Modern Deck Breakdown: Delver

The Delver of Secrets deck has picked up a lot of steam with the KTK release.

It’s success is probably the biggest reason for such a large shift in the metagame.

I’ve mentioned this deck several times in my previous articles so it is time to finally dig in!


Creatures (14)
    Delver of Secrets
    Monastery Swiftspear
    Young Pyromancer
    Snapcaster Mage

Noncreature Spells (28)
    Lightning Bolt
    Gitaxian Probe
    Treasure Cruise
    Serum Visions
    Spell Snare
    Vapor Snag
    Spell Pierce
    Pillar of Flame
    Forked Bolt
Lands (18)
    Polluted Delta
    Steam Vents
    Scalding Tarn
    Bloodstained Mire
    Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
    Dragon’s Claw
    Blood Moon
    Relic of Progenitus
    Ratchet Bomb
    Izzet Staticaster
    Manic Vandal
    Pillar of Flame

Card my Card Breakdown

4 Delver of Secrets, 4 Monastery Swiftspear, 4 Young Pyromancer, 2 Snapcaster Mage

Delver of SecretsMonastery SwiftspearYoung PyromancerSnapcaster Mage

Delver is the most powerful thing this deck can do on turn one.

As long as it flips into Insectile Aberration on turn two then there are not to many things the opponent can do to race it, so they have to remove it.

Monastery Swiftspear is a newcomer, but her inclusion is more than justified.

Getting +1/+1 for each and every non creature spell you cast in a turn is nothing to scoff at. In fact because it is in a deck with so many cheap spells it’s not hard to give her 4+ power in a single turn.

I heard someone say that this is red’s Tarmogoyf. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I’ve personally seen a Swiftspear walk away from a fight with a Goyf as the victor!

Young Pyromancer is the most powerful creature in this deck.

No other creature gives you such an advantage just for staying on the battlefield! You want him to come down early and stay.

When I first saw the Snapcasters, I thought their inclusion alongside four Treasure Cruises seemed hard to pull off, but I learned quickly that Snapcaster Mage was still every bit the powerhouse he once was.

Just running more than two would make him a dead draw alongside Cruise all too often.

So in spite of how powerful he still is, we only want two because we can only have so many graveyard interactions.

4 Gitaxian Probe, 4 Treasure Cruise, 4 Serum Visions

Gitaxian ProbeTreasure CruiseSerum Visions

Cantrips are very important to this deck. They have the potential to trigger all of the creature’s abilities, and they all at least draw a card (and some of them do more than that).

Gitaxian Probe will help you know when to keep up your mana for a huge blowout involving some removal and counters.

The information this gives is invaluable so try to remember or write down what the opponent shows you.

Treasure Cruise appears in many other decks, but it is most at home here in this deck.

It is so easy to take over most games with the raw card advantage this will buy you at the low price of only one mana. But if you do pay more for it, it is still well worth it!

Then there is Serum Visions. In the Delver deck it serves several rolls, to dig for land, to set up a Delver flip, and to just be a cheap spell that is card investment neutral. I am very happy to cast this spell at any point of the game.

3 Remand, 2 Spell Snare, 1 Spell Pierce

RemandSpell SnareSpell Pierce

These cheap counters help give this deck it’s tempo edge. Spending two mana on a spell that will send their four mana spell back to their hand and draw a card is very good for this deck.

As long as you have some pressure on the board, this tempo play is very likely to win you the game!

You will always want to spend less mana on countering their spell then they payed casting it. Spell Snare will always guarantee you that will happen.

The last counter, Spell Pierce, will usually be there when you need it most, but too many copies will give you too many dead late game draws.

4 Lightning Bolt, 2 Vapor Snag, 2 Electrolyze, 1 Pillar of Flame, 1 Forked Bolt

Lightning BoltVapor SnagElectrolyzePillar of FlameForked Bolt

Here is the removal and burn area of the deck. Although Lightning Bolt seems like an auto include in every red deck, the rest are not as obvious.

Vapor Snag acts kind of like a burn spell in the sense that it will ping them for one, but it is so much more than that. The potential for a huge tempo play with this card warrants it’s own inclusion. It can remove a problem blocker making your attack lethal, or in some cases it can save one of your creatures.

