Psychatog 2K5 Matchups and Sideboarding Plans

Today Steve wraps up his massive Psychatog Primer with complete matchup and sideboarding advice for every major deck in the format.

Part 1 of this Primer can be found here.


The Fish match is particularly frustrating because it is antithetical to your plan. Fish is a tempo deck. Tog is a tempo black hole. You are playing draw spells to beef up your hand in the hopes of playing a Psychatog and Berserking over or Yawgmoth’s Will. Only once you have Berserked the Tog or played Yawgmoth’s Will you recoup the tempo that you are constantly bleeding. Mana Drain can also help stem the tempo loss – but Fish players are adept and playing around Mana Drain.

Here is an example of how a Fish game might go:

Turn One

Fish: Volcanic Island, Grim Lavamancer

Tog: Polluted Delta. Break it for Island. Play Brainstorm and a Mox.

Turn Two:

Fish: play a Mishra’s Factory and Cloud of Faeries. Play Spiketail Hatchling.

Tog: Play an Underground Sea/Volcanic Island. You can play Intuition or Psychatog, but you know that if you wait one more turn you can get around the Spiketail Hatchling.

Turn Three:

The Fish player was holding Null Rod but knew that if she played the Spiketail you would give her tempo to play around it. Now he plays a Wasteland and Wastes your dual land. Then she drops Null Rod. Ouch. Then she attacks for one with Spiketail.

Tog: now you have functionally no mana. Your dual land is gone. Your Mox is turned off by Null Rod, and your final mana is shut off by the potential use of Spiketail Hatchling’s ability.

Now, the Fish matchup isn’t always going to be that bad, but it can be. As a Tog player, the one thing I didn’t want to see was the Fish player drawing a restricted card. Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Mox Sapphire or even Library of Alexandria gives the Fish player a very nice advantage. Strip Mine is also a beating because it is unexpected. Particularly when you have gone out of your way to secure an Island. Grim Lavamancer’s can whittle away at the Tog and keep them out of level range while the rest of the men attack you directly.

In my view, it is important to stop Null Rod and Spiketail Hatchling. Both of those cards are seemingly innocuous but can lead to your downfall. Both cards make their Dazes more functional and can keep you under the gun.

One of the real debates is whether you should Mana Drain Cloud of Faeries. I used to think that the clear answer was no. The Fish deck is full to the brim with two-mana follow-ups: Standstill, Null Rod, and Spiketail Hatchling. I am no longer so certain that the general rule should be not to counter the Cloud. The Cloud provides two things that the Fish player will want. First, it provides a solid target for them to play Curiosity on. Second, it provides another reason to play Standstill. One Cloud plus a manland is probably enough reason to drop Standstill. One manland by itself probably is not.

Beating Fish is basically a two-step process. First you need to get your draw engine on. If you can play AK for 3 and AK 4 you are halfway there. Second, you need to get a Psychatog into play. Psychatog can be devastating for Fish, but Psychatog without the draw engine is usually not enough to create a win.

Probably the most important thing for the Tog player is to focus on winning small. The Fish player will be attacking you from all directions. Being patient and not making any mistakes is the most important psychological factor to remember. The games with Fish will be long and tense. If you win, you will do so without much life and after a nailbiter. Play through your turn deliberately so as not to mana burn or make any mistakes. If you play Mana Drain, I advise you to put a die on the board so that you will remember it. If you expect the Fish player to do anything on your mainphase, such as counter a draw spell, be careful about which mainphase you are going to be playing in. If you want to drop a Psychatog and expect them to have multiple counterspells, you may want to move into your second mainphase before doing so. If you have to Mana Drain a Force of Will, you won’t want to suck up five points of mana burn in your second mainphase.

My preferred sideboard plan against Fish is:

-2 Duress

-1 Mind Twist

– The 60th metagame card or possibly a Deep Analysis.

If you are running Mana Crypt, you definitely need to cut that.

+ 3 Old Man of the Sea

+ 1 Fire/Ice (if you have it and a Firestorm remaining in your board)

Your Wish targets will be: Red Elemental Blast, Blue Elemental Blast, Berserk, Fact or Fiction, and Firestorm.

