Advanced Sideboarding

By guest author FlyingDelver

You’re sitting across from a Dredge player at a tournament. You’ve just lost game one, and you reach for your deck box, hoping the match-up gets better post-board. You unfold your small side-board guide and start methodically swapping out your dead cards for more relevant ones, just as you have every match-up before.

Sideboarding often becomes a cookie-cutter guide of “cutting x copies of card A and bringing in x copies of card B.” It’s simple, and can become a habit to rely on. However, knowing why we are sideboarding certain ways and when to do so is a great skill to obtain. GBx decks naturally don’t have a linear gameplan to follow. Other than casting a Tarmogoyf on turn two and turning it sideways, GBx matches vary greatly turn to turn. They seek interaction; the more we are allowed to interact with our opponent the better our deck can function. This means we want to tune our deck to perfectly combat our opponent. Since we are a strategy of interaction at heart, our sideboards are far more precious to us than to other less interactive decks.

GBx decks plan A is to stop the opponent from executing their plan A.

However, with the vastly open modern format, this is impossible to do when we only have our 60 maindeck cards. Luckily, we have sideboards. And I really mean luckily.

maelstrom_pulse_by_ubermonster-e1444815782618-730x280
“Maelstrom Pulse” by Anthony Francisco.

Most people immediately grab their sideboards after game one in order to look for the  cards they want to bring in for that particular match-up. The problem is that you are likely focusing on what cards you want to bring in without taking your maindeck into account. It’s difficult to consider your maindeck that way, because you subconsciously put a barrier there, treating your maindeck and sideboard as separate. But sideboarding shouldn’t work that way, especially for GBx decks which are very dependant on their sideboards.

To overcome this subconscious separation, try this: after finishing game one of a given match-up, take your 15 sideboard cards and shuffle them right into your deck. By doing that, you are actively erasing that mental barrier of sideboard and mainboard, and creating a gauntlet of 75 cards. Your goal now is to make the best 60 card deck for the match-up out of your 75 cards. Go through your deck and remove every card you don’t want. This simple trick is actually nothing new, as many pros have already suggested this way of sideboarding. It really helps to understand how to sideboard by viewing it in a different perspective. Plus, you are getting the added bonus of your opponent not getting to know how many cards you exchanged. You shuffled 15 cards into your deck and removed 15 cards afterwards. You are giving away no free information. This way of doing it will be uncomfortable and difficult to execute at the start, but practicing it at home before the tournament will get yourself comfortable with it pretty fast. Pretend to play against a difficult match-up and just focus on sideboarding for it in particular.

Here are some other advantages of sideboarding 15-In, 15-Out (besides disguising the amount of cards that got exchanged):

  • You don’t get biased about certain sideboard cards which look good in vacuum, but might not be the card you want given the context of your deck. If your deck has better cards otherwise, then the card you are looking at can be cut.
  • You can pay attention to the manacurve you are changing, which might open up the possibility to cut a land.
  • You are forced to really think about the match-up you are playing. This evolves your skills and can help you to find the best sideboard options against new match-ups.

Keep in mind that we are always adjusting our deck in order to tackle our opponents sideboarded deck. For example, it might be appealing to bring in shatter effects against Aether Vial strategies, but Aether Vial is usually a bad card in attrition-based match-ups in the first place. It’s a horrible topdeck and since the Vial deck needs to expect an interactive game with lots of removal and sweepers, Vial becomes less effective. In fact, most Vial decks will board out the card against us, so bringing in extra shatter effects like Ancient Grudge is definitely not worth it.

This is a good method for basic sideboarding. Next, let’s check out some of the more advanced nuances of sideboarding.

Shaving instead of cutting

This aspect of sideboarding is pretty hard to master. The concept means that you should not think of cards being simply bad and good against a given match-up. Sometimes the question should be:

Is the last copy of a given card better than the first copy of a sideboard card?

or:

How does the power level of a given card change depending on whether you’re on the play or the draw?

