Deep Analysis — Teaching the New Kids on the Block
To differentiate between my build of U/B Teachings and Gerry-style, Ruel-style, and Yasooka-style Teachings decks, I’ve decided to call my give-the-opponent-dead-cards build “Iron Man.” I have no Temporal Isolations or Take Possessions to remove with Snapback, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Cloudchaser Kestrel. I have no Coalition Relics to remove with Ancient Grudge, and no Shadowmage Infiltrators to kill with Tendrils of Corruption.
In a nutshell, I play U/B this way for the same reason that Kenji plays Pickles as a Mono-Blue deck instead of a U/B or U/W deck. Adding a second color to Pickles would doubtless allow for some more powerful cards — Slaughter Pact, Shadowmage Infiltrator, maybe even Urborg and Tolaria for Tendrils of Corruption — but the mono-colored version, while less powerful, is more consistent. As I see it, when you have a deck that is performing as well as this one, you get to a point where it’s more valuable to cut out ways you can randomly lose than it is to give yourself more ways to randomly win via excess power.
While Temporal Isolation is a lot cheaper than Spin into Myth, it is an awful answer to Mystic Enforcer if it is immediately removed by Cloudchaser Kestrel. The same goes for Take Possession; it’s a great answer if my opponent doesn’t have the trump, and an entirely ineffective answer if he does. I don’t have any control over what my opponent has in his hand, so I prefer the slow — but consistent — answer of Spin into Myth. (Spin was an experiment I proposed in my last article, and after trying it out, I’ve definitely decided to keep it.) Teachings is a deck where you often need to devise a strategy that plays out over the next couple of turns, and having to deal with something like Mystic Enforcer (or Korlash) again — after you’d planned to have gotten rid of it already — can throw a big wrench in the works.
Ruel’s Coalition Relic emphasis gives you some busted turns early on, but it also forces you into an all-in position on your large effects. Turn 5 Take Possession is crazy when it sticks, but really awkward when they have turn 6 Venser. And with thirty-four dedicated slots to mana production, you’re in more than a bit of trouble if they have an answer to the first big effect or two you power out. That’s to say nothing of what Ancient Grudge does to you.
I’ve trimmed away the over-the-top powerful cards that some U/B lists are playing, and focus my strategy on winning by consistency instead. At this point my only vulnerable point is Korlash, really, and he’s only vulnerable in that playing him instead of another finisher means that losing my Urborg hurts twice as much.
My current list, which is just four sideboard cards off from last week’s, is as follows.
It was brought to my attention last week that Premature Burial, while excellent on the mana curve, is suboptimal against Slivers because that deck plays a lot of relevant guys pre-combat. Sorcery-speed removal is not so good on the opponent’s turn, but boy-howdy is Sudden Death ever great in the same situation. Sudden Death also dodges the countermagic of Ben Lundquist’s U/G Tempo deck, which is the other big matchup in which I boarded in Burial.
Tiago Chan did a great game-by-game analysis of U/B Teachings versus G/W aggro last week, with both pre- and post-board games listed. I’m going to do something similar this week, but pitting U/B against the two up-and coming aggro decks, Poison Slivers and U/G Tempo. Instead of doing a set of matches against one deck like Tiago did, I’m going to do a ten-game maindeck set against each of two different decks, with a play-by-play on three games of each set. As I don’t know how these matchups go yet, I’ll adjust my sideboarding strategies as necessary after watching how the games play out.
The U/G Matchup
I was concerned that this might be the aggro-control deck that the format’s been looking for as the foil to U/B Teachings... until I started off the set 5-0 on the play. Games 6-8 (on the draw) were as follows.
U/G’s Opening Hand: Zero-lander. Mull into 2x Island, 2x Riftsweeper, 2x Cloudskate. This is an extremely weak hand, but it seems better than five; this deck doesn’t have much of a “nuts draw” to hope for by shipping a hand like this back. Keep.
Iron Man’s Opening Hand: Urborg, River of Tears, Slaughter Pact, Pact of Negation, Extirpate, Korlash, Venser. Ship that two-land mess back. Next one is a one-lander, so we’re going to five. The hand is 2x Tolaria West, Prismatic Lens, Logic Knot, Damnation. This is the worst hand I’ve seen in the set, by a lot, and not just because I’m on five. Nevertheless, it’s better than four.
UG: Island, go.