Control Slaver

I am not afraid of this deck if I am playing Tog, but both players need to understand their role here. The Control Slaver player will be trying to play the beatdown or combo role, if they know what they are doing. You will be the control player.

Are you saying there's something wrong with Mons's little men?

The key to winning is stopping their draw engine. They have six primary draw spells: Fact or Fiction, Ancestral Recall, and four Thirsts for Knowledge. Library of Alexandria is also good against you, but it gives you time to get your draw on as well. If you stop those six draw spells, then their game plan will collapse. They will be left with a puny Mons Goblin Raider and expensive artifacts in their hand. The synergy of their deck requires that they resolve their draw spells. Six draw spells is not really that many to stop.

Here are probably the only two lines of play that scare me if I am Tog. Both of them involve the Control Slaver player going first and both enable them to get their draw engine on before you can stop it.

Bad Scenario One

Turn One:

Slaver: Land, Duress

Tog: Land, go.

Slaver: Mox, Land, Thirst.

At this point, they have managed to clear out the Force of Will or Mana Drain that would enable you from being able to stop their draw engine. Now they have likely deposited an artifact in their graveyard and as a result their Goblin Welders become instantly deadly. In addition, they have increased their hand size.

The Control Slaver match is about jockeying for card advantage – even marginal card advantage. Every little bit does make a difference. If their Thirsts resolve they will be a position to stop your attempts to stop them. That is all that matters.

The second line of play that scares me is this:

Bad Scenario Two

Turn One:

Slaver: Land, Goblin Welder

Tog: Land, go

Turn Two:

Slaver: Land, Mox, Thirst for Knowledge.

If you don’t have Force of Will, they will likely be able to Weld in. A single Mindslaver activation on you is probably lethal. Even if you have Force of Will, they may also. And it may be worth it to Force because they then are able to maximize their hand size and get ready to combo on you.

Now, if you do stop their draw, what makes me so certain that you can win? The Goblin Welder and expensive artifacts basically mean that they will have to hard cast the expensive artifact. This requires them to get up to six or seven mana. Once they hard cast the expensive artifact, you will have to counter it. They will gladly let you do so because they will simply Weld it back in.

Therefore, your game plan is two steps:

1) Stop their draw.

2) Kill the Welder before they are in a position to hardcast the artifacts. Let their Welders resolve if you can stop their draw. Just be sure that you get to Cunning Wish for the answer before the midgame is complete. Firestorm or Fire/Ice will murder the Welders and leave them with little to nothing. All you have to do at that point is manage to continue to leverage your draw into more spells that maintain your control over the game. Your Deeps and AKs will prevent them from really ever recovering.

Two other things are worth mentioning:

First, your game will collapse if you have bad mana. If you can’t continue to drop mana at a fairly regular pace, you will be overwhelmed and forced into making suboptimal plays. Thankfully, he same applies for your opponent.

Second, an early Cunning Wish for Red Elemental Blast is a good play. If you can pull that off on the endstep of their first or second turn, it is well worth doing because it facilitates your goal of stopping their draw.

My sideboard plan is as follows:

+ 3 Red Elemental Blast

+ 1 Pyroblast

+ 1/2 Ground Seal/Phyrexian Furnace

+ 1 Fire/Ice (if you also have Firestorm in your sideboard)

2 Deep Analysis

1 Mind Twist (this can be dangerous)

1 Tog

1 Metagame card if it is not good in this match

Notice I leave one of the Red Elemental Blasts in the sideboard. This maintains your ability to Cunning Wish for it in the early game.

One final note: I haven’t tested it, but Old Man of the Sea might actually be good in this matchup because it can steal Welders. I suggest that you try it out and see how it works.

Gothenburg or “Goth” Slaver a.k.a. Intuition Slaver

This matchup is fairly similar to the Control Slaver match except your sideboarding decisions are much easier. I chose to play Tog over this deck in the summer. I decided after testing both decks that Tog’s secondary draw engine was stronger than the Goth’s secondary draw engine (Thirst). In part this was because Deeps are just stronger than they appear and also because if you can counter the Thirsts, Goth Slaver is stuck holding expensive, bad artifacts like Pentavus. If both players are smart, they will be siding out some number of their AKs. Ideally, with Tog, I’d leave one AK in on the singleton theory just in case the Goth Slaver player kept their AK engine in.

