Innovations – On To The Next: Pro Tour San Diego, Part 1 *14th*

SCG Open Richmond!

Wednesday, February 24th – Patrick Chapin rocked up to Pro Tour: San Diego with a cool new deck: U/W Control. Backed by the power of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Everflowing Chalice, he bartered the deck to a 14th-place finish. Today, he discusses the genesis of the strategy, and shares some of the thinking behind the exact build and sideboard…

Looking back, 2009 was certainly not my best year, personal-performance-wise. I was very satisfied with my deckbuilding accomplishments over the course of the year (Cruel Control, Five-Color Cascade in Block Constructed, 5CB, The Deck 2009 in Vintage, contributions to Punishing Fires and Thopter-Sword in Extended, contributions to bad Blue decks in new Standard). My personal accomplishments, however, were certainly lacking. I finished 37th in Honolulu, bombed out of Austin, and placed 80th in Rome. A 17th at GP Tampa is hardly much to bring up the personal record to a successful level.

I seriously analyzed my game, my performance, my strategy for approaching tournaments, and my own behavior to see what was the cause for this unsuccessful year. Was it really, as some critics had said, that my love for control decks was too great, that I was suffering from deck selection? Perhaps I just don’t have it in me anymore… maybe the burning desire to win was fading…

No, looking back, I am happy with my deck selection, even when I did not play BR’s Austin deck (which was the best deck at that tournament). My desire to win has certainly not failed; in fact, the fire burns inside me like never before. The real issue was that I was not doing the “intangibles” right. I am not as young as I used to be, and I had failed to take into consideration that I have to do more to be able to play at my peak levels than I used to do.

When I was younger, skipping sleep, going out partying, late-night dinners, bad eating habits, trying to do a million things at once… it was no problem. When you are 19, you are pretty much invincible, a machine. I have come to more fully appreciate that I haven’t been 19 in a decade.

My playtest Magic is world class, but so often lately I had been playing poorly in events, leading me to wonder if I was somehow a choke artist now. What I have found is that I just can’t play well when I am too tired. Fatigue is a very real issue for me now, made worse by the fact that I have a tendency to push it and push it until well past the point I should with regards to my activity level.

After playing like garbage in Austin, from fatigue, I started running. I have been loving it so much I am now running 10 miles at a time, and I am training for a marathon. The difference in my health is remarkable.

My finish in Rome was not embarrassing, but I still punted enough matches to drop from Top 8 all the way down to 80th, mostly from lack of sleep, a combination of jetlag, and poor sleep habits, as well as not making comfortable arrangements for myself in Italy. In San Diego this past week, I was in California much earlier than the event, became weathered to the climate, the time zone, and more. I slept in a bed every night. I went to sleep before midnight every night. I did not drink at all the week before the event, and I skipped several late night dinners.

The result? My playing in the event itself was far from perfect; however, I would say that I played about as well as I playtest, which is immensely satisfying. I finished 11-4-1, good for 14th place, $4500, and I’m 100% back on the train. Am I happy about that finish?

On the one hand, I am torturing myself to no end about all the mistakes I made that cost me matches, as I really felt like this event was mine to win. I believe strongly that my U/W Control was the best deck for that event. That Top 8 would have been incredibly good for me. I was playing better than I have in while. I finished 8-1-1 in Constructed and 3-3 in draft, so obviously I am kicking myself for not being in better shape draft-wise. I have identified a number of areas to improve from this event… many, in fact. The thing is, I am actually much more at peace not because of a “strong showing,” or even being back on the train. I am happy because I feel like I have not only made progress, but I can see clearly now that I can still play at my top level in competitions. I really do just have to take care of myself and force myself to prepare physically for events, not just technology wise. I am in the zone again, and I have a ton of room to play even better, to make fewer mistakes, and so on, but I am playing world class Magic again, and that feels good.

Today, I would like to talk about my U/W Control deck in Standard. As I said, I finished 14th, and Gabriel Nassif finished 21st. We both 3-3’ed the draft portion, keeping both of us out of Top 8, but the deck is particularly strong. In fact, as I told the guys the week before the event, I think that this deck is better for this field than our Kyoto Five-Color Control deck was in that field.

