The Case for MeanDeath Part III – Sideboarding and Matchup Analysis

In Part One, I made the case for MeanDeath as a serious contender in the format. In Part Two, I walked through some of the important considerations that will guide your gameplay. In this article, I wrap up the discussion with an explanation of various sideboard decisions, suggestions on how to sideboard, and a give run-through of the important matchups. I’ll conclude with some final considerations that will tighten up your game.

In Part One, I made the case for MeanDeath as a serious contender in the format. In Part Two, I walked through some of the important considerations that will guide your gameplay. In this article, I wrap up the discussion with an explanation of various sideboard decisions, suggestions on how to sideboard, and a give run-through of the important matchups. I’ll conclude with some final considerations that will tighten up your game.

Constructing an Optimal Sideboard For MeanDeath

Sideboarding is an art in Type One. Building an optimal sideboard is a process that requires serious thought. The speed of Vintage and the size of the card pool add additional complexity and difficulty to sideboard optimization. If these factors weren’t sufficiently daunting, MeanDeath’s sideboard is primarily an extension of the maindeck, because you are running no less than five cards that access the sideboard in game one.

Because part of the combo and the win condition reside in the sideboard, MeanDeath has only thirteen slots to play with. Yawgmoth’s Will and a Tendrils of Agony are automatic the automatic inclusions. Due to the fact that the mainboard is almost entirely proactive, the deck has been designed to be as strong as possible without regard to specific metagame considerations. As a result, there is almost no room to sideboard out cards without weakening the game plan that the maindeck has been carefully tuned to execute.

Therefore, when people tell me that they have difficulty sideboarding, I understand why. However, the answer to their problem may be that they are oversideboarding. As a general rule of thumb, this deck should sideboard as little as possible from game to game. Constructing the optimal sideboard therefore depends in part upon finding niche cards that you are likely to want to Wish for in a tournament.

Therefore, before I explain how I chose the niche cards that I ran, I’ll go through a quick matchup analysis to explain how I view various matchups and to suggest what cards you are likely to sideboard in.


In part one, I suggested that your matchups against most of the popular decks are basically like goldfishing around a small class of cards such as Force of Will and Trinisphere. I also described how to beat these single card strategies. Therefore, instead of repeating myself, I’m going to go through each matchup to give you a sense of how I approach the battles you will face.

The first step to approaching various matchups is to have a conception of how the match will play out. If you can’t visualize yourself winning the match, then you need a new plan. My past wins against these decks provide me with a concrete idea of how to beat most decks. Every time I play one of these matches, I bring to the table that past experience. That memory becomes a plan or a roadmap that I want to stick with when I sit down against those decks. Therefore, I’ll try to pass that on to you.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that I am painting with broad strokes. Being good with LongDeath requires that you know how to win “small.” What I mean by that is that you are able to just barely pull out close matches. Therefore, while I may characterize a match as being only a few turns, you shouldn’t scoop just because you are out of steam. Your opponent may not be able to capitalize quick enough to stop your topdecks. Just because the game looks tough, don’t give up psychologically because Null Rod is in play. Your deck has many answers in the maindeck to most of the problematic cards.


This is a favorable two game match, if all goes as planned. Here is what Fish is going to try to do. They will try to Wasteland the few land you play, Force of Will your first threat, drop Null Rod, and prevent you from breaking free of Null Rod by playing cards like Daze, Spiketail Hatchling, and eventually Voidmage Prodigy.

There are a few critical considerations. The one card that you will struggle to deal with is Null Rod. Therefore, in considering whether to keep a hand, look for a hand that can:

a) Duress Null Rod before Fish gets a second turn (don’t ever assume that Fish will play turn 1 Null Rod)

b) Win before Fish gets a second turn

c) Answer Null Rod with Wish -> Hurkyl’s Recall or have drawn or tutored for the maindeck Hurkyl’s if you can’t do (a) or (b).

The second consideration is what the effect of Wasteland is on your game plan. If your hand is something like this:

City of Brass

Mox Pearl

Elvish Spirit Guide

Lion’s Eye Diamond



Wheel of Fortune

You have a critical option. You can Duress them on turn 1 to remove the Null Rod/Force of Will threat. However, if you do, you may simply die to Wasteland. In situations like this, I suggest that you play Brainstorm first. If you Brainstorm on turn 1 and they Wasteland your land, you have significantly increased the chances that you’ll see another land. In that case, you’ll also be able to play Duress on the next turn in addition to the fact that they are another turn away from playing Null Rod.

