Delver decks have transcended almost every format in Magic. They’re played in Modern, Legacy, and even Pauper. Just recently they have made waves by reaching their sly grip onto the Vintage format. While not as popular as the Legacy counterpart, Vintage Delver is definitely a powerful list that anyone who loves tempo should consider running if they’re looking for a new deck to play in Vintage. Combining super fast creatures, with the sleek elegance of Magic’s most powerful draw spells. UR aggro has taken the classic Turbo Xerox shell to its extreme limits. It is a mean, fast, and wildly adaptable aggro machine.
Delver is a classic tempo deck that looks to win the game through attacking, burn spells, and subtle disruption. Every game is like a puzzle that a pilot must navigate their way through in order to be victorious. This particular version of Delver, known as UR Delver or UR Aggro, is much faster than other forms of the deck and plays sort of similarly to a burn deck. The key difference from burn being that it has a lot more interaction (namely counterspells).
Most of the creatures in UR Delver are there for one purpose, and that is to deal damage as quickly as possible. Because of this, you should expect a lot of games to be high stakes races. Additionally, since the deck is a tempo deck, almost every play you make really matters. Which means that Delver can be very unforgiving at times. A single misplaced counterspell or attack could decide the outcome of a game. Another aspect of Delver’s tempo style, is that it’s akin to a song. Each game has a rhythm to it, and it really feels like every spell actually makes an impact. Overall, if the time is taken to really learn this deck’s lines of play, then it can be incredibly powerful and super fun to pilot!
Vintage UR Delver
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Young Pyromancer
2 Snapcaster Mage
Instants & Sorceries (25)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Gitaxian Probe
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Dig Through Time
1 Treasure Cruise
4 Force of Will
1 Time Walk
4 Mental Misstep
Other Spells (6)
1 Dack Fayden
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Black Lotus
2 Null Rod
2 Flooded Strand
1 Library of Alexandria
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Volcanic Island
1 Tropical Island
4 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Ravenous Trap
2 Pithing Needle
Being a tempo deck means that every spell we play must provide a large advantage for us or disrupt our opponent greatly. This means that inefficient and/or average spells generally won’t work very well in any list. There are a very tight number of cards that do work well in a Delver shell, and generally it is difficult to stray too far in other directions. This being said, there is still a very high variation among different lists. So by no means should that prevent anyone from experimenting with different cards.
Delver of Secrets: The card that this deck is named after. It is the most efficient beater that we can play. For only one mana we get a 3/2 flyer that synergizes great with our other noncreature spells, and is very well positioned in the meta. Since there are not many other flyers in the format, Delver of Secrets can very easily get past any potential blockers that an opponent could play. Definitely include this as a four of in Aggro versions of the deck.
*Not all versions of UR Aggro/Tempo play Delver. If you want to play a more control oriented build, Delver actually may not always be the best option.
Young Pyromancer: This may be the second best creature that we have access to. If left unchecked Young Pyromancer can very easily overrun an opponent as we cast our numerous instant and sorcery spells throughout the game. Young Pyromancer can even help us get our foot back in the door if we start to lose tempo later in the game.
Snapcaster Mage: Giving flashback to any target instant or sorcery spell in our graveyard is really powerful. It allows us to get our Force of Will‘s back, or cast an already used spot removal spell in a cinch. However Snapcaster Mage does little to advance our board state. Since it is a utility creature, typically we only want a couple copies in our 75.
Monastery Swiftspear: This card can be great if we need to be even faster. It works very well in hyper aggressive versions of our list. However, it can sometimes play poorly with our counterspells, a few cantrips, and other creatures. Definitely consider playing Monastery Swiftspear if you want to play a more aggro focused list. It’s typically best to play this card alongside a playset of Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer.
Monastery Mentor: Monastery Mentor is not always the best card in our deck. However, it can be pretty good at times. Usually it will act as a fifth Young Pyromancer. Since it is a three drop we may run out of gas by the time we get to play it. But Monastery Mentor’s ability to single-handedly turn a game in our favor deserves some attention.