Preparing for Kyoto, Gab and Mark were concerned about the power level of the Five-Color deck compared to Faeries, and in fact, it took me beating them as a team in a fifty-game set with Five-Color versus Faeries before they agreed to settle down with the Five-Color deck and finish tuning it.

By contrast, in Austin I offered the disclaimer that the deck I had was merely the best I had come up with, and that it was not necessarily better than Zoo. In Rome, my greediest ever deck was not as good as Jund; it was just the best I had come up with. I knew that this U/W deck was not just a deck that I “liked the style of,” but rather was just very strong against the field and on its own merits (its power level is so high that it can overpower most other decks, not just the ones that one anticipates, on account of hate cards).

I prepared for this event by playtesting with Gabriel Nassif, Ben Rubin, Matt Sperling, Paul Rietzl, Brian Kibler, Mark Herberholz, and Dan Burdick, as well as discussing ideas with David Williams, Michael Jacob, Brian Kowal, and Eric Froehlich. I am obviously unreal thankful to be involved with a think tank like that. In fact, initially, I was on Grixis, but Heezy made a number of suggestions, including trying to build some kind of classic U/W Control deck.

Our group actually worked out quite well, with Rubin pushing Boros, Vampires, Eldrazi Green, and other aggro decks that no one else wanted to work on. Sperling pushed development of Grixis. Kibler taught us more and more about Knight of Reliquary decks, including one remarkably similar to the Lotus Cobra deck that made Top 8 in San Diego. Burdick explored U/W/R (also concluding that U/W would be superior) as well as explored unusual Naya decks. Rietzl took up the position of “enemy,” and continually reminded us over and over that our decks sucked compared to Jund, as he beat us with it over and over. Nassif was the first to get on board with my deck and, along with Ben Rubin, helped me fine tune it and finish the sideboard.

It is because of some talks that Gab and I had in Rome about consistency in great deck design that I fought for weeks to keep Red out of the U/W deck (a battle that I had to fight every single day, as it came up daily that we were not that far from Ajani Vengeant, Lightning Bolt, and Earthquake). I have no doubt that many people will try adding Red to the deck, and who knows, maybe they will succeed. I know that I tried, I really did, and it works okay, but at the end of the day, the added power is just not worth the consistency.

The U/W deck is so high on power already that it can afford to give up those three great Red cards. You not only get great mana, you get Tectonic Edge and Everflowing Chalice, which is much more than most will ever realize. Take it from a guy that has played a lot of decks with high failure rates… it is refreshing to show up at a tournament with a deck that is among the absolute most consistent in the format.

Today I am going to break down some of the card choices and explain the thought process behind this shift in direction for Standard Control. Monday will be a proper tournament report, but it will also contain match-up analysis for every major archetype including sideboard suggestions and important tactical plays. I will also review each Constructed match I played in San Diego, as there were valuable lessons every round.

This is a classic U/W Control deck that uses Blue card draw and permission combined with White removal to take control of a game, winning at its leisure with any number of incidental roads to victory. A number of components that are absolutely vital were not available until Worldwake, and a full 28 cards of the 75 are from Worldwake, including all of the most important cards other than Cancel. In fact, if you’ll notice, there are no four-ofs other than Cancel and Worldwake cards.

To begin, let’s start with the centerpiece of the deck, a card without which this deck would not be possible: Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I have said much about New Jace over the past couple of months and, more and more, I think you will see the impact of this card. Remember, when Cryptic Command first came out, it was not even the most played Command, let alone thought of as the best card in the format.

New Jace is the card draw engine that pulls this deck together. A few months of Divinations and Courier’s Capsules have people forgetting just how powerful Blue really is. Don’t get me wrong, Divination and Capsule are fine, and if that is what it takes, that is what it takes, but when Blue has cards like Fact or Fiction or Deep Analysis, it is deadly. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is in this league. This is not hyperbolic speak. The card is that good, and time will tell the tale.

It is not just that it is an extra card each turn, it is a Brainstorm each turn, which is far better than a draw, especially when you play with cards like Flashfreeze, Celestial Purge, Everflowing Chalice, Day of Judgment, Iona, and Treasure Hunt. This card is a powerful enough engine to totally take over a game, much like Cruel Ultimatum. If you are behind, it is one of the best possible ways to catch up. If you are even, you pull ahead. If you are ahead, you win.