IM: Draw Vesuva and play Tolaria West. I would play Vesuva here, but the opponent’s play of Island doesn’t let me know what he is yet. If he’s U/B, I want Vesuva in my hand for later.
UG: Draw Cloudskate #3, play Island and suspend it.
IM: Draw Pact of Negation. Now that I know I’m not against the Teachings mirror, I’d rather play Vesuva than Tolaria West, so that I can Transmute it later for Urborg. Play Veuvsa on opponent’s Island.
UG: Cloudskate goes to two counters. Draw Pendelhaven, but can’t play Riftsweeper or else Cloudskate will die. Suspend another.
IM: Draw Korlash. Play Prismatic lens and pass without playing Tolaria West.
UG: Cloudskates go down to two and one counters, respectively. Draw Gemstone Mine. Suspend Cloudskate #3. I expect Damnation to come soon, and I have no Delay, so I want to have a 2/2 Flying Haste incoming right after it happens.
IM: Draw Tendrils. Transmute Tolaria West for Urborg and play it.
UG: Cloudskate comes in, bouncing Vesuva. Attack for 2.
IM: Draw Mystical Teachings. Replay Vesuva on Island.
UG: Another Cloudskate comes in, bouncing Vesuva again. Draw Riftsweeper #3, and hit for 4, knocking opponent to 14.
IM: Draw Careful Consideration. Replay Vesuva on Island yet again.
UG: Cloudskate #3 comes in. Bounce Vesuva again. Draw Island and play it, attack for 6, knocking opponent to 8. Play Riftsweeper in order to present lethal damage.
IM: Draw River of Tears. Those are the comes-into-play-untapped droids we’re looking for! Play it, Damnation the board away.
UG: Draw Island. Play Forest and two Riftsweepers. Hand is now Island, Gemstone Mine.
IM: Draw Urza’s Factory. Play Vesuva on opponent’s Island, then play Korlash. I’m okay with staying at eight life because I now have five land out and can Pact a Psionic Blast if he has it.
UG: Draw Snapback. Bounce Korlash with it (resolves — if I Pact it and he has another Snapback, or a Psionic Blast, I take four this turn, then four again next turn after I tap out for Pact, and I die), then attack for four. Opponent drops to four. Pass.
IM: Draw Sudden Death. Play Urza’s Factory and Tendrils on a Riftsweeper, leaving open Vesuva and Tolaria West for Logic Knot. (As I have three cards in my ‘yard right now, Logic Knot is a Mana Leak. The opponent only has 3 lands up right now because he cast Snapback last turn, so if he has Delay here, I can Knot it. If I wait until his upkeep to cast Tendrils, however, he can pay for Knot at X=3.) Tendrils resolves, and I go back up to 9.
UG: Draw Forest. How awful. Play it and attack him down to 7 with remaining Riftsweeper.
IM: Draw Prismatic Lens. Replay Korlash with Knot mana open.
UG: Draw Island. Sweet.
IM: Draw Swamp.
This is exactly the type of complicated game state that you can just gloss over with U/B, or you can think through it and make sure you close the game. Yeah, we both had bad — and really weird — draws this game, and mine has worked out better for me, but those are just excuses. If I lose the game from this point, it’s my own fault for not being careful.
My hand is Swamp, Prismatic Lens, Sudden Death, Careful Consideration, Mystical Teachings, Logic Knot (with three cards in graveyard), Pact of Negation. (So many options!) I have out Lens and five lands: Tolaria West, Island-shaped Vesuva, River of Tears, Urborg, and Urza’s Factory. I am at nine life and have Korlash in play. The opponent has out four Islands, two Forests, and a Pendelhaven. He is at 20 life, has a Riftsweeper in play, and two cards in hand.
Because I have the Pact and my opponent has missed several opportunities to try and kill me outright with Psionic Blast or a second creature, I can reason that he’s in topdeck mode and is holding all lands plus maybe a Delay that he might have drawn last turn and had no targets.
Korlash is 5/5 right now, and I’m holding a Swamp. That means I know I can attack for six this turn, putting the opponent at 14. If I play another land next turn, I can hit for 7 to put him at 7, meaning Korlash will kill in three attacks. Thus, if I want to go the Korlash Beatdown route, I will probably want to cast Careful Consideration either this turn or next turn to make sure I hit for 7 next turn.
Do I want to Sudden Death his Riftsweeper?
