Throughout the history of the Pauper format, there's by and large been one archetype that has proven a tried and true archetype: Delver. Delver decks have come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. These have included a Mono-Blue Tempo variant, a Dimir self-mill version based on Gurmag Angler, a more control/tempo oriented Dimir build, and of course: Izzet Delver.
Izzet Delver had, for quite awhile at least, been the top dog of the Pauper format, dominating event after event. That started to change in late 2018 when players developed the more intense version of Dimir Delver that featured an endless slew of free spells. That deck got even more powerful with the downshift of Foil in Ultimate Masters. Dimir Delver ended up being so strong that it pushed the Izzet versions of Delver out of the meta almost entirely, with the banning of Gush last year effectively being a death sentence for the archetype.
Players adamantly tried to make the deck work well, but with the absence of Gush, it was a lot harder to get the same punch as you could once in the past. Accumulated Knowledge was tried to pretty solid effect, but two mana paid multiple times over a few turns compared to free is just not even a fair comparison. That's to say nothing about Gush's hidden ability as an extra land drop for extra mana because it often times was just that.
Over the next few months, we saw a few new sets released, and with them new tools to help rejuvenate the old Pauper classic. Modern Horizons gave us the super sweet and small Faerie Seer, a card that has by and large taken over a slot once reserved for Faerie Miscreant. Then with Throne of Eldraine, we saw the multi-format powerhouse of Mystic Sanctuary come up. Just about everyone looked that card and went, "yeah, that's going to see play."
And to the surprise of absolutely no one, it absolutely did... even if it took a little bit to get that ball rolling. Now Izzet Faeries - usually sans Delver - is the deck of choice and once again one of the best archetypes in the format! Let's have a peek at a list:
Izzet Faeries | Pauper | Backoff, Magic Online Pauper League 5-0
- Instants (19)
- 1 Deprive
- 2 Brainstorm
- 2 Exclude
- 2 Fire // Ice
- 2 Lightning Bolt
- 2 Tragic Lesson
- 4 Counterspell
- 4 Skred
- Lands (20)
- 10 Snow-Covered Island
- 2 Snow-Covered Mountain
- 2 Mystic Sanctuary
- 3 Ash Barrens
- 3 Evolving Wilds
For the most part the list is a pretty standard Faeries style list, but it's dropped the Delver in favor of a more spell heavy package. Some of the lists still retain the Delvers, but roughly 60% run the Faeries version so that's what I'm focusing on here. The way the deck functions is by basically slowly countering what you try and play, or else removing cards that aren't able to get countered but an eat a removal spell with ease.
Your main creature base is comprised of a bunch of value creatures. They're mostly pretty tiny, but that's fine given how much you'll find yourself controlling the rest of the game. Faerie Seer sets up your plays for success while also making your copies of Spellstutter Sprite better for when they finally come down. We can also use them to attack and use Ninja of the Deep Hours's ninjutsu effect to return them to our hand, draw a card, and replay them for even more value. Last, we have Augur of Bolas - a creature that helps us find whatever instants or sorceries we need to win the game. You can also get some sick ninjutsu value with Augur, but since they don't fly it's a bit harder to do so.
Beyond that is your usual suite of removal spells like Lightning Bolt, Skred, and Fire // Ice to take out creatures and occasionally deal some direct damage. We've also got a few pieces of countermagic. Not only do we use Spellstutter Sprite to great effect, but we also have a few copies of actual Counterspell as well as a couple Excludes. The real power comes with our lone copy of Deprive thanks to a new card from Throne of Eldraine - Mystic Sanctuary.
Mystic Sanctuary allows us the pick up a spell from our graveyard and put it on top of our deck, provided of course that we have three other Islands when it enters the battlefield. That's not that hard as you can simply wait until later in the game to do so. This gets evil when you combine it with Deprive as you can return the Mystic Sanctuary to your hand with the Deprive's extra cost. This ensures that you will always have a counterspell at the ready and can even lock unsuspecting opponents out of the game entirely.
Mystic Sanctuary gets even better when you combine it with the Hour of Devastation spell Tragic Lesson. For three mana, you get to not only draw two cards, but you also get to return Mystic Sanctuary to your hand, allowing you to replay it and re-draw Tragic Lesson. This creates a card draw engine that is incredibly powerful, and in my opinion has arguably made Izzet Faeries more powerful than ever.
It's great seeing old favorites come back strong, especially decks that have long been pillars of the format. It just goes to show you that anything can make a comeback with enough time. New cards are being printed all the time and with the marked increase in power level at common, I can only imagine that it's only a matter of time before we see something else rise from the ashes. Welcome back Izzet!
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