Thirst for Knowledge: Making the Board

Written by Joshua Claytor on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern, Uncategorized

Thirst for Knowledge:  Making the Board

Joshua Claytor

Joshua is the current content manager of Legitmtg.com and Puremtgo.com.

I don’t usually brew decks anymore. I used to, and I was kinda good at it, when Standard formats were huge and Extended had Tundras and Badlands in them, it was in my mind, easier to look at the metagame and build to combat that. Set sizes have gotten smaller, formats are tighter, and I think it’s harder to brew. I mean in Standard, why be cute when you could just run Siege Rhino? In Modern why not Splinter Twin?

Going rogue is a bit harder as well. The easy availability of strategy websites, fan forums and decks may solve the metagame, or make it much easier to figure out, but you’re also one person (or a small group) going against hundreds of other players, who are fine tuning their deck of choice, and spending more hours together than you can.

It’s just easier to netdeck. I understand why people don’t I get that, I really do, but after this process, the weeks of work I put in on Magnivore, I was reminded of a few things. The first being brewing is awfully fun. The second being, brewing is awfully frustrating.

When I left last week, I had finished up the final touches to the main deck of Magnivore. I was, and remain proud of the work that I put in on the deck, and was excited to actually take it in to two man queues before I moved up to leagues and possibly Daily Events. The thing I had to do after finishing up the main sixty was figure out the sideboard, and I figured there was no greater resource to me than using Mtggoldfish.com. If you’re not familiar with the site, you should check it out for sure. It has tons of decklists, tons of price information, and SaffronOlive is doing wonderful work in his budget deck series. For my use though, it has a really detailed metagame analysis, and that is where I started the search for my sideboard.

Checking out goldfish, I looked at the top 15 decks in Modern, and saw the following:

Grixis Twin
Affinity
Junk
Jund
Red Green Tron
Amulet Bloom
Naya Burn
Merfolk
Infect
Abzan Company
Grixis Control
Black White Eldrazi
Naya Company
Living End
Bogles

That is a very diverse list of decks. Fifteen cards would have to go a long was to cover this for sure!

Going in order of that list I started to write down the cards that I wanted to use against each deck. I needed answers to threats, and I wanted to make sure that I did not miss anything! (Turns out that I did, but that’s for later in the article.)

Twin
Grixis Twin has UR Twin lumped in with it, which I think is perfectly fair. They both have a similar gameplan anyways, counter based disruption into a combo kill. I wanted to protect myself from the combo if the need arose, but in all honesty the deck was performing quite well against Twin. We have disruption as well, and being able to keep them off lands was working out pretty good for me. This arrogance sent me to a light path in regards to boarding, and I viewed the deck rather lightly. Rending Volley was the only card I truly wanted in the board for the deck.

Cards Wanted:
Rending Volley

Affinity
Anger of the Gods is effective against the deck but I still wanted a mass removal type spell for the deck. I wrote down Shatterstorm, Vandalblast and Shattering Spree. Using my land destruction spells against their creature lands made them rely on having to win with creatures, and Anger is great against the small robots in the deck. Eye of Nowhere is great at resetting Arcbound Ravager counters, and the best real threat that they have in my opinion is Etched Champion. Metalcraft is a thing.

Cards Wanted:
Shatterstorm
Vandalblast
Shattering Spree

Junk
After Scavenging Ooze, the biggest threat that this deck has is the targeted hand disruption. Blood Moon helps a lot against this deck since it relies on a lot of non-basic lands. But it is possible for Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozelik and Liliana of the Veil to ruin your game plan. While Anger is okay against Ooze, it’s not the best against Tarmogoyf and Tasigur. I wanted a touch more removal, and I wanted to feed the Magnivore more.

Cards Wanted:
Leyline of Sanctity
Flame Slash

Jund
Same as Junk, but swap out the Lingering Souls and Sorin for Lightning Bolt, Terminate and Kolaghan’s Command. I wanted to protect myself from their discard, and Leyline seemed like the best option there. Anger is better in this matchup thanks to Huntmaster of the Fells and Dark Confidant.

Cards Wanted:
Leyline of Sanctity

Red Green Tron
“Cold” to Blood Moon and Land Destruction. While it’s a good matchup you do need pressure. Most of the time you’re able to keep them off Tron pieces and wipe up with a few Magnivore attacks, but sometimes we just don’t draw land destruction, and Wurmcoil Engine and friends make life hard on you! I wanted another source of land hate, and pretty much wrote down Crumble to Dust. It’s easier to cast than Sowing Salt, and that matters a lot! Relic of Progenitus is a card that we have to play around, but might need to have an answer against as a just in case. Pithing Needle fills that role well.