Bedlam Reveler: Bedlam Reveler is a hit or miss creature. Sometimes it is very powerful, allowing us to refuel our hand late game. But other times it just sits in our opener as a dead card. It can be a risky card to choose to play, but if you feel that you just don’t have enough power late game, Bedlam Reveler can help solve that.
True-Name Nemesis: The almost irremovable and unblockable beater: True-Name Nemisis, can actually be pretty good in our deck. If the meta switches to a midrange and aggro infested group of decks, then True-Name Nemisis can help up our game. It can help us get out of sticky situations very quickly.
Grim Lavamancer: Grim Lavamancer can be a useful utility creature. It can remove a bunch of creatures in the format including: Deathrite Shaman, Delver of Secrets, and Arcbound Ravager. Not to mention we can also use Grim Lavamancer to deal damage to our opponent if we find them in range of pinging.
Stormchaser Mage: Having much the same effect as Monastery Swiftspear, Stormchaser Mage works well at speeding up our deck. However, a cost of two mana can actually be quite combersome for our deck. We want to cast creatures like this as early as possible. Playing the Mox helps this a bit since we can cast Stormchaser Mage on turn one with them. But some games Stormchaser Mage might just simply be too slow to be effective.
Soul-Scar Mage: Soul-Scar Mage is a very interesting option that has the potential to be incredibly powerful. Soul-Scar Mage works best against other aggro and Delver decks. It allows our creature’s damage to “stick” to our opponent’s creatures, which means we have the ability to take down threats like Tarmogoyf with a few Young Pyromancer tokens.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy: Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy provides a really powerful looting effect early game, and then turns into a pretty solid planeswalker late game. At only two mana he is worth considering.
Vendilion Clique: Being one of the only forms of hand disruption that we can play in blue and red, Vendilion Clique can be very impactful against certain decks. It primarily helps against combo decks, however it can also be fairly good against some midrange and aggro decks. If we opt to play Vendilion Clique, it is typically best as a one or two of.
Instants & Sorceries
Brainstorm, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, Preordain: Cantrips are the backbone of any Turbo Xerox strategy. They provide valuable card advantage, deck filtering, and hand sifting. Every single cantrip also fuels Delver and Young Pyromancer. Definitely play a high volume of these spells.
Lightning Bolt: Lightning Bolt has been dubbed as the most powerful red removal spell in the game, so it’s no surprise that we would play a few copies. While it is not as good in Vintage as in other formats, it can still really help out against the mirror match, midrange decks, and MUD.
Ancient Grudge: Ancient Grudge is primarily good because of the prevalence of MUD and the Mox in Vintage. It allows us to have maindeck answers to one of the most popular strategies in the format, while also being able to slow our opponent down by destroying their mana rocks.
Dig Through Time, Gush, Treasure Cruise, Timewalk, Ancestral Recall: All of these cards help to solve one of Delver’s biggest problems. Which is that we run out of gas in the late game. Every spell listed in this slot can help us recover after our hand has run out of answers, and our creatures have begun to run dry.
Force of Will: Force of Will is very useful because it allows us to play our spells without worrying about keeping mana open for counterspells. Honestly without Force of Will, Delver would possibly be considerably less powerful.
Mental Misstep: Another “free” counterspell. Mental Misstep is vital because it allows us to counter impactful spot removal spells, apposing Delvers, and other one mana spells that could cause us issues.
Daze: Because we play Force of Will and Mental Misstep, Daze is not as good as it is in Legacy. However, it can still be very useful as a third “free” counterspell.
Chart a Course: A fairly new spell to Magic, Chart a Course has already proven itself quite useful in Modern and Legacy. While we have other spells like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise, those are restricted, and Chart a Course can provide us with more spells that help our deck recover in the late game.
Dack Fayden: Since almost everyone in Vintage plays some form of artifact spells, Dack Fayden will almost never be a dead draw. Not to mention he also allows us to filter our cards quickly to find the answers we need when we need them.
Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire, Black Lotus: Since Vintage is such a fast format, we have to play a couple copies of the Mox like other decks do. They can allow us to occasionally have super fast starts. All of the Mox plus Black Lotus and even Sol Ring are just generally great to be playing.
Null Rod: Null Rod not only stops opposing Mox, but it also is great against MUD and similar strategies. It is an all around great card, and almost essential to any Vintage deck at this point.
*Depending on the meta sideboard slots can change a lot. This is just an example sideboard for a general meta. Almost any spell in Magic, depending on its use could go in here, so I will just discuss the cards from the list above.
Grafdigger’s Cage: Grafdigger’s Cage is really good against decks like Oath and Tezzerator. Because a lot of decks that cheat in creatures operate on a very fast clock, Grafdigger’s Cage is one of our best options at dealing with these decks. However, if you choose to play this spell it’s typically recommended to play it as a four of, since we absolutely need to cast it as fast as we can.
Ancient Grudge: More artifact removal for our artifact removal to remove artifacts after we’ve run out of artifact removal.
Flusterstorm: Flusterstorm is primarily hear for storm decks and other combos. It can be a great card for stopping long spell chains.
Pyroblast: A ton of decks in Vintage play blue, so pyroblast earns a spot in our sideboard. It can deal with opposing Delver’s, Jace’s, and a long list of other spells our opponent’s could throw at us.
Ravenous Trap: Another card that is great against combo decks. The ability to remove cards from an opponent’s graveyard at instant speed, and possibly for free, is very powerful.
Smelt: Even more artifact removal for the MUD matchup.
Pithing Needle: Pithing needle is an all around solid choice. If an opponent is playing any high impact threat with activated abilities, which we can’t play around, Pithing Needle is a great way to deal with it.
Combo: Combo matchups can be very difficult for us. Generally combo decks will be much faster than us, and our counterspells aren’t always enough to hold them at bay. However, if we can get a leg up early game, then we gain a much better chance at winning. The longer we can stall out the game, the better our chances of winning. Generally these matchups will end up being a race between us and our opponent.
Aggro: Tempo racing is key in these matchups. It is important to apply pressure with our creatures quickly, while also countering and removing their threats. A lot of aggro decks operate off of a few powerful creatures and effects, so if we can disrupt those, then we have a much better chance at stealing a win. Additionally, aggro decks usually don’t have a lot of ways to deal with our own spells, so we basically have free reign when it comes to countering their spells and playing our removal.
Control: Playing aggressively against control is the best that we can do. The later the game goes on, the worse our chances of winning. As long as we can keep a steady stream of consistent damage and threats on the board, we can usually do alright. However, if the control deck begins to remove our creatures a lot and plays a high volume of answers, the game can quickly turn in our opponent’s favor.
Midrange: Another matchup where tempo racing is key. In most midrange matchups we will be under constant pressure. However, it is our job to do the same to our opponent. Most games will be very grindy and long. Midrange matchups may by one of our hardest matchups. They play a high volume of answers, while also typically playing creatures that we have trouble dealing with. As long as we can keep them on their toes we have a chance, but if they get ahead for even a second, it becomes really difficult to keep up.
Tempo: Mirror matches against other tempo decks are almost like dances. Role evaluation is important here, as you will need to make split second decisions about whether you should play as the control deck or the aggro deck. Again, tempo racing is very important in this matchup, however we also need to be weary of our opponent’s own racing. Depending on how the first few turns go, this matchup can either be pretty good or very difficult.
In all, Delver is a very solid strategy that has transcended almost every format in Magic. In Vintage it is a lean machine that has the ability to aggro out opponents before they even get a chance to see what’s coming, while also being able to switch to a control deck in a cinch. Even though the deck can be very difficult to master at first, it can be an incredibly fun and rewarding to play. So if you’re looking for a cool tempo deck to check out in Vintage, or just want to play Delver in the format, then this deck may just be the right one for you!
I hope this article was useful in some way to you. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to post them in the section below.
And as always, happy gaming!