If you are on the draw, things are a bit dicey, but I would probably play the Brainstorm the same. Fish generally only has three Null Rod in the maindeck but four Wastelands and a Strip Mine. It’s more likely that they will be ready to Wasteland the first land you play than drop Null Rod. If you just try to play Wheel of Fortune on turn 1, you won’t be maximizing your card pool. First of all, if you can clear out Force of Will first, then you can sacrifice the Lion’s Eye Diamond in response to your Wheel of Fortune to dramatically increase your chances of doing something game breaking after your Wheel resolves. Second, you may get a chance to Brainstorm back a set of cards that will maximize your Wheel of Fortune.

If you are on the draw, there is also a chance that you will draw another land on turn 1. If you do, then I would play the Duress instead. The Duress will clear away any threat whatsoever.

Duress is important in this matchup because of the information it provides you. The ideal hand that you might reasonably expect is something like this:

Gemstone Mine

City of Brass

Mox Pearl



Dark Ritual

Wheel of Fortune (key threat)

While artificially constructed, the elements of this hand that are good are the fact that it has two lands and Duress. Two land hands with Duress obviate the need to discuss whether to Duress or Brainstorm on turn 1. There are a few other cards to remember to watch out for. Stifle can be a real pain if you have a monsterous turn 1 Mind’s Desire and they are holding one of their two maindeck Stifles. After board, anticipate that Fish will have three Stifles, because Fish will likely sideboard in a fourth Null Rod and a third Stifle. It is possible they will sideboard in Red Elemental Blasts as well, but that is a weak strategy. If Fish untaps with a Voidmage Prodigy on the table, the game is probably late and you are still trying to answer Null Rod.

Because so many of Fish’s threats are cards like Wasteland and Null Rod, I do not recommend that you bring in Xantid Swarm. Experience has shown that Xantid Swarms are really terrible against Fish. Without trying to scare you from the match, my single attempt at a Xantid Swarm sideboard plan resulted in a disastrous eight consecutive game losses. I had swapped the Duress for Swarms and it demonstrated the power of Duress by showing what happens when you don’t have it. Duress is like Oxidize and Counterspell in one card for a single Black mana. It proactively answers the biggest threat in their hand and gives you the information to make the best decisions.

If you are running Forbidden Orchards instead of Underground Sea and Glimmervoid for lands ten and eleven, you might want to consider an Oath of Druids sideboard plan. You can also Tinker up the Collossi you would sideboard in. I tested Oath of Druids before I knew of Forbidden Orchard against Fish and found it to be lackluster and therefore a waste of sideboard space. If you drop a turn 1 Oath of Druids, Fish will likely not play a creature unless it is something that they can sacrifice like Spiketail Hatchling. They will just beat you down with lands and play creatures only when it is too late for your Colossus to kill them. If you wait until they play a creature to drop the Oath, you will have diluted your maindeck with Oath of Druids and therefore made it less likely that Oath will even resolve. If you do use Oath’s, don’t forget that you have to sideboard out Elvish Spirit Guides.

If you have won the first game, I’d suggest swapping out something like Crop Rotation for either Oxidize or Hurkyl’s Recall. That slight change isn’t enough to significantly weaken your game plan, but it will give you an increased chance of drawing an out if it’s needed.

4 Color Control

This match is a war of attrition. They will have the countermagic to stop your first few threats and the Wastelands to slow you down, but the critical test is being able to “win small.” Their win conditions aren’t additional mana denial components like they were in Fish, but they will make your Tendrils more difficult to reach lethal levels. A similar analysis of Duress versus Brainstorm must occur with this match, because they also have Wastelands.

4CC has the disadvantage of having inefficient or weak maindeck cards like Swords to Plowshares in the maindeck. Your goal should be to maximize your threats at every turn. This sometimes requires a bit of timing. If you give 4CC a new hand, be prepared to win the game. 4CC will likely not have good sideboard targets to bring in against you and thus may resort or cards like Red Elemental Blast. If may leave in some spot removal if they anticipate that you will sideboard in Xantid Swarms.

