It seems every deck got new toys in Modern Horizons, and my Simic Delver deck is no exception. There are new lands, new counterspells and new creatures in the set to consider. Plus, there’s a whole new metagame to figure out. Modern is in a weird spot right now, with uninteractive combo decks dominating the field, but I’m not about to abandon Delver Grow now!

Pre-Horizons Delver Grow

If you’d like to catch up on the full history of my Delver Grow deck, you can find the articles here:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Tuning Up, At the PPTQ, Testing No-Grow, The Final Form.


New Counterspells

One of the big cards that had the community buzzing when Modern Horizons came out was Force of Negation. A 0-mana Negate when it’s not your turn is strong, but it might not be quite what I’m looking for in Delver Grow. The typical play pattern of the deck involves playing a creature early, then protecting it with Dispel, Blossoming Defense, Simic Charm or Deprive. My opponent will usually fire off a removal spell at the end of my turn, so I usually want to wait until I can hold up extra mana before casting my creature. Dispel in particular has proven to be a great thorn is many a player’s side, especially since very few people expect to see it in game 1.

Force of Negation is different. At 3 mana it’s normally actually quite clunky, and since its alternate casting cost can’t be used during my turn I’m worried it will be a dead card more often than not. Not to mention that even when I’m paying the alternate cost I’m throwing away a second card; for a deck like Delver Grow, that second card can be a big price to pay. I can also imagine several scenarios where I don’t even have a second blue card in my hand, leaving me stuck with an expensive Negate.

All that said, when Force of Negation is good, it’s great. Being able to tap out and still have an answer to Neoform, Karn, Teferi or any other oppressive noncreature spell is nothing to scoff at. I’m definitely going to find room for at least one of these new spells, but I probably don’t want more than two copies at most.

The other interesting bit of counter magic to come out of Modern Horizons is Archmage’s Charm. Your choice of an unconditional counterspell, instant-speed card draw, or limited Control Magic, this charm looks pretty good. The only catch, and it’s a big one, is its casting cost of three Blue mana.

In a dedicated Blue Control deck this card seems like a great inclusion; it looks a bit like a miniature Cryptic Command, though it admittedly doesn’t compare all that favourably to that Modern staple. Nevertheless, any deck that can cast Cryptic has enough Blue mana for Archmage’s Charm, and being able to cycle the charm away on an opponent’s end step for two cards is pretty nice.

Delver Grow, however, is not one of those decks. I lean a bit more on Green mana than this new Charm can support, and 3 mana is actually quite a lot for this deck. If I was running mono-blue, I would absolutely run the Charm, and it might replace Chart a Course entirely as my go-to card draw spell. As it is, I’d rather have something that’s easier to cast; Archmage’s Charm would just get stuck in my hand far too often for my liking.

New Creatures

Looking back at the very beginning of my Delver Grow journey, I was heavily inspired by old Miracle Grow decks. At the time I was focusing on Quirion Dryad, but now that Nimble Mongoose is in Modern, another piece of the classic deck is available. My list has changed a lot from its Miracle Grow origins, so I doubt Nimble Mongoose fits with my current build. Still, I am curious if this critter is even playable; if I was still using Thought Scour in my deck then Nimble Mongoose might be a solid threat, but as it stands the deck takes too long to reliably get Threshold. Additionally, I’m prone to exiling my own cards with Scavenging Ooze and Hooting Mandrills, so that also wouldn’t work as well with the Mongoose plan. Sadly, I’ll have to pass on this creature, but maybe I can find a home for it in the future.

Collector Ouphe, on the other hand, feels like a very good addition to my deck, especually considering the Modern metagame overall. Stony Silence is a staple of many sideboards, but I’m looking to go one step further: I want to fit the Ouphe into my main deck. I’ve played enough games where I’ve cast my Plaxmanta on turn 2 just to have a threat on the board, and the pressure from the 2/2 attacking every turn was good enough to win me the game, so having another Bear in the deck seems fine to me. Plaxmanta has Flash, meaning I can sneak it in on my opponent’s end step, so the comparison isn’t perfect. That said, the 2/2 body is just as effective on the Ouphe as it is on the Plaxmanta.

Collector Ouphe is also not as resilient as Strangleroot Geist, and without haste it’s not as good at pressuring planeswalkers. That said, the number of commonly used cards that the Ouphe shuts down makes it worth considering: Aether Vial, Walking Ballista, Chromatic Star, Altar of Dementia, Pentad Prism, Darksteel Citadel…. The list goes on and on. I doubt Ouphes will replace all of the Geists in my deck, but swapping out at least one seems worth trying. Depending on how the metagame shakes out, I might swap out even more of my creatures as time goes on.

