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Spell Burns

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Delver of Secrets. Once the terror of the Standard format, now . . . well, still terrifying, but in older formats instead. Delver demands a deck loaded with instants and sorceries, and most of today's Standard decks are going in the opposite direction, filling up on creatures instead. If you're willing to work under that restriction, however, your reward is a 3/2 with flying for just 1 mana, a bargain by any measure. We even have access to other cards that play off instants and sorceries. Talrand, Sky Summoner and Guttersnipe both give you a little something extra whenever you cast one. Talrand saw some competitive play last year, and that was even without a spicy little tool Gatecrash brings to the table. Cipher lets you encode your spell on a creature and cast it again and again each time that creature deals combat damage to your opponent. That gives you a free Drake token from Talrand every turn and a free 2 damage from Guttersnipe. Put together, this web of interactions might make for a solid deck that can be put together even on a tight budget. Of course, there's only one way to find out.

The Creatures

Insectile Aberration
Delver of Secrets gives you an incredibly powerful early threat that can soar right over most of the creatures in the format. Boros Reckoner can't do anything to stop the Aberration, and the mighty Thragtusk will only buy a couple turns. Restoration Angel is the only thing that can really stop it, and in addition to the fact that your opponent won't be able to cast it until you've gotten a few hits in, this deck has a few ways to stop that as well.

Guttersnipe gives you a persistent source of damage with which to pick away at your opponent's life total while you dispatch his creatures. Later in the game, it turns every Searing Spear into a Lava Axe, and Brimstone Volley becomes Searing Flesh. With all that damage, you can easily put yourself in a position to kill your opponent before he knows what hit him.

Talrand, Sky Summoner is a nearly endless source of creatures for this deck. If he doesn't die immediately, you can start tossing out an army of Drake tokens. At 2/2, they can trade with many opposing creatures if you need to soak up some damage, and with flying, they can easily dish out a few hits of their own. These tokens are also great for encoding Hands of Binding. They have evasion to help you trigger cipher, and if your opponent uses removal on them, well, the token was free anyway.

The Spells

Spell Rupture
Runechanter's Pike makes any creature a massive threat. A Drake token can fly over your opponent's creatures for a big chunk of damage; or you can make your opponent pay heavily for any ground assault with a Guttersnipe. If you're willing to spend the mana, you can even swap the Pike back and forth between the two, increasing you power on both attack and defense.

Thought Scour powers up the Pike all while cycling itself away. It triggers Guttersnipe and Talrand and then replaces itself with a new card so you can potentially trigger them again. With multiple copies of this, things can start looking very bad for your opponent in the blink of an eye.

Searing Spear helps you stay alive against the incredibly fast aggro decks currently running rampant through Standard. It easily dispatches creatures such as Hellrider before they become a problem, and it can give you a lot of reach later in the game.

Izzet Charm can also defend you against small creatures as an overpriced Shock, but the real value is in its flexibility. In addition to killing creatures, it can counter noncreature spells, whether those be powerful planeswalkers or simple pieces of removal that would kill one of your creatures. Finally, it can let your dig through your deck if you're not drawing well, helping you find a third land, another instant with which to trigger your creatures, or whatever you might need at that moment.

Spell Rupture is an interesting counterspell that I've been eager to try out in Standard. In a blue deck that plays creatures, it promises to be comparable to Mana Leak much of the time. In this deck, it will most often be a Rune Snag, but a transformed Delver of Secrets will bump it up to Mana Leak, and Runechanter's Pike will essentially turn it into Cancel. Although it won't work if you have no creatures in the board, this deck's biggest reason for wanting a counterspell is to protect its creatures, so much of the time, that won't be an issue.

Hands of Binding
Unsummon helps you deal with creatures of all sizes. It's particularly handy against Restoration Angel. It can bounce whatever the Angel targets with its ability to prevent a second enters-the-battlefield trigger or it can bounce the actual Angel before your opponent has a chance to block with it.

Hands of Binding is another tool to deal with larger creatures, keeping them tapped down indefinitely. This one, however, is particularly effective against Thragtusk. Since it doesn't leave the battlefield, your opponent won't get a Beast token to help make up for the loss. In addition, unlike other Thragtusk-breakers like Pacifism, it can't be gotten rid of by flickering the creature. One of the best reasons for including Hands of Binding is that since you are able to cast it every time the encoded creature hits your opponent, you'll be able to trigger any Guttersnipes or Talrands you have on the battlefield for free each turn, giving you a steady source of Drakes and damage.

Brimstone Volley can function as another piece of instant-speed removal if need be, but its main purpose is to close out games by hitting your opponent for 5 damage. Especially when combined with a Guttersnipe trigger, this will often steal away what would otherwise be a full turn or two for your opponent to find an answer.