This is one of the matches were you will want to try to read your opponent. If you sideboard in a full rack of Xantid Swarms for, say, Hurkyl’s Recall, Crop Rotation, Death Wish, and Chrome Mox, you may find yourself having drawn too many Xantid Swarms in an opening hand. Or you may draw and play one only to have it Plowed. The point is that you may or may not even want to board in Xantid Swarms. I’d likely just sideboard in two Xantid Swarms for Crop Rotation and Hurkyl’s Recall. I might sideboard in a Thirst for Knowledge for the fourth Duress.

The most important piece of advice is not to give up. 4CC may have Forced your first threat, Wastelanded your only land and have an Angel in play, but don’t give up until they actually win. I’m not just talking about scooping either. I’m talking about psychologically giving up – don’t assume that you are out of the game unless you have seen your opponent’s hand and it’s flush with countermagic and bombs. It is actually against 4CC where I have Wished for Balance to remove Angels and Gorilla Shamans from the board and from which I eventually won the game.


Tog is probably the most difficult control match for Tendrils combo, because it has such a powerful draw engine, Duresses, and many ways to find more countermagic (have you ever Intuitioned for Force of Will?). Overall, its something around a 50-50 match. For this reason, this will likely be a three game match.

You would be surprised how strange this match can be. I have seen MeanDeath beat Tog with Elvish Spirit Guide and I’ve seen Tog win on turn 2 before MeanDeath got a second turn. You should expect that Tog will steal at least one game. This is the match where Xantid Swarms will be most potent. I would likely sideboard in all four for Crop Rotation, Hurkyl’s Recall, Duress, and Chrome Mox. Tog will probably sideboard in Red Elemental Blasts, so be aware of that. If they are three colors, they will likely have Back to Basics as an additional weapon against you. Back to Basics is more deadly, so that probably means that you are going to be unable to sideboard out any Duress.

Overall, this matchup isn’t very different from the sort of analysis that I went through in analyzing old Long.dec versus Control. You want to over power the Tog player with your brokenness and play your brokenness in the most efficient order.

Here is a report from Carl Winter playing MeanDeath against Tog:

Quarterfinals: Andy a.k.a. TheBrassMan a.k.a. JP Meyer2 playing 3-Color Tog

Game 1: I get off to a slow start, getting nothing past Andy. He’s able to easily out draw me and pull off a Yawgmoth’s Will getting lots of things and kills me with a Berserked Psychatog next turn.

Game 2: I Duress him off a Mox then Dark Ritual out Necropotence. Sound familiar? He doesn’t do anything of consequence next turn and I easily finish him off.

Game 3: I start off with a really terrible draw, but Andy mulligans to four. Apparently he was looking for a draw with Force of Will. *shrug* I’ve got a bit of mana available to me, so I decide to keep. Besides, he’s starting at four. He busts out a pimpin Beta Underground Sea to fuel up a pimpin foil Duress. He nabs my only business spell, seeing my hand of manas and an Elvish Spirit Guide. I take my turn and think. Think. And think some more. Everyone around me is looking at me like I’m crazy because they know I’m thinking of summoning the mighty 2/2 that could. So I say screw it and slam down the Spirit Guide.

The beatdown begins with both of us drawing junk until he hits a Skeletal Scrying for two. I respond to that with Duress seeing two Oxidizes, something threatening (probably a counter), and a Psychatog. I have like, one land, a Chrome Mox imprinting Death Wish, a Sol Ring, and a Mox Jet. I grab the threat and hope that he doesn’t draw another Blue source to complement his Underground Sea, Strip Mine, and Library of Alexandria. I get in one last hit with the Spirit Guide before he draws a fetchland to get a Tropical Island. When he gets around to Oxidizing my manas I have a Tendrils in my hand and he takes out my Mox Jet and Sol Ring, leaving me an almost spent Gemstone Mine and a Mox Jet. I topdeck Ancestral Recall and draw into Mana Crypt and Lotus Petal, allowing me to drop the artifacts and Tendrils him for his life total exactly.

Control Slaver

Most of the considerations that I went through in the Psychatog match apply here. Be on the lookout for cards that will clue you in to the specific build of Control Slaver that you may be contending with. If they have maindeck Blood Moon, they will likely have sideboard Lava Dart. Lava Dart will make your Xantid Swarms rather useless, so don’t bother sideboarding them in.

