Pondering on Delvers and Snapcasters? with Mark Pinder

Support Your Local Playgroup by Mark Pinder

Well after all the hype and paranoia we didn’t have any cards banned in Standard with the recent announcement. I for one saw this as a positive move and one that I was hoping would be the case.

So why am I so pleased?

For a start I believe that whilst Delver is without doubt one of the best decks in the format it is by no means unbeatable and having a reasonable bogeyman in the format gives everyone a challenge on how to beat it.

At the Nottingham WMCQ we saw Carrie Oliver make the England team with her home brew mono green miracles deck. That weekend I was taking part in the Senior Open, two players were playing Delver decks and both were defeated along the way as well as drawing against one another. That weekend I was running Dungrove Miracles, a mostly green deck splashing a small amount of red for Kessig Wolfrun and Bonfire of the Damned, meeting a Delver deck in round two, the first game was a narrow loss but then the deck came out strong winning the next two, I never felt the match was unwinnable and soon the hexproof guys were smashing face.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve tweaked the deck a little and my worst record with the deck is 3-1 locally. So unlike Caw blade it does not feel oppressive playing Standard and I enjoy the format, last year I was one of those people who stopped playing in Standard events as I didn’t want to play against Caw Blade anymore.

So is Delver prevalent at every FNM?

Well from my perspective no, I’ve attended events around the county and very few people run the Delver deck, a few might have Delvers in their deck but I found Lincolnshire to be a very diverse area for deck building.

Are Delvers that good?

Well I’ve had Delver’s drop on turn one and never flip before I’ve died to my opponents deck smashing through before the Delver can do it’s damage. When it does flip though on turn two without any help is it lucky, is it annoying, could it even be a Miracle? With a Delver beat down you have time to draw into your answer, a miracle can just turn a match on its head in one turn. Playing Dungrove with miracles a timely ‘Bonfire of the Damned’ or ‘Revenge of the Hunted’ can change a game in seconds. At my last FNM a timely Revenge of the Hunted took out my Dungrove Elder and Llanowar Elf when in hand I had a Wolfir Silveheart and land to accelerate out turn four. Lost the game a couple of turns later.

I like Ponder, sure it sets up your draws and not just for Delver, I’ve also had the frowned expression of having to shuffle.

Snapcaster Mage is my favourite card of the three and he certainly causes mayhem with his jumping into play and allowing the second casting of a spell. This can be worse now with Restoration Angel but truth be known, how many people run graveyard hate to shut him down?

I must admit on a personal level I have some pimped foil Delvers in different languages, shiny Ponders including a French foil which looks very smooth as it is called ‘Contemplation’ and after some foreign pack cracking Korean and Russian Snapcaster mage’s.

The thing is plenty of us like all three cards and have them in our own decks, Snapcaster Mage’s appear in the control decks, I’ve seen Ponder in red blue tempo decks and Delver in blue aggro based decks. The freedom to still use these cards is important, especially when Snapcaster mage is a valuable rare card. The banning of Stoneforge Mystic and Jace the Mind Sculptor had financial implications for the majority of Magic players.

I feel  it would have been a body blow to the game to ban more cards within a year, players would lose faith in the product and begin to wonder whether it would be wise to invest heavily in the game if the best cards get banned quickly. Packs wouldn’t be sold and the secondary market could be seriously damaged.

How popular are the cards currently, they are certainly popular but compared to last year pretty much every deck that played white had ‘Stoneforge Mystic’ and various forms of Swords. Now if you look at today’s decks you don’t see Delver of Secrets in U/W human’s, Doomed Traveller and Champion of the Parish occupy the one drop slot having more synergy with Honor of the Pure.

Is the Delver deck one that can hand a poor player a win from nowhere just by raw card power?

Yes, on occasion it will do that for you. More often though the deck requires a lot of thought and consequently unless you know how to play the deck, especially the mirror then you’ll be in for a world of hurt.

I’ve played Delver decks locally and been very consistent with them, opponents have screamed when the little guys have flipped to become the airborne assault force and others have bemoaned Snapcaster Mage’s enabling Mana Leak to be cast yet again. The thing is though, I am a consistent Magic player at a local level, I’ve won with net decks regularly and even put together some homebrew decks that have swept through the local meta. When you can get a three card combo of Glissa the Traitor, Heartless Summoning and Perilous Myr doing a machine gun impression to your opponents field, a 3/2 flyer isn’t so much of a big deal.

Look at the bigger events, you see the names in the top eight and whilst the deck is important, it would not surprise you if they were in the top eight but with a different deck as good players usually do well. Good players know their decks strengths and as long as they have good knowledge for the inevitable mirror match then things should go their way.

Grimsby has a vast majority of players on limited budgets so they have one deck that they are looking to evolve and build, most cards are traded for and results are analysed consistently to see how the deck can improve.  Many players have a white aggro core to their deck, mono white, white blue, green white Gavony Township and red white humans but one card pretty much features in all the decks Mirran Crusader. Now this has been the case for some time and whilst some players just fold as the Crusader drops them; more devoted Zombies players have gone out to get answers to his issues with Geth’s Verdict and Phyrexian Metamorph both help him to be able to win the match up even if it’s still tough. This is replicated for every deck and playgroup around the country, we work out answers to bogeymen and deal with them.

Magic is a game we all love and whilst we all from time to say a card is too powerful or we do not like to play against it, the satisfaction when we do play and beat the threat is a joyous occasion.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.

Mark Pinder

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Mark Pinder
I have competed twice at GB nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb "To Pinder"colloquially used in northern magic communities which means "to gain life", I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.