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Arcane Laboratory – The Quintessential UWR Geist

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

On stream Tuesday I followed the footsteps of Compulsive Research and actually played the updated list from what @MrScottyMac had streamed with the night before. His list had cut Spell Snares and Izzet Charms in order to play Serum Visions. The theory was that Serum Visions would allow us to be more aggressive with Geist of Saint Traft by finding back up copies and late game would smooth out the weird gaps where sometimes you could draw blanks.


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I hated it. The Visions were lackluster and I found myself sideboarding some number of them out for more impactful spells in each game. I went 2-1 with Scott’s list and then switched to my own version and posted 2-0. A 4-1 overall, even with different versions of the deck really shows how much time I’ve put into playing the archetype. So much time actually that I created a giant sideboarding guide for a huge chunk of the Modern format.

Then Scott, Larry, and myself did something egregious; we changed the decklist…again. Suddenly my sideboard guide that I had spent a lot of time on was out of date. I had two options. The first was to just publish the old sideboard guide and then in my next article publish the changes as I saw fit. But, we’re in the midst of Modern PTQ/GPT season and the information is extremely important for those who want to pick up the deck. So I opted for the alternative. I’d rewrite the entire sideboard guide along with posting the new list in what would be a rather large article: this one.

There is a lot to talk about with the changes in the deck list from my last article. We’ll start with the increased creature count. We’ve gone up from 11 to 13. Stormbreath Dragon was losing some value as there are more and more Slaughter Pacts running about. However we found in testing that being aggressive was a solid route to winning more games. We added a 3rd Vendilion Clique and two Restoration Angels to help promote this strategy. This also gains us some proactive disruption from the clique and the possibility to get more Snapcaster Mage triggers out of the Angels.

In the spells area the biggest change is the cutting of all of our Cryptic Commands. Cryptic is awesome. There is no doubt. The issue is that your opponents always play around it, even if you don’t have it. As long as you have four mana open they change the way they play to minimize it’s impact. If you cant never achieve the insane blow-outs that it used to hand you then it becomes much less optimal for it sometimes prohibitive mana cost. Removing the Cryptics also gave us the room necessary for the Angels as well as another singleton. Sword of Fire and Ice is still my favorite piece of equipment in the format that is not banned or named Batterskull. It turns even the lowliest Snapcaster Mage into a potent threat that gains you card advantage and tempo. With this current variation of the deck one of the most insane plays I’ve had has been Snapcasting a Remand on my opponents turn 4 followed by playing sword, equipping, and getting in on turn 5.

Cutting Cryptics and the Dragon also lessens the strain on our manabase. No longer needing to achieve triple blue on turn 4 allows us to do the formerly impossible; play another colorless utility land. We upped our creature count to be more aggressive. We want a way to continue the beats even after our opponent wipes our board. One way of course is Celestial Colonnade, but sometimes you don’t have enough mana or just haven’t drawn one yet. Enter Moorland Haunt. Now we can use our dead creatures as a further resource to keep pressure on our opponent. We were having some games where we’d be losing while our opponent was at 4 or 5 life with us just drawing blanks. Now we have another non-blank land to draw that can close out the game in concert with a single burn spell.

Now for what everyone is waiting for. The sideboard guide.

Vs Jund
-4 Remand, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice, -1 Izzet Charm
+2 Engineered Explosives, +2 Batterskull, +1 Celestial Purge, +1 Keranos, God of Storms

Jund just wants to grind us. They’re one of our worst match-ups due to having cheap hand disruption backed by Liliana of the Veil. We adapt to the match-up by bringing in three threats that are much harder for Jund to remove. Keranos can double as card advantage to help dig you out of the Liliana hole. Purge of course is to hit Liliana while the Explosives do a nice job of wiping away teams of Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, and Dark Confidant.

Vs Pod
-4 Geist of Saint Traft, -1 Spell Snare, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice, -1 Remand
+2 Anger of the Gods, +2 Aven Mindcensor, +2 Batterskull, +1 Keranos

There are arguments for bringing in Explosives too, but I dislike cutting too much more out of the deck. We become a board control deck post board and really want to win with our top end while keeping them from comboing us. Their mediocre beats cannot win against a Batterskull.

Vs UR Twin
-1 Ajani Vengeant, -1 Spell Snare, -2 Lightning Helix, -1 Remand
+1 Combust, +2 Counterflux, +1 Celestial Purge, +1 Keranos

Against straight UR Twin we cut Ajani, Helixes, and a few counter spells for a few better counterspells, some solid ways to interact with their combo, and our god. The game is going to go longer. They’ve likely sided out some of their Twins in favor of their own Keranos and some protection. Purge is our best card against that. We just need to be aware of which gear our opponent is currently in and where they might try to change.