If they manage to get Platinum Angel into play, don’t give up. You can answer it with a card like Orim’s Thunder from the sideboard, which will kill the Goblin Welder simultaneously. Alternatively, Balance isn’t a bad answer either.

The real problem occurs if they sideboard in Sphere of Resistance. Anticipate that they will and sideboard in Oxidize and Hurkyl’s Recall. If they activate a Mindslaver on you, they may well win the game. Try to avoid letting them do that at all costs. If they succeed, don’t give up until the last point of damage has been dealt. It is possible that they will exhaust all of their resources to Slave you, only for you to topdeck your way to victory.

I keep repeating the importance of not psychologically giving up. If you are getting manhandled, it may be best to move onto the next game for two reasons. First of all, it boosts your opponent’s confidence. That makes them less likely to second-guess difficult decisions. Second, it will make you less confident with the deck. One of the best strengths of combo is the fear that you will do something broken before they can stop you. That fear is a potent weapon and if you let them walk all over you, it may disappear. However, you need to remember that you are the deck that can best topdeck a way to victory. Don’t stay in a game that you have psychologically lost, but don’t psychologically lose until you have actually lost.

Mono-Blue Control

Although this may seem like an extremely difficult match, don’t assume that you can’t win. Mono-Blue is the opposite of everything that MeanDeath is. Meandeath is extremely broken and Mono-Blue is spectacularly underpowered. You can overpower Mono-Blue before they get a turn.

Mono-Blue takes a few turns to set up its draw engine. Unless it has a good amount of countermagic in the opening hand, it shouldn’t be too difficult to overpower Mono-Blue. The Mono-Blue player may underestimate the power of Back to Basics, but Back to Basics is one of its greatest threats against you. If they resolve Back to Basics, you won’t get multiple chances to overwhelm the Mono-Blue player because you won’t be able to reuse your mana.

If the Mono-Blue player is playing with Chalice of the Void, then your chances of winning drop dramatically, but you aren’t out of it yet. I have had a blast trying to figure out how to win against Mono-Blue when they have multiple Chalices in play and Back to Basics, and succeeded more than once. Just remember that you only have to win two of three games. Even if you would only win 35% of the time if you were to play 100 games, you only need one broken draw to win the first game, and a turn 1 Xantid Swarm to win the second.

If they are playing with Chalices, your sideboard plan probably depends on who is playing first. If you are playing first, I would suggest sideboarding in a Hurkyl’s Recall and three Xantid Swarms. If you are on the draw, I would just feel out the match and decide whether you think the chalice of turn one Chalice for 1 is too great to bring in Xantid Swarm.

Stacker/ Five-Three

This is the deck that David Allen piloted to top 8 at Gencon.

This deck is essentially another Workshop Aggro deck that has disruption like Trinisphere in the maindeck and possibly Chalice of the Void in the sideboard but little else. The only other card to be concerned about in the first two turns is Wasteland. The deck’s goldfish is slow, but designed to beat control and other aggro. This deck, in other words, is a much weaker Stax against you. If you go first and you only have one land in your opening hand, you have to consider what happens if they Wasteland you against the consequence of Trinisphere. Even if they are on the play and go turn 1 Trinisphere, this is the one deck where that play is far from game winning. The fastest they can then do is play next turn Juggernaut followed by another. That’s a five-turn clock starting from turn 1. The only thing that defeats your answers is Goblin Welder (unless you used Hurkyl’s Recall). That’s why your first Death Wish may have to be Orim’s Thunder or Balance.

After game one, things will get a bit stickier. If they have Chalice of the Voids, they will sideboard them in. In that case, don’t be too concerned. There is a low chance that they’ll draw both Chalice and Trinisphere in their opening hand. Even if you lose game two, you have excellent chances game three.

The most important thing is to play very carefully. You’ll find that you have ways to win, you just need to put on your best game in this match. I played David Allen at Gencon, and here is what happened:

Friday, Gencon Type One Tournament

Round Four: David Allen with Stacker

David Allen also was a top 8 player at the Vintage Champs last year.