So my sideboard plan would be as follows:

+ 3 REBS

+ 1 Pyroblast

+ 1/2 Ground Seal

1 Tog

3-4 AKs

1 Mind Twist

Oath of Druids

Oath of Druids is a deck that has since come about after I had done most of my testing with Tog. There appear to be two Oath lists being played. The primary Oath list is the one my team pioneered using Intuitions and Accumulated Knowledge. The second Oath list is one that may be using Skeletal Scrying and more Black.

The trouble with Oath is first that it uses your draw engine. That normally wouldn’t be a problem except that Accumulated Knowledge counts for all graveyards, including your opponents. The second problem with Oath is that it is almost impossible to stop them from resolving Oath of Druids if they draw it. Your best chance at stopping it is to preemptively Duress it. Let me tackle each problem individually.

First, you have a secondary draw engine that you can use to draw cards: Deep Analysis. It just means that if you know they are using the AK engine, then the Deep Analysis’ are the Intuition targets.

Second, if they resolve Oath of Druids, then you have three options. The first is to remove it. This may involve a Wish target or Engineered Explosives that you hopefully drew. The second is to deal with the creatures they Oath up. A single Unsummon can completely stop them if you can Wish it up again after removing it with Tog. Or if you can replay it with Yawgmoth’s Will. The third and final option is to simply race them. This is not untenable.

Let me explore the various possibilities in greater detail. The thing you need to realize about Oath of Druids is that they may or may not get their combo cards. If they don’t, they are going to be using all their resources to find it. This usually will happen once a match. When it does, you have a real opportunity to simply race. You don’t even have to have a commanding position. 6+ cards in hand and a few cards in your graveyard is enough with Cunning Wish to make a Tog lethal. Particularly if they have given you a couple of Orchard spirit tokens to beat them down with. A midgame Oath means that you have a juicy graveyard. They can’t just let a Psychatog resolve. It can mean the end of them.

If they get their combo online very early, say just be lucky and have it ready with counter back up on turn 2, there isn’t much you can do unless you have an explosive hand. If you have an explosive hand, then you can still race. They won’t be killing you any sooner than two turns after they resolve Oath. If you have an explosive hand, milk it. You can race. Time Walk is a particularly good card to find and play.

The thing that must be kept in mind is that racing is not particularly hard if you can resolve an insane AK. When they Oath, even if they trigger a Gaea’s Blessing, they have no control over the AKs that pop up. If they reveal some AKs, then you will be able to play an AK for 4 or even 5 or 6 cards. If you do that, you should have little difficulty Berserking them out before you win.

After board, you might actually be able to use your Red Elemental Blast efficiency to keep Oath of the table, but don’t count on it. Your sideboard plan will change depending on the number of colors the opposing Oath deck is playing and what draw engine they are using. If they are using AKs, then you can’t sideboard out the Deep Analysis. And you will also need all of your Togs.

Dragon Combo

Now we move onto our combo decks.

This match is not easy. They have a draw engine that you can’t deal with. That’s why it’s as critical as can be that you not make any mistakes. In order to win this match, your game play will have to be tight. The Dragon deck is likely to have the god draw one game in the match with Dragon, Bazaar, and an Animate with FOW backup. The only way you can stop this hand is if you are on the play or have a Duress or a rather explosive hand. Likely one game in the match the Dragon deck will have crap. Their game will be slow and they will be relying on some blue tutors like Intuition or Lim-Dul’s Vault. Counter them.

The Dragon player may also be relying on Xantid Swarm instead of Duress. Good for them. Wish for Firestorm if you can. Use your Wishes aggressively to Regrow AKs and Fact or Fiction. Stay ahead and win the tempo game. If you get caught in a squeeze where they are using Necromancy to bait you on your endstep, you aren’t going to win.

After board, bring in a pair of Ground Seals or Furnaces. These cards will be central to helping you keep your tempo edge and will even out the match. The Deep Anals can go. If you have some bounce, that can be absolutely devastating to bring in. A well-timed Unsummon can wreck your opponent and leave them with no board.

