There is a chance that after Theros is released, we might not care about M14 cards at all, but I for one think it has given us quite a few cards to revitalize the format. Deck types come and go with the changing of the sets and the addition of new ones, but rarely do old archetypes from the same set get one more chance to be a contender again. One of those decks is the Delver of Secrets archetype, and the other is UB control.
|Fire & Ice|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Nivix Cyclops
|2 Artful Dodge
4 Inaction Injunction
4 Think Twice
4 Searing Spear
2 Izzet Charm
4 Pillar of Flame
2 Runechanter’s Pike
22 other spells
15 sideboard cards
Delver of Secrets had its time in the sun back during the Scars of Mirrodin and M12 block. It dominated the metagame, using cards like Vapor Snag, Ponder, and Thought Scour to get card advantage and out tempo an opponent, then attached a Runechanter’s Pike to a transformed Delver of Secrets or Geist of Saint Traft and utterly destroyed your opponent. But then cards like Thragtusk were printed in M13, and the deck lost a lot of the cards that enabled it to be so fast and hit so hard (namely Ponder).
Fast forward a year and a half, and here we are full circle. Young Pyromancer has been printed in M14, Snapcaster Mage is still in play, and Nivix Cyclops gives you both a large blocker and a huge threat on the board if it’s unblocked. The old Delver deck relied heavily on getting a Delver of Secrets out quickly and flipping it, but this new version as a lot more threats for your opponent to deal with. Yes, a turn 1 Delver is still a great play, and with 20 spells you have a little more than a 33% chance to flip them on turn 2, but it’s also okay to hold back until turn 2. A turn 2 Young Pyromancer offers your Delver great ground support. Usually your opponent would have to deal with that Delver quickly, but if left unchecked, your Pyromancer could litter the board with a handful of 1/1 tokens while drawing you cards, killing their creatures, and stopping their attackers/blockers dead in their tracks.
For card draw I went with Think Twice for this deck because it lets you get 2 tokens out of Young Pyromancer instead of 2, and Inaction Injunction because it shuts down an opponent’s big creature and leaves them wide open for 4 or more damage on turn 3. Izzet Charm could also be used as card draw, but it also is very useful at shocking a creature of countering a quickly played Planeswalker or kill spell.
Nivix Cyclops has proven to be a very solid card in Delver decks, slowing down aggressive strategies with its 1/4 body while hitting for 4 damage on the following turn. Targeting it with Artful Dodge makes it even more deadly of a force. Let’s say you attack on turn 4, cast the Artful Dodge to make him a 4/4 unblockable creature, then when your opponent goes to Doomblade or Azorius Charm him you counter it with an Izzet Charm and instead make him a 8/4 unblockable creature. He can win you the game in one turn if you play your cards right (Pillar of Flame, Pillar of Flame, Artful Dodge, Dispel -after a sideboard to counter any removal . . . for 17 damage on a turn 4).
Even if you’re locked down and can’t attack haphazardly, you’ll be creating Elemental tokens like crazy and you can just put a Runechanter’s Pike on it and attack each turn. This deck keeps the pressure on your opponent and it does it well. Young Pyromancer is an absolute all-star in this 20 spell deck, and with multiples in play you can be creating upwards of 50 tokens in a long game. Try it out at your next FNM and you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you get some practice with it so your timing with the instants and spells are spot on. A lot of its power comes from surprising your opponent during the damage or blocking step.
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Nephalia Drownyard
4 Watery Grave
4 Augur of Bolas
3 Essence Scatter
1 Psychic Strike
24 other spells
2 Notion Thief
15 sideboard cards
Back during the release of Innistrad, UB was the absolute KING of control. Mana Leak, Doom Blade, Snapcaster Mage, and Grave Titan made this a force to be reckoned with. At that time, black had Black Sun’s Zenith, a reusable black “wrath” effect that effectively removed all creatures from the board. During the rotation last October when Scars and M12 left standard, this deck was gutted. Even after Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze was released, UB, or Dimir control was still too weak to compete in standard.
I don’t think that’s true anymore. It took only one card, Doom Blade, to make this deck playable again. With 14 kill spells (Doom Blade, Tribute to Hunger, Dimir Charm, Mutilate), I think you have just enough removal to take over the game. Thought Scour and Augur of Bolas should help you get the cards you need, and Jace, Memory Adept should have enough protection from the kill spells and creatures to give you incremental card advantage until you can start milling them for 10 cards each round.
With so many decks using creature heavy strategies today (and too many creature types to use Cavern of Souls), Essence Scatter becomes pretty useful. It’s easy to cast, and can stop cards like Sigarda, Host of Herons or Aetherling from ever hitting the battlefield. Dimir Charm acts like a counterspell against cards like Bonfire of the Damned or Terminus, and I think a one off of Pyschic Strike should be useful for match ups where you want to counter a non-creature spell.
Tribute to Hunger should help you with the lack of life gain in this deck, while also being incredibly potent against hexproof decks. I also think that the Wight of Precinct Six can be a good finisher against creature heavy decks, and will also be able to survive a Mutilate to be the biggest creature on the board the following turn.
For the sideboard, I went with Mind Sculpts to get control decks into trouble quickly and to make them think twice about using a Sphinx’s Revelation, Notion Thief to steal all their card advantage (especially from Sphinx’s Revelation), Crypt Incursion to deal with Reanimator decks, Dispel to stop something from being countered or to stop a Sphinx’s Revelation, and Lifebane Zombies to stop green white decks and cards like Advent of the Wurm.
While I like the idea behind these decks, I noticed one glaring weakness while play testing them – lack of card draw. Both decks need a play set of something to draw them more cards. I could probably do Think Twice or Pilfered Plans for the UB control deck, and for the UR Delver deck, Thought Scour or Fleeting Distraction could work. The problem thereafter is deciding which cards to take out. Dropping a Nivix Cyclops, a Snapcaster Mage, and maybe a mountain COULD work since you’re putting in 3 one mana cards. This would drop the mana curve low, and give you more card draw.
For the UB deck, it gets tricker. If you’re going to add in more card draw, you’re going to have to cut something like the Psychic Strike and an Essence Scatter, and maybe 2 Dimir Charms. This takes away some of your removal, but hopefully with more card draw you’ll be able to draw those remaining removal spells more easily.
These decks aren’t insanely expensive (aside from Snapcaster Mage and the shocklands), so put them together and try them out. They still need work, but they have a good foundation and with some practice I think they can find their place on top again! Thanks for reading and leave any suggestions you can think of to make them better! Next time I’ll be continuing the Bang for your Buck articles, so look for the next one after the weekend!