If you haven’t read it already, please check out my previous article for some context.
For three weeks following the PPTQ I decided to test out the new version of my Simic Delver deck to really get a feel for what was working and what wasn’t. At only four matches a week it would take a while to get sufficient data, but I was in no rush.
This was the deck list I was using:
Ben’s Post-PPTQ Delver No-Grow
I was expecting things to go about as badly as they did the weekend before at the PPTQ, but to my surprise I ended up going 3-1. Obviously something worked out in my favour; either the deck was a whole lot better, my matchups were more favourable, or I got really lucky.
I was facing down multiple Tarmogoyfs and a Tireless Tracker, and I ended up drawing three of my Delvers. I spent several turns throwing Hooting Mandrills and Strangleroot Geists in the way of the attackers just to stay alive. I was waiting for my Delvers to transform, which they stubbornly refused to do. Finally, after what felt like forever, my Delvers transformed from a revealed Simic Charm and I was able to fly in for a quick win.
My Eight-whack opponent was the same player I faced the weekend before, so it was good to see how the matchup went after my changes. We had two very close games where he was forced to dedicate a lot of his removal to destroying my Thing in the Ice, which left him without enough resources to kill me. Game 2 saw him trading a Goblin Grenade and two Lightning Bolts to take out two back-to-back Things in the Ice, and I traded off two Delver of Secrets to kill his attacking Foundry Street Denizens before they got out of hand. I was able to follow up with a Hooting Mandrills and two Chart a Courses to refuel. He swung in for lethal, but a Pongify kept me alive at 1 life. My opponent was also low, at only 6 life with just the Ape token to block. I needed some luck, and found it in the form of a top-decked Simic Charm. With a Blossoming Defense already in my hand, my Hooting Mandrills was able to swing in for exactly enough damage.
Against Mardu Pyromancer
My match against Mardu Pyromancer was the Feature Match for the round, broadcast live on steam. Thankfully it went well for me. Dismember dispatched his Young Pyromancer right away, and I was able to get all three Strangleroot Geists into play very early. My opponent ran into some bad luck that game, too, dying with a hand of three uncastable Bedlam Revelers. In game 2 my Sorcerous Spyglass shut him off of a land, allowing my Spell Pierce to stop a flashed-back Faithless Looting. Having seen his hand with the Spyglass, I was also able to play around his Fatal Push; I aimed a Dismember at his Young Pyromancer, waiting to see if he would use his removal on his own creature before I exposed any of my targets to it. He did end up casting the Fatal Push to make an Elemental token, freeing me up to cast my Delver and Thing in the Ice. The game ended shortly thereafter as my Delver and a Hooting Mandrills made quick work of his life total.
My match against Storm… didn’t go well. I got off to a quick start, with a transformed Delver attacking alongside a Strangleroot Geist on turn two, but despite this blisteringly quick clock I died to 25 Grapeshots on his turn 3. Game 2 didn’t go much better. I’m not sure what I need to do to beat Storm, but mulliganing aggressively for a Damping Sphere might be the ticket.
All in all, the deck felt a lot stronger with the inclusion of the Strangleroot Geists and Blossoming Defenses. I decided to do some more testing the following week without making any changes to the deck. This way I could see if this good performance was just a fluke, or if I had finally found a configuration of the deck that worked.
This time, things went poorly. I ended up going 1-5, including the couple of extra matches I played for fun.
I faced Red-Blue Wizards, Mono-Green Stompy, Titanshift, Eight-Rack, and Bant Knightfall. I only managed to eek out a victory against Bant Knightfall. I feel that part of my trouble was due to poor mulligan choices, part of it was from not properly playing around removal and counter-magic, and part of it was that my interaction lined up very poorly with what my opponents were trying to do.
Against Red-Blue Wizards
Everything I cast was countered. Every. Single. Thing. It was a bit demoralizing, especially when my opponent’s Delver of Secrets started killing me; there was no small bit of irony to that! My Hooting Mandrills looked especially bad in this matchup, getting met with multiple Remands and other cheap counters.
Against Mono-Green Stompy
Every other time I’ve faced this particular opponent he was playing Storm, so I was very surprised to see him cast an Experiment One on turn one. I wasn’t quite prepared for his blisteringly fast aggression, and quickly lost. Game 2 I was able to put up more of a fight, but even then his combat tricks proved better than mine.
I felt somewhat safe against a Scapeshift with a Spell Pierce in my hand, but it ended up being completely useless when my opponent dropped a Primeval Titan and won anyway. I did manage to win one game when my opponent forgot to pay for his Summoner’s Pact, but it wasn’t an especially satisfying win.
I made the mistake of playing a Thing in the Ice right into a Smallpox on turn 2, which pretty much ruined my chance at racing any Rack damage. I got close to winning the next game by drawing a bunch of extra cards from Chart a Course, but it wasn’t quite enough; I died just before I could swing in for lethal.