Wafo and I were discussing the U/W deck, as Wafo was curious if I thought that New Jace was good against Jund. I told him that the reason it was is the same reason that Cruel Ultimatum was good against Faeries. You don’t count on Crueling against Faeries, as they can just counter it. You play Cruels and a deck full of card draw, cheap permission, and cards that are great against Faeries. The deck is designed to beat Faeries card by card, with Cruel Ultimatum providing the mechanism by which you will make up the difference against every non-Faerie opponent. Is Cruel great against Faeries? Absolutely; it is a must-counter, an excellent tool. However, you don’t count on it at all, as it is just one of many weapons against them.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is great against Jund because it lets you play a deck designed to beat Jund card by card, as it makes up the difference against everyone else. It is a very powerful threat to them, as it is a great way to draw the extra cards needed to get ahead of them. Still, we do not count on it at all, and each time New Jace dies, it is no big deal. We understand that a deck with 4 Bolts, 4 Blightnings, 4 Bloodbraids, and some Pulses is going to be able to kill Jace a lot.

Initially, a mistake we were making was playing Jace on turn 3 or 4 and bumping its loyalty up to 5 to “protect” it from Bolts, Blightnings, and whatnot. This was a mistake. It is just too hard to keep New Jace alive against Jund, at least early. The better way to view him is not as a permanent that needs to be protected, but rather as the greatest Mulldrifter ever.

Once I stopped tapping out to cast New Jace, I started getting much better results. The key was that I would try to stop every threat the Jund player would produce for the first several turns, then around turn 5 or 6, I would cast New Jace, with permission still up. I would Brainstorm, picking up a nice boost in card advantage, both real and virtual. Then they would kill it, and I would let it die.

That’s right, you let the Jace die, even though you could protect it! Obviously if that was the last card in their hand, by all means protect it, but if they still have more cards, let it go. They don’t have that many true threats. You can usually counter them all, but not if you waste permission making their other Bolts good. See, when you play this way, you slow the game down and force them to fight you one for one, which is great for you on account of your far superior card draw.

Every time they Bloodbraid Elf, they steal a card from you. It sucks, but that is what their deck does. You have to suck it up and understand that they are going to do this, and it isn’t worth stopping them from doing it. You fight this by using Jace as a Bloodbraid Elf. By playing him this way, it is like he is a Bloodbraid Elf that flips Brainstorm every time (though could flip Unsummon, etc, if you wanted). When you let them Bolt it, you obviously have already two-for-oned them, but you have to remember that when you try to protect your Jace, you are trading a hard counter for a Bolt, which are among your best cards for among your opponent’s worst. If you can’t win the war, don’t get into those fights.

When you let your first Mind Sculptor die, you have effectively “turned on” all of your others. It is not uncommon for me to play Jace on turn 5 with permission back-up, let them Bolt it, then counter their Broodmate. Turn 6 might see me Treasure Hunt and counter whatever threat they play. Turn 7 might be another Jace, which they successfully kill again, after another Brainstorm. I shuffle my library and continue to find gas while they fall into topdeck mode. While I sometimes protect the second Jace, the third Jace usually puts me far enough ahead that I can just go ahead and protect it, eventually arriving to the lock, which is having one more Cancel than they have threats in their hand. At that point, I just start fatesealing them, putting very few cards on the bottom – sometimes only Bloodbraid Elf, depending on the position.

You have a lot of implied card advantage game 1 against Jund. Every Terminate they draw is dead, and Bolt is a losing proposition against Jace. Pulse is decent against us, but again, it generally doesn’t gain value, it is just not a dead card. They really don’t want to play a reactive game against us. The Treasure Hunt + Halimar Depths combo helps minimize the effects of Blightning, a card that I often counter, but certainly not always, not anymore.