Game One:

I am playing first. I have no land and drop Chrome Mox imprinting a Duress and play Duress taking Trinisphere. He plays a Shivan Reef and a Mox and passes the turn. On my upkeep he plays Ice on my Chrome Mox, which I respond to by floating a mana. I draw a card and use the one Black to play Demonic Consultation naming City of Brass.

Unfortunately I removed at least forty cards including all four Gemstone Mines and nearly all my artifact acceleration except two Moxen and two Dark Rituals. I hit City of Brass and Brainstorm into two more Cities. He takes his turn and does nothing of consequence. I Dark Ritual Death Wish for Timetwister (which was removed from game due to Demonic Consultation) and play it. I draw into no Dark Rituals but do have Tolarian Academy and Mana Crypt as well as some other mana source in play. Keep in mind that my library is quite thin at this point.

He plays Su-Chi on his turn and passes. I untap and play Academy and I think Mox Pearl (one of two Moxen still in my deck). I mistakenly tap the Academy before playing the Mana Crypt because of the fear that Mana Crypt could kill me since I was at eight and he had Su-Chi in play. As a result, I only generate UU mana and I Brainstorm into Mind’s Desire, Sol Ring, and Mox Diamond, but no more lands. I can only get to U4 and am unable to play a Desire for five or so to win me the game. Instead I play Brainstorm again and see a land finally. I play Mox Diamond and Wheel of Fortune. At this point, I know I have two Rituals left in my library and a Tendrils. I draw seven cards and now have eight left in my library. I don’t see a Ritual, but I do draw Demonic Consulation and Tendrils. I realize this is my last chance to go off. I play a land and Consult for Dark Ritual. If one of my two Rituals is the last card in my library I win the game. In response to Demonic Consultation he plays Ancestral Recall targeting me. I draw three cards and then deck myself. Dark Ritual happened to be my last card.

Game Two:

I look at my first hand and frowned, as it had no usable mana. This was my second mulligan of the tournament. I went to six and my game plan was turn 2 Tinker. I dropped a land, played Brainstorm, and drop Mox Emerald. My hand had more lands, Tinker, and Elvish Spirit Guide as well as Death Wish, so that even if he played Trinisphere on turn 1, my Tinker would resolve.

Unfortunately, David played the exact opposite of what I expected – much like he did the next day. He played Mox, land, Gorilla Shaman, eat my Mox. There went my entire plan. I played Draw-Go for a while, as I played a lot of land. Eventually came down Trinisphere and Welder. I had to Wish for Primitive Justice – a mistake. I should have Wished for Hurkyl’s so that he couldn’t Weld it back in. This was my third obvious mistake of the match. He Welded it back in as soon as I murdered it, and I was done.

David Allen was my only loss that tournament. You can see from this match though, how if played correctly, I definitely could have won game one – and, how I definitely had a strong plan for game two, that even though it failed, I could have taken the match by winning game three.


This is up there with Mono-Blue as one of the most difficult matches you can play. Don’t give up though. Most Stax decks are designed to be as potent against the control and aggro control decks that proliferate the American Type One metagame at the moment. As a result, they rely on cards like Crucible which have almost no application against you. Cards like Tangle Wire and Smokestack are also too slow to really have a real impact. So, primarily, you are dealing with two key cards: Trinisphere and Wasteland, and smaller lock components that will try to keep you from emerging from the Trinisphere lock.

I don’t really have much to add to the analysis of the Stacker matchup except that they will probably sideboard in Tormod’s Crypts. I recommend bringing in Hurkyl’s Recall, at the least, and possibly another Artifact destroyer. I would cut Crop Rotation and possibly Chrome Mox.

Winning the match roll is probably the single most important aspect to actually winning this match. If you can do that, your chances of winning go up dramatically.


Belcher is the fastest deck in the format. You will likely be playing no more than six turns of Magic in a two game match, and no more than ten in a three game match. Here is what Carl wrote about in his match report when he played Belcher:

Top 16 – Zack Hall playing Belcher

Game 1: I’m on the play and drop a Mox Jet, Duress, Underground Sea, Ritual, Necropotence. He drops a bunch of artifact mana and says go. I untap, Demonic Consultation for Death Wish and after some Rituals I Tendrils him out.