When you are able to accurately answer those questions, you’ll be able to think with more flexibility about the proper numbers of each card. The amount of cards to run in the deck obviously reflects the frequency we want to see the card in the game.

  • Playing 4 copies of a card: We want to see the card as often as possible per game. We are happy to draw multiples and it could also be an essential part of our strategy.
  • Playing 3 copies of a card: We want to see the card about once on average in a given game. Drawing multiples is not the worst thing and sometimes wanted, but often we are fine with having just one copy.
  • Playing 2 copies of a card: We are less exciting to have this card in the opener, it is less essential and more geared towards specific situations. Endgame bombs or costly cards fall into that category.
  • Playing 1 copy of a card: We only want this card in very specific situations or moments in the game. In an average game, we don’t want to have this card in the opener.

Let’s look at an example of this concept. This is my latest Rock list:

Rock

If I were to sideboard against one of the popular decks of modern right now, the Bant Spirits deck, I would have a couple of bad cards among my 75. Let’s break it down in greater detail: Out of the sideboard, I don’t want Surgical, Spellbomb, Duress, Nissa, Damping Sphere or Fulminator Mage. So those cards certainly won’t end up in my game two configuration. The ‘maybe’ options are Choke and Kitchen Finks, but I am not fully convinced when looking at those cards in a vacuum. In that sense it would require some worse cards from the maindeck to cut in order to bring those cards in. The only cards I absolutely want in are Deathmark, Damnation, Grafdigger’s Cage and Collective Brutality. Since the Spirits deck is a creature-based strategy, I basically want every card in my deck that can kill a creature, even if it’s not super reliable such as Brutality. However, Brutality has some very strong upsides in being able to snag a Collected Company from the opponent’s hand before it gets cast.

So that means I have four cards I absolutely want, and two cards I could see being boarded in for certain circumstances. If we look at the current maindeck, I only see two cards I absolutely want to cut: Both copies of Thoughtseize. The life totals are just under too much pressure to justify them. I have Brutality for Collected Company as well and other than that, Inquisition of Kozilek can deal with the rest just fine. So, beyond Thoughtseize, which cards do I want to cut? I have my eyes on Liliana of the Veil, Dark Confidant, and Tireless Tracker. They are not completely bad like Thoughtseize, but they aren’t the best either. Dark Confidant increases the pressure on our life total, Tireless Tracker is way too slow for that fast match-up, and Liliana of the Veil doesn’t line up well against Noble Hierarch and their smaller creatures.

So, I have two cards I absolutely want to cut and four cards I absolutely want to bring in. Now, of the mentioned cards, what do I want to shave? And even further, do I want to shave more than two cards in order to fit in the extra “maybe” cards from the sideboard? I could simply cut both Tireless Trackers, which gives me enough space to implement my four wanted sideboard cards and call it a day, but that would be too easy. I didn’t apply the theory I was mentioning before. All these decisions depend on whether I am on the play or draw and on the basic concept of how many copies of a card I want to see in any given game. The first question is rather easy to answer:

Do I want to draw multiple Dark Confidants against Bant Spirits?

The answer is clearly no. And this answer doesn’t change whether I’m on the play or draw. So I want to cut at least one copy of Dark Confidant. Do I want to cut more copies of Dark Confidant as well? To answer this question, we should look at the dynamics of being on the play or draw. Dark Confidant puts pressure on your own life total and the Bant Spirits deck does that already as an aggressive strategy. When the Spirits deck is on the play, the pressure on our life total is much higher. Dark Confidant gets a lot worse on the draw, so I would definitely consider cutting one extra copy of Dark Confidant.