Against Bant Knightfall
With my creatures getting tapped down repeatedly by Tamiyo, Field Researcher, I was effectively locked out of the game 1. Thankfully, in the other games Tamiyo didn’t make an appearance and I was actually able to sneak in some wins thanks to Artful Dodge and some pump spells.
Given the great disparity between my results over the two weeks I knew that one more week of testing was absolutely in order. I was finally getting a sense of what was working at what wasn’t in the deck, but after a few more games I could really narrow things down.
In game 1, my opponent set up their combo, tapping down my mana with a Pestermite at the end of my turn so I couldn’t stop them. In game 2 I got a Spyglass out naming Kiki-Jiki, which made me feel somewhat safe. Unfortunately, my Hooting Mandrills got Remanded several times in a row. I was able to use Chart a Course to refill my graveyard, but a Snapcaster Mage set up a third Remand, and another one flashed back a Spell Snare to stop my Strangleroot Geist. With nothing else to cast, Kiki-Jiki went on the offensive as a hasty 2/2 and swung in alongside the two Snapcasters for the win. On the bright side it was a quick match, but it was certainly a crushing defeat.
In game 1, I used Mana Leak to counter an early Faithless Looting, then a Spell Pierce to counter a second one. My opponent really needed one of those to resolve, as this left him stuck on one land for most of the game. He eventually lined up some blockers, but I was able to use Artful Dodge and Blossoming Defense to swing in for lethal past them. In game 2 it was my turn to be stuck on one land, and I was quickly overrun. When sideboarding for Game 3 I finally realized that my bounce spells would be far more effective against Dredge than my usual Pongify or Dismember plan. I sided in my copies of Thing in the Ice, and with a flurry of spells I was able to attack my opponent down to 1 life. All he had were two Stinkweed Imps in his hand that he could have played as blockers, but one of his three lands was a Mana Confluence, which killed him.
Against Sultai Midrange
In Game 1 I squeezed through a win with Artful Dodge once again. A removal spell aimed to ruin my plans, but the hexproof mode of Simic Charm ensured my attack went through without a hitch. In Game 2 I cast Serum Visions into Serum Visions into Serum Visions, digging for a way to protect my Hooting Mandrills. I was able to shrink down a Tarmogoyf by exiling some cards with the delve ability on the Mandrills, reducing it to a 3/4 and unable to swing into my big apes. I snapped off a Dismember to kill a Vendilion Clique before it could attack, which did make the Goyf grow again, but I had a plan. I went down to 1 life, but stabilized by blocking a Snapcaster and bouncing the Goyf with Simic Charm. I followed that up by blocking the recast Goyf with the Mandrills and buffing my apes up to a 7/7 with another Charm. My opponent played a Creeping Tar Pit, and while I had an option to lock it down with Sorcerous Spyglass, I chose to destroy it with my Ghost Quarter instead. After the dust settled I was left with my Hooting Mandrills still in play, which closed out the game in two short turns.
In game 1 I tunneled through a huge swath of my deck but couldn’t find any interaction. Naturally, this meant the combo deck did its combo deck thing and I lost. In game 2 Strangleroot Geist got there with the help of a double-Simic Charm pump for an unexpectedly lethal swing. In game 3 I got my opponent low with a flipped Delver, but couldn’t find any counter-magic to stop his Scapeshift.
With three weeks of testing now done, it was time to go over my results.
All in all, the deck performed pretty well, winning a bit less than half the time. There were some consistently bad matchups, though there were also some favourable ones. Control and combo decks proved difficult for every version of this deck, while my deck always matched up far better against midrange decks.
My hexproof-based protection was usually enough in midrange matches because those decks relied on targeted removal. Against control I struggled more because they favoured sweepers or counter-magic to deal with my creatures. Combo decks would usually just ignore my threats until they were able to snap off a win, and unless I got lucky my deck was rarely fast enough to race them.
With all this in mind I decided to make some more tweaks. As I rooted around for possible cards to include I came across Plaxmanta, a quirky blue creature from Dissension. For 2 mana you could flash it in and give all of your creatures shroud, effectively acting as another Simic Charm or Blossoming Defense. It could also be cast as a surprise blocker or just another body. It did have the downside of dying if you didn’t pay green mana to cast it, but the deck was already able to cast Simic Charm reliably, so that wasn’t a big concern.
The final result looked like this:
Delver No-Grow 2.0
I tested the new version of the deck the following week. That story, however, will have to wait until next time.
I hope you’ll join me then for the conclusion of my Delver-Grow testing. In the meantime, remember to take notes if you’re doing any sort of testing; it will give you a much clearer picture of what’s going on.
In the words of of the great Mythbuster Adam Savage, “The only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.”