Pros and cons: con is that I can’t save it for something bigger than a Grizzly Bear, and pro is that the little bugger stops taking chunks out of my nine-point life total. Tarmogoyf’s out of range here, so the only bigger target U/G has is an Elephant, which is not particularly more threatening when I have Korlash. I guess I don’t really care about saving it, then; I’ll use it this turn.
With Sudden Death being cast this turn, I will have four mana left over. I can use that to cast Careful Consideration, or I could leave mana up for Logic Knot or Mystical Teachings. Alternately, I could play the Lens in my hand, have one more mana available next turn, and still be able to Knot for five (off the three cards in my graveyard, plus the Sudden Death that’s headed there, plus the extra land I’ll have open.) As the opponent has seven lands out, though, and I suspect he’s holding an eighth, being able to Knot for six could be critical in stopping a topdecked Shapeshifter, Call, or Psionic Blast. Plus, leaving four open means I can Teach on his end step if he doesn’t do anything.
So that’s my play. I play Swamp and attack with Korlash for six, bringing him to 14. Then I Sudden Death his Riftsweeper in my main phase — no reason to fall prey to an upkeep or main phase a Stonewood Invocation or something silly — and pass with four mana up for Knot or Teachings.
Note that I planned out all this before I even played my Swamp. If I had decided to cast Careful Consideration on that turn, I would want to keep all the cards in my hand possible, in case something changed. What if I played the Swamp, attacked, then cast Consideration and wished I’d been able to play a different land this turn? What if I’d realized that, with these new cards in hand, I didn’t want to attack with Korlash after all? It is usually the better play to cast your draw spell before proceeding with your scripted turn than after, so if you have one in hand, you should figure out if you’re going to cast it this turn before making any other plays.
UG: Draw Terramorphic Expanse. Fantastic. Board’s empty, hand is all lands, Korlash is lethal in two turns... concede to Mystical Teachings on end step.
That was a weird game. I mulled to five and got hit by three Riftwings in a row, never sticking a fourth land drop until my life total was in the single digits and facing lethal damage, and pulled it out anyway. Glad this was one of the ones I recorded!
UG’s opener: Island, 2x Forest, 2x Looter il-Kor, Call of the Herd, Riftwing Cloudskate. Perfectly fine. Keep.
IM’s opener: Tolaria West, Plains, Urza’s Factory, 2x Prismatic Lens, Tendrils, Spin into Myth. This isn’t great, but it’s not worth throwing back. I have Tolaria West and an ugly UU (via Lenses) to cast it with, so I can get Urborg to go with my Tendrils. I also have a Factory, which is good in a land-heavy hand with two Lenses. It’s not the prettiest hand, but I’ll keep it.
UG: Island, go.
IM: Draw Careful Consideration. Play Plains, pass.
UG: Draw Forest, play it, and Looter.
IM: Draw Shapeshifter. Play Urza’s Factory and Prismatic Lens.
UG: Draw Psionic Blast. Attack with Looter, draw Riftwing, discard Shapeshifter. (I have enough bounce to keep Korlash away, and Shapeshifter’s just slow in this matchup otherwise.) Play Forest and Call of the Herd.
IM: Draw Damnation. I’m clearly playing Lens here; the question is whether to also play Tolaria West or to hold it so I can get Urborg for Damnation and Tendrils. I’m not under a whole lot of pressure from the 1/1 Looter, so I think I’d rather hold it at this point.
UG: Draw Forest. Attack for four, and Loot into Terramorphic Expanse. Discard Forest, play Expanse, pass.
IM: Draw Swamp. So much for the Transmute plan! I have lots of removal in hand, so things should go well for me in the long game as long as that Looter doesn’t keep his hand full of gas. Play Swamp, tap out to Damnation it away. I get Psionic Blasted on end step, down to 11. U/G also cracks Expanse for Island.
UG: Draw Llanowar Reborn. Play it, and flashback Call of the Herd.
IM: Draw Island. Mise! There’s the fifth land, and a blue source. My strategy now is to get some more one-for-ones while stockpiling lands to make that Tendrils in my hand better. Play Island and cast Spin into Myth on the token. He doesn’t have the Snapback, so I get to Fateseal away a Shapeshifter and leave him with an Island on top.
UG: Draw Island. Play Looter and have him pick up a Llanowar Reborn counter. Suspend a Cloudskate.