Electrolyze is a strong card, and it can be very crucial to a game win in certain set ups. I will be happy to see this in most late game situations.

Pillar and Forked Bolt both play a similar role as a “better Shock“, but these both have their situations where they are very good.

Against a Voice of Resurgence I would want nothing less than Pillar of Flame. On the other hand, against another Delver deck or a few Birds of Paradise, I would much rather have Forked Bolt. Having the right tool for the job is very important.

Mana Base

In this deck, fetch lands are very important. In addition to finding you real lands and mana fixing, they actually help you cast Treasure Cruise earlier, so in a way they kinda have “{T}, Sacrifice this land: Search your library for a land, and your next Treasure Cruise costs {1} less to cast”

That is very powerful and worth putting in lots of.

Side Board

Dragon’s ClawBlood MoonRelic of ProgenitusVandalblastRatchet Bomb
Izzet StaticasterManic VandalAnnulPillar of Flame

3 Dragon’s Claw: Like I said when I talked about Burn, this just helps make the mirror match and Burn match up easy to win. Gaining life isn’t the most powerful thing in the world, but making every one of  your opponent’s spells worse is very much worth the investment.

2 Blood Moon: As is always true with this card, the threshold of how good this card is varies from actively hurting you, to winning the game singlehandedly. Just be careful with it.

2 Relic of Progenitus: This will come in against other decks that run delve cards like Treasure Cruise, and just about any other deck that wants lots of cards in graveyards. Try to not cut off your own delve cards by exiling graveyards too early.

2 Vandalblast: Probably the single best card you can play against Affinity.

2 Ratchet Bomb: This will come in against token decks, and basically everything that has a low mana curve and relies on permanents. It is an odd card for those odd matches where you may need it.

1 Izzet Staticaster: This will help against tokens as well, but it really shines against other Delver decks. If they are not ready with a Lightning Bolt, then this guy can decimate them in just two short turns.

1 Manic Vandal: A nice two for one against Affinity, and I’m sure it has more applications elsewhere, like Birthing Pod.

1 Annul: If you are having issues with artifacts or enchantments this is your spell! It is especially useful against the Jeskai Ascendancy Combo deck.

1 Pillar of Flame: I always bring this in against the Pod matchup, and it is also not bad when you just need a little bit more removal.


This deck will run you about $550 in it’s current form.

But about half of that is in the mana base, and $200 worth of Scalding Tarns can be replaced with a cheaper blue fetch like Flooded Strand. That will bring the cost down by about $130.

I hope you all understand the importance of having a good mana base and how fetch lands play a huge roll in that, but that being said in a two color deck it is easier to get by without great mana.

I would suggest you get as many on color fetches as you can to make Treasure Cruise as good as it can be, but the mana is the first place i would look to make cost cuts.

In the end you can build this from scratch with an iffy mana base for around $300, and that is not bad for what is possibly the best deck in Modern right now.

How to Beat it

Two for ones are very good at “undoing” the tempo plays that this deck tries to do, so playing a deck that is full of two for ones is crucial to win against Delver.

Those two for ones can take many forms, in the case of RWU Control, the two for ones are spells like Lightning Helix and Electrolyze.

In the Birthing Pod deck, two for ones are more like Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks.

On top of the advantages that those types of cards provide, cheap removal is a must.

Killing the first creature they play is important, and so is killing every Young Pyromancer on the spot.

If you can do that, then winning the game is only a mater of time.

The reason Delver decks have gotten so good so quickly is because of their newest toy, Treasure Cruise. I would be a fool not to mention it here.

If you have any way to interact with the graveyard, then that makes stopping this card that much easier. It is not game over if they do resolve one, but you will have a bad time trying to come back from it.

One of the best ways I have found to stop Treasure Cruise without direct graveyard hate is Remand. Trust me when I say you are way ahead of the game when you Remand their Cruise!

Another way to beat Delver is to just race it with bigger creatures or with Burn.

Wrap up

That’s all for Delver! I would definitely suggest this deck for newcomers to Modern since it is cheap and easy to build. Don’t be fooled, this is a very powerful deck, and it could be the best deck in Modern right now! Taking this deck to any tournament will give you a good shot at winning.

Please remember to leave a comment in the section down below, or get a hold of me on twitter or through email because I love hearing from you guys!

Andy Ragle


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