What about Liliana of the Veil? Liliana of the Veil is already only present in the deck as a three-of, which means we aren’t super likely to draw multiples, although it can still happen. On the draw, Liliana of the Veil also gets worse. I think she is actually somewhat good on the play. So, if we assume we are on the draw, we said we want to shave an additional copy of Dark Confidant, but we also said Liliana is worse on the draw. So, since we already have three cuts fixed (two Thoughtseize and one Dark Confidant) which card should be the fourth cut? Here, the answer is Dark Confidant. Liliana might not trade with a big creature from the Spirits deck, but she does still help maintain the mentioned philosophy of having access to every card that can kill a creature. So, in that sense, I would cut the second copy of Dark Confidant before I cut the first copy of Liliana of the Veil on the draw.

We are still not done though– we still have to decide whether we want to cut additional cards from the maindeck to bring in our ‘maybe’ cards or not. So, the question now becomes: Do I want Finks/Choke over the third Liliana, the second Tracker or the second Dark Confidant on the draw? We’ve already shaved enough Dark Confidants so I would shave the first copy of Liliana before cutting more Dark Confidants. Also, Choke is a card which could potentially cripple Spirits (especially since they board out Vials) but not on the draw; it is much stronger on the play. Despite that, Choke might not line up well with the non-island lands drawn by the Spirits player. This narrows the question down to: Do I want Finks over Liliana or Tracker? Tracker is always a little unexciting, regardless of being on the play or draw, but on the draw we are more likely to draw into lands which Tracker could make a little bit more useful as an endgame finisher. And because our life total is under a lot of pressure on the draw, some life gain from Finks could be nice. In addition it also blocks Geist of Saint Traft. All things considered, I would cut the third Liliana for the Finks on the draw.

If we add everything up, we end up with the following plan on the draw:

  • We take out one Dark Confidant because we don’t want multiples in this match-up where life totals are pressured hard.
  • A second copy of Dark Confidant gets cut because we are on the draw.
  • Both Thoughtseizes are bad due to the life loss and amount of overlapping targets with Inquisition of Kozilek.
  • Liliana of the Veil gets cut as she is worse on the draw, but she is favoured over Dark Confidant as she does at least follow the philosophy of “getting access to everything that kills a creature”. For that, only one copy gets cut.

And there we have a well thought-out sideboard plan against Bant Spirits on the draw. Remember everything you do should have a specific reasoning behind it. Always ask the question: What am I trying to accomplish? Simple guides that only show the numbers of ins and outs of a given match-up, while convenient, are not fully helpful. As a GBx pilot, we should seek for understanding of different match-ups in the first place in order to be successful, and that also applies to sideboarding.

city-of-the-dead-framed-640x427
“Overgrown Tomb” by Rob Alexander

Sideboarding lands

This concept is about adjusting your land count after you’ve adjusted your mana curve. Lands are rarely sideboarded, which is a missed opportunity. If you’ve ever complained about getting flooded too often with your 25-land Jund deck, I would advise figuring out a plan to adjust your manabase according to the match-ups you face.

There are many aspects to keep in mind when cutting lands against various decks. The decisions can be difficult to make, but these are the points to keep in mind:

We want a proper land count against fast strategies.

Usually, games against aggressive strategies won’t last very long. Either you will be overwhelmed very quickly and can’t come back or you were able to answer what your opponent was doing and able to stabilize. You may be tempted to cut lands in these matches, because you don’t want to flood out, but we want to hit our land-drops in the first few turns to be able to cast our spells in the first place. Fast match-ups are more punishing than any other for missing land-drops. You won’t have time to deploy excess spells in the most crucial moments of the game anyway. Flooding might be a possibility, but since the average game doesn’t last very long, the nature of the games are more likely to be determined by the opening hand you keep. If you keep a hand with two spells and five lands against Humans for game two, you are partly responsible for potentially flooding.

We want fewer lands against grindy match-ups.

Grindy match-ups usually last longer by nature. There’s often more time to draw out of a screw here because they typically don’t put you on a very fast clock. However, drawing a string of lands in the late game often means lights out. In those match-ups, the endgame threats are so dominant and powerful that we can’t come back after one or two dead draws. For that reason, it makes sense to err on the side of a lower land count.

We need less lands on the draw than on the play.