New Lands

It wouldn’t be a discussion of cards from Modern Horizons without at least mentioning the new Horizon Lands. Waterlogged Grove seems like a great addition for a deck like mine that can’t afford to flood out. The life loss from it is certainly a concern, especially with fetchlands, shocklands and my copies of Dismember eating away at my own life total. I probably can’t justify more than two of these lands in the deck, but they should help smooth out my draws.

The question is, what do I cut to make room for Waterlogged Grove? It felt strange to trim down the number of Breeding Pools in the deck, but thinking about it more and more, it might be the correct answer. Both of these lands hurt me, so running up to six of them could be a bit much. Plus, Misty Rainforest can find my remaining two Breeding Pools if needed, or can just grab a basic land instead. I generally like grabbing a basic when I can anyway, so this change shouldn’t have too big an impact on my gameplay.

Waterlogged Grove is also the better land to play if I want to keep mana up “just in case”. With Breeding Pool I have to pay the life up front, committing to having it untapped regardless of what my opponent does. If my opponent doesn’t play anything that I want to counter, I’ve just wasted two life. With the Grove I still have mana available, but I won’t lose life if I don’t use the land. Plus, the Grove plays better with Deprive; I don’t have to Shock myself a second time to have it come in untapped again.

Old Cards for a New Metagame

One of the biggest changes in Modern recently has been the increased importance of graveyard hate. As it stands, the Tormod’s Crypt in my sideboard probably won’t cut it, especially if I draw it alongside Collector Ouphe. Grafdigger’s Cage seems like a reasonable replacement, and also helps to protect against Neoform and Collected Company. The Cage also shuts down Panglacial Wurm, but I doubt that will matter much. Mind you, the right answer might just be to run both the Cage and the Crypt, at least until the graveyard decks drop in popularity. Plus, since Grafdigger’s Cage is making a reappearance in the new Core set, I should be able to track down an extra one.

Given how important graveyard hate currently is, l should also seriously consider running more copies of Scavenging Ooze in the main deck. I’m hesitant to cut more Strangleroot Geists or Plaxmantas to make room for them, since that makes my deck weaker in removal-heavy matchups, but it might actually be the right thing to do. At its worst Scavenging Ooze is still pretty good, and it often demands an answer from my opponent before it gets out of hand. The other option would be to cut a copy or two of Hooting Mandrills, but I’m not convinced that I should. My big green apes do solid work, and are always a difficult threat for decks to handle.

In non-graveyard related matters, the other card I’m curious to try is a long-forgotten counter spell called Nix. Hailing from Future Sight, Nix is a single blue mana to counter any free spell. That includes 0-mana spells, like Mox Opal, and any spells cast with Cascade, like Living End. It also stops a lot of the Phyrexian mana spells, like Surgical Extraction, and cards cast entiely with Convoke, like Hogaak. Other manaless alternate casting costs like Force of Negation are also stopped by Nix. All told, it counters a surprisingly wide array of spells in Modern right now. The card is effectively a one-time use of Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, but without needing to play White. I’m not sure how useful this counterspell actually is, to be honest, and I haven’t found room for it in the deck yet. Even still, it might be worth testing. It really depends on how the metagame shakes out, but it’s an intriguing option, to say the least.

One thing I will say about Nix: the fact that I’m even considering it highlights how odd Modern is at the moment, and also shows how much potential a card like Lavinia has in the format right now.

Post-Horizons Delver Grow

The changes I made are all pretty minor, but they may have a big impact on the deck in the long run.

Forewarned is Forearmed

I was worried when Modern Horizons first came out that my Delver Grow deck wouldn’t stand a chance in the new metagame. Now that I’ve taken the time to assess things, I feel like I have a reasonable plan and a bit more optimism. It’s probably going to be rough for the next little while, but I can fight the good fight.

I don’t get to test Modern as often as I would like these days, so planning ahead like this is especially important. I’ve been keeping an eye on the new decks coming out, and I’m gradually figuring out the holes in their defenses. Delver Grow’s flexible counter-magic and aggressive board presence means it can handle itself in most matchups with a reasonable draw and a good game plan.

Every deck has a weak spot; you don’t need to answer everything, but stopping that one linchpin card can often buy you just enough time to swing for lethal. With the changes I’ve made to both the main deck and sideboard, my answers should line up better with the most common threats of the day. I’m sure it’s not perfect, but it should hold up reasonably well.

I guess I’ll just have to try it and see how it goes.

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