Storm Based Combo (TPS, Meandeath, Meandeck Tendrils and Belcher)

While not all of these decks are the same or even have similar game plans, there are three key elements to your match. The first is the strength of their draws. The second is the strength of your draws. And the third is the fact that all of these decks need to use Storm to win.

Arcane Lab is good at screwing the stormies.

This match is fast, brutal and uncompromising. If you make no mistakes, you will go 50-50 with the best combo players. After sideboard, you have Arcane Laboratory.

The way the combo players are going to beat you is by overpowering you. Turn 1 threat, which you Force of Will, turn two threat, which you Mana Drain, then turn three and four are the real tests. What happens on those turns will determine who wins the game against the faster Storm decks. Against The Perfect Storm, they will play it differently, but similarly in principle. They will try and do something like a turn 1 Duress, turn 2 Brainstorm. Turn 3 Duress, if they can, and then set up a turn 4 Memory Jar, Mind’s Desire, or something like a Time Spiral. Alternatively, they may just try to set up a Necropotence.

Arcane Laboratory is to these decks what Old Man of the Sea is to Fish. It is a silver bullet. If you resolve it they have only that turn to stop it. If they don’t, they will flail about as you draw counterspells for their lame attempts to remove the Arcane Lab. The only difficulty will be that you won’t be able to actually go for the Tog kill until after you have secured your game and board. If they get a single turn after removing Arcane Lab, they will annihilate you with the Mind’s Desire they have been sandbagging for that opportunity.

Against Belcher, should you face it, I would bring in Ground Seal to turn off Welders. Check out this article for a detailed analysis of that matchup:

The basic game plan will be:

3 Deep Analysis

+ 3 Arcane Labs

Against TPS, I’d bring in 2-3 Red Elemental Blasts for a Psychatog and Engineered Explosives.

Workshop Aggro

Your game plan is to chump with Tog, stop Welders, and Artifact Mutate them out of the game of the game. Rack and Ruin is also very important and effective. Here is an article detailing the analysis of this matchup: If they manage to resolve Chalice for 2, you will need to Wish for Rack and Ruin as quickly as possible. The one play I want to caution you against falling into is getting Blood Mooned.


Rack and Ruin and Artifact Mutation are your primary tools the whole match. Stax no longer has Trinisphere, so its strongest weapons will be Smokestack itself, Chalice set at 2, and Crucible + Wasteland recursion. The Smokestack is best answered by Mutation. You’d be surprised how strong it is just to resolve Tog. Sphere of Resistance isn’t that strong. It is just a little annoying. I wouldn’t bother mulliganing into Force of Will (as you will be wont to do against Trinisphere.dec). Cunning Wish should be good enough to buy you most games. I think that running a dedicated bounce spell in the sideboard is probably necessary to fight cards like Chains of Mephistopheles, Choke, and Blood Moon. Turn One Workshop, Mox, Sphere of Resistance is best answered with, Polluted Delta -> Island, Mox.

3 Deep Analysis

+ 2 Ground Seal (if they have Welders)

+ 1 Bounce Spell

If the Stax deck doesn’t have Welders, then I’d still bring in the bounce spell, but supplement it with either Rack and Ruin or Artifact Mutation. Don’t make the mistake of sideboarding out a Wish. You will have more functional Artifact Mutations and Rack and Ruins by keeping in the Wishes. Leave at least one of the artifact destruction spells in the sideboard.

Rather than provide specific sideboard plans for many of the rarer decks in the format, make a request in the forum thread following this article. I’ll reply with my recommended sideboard plan and describe my opinion on how the matchup plays out and should be played. The restriction of 3Sphere should narrow the field. I’d like to close by strongly suggesting that you keep the Red Elemental Blasts in the sideboard.

I believe that the restriction of Trinisphere will broaden the number of viable Mana Drain decks in the format. Increasingly, such decks will be featuring a combo finish and will be fast. As such, the Red Elemental Blasts will increasingly be a strong choice. I think you’ll be pleased that you kept them in your sideboard decide to play Tog at the next tournament.

Stephen Menendian

Steve dot menendian at gmail dot com