Through the Looking Glass: Delver with Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

Special Guest

A few words on Michael Lewis (Twitch: LewisCBR | MTGO: LewisCBR ):

Michael Lewis, better known as his Magic Online username LewisCBR, has been playing Magic since 1994, during the Revised era. Originally a Canadian Threshold player in Legacy, Michael will usually sleeve up any Delver variant he deems to be the best at the moment. Michael grew up in Northern Virginia, but now resides in Colorado where he is a two-time state champion in Modern! Michael is frequently a top-five player in each season of the online Legacy trophy board. He also qualified to play in the upcoming Legacy Championship this January.

Now that Wrenn and Six is banned, which Delver variant do you think will be the most played going forward?

Right now, anything is a possibility! I feel like the meta, before Wrenn and Six took over, had never truly settled from the other powerful cards that were printed before it. As other decks go back to experimenting with cards like Karn, The Great Creator, Narset, Parter of Veils, and Dreadhorde Arcanist, Delver players will also need to try, and try again, all combinations. However, out of the gate, I suppose I expect UR and BUG Delver to be played the most. Traditional RUG Delver with Nimble Mongoose was actually very good when UR Delver was the most popular deck, for a short time, so we might see that cycle come back.

As a Delver player, how highly do you value establishing a clock early?

It is of the upmost importance. Against most combo decks, your best opening play is usually a turn one Delver of Secrets and then you hope you can survive to untap. A late threat can be difficult to deploy since your combo opponent has had a few turns to set up their hand and they might be waiting for that perfect window for you to tap out. I usually feel comfortable playing a turn two Young Pyromancer on the play, for example, but on the draw it can be very dicey to tap out for that Young Pyromancer.

Would you say that Plague Engineer will be seeing more play with post-ban deck lists?

Yes, you will not see Plague Engineer go anywhere in Legacy for the time being, and depending on if black decks come back into the meta with a vengeance, we might see a lot more of everyone’s favorite Carrier. As people pull out their Mother of Runes and Llanowar Elves again, due to Wrenn and Six being banned, those decks could be ripe to get blown out by a Plague Engineer. With only one black in its converted mana cost, Plague Engineer is very “splashable” in any three or four color deck. Expect to see it not only out of control sideboards, but out of Grixis and BUG Delver also.

How does the banning of Wrenn and Six affect your suite of counter magic in general? Cards like Hydroblast and Spell Snare come to mind.

Look at you, you are on top of your deck building and completely correct. All of my Delver of Secrets builds right now are cutting both Spell Snare and Hydroblast, however, there are still a lot of two drops that can cause problems for Delver of Secrets decks. Baleful Strix, Stoneforge Mystic, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Burning Wish, and Infernal Tutor are good examples of why Spell Snare could make its way back into my 75.

How highly do you value “soft” counter magic like Daze and Spell Pierce versus TES? Do you find them to be more effective than against other combo decks like ANT?

Soft counter magic is still nice to have versus TES, but you sometimes find yourself using it in spots that, at first, may not seem intuitive. For example, if you expect an early Empty the Warrens turn, casting Daze targeting a Lotus Petal could potentially stop your opponent from reaching the four mana they need to cast the Empty the Warrens they have in their hand. I recently had a match where I felt like it was a good idea to Force of Will a Mox Opal, to hopefully prevent an Empty the Warrens, and luckily my read was correct. Against ANT, I find myself using Daze and Spell Pierce against their cantrips if I can do so not losing too much tempo. One difference between ANT and TES is the full suite of Preordain, so ANT is cantripping more often to find their combo pieces. Granted, this could easily backfire as Spell Pierce on a Ponder might do nothing if they Brainstorm the following turn, but I still feel like it is a good idea to try and slow down both Storm decks with your soft counters if you can.

How do you feel about the current playability of Stifle?

This may come as a surprise, as I am usually known to play several copies of Stifle in my Delver of Secrets decks, but I am not high on the card right now. In regards to recent card printings, cards are so powerful nowadays, that I’m not sure if I need, or want, Stifle. It feels better to be as proactive as possible in the early turns and protect yourself with free counter magic. Once in the midgame, that’s when I can start passing with mana up, but is Stifle really that great midgame? Those are the questions I’m currently asking myself and I’m playing with a lot less copies of Stifle. Also, I’m favoring UR Delver lately as it plays basic lands, and in that deck, Stifle is not as great since it isn’t hitting opposing Wasteland. Using Stifle on a Wasteland that is targeting your Tropical Island, for example, is just as good as hitting your opponents fetchland, but those scenarios do not come up with UR Delver as much since I usually have basics out.

