Delving in Detroit- Jeff Hoogland’s GP Detroit Action Report

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Delving in Detroit

This past weekend I had a chance to partake in the largest sanctioned event to date for one of my favorite formats (modern) – GP Detroit. If you’ve been following my stream then you know I’ve been trying a variety of different cards inside of the UR Tempo shell I played at GP Kansas city. I ended registering the following 75 cards Saturday morning:

Why Delvers?

A question have I been asked by a number of people is why I ended up playing Delver of Secrets in Detroit. For most the previous two weeks I’d been streaming with Scion of Oona in that slot and was fairly happy with the change.

The main reason for swapping back to Delvers was:

In my last stream before the event I tested Sword of Light and Shadow with Delver of Secrects. I was very impressed with this addition.

Sword allows us to grind card advantage in midrange matches by returning Sprites and Snapcasters to our hand and allows us to stabilize with a higher life total against aggressive decks. Speaking of Sprites – the +2/+2 allows us to clock our opponents with a Spellstutter much quicker as well.

The protection is not irrelevent, either. While protection from black only protects against a couple of common cards such as Disfigure and Dismember, protection from white does all sorts of wonderful things in this format. It allows our creatures to attack through a Restoration Angel, while blanking Path to Exile and Lightning Helix.

So, obviously the Sword is awesome. Why does that mean we cannot play Scion of Oona? Simple – Scion gives creatures Shroud. This means that while a Scion is on the table you cannot gear up your Sprites, Clique or Mutavaults. If you get two Scions on the table, then you can’t gear up Scion either. This means if we want to play Swords, Scion has to go.

The Event Itself

At the GP itself I finished an unimpressive 141st place. My final record was 9 – 6, that means after you subtract the three byes I came in with I finished exactly even in terms of Wins : Losses at 6 : 6. The following is a short overview of the twelve rounds I played.

Round 4 – Lingering Jund

Normal Jund or GBx is fairly close to a 50-50 match up for the URx Fae deck. When they add Lingering Souls to the mix things get tricky though. I win the die roll and win a very close game one off of a mulligan to six.

In game two I am in control most of the way. I Spell Pierce the front half of a Lingering Souls and Remand the back half. I end up getting in a pair of hits with the Sword of Light and Shadow before he finds an Abrupt Decay – this card advantage closes out any chance he has of winning.

4 – 0

Round 5 – UWR Control

The was an…interesting match. I mulligan a no-land seven, into a five-land six, into a no-land five, into a no-land four. My three cards are:

Snapcaster Mage
Snapcaster Mage
Misty Rainforest

He is on the play and makes the play of Celestial Colonnade pass.

My first draw step is a Delver of Secrets – I go into the tank. Do I play this Delver and try to win this game being three cards down? I come to the decision of “no”. I simply pass the turn back while my opponent plays magic. I scoop game one before I have to discard to hand size.

Game two, I Stone Rain him on turn three and then Blood Moon him on turn four – he packs it in a few turns later.

The final game goes long, but my combination of Spellskite wearing a Sword of Light and Shadow closes it out eventually.

5 – 0

Round 6 – Kibler Naya

The Kibler Naya deck is another rough matchup. Where were all the combo decks I wanted to beat? Like clockwork he has two Loxodon Smiters three games in a row. I am able to steal game one with my main deck Sword of Light and Shadow, but then proceed to lose two fairly close games two/three. My mulligan to five in game three didn’t help matters any.

5 – 1

Round 7 – GB Rock

I had an interesting decision come up in the first game of this match I’d like to discuss. The situation is the following:

I’m on five lands and have been clocking my opponent with a pair of Mutavaults. My hand consists of:

Spell Snare
Spell Pierce

He has a Liliana of the Veil I’ve been ignoring because he is going to be dead long before Liliana goes ultimate. He has five lands in play, three cards in hand and pushes his Liliana up yet again.

I opt to discard my Spell Pierce, at five lands it isn’t going to counter any removal that he plays. Spell Snare on the other hand will catch Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze or Dark Confidant – all of which can stop my Mutavaults from killing him next turn.

After I bin the Spell Pierce, he slams a main deck Batterskull. Hind sight being 20/20, I’d have won that game easily if I’d have kept the Pierce. Do you think I made the wrong play?

Game two I kept a very powerful five spell, two-land hand on the play. Turn nine rolled around and the only spell I’d drawn was a Snapcaster Mage 0- which did not flip my Delver of Secrets. I died a few turns later to a Thrun, the last Troll.

5 – 2

Round 8 – Robots

Finally! A deck I want to play against.

I win the die roll and keep a decent opening hand on the play. I drop a fetch land and pass. On his turn he vomits his hand forth onto the table, including an Arcbound Ravager that runs right into my Spell Snare. I am able to slowly pick apart his Robot army and eventually win game one.

Game two I mulligan to six and keep four-lander (including a Mutavault), Snapcaster Mage, and Magma Spray on the draw. Sadly, I am unable to keep from flooding out and scoop the second game about a dozen turns in.

In game three I was able to punish a play from my opponent. Because I had a Spellskite on the table I let his Arcbound Ravager resolve. He was stuck on two land and a Mox Opal as mana sources, he then drew a second Mox Opal. As affinity players so often do – he sacrificed his first Opal to his Arcbound Ravager and then played the second – right into my Spellstutter Sprite. I Cliqued him the following turn, revealing his hand full of blue cards he could no longer cast.

6 – 2

Round 9 – Scapeshift

Two good matches in a row you say? I was truly excited when my opponent suspended a Search for Tomorrow in the first game of my “bubble” match (for those that don’t know, a “bubble” match is where the winner makes the second day of the event, while the loser does not). I successfully execute my game plan, which is stopping his game plan.

