Delver Blue, often shorthanded to Delver is the premier Blue deck in Pauper. It combines a rock solid mana base with efficient threats, strong card selection, and countermagic. The overarching goal of the deck is to stick a threat and disrupt the opponent so those creatures can connect, basically an aggro-control deck. Delver often takes the role of a Skies deck in that it uses largely evasive threats to apply pressure.
First off are the lands: 15 copies of Island. While 17 was the standard for quite a while the innovations in aggressive builds of Delver mean that if you’re starting from scratch at least 25% of your maindeck need to be these lands.
Next up are the creatures. Nearly every build maxes out on Delver of Secrets, Faerie Miscreant, and Spellstutter Sprite. These represent Delver’s early game. A turn one Delver is still a good way to pressure an opponent’s life total while the Faeries help to keep cards flowing or staunching spells if needed. If Phantasmal Bear is included that usually means there will not be home for Spire Golem and the build is likely to trend toward the aggressive builds. Of note, some versions run Mutagenic Growth as a way to win in combat but the Phantasmal Bear builds almost never do due to the dissonance between the pump spell and their additional 1 drop.
Sometimes Delver decks will run Cloudfin Raptor as a way to produce another reasonable body in the latter stages of a game. While the Raptor is a potent threat it is better suited for decks that are primarily creature based as that gives it the best chance of doing a Dragon impersonation. Raptor is not bad in Delver but the thing that makes Delver flip is not that same thing that grows Raptor, causing the deck to be pulled in disparate directions.
The top end of Delver usually includes at least copies of Ninja of the Deep Hours and three copies of Spire Golem (again, unless there are Phantasmal Bears). Most versions will run the full four copies of these creatures. Ninja is a reasonable body that also draws at least one card while allowing you to reuse a Spellstutter Sprite or Faerie Miscreant. While Ninja is a strong card each copy has a tendency to connect only once. Spire Golem is just one of the best creatures in the format thanks to its ability to come down at a reduced cost. A turn four Spire Golem for two means that the next spell coming is likely to be countered.
There are other creatures to consider for Delver. Jeskai Sage and Frostburn Weird have both seen play as aggressive 2 drops that can apply significant pressure. Ingenious Skaab fits this mold but has yet to breakthrough. At three Stormbound Geist provides a resilient threat while Pestermite is a flexible tempo based play that has the advantage of working with Ninja of the Deep Hours and Spellstutter Sprite. Eldrazi Skyspawner fits into this mold as well but it is better suited for Cloudfin Raptor decks or Delver builds that run Bonesplitter. While it is expensive some people opt to include a copy or two of Mulldrifter, which says more about the strength of the flying fish than anything else.
Next up are possibly the most controversial slots in Delver: the cantrips. Pauper has access to some of the best 1 mana Blue spells of all time and there has yet to be a consensus on the Ponder–Preordain–Brainstorm configuration. In Delver I prefer to start on four copies of Ponder and then figuring out the rest. Most Delver decks run around 10 copies of these spells so the full suite of Preordain is what tends to follow with the final two slots being taken up by Brainstorm. Brainstorm is a powerful card that has the advantage of setting up Delver flips. That being said without fetchlands the best play is to follow up the Brainstorm enabled flip with Ponder, to shuffle away potentially dead cards. Thought Scour has seen play in Delver decks that focus more on the graveyard with cards like Stitched Drake, Accumulated Knowledge, Think Twice, and Oona’s Grace. In those builds I would consider running the full four copies of Brainstorm as the combination with Thought Scour can mimic “drawing” four cards. Finally there is the “free” Gitaxian Probe which has the advantage of helping to shrink your deck while providing additional information.
The counter suite starts with four copies of Counterspell. After that and Spellstutter Sprite things tend to vary. Daze and Force Spike are seeing more play than they have in the past. Beyond these soft counters decks have been leaning more on Deprive as an option that has more utility than say, Mana Leak, in the end stages of a game. Other counters that have seen play include Essence Scatter, and Remove Soul to handle creatures or Prohibit for more of a catch-all. Lately more copies of Dispel and occasionally Spell Pierce have earned slots in the 60 to help combat other Blue decks.
The tempo elements of Delver start with Vapor Snag and Snap. Snap, despite featuring the unfair “free” mechanic is merely very good in Pauper. Having an initial cost of 2 mana is a steep barrier in a land light deck like Delver. Vapor Snag is worse at saving your own creatures but has the advantage of piling on the damage. Finally there is almost always a refuel element to Delver. Gush is an absolute powerhouse thanks to its alternate casting cost. It is a common play to see someone float two Blue mana and then cast Gush digging for a Counterspell.
Bonesplitter and Mutagenic Growth both see play as a way to pile on damage. In the past they have helped to give Delver decks an edge in the mirror (to trade with Spire Golem) and have allowed them to play on the more aggressive side of aggro-control.
Here are two list for reference:
Looking forward Delver’s future remains as bright as its past. The cards that help to make the deck great are ones that will see print again. Cheap bounce and card filtering are not going away anytime soon and blue creatures with the creature type of Faerie are a when, not an if. As long as there are cheap Blue cards available, Delver will persist.
Thanks for reading.