IM: Draw Korlash. I don’t quite have enough mana to Transmute for Urborg and play Teachings, so instead I’ll Teach for Slaughter Pact and kill the Looter. I know he has an Island in hand to pitch to it if he gets to Loot, and I don’t want that evasive 2/2 beater sticking around either. I’m also going to play Tolaria West this turn, so that I can cast Careful Consideration next turn. Although this deprives me of the guaranteed Urborg I’ve been lusting after all game, this is actually the “safe” play here. There’s a Cloudskate on the horizon, and I really want to be able to cast Careful Consideration next turn after I pay for Slaughter Pact. I can kill the new Cloudskate if I draw into Swamp, Urborg, Tolaria West, Logic Knot, Pact of Negation, or Sudden Death, but if I don’t draw a land in the next two turns, I won’t have time to Transmute for Urborg and play Tendrils before I’m dead to the Skate.
UG: Cloudskate goes down to two counters. Draw Chromatic Star. Hardcast a Cloudskate, bouncing Tolaria West. This is a tad risky; on the one hand, it’s clearly not desirable for him to have T. West in his hand or else he wouldn’t have played it last turn, but on the other, if he topdecks another land, he might be able to hold it and Transmute it for something better like Pact or Urborg. Still, I’m going for the kill here, so trying to screw him seems best.
IM: Pay for Slaughter Pact, draw Venser. With the Consideration plan shut down by the hardcast Skate, I have to hope I draw Island, Swamp, Terramorphic Expanse, Urborg, Sudden Death, Damnation, or Logic Knot next turn. If I do, I’m in the clear, and if not, this will be a close game... fortunately, there are a lot of cards that put me in the clear.
UG: One counter left on the Cloudskate. Draw Island, cycle Star into Terramorphic Expanse, burn for one. Play Expanse, attack for two with Cloudskate, and pass.
IM: Draw Swamp. Whew! Play it, then pass the turn.
UG: Cloudskate comes in and targets Llanowar Reborn with its ability. Then it is hit by a Tendrils for two. Draw another Llanowar Reborn, play it, then attack the opponent down to 7 again with the remaining Skate.
IM: Draw Tendrils of Corruption. This time around, I have time to do what I want to do. Transmute Tolaria West (using Lens and Island) for Urborg, play it, and cast Tendrils right now (only way I can lose here is if I pass and let him Stonewood Invocation me out) on his Cloudskate. I go back up to 13.
UG: Draw Island, play another Llanowar Reborn.
IM: Draw Damnation, play Korlash, pass.
UG: Draw Tarmogoyf, play it as a 5/6, pass. (I want to save Llanowar Reborn counters for my next creature, to give me two big threats — or one big evasive threat — to get around Korlash.)
IM: Draw Swamp. With Venser in hand, racing that Tarmogoyf seems fine. Play Swamp, attack for 7 with Korlash. Opponent drops to 11.
UG: Draw Forest. Attack for five; opponent drops to 8. On end step, Tarmogoyf is bounced by Venser.
IM: Draw Extirpate. Too bad he hasn’t lost any Tarmogoyfs this game, or I could kill the one in his hand with Split Second Cabal Therapy! Still, at eight life, hitting his Psionic Blasts so I can see what’s in his hand (turns out to be a land and Tarmogoyf) is fine. I Consideration into another Korlash and activate Grandeur to attack for lethal.
Man, I really wish U/G hadn’t gotten flooded here. I want these games to be as interesting as possible, but I can’t really know how they’re going to turn out when I start recording... and I certainly don’t have the time to record fifty games and then throw out the landslide victories. Sorry about that.
UG’s opener: One-lander. Throw it back for Island, Forest, Star, Looter, Delay, Snapback. Not great, but better than five. Keep.
IM’s opener: One-lander. Ship it for Tolaria West, Plains, Urborg, Slaughter Pact, Careful Consideration, Damnation. If that Plains were an Island, this hand would be unbelievable... but even with the Plains, I’m certainly keeping.
UG: Island, Star, go.
IM: Draw Terramorphic Expanse, play it.
UG: Draw Terramorphic Expanse, play Forest and Looter, cracking Star in the process. Star draws Call of the Herd. Opponent’s Expanse is cracked for Island on end step.
IM: Draw Logic Knot. I already have Urborg and want blue mana more than I want Urza’s Factory or Pact of Negation, so I’ll just play my Tolaria West rather than holding it.
