Where were we? Two weeks ago, I wrote about Izzet Blitz, Mono Blue Delver and a little bit about Elves. I took last week off in order to watch EVO – I’m a huge fan of Super Smash Bros. Melee and I can only recommend you check it out for yourself. I personally enjoy watching Mew2King’s Marth the most, but that’s just me.
Anyway, moving on to what you’re here for. This week, I mostly played UR Faeries and Mono Blue Delver; these are the decks we’ll take a look at today. I want to compare the two lists, looking at similarities as well highlighting their individual advantages.
I also played one League with Bogles, but that was mostly out of boredom and I didn’t put any real thought into it. This week’s metagame snapshot will be on the bottom of the article, as always.
For starters, here are my decklists:
#150 — Think Twice over Gush.
This is something I have been doing for a long time now. Looking back at my mtggoldfish history, I switched from Gush to Think Twice some time in February, almost half a year ago. So when Xto2 asked about it on reddit in response to #theweeklywars #21, I figured I’d simply look up one of my older articles and copy/paste what I wrote then. I was quite surprised to find out that for whatever reason, I had never actually talked about this.
The main reason I started playing Think Twice over Gush is that I was tired of having to board out my main card draw spell against Stompy and Affinity. Returning two lands to your hand is a very steep cost when you want to cast Spire Golems or cast multiple counterspells in the same turn. Unless you’re aggressively Delver-ing people, you want to make 6-8 land drops in pretty much every game. You want to have four lands on board as early as possible in order to either have Ninja + countermagic or double countermagic, depending on what you’re up against.
To some extent, this applies to Daze as well, but given that Daze is a counterspell, it usually just means that you “borrow” mana from a later turn – you might not have four lands on turn four, but you get to cast the same number of spells anyway. With Gush, this isn’t quite true because it doesn’t actually interact with anything.
There are two smaller, but still significant advantages to Think Twice. The first one is how it slots into the way the deck plays. Quite often, you find yourself with two untapped lands going into your opponent’s turn. Then, in order to “waste your mana”, they play one spell as bait, which you likely won’t counter because it’s not very impactful. If you don’t counter it, they simply don’t play their other spell, but if you do counter it, they follow up with their more important card. Either way, not a great outlook for you. If you have a Think Twice in hand though, you can just use your mana to draw a card in their endstep, which might not look very impressive, but over the course of the game, it is a big advantage over returning lands to your hand in order to draw cards.
The next advantage is the ability to develop your mana. With rare exceptions where you want to spend mana mainphase and don’t have any land drops lined up, Gush does not help developing your mana. Conversely, Think Twice does not cost you land drops while actually helping you dig for land.
Another small factor is Think Twice’s consistency in generating card advantage. It does not come up much, but Gush can be countered or discarded. This is extremely annoying, given how important it is for these two decks to get ahead on cards. If your opponent counters half of your Think Twice, great, you just got to trade for a counterspell without removing any business spells from your deck.
Obviously, flashback can be a drawback as well. Bojuka Bog is a thing and I’ve had people board Relic of Progenitus against me in the past. Speaking of Relic, I’ve had to exile a Think Twice to my own Relic more than once.
#151 — Removing Delver of Secrets.
Long before UR became a thing, I was boarding out Delver of Secrets in several matchups, like the Mono Blue mirror, Stompy and Tron. (Side note: This is no longer true with the removal of Spire Golem.) In general, I have a suspicion that I play a much more controlling game with these two decks than most people, focusing more on card advantage than damage (although ideally, I want to deal damage with Ninja of the Deep Hours, doing both things at the same time).
Still, Delver of Secrets is a very useful tool in some matchups that I don’t quite feel alright cutting altogether – in Mono Blue, that is. In UR, I don’t think Delver of Secrets deserves a slot. Quite frankly, I don’t think the manabase supports the aggressive draws quite as well as the all-Island manabase does. You lose too much tempo spending mana on making two colours work – either by downright spending mana to activate Ash Barrens or because you have Evolving Wilds, which, in a way, also costs mana.
UR being the worse Delver deck might seem ironic because it has (well, in my case, had) Lightning Bolt, but its early game is not good enough to really justify Delver of Secrets, whereas its late game, with actual hard removal spells and without Dazes, is good enough to allow you to not run Delver.
#152 — Removing Lightning Bolt.
For the record, I did remove Lightning Bolt long after I removed Delver of Secrets. I think it was Magic Online user crushingyoueverytime who brought it up in one of our matches, wondering if Flame Slash was actually better than Lightning Bolt. I was initially skeptical, because I was closing out quite a number of games with burn spells, but I decided to try it anyway.
I have only played ten or so leagues with the current configuration, but I have to say I quite like it. The Affinity matchup is much better this way and I’ve killed a good number of X/2’s when my opponent had +2/+2 pump spells in hand.
Of course, Flame Slash does have its downsides. It does not come up very often, but there are games I lose to Circle of Protection: Blue or because my Tron opponent got to chain too many copies of Moment’s Peace, but that has happened maybe three or four times. The bigger downside is Flame Slash being sorcery speed. I value flexibility very highly, and Flame Slash is not very flexible. It’s hard for me to say how many games (if any) this has actually cost me, but it certainly feels like a bigger problem than the lack of reach.
#153 — Brainstorm in Pauper.
If you only know me because of Pauper, you might not know that I’m a Legacy guy. Which means that I have cast my fair share of Brainstorms. As a matter of fact, I’ve been playing Legacy since early 2010 and in all that time I have only played one tournament without the full four Brainstorms in my deck (I played a local with Maverick back in 2012).