Turn total: 3

Game 2: He starts out with some mana and after a Duress, I slow him down a bit, but I don’t have any action so I can’t take advantage of the stall. He drops a Goblin Charbelcher using his Tropical Island and Sol Ring with a Bayou untapped and passes the turn. I have the option on my turn of Death Wishing for a draw 7 or for Oxidize to nuke the Belcher. I go for Time Spiral to try and kill him. In the middle of Wishing for the Spiral I remember Belcher plays Dark Ritual! What’s his untapped land? A Bayou. Go me.

So I do the combo thing and eventually am forced to use another draw 7 to try and find a Tendrils. In response to me using the Memory Jar I cast, he Dark Rituals to Belch me out. Frown.

If Carl had just Wished for something to murder the Belcher, I think he would have won this game, and thereby the match.

Game 3: I play turn 1 Chrome Mox imprinting Death Wish, cast Duress, see nothing, play a land, Dark Ritual, Necropotence. Yeah… Next turn I drop Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Lotus Petal, Sol Ring, Lion’s Eye Diamond then drop the boom: Mind’s Desire. Desire nets me everything I need to win and I finish the match after nine turns. Total.

This is a three game match. Try to win the match roll. I have little to add. I think Carl’s match is rather representative.


You are faster and more relentless than TPS and won’t have trouble beating down their defenses, but their deck is broken too and should be able to take one game.

Again, here is what Carl Winter had to say about his match against TPS:

Semifinals: Aaron playing TPS

Game 1: We start off with the land-go thing, but he gets some action first, firing off a Yawgmoth’s Will and some other junk, but he’s one mana short of killing me with a tutored-for Tendrils. He Force of Wills some arbitrary draw spell but, combined with Duresses, I’m able to force through Death Wish to get a Time Spiral to let me Death Wish again into the Tendrils of Agony to finish him off.

Game 2: I have a really slow draw once again, meaning I’m unable to capitalize on his mulligan to six. We both drop lands for a while, but I decide to drop an Elvish Spirit Guide backed up by a Xantid Swarm. He trumps me with Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Everyone expects me to scoop, but I like people to be able to play with their toys, so I let him play it out. Jump ahead seventeen life and he’s sitting on two life with a very big frown on his face. He drops out some artifact mana and plays Mind’s Desire for ten. Again, everyone expects me to scoop, and again I let him play with his toys. He Desires up some lands and Force of Wills along with a Demonic Consultation and Vampiric Tutor. Screwed. He tries some more to find a draw spell and ends up getting as much mana as he possibly can also breaking his Lion’s Eye Diamond before drawing his last card with Yawgmoth’s Bargain. I mention that it would be kind of funny if he drew Windfall. He slow rolls it and comes up with… a land.

This is why LongDeath > TPS.

Even if Carl had lost game two as he should have, he should have won game three. TPS is a three game match in most cases, and treat it as such.


This should be at two game match unless they luck out and manage to win a game faster than you do. I advise that you don’t rush this match because they are so much slower than you anyway.

Dragon might sideboard in Chalice of the Void. As a result, I’d keep the Hurkyl’s in the main and probably sideboard in an Oxidize or Orim’s Thunder as well for the usual suspects.

Rounding Out the Sideboard

Xantid Swarm

Against decks with Mana Drain, Xantid Swarm is going to be strong, but it’s not a card you want to draw in multiples. By adding Xantids you are necessarily diluting your deck of something else. If you solidly won the first game, I would go one of either two routes. First, you could bring in all four Xantids in the hopes of quickly tying up the match. In that case, the cards I usually cut are Crop Rotation, Chrome Mox, Hurkyl’s Recall, and possibly a single Duress. Alternatively, you could decide that you liked the way your maindeck was functioning and only want to bring in a few. You could cut Hurkyl’s and an Elvish Spirit Guide or Chrome Mox and bring in two Xantids. These decisions need to be made based upon your intuition and gut feeling about how this match is going to be playing out. It may also depend upon whether your opponent is prepared to beat Xantids. If they are putting in answers, then you may want to feign as if you are sideboarding them in without actually doing so.


Regrowth is in the sideboard in case they counter your Yawgmoth’s Will. Then you may Wish for Regrowth to replay the Yawgmoth’s Will.