On the draw, the extra card we get helps to find land-drops on its own. On average, the probability of hitting land-drop X on turn X stay the same if you cut one land on the draw. In other words, due to the extra card drawn, the probability of hitting land-drops on time increases. This means we can cut a land and still maintain a similar probability compared to being on the play.

We always want a proper land count for the respective manacurve.

This is always the goal, whether you’re building a deck, or deciding how to sideboard lands, this is one point that you should always have in mind. The problem becomes the contradiction in some of these strategies. For instance, against faster match-ups, we typically lower our manacurve, so that should mean we are able to cut a land. However, as discussed before, the nature of the match-up makes it so that we want to hit land-drops in a timely manner and therefore don’t want to cut lands. In the grindy match-ups, our manacurve typically gets higher as we want access to more expensive endgame threats, and that would mean we want to keep all lands. But we also want to prevent flooding. So what should we do?

Look at the match-up individually. How much do you lower or increase your manacurve? For example, against creature based aggro decks, we often side in Damnation. As a four mana card, it doesn’t really help to lower the curve much, so cutting a land wouldn’t make sense. We want to be able to cast a timely Damnation if needed. In fact, aggro match-ups are so fast and linear at the moment, the need to hit land-drops on time and be able to cast relevant interaction is much more important. So, for those match-ups we can summarize:

Only cut a land against fast linear decks if you are on the draw AND are significantly lowering your manacurve.

We can follow a similar guideline when sideboarding against opponents with long-game strategies. On the play, the need for the extra land is higher, but we still want to balance the manacurve and flood prevention.

On the draw against grindy match-ups, cut a land if possible. On the play, keep the land if you are significantly increasing the manacurve.

Liliana-the-Last-Hope-2
“Liliana, the Last Hope” by Anna Steinbauer.

Sideboarding is one of the most difficult skills to master in competitive play. There aren’t many hard-and-fast rules that will apply to every situation, and in a tournament you have to make tough decisions in a short amount of time. The guidelines above should help to bring some context to the sideboarding decisions you make, and encourage you to think more critically about why you’re making them. Always think about: “What am I trying to accomplish?” By practicing these sideboarding skills, you can often take those close skin-of-your-teeth matches and tip the scales a bit more in your favor.

Until next time,

-FlyingDelver

FlyingDelver is deeply involved in the G/Bx Modern community as the author of MtGSalvation primers for Jund, Abzan, G/B Rock, as well as the administrator for the G/Bx Midrange Discord, and part of the administrative team for the G/B Rock Facebook page. Please find relevant links in the external resources section. You can support FlyingDelver through his Patreon page.

Strategy & Sideboard Guide: U/W Control

The feeling of hopelessness.

The fear of endless possibilities represented by open mana.

Knowing that, while technically you are still alive, you’ve all but lost the battle.

It’s one of Magic’s most accomplished color pairs, with variations in every format since its inception and cares very little about winning so long as you lose. It may even take pleasure in continuing your torment for as long as you’re willing to suffer under its thumb and refuse to scoop.

The deck of course, is Blue-White Control.

uw

Few decks can trace their lineage all the way back to Alpha, but U/W Control is certainly one of those decks. Serra Angel, Counterspell, Swords to Plowshares, Control Magic, Balance, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Wrath of God, and many more composed the early iterations of the deck that were terrifyingly formidable. For some people, this deck is more than just a good meta call, it’s nostalgic.

Of course this archetype has come a long way since Counterspell and Serra Angel were printed but the core goal of the deck has not changed. The mission: to stop their opponents from doing anything relevant, allow only what will amount to nothing, and to exhaust their resources before ultimately deciding it’s time to win.

DbFidCiU0AArSYT
“Teferi, Hero of Dominaria” by Chris Rallis

In Vintage, the win conditions revolve around Monastery Mentor, Tinker, or Standstill while getting to play all the blue Power 9 cards like Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. The remnants of Legacy’s once dominating Counterbalance/Sensei’s Divining Top Miracles deck still exists and has Entreat the Angels as its finisher. Both Vintage and Legacy variations get to play powerful card manipulation spells like Ponder and Brainstorm, can interact for free with Force of Will, and can handle any resolved threat with Swords to Plowshares.