The proper way to play Jace is very match-up dependant. Against Green and White creature decks, generally, the way I play it is to tap out on turn 3 or 4 when they have only one threat down (a common move on their part since we have so many Wraths). I then bounce their guy and ship the turn. Now if they play one guy, I can just Brainstorm plus spot removal it, or I bounce it and set up my position with Chalice or Treasure Hunt plus Halimar Depths, sometimes just tapping out to Mind Spring. If they commit more to the board, I just Brainstorm and Wrath, or if I can, I run the bounce plus Oblivion Ring combo to just buy more turns of having Jace on the battlefield.

These Green and White decks generally have to bend over backwards to try to beat Jace (this is code for they actually are pretty much kold to Jace every time). The tempo boost from bouncing a Knight of the Reliquary is just huge. Yes, you spent 4 mana and they spent 3, but now you have a Jace on the battlefield, a permanent that is creating several mana’s worth of value every turn. A Brainstorm is easily worth two mana, and one that doesn’t cost you a card is worth four. Repulse is a bounce option that doesn’t cost you a card, and Jace can give you that too. In a way, it is like every turn you have Jace, you get to do something as good as Cryptic Command. Your draw step gives you one “spell” and your Jace gives you one “spell” (Brainstorm, Unsummon, Fateseal / Scry / Gain Loyalty / Life).

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say it, but since I see a lot of lists with 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptors, I suppose I’d better. If you are playing a Control deck, you probably want 4 Jace, the Mind Sculptors, as not playing 4 Jaces in this deck is like not playing 4 Bloodbraid Elves in Jund. I can see decks where Jace is not as good, just as Bloodbraid is often not as good in Naya as Ranger of Eos may be. However, in a Jund deck, you want Bloodbraid Elf, and in Control, you want Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

When we were settling on the final cut and mana ratio, Nassif asked if we should just play 27/61 (the same formula he used in Kyoto). I am not afraid to run a 61-card build, even if it is wrong (and I just don’t know what to cut without risking making it worse) but this is one deck where it is not even close. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is SO much better than any of the other cards, it is crazy to reduce your chances of drawing it by even 1.6%.

I have already written a lot about Treasure Hunt plus Halimar Depths, which you can read about here. Still, I want to clarify a few points about using this combo, as it doesn’t play itself. First, you often do not Treasure Hunt on turn 2 or 3. As long as you have permission, lands to play, and are doing okay, you get more value out of waiting. There is nothing wrong with drawing so many cards you have to discard. Still, it is important to focus on tempo, and the cards will come. The more turns you can one-for-one people, the further you advance your own game plan.

If you spend a turn Hunting for Treasure when you could have protected yourself, you are not going to have to spend a turn undoing the threat they played that turn, which could involve them getting ahead again. You are going to be struggling to catch-up in situations where they have good draws already. Don’t make it a struggle if it doesn’t have to be. That said, if you don’t have permission, generally it is better to Treasure Hunt than bluff it. Find some!

A common dilemma I face is the turn 1 Halimar Depths versus Celestial Colonnade. I generally play Colonnade with the intention of playing a turn 2 cheap counter or Chalice, followed by a turn 3 Halimar Depths. When I play the turn 3 Halimar Depths, my plan depends on how many lands are on top.

First, if I see three land, I usually don’t Treasure Hunt until the following turn, unless I have a hand that will catch-back up from the tempo loss of tapping out (since its turn 3). If I see two land, I put the spell on top, then next turn, Treasure Hunt with permission up. If I see one land, my plan depends on if I have another land in hand. If I have another land in my hand, I generally put the land third, then next turn draw a spell, play a land, and ship the turn (or play a reactive card). The following turn, I draw the other spell, then Treasure Hunt to get an extra card in value. If I don’t have another land, I put the land second from top so that next turn I can draw a spell, then Hunt for two cards and still hit my land drop. Remember, two cards are good, but if you put the land on the bottom, you average more like 2.7 cards.

Recently I mentioned that Halimar Depths makes it so that you can average 3.05 cards from Treasure Hunt, instead of 1.75, which has some people wondering about the math. The way I arrived at 3.05 was under the premise that I would put all the lands I see on the bottom and draw spells until I was assured of land, plus a regular Treasure Hunt. By playing the card this way, you add a ton of value to your Hunts. You see an average of 1.3 lands in your top 3, which you put on the bottom and then draw spells until you are assured to hit land. Then you get the regular value out of a Treasure Hunt, plus 1.3 in free roll. These “1.3 cards” added to the 1.75 you regularly get is where the 3.05 comes from.