UG: Draw Psionic Blast. Hit with Looter, draw Tarmogoyf and discard Call of the Herd. Play Tarmogoyf and Terramorphic Expanse. (Note that pitching Call gives me a Sorcery to beef Tarmogoyf up to 3/4 while still holding Instants that I want to play next turn. I won’t want to play Call next turn because that would be walking right into a Damnation, but Psionic Blast or Delay on said Damnation are both fine.)
IM: Draw Spin into Myth. Play Plains and pass. Opponent’s Expanse is cracked on end step for Island.
UG: Draw Delay. Hit for four, draw Tarmogoyf, discard Snapback, and pass.
IM: Draw Sudden Death. Tarmogoyf is only a 3/4 right now, so I have a rare opportunity to trade Sudden Death for it here. I play Urborg and do so. I am hit by Psionic Blast on end step. Down to 11.
UG: Draw Psionic Blast, Loot into another Looter and discard it. What I want is another land so that I can play Tarmogoyf with Delay backup for Damnation. Until I get that, I’m content to sit back and throw some Blasts at my opponent’s dome; he’s only at 10 now.
IM: Draw River of Tears. I want to get rid of that Looter, but also don’t want to walk into a Delay. Play River of Tears and pass, and then after I am Blasted again on end step, cast Spin into Myth on the Looter. The top of his library is Looter (naturally) and a third Tarmogoyf. Both go to the bottom.
UG: Draw Riftsweeper. Play Tarmogoyf, pass. It is hit by Slaughter Pact on end step.
IM: Pay for Slaughter Pact, leaving Island and Tolaria West open for Logic Knot, draw Prismatic Lens, and pass.
UG: Draw Riftsweeper and play it. It is countered by Logic Knot, removing Sudden Death and Slaughter Pact. Have you kept track of the number of times I’ve countered something with a Logic Knot off UU when Cancel or Delay would have been awful?
IM: Draw Swamp. Time to refuel. Play Careful Consideration, draw Korlash, Factory, Tendrils, and Pact of Negation. Discard Prismatic Lens and Damnation. It’s Korlash time. Play the Swamp in case the Heir to Blackblade gets hit by a topdecked Cloudskate on Urborg or a random maindeck Vesuva.
UG: Draw Island. Play another Riftsweeper, with Delay mana open.
IM: Draw Haunting Hymn. Sounds good! Cast Hymn for four cards. It is hit by Delay. I could Pact here, but then I lose to any topdecked 2/2 or Psionic Blast because I am at 6 and will spend my entire next turn paying for the Pact. Forget it. Hymn gets some time counters.
UG: Draw Island, hit for two, pass. Opponent is at four.
IM: Hymn goes down to two time counters. Play Urza’s Factory, Prismatic Lens, and Korlash (again). I have Pact of Negation in hand for emergencies, and Tendrils next turn to put me out of Blast range. Things are looking good.
UG: Draw Snapback. Play it on Korlash, attack opponent down to two, and play Island.
IM: Hymn goes down to one counter. Draw another Tendrils (heh, not even necessary, but okay), play one on Riftsweeper. He Delays, I Pact the Delay, and go up to 9 when Tendrils resolves. Play Korlash, pass.
UG: Draw Riftsweeper and play it.
IM: Pay for Pact, Hymn resolves and does nothing, draw Mystical Teachings. Teachings plus Korlash seals it.
I was kinda hoping to record a game where U/G beat me, so I could show you what kinds of things to watch out for... Go figure that I actually lose the next one to a topdecked Delay on the last possible turn. (To be fair, I misplayed and got too greedy with Mystical Teachings. I should have gone for Sudden Death to remove his Cloudskate rather than trying for Tendrils when I had plenty of life to fall back on and was in a much worse position if he had the Snapback to counter the Tendrils and give him another bounce effect. He did.)
I won the next one, though. It wasn’t particularly difficult or remarkable in any way.
Wow. Unless the post-board games go much differently, I want to get paired against this every round even more than I want to get paired against G/W! I had Premature Burial in my board last time because it seemed like the best way to blunt both a Sliver offense and a U/G offense, but after playing these games, I think I’d rather have Sudden Death against both of them. I know U/G is boarding in countermagic, and Sudden Death really screws with those turns where they leave up countermagic mana to defend their guy, and then end up losing the guy and having countered nothing.
