significant. By using these tactics of delay to build up a significant advantage in cards, one eventually assembles enough burn to finish off an opponent. To this end, even a few points of damage from the few creatures that this deck plays can prove important. Since the deck's primary plan is to finish off an opponent with burn spells, one wants to be selective in the number of such spells that are 'wasted' by targeting a creature instead. Knowing when and where to use burn spells and when one of your bounce effects is a better choice is one of the more difficult decisions that has to be made.

One trick that I will discuss in my videocast is first using Incinerate to take out a powerful creature, and then immediately targeting a Brimstone Volley at your opponent. Due to Morbid, the Brimstone Volley will do almost as much damage as both the Incinerate and the Volley would have done alone without Morbid, extending the use of your burn spells. This is also why Chandra's Outrage fits well in this deck, acting as a potent removal spell for almost any creature your opponent could cast while also doubling as a Shock to your opponent's Life Total.

For the Sideboard, I included Lava Axes to give the deck additional reach, as it is likely that your opponent will side in additional Life Gain to counter your suite of burn spells. Manic Vandal is a strong metagame choice right now, given the large amount of Artifacts that are present. In this case, Sylvok Lifestaff is probably your best target, as this card alone is capable of almost blanking your burn spells. Negate and Psychic Barrier give you some additional choices for permission-style effects, allowing you to usually side out Cancel for these cheaper spells that strike at whichever part of your opponent's strategy is giving you the most trouble. Finally, assuming your opponent is playing several creatures with 1 Toughness, Geistflame becomes a premium removal spell and one well worth its place.

V. The Match



VI. Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this Standard Pauper Deck Tech on this unique decklist. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is only Part One of my Monday Pauper Deck Challenge Double Feature. In Part Two, I will bring you the finals from MPDC 15.01, including a look at both decklists and a videocast of the match. But for now, let me remind you that if you would like a sneak peak at my content before it goes live here at, you can always browse over to, search for "gwyned42," select one of my video-casts, and click the Subscribe button. You can also now follow me on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Let me also extend a special thanks to all my fellow Standard Pauper players who have taken the time to thank me for these articles. I truly believe that Standard Pauper is an important format for Magic Online, and I also enjoy the opportunity to meet new Standard Pauper players and help them jump into this format. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts, watch the videos, and comment on my articles. See you soon for Part Two!

VIIl. Bonus Content

While I have been fairly happy with the way that Delver played out in my first run with it at MPDC 15.01, there are a couple other cards that I believe I passed over during my deckbuilding that probably deserve a space within the deck, or at least within the Sideboard. Here are the three that I am currently considering:

1. One of the weaknesses that was revealed is the deck's inability to really deal with swarms of creatures. In the only two matches that I lost at MPDC 15.01, both opponents were playing lots of small, cheap creatures that were able to overwhelm my ability to destroy and delay. Perilous Myr seems like a solid option against such a strategy. In particular, it matches up well against Doomed Traveler, which was a surprisingly effective beater in several of my matches. Perilous Myr is also cheap enough to allow the deck to usually have enough mana for other spells in a turn, and is quite capable of taking out two creatures, especially against just the type of decks that Izzet Delver is weak against. While my intuition is that this is more of a Sideboard card, including a couple in the Main might be a wise metagame choice given how well these style of decks did in the tournament.  

2. In certain matchups, the deck could also use access to additional bounce spells; particularly, again, against decks that are capable of spitting out a large number of cheap beaters. Vapor Snag fits this deck perfectly. While its lacks the Flashback mechanic that makes Silent Departure an obvious choice, it more than makes up for this slight deficiency by 1) being an Instant and not a Sorcery and 2) dealing a point of damage to an opponent. While the loss of life does make this an inefficient choice when bouncing one's own creatures, I did not find myself in a situation where I wanted to recur my own creatures very often. On the other hand, when trying to burn out an opponent, every single point of Life can matter, and having a way of getting in extra damage over the course of the match is nothing to take lightly.

3. While I am not convinced that it is superior to Manic Vandal even in most situations, it would be a mistake to not at least consider including Ancient Grudge as another option for Artifact removal. The advantages of this card over the Vandal are clear: 1) it's an Instant, which allows you not only to surprise your opponent but also gives you yet another option of something to play after holding up permission spell mana during your opponent's turn; 2) It can be recast using Flashback, using the same Shimmering Grottos that one already has in the deck to Flashback Forbidden Alchemy. On the other hand, there are definitely times that one simply needs a creature to deal damage or block opposing creatures, and in this case Manic Vandal is certainly superior. More testing will be needed to try to figure out which is the better choice, or perhaps some combination of both is ideal.


Weird formatting bug by gwyned at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 19:08
gwyned's picture

Not sure why the text formatting for the first paragraph is different. I didn't think it looked like that when I submitted it. I apologize for the error!

Well written by laughinman at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 19:41
laughinman's picture

Too bad that Burning Verngeance is uncommon.

Burning Vengeance by gwyned at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 20:21
gwyned's picture

If I got to play Uncommons, I'm not sure Burning Vengeance would be my pick. It might be decent in this deck, although a 3 mana Enchantment that does nothing by itself probably isn't good enough.

Great article. by GrandAdmiral at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 22:09
GrandAdmiral's picture

I really liked the article, especially the part where you talked about deck construction. I don't often have time to watch the videos, so I appreciate the well written discussion that went with them. Thanks!