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Owen’s a Win – Delver in DC *1st*

This past weekend I took my trusty Delver deck that I’ve written about on this very website posted here and here, and I won Grand Prix DC.

To say that this result was satisfying for me would be an understatement. I basically wrote an instruction manual the past two weeks on what I considered to be the optimal build of Delver and how to play specific matchups, and none of my opponents listened. After you change [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] to [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], my deck was a whole 3 cards off the list I posted in my article.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Ponder
4 Brainstorm
4 Spell Pierce
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Delver of Secrets
1 Batterskull
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 True-Name Nemesis
4 Wasteland
4 Arid Mesa
4 Polluted Delta
1 Flooded Strand
3 Volcanic Island
4 Tundra
Sideboard
4 Meddling Mage
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Pyroblast
2 Grim Lavamancer
2 Rest in Peace
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 True-Name Nemesis
1 Wear and Tear[/deck]

First things first, [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] is incredible. It’s substantially better than [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. I had [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] for the express purpose of winning fair matchups and creature battles, which sometimes Geist fails at as a 2/2. [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], on the other hand, is the real deal and does exactly what this deck wants it to do. It’s convenient that it’s a higher-end, curve-topping threat, because so many of the spells in every deck fight the early game.

I often notice every card in my deck after sideboard is a threat, an answer to a threat, or deck manipulation. The Delver mirror can play out in many different ways and when someone doesn’t get mana-screwed or die quickly to a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], then it comes down to a grindy long-game affair decided by equipment or a resolved [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card].

The tournament itself went well, obviously, and I had some really interesting situations come up throughout. My first match was against a player who lost the first game but showed me [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], [card]Underground Sea[/card], [card]Young Pyromancer[/card], [card]Daze[/card], [card]Brainstorm[/card], and [card]Ponder[/card]. I assumed he was some type of Grixis Delver deck with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] or [card]Cabal Therapy[/card], so I sideboarded like this:

In

[draft]1 True-Name Nemesis
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Pyroblast
2 Grim Lavamancer[/draft]

In

[draft]4 Force of Will
2 Spell Pierce[/draft]

The second game played out a lot like the first, he got out an early [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] and amassed an army with a bevy of different spells like [card]Daze[/card], [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card], and [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]. I was able to stabilize, leading to an empty board from my opponent except three lands and my board was a flipped [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], [card]Batterskull[/card], [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], and [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card].

My opponent, at 3 life, with one card in hand, begins to think, then says “well I have one out…” he untaps, draws, and perks up in his chair, examining the board—he drew his out. He casts [card]Entomb[/card] and [card]Animate Dead[/card] on [card]Griselbrand[/card]. I simply untap and attack with [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], ending the game. My opponent then revealed to me that he may have won if he hadn’t sideboarded out his [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card], and explained to me that he did this assuming that I would sideboard out my [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] against Reanimator. This is just a reminder that it’s important to notice that the information your opponent is giving away is equally as valuable as the information you are giving away to your opponent. I never would have guessed that my opponent had [card]Griselbrand[/card] in his deck based on the cards he showed me in the first game.

Next round I was up against former teammate Conley Woods in a feature match. The first game started with him casting [card]Thoughtseize[/card] on himself off a basic Swamp, revealing [card]Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur[/card], [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Daze[/card], and [card]Reanimate[/card], discarding the Jin-Gitaxias. I played a [card]Tundra[/card] and passed the turn with a hand of [card]Spell Pierce[/card] and [card]Daze[/card], with the information that if Conley drew a land and played it he could pay for [card]Daze[/card] and put the Praetor into play. He did not draw a land, and after it was all said and done, all he had to show for his efforts was a basic Swamp and an unknown card in hand. I made short work of him with a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] for [card]Batterskull[/card] and a handful of counters. I went to sideboard and made the following changes:

Out

[draft]4 Lightning Bolt
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 True-Name Nemesis
1 Umezawa’s Jitte[/draft]

In

[draft]4 Meddling Mage
2 Pyroblast
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Rest in Peace
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Grafdigger’s Cage[/draft]

Game two he surprised me by casting a [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], but it did very little to help his cause. I resolved a [card]Rest in Peace[/card] and rode a [card]Batterskull[/card] to victory as I [card]Daze[/card]d a [card]Show and Tell[/card], and his hand was dead pieces of each of his separate combos. I really do believe that it’s just a flawed strategy to add [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] as an alternate kill condition against a deck that has [card]Batterskull[/card] and [card]Pyroblast[/card].