Diminishing Returns and Time Spiral

Both of these cards in the deck for additional threats to Wish for. They are included so that hands such as this are keepable:

Tolarian Academy

Mana Crypt

Mox Jet

Mox Sapphire

Dark Ritual

Death Wish

With a hand like this Time Spiral is superior to Diminishing Returns. For that reason, Time Spiral has been included, even though it is more likely you will be Wishing for Diminishing Returns given that it costs two less mana.

Primitive Justice and Hull Breach

These are included in the sideboard in the case that you draw Burning Wish instead of Death Wish. In that situation, you may well want an answer to Trinisphere or Null Rod.


Balance is powerful enough that it has justified itself in testing. It will win games that no other card can.

Probably the most cuttable card is the Simplify, however, I do feel more comfortable having some answer to Pyrostatic Pillar and Back to Basics. Orim’s Thunder is probably as effective most of the time, but better against Goblin Welder to warrant using it.

Hurkyl’s Recall and Oxidize

These are your primary anti-artifact Wish targets. Hurkyl’s Recall has the benefit of putting artifacts into the one zone that they can’t be Goblin Welded back into play.

Other Options

There are many options that you may want to include. I have seen Donate, Mindslaver, Oath of Druids, Darksteel Colossus and other cards in MeanDeath sideboards that all have particular uses. It’s up to you to figure out what your comfortable with.

Other General Issues

Try and view the deck as a deck that has wins centered around turn 2. Often you will set up a turn 2 or a turn 3 win, and sometimes you will just win on turn 1. Don’t worry if you end up winning on turn 3 or later. Winning isn’t purely a function of speed, but about burning through their resistance. Winning on turn 3 is perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to push the deck if your opponent isn’t going to be sealing the deal in the meantime. In fact, slow playing against slow decks is a good idea if the risk of you stalling out is higher if you try and win now rather than a turn later.

Mana stability is fairly important, so that you can maximize your topdecks. Some players think it is a good idea to counter cards like Dark Ritual in order to slow you down or avoid Duress followed by a critical threat. If that may hurt you, realize that they may do that and play accordingly. When you have Black Lotus in hand, never just play Black Lotus as your first spell. If you play a Mox and a land first, your opponent will be less inclined to counter the Black Lotus. If you play Black Lotus first, you may be signaling that you have no other mana sources and that countering the Black Lotus may cut your off of your spells or stop a nasty Mind’s Desire.

While you’ll mulligan when you have to, try to avoid mulliganing in the first place by shuffling well. It’s fairly important that you get used to keeping seven card hands.

Keeping track of mana is really important with this deck. In any given game you will need to be thinking about your hand, your deck, your sideboard, your board and what your opponent might have. The last thing you want to try to keep track of is your mana and storm on top of all of that. I recommend building an abacus or using colored dice to keep track of your mana. Using a pen and paper can get confusing and somehow losing even one point of mana can be the difference between winning and losing.

I used an abacus that a teammate made for me and I was surprised at how often I had forgotten about a random Green mana from Elvish Spirit Guide or a leftover colorless from a Mana Vault that I had forgotten about. You may play half a dozen spells in the interim and it may slip your mind, even if you have notated it. Having a visual cue either on the board with dice or beads on an abacus is something I highly recommend.

The deck and sideboard aren’t set in stone, feel free to add or change cards that make you feel more comfortable. If you would prefer the Rebuild over the maindeck Crop Rotation, by all means do so.

Final Thoughts

[author name="Ken Krouner"]Ken Krouner[/author] wrote an excellent article on metagames. In it, he described how a metagame with a “best deck” is a wonderful thing if that deck is so hard to play that it rewards better players. “This metagame has the capacity to be the best or the worst. When the deck requires a great amount of skill, it is a good format. The best players will generally win, and playtesting is greatly rewarded. When the deck doesn’t require skill you wind up with a degenerate, broken format.” I won’t claim that this deck is the best deck, but I will say that the correlation between success with this deck and play skill is higher than for possibly any other deck in the format. Your performance is your playskill.

I will frankly admit I can’t play this in a tournament and not make mistakes. Every time I’ve played this, I’ve made mistakes. If you can play this and play it flawlessly, you will be a monster with it and should have little trouble making top 8 at the bigger Type One tournaments.

Stephen Menendian

You can reach me at steve dot menendian at gmail dot com