In my last article I said I was on the fence about bringing a Pact in against U/G. After one ten-game set in which Pact was nuts every time I drew it, I am convinced. The New Plan against U/G is as follows:
+2 Sudden Death
+1 Pact of Negation
+1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Next up is the new Sliver deck. A mana curve starting at one? In Time Spiral Block? Man! After watching this deck take down two MTGO Premier Events, I was pretty terrified... until I started this set off 5-0 as well. Actually, the point where I really got confident was game 3 of this set.
My opponent played turn 1 Virulent Sliver, turn 2 Virulent Sliver, turn 3 Firewake Sliver, bash. I untapped for my turn four with eight poison counters on the brain, and barely managed to reset with a Damnation. I wasn’t out of the woods yet, though, as my opponent fetched a third Virulent with Homing Sliver! Facing down even more poison counters, and with no blockers to speak of, I... oh right, I cast a Tendrils on it. I ended the game with eight poison counters (still) and tons of life. Nice deck, etc.
Two games later I was once again up 5-0 on the play against a deck I added Sudden Death to the main to combat. (In all fairness, it would have been 4-1 had I not done so, as there was one game where I needed to Teach for a three-mana removal spell to win, and had already cast my Slaughter Pact.)
Right, then. On to the recorded games. As I’ve already completed five games on the play, I’ll be on the draw for these just like I was against U/G.
Poison Sliver’s opening hand: One-lander; ship it. Keep Forest, Island, Gemstone Mine, Gemhide Sliver, Frenetic Sliver, Dormant Sliver.
Iron Man’s opener: Terramorphic Expanse, River of Tears, Island, Damnation, Mystical Teachings, Careful Consideration, Triskelavus. Nice! Keep.
PS: Island, go.
IM: Draw Prismatic Lens, play Terramorphic Expanse.
PS: Draw a second Gemhide Sliver. Play Forest and Gemhide. End step, Expanse is cracked for Swamp.
IM: Draw Venser. Play River of Tears and Prismatic Lens. By the way, always play River of Tears over a basic early on. River is best when it’s already in play, as you can float a Blue before playing your land for the turn if Blue is what you need, but it never taps for Blue when you’re playing it as your land for the turn. Obviously it always taps for Black in the early game, unless you’re missing a land drop.
PS: Draw Frenetic Sliver, play Gemstone Mine, and play the Frenetic. Beat with Gemhide.
IM: Draw Tendrils of Corruption. So now Frenetic Sliver is out, and I have to get rid of it. The best way to do that is Sudden Death, and if I’m going to Teach for Sudden Death, I should do it right now. If I wait for the opponent’s turn, it could get Delayed, and I certainly don’t want that. Teach for Sudden Death and pass.
PS: Draw Screeching Sliver, play it, play a backup Frenetic, attack with the first Frenetic, and pass. Opponent is now at 17.
IM: Draw Urza’s Factory. Now that he has two Frenetics, Sudden Death won’t get me out of my predicament. My new strategy is to try and catch one of the Frenetics with Damnation, and then Sudden Death the other. Play Factory and Damnation. Gemhide and one of the Frenetics lose their flips and die, leaving Screeching Sliver and the other Frenetic in play. Seems fine to me.
PS: Draw Gemhide Sliver. Attack with Screeching and Frenetic, then play Gemhide.
IM: Draw Prismatic Lens. I have several options here. With five mana out and Prismatic Lens in hand, I can play Lens and Venser, Lens and Tendrils (for one, as I don’t have Urborg yet), Lens and Careful Consideration, or Lens and Sudden Death. As I’m at 14, facing down 4 points of damage, and holding Triskelavus, there’s an excellent argument for casting Consideration here. If I find two lands, I can play one this turn and another next turn, giving me eight mana for Triskelavus-plus-token. That’s a pretty hardcore board position against Slivers, but if he has Delay, I’ve spent an awful lot of time doing nothing to affect the board. On the other hand, if I Careful into Urborg, then I don’t really care about Delay; I can just cast Sudden Death followed by Damnation or Tendrils as a test spell, and then Triskelavus once one of those has drawn out the countermagic. If all that fails, I might even just start creating Factory tokens and blocking, because I’ll be at eight mana. All of these options sound better than just casting a random removal spell here, so I’m going for Lens and Consideration. Consideration sees Extirpate, 2x Damnation, Swamp. I pitch Venser and Extirpate, and play the Swamp.