One aspect of the deck that has received a fair bit of attention is the inclusion of 4 Cancels. The much maligned Cancel gets a bad rep simply because so many people loved Counterspell so much, and Cancel is obviously never going to fill those shoes. That said, Cancel is a good solid card. The main issue is the converted mana cost of the spells you are trying to counter. If it is three or less, you are going to have a hard time making Cancel look good.

Right now, in Standard, there is a huge variety of stuff that needs to be dealt with. Jace the Mind Sculptor; Baneslayer Angel; Malakir Bloodwitch; Mind Sludge; Cruel Ultimatum; Sphinx of Lost Truth; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; Emeria Angel; and more. Almost everyone has big threats of both types (creatures and non-creatures) these days. I used to play more Negates and fewer Cancels, but as Heezy pointed out, whenever you want Negate, you can usually settle for Cancel, but when Negate sucks, you really would rather have it be Cancel. Blightning is just about the only time when Negate looks better, and Blightning isn’t even as good against us as it is against many other decks.

Is Cancel a little slow? Yeah, but Everflowing Chalice is pretty fast. Turn 1 Celestial Colonnade, turn 2 Island and Chalice, turn 3 Halimar Depths with Cancel up is a usual line. That may not seem that exciting, but I mean, seriously, it’s Cancel… how exciting do you want it to be? It is reliable, however, and that is what we are looking for. Cancel is the BEST counterspell in Standard, right now. That versatility is what the format calls for.

The mixture of Essence Scatters, Flashfreezes, and Negates is nothing new, as I have long enjoyed playing a mixture of counterspells (when they all suck) so that the opponent can’t play around any of them. In this deck, if you tap all but an Island and a Plains, your opponent has no idea if you are representing one or more of those counters, Path, or Purge.

The sideboard is actually very important to the permission package as it is understood that in many match-ups your permission will not be ideal, either from the wrong types of counters or the wrong quantity. As a result, we have more of each type of counter in the board, allowing us to adjust the deck in whichever direction it needs, which I will talk more about when we get to sideboard plans.

I have not traditionally been the biggest fan of Mind Spring, but it is fairly obvious that Everflowing Chalice changes the relative value of X-spells. This U/W deck has a fairly low mana curve, all things considered, but the two Mind Springs, two Martial Coups, Iona, and four Jace, the Mind Sculptors ensure that you have plenty of power cards to play to take advantage of your sort of “Tron” mana capabilities. In addition, with all the Treasure Hunting and Chalices, you often end up with a ton of mana, which ends up turning into very real card advantage when your extra mana means more Wastelands, Serra Angels, Ponders, and Multi-kicker Mind Stones.

A common line of play is to open with turn 2 Chalice, followed by a turn 3 Chalice (for two), followed by a turn 4 Martial Coup, which is pretty unbeatable for most aggro decks. Another common line of play is the turn 2 permission spell, followed by turn 3 Chalice, permission spell. This might be followed by a turn 4 Chalice for two and O-Ring, Followed by a turn 5 Jace with permission back-up, and a turn 6 Iona.

The key is that you can actually accelerate into a fairly degenerate Stage 3 rather quickly, in a format full of midrange decks not equipped to deal with such an end game. The reliable permission combined with massive mana advantage ensures that your opponent with Cruels or Ajanis cannot do the same.

As the game goes long, a common mistake I see people make is tapping out for Chalices for 5 (when they have no permission). You are SO greedy! Do you really need 15 mana? Why not just represent a little bit of strength, you know? Maybe settle for a Chalice 4 and leave “Cancel” up…

Against Jund, it can be useful to play around Pulse a little with your Chalices, but usually this just means shuffling them away with Jace plus fetchland more. You love having one against Jund, and a second one can be fine, but you don’t want to count on them too much. That said, Jund’s Pulses will be overworked anyway, since they will really need them for your Jaces (not to mention for your men after sideboarding).

Another common mistake I see is people tapping out on turn 2 to play a Chalice. If you have a two-mana permission spell, you are usually going to want to do that instead. There will be time to Chalice later. Now, if you’re setting up a Day of Judgment, you do it now. I am just saying that the more you one-for-one people, the better, generally. You are the one with Braingeysers and Jaces.

