Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Common Design: Delver of Secrets

Well, this was going to come around sooner or later. One of the most offensive cards in Pauper, Delver of Secrets has made its pest like presence felt across every 60-card format in which it is legal.  The question remains - is it a good design for a common? 
A refresher on the metrics:
  • Support casual play
  • Support limited
  • Entry point into Magic
  • Viable for high-level constructed
  • Adheres to New World Order 
I want to add another one that I missed yesterday:
  • Color 
Basically, how good does the card reflect its color identity,
So Delver. On the casual play front, this card is a line drive single. Delver of Secrets creates a great moment of "will it flip" which translates to stories. Hey, remember that time you bricked on Delver for the entire game and still won? That was awesome. Delver of Secrets also allows new players to explore different avenues of deck building a design - now it makes sense to run creatures with a heavy compliment of spells. I can see the Little Kid smiling broadly as he (because in these scenarios, I'm the LK) figures out how Spellheart Chimera and Delver of Secrets work in the same deck. 
Delver of Secrets also has decent, if not fantastic repeat value. Yes, it gets tiresome when someone always flips Delver, but that's in competitive constructed. I imagine there have been far more games played with UCB Delver than Sorkin Delver. 
Also, Transform is just a cool mechanic. Getting two cards out of one is something everyone can appreciate and people who see it for the first time can genuinely appreciate both the weird and awesome in their new toy.
How about limited? Swing and a slow grounder, easy put out. Delver of Secrets presents a build around limited card of the worst kind - one that leads a player down a bad path. Limited is largely about creatures and Delver, while a creature, requires a higher density of spells than most 40 cards can supply. Normally this would be a complete miss but in the incredibly deep world of Innistrad draft, having  a two-faced blank isn't the worst thing ever.
As a gateway into Magic and the world? A ringing double. For Innistrad  this card is great. It drips Gothic Horror and dips into pop culture/high literature with allusions to both Kafka's Metamorphosis and the film The Fly. Immediately one can glean some information about this world. Nils Hamm also hits the art right on the sweet spot.
Delver of Secrets also provides a glut of information about Magic. Not only are there these things creatures, but instants and sorceries too! I wonder what other types of cards there are...
The big miss for me is the fact that Delver is a double-faced card. So far only two sets have used this technology and it could be misleading to a newcomer that this is the norm. After a few sets of cracking packs without such a card, they would get the message and I don't think that amount of feel bad is enough to drive people away from the game.
High level constructed? Just click here.
As far as New World Order goes, Delver does eat up a ton of complexity points (as does the transform mechanic). This is fine since it is a major theme of the block. Also, for all the complexity, it actually exists in two very simple states, keeping the on board complexity down. All in all, this card passes the NWO test.
How about color? Well, in the sense that blue is stupid good, so is Delver. In other words, this is a bloop single and advancing to third on defensive incompetence. Sure, Delver plays nice with blue's strength in spells but Insectile Aberration is a seriously pushed creature. If it had two power or one toughness I think it would be more in line with aggressive azure animal stats, but as is it feels a few hairs too good. Execution of color philosophy: excellent. Execution of late 90s power level: spot on. 
So is Delver of Secrets a common? Absolutely. It is a very good card that toes the power line in a format limited by rarity and helped to define Standard, but it still is not an affront to the color of its expansion symbol. In fact, it's hardly the most egregious error in Pauper Delver. To me, the cards in Delver that cause the most problems when playing against the deck, starting with the biggest, looks something like:
  1. Cloud of Faeries
  2. Ponder/Preordain
  3. Preordain/Ponder
  4. Spellstutter Sprite
  5. Delver of Secrets
Edit: I do not think any of these cards warrant being banned at the moment. Cloud of Faeries is on my personal watch list, but not for reasons related to Delver.

Aside from being on the upper deck of power level, does Delver really fail as a common - what do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Delver understood. Baseball jargon incomprehensible