Hello. This is part 2 of the Merfolk in Modern article. Today I’ll talk about sideboarding against the most played deck in the format.

For the reference, here’s the deck list:

Jund

This matchup is very close and if you are up against a very skilled player, its probably a little bit in their favor. The most important cards are Liliana and Dark Confidant, especially when your opponent is on the play, because it lets them trade resources and still be up on cards.

If they don’t have it or you are on the play, you should usually win the attrition war because you are only playing 20 lands (4 of them Mutavaults), Adepts, and Kiras. Your best card is Master of Waves because they only have a few answers for it, and Dismember because it lets you kill Dark Confidant. Relic is also pretty important because it checks Tarmogoyf and sometimes when you are under the Liliana lock you can sacrifice it to draw two cards in one turn and ideally play 2 creatures and kill it next turn.

Some versions play Anger of the Gods or even Jund Charm in the main deck which is something you should definitely keep in mind. In this matchup it’s very important to know when to attack with Mutavault and when to keep it untapped against a possible edict from Liliana. Everything depends on the actual situation so I suggest just testing this matchup a bunch so you can get the right feel for it.

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After sideboard you really can’t afford to leave in any cards that don’t help you win the attrition war. Vial is bad because it doesn’t matter if you get ahead a little bit on tempo early if you then have a card that sits in play and doesn’t have an effect on the game. This matchup isn’t about being tricky with instant speed creatures, it’s about who has the last card in play after everything dies and trades. It can still be good against Liliana on the draw but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to leave them in the deck.

Remand is bad because they usually see it with discard and can easily play around it, not to mention being useless against cards like Abrupt Decay.

BG

This matchup is similar to Jund except that they don’t have access to Lightning Bolt and Anger of the Gods which means that it should favor you. They do play more removal like Dismember though, so they have more answers to Master of Waves. Don’t forget that they run Tectonic Edges so sometimes it’s worth it to not play your 4th land and give them a chance to destroy your Mutavault. They also sometimes run their own Mutavaults so it’s better to play Lord of Atlantis first and leave Master of the Pearl Trident for later because they will always kill your lords as soon as possible and you don’t want to die to a 3/3 islandwalking Mutavault.

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Kira isn’t nearly as important as it is against Jund because they run 4 Abrupt Decays and sometimes also a couple Drown in Sorrows.

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After sideboard it’s important to watch out for Drown in Sorrow so it’s often better to lead with a lord first instead of Adept. Spell Pierce might seem like a fine card to bring in here but the problem is that the game usually goes very long and it ends up being a dead draw later.

Twin

This is a very skill-intensive matchup that rewards the better player, though a little bit in our favor especially after sideboard.

It’s important to understand when it’s better to tap out and hope that don’t have the combo, and when to bluff. If you have three lands in play, a two-drop, Dismember/Vapor Snag and another land in hand, it’s generally better to just wait with your creature for next turn because if you pass the turn with one mana up they will just tap it with Pestermite/Deceiver Exarch and you will face a decision of whether to risk it or just kill their guy right away, which isn’t exactly a way how to win this matchup.

If you play correctly then Twin is basically UWR Control with way less removal. Often if you have an Adept and lord it’s better to not attack because you risk running into Deceiver Exarch, untap a land, Lightning Bolt your lord and block or Snapcaster + Bolt from the graveyard. The same holds true for attacking with Kira into a possible Pestermite or Vendilion Clique, you will have to judge yourself whether the possible 2 damage is worth it or not, although attacking is usually better because Kira isn’t that good, they can just target it with Pestermite/Exarch and then kill it. Most games don’t go very fast, you usually trade creatures for removal and keep mana up for Dismember/Vapor Snag until you get a window to resolve Master, which is usually game over because they don’t have a way to kill him.

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It might seem odd that I’m boarding out Vial, but Twin these days isn’t just all about combo, after sideboard they usually transform into a U/R control deck with a lot of removal so Vial just isn’t needed, especially when you side in so many non-creature spells. Some people also bring in Ancient Grudge against you.

On the draw it’s completely different, not only do you have an extra creature and they have one less removal (ideally), but you also can’t tap out that much so Vial is important to keep pressuring them. If you are up against the version with green then bring Tidebinders in as well.

UWR Control

At first I thought that this was a very tough matchup, but the more I play it the more I think it favors you. They are slightly advantaged in game 1 but you improve a lot after sideboard. Their Revelation is pretty bad and you are bringing in 4 Tectonic Edges. In combination with Spreading Seas you can often cut them from one color. This matchup requires a lot of experience because there are a lot of cards you should play around and it all changes every turn. They have Spell Snare, Cryptic, Snapcaster, Electrolyze, Anger, and Verdict which are all great against you. Your best card is definitely Aether Vial because it lets you play around countermagic and sweepers.