In Modern, it’s a bit of a different story. There is no Ponder or Force of Will and the options for permission and card manipulation are much worse. Opt and Search for Azcanta act as card selection while Cryptic Command is the main piece of permission with a sprinkling of Mana Leak, Logic Knot, and Negate. While it may not have access to Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile does an excellent job of dealing with any threat at a very efficient cost. Modern is much more focused on creature combat and very few decks win outside of it. This means control decks have to dedicate multiple slots to sweepers to help catch up when one-for-one removal isn’t enough. This can come in many forms to include Wrath of God, Supreme Verdict, Settle the Wreckage, and Terminus. Its main finishers are its planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion or creatures like Snapcaster Mage and Celestial Colonnade.

Of course the card that gets to be played in every U/W control deck whether you’re playing Vintage, Legacy, or Modern, is Jace, the Mind Sculpter. Card advantage, removal, and finisher. He’s the most powerful planeswalker ever printed and we have the pleasure of trying to beat him.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Our worst interaction is our creature removal. Most of these control list only run two to three Snapcasters, MAYBE a Vendilion Clique, with a suite of Celestial Colonnades. Many of our losses can involve flooding out on Fatal Push‘s and Path to Exile while starring down a Teferi. Any removal that can hit non-creature permanents are more welcome here to include discard. Assassin’s Trophy does an excellent job of being so incredibly flexible that it takes care of any threat U/W control can play: planeswalkers, creature lands, and even Search for Azcanta (flipped or not). Maelstrom Pulse also does a decent job of clearing away the planeswalkers and a Secure the Waste efficiently but is a sorcery for three mana, which makes it more susceptible to countermagic. Our strongest creatures are the ones that generate card advantage. Cards like Bloodbraid Elf and Dark Confidant  are extremely important in this match along with any other creature that can produce multiple bodies or draw cards.

There are some specific things that I want to address for this matchup to help you navigate it more prosperously.

  •  An important skill to have in this match is knowing how to utilize your discard spells. Generally you should always pick the most powerful card when playing against Snapcaster type decks.

U/W relies on some very strong engines that will allow them to run away with the game. The deck also plays only a handful of these engine pieces, so getting rid of them can often leave your opponent without a win condition for many turns. You can one-for-one your opponent’s Mana Leaks and Paths all day, your deck is designed to do that. What you cannot beat is an online Teferi, Jace, or Azcanta. Those should be your first priority. After that, cards like Snapcaster, sweepers, and Cryptic tend to be the most powerful takes.

As the game continues, and you’ve traded resources back and forth, your discard spells can still be excellent pieces of interaction, whereas in many other matches they can be dead draws. I go into more examples and details in this article but I want to reiterate the main point here as well. DO NOT simply fire off discard spells late in the game without giving them purpose. Your discard spells can do more heavy lifting than simply trading one-for-one. Hold onto them until you draw a threat, so that they can ensure the threat will resolve and not simply be removed upon resolution. It’s safe to say that at this point in the game, if your opponent has a Teferi, they’d play it, which means what they do have is most likely interaction that you’ll need to force your way through if they’re ahead on cards.

  • Don’t over extend. You may have heard of this phrase before, and it’s very applicable in this match. If you already have threats on the battlefield and have more threats in hand, try to sequence them in a way that follows one after another as they are removed. If you continuously replace the threats you have on board over and over and over, then you will sooner or later exhaust your opponent’s interaction.

The sweepers in U/W control are meant to do most of the heavy lifting since there isn’t much one-for-one removal past Path to Exile. Eventually, they will be forced to use sweepers on only one or two creatures instead of three, four, or five. Make them answer what you have before adding anything else. Even though you may want to be aggressive and add more beaters to the board, you also don’t want to allow your opponent to get too much value off a sweeper and leave you with no follow up.

