July ’20 Brew Report, Vol. 2: Bird in the Bush

Last week I unveiled Delirium Delver, my latest pile featuring Tarmogoyf and Serum Visions. It was Stormwing Delver that got me brewing again, and apparently I wasn’t alone. Today, we’ll explore Modern’s latest spell-attack renaissance by looking at what the tempo heads are slinging online. Clearly, there’s no shortage of options!

Flipping the Table

That’s right, I’m still not out of “flip” idioms! Nor is Modern out of ways to make a 3/2 go.

Temur Jolrael Delver, SONKERZ (5-0)

Creatures (14)
Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse
Young Pyromancer
Delver of Secrets
Snapcaster Mage

Instants (18)
Archmage’s Charm
Deprive
Force of Negation
Izzet Charm
Lightning Bolt
Magmatic Sinkhole
Opt
Spell Snare

Sorceries (8)
Flame Slash
Of One Mind
Serum Visions

Lands (20)
Breeding Pool
Island
Ketria Triome
Misty Rainforest
Mystic Sanctuary
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Sideboard (15)
Abrade
Aether Gust
Ashiok, Dream Render
Ceremonious Rejection
Huntmaster of the Fells
Narset, Parter of Veils
Relic of Progenitus
Veil of Summer
Weather the Storm
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Temur Jolrael Delver doesn’t bother with Hooting Mandrills or Stormwing Entity, preferring to employ Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse as additional copies of Young Pyromancer. While it’s a weaker beater on its own and more difficult to trigger, requiring cantrips rather than literally any instant or sorcery, Jolrael rewards players for their patience by churning out 2/2s, which are twice as big as Pyro’s Elementals. Still, Jolrael produces but one token per turn.

The real reason to run a functional seven Pyromancers is an increased ability to abuse Of One Mind. Cheaply gassing up is incredibly good in Delver shells, since they have so many efficient spells to deploy quickly; Jolrael Temur Delver is built enough with the sorcery in mind to run three copies.

Jeskai Delver, NHA37 (3-2, Modern Preliminary #12182513)

Creatures (16)
Sprite Dragon
Stormwing Entity
Delver of Secrets
Snapcaster Mage

Artifacts (4)
Mishra’s Bauble

Instants (22)
Gut Shot
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Manamorphose
Opt
Path to Exile
Surgical Extraction

Lands (18)
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Mountain
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Seachrome Coast
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
Sideboard (15)
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Path to Exile
Surgical Extraction
Alpine Moon
Kor Firewalker
Seasoned Pyromancer
Tormod’s Crypt
Wear // Tear
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Jeskai Delver, too, opts for a less-than-common threat suite. Both Sprite Dragon and Stormwing are run at max numbers here, giving the deck a more pronounced prowess direction. The deck’s “glue” is truly Manamorphose, which increases instant/sorcery count for Delver, rushes out Stormwing, triggers both the Elemental and the Dragon, and can even be flashed back with Snapcaster Mage in a pinch. Morphose also casts Lightning Helix off an Island, something I know must come up since I’ve come to rely on it to enable basic Forest in a deck that often casts all red or blue one-drops in a turn.

Especially thanks to Stormwing, but also independent of the newcomer, I’m becoming increasingly enamored with Manamorphose in Delver shells for this reason. It’s just so damn versatile! The cantrip’s biggest drawback in Delver has always been its awkwardness with countermagic: if we draw into Mana Leak on our main phase, we lose out on the two mana held up on an opponent’s turn. But as my recent builds haven’t featured Mana Leak (or other permission spells more expensive than Stubborn Denial), that hasn’t been much of an issue, and the instant’s greasing oil has been felt profoundly within the machine.

Vantress Delver, CHERRYXMAN (5-0)

Creatures (15)
Thieves’ Guild Enforcer
Delver of Secrets
Vantress Gargoyle
Snapcaster Mage
Brazen Borrower

Instants (20)
Drown in the Loch
Force of Negation
Into the Story
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Spell Pierce
Spell Snare
Thought Scour

Sorceries (8)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Serum Visions
Thoughtseize

Lands (17)
Blood Crypt
Mystic Sanctuary
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Swamp
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Sideboard (15)
Spell Snare
Bitterblossom
Ceremonious Rejection
Collective Brutality
Fatal Push
Mystical Dispute
Surgical Extraction
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Flying totally off the rails is Vantress Delver, a deck brought to us by column regular CHERRYXMAN. VD is a spin on my old brew, UB Trap, that aimed to set off Archive Trap and then flood the skies with huge beaters in Jace’s Phantasm and the namesake Vantress Gargoyle. Of course, that deck had the issue of not always starting with Archive Trap.

VD declines to run Trap altogether, instead investing in a one-drop Plan B made possible by Thieves’ Guild Enforcer. Together with Delver, Enforcer fronts early pressure and baits opponents into interacting, which fills their graveyards. Of course, Enforcer also does some milling, some of it maybe triggered by the Rogue Brazen Borrower.

Filling out the disruption suite, which otherwise features staples in Inquisition and Bolt, is Drown in the Loch. Provided players fulfill its condition, Drown does it all, and here it takes care of enemy synergies and roadblocks while patrolling the stack.

Bird Eats the Bug

None of the above Delver decks featured Stormwing Entity, the card that made me excited again to sleeve up the Human Insect. But Entity’s far from a sleeper this month, turbo-charging Modern’s latest bumpin’ archetype: UR Prowess. It seems like an Entity-fueled blue splash is everything the dwindling Prowess archetype needed to remain relevant.

A sample list, from none other than our buddy TUBBYBATMAN:

UR Prowess, TUBBYBATMAN (3-2, Modern Preliminary #12176966)

Creatures (14)
Stormwing Entity
Sprite Dragon
Monastery Swiftspear
Soul-Scar Mage

Sorceries (4)
Serum Visions

Instants (24)
Gut Shot
Lava Dart
Lightning Bolt
Manamorphose
Mutagenic Growth
Peek

Lands (18)
Arid Mesa
Fiery Islet
Mountain
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
Sideboard (15)
Abrade
Dragon’s Claw
Spell Pierce
Surgical Extraction
Vapor Snag
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UR Prowess was absolutely the story of the month in online events. Besides the above preliminary, the deck appeared in four others, and dominated the 5-0s. Stormwing is a natural fit for the deck other than its color, but as splashing one color is trivial in Modern, especially for decks already in Blood Moon‘s color, it ain’t no thang to toss in a set of Islets.

Different builds are also emerging, with some running Bedlam Reveler for late-game oomph and others still dipping into Of One Mind. As with Delver, a low-curve, high-efficiency strat like UR Prowess makes great use of a one-mana draw-two. What tickles me about Mind is how fairly it’s being applied: these are decks that literally run some Humans and some non-Humans, and here they are planning on drawing and resolving each normally before firing it off. It feels like Standard! But it also speaks to the cantrip’s power, and its potential explosiveness alongside effective enablers. After all, if the card can make Young Pyromancer playable again….

A Spell Over Modern

I’ve long held that a format with successful tempo and midrange decks is one exhibiting strong signs of health. That’s where Modern’s at currently, at least judging by these dumps, and I hope its diversity continues into August. See you then!

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