The Sideboard

Flames of the Firebrand
Grafdigger's Cage is becoming increasingly necessary once again, as the Junk Rites deck has been gaining popularity. Although it won't shut down the deck completely, what it will do is buy you several turns to deal as much damage as you can, setting you up to kill your opponent before he lands a Craterhoof Behemoth or giving you time to finish him off with burn spells even after he clears the board with Angel of Serenity.

Extra copies of Brimstone Volley and a play set of Skullcrack replace some of your less effective cards in the control matchup, giving you even more direct damage with which to kill your opponent after a Supreme Verdict takes away Plan A. Dispel also comes in here since you can't rely on having a creature for Spell Rupture in this matchup. Between it and Skullcrack, you shouldn't have any problem dealing with Sphinx's Revelation.

Flames of the Firebrand is quite often a two-for-one against aggressive decks, but particularly the Naya Humans strategy. If you're on the play, for example, your opponent's turn-one Champion of the Parish into turn-two Mayor of Avabruck leads to a turn-three blowout for you.

Playtesting

Game 1

Flinthoof Boar
I lost the roll and kept a hand of Sulfur Falls, Island, Mountain, Unsummon, Searing Spear, Guttersnipe, and Talrand, Sky Summoner. My opponent paid 2 life for Sacred Foundry, cast Champion of the Parish, and passed the turn. I drew Unsummon, played my Island, and passed the turn.

My opponent played Rootbound Crag, cast Mayor of Avabruck, and attacked for 3. He then passed the turn. I drew Delver of Secrets, cast it, played my Sulfur Falls, and ended my turn.

My opponent paid 2 life for Stomping Ground and then cast another Mayor of Avabruck and a Boros Elite. He attacked with the giant Champion of the Parish, and I dispatched it with Unsummon. He passed the turn. I revealed a Searing Spear to transform Delver of Secrets and then played a Mountain, cast Guttersnipe, and passed the turn.

My opponent attacked with Boros Elite, and I traded my Insectile Aberration for it. He cast Champion of the Parish, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Flinthoof Boar before passing the turn. I drew Unsummon and cast Searing Spear on a Mayor of Avabruck. Guttersnipe hit my opponent for 2, and I passed the turn.

My opponent put a Temple Garden onto the battlefield tapped and cast Frontline Medic. He put a counter on Champion of the Parish and attacked with it along with Burning-Tree Emissary and Flinthoof Boar. I hit the Champion with Unsummon again, dealing 2 to my opponent, and I dropped to 11 from the other creatures. My opponent ended his turn. I drew Runechanter's Pike and cast Searing Spear on Frontline Medic, dropping my opponent to 10. I ended my turn.

My opponent attacked for 6 again, and I Unsummoned the Flinthoof Boar. Both of us dropped to 8, and he cast Champion of the Parish, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Flinthoof Boar before passing the turn. I drew Delver of Secrets and conceded.

Sideboarding:

+3 Flames of the Firebrand

−3 Spell Rupture

Game 2

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
I kept a hand of Mountain, Sulfur Falls, Thought Scour, Hands of Binding, Flames of the Firebrand, Guttersnipe, and Talrand, Sky Summoner. I played my Sulfur Falls and passed the turn. My opponent played Cavern of Souls, naming Human, and cast Experiment One. He ended his turn.

I drew Izzet Charm, played my Mountain, and passed. My opponent played a land and cast Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I killed the Ooze with Izzet Charm in response, and he passed the turn.

I drew Sulfur Falls, played it, and cast Guttersnipe. My opponent paid 2 life for a Temple Garden and attacked with Thalia. He then cast Frontline Medic and passed the turn.

I drew Guttersnipe and cast Hands of Binding, tapping down the Medic and dealing 2 to my opponent. I encoded the spell on Guttersnipe and attacked, and I then cast it again for another 2 damage, tapping down Thalia. I passed the turn. My opponent paid 2 life for a Sacred Foundry and killed the Guttersnipe with Searing Spear. He ended his turn.

I drew a Mountain, played it, and cast Talrand, Sky Summoner. I ended my turn. My opponent killed Talrand with a Searing Spear and cast Mayor of Avabruck. He dropped me to 11 and passed the turn.

Searing Spear
I drew Searing Spear and cast Flames of the Firebrand, killing Mayor of Avabruck and Thalia and dealing 1 to my opponent. I passed the turn. My opponent cast Burning-Tree Emissary and Flinthoof Boar. He gave the Boar haste and dropped me to 5 before passing the turn.