A lot of people seem to be surprised by how little spot removal I use, expecting the deck to have 3 or 4 Paths. The truth is that spot removal just isn’t that good either. I hate Pathing people these days, especially when I am just trying to Edge them. Purge is great, but obviously there are plenty of match-ups where it is dead. O-Ring is reliable – the White Cancel, if you will – but obviously it is slow, sorcery speed, and a liability. I used to use more Paths, but I ended up finding that I was boarding them out against most people, and that Day of Judgment and O-Ring were just better most of the time.

I liked the 1 Path and 1 Purge split partially so that they just never know, but also partially as fifth and sixth answers to Raging Ravine. Raging Ravine is a fairly easy card to answer for us, but it does demand an answer, since it dodges permission, Oblivion Rings, and DoJ. I also found with sideboarding that there were match-ups where I would play 1 Path, but not 2, and so on, which eventually lead to these final numbers. The main deck Purge took me a little bit to get to, but in the end, the match-ups where it is bad (Knight of Reliquary, WW, Eldrazi Green, Grixis) are among our absolute best match-ups anyway.

One nice trick to point out with Path is that you can Path a Sprouting Thrinax, then when they fetch up a basic land you can drop Tectonic Edge and hit their Savage Lands, which might actually end up mana-screwing them! My other favorite thing to do with Path is to Path my Soldier token that is getting Pulsed, or Path my Kor Firewalker that would be Pulsed, and follow it with a Baneslayer Angel.

An important skill to master with this build is the order that you play your lands. Many people are used to fetching as soon as possible to “thin their deck.” That is not what is going on here; we don’t play fetches to thin. We are playing them for the option to buy a shuffle for one life. If you don’t know the top card of your library, then often it is better to play the Plains instead of the Arid Mesa. Save the Arid Mesa for when you do know the top, such as with Halimar Depths; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; or even your opponent’s Goblin Guide.

That said, if you are anywhere close to running out of basics to fetch out, get them before you draw them. Also, if your life total is low, ask yourself if perhaps you are going to go the whole game without ever fetching. A common question you will face is which lands to put back on top with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The right answer if you are Treasure Hunting is obviously usually the lands your opponent already knows. If you are looking to shuffle a couple away, you usually want to shuffle away basics, since you are going to look to fetch them out later. If you want to make sure, save one basic in your hand or on the battlefield to power up Glacial Fortress, but beyond that, shuffle them away.

Another trick to remember if you have New Jace with an Arid Mesa and an Island open against Jund is to wait until your upkeep to fetch, rather than during your opponent’s endstep. The last thing you want is to not have Flashfreeze open to protect your Jace in this situation. You might not want to counter their Bolt, but there is no reason to not keep the option to.

Another important land to learn to use correctly is Halimar Depths. I already discussed Treasure Hunt strategy, but there is more to it than that. Usually, as long as you have cards you plan to play each turn, you don’t want to play your Depths (if you have a different land you could play and won’t need the mana next turn). The trick is to time it so that you Halimar Depths the turn before you run out of gas. The Depths will give you a temporary boost, finding the best of your top 3 cards for next turn, giving you yet another turn of good action.

The longer you wait, the more the relative value of this temporary boost. This does give you longer to find a fetchland to shuffle, or a Blue card drawer to keep the cards coming, but the real secret is one that Legacy players have known for years. You don’t have to Brainstorm on turn 1, and often it is a mistake to do so. If you just recklessly Brainstorm on the first turn, you might get an immediate boost with which you do nothing. You then spend the next couple of turns with no new action. That defeats the purpose.

However, if you wait until you have a fetchland or a card drawer, or you are about to run out of cards, then it will be exactly what the doctor ordered. This doesn’t mean you avoid the turn 1 Depths, as it does save a mana to play it turn 1 instead of a basic, but generally a Colonnade is a better turn 1 play. If you have no untapped land, however, it can be a great turn 1, since it helps ensure that you have an untapped land for turn 2.