Vs TarmoTwin
-1 Ajani Vengeant, -1 Izzet Charm, -2 Remand
+2 Engineered Explosives, +2 Counterflux

They’re less in on the twin plan, but their Goyfs and Oozes really tax our Path to Exiles. We bring in Explosives to deal with them instead if possible leaving our Paths for their Exarchs. The hard counters are better than our soft ones.

Vs UWR Kiki-Control

+2 Counterflux +2 Batterskull +1 Combust +1 Keranos
-1 Spell Snare, -1 Izzet Charm, -4 Remand

This is one of our best match-ups. We adapt our game plan to take into account the fact that they’ll be bringing in more sub-par answers for a threats by just playing more of them. Combust is still sweet to nix an Angel or Colonnade of theirs.

Vs Affinity
-4 Remand, -1 Ajani Vengeant, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice
+2 Anger of the Gods, +2 Wear // Tear, +2 Engineered Explosives

Remands, Vengeant, and SoFaI are all just too slow. We need cheap effects that hit their entire board. This allows us to survive in the midgame. Once we’ve exhausted their resources we are typically free to win with a Geist. We are a little bit softer to the match-up without the Stony Silences, but it still is in our favor.

Vs Zoo
-1 Izzet Charm, -2 Geist of Saint Traft, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice
+2 Anger of the Gods, +2 Batterskull

Geist is pretty bad at attacking into 3/3’s. We cut him and a few other sub-par options for our Angers and Batterskulls. We want the force the game to go a little longer where our lifegain and flyers can pull out the win.

Vs Storm
-1 Ajani Vengeant, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice, -1 Remand
+2 Counterflux, +1 Celestial Purge

I kind of ignore this match-up. Good storm players can play around all the hate that exists so it requires actually overboarding for the match-up to have any real effect. I’d rather stick to the simple plan of beating them as fast as possible and hoping they don’t have it. We cut some cards that are duds for some that can potentially interact if our opponent stumbles early and tries to go for it a little later.

Vs Ad Nauseum
-1 Ajani Vengeant, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice, -2 Electrolyze
+2 Counterflux, +2 Wear // Tear

This is another match where we just need to kill our opponent as fast as we possibly can. Phyrexian Unlife is the worst for us because it makes us go another full 10 points of damage deeper to finish them off.

Vs UR Delver
-1 Ajani Vengeant, -2 Path to Exile, -1 Remand
+2 Anger of the Gods, +1 Combust, +2 Batterskull

This is the match-up where I found it hardest to figure out what to cut because all of our maindeck looks good against them. Ajani is a bit slow and Paths aren’t the best when we can kill all of their threats with our burn spells. Angers, Combust, and Batterskulls set us on the correct avenue to victory.

Vs Tron
-1 Spell Snare, -1 Izzet Charm, -2 Electrolyze
+2 Aven Mindcensor +2 Counterflux

This is where not having Stony Silence may actually hurt us the most. We don’t have much to board in. Thankfully so far I’ve found playing aggressively and using Ghost Quarters/Mindcensors to disrupt my opponent to be enough. But, if Tron is large in your area I’d really consider finding room in the board for a Sowing Salt to really shore-up the match.

Vs Scapeshift
-1 Sword of Fire and Ice, -4 Path to Exile
+2 Aven Mindcensor, +2 Counterflux, +1 Batterskull

Mindcensor and Counterflux are all stars in the match. Batterskull gives us some late-game power with the added bonus of getting us out of Valakut range. Paths are just terrible.

Vs Wescoe BW
-1 Izzet Charm, -1 Sword of Fire and Ice, -1 Ajani Vengeant, -2 Geist of Saint Traft, – 1 Remand
+2 Engineered Explosives, +1 Celestial Purge, +1 Combust, +2 Batterskull

The new nightmare. Another Liliana deck. This one with Pack Rat. THANKS WESCOE! I haven’t gotten to play against this archetype yet, so this is all theory.

Vs Merfolk
-4 Remand, -1 Spell Snare, -1 Izzet Charm
+2 Anger of the Gods, +2 Engineered Explosives, +2 Batterskull

I really dislike the counterspells in a match-up where my opponent will have Aether Vial. I’d rather have some board wipes and a mid-late game trump.

Hopefully I didn’t miss anything major. If you have any other match-ups you want to know my sideboard strategy for or would like to discuss any of the strategies listed here please feel free to ask in the comments or hit me up on twitter @RealEvilGenius. I looooooove talking about this deck. I’ll be back Tuesday night battling with the deck again on stream. Make sure you come watch, 8:30pm EST over at twitch.tv/legitmtg.

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