  • When your opponent is looking to attack with Colonnade for the turn, make sure you use your removal before they declare attackers. If their plan for protecting it involves tapping it for mana to use for a countermagic, you can ensure that it isn’t getting in for damage that turn. As soon as it attacks, and you choose to interact with it, you are putting yourself at risk of getting your spell countered and still taking four damage. Even if it is tapped for mana after attacking, the Colonnade will connect.

 

  • Scavenging Ooze is a great piece of interaction that can turn off Snapcaster’s ability to flashback spells. There are many scenarios where sometimes simply untapping is so much better than tapping out on your opponents end step. Against an opponent that primarily operates at instant speed, this can certainly be the case. I almost always leave at least one green mana open at all times. The moment you go shields down is the moment they play their Snapcaster for value.

 

  • Cryptic Command is a very good piece of disruption and tempo that enables U/W players to gain all sorts of small advantages outside of countering our spells. When ticking up your Liliana, be sure you always have something to discard. If you don’t, they can punish you by bouncing Liliana with the discard trigger on the stack, forcing you to discard her to her own ability.

People also have a tendency to ultimate Liliana as soon as they can. While this can be detrimental and game winning in other matches, against control, it’s often reduced to a triple Stone Rain and not much else. It’s much more powerful to keep her around and ensure the U/W player can’t keep any cards in hand.

  • Cryptic can also “Fog” for a turn by tapping down your team and either bouncing another permanent or drawing a card. If you have creature lands, it can be beneficial to play around this by holding them back. When you go to combat, and they tap your team, you can still fire up the creature land before declaring attackers to get in damage that turn.

This Cryptic combat trick is a great reason to make sure you are only adding to your board post combat. Casting a spell before combat means they get to use their Cryptic to counter your play for the turn as well as Fog your attack. By waiting to cast your spells in the second main-phase, you’ll make them choose between countering your play for the turn or tapping your team. The only time I’ve deviated from this was when I knew my spell would be countered by a Mana Leak or Logic Knot and played into it pre-combat to grow my Goyf  for that turn’s attack.

Celestial-Colonnade-mtg
“Celestial Colonnade” by Eric Deschamps

Ultimately, this match is about resource denial. U/W is spell heavy and mana hungry. If you can keep them off their engine pieces and strain their mana, you can often come out on top. We’re not aggressive enough to go under them or overwhelm their interaction early, so we have to pummel our way through the early game and then make sure they don’t make it to the late-late game where they can turn the corner.

Let’s look at some ways we can sideboard against U/W, starting with this Jund list that got first place at an IQ in Findlay in the hands of David Shawn.

junduw

Out:

jund out

In:

jund in

Coming out we have our narrow removal for more non-creature interaction with Maelstrom Pulse. The Lightning Bolts can help you close out the game faster, but they are also fairly restricted as their most common mode will simply be to go face and not interact with the opponent much. Because this list has no Fulminator Mages, I think it’s a fine hedge to keep in one Fatal Push to deal with Celestial Colonnade. This way, Assassin’s Trophy (the only other removal spell that can deal with Colonnades after sideboarding) can be utilized on the bigger planeswalker threats.

Thrun and Choke are specifically here for this matchup. Being an uncounterable threat with hexproof and the ability to survive a Supreme Verdict makes Thrun well positioned to run away with the game outside of a Terminus or Settle the Wreckage. Of course, if you can help it, this can sometimes mean that Thrun is closer to a six-drop than he is a four-drop if you wish to be able to save him from a sweeper and untap with him.

While the U/W list does have numerous lands that are not islands, such as Glacial Fortress, Field of Ruin, Fetches, non-island basics, and creature lands, Choke will still do an excellent job of slowing the opponent down. Not only will their islands not untap, but their Fetches and Field of Ruins become much worse when they are searching for islands that will only serve as a one-time-use blue source. This can often make it so that you have enough time to defeat your opponent before they can find a way to get rid of it or get around it. Of course all of this won’t matter as much if the opponent is able to resolve a Teferi and untap their lands through the Choke.