Plus, it’s a transformational sideboard that isn’t even that tricky—I drew my hate card he was trying to minimize the effectiveness of, and it just didn’t even work. On the final turn of the game he cast an [card]Entomb[/card] for [card]Bloodstained Mire[/card] to thin out his deck, I feel strongly that he would have had a greater chance to win games two and three if he just didn’t touch his sideboard at all.

A couple rounds down the stretch I got paired against a [card]Goblin Charbelcher[/card] deck. The first game I drew a ton of countermagic and was able to slow him down, the final play of the game came when he used a Land Grant and revealed to me a hand of [card goblin charbelcher]Charbelcher[/card], [card goblin charbelcher]Charbelcher[/card], [card]Burning Wish[/card]. He cast a Charbelcher with zero mana floating and two [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] in play, I cast [card]Daze[/card], he sacrificed a [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] to pay, and I cast [card]Force of Will[/card]. And so I was able to force my opponent to discard his two final threats that I did not have countermagic for. I sideboarded like this:

Out

[draft]4 Swords to Plowshares
2 True-Name Nemesis
1 Umezawa’s Jitte[/draft]

In

[draft]4 Meddling Mage
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Grim Lavamancer[/draft]

As well as [card]Wear // Tear[/card].

I lost the second game very quickly to a [card]Magus of the Moon[/card]. I left in my [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s, so I gave myself the best chance to win this game, but I had mulliganed to five looking for a [card]Force of Will[/card] and came up empty.

The third game was probably the single most insane instance of luck I have ever experienced in a tournament in my entire life. I mulligan and keep [card]Brainstorm[/card], [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card]Meddling Mage[/card], [card]Tundra[/card], and [card]Polluted Delta[/card] on the play. I play a Tundra and pass, my opponent starts with [card]Lotus Petal[/card], [card]Tinder Wall[/card], and casts [card]Rite of Flame[/card] which I counter.

I went for the [card]Spell Pierce[/card] here because I hoped it would result in him just passing the turn which I would be thrilled with, since that turns [card]Spell Pierce[/card] into a 3-for-1, and the most important reason I did this was that in game two I saw [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], and I knew if I didn’t counter it he could easily remove a [card simian spirit guide]Simian[/card] or [card]Elvish Spirit Guide[/card] to cast it and put 8 Goblin tokens into play, which would be a nightmare. My opponent said OK, and with the red mana he had floating from [card]Tinder Wall[/card] plus a [card]Chrome Mox[/card] and an [card]Elvish Spirit Guide[/card], he cast [card]Blood Moon[/card].

The only cards remaining in my deck that I could cast were [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], one copy of [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card], and [card]Batterskull[/card]. I won this game.

I happened to draw into five lands and [card]Batterskull[/card] as we each drew and said go every turn, because he had no cards in hand after he resolved [card]Blood Moon[/card] and needed to build up to a critical mass to go off, and I couldn’t play any spells in my deck, so I was just drawing and passing—often discarding to hand size.

He got down a [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card] and attacked me down to 8, cast an [card]Empty the Warrens[/card] for four creatures and passed turn. I calmly topdecked my 5th land for [card]Batterskull[/card] and slammed it. Then I went on the war path, attacking every single turn, mercilessly plowing through a chump-blocking Goblin token every turn. The game was absurd. I killed my opponent and I ended the game at 55 life, which means I attacked with the [card]Batterskull[/card] 12 times! As I had [card]Batterskull[/card] in play my opponent kept on casting [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card], [card]Tinder Wall[/card], and [card]Magus of the Moon[/card]-type creatures to chump block with and I happened to draw [card]Force of Will[/card] every couple cards before he drew [card]Goblin Charbelcher[/card] for me to stay alive.

I took a loss to Craig Wescoe in round 9, in a relatively unexciting matchup where I think either deck can win and it’s relatively draw-dependent. I got paired against Matt Costa deep in Day Two, and it was a razor close Delver mirror on camera. I had some pretty fortunate topdecks, but I also did everything in my power to maximize my chances of winning. The third game had Matt start with a [card]Ponder[/card]-shuffle and I went for [card]Wasteland[/card]. Matt drew and passed, and that’s all he did—draw and pass, never seeing a second land, giving me the win.

Later, I was paired against a manaless Dredge player. I had seen him play previously in the day so I knew what he was playing. I chose to draw in game one, but that didn’t help me much. He cast a [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] and named [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], of which I had three in my hand. Game two I cast a turn two [card]Rest in Peace[/card] and he conceded immediately. Game three he revealed [card]Chancellor of the Annex[/card], I played a turn two [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card], paying the additional 1. He again conceded immediately.