I win a fairly quick 2 – 0

7 – 2

Round 10 – Robots Again

I had seen my opponent the previous day and I am fairly certain he is playing Splinter Twin – it turns out he wasn’t. My seven card hand that is amazing VS twin is very lack luster against Robots on the draw.

In the second game I have a very embarrassing misplay that lead to a loss. My opponent is dead to a pair of Insectile Aberration plus my reach when he slams a Spellskite off of the top of his deck – this will prevent me from killing him the following turn. I opt to Magma Jet his face so I can still untap and kill him.

Before I made this play I did not consider his board state. You see, he has two Cranial Platings, an Inkmoth Nexus, and mana to activate and equip both platings. He does so and I promptly die, all while staring at the Spellstutter Sprite in my hand that could have traded with the Inkmoth Nexus when it attacked in.

7 – 3

Round 11 – Melira Pod

This loss was a bit frustrating. I mulligan to five and still almost win game one, at one point I put a Vendilion Clique on the bottom of my deck that likely could have won me the game had I kept it. How was I supposed to know he was going to draw a Reveillark?
Game two I get him down to two life. There is a Pillar of Flame in my graveyard and I’ve only played one other removal spell this game. That gives me a minimum of twelve cards to kill him on the spot.

I miss.

A few turns later I have beaten him back down to five life after he podded a Kitchen Finks into an Obstinate Baloth. I have a Snapcaster in hand, Lightning Bolt in my graveyard and an Insectile Aberration in play. He has exactly one untapped land in play after activating his Gavony Township to remove the minus counter from his Finks. The last card in his hand has to be either a fetch land or a basic forest to avoid falling to three and dying to my Snapcastered Bolt. He plays a Misty Rainforest and pods his Finks into a Murderous Redcap, killing my Insectile Aberration. I Snapcaster-Bolt his face at end step anyway, giving myself the five outs of three more bolts or either of my two swords.

I miss again.

7 – 4

Round 12 – Living End

I bear a slightly sarcastic smile as I mulligan to five for the countless time this weekend. Thankfully the five I keep is insane in this matchup:

Snapcaster Mage
Mana Leak

I end up drawing a Spellstutter Sprite and deploy the Snapcaster Mage at the end of his second turn to start the beat down. I quickly take game one.

In game two, I mulligan to five yet again, just looking for land – again I am rewarded with an insanely good five cards.

8 – 4

Round 13 – UWR Control Again

I lose a close game one, steal game two yet again with a Blood Moon and keep a hand in game three that lacks a red source. I proceed to draw all red cards without finding a red producing land until turn 10+

8 – 5

Round 14 – Naya Midrange Again

This opponent was playing a few more planeswalkers than Kibler’s latest deck lists had featured recently – this enabled my Spell Pierces to be insane. I beat double Loxodon Smiter in game one and was able to take down the second game on the back of Sword of Light and Shadow.


Round 15 – GB Midrange Again

In game one I “flood” on countermagic while I get ground out by a Deathrite Shaman.

Game two I have an aggressive draw and am able to keep him from resolving anything relevant.

In game three he casts three discard spells in the first three turns, shredding my hand. He then proceeds to only draw three lands the entire match – the rest of his cards are all gas – including two Abrupt Decays for both my Swords (even after I Cliqued one out of his hand).

9 – 6 and 141st Place


So over all I finished in 141st place, just inside the top ten percent of players at the 1461 player Grand Prix. While this is nothing to write home about, I was happy with my deck choice and came to a number of conclusions throughout the two day event.

First, Stone Rain was far too narrow of a sideboard selection. Still not sure what I would like in its place, but it needs to be something that can help against Tron and still be live in other match ups. Stone Rain was not nearly the card I wanted it to be against UWR.

Second, Sword of Light and Shadow was an insane addition. As you know from reading my round break down – it took home a number of match ups. I would 100% continue playing this card in the future.

Finally, you honestly can never know what to expect to play against going into a modern event. Saturday morning there were a ton of Splinter Twin and Tron decks in the room – I never played against a single one. While I expected to run into UWR and GBx decks during the course of the event – I did not expect to play against them seven out of my twelve rounds.

If I knew that going in, I likely would have picked a different deck list. The UR Tempo deck is at best 50-50 in both of these matchups, and that is not where you want to be going into a GP. That being said, the UR deck has a number of good match ups in the field and I would play it again at a modern event tomorrow. For those wanting an updated deck list I would recommend starting here:

Personally, I am looking forward to get working on Theros Standard now that GP Detroit is over with. I have standard events every weekend in October. If you plan to be at SCG Cleveland or Milwaukee I’ll see you there.


~Jeff Hoogland

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Jeff Hoogland

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Jeff Hoogland plays as much constructed Magic as the midwest allows. SCG events and Grand Prix are his two favorite ways to spend a weekend. He enjoys attacking new and established formats from unexplored angles. His Magic resume currently includes numerous SCG Open top eights, an SCG Invitational top eight, and a GP top 16.
Jeff Hoogland


    • EternalPhi on September 21, 2013 at 8:15 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Jeff, thanks for the report. With regards to your question regarding round 7: I tend to believe that a decision can only be judged as correct or incorrect at the time of the play, hindsight can’t really factor in, because the same decision can then be considered either right or wrong. If you didn’t know about Batterskull, I don’t think anyone can say you made the wrong decision in that case, as Spell Pierce is definitely the weaker spell in that situation. Even if you did know about the Batterskull though, you have to take into account that the other threats you listed are far more numerous, both in number of different cards and copies of each, so I think the decision is still the same. Chalk that one up to bad luck.

    • Alex on September 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm
    • Reply

    Good write-up Jeff, I’ve been testing a similar(ish) deck with Young Pyro. Have you considered Spreading Seas in the board for Tron?

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