You can make arguments that Kalitas is a worthy threat to bring in or that Surgical Extraction can be a card to make Snapcaster worse, but I personally like Scavenging Ooze more. They will rarely become anything more than 2/2’s or 3/3’s but the ability to ensure the opponent cannot two-for-one with Snapcaster (more than once unlike Surgical) can really take the wind out of their sails. It’s not a beater (like Kalitas) so much as it is a disruptive element (which Kalitas is not in this match).

Note that Collective Brutality fills the duel role of being able to kill most of the creatures presented in the U/W lists while also acting as additional discard if you’re in search of more cards to bring in; that goes for any G/Bx deck that has Brutality in the sideboard. What it doesn’t hit, which we’ve mentioned is extremely important, are the draw engines that will bury you in card advantage. So even though discard is very important in this match, Brutality is actually much more narrow than you may think.

Next, let’s look at an Abzan list that 5-0’d a league by user YawgmothPT.

abzanuw

OUT:

abzan out

IN:

abzan in

Coming out of the Abzan deck we have a lot of excess removal to make room for more threats.

Knight of Autumn has the versitiliy of either being a 4/3 beater or sometimes having the opportunity to blow up a Detention Sphere or Search for Azcanta. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Liliana, the Last Hope help the threat diversity; Gideon floods the board and beats down hard while Liliana can buy back threats, kill most of the creatures presented in U/W, and tick up to the (almost always) game winning emblem. Fulminator Mage can poke in for damage while having an uncounterable Stone Rain ability that can deal with Colonnades and set the U/W player back early in the game.

This list is also playing Noble Hierarchs, a card that can get some of the most important cards in the match, like Fulminator Mage and Liliana of the Veil, down as early as turn two. It’s a very mediocre top-deck in the late game that has the potential to pull the Abzan player very far ahead early in the game. Turn two Liliana of the Veil and turn three Siege Rhino is very strong.

Lastly, let’s look at this G/B lists that went 8-1 in an online PTQ by user Iziter.

gbuw

OUT:

gb out

IN:

gb in

I like Duress a lot more than Brutality in this match since it can actually grab the important engine pieces like Search for Azcanta, Teferi, and Jace. I would either cut both the Brutalities and leave in all the Oozes or do a split as previewed above. We’re also going to cut most of our Fatal Pushes for more threats.

This list also omits Fulminator Mage but seeing as G/B has access to Field of Ruin, it shouldn’t be a problem most of the time. Regardless, we’re still going to keep in one Fatal Push to deal with their small creatures and Colonnades if we have to.

Kitchen Finks isn’t terribly impressive in the face of Path to Exile but is certainly better than excess copies of Fatal Push. Kalitas could play a similar role if you wanted to play it over Finks or the fourth Push but seeing as the exile clause is not very relevant, I’d rather go with the cheaper three power creature that has an ETB.

Nissa is excellent in this match. She can emblem very quickly to make sure you never run out of gas, re-buy threats (even planeswalkers), and hit hard with 5/5 animated lands. Every mode is relevant and powerful.

cryptic-command2-614x280
“Cryptic Command” by Wayne England

Before closing, I’d like to demonstrate some of the points made in this article by recreating snapshots from a recent experience I had playing Jund on MtGO against U/W control.

My opponent won game one after I ran out of gas and ultimated my Liliana of the Veil in a last ditch effort to return the game to parody. I split their permanents into two piles: one, a flipped and unflipped Search for Azcanta and other containing the rest of their lands. They kept the Azcantas and went on to win the game. Remember, I was out of gas and not pressuring them after this moment. They scry’d lands to the top when I didn’t add to the board and kept removal when I presented threats. Eventually they made enough land drops to start activating the Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin and buried me. This alone should illustrate the importance and power of these cards. My opponent knew it, I knew it, and they made the correct decision in choosing the Azcanta pile knowing full well that that was their way back into the game.