PS: Draw the fourth Gemhide. Bleh. Play it, and hit for four with the team.
IM: Draw Urborg. I had a good turn here before I drew that, but now it’s even better. Sudden Death the Frenetic, play Urborg, and play Damnation.
PS: Draw Forest, play it, and Gemhide.
IM: Draw Careful Consideration. Play Triskelavus.
His hand is Dormant Sliver and his board is Gemhide Sliver; you can imagine how that stacks up to active Triskelavus. The Dormant doesn’t draw him into the Super Nuts, so I win.
PS’s opening hand: Terramorphic Expanse, Island, Screeching Sliver, Gemhide Sliver, Two-Headed Sliver, Firewake Sliver, Frenetic Sliver. Keep!
IM’s opening hand: 2x Tolaria West, Urza’s Factory, Logic Knot, Pact of Negation, Tendrils of Corruption, Korlash. Interesting. If I keep this hand, I basically have to topdeck a Blue source or an Urborg before turn 3 or else the hand’s a wreck because I have to play both Tolarias (and leave my Korlash and Tendrils without Urborgs) or else miss my fourth land drop because I’m holding one Tolaria back. If I do one of those two things, though, it’s perfectly solid. I have 3 Island, 2 Tolaria West, 4 Terramorphic Expanse, 4 River of Tears, 4 Swamp, Vesuva, and 4 Prismatic Lens left in my deck to do that with. 22 out of 53 cards are outs for me here? In three draw steps? I’ll keep on those odds.
PS: Terramorphic Expanse, go.
IM: Draw another Logic Knot. Play Tolaria West and pass. End step, Expanse is cracked for Forest.
PS: Draw Virulent Sliver. Interesting! Now I can play either Gemhide or Virulent plus Screeching. I think it’s better to develop here than to go for Turbo Poison, because poison is an all-or-nothing deal. If I play Virulent and Screeching now, I’ll get a couple of hits in for sure... but four poison counters don’t do anything. It seems better to play Gemhide into Firewake and Virulent, followed by Frenetic and Screeching a turn later, presenting lethal poison in two swings. Gemhide it is.
IM: Draw Damnation. Not there yet; still need another land. Play Urza’s Factory and pass.
PS: Draw Gemhide Sliver. Play Firewake Sliver and tap it to summon Virulent Sliver. Attack with Virulent.
IM: Draw Korlash. We are officially Not There. I can’t miss my third land drop, so I have to play the other Tolaria West and pass.
PS: Draw Dormant Sliver. Tap Forest and Island (still my only two lands) and Gemhide for Frenetic. Tap Firewake and Virulent for another Gemhide, and then Frenetic for Screeching. Then tap Screeching and the new Gemhide for Two-Headed Sliver. Attack with Two-Headed Sliver and pass. The opponent now has 2 poison counters. Nice freaking turn!
IM: Draw Tendrils of Corruption. Still haven’t seen a fourth land. It’s basically over unless I rip Urborg next turn and win a lot of Frenetic flips. Discard Pact of Negation.
PS: Draw Gemhide Sliver. That’s lucky number eight! This attack would be lethal, except that he is hit by Logic Knot. Opponent is now at nine poison counters.
IM: Draw Terramorphic Expanse. Lose!
That brings us to 6-1. Had to happen sooner or later. Even though it didn’t work out for me, I don’t think that opening hand was a bad keep. If I have a 40% chance on each of three draw steps to hit the land I need to make the hand strong, I think shipping it back is too greedy.
PS’s opening hand: Terramorphic Expanse, Island, Gemstone Mine, Screeching, Gemhide, Homing, Dormant. Keep.
IM’s opener: Tolaria West, Swamp, Lens, Slaughter Pact, 2x Korlash, Venser. Seems fine. Keep.
PS: Island, Screeching Sliver.
IM: Draw Careful Consideration, play Tolaria West.
PS: Draw Homing Sliver. Play Gemstone Mine and Gemhide. Beat for one.
IM: Draw Urborg. Is nice. (See why I play four of these?) Play it, and Lens.
PS: Draw another Gemhide. Straight beatdown is pretty much out of the question with a hand of 2x Homing and Dormant, so going the card-drawing route seems better. Play Terramorphic Expanse and Dormant. Draw Virulent, play it, and Dormant is killed with Slaughter Pact in response so that I don’t draw a card.