Cards Wanted:
Crumble to Dust
Additional Blood Moon
Pithing Needle

Amulet Bloom
I hate this deck, mainly because it’s entirely possible for them to put it out of reach on turn two. It’s also entirely possible for them to flail around with a bunch of bouncelands. If you can survive game one with Blood Moon you’re great, they have two basics for the most part and you’re pretty clear. Game two I knew that Seal of Primordium would be a key card for them as it deals with my Blood Moon, but with as much hate as I have for this deck, I wanted to lean on Blood Moon and my land destruction.

Cards Wanted:
Crumble to Dust
Additional Blood Moon

Naya Burn
Pretty much a blanket category for the burn decks in Modern. It does not matter the color combination, in my experience it has been cheap efficient creatures like Goblin Guide, Grim Lavamancer, Eidolon of the Great Revel and Monastery Swiftspear. Those are answered by Anger of the Gods. Eidolon is the worst to play around though, as everything but Magnivore costs three or less in the deck. With the creatures we have to fight against powerful burn spells, and Land Destruction does not do much about that. When you need one mana to deal three damage, it’s an uphill climb for the sorcery deck. I wanted ways to deal with Eidolon and the Burn Spells. Anger of the Gods may not be the fastest, but Spirit Guide helps before I am too overwhelmed by the creatures. Dragon’s Claw is also pretty good for some lifegain, but really this matchup is really hard to win. It’s really close to being the worst matchup, with the Black Eldrazi decks coming up fast behind.

Cards Wanted:
Leyline of Sanctity
Dragon’s Claw

Merfolk
Anger of the Gods is pretty good here. Have to keep Lords in check, and Aether Vial is really good, as it’s an instant way to add pressure to the board. We need ways to deal with Master of Waves, and it keeps Magnivore in check. Aether Vial is a thing that we can have an incidental amount of sideboard cards for, and Boiling Seas and Boil may not be the worst, they can clear both sides of Islands and turn off Islandwalk. I think what we want the most is a blue way to win the game, Vial can be taken care of with hate for Affinity, and Master may not be a huge problem with a non red win condition.

Cards Wanted:
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
Boiling Seas
Boil
Artifact hate

Infect
Anger of the Gods deals with their small creatures. Land destruction kills their creaturelands, and Blood Moon disrupts them as well. I want additional ways to deal with their Blighted Agents and Glistening Elves.

Cards Wanted:
Targeted Removal
Additional Anger of the Gods

Abzan Company
Same as Junk but with the possibility of a combo kill. Weak to Anger of the Gods, since it has the exile replacement effect. Blood Moon ties up their heavy non-basic land count. Burrenton Forge-Tender might be an issue, so Pithing Needle might need to come in, or sandbagging Eye to Nowhere to deal with it. The alternate win condition might have work to do here as well.

Cards Wanted:
Additional Anger of the Gods
Pithing Needle

Grixis Control
Blood Moon has always been excellent here for me. With Blood Moon they have a hard time casting their spells. Land Destruction on their basics almost always locks them out of the game and Magnivore cleans up. Anger of the Gods is surprisingly potent against them.

Cards Wanted:
Additional Blood Moon
Boil

Black White Eldrazi
This matchup is almost as bad as burn is. Blood Moon in theory should be enough against them, but guess what? It’s not. If there is no pressure in the form of Magnivore, then they get to Relic of Progenitus the graveyard and set the deck back. By the time the yard is refilled they either have another Relic or Oblivion Sower has set back all the land hate. This deck only gets better when Oath comes out, and it’s a miserable matchup already. Leyline keeps Sower from targeting you. Also helps out with the discard in the deck. Crumble to Dust deals with the broken lands in Eldrazi Tower and Eye of Ugin. Pithing Needle helps out with Relic. Anger of the Gods is dang near useless here.

Cards Wanted:
Leyline of Sanctity
Crumble to Dust
Pithing Needle

Naya Company
Lesser played of the Company decks, but a bigger threat because of Knight of the Reliquary. It becomes a giant creature quickly when you blow up a lot of lands! Blood Moon helps a ton as they typically have three basics. Anger does help out against the majority of their creature base, but Knight, Tarmogoyf and Loxodon Smiter all give us fits. This would be a matchup that I would want Flame Slash in the main. However, Anger is just better against the Field.