Playing for Top 8, I was paired against MUD and the first game did not go smoothly. My opponent plays [card]City of Traitors[/card], [card]Grim Monolith[/card] into turn two [card]Grim Monolith[/card] with no land drop, where I cast a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] before passing. Then he cast [card]Sundering Titan[/card] and I did not have the [card]Daze[/card] or [card]Force of Will[/card] to stop him, so it resolved, destroying both of my lands. I won this game.

It involved two very timely [card]Daze[/card]s, one being cast on a [card]Staff of Nin[/card], and one when I controlled only one land that was being targeted by [card]Wasteland[/card]. I cast a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] targeting my opponent and I responded by casting [card]Daze[/card] on my own spell to protect my land from being destroyed. That worked out very well for me, as I had exactly two lands to end the game and I needed both to get [card umezawa’s jitte]Jitte[/card] going on my [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card].

The second game he mulliganed down to four cards and I had a very strong opening hand. Just a freak occurrence of bad luck for my opponent.

The first round of Top 8, I had to slay my friend Andrew Cuneo playing Elves. He’s a great player and he’s put in the hours playing Elves on Magic Online so it’s no shock to me he started 13-0 in the event. I knew it was a good matchup for me, and my deck did not disappoint. I had great draws all three games—the third game in particular was a bloodbath. I had a [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] in play to stop [card]Natural Order[/card] and [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card], I had [card]Meddling Mage[/card] in play naming [card]Glimpse of Nature[/card], and I had Jitte in play to keep the board clear. I even had [card]Force of Will[/card] for his hardcast [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card].

Next up was Sam Black, and I won this match in large part to being the higher-seeded player. I played a [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], which quickly flipped while Sam played a land and said go. I cast [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] and Sam cast [card]Daze[/card], I let this resolve as the rest of my hand had [card]Force of Will[/card], a blue card, and another [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]. Sam played a land and passed once more while I cast [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] and for the second time he had to pick up his only land to cast a [card]Daze[/card] setting himself even further behind, I cast [card]Force of Will[/card] this time and he was quickly buried under a [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], a [card]Batterskull[/card], and a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] pecking away at his life total. Game two wasn’t much of a fair fight, since I resolved two [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] very quickly and was able to stop him from putting together a very strong board as I took 6-point chunks out of his life total.

On to the finals against Sneak and Show, and against the player who dealt my second loss in the Swiss. Those games in the Swiss were pretty uneventful, as the first game saw me [card]Brainstorm[/card]-lock myself on the second turn of the game. I had a [card]Volcanic Island[/card] and a [card]Wasteland[/card] in play as I drew and passed the turn over and over, watching my chances of winning dwindle away. In the second game, I mulliganed and we both had pretty good hands with him just ending up on top, as a result of his drawing both [card]Pyroclasm[/card] and a [card]Blood Moon[/card].

The finals were quite different though. In both games I kept very strong opening hands that had all the countermagic I could want, but no pressure. Game one, I kept [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Daze[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card]Brainstorm[/card], [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], [card]Wasteland[/card], [card]Polluted Delta[/card]. I happened to draw [card]Arid Mesa[/card] then [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] in my first few draws, and thanks to some [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]s from my opponent, he was at a low life total early in the game. This game played out exactly how I drew it up, and exactly how I wrote about how to play the matchup two weeks ago. I cast [card]Daze[/card] on his [card]Intuition[/card], I cast [card]Spell Pierce[/card] on his [card]Ponder[/card], and I killed him with a Delver while he sat helplessly with a handful of uncastables.

Game two I mulliganed on the play, and kept [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Pyroblast[/card], and [card]Polluted Delta[/card]. The top cards of my library were [card]Force of Will[/card], two lands, and a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], so I was able to put down some pressure and back it up with heaps of counterspells. I had a ton of really close decisions on what to remove to my Forces, and I ended up choosing correctly, as the last cards in my hand were 5th land to hardcast a Force and put the game away.

Just like that, I was the GP DC Champion. I think my deck was legitimately a great choice for the field and gave me a great chance to win against any matchup I could face. I acted like a counterspell control deck against Sneak and Show, a removal-based Jund-type strategy against the Elf deck, and a tempo-based Delver deck that races against the Bant deck. I highly recommend this deck moving forward, but fair warning, it takes a ton of practice to pilot correctly, and you can really mess up the games pretty badly if you don’t know what you’re doing. I played the deck and failed at multiple tournaments before coming up with the configuration I liked best.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online

Also: Don’t miss Owen’s video with UWR Delver!

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