Hello, everyone! It has been over a year since my last article, in which I analyzed Sneak & Show’s position since the release of Modern Horizons 2.
Since then, Legacy experienced a few shakeups, starting with the ban of 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》 in January of this year. Unfortunately, for Sneak & Show at least, that didn’t affect Izzet Delver’s dominant position in the metagame at all and it remains an overwhelmingly popular choice, with over 20% of the meta-share in Magic Online premier events.
The Rise of 《Pyroblast》
Izzet’s premium threat- and permission suite, supported by 《Expressive Iteration》 to help it refuel with card advantage in the mid-game, makes it very difficult for other decks to keep up.
Due to Izzet Delver’s ongoing dominance, many decks with access to red mana have started to include 《Pyroblast》 effects in the main deck, which is usually a sign of format-warping influences in Legacy.
Izzet’s stock list, as well, contains at least 2 copies of 《Pyroblast》 these days, to have an out to opposing 《Murktide Regent》. There was a period where Izzet replaced 《Delver of Secrets》 with 《Ledger Shredder》.
It allowed them to have another threat that often dodges 《Lightning Bolt》, helps fuel 《Murktide Regent》 and enabling hard to keep up with curve-outs such as 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》, into turn 2 《Ledger Shredder》 (potentially with 《Mishra’s Bauble》), followed by turn 3 《Expressive Iteration》.
How to Defeat Delver
The most effective choices to combat Izzet Delver have been control decks with the full removal-suite of 4 《Swords to Plowshares》 and 4 《Prismatic Ending》, such as 4c/5c Yorion, Jeskai Control and Bant Control. I played a fair bit of these archetypes and they are definitely favored against Izzet, therefore a great deck choice for most premier events, albeit struggling against most combo and prison / mana denial decks.
The addition of 《Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes》 to the Magic Online environment also gave control decks a card advantage engine with the additional ability to close out games fast, while dodging 《Pyroblast》 effects in control mirrors.
For the Izzet matchup, 《Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes》 are mostly irrelevant, since a 4-mana permanent is hard to resolve through 《Wasteland》 and 《Daze》, and a 《Lightning Bolt》 with the 《Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes》 ETB trigger on the stack provides a clean answer to a resolved 《Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes》.
However, being favored against Izzet doesn’t mean that the matchup is heavily skewed in the Control deck’s favor. Fast aggressive starts with 《Daze》 backup can make it impossible for Control to muster a comeback, and even if the game moves to the mid-/late-game, 《Expressive Iteration》 allows Izzet to sometimes even outgrind Control decks. 《Murktide Regent》 can often end the game in a single swing and is easier protected with 《Force of Will》, since the card disadvantage is easily evened out by 《Expressive Iteration》.
That said, unlike older iterations of the Delver/Tempo archetype that included threats such as 《Nimble Mongoose》 or 《True-Name Nemesis》, every one of Izzet’s current threat can be answered 1-for-1 by most removal spells (《Murktide Regent》 dodges 《Prismatic Ending》, though), which makes it easier for Control decks to come back from behind via removal spells.
Once the Control decks gain access to multiple copies of 《Carpet of Flowers》 in post-board games, I do believe their position against Izzet becomes as favored as it can get. Izzet gains access to some anti-Control cards, such as 《Maddening Hex》, 《Court of Cunning》, 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 and 《Price of Progress》 (against the 4c/5c versions with only 1-2 basics), but all of them are answered cleanly by the plethora of 《Pyroblast》 and 《Hydroblast》 that the Control decks board in.
Other decks that used to be anti-Delver strategies in previous metagames, such as Lands or Moon Stompy, don’t really hold up as well anymore, in my opinion. This is mostly due to 《Murktide Regent》 closing out games so fast, dodging many removal options out of these decks.
《Chalice of the Void》 doesn’t stop a sequence of 《Expressive Iteration》 into 《Murktide Regent》 (you can still play your 1-mana instants and sorceries into 《Chalice of the Void》 to fuel the 《Murktide Regent》), so you’ll need both an early 《Chalice of the Void》 and a 《Blood Moon》 effect to lock out all threats.
A non-blue deck that is still a great choice in a Delver-heavy metagame is Selesnya/Naya Depths. It has access to the same removal-suite as the Control decks, post-board options of 《Pyroblast》 effects, and can match Izzet’s threats with their own, in 《Elvish Reclaimer》, 《Knight of the Reliquary》 and 《Marit Lage Token》.
Death & Taxes
Where the Sneak & Show Goes
Overall, despite the existence of several viable strategies with tools to interact with the Izzet menace, Izzet Delver is constructed in such a way that it’s difficult to stop. Even if you spend the early turns removing their 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》 and 《Delver of Secrets》, they refuel easily with 《Expressive Iteration》 and close out games in one or two swings with 《Murktide Regent》.
Now, onto Sneak & Show and where it stands in this meta of mostly Izzet Delver and anti-Izzet decks. There was a period of time before 《Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes》 made it to Magic Online and while Izzet had replaced 《Delver of Secrets》 with 《Ledger Shredder》, where I felt Sneak & Show was actually quite well-positioned. I also managed to reach the Top 8 of several Magic Online Challenges around that time, with a high overall winrate against Izzet.
Izzet’s inclusion of 《Ledger Shredder》 made them much more vulnerable to my 《Daze》. My own turn 2 or turn 3 after they tapped out for 《Ledger Shredder》 would often be the perfect time to combo off with enough mana to play around their own 《Daze》, and have my own 《Daze》 for their 《Force of Will》. It also made it more difficult for them to hold up 《Pyroblast》.
Nowadays, it is more difficult for Sneak & Show. Nearly every blue deck has 1-2 《Hydroblast》 effects in the sideboard to cleanly answer 《Sneak Attack》 at a mana advantage, Izzet has reclaimed its Delver namesake, leaving fewer windows to combo off for us and main deck 《Pyroblast》 effects are still running rampant. 《Defense Grid》 is a good answer to both Blast effects and I have tested a 4th copy in some recent sideboards.
The Control matchup remains positive overall, as do the matchups against other popular decks, such as Elves or Moon Stompy, but I have rarely felt less confident to register Sneak & Show for a premier event.
Nevertheless, Sneak & Show is proactive and powerful enough to still breeze through any field on a good day. I am still testing potential new configurations, but the tried-and-true 《Daze》 version remains the one with the best Delver matchup and the one I would recommend to those wanting to give the deck a try in this rather hostile metagame. If you are one of them, the following sideboard guide might be useful for you.
Deck List and Sideboard Guide
2 《City of Traitors》
2 《Flooded Strand》
2 《Misty Rainforest》
2 《Polluted Delta》
2 《Scalding Tarn》
3 《Volcanic Island》
-Land (19)- 3 《Emrakul, the Aeons Torn》
2 《Simian Spirit Guide》
4 《Show and Tell》
4 《Force of Will》
4 《Lotus Petal》
4 《Sneak Attack》
4c Control (Anzid version)
Elves (《Elvish Reclaimer》)
Death & Taxes
I hope this article was informative and enjoyable.
Thank you to Hareruya for offering me continued writing opportunities. Until next time!
Jonathan Anghelescu (Twitter)