Cards Wanted:
Flame Slash
Hibernation

Living End
An okay matchup as long as you can keep them off casting a Cascade Spell. Blood Moon does great here until they Beast Within it, and then all bets are off if you have not killed enough lands. Still would like a way to deal with the graveyard.

Cards Wanted:
Leyline of the Void

Bogles
A lot like Infect. However the pump spells are permanents. That could be problematic for Anger of the Gods. Eye of Nowhere has to deal with the toughness increasing Enchantments. Blood Moon may not be terrible here, as it would at least slow them down to maybe 1 or 2 spells a turn. There is no mass enchantment hate, but thankfully, the deck runs low casting cost stuff, so Engineered Explosives can help out a ton there!

Cards Wanted:
Engineered Explosives

Well 1800 words in we are done, I’m going to make a list of the cards that I want to use in the board.

Rending Volley
Shatterstorm
Vandalblast
Shattering Spree
Leyline of Sanctity
Flame Slash
Crumble to Dust
Additional Blood Moon
Pithing Needle
Dragon’s Claw
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
Boiling Seas
Boil 2 times listed
Additional Anger of the Gods
Hibernation
Leyline of the Void
Engineered Explosives

From here I wanted to look at the cards that I have listed and see which ones I listed the most.

Leyline of Sanctity is really good against four decks, so it seems like a natural inclusion. Crumble to Dust seems pretty important as well. Flame Slash is listed three times as is Blood Moon and Pithing Needle. Anger of the Gods and Boil type spells are mentioned twice. Everything else is for specific matches. We can start our board with these cards.

Leyline of Sanctity
Crumble to Dust
Flame Slash
Blood Moon
Pithing Needle
Anger of the Gods
Boil

From here I like to look at the field (again thanks to mtggoldfish) and prepare the sideboard off what I think I am going to be most likely to play against. With that said I would go down the list and pick cards for those popular decks. That leads us to the following cards

Rending Volley
Shatterstorm
Dragon’s Claw
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror

Hibernation, Leyline of the Void and Engineered Explosives are for the lowest percentage of decks that I might play against so they do not make the preliminary cut. With these cards picked out I would make my board look like this:

3 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Crumble to Dust
3 Flame Slash
1 Blood Moon
2 Pithing Needle
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Boil
2 Rending Volley
2 Shatterstorm
1 Dragon’s Claw
1 Meloku, the Clouded Mirror

This of course is more than 15 cards. From this number we again look at what we expect to play the most, and how well the sideboard might handle cards from outside of the top 15 decks.

Dragon’s Claw will not make the final cut. We want a way to help out with Red Decks, and Leyline does that, but is good against more decks. That’s an easy cut. Crumble to Dust is also great against Scapeshift, so that stays. The number of Flame Slash could be dropped, as it’s not great against Bogles and we have to maximize the amount of decks the sideboard is good against.

The additional Blood Moon may be greedy with three copies and Crumble in the board. It can also get cut. Pithing Needle is good against Aether Vial decks, so it can stay. With more targeted removal in the deck, the fourth Anger of the Gods may be too much. It can also go. Boil is good against Mono Blue Tron and Azorious Control, it can hang out. Rending Volley is also good against Death and Taxes and Soul Sisters. Shatterstorm does work against KCI style decks, but it’s way to important against Affinity to cut. Meloku is a fine addition against decks that can deal with the graveyard hate that comes in from opposing decks so I think it’s pretty important as well.

With that said we’ve justified the cards that we want in the sideboard. We have plans for a wide variety of decks, and just need to tune the board to be 15 cards.

3 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Crumble to Dust
2 Flame Slash
2 Pithing Needle
1 Boil
2 Rending Volley
2 Shatterstorm
1 Meloku, the Clouded Mirror

I like the look of the board, and am excited to actually take a real sideboard into action instead of what felt like a random pack of cards! Let’s take a look at the new list, and see what we have!

Sweet, I passed 2500 words on an article about a deck that I am passionate about, but not many other people may not be excited about. Next week we’re finally going to see the deck in action and hopefully I will not have another War and Peace sized article for you!  Also if you’re in the mood for some Flashback drafts you can check out my tumblr!

Thanks for stopping by!

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