I went on to win game two by keeping my opponent’s hand empty with a Liliana of the Veil and beating in with a Raging Ravine. Game three, I’m on a mull to six and start out with an Inquisition of Kozilek on my turn one.

t1t

I’m forced to take the Serum Visions and am a little nervous about my hand’s ability to compete with a Jace and Teferi. I have to hope they stumble on mana a little bit before I can get ahead.

On my turn three, after playing Tarmogoyf on turn two, I draw a very timely Thoughtseize. Now I have to make a decision between playing a three mana threat or playing the discard spell before my opponent can play Jace, assuming they have a fourth land.

If I play the Liliana, they will simply play Jace and bounce the Tarmogoyf, leaving Jace uncontested on an empty board with Teferi to follow up. If I play Kitchen Finks, they will probably play Supreme Verdict which will allow me to untap, play Liliana and Thoughtseize in the same turn. The other option available to my opponent though would be to take an attack from the Goyf and Finks to Cryptic my next play. This would mean I would have to bait the Cryptic with my Liliana to Thoughtseize the Jace. At the end of this exchange after a Supreme Verdict on their turn, I’d have a 2/1 Finks and no follow up while they would still have a Teferi in hand.

t3t

I decide too much could go wrong by not simply playing the discard spell immediately, respecting the potential down hill decline the game could take for me if Jace resolves. I can’t risk something going wrong or a potential draw that doesn’t allow me to deal with the Jace. My hand is currently weak to their planeswalkers with no Trophy or Pulse to help.

On my turn four I draw yet another Thoughtseize but my opponent has drawn the fourth land and has left up Cryptic Command. I attack and then bait the counterspell (Cryptic-counter/draw) with the Kitchen Finks to resolve my Thoughtseize and take the Teferi.

t4t

My opponent is left with two Supreme Verdicts and a land against my Tarmogoyf and Liliana in hand. At this point my Tarmogoyf has already gotten in for a decent amount of damage and is currently a 5/6. My opponent is forced to fire off one of the Verdicts to quell the pressure. I follow up with a Liliana, the Last Hope, tick up, and then tick down on the subsequent turn to re-buy and replay the Tarmogoyf. My opponent again is forced to fire off a Supreme Verdict to trade with the Tarmogoyf.

My opponent continues to one-for-one the best they can and by the time my opponent draws another threat/card advantage engine, the board looks like this.

t6t

My opponent is forced to minus the Teferi to deal with the annoyance of Liliana of the Veil taking their cards every turn with the impending ultimate. On my turn I draw Fulminator Mage to deal with the Colonnade poised to eliminate the Liliana, the Last Hope and attack Teferi down with the Tarmogoyf. Eventually I redraw Liliana of the Veil and the resource denial plan continues as I beat down with Tarmogoyf, re-buy Fulminators with Liliana, the Last Hope, and keep their hand empty with Liliana of the Veil.

My opponent scoops and as I survey the graveyard I see that I had bested two Teferis, a Jace, a Cryptic, two Supreme Verdicts, and a Colonnade. I accomplished this by accurately utilizing my discard to keep them off their most dangerous threats, not over extending into the sweepers, and attacking their resources with Liliana and Fulminator Mage.

Snapcaster-Mage-MM3
“Snapcaster Mage” by Ryan Alexander Lee

Jace and Teferi are fierce opponents and this match can be very difficult to navigate. This is especially true if you don’t have the information provided to you by discard, as their open mana on your turn could represent so many possibilities. Don’t be afraid to go head to head with their one-for-one trades early in the game, remember that your deck is built to overcome that. Instead, focus more on stopping your opponent from sticking any of their late-game draw engines and finishers. If you can keep them from crawling back into the game and re-accumulating resources, your two-for-ones like Bloodbraid Elf, Lingering Souls, and planeswalker threats can begin to take over.

Jace may be the most feared planeswalker in the multiverse, but even he can fold under Duress.