I drew a Mountain, cast Guttersnipe, and killed Frontline Medic with Searing Spear, dropping my opponent to 7. I ended my turn. My opponent attacked with his two creatures, and I traded Guttersnipe for Burning-Tree Emissary to survive at 2 life. My opponent cast Mayor of Avabruck and passed the turn.

I drew Talrand, Sky Summoner, cast him, and cast Thought Scour to make a Drake token. I drew an Island and passed the turn. My opponent attacked for 3 with Flinthoof Boar, and I blocked with a Drake. He passed the turn, transforming the Mayor.

I drew Izzet Charm and cast it, choosing to draw two and discard two. I drew an Island and Searing Spear, and I discarded the two Islands. I made a Drake token and then cast Searing Spear on the Mayor to make another. I attacked for 2 with Talrand and passed the turn. My opponent cast another Flinthoof Boar, gave it haste, and attacked with both creatures. I blocked with my two Drake tokens, and he passed the turn.

I drew Searing Spear, attacked for 2 with Talrand, and cast the Spear for the last 3 damage.

Game 3

Lightning Mauler
My opponent took a mulligan, and I kept a hand of Sulfur Falls, Island, Thought Scour, Flames of the Firebrand, Unsummon, Brimstone Volley, and Runechanter's Pike. He paid 2 life for Sacred Foundry and cast Champion of the Parish before ending his turn. I drew Searing Spear, played my Island, and passed the turn.

My opponent paid 2 for Stomping Ground and cast Lightning Mauler, putting a counter on the Champion and pairing them. I bounced the Champion with Unsummon, and he passed the turn. I drew another Searing Spear, played Sulfur Falls, and ended my turn.

Paying another 2 life for a Temple Garden, my opponent cast Champion of the Parish and paired it with Lightning Mauler. He then cast Mayor of Avabruck, making it a 3/3. He attacked with the Champion and the Mauler, and I killed the former with Searing Spear before taking 3. He ended his turn. I drew Thought Scour and cast it, drawing a Guttersnipe. I cast my second Thought Scour, found an Island, and played it before ending my turn.

My opponent cast a second Mayor of Avabruck and attacked with both creatures, dropping me to 11. He played a tapped Temple Garden and passed the turn. I drew Izzet Charm and cast Flames of the Firebrand, killing the Mayors. I ended my turn.

My opponent cast Frontline Medic, paired it with Lightning Mauler, and hit me for 5. He ended his turn. I drew an Island, played it, and cast Runechanter's Pike before passing the turn.

Guttersnipe
My opponent attacked, and I killed Frontline Medic with Searing Spear in response to the trigger, dropping to 4 from the Mauler. My opponent played another Temple Garden and ended his turn. I drew Sulfur Falls, played it, and passed the turn.

My opponent cast Burning-Tree Emissary and Lightning Mauler and paired them. I killed the original Lightning Mauler with Izzet Charm and the Emissary with Brimstone Volley. My opponent passed the turn. I drew Searing Spear, cast Guttersnipe, and equipped it with Runechanter's Pike to give it +10/+0 and first strike. I ended my turn.

My opponent cast Champion of the Parish and passed the turn. I drew a Mountain, played it, and passed the turn.

My opponent cast Experiment One, put a counter on Champion of the Parish, and ended his turn. I drew an Island and attacked for 10. He blocked with Champion of the Parish, and I passed the turn.

My opponent attacked with Lightning Mauler, and I killed it with Searing Spear, dropping him to 12 with Guttersnipe. He cast Experiment One and passed the turn. I drew an Island and attacked with Guttersnipe. My opponent blocked with Experiment One, and I passed the turn.

He cast Lightning Mauler and passed back. I drew Talrand, cast him, and attacked with Guttersnipe. My opponent blocked with the Mauler. I equipped the Pike to Talrand and ended my turn.

My opponent drew his card and conceded.

Wrap-Up

Although playing this deck against aggro makes you feel as though you're in a losing position much of the time, you can often make a comeback once you've dealt with the initial assault. Going forward, I might include a few copies of Rolling Temblor in the sideboard to help out. I was initially against the idea due to the fact that it kills Guttersnipe and Talrand, but during testing, I discovered that in the aggro matchup, you'll rarely have time to cast those early on anyway, so Rolling Temblor could be a valuable tool to take you to the state of the game in which you can cast them and start taking over. I'm also curious to see how such a burn-heavy deck would do against control, especially when you bring in even more burn after sideboarding. If you have an affinity for instants or if you want to try out Delver of Secrets again, give this deck a shot.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can find me on the forums under Twinblaze, on Twitter under @MTGCannon, or simply leave a comment below.

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