IM: Pay for Slaughter Pact, draw Pact of Negation, play Swamp
PS: Draw another Dormant. Now that I have Virulent, everything has changed. I can use Homing to get Virulent and attack for 4 poison counters immediately, with the threat of 8 more on the table for next turn. If he has Damnation, I can rebuild with Dormant later. That seems excellent; I do it. Opponent is now at 18 life with 4 Poison counters.
IM: Draw Damnation. Play it and pass.
PS: Draw Forest. Play it, and Gemhide.
IM: Draw Prismatic Lens. Play Korlash.
PS: Draw Firewake. Play Dormant. In response, the opponent goes for the cute (but quite strong) play of casting Pact of Negation on the Dormant, and activating Korlash’s Grandeur in order to afford the upkeep cost.
IM: Tap out to pay for Pact of Negation. Draw Tendrils of Corruption. Attack with 5/5 Korlash.
PS: Draw Grove of the Burnwillows. Play it, and Firewake Sliver. Attack with Firewake and Gemhide. Opponent is now at 16.
IM: Draw Careful Consideration. I actually like this board a lot, and am most interested in preserving it by using Venser as a Remand. I’ll beat for another five and play Prismatic Lens.
PS: Draw Dormant Sliver. Dormant and Firewake are a nice team, and I don’t see Damnation happening with Korlash on the table; swing for two and cast Dormant. It is Vensered.
IM: Draw Tolaria West. Casting Tendrils here doesn’t do much good, and I really want to find a Logic Knot or Sudden Death to lock up the win. I’ll go for Careful Consideration. Draw Tolaria West, Logic Knot (ding!), Vesuva, River of Tears. Pitch Vesuva and Tolaria West, play River of Tears with Prismatic Lens and Swamp open, and smash for eight with Korlash and Venser.
PS: Draw Delay. Not the droids I was looking for. Lose.
The next game is a mull to five for Slivers, and I win easily. The last one of the maindeck set sees me cast turn 3 Venser to slow things down, then clear the board with Damnation, then race the reinforcement Slivers with Triskelavus.
Two 9-1s against two different decks is awesome, but take these results with a grain of salt. For one, a seasoned U/B Teachings veteran like myself playing against a novice U/G - and especially against a novice Slivers player - skews things in my advantage. For another, I was lucky to get manascrewed in no more than one of ten games, twice. I generally expect to lose one or two of ten games to manascrew or flood, and the fact that I only stalled on lands one time in both, and won all the others is pretty ridiculous — even with 27 land and 4 Prismatic Lens.
Even with these disclaimers in mind, I still don’t think U/G or Poison Slivers are anything to write home about. As far as I can tell, they fold to Teachings just as much as anything else does, and I don’t see anything in their sideboards changing that. Slivers has the ever-scary Boom/Bust, but only 23 lands — four of which are Gemstone Mines! Really, the only way they can ever cast it is if they have Gemhide Sliver out, so the only time I need to worry about it is when that guy’s on the table, and removing him removes the threat of Bust.
The New Plan against Slivers is:
+2 Sudden Death
+2 Serrated Arrows
+1 Pact of Negation
Serrated Arrows makes the cut in my new board because I don’t need the extra slots against U/G, and because it’s good against both Slivers and G/W. It’s going to be a three-for-one every time it sticks against Slivers, and G/W’s trump creatures — Mire Boa and Whirling Dervish — die a horrible death to it. (If Dervish gets a counter before I play the Arrows, a Damnation or Spin into Myth is necessary instead, but Arrows will still mop up all the topdecked ones. Well, okay, it won’t kill all of them if the opponent boarded in — and drew — Disenchant or Harmonic Sliver, in which case it will just ace something and then die the honorable death of a two-for-one.)
The New Plan against G/W:
While we’re at it, the New Pickles Plan is:
-1 Spin into Myth
-1 Haunting Hymn
So there you have it! An updated list, a dash of play-by-play action, and a handful of new sideboarding strategies. That ought to do it for this week.
Out of curiosity, are readers more interested in Time Spiral Block right now or Tenth Edition? I keep reading Tenth articles and thinking “There’s no X in P.T.Q.” but I have to recognize that a lot of readers are more into Standard than they are the current PTQ format. If you’ve got a preference for Standard or Block for next week’s article, let me know in the forums!
Until next time,