The shortcut to remember is to ask yourself what value you are getting by playing the Depths now, and if you would get more by playing a different land first. If you are looking for an answer to something, by all means play your Depths. However, if you are just hanging out, waiting as long as possible usually extracts the most value out of the temporary boost.

The sideboard is not too surprising, though some of the applications may not be immediately obvious. The basic Plains is the big one that gets a strange glance. The main deck is just a hair short of the amount of White mana that it wants and the sideboard Firewalkers and Baneslayers (as well as Elspeth and Perimeter Captain) want even more. We debated for a long time putting the fourth Edge in the board and the Plains in the main deck, but we realized that we wanted the Edge against more people than the Plains, so we discussed the crazy possibility that we might just board basic Plains.

The Edges are pretty lame against decks like Boros, Mono-R, White Weenie, and Vampires. They are so lame, in fact, we generally just board 1 Edge out for a spell, since we aren’t using them as Wastelands in these match-ups. With the addition of a basic Plains, we could now board out two Edges and board in a Plains, making our manabase that much more stable. In addition, in some control match-ups, you just want as much mana as possible, and it is nice to be able to go up to 31.

The Baneslayer sideboard is industry standard, and you do board them in against a lot of people. You might be asking why they are in the board instead of the main deck, since we are not fooling anyone. The key is that game 1 people have too much removal. If we had Baneslayers then, we would turn on their Terminates, their Tendrils, their Paths. After sideboarding, people still have some, but they have less because that is how they are making room for their sideboard cards. This is when we add Baneslayers to attack hard from a completely different angle. We may not be surprising them, but this is one more way we can switch the field of battle.

The Kor Firewalkers are a deceptively versatile sideboard card, not just an anti-Red hate card. They are great against Boros and Mono-R, no question, two of our worst match-ups game 1. The subtle bonus is that they are an awesome answer to Calcite Snapper, a card that can give random control decks a chance against us. I anticipated that most control decks would be u/w/r and Grixis, meaning that Kor Firewalker would be very difficult for them to remove. His cheap cost makes it easy to play one on turn 3 or 4 after they play a Snapper and still have permission up. His body is such that he will never lose a fight with a Snapper, so to speak.

He is also an important part of our anti-Jund plan. We are very solid favorites game 1, as they have a ton of dead cards. However, if we let them board out all of their removal and board in cards like Mind Rot, Duress, Malakir Bloodwitch, and Goblin Ruinblaster, we can lose a lot of value. Kor Firewalkers and Baneslayers let us punish Jund players for being too hateful, while just simultaneously being very effective cards against them. If Jund spends a turn Pulsing our Firewalker instead of playing a Sprouting Thrinax, we are happy.

The Elspeth gives us yet another way to attack control decks, yet another alternative road to victory, and another answer to opponent’s Elspeths (a card that is very good against us). The Perimeter Captain is a sweet anti Boros and Mono-R card, and some of my teammates played two or three copies, but I found that I was getting diminishing returns out of them and would rather people think I had more than I really did so as to sideboard wrong.

The Mind Control is mostly just because we are addicted to mising (it is a sickness). Obviously Malakir Bloodwitch is the main card to Mind Control. It was my least used sideboard card, but looking back, I agree with Gab… we would not have changed a single card in the deck or sideboard.

Sideboarding is not as straightforward as just memorizing certain plans against certain archetypes. I have found that the best solution is to just shuffle the sideboard in and start removing cards until I have removed 15. Usually there will be at least 11-14 obvious ones, then the last few I have to weigh the pros and cons. Next week, in my tournament report, I will cover all of the matches I played, including sideboard plans, as well as discuss sideboarding for the match-ups I did not face.

There are a variety of cards of note that we did not use, such as Wall of Denial, Sphinx of Jwar Isle, Sphinx of Lost Truth, Spreading Seas, Pithing Needle, Calcite Snapper, Jace Beleren, Luminarch Ascension, Divination, and Into the Roil. Next week I will discuss why each of these was considered and rejected. If there are other cards you are curious about why we did not use, please ask in the forums. Also, if there are any other match-ups besides Jund, Vampires, WW, Boss Naya, UWR, Grixis, Eldrazi Green, Open the Vaults, GWB, Bant, and Mono-R, by all means let me know.

It feels good to be back. See ya next week.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”