Hi all! I hope you all watched the exciting Pro Tour coverage this weekend, found here:
It was a very exciting top 8 with many cool stories, such as Paul Rietzl‘s double-queueing, Paul Rietzl playing Grand Prix matches when his PT matches weren’t on camera and Paul Rietzl not dropping from the GP because he believed his quarter finals matchup was unwinnable!
In the mtgUK chat room we were following the coverage together and there was a bit of discussion about the finals matchup. While the coverage was saying that Boros was favoured, it looked to some of us that UW actually had a pretty good plan against the WR beatdown. Ever the scientist I decided to investigate myself with the trusty help of my playtest partner Rob Catton. The decklists are as follows:
|4 Celestial Colonnade||4 Arid Mesa|
|4 Glacial Fortress||3 Evolving Wilds|
|5 Island||4 Marsh Flats|
|1 Misty Rainforest||5 Mountain|
|4 Plains||5 Plains|
|4 Seachrome Coast||4 Scalding Tarn|
|4 Tectonic Edge||1 Teetering Peaks|
|4 Squadron Hawk||4 Squadron Hawk|
|4 Stoneforge Mystic||3 Stoneforge Mystic|
|4 Day of Judgment||4 Goblin Guide|
|1 Deprive||2 Hero of Oxid Ridge|
|3 Gideon Jura||2 Mirran Crusader|
|4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor||4 Plated Geopede|
|3 Mana Leak||1 Spikeshot Elder|
|4 Preordain||4 Steppe Lynx|
|4 Spell Pierce||2 Adventuring Gear|
|1 Stoic Rebuttal||2 Journey to Nowhere|
|1 Sword of Feast and Famine||1 Koth of the Hammer|
|1 Sylvok Lifestaff||3 Lightning Bolt|
|1 Sword of Feast and Famine|
|1 Sword of Body and Mind|
|2 Baneslayer Angel||4 Arc Trail|
|2 Divine Offering||1 Basilisk Collar|
|2 Flashfreeze||4 Cunning Sparkmage|
|1 Negate||3 Kor Firewalker|
|4 Oust||1 Koth of the Hammer|
|3 Ratchet Bomb||1 Mark of Mutiny|
|1 Sword of Body and Mind||1 Mirran Crusader|
There is a very nice symmetry in the Squadron Hawks and the Stoneforge Mystics on both sides of the table with one deck electing to supplement it with Planeswalkers and counters and the other with additional aggressive creatures. How does the matchup play out?
We only managed to play 6 games pre- and post-board because we were also trying to fit in Extended testing for the weekend. When playing with decks which are already very tuned this won’t matter too much because you are trying to get a feel for the important cards and interactions not get statistics which are accurate to 3 decimal places. Knowing the percentages won’t help you in a real match anyway, but knowing the important cards will.
The general story with game 1’s is that Boros makes some aggressive creatures – Steppe Lynx on turn 1 being the most threatening and the UW player has a couple of options. They can either make turn 2 Squadron Hawk in order to chump block and soak up a tonne of damage, or pray that a turn 4 Day of Judgment is enough. They certainly need to wrath as soon as possible which brings up a little mini-game – the UW player needs the wrath, but then they get hurt when Boros has either of its 4 mana cards.
UW should be using its Jaces for the bounce effect most of the time in the early game and is really looking towards Gideon Jura to a) stabilise and b) win the game. UW’s 2 mana creatures should be deployed swiftly to block and preferably trade where possible, but the biggest threat to the deck is Koth of the Hammer so it occasionally pays to make sure you can counter or attack that Planeswalker as his ultimate is almost certainly good game.
Overall game 1 is slightly in Boros’ favour as UW has to bring the goods to survive but it’s not unwinnable.
Games 2 and 3
I sideboarded as follows:
I’m not sure what other card to take out after the counterspells but I imagine a Preordain is a fairly safe choice. After playing out the matches I think that the 3rd Ratchet Bomb doesn’t necessarily need bringing in but I know that will cause objections. The Ousts are truly brutal for UW in defence as the plan is just to stay alive and casting this on a turn 1 Steppe Lynx buys you many turns.
For those who don’t feel comfortable removing the counterspells then I would ask you what you would remove instead. The only cards I would want a counter for are the Hero of Oxid Ridge and the Koth of the Hammers but you can easily play around these with your own creatures and Gideon Jura if done correctly. It’s not easy but sometimes you just have to take off the training wheels and play properly.
An unanswered Baneslayer Angel is basically game but you should be aware of Mark of Mutiny and Divine Offering is a great way of fighting the Sword wars while incidentally gaining you some life. Your 5 mana spells usually win the game for you so you have to do them a favour and stay alive long enough for them to do their job. Post-board games are very close to 50:50 but UW has a much better plan now and is possibly slightly favoured.
Rietzl’s sideboard doesn’t have much in particular which is bad for you where other lists might so be aware that things could change. I’m not sure there’s much you can change about this deck without thorough anticipation of what people start doing against you. Ideally you want to find something which can deal with a post-wrath Koth so any tech-hunters out there should seek a card which answers that question. The plan is just to play defensively because the longer the game goes on the more likely you are to win. Good luck with your FNM if you choose to play this deck (and good luck to your wallet)