Would you say that Empty the Warrens is still a menace to Delver of Secrets decks, even with the presence of Plague Engineer?

Yes, I do still worry about Empty the Warrens the most out of Storm decks, and particularly TES. Most Delver of Secrets decks will only have one, or sometimes two, ways to beat a resolved Empty the Warrens. I think what gets overlooked the most is that if you find your answer to Empty the Warrens, you have to hope it doesn’t get hit by Thoughtseize. Or, if a decent sized Empty the Warrens resolves, you only have a few turns to dig for that answer before you are dead! There have been plenty of games where I am happy to see an Izzet Staticaster in my opening seven, only to be disappointed when it gets turn one discarded!

What are you thoughts on Death’s Shadow and having access to cards like Hymn to Tourach versus Storm?

I’ve been playing some Death’s Shadow lately, and I quite enjoy how powerful the deck is, especially versus combo decks. Having said that, though, Storm decks seem difficult for Death’s Shadow since you sometimes bring your life total very low and are vulnerable to a mini Tendrils of Agony combo. I think Hymn to Tourach is an amazing sideboard card for Death’s Shadow, because a lot of the time I am cutting copies of Death’s Shadow and Street Wraith, and I plan to play with my life total as high as possible! Anything I can bring in to replace those cards with is great and discard, in particular, is very good against Storm. I feel like the hierarchy of hate cards versus Storm are permanents > discard > counte rmagic.

Does your general game plan change at all when you find out your opponent is on TES and not ANT?

It does. I don’t sideboard in my graveyard hate, for example. ANT can win multiple ways, but it really boils down to a Past in Flames deck, in my eyes. TES, on the other hand, doesn’t use its graveyard like that, so Delver of Secrets players should leave copies of Grafdigger’s Cage and Tormod’s Crypt in the board. This leaves extra room for additional copies of Lightning Bolt, which sounds silly, but killing a Goblin Tokens with Young Pyromancer out might be what you need to stabilize. As such, TES players might want to be a little more leary of Lightning Bolt finishing off a game if they are unsure how many turns they have left to combo.

With some TES lists playing main deck copies of Defense Grid over Duress, is this a card you would find yourself sideboarding in answers to, or do you find that it’s just better to rely on countering it?

I think you will find most Delver of Secrets players side in an artifact hate card or two against TES. It is pretty well known now that not only is Defense Grid stock, but even hitting cards like Mox Opal or Chrome Mox with an Abrade can be very good. All of this assumes you live long enough, though! Personally, I’ll try to find room to bring in one Abrade and a Null Rod/Collector Ouphe type card when I play against TES.

Do you find your Storm matchup to be better overall with the current variants now that you’re not playing a RUG deck with Wrenn and Six? If I’m not mistaken, most NBC RUG lists did not play answers to Goblin Tokens.

I find Storm matchups fairly difficult, in general, all the time, haha. Like I mentioned before, the chances of my Goblin Token sweeper being live feels pretty slim, but it is nice that the possibility is there! During the busted Wrenn and Six era, I would obviously side Wrenn and Six out versus Storm, but it was surprising how Wrenn and Six sometimes stole game ones with a Wasteland lock versus TES, which plays a lot of dual lands. Going forward, Delver of Secrets decks should be slightly better versus Storm, since we are forced to play cards to replace Wrenn and Six, and those cards will probably have a little more relevance in the matchup. I still feel like the matchup is slightly favored for Storm.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see Storm players make against you when you are playing Delver of Secrets Decks?

One thing that comes to mind is Storm players going for it on turn one without discard. Most Delver decks will have access to six “Forces” in post-board games, four Force of Wills and two Force of Negations, so a Delver of Secrets player actually has a 54.1 percent chance to have a “Force” in their opening seven! Without Force of Negation, that percentage drops to only 39.9 percent, so the old combo adage of “Go for it turn one if you have it” should be revised since Force of Negation got printed.

I would like to take a moment to thank Michael Lewis for joining Through the Looking Glass and providing some great responses on the Delver versus The EPIC Storm matchup.

Until next time, keep storming!