I think we are slowly reaching the point where you’re no longer putting yourself at a serious disadvantage by not playing Brainstorm in Legacy. Still, Brainstorm coupled with Onslaught/Zendikar fetchlands is busted.
In Pauper, Brainstorm is much worse. Brainstorm is great in Legacy and Vintage because it’s flexible. Given how good fetchlands are in those formats, the shuffle is quite often free. In Pauper, that is not the case. In Pauper, Brainstorm essentially costs two mana. Especially with Ash Barrens, Brainstorm can be really awkward.
The main way I use cantrips in decks that aren’t Izzet Blitz is to dig for lands – a Ponder or Preordain in the late game is nice, but it’s nowhere near as important as the one that finds your second or third land and allows you to get away with low land counts in these decks. Brainstorm is extremely bad at this. You really don’t want to cast a turn two Brainstorm in order to find land and then find yourself with a copy of Ash Barrens. Maybe Brainstorm is good enough that it’s worth it to run a Terramorphic Expanse / Evolving Wilds split, but I’ve found the extra untapped red sources quite valuable.
Another issue with Pauper fetchlands is that you want to activate them as early as possible. In Legacy, there is not real cost to not using your fetchland when you don’t need to spend the mana, but not using your fetchland in Pauper means you don’t have the mana.
#154 — A short sidenote on Augur of Bolas in UR Faeries.
I just have to say that missing with Augur is rather awkward and happens a little too much for my taste. I also dislike not being able to hit lands. I will be testing Sea Gate Oracle instead, but I have a suspicion that three mana is too much and I will have to keep playing the Augur-lottery.
#155 — When to play which?
This is not a very simple question. When the UR Skred list first caught my attention, I quickly came to the conclusion that it was a strict upgrade to Mono Blue. As I’ve written about last week, I no longer find that to be correct.
The main advantage of Mono Blue is how much better the mana is. I wrote about this a while ago; I consider Mono Blue Delver’s manabase the best of any deck I have ever played in any format. The landcount is pretty low for (what I consider to be) a control deck, yet you still hit your first couple of land drops with amazing consistency. This means the deck has a very high ceiling; the number of games where the deck just doesn’t perform is extremely low.
In conjunction with this, as mentioned above, Mono Blue has better aggro draws – this is true no matter how many Delvers you play in UR. Not only is it a much better Delver deck, it’s also a better Ninja deck – not only because it has more / cheaper creatures than UR.
Daze allows you to go for lines that are generally unreasonable with UR, such as the turn two Ninja or turn two double Faerie Miscreant. It’s also nice insurance against game-changing spells in the early game, most notably Curse of the Pierced Heart and Bogles’ CMC 3 auras. As a matter of fact, despite the fact that UR has access to Electrickery and Swirling Sandstorm, Mono Blue does better in the matchup, at least based on my results playing all three of these decks.
UR has one major advantage: Hard removal. When something slips through against Mono Blue, that is usually a problem. With Snow-Covered Mountains in your deck, you can just Skred your opponent’s Gurmag Angler, Kor Skyfisher or Myr Enforcer and move on with your life. Sure, Mono Blue also has Snap, Vapor Snag or Echoing Truth, but those all cost you a card just to delay the problem.
Another upside of UR is Pyroblast, which, to be honest, is nowhere near as important as the maindeck removal spells. The main use for Pyroblast is countering Mulldrifter – a noble goal, admittedly. It also helps in the mirror and generally wins counterwars, but in exchange, you don’t have Daze in those matchups, so it more or less evens out.
Gorilla Shaman is barely worth mentioning. For the longest time, I played without them and I only recently started playing two copies because Affinity was the most played deck by a long shot for a short amount of time.
If you were asking for a TL;DR, I would say that Mono Blue is better at making games go long whereas UR is better at winning games that naturally go long.
I think Mono Blue does better against Mono Green Stompy, Burn, Bogles and decks like Elves or Goblins if you play Viridian Longbow (which I really think you should). UR does better against Izzet Blitz, all the Kor Skyfisher decks (like a lot better) and, perhaps most notably, it’s ahead in the Spellstutter Sprite mirror.
I think Tron and Affinity, along with the various UB matchups, are pretty much the same with either deck. Both come with their advantages and they seem to even out overall.
Before I sign off, a quick metagame snapshot, covering all my Pauper matches since #theweeklywars #21:
I have to say, this looks a lot more diverse than it really is. While we have 18 different decks represented, we really only have ten different archetypes represented in three or more of my 60 matches (9 archetypes if you lump in BW Monarch with the other Kor Skyfisher decks, which maybe you/I should).
Affinity is still the most prevalent deck, as it has been for a while. Then we have a resurgence of UB Control variants, mainly those with Ghostly Flicker and Chittering Rats. Next we have Burn, which is an odd story. I have played six of my last 60 matches against Burn, but they were all on the same day – I played against Burn six times in three leagues on Saturday. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of that.
Interestingly, Tron has dropped off quite a bit. Maybe that has to do with UB Flicker? I have never played the matchup, but I can imagine it favours UB.
Overall, I think UR Faeries is a great choice for this metagame (and I did in fact have pretty strong results with it), especially with the decline of Stompy, a deck that is pretty good at exploiting UR’s lacking early game.
I’m fairly sure there won’t be an article next week because I’m playing MKM Prague this weekend and I’m taking a few days off from Magic Online when I come back. I fully expect to be back in two weeks though. If you have any questions left about Mono Blue or UR Faeries, please let me know. I wrote about everything I considered unusual about my lists, but obviously I might view things differently from others.
Thanks for reading!