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By: CKMTGPodcast, Common Knowledge
May 28 2018 12:00pm
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What happens when you fill a deck with the most efficient threats, and removal in a format, back them up with Counterspell and tie it all together with a powerful card advantage engine?

Well you get Skred Delver is what you get. This deck is stupid, no ifs ands or buts about it. Between the Faeries package generating tons of advantage, Delver of Secrets being the most powerful one mana play in the format and Counterspell to back it all up it is hard to find any fault with this deck. I haven't even mentioned Gush yet! This deck is powerful and evidently so based on the way it has been dominating the meta for the last few months. Skred Delver has been undisputed as the best deck in the format for a long time, but I am about to come at you all with the hottest of hot takes straight outta the hot take bakery coming from my keyboard to your brains. Brace yourselves.

Skred Delver is still the best deck in the format!

Wow! No way he just said that! You are out of your mind!

Okay, okay maybe not so much of a hot take. BUT! I do think the deck has gotten considerably weaker in the last few weeks, and no, it is not because my last four league results have been awful. Which they have, but that is not the point. Forget about that! The format is growing and adapting to the Delver menace. Threats are becoming bigger and decks are becoming faster and more linear. Stompy is playing (Silana Ledgewalker) and maxing out on Elephant Guide. Tribe Combo is slowing moving to the top thanks to its speed and resiliency to a lot of the removal in the format. Decks that rely on sorcery speed removal like Boros Monarch are starting to drop down. Tron struggles to keep up with the speed of the format as well. Skred Delver manages by having access to the most efficient removal, threats and of course good ol' Counterspell. Despite all that Skred Delver still seems to be dropping lower and lower each week in the standings, while mono U Delver has been picking up.

Why is this? While I don't think the answer is that mono U is the better deck of the two, I think the answer is that Skred Delver's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. That being the inclusion of Lightning Bolt and the namesake, Skred. 

Mana in Pauper is not good. If we want to play two colors we are forced into using a combination of either or Evolving Wilds and Gain lands. These lands come into play tapped and don't give us access to the color we need until the next turn. This can obviously be problematic when a deck is trying to stay ahead on tempo. Ash Barrens has made things a lot easier on Delver players, as it is easier to get the mana needed right away, at the cost of a small tempo loss and a mana. There are a lot of powerful turn two and turn three plays in the format. While Modern might be a turn four format I would argue Pauper is a turn two or three format. A lot of decks really hit the turning point on turn three. In the cases of the faster and more linear decks it becomes critical to have a meaningful way to interact with them on these early turns. Skred Delver struggles here because of how inconsistent the mana is. The deck only has two basic mountains. Drawing them naturally is not the norm for the deck. Delver players are typically jumping through hoops to try and find the red source and it typically it comes down on turn three. Often times this is far too slow on the play and on the draw, well...It's a big hunt! Game over man, game over! 

This deck is a lot worse on the draw for all the reasons mentioned above. Keeping up on the draw while still deploying threats and casting cantrips takes time and set up, and the format is not having it.

Being in a situation were your hand has only two Island a cantrip or two a counterspell, and a red removal spell is not uncommon. While on the play this seems like a fine spot to be in. On the draw however things start to get sticky.

Say you are on the draw against Stompy and we have a hand similar to the example above. They play Quirion Ranger on turn 1. Our turn 1 we play island and a Delver. 

Turn 2 our opponent plays Burning-Tree Emissary and Nest Invader. For our turn two we probably don't flip the Delver blind. The deck is roughly 40ish % hits, so blind flipping is not common. We are left with a lot of decisions now. Do we cast a cantrip and try to find a red source? Do we hold up counterspell? I personally would hold up counterspell. A resolved Elephant Guide is certain death in this situation.

Turn 3 We are going to counter whatever play our opponent tries to make, with the exception of most 1 mana spells. Rancor being the big one we want to counter here. They lead with Rancor, we counter and they follow up with another Nest Invader. We get hit for four damage this turn.

So now we untap on our turn three and flip the Delver of Secrets to a Skred. Our only option is to cantrip and try to find specifically red mana, We cast Ponder and find Ash Barrens. So we cycle and grab a mountain to play this turn. Now the question is do we kill something now to play around a Vines of Vastwood or Hunger of the Howlpack? I say no, simply because we are so far behind that we need a big tempo play to catch back up. And again the threat of our opponent casting Elephant Guide is game ending.

The other big decision in this turn is do we attack with the Delver? Or try to trade with a threat? I really don't know honestly, my gut tells me to attack in this situation. Again we are taking less conservative lines to try and get ahead on a big play. This will be easiest if the opponent is at the lowest life possible.

Now our opponent is taking the fourth turn, we lose outright to Elephant Guide plus Hunger. They have the Eldrazi tokens from the Nest Invaders to trigger morbid at instant speed. 

Long story short that is exactly what happened and I lost that game. Now this was an actual game and this is exactly how it played out. Those were all my decisions and why I made them. I'm not sure what else could've been changed in this game to alter the outcome. The one decision that comes to my mind is playing Delver on turn one. The alternative would be to spend turn one cantripping to try and find red mana and deploying the Delver on turn three. I could also cast Delver on turn two. This would depend on if I still felt the need to hold up Counterspell based on what I found from the cantrip. I think in this scenario for me to cast Delver on turn two I would have to find specifically Mountain from my cantrip. This allows me to cast the Delver and hold up red mana for the Skred. While these decisions would've changed how the early turns may have played out, I think ultimately this game was last regardless. Now granted this is a very specific scenario, but situations like these are not uncommon. The format is becoming much more linear and much more difficult to interact with. Delver struggles to set up its mana while applying pressure and being interactive. Not having red mana ready go by turn two and three can sometimes be too slow. A lot of decks in the format will run you over when you stumble.

The last strength turned weakness I want to touch on is Spellstutter Sprite. This card was and is still very strong. There are a lot of 1 mana plays that are still very relevant. But threats are getting bigger and it is getting harder and harder to set up turns that Spellstutter Sprite is impactful. I personally think Spellstutter Sprite is at an all time low in the format. Being able to consistently counter anything worth more than one mana is a lot to ask of this card right now. And the most impactful cards in the format right now are worth two or more mana.

TLDR; Skred Delver is still a very strong deck, it has the tools it needs to beat anything it faces, but it lacks consistency in its mana base and its answers. 

I think going forward we will see the deck continue to drop off. While I am a little hesitant to say that it will get bumped out of the number one spot, I also wouldn't be very surprised if a deck like Stompy took the role for a while.

Thanks for reading, if you have any feedback or your own opinions please share them. While I hate being told I'm wrong I also love learning why I am wrong! Don't forget to check out the Common Knowledge podcast were you can hear more hot takes like the one you just read every week. This article will be the first of weekly articles I write for the website, so if you enjoyed it there will be more to come. And if you didn't well stay tuned as this was my first article I can only get better. Right? Guys, anything? No? Okay then.

Have an awesome week all you commoners!