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Cutting lords probably seems crazy but you don’t really have much of a choice. They aren’t that great here because all your creatures almost always die anyway so it will often only be a Grizzly Bear.

Maybe you want to cut an Island but in a matchup where you try to play around a lot of cards, destroy their lands with Tectonic Edge, and hold up countermagic, you don’t mind drawing an extra land, not to mention that it’s really hard to flood with 4 Edges anyway.

UWR Aggro

This matchup is very different than against the control version and the games reflect that. They don’t give you nearly as much time so you can’t just sit around and assemble the perfect hand. It doesn’t mean that you should attack into a potential Snapcastered Lightning Bolt or run two of your guys into Electrolyze, but you can’t wait forever. They usually don’t run any sweepers so you don’t have to be afraid of overcommitting. Sometimes it’s important to keep up mana for Remand when you expect a Geist of Saint Traft, especially if you have a Vial in play.

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As I mentioned, you don’t want to mess around too much. Seas is much worse because it’s basically cycling for 2 mana, Tectonic Edge is also bad because its value is in preventing your opponent from playing more expensive spells and here you are basically just hoping it would color-screw them. Dismember and Snag aren’t great either but at least they are fine answers to Delver and Young Pyromancer.

Pod

This matchup got a lot worse because the new versions run the Angel combo instead of Melira so you can’t just get them with Relic, and they also have more removal.

The transition from Melira to Angel is also the reason why there is a 3rd Dismember in the main instead of a 2nd Relic. It might be possible that the 4th Dismember is just better than a Vapor Snag because UWR isn’t that popular lately, and it’s great against everything else. This matchup is also very hard to play because it requires perfect knowledge of your opponent’s deck (not their exact 75, but all the possible cards they can have or tutor for) and playing around a lot of one-ofs. As I mentioned earlier it’s generally better to lead with a lord instead of an Adept because of Murderous Redcap and Orzhov Pontiff. Try to build a good board position and attack when you can’t get blown out by Abrupt Decay or Chord for Shriekmaw/Pontiff etc. Often it pays off to wait for Spreading Seas but keep in mind they can still destroy it in combat.

Master is very strong here because they don’t have many answers for him, especially if you can wait until you have 2 of them and a Vial on 4. Killing mana guys with Dismember on turn one is usually fine on the draw because you don’t want to be too far behind but it’s probably better to save it for their combo when you are on the play.

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Scapeshift

Game 1 is pretty bad because your clock isn’t usually fast enough to kill them before they can resolve Scapeshift. Drawing Remand helps a lot, but they still have Cryptic to tap your team and a lot of removal. If you have a chance to trade Adept for Sakura Tribe-Elder or counter Search for Tomorrows with Cursecatcher, definitely do that, because Scapeshift doesnt have enough to win an attrition war against you, they can only win with the combo.

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Everything changes after sideboard. As I said, they can only combo you out and all their control cards are only meant to slow you down. They also need the full 8 lands for Scapeshift because you don’t take any damage from your lands, and you board in 4 Tectonic Edges and 5 additional counterspells. Spell Pierce doesn’t actually counter Scapeshift but it slows them down by countering their ramp, Anger, or Cryptic Command. One of your key cards is Master of Waves because they don’t have any removal for him so play accordingly and try to not run it into a potential Cryptic Command.

Living End

This is a solid matchup where game 1 can be pretty close if you don’t draw Remand, Relic, or 2 Cursecatchers. You usually have a fast clock and your opponent is forced to Living End relatively soon, which lets you sandbag something like Lord into Master or 2 lords and Vapor Snag to get ahead on board again.

If they Living End for the second time then all of your previously killed creatures come back, so don’t forget to sacrifice Cursecatcher even if they can pay the extra mana, unless you know that you will have a dominant board position even after it resolves and want to have an extra creature in the graveyard for another, future Living End.

Don’t give them too much time to find all the cascade spells, hitting them for 2 a turn isn’t going to accomplish much, so even if you sometimes have to tap out with a counter in hand it’s better to increase your clock and have a much higher chance to win with only one counter, or if it means that they will have to go for a smaller Living End that you can beat.

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Zoo

This matchup used to be bad but it got a lot better because of Master of Waves. They can still kill it with Path to Exile but they don’t always have one or might have already used it on a different creature. Kira also helps a lot in this matter. Their mana base is very fragile so sometimes Spreading Seas will give you a free win. It still probably favors them a bit before sideboard and is even post-board. One card you definitely don’t want to see from them is Fiery Justice.

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I think we are fast enough on the play to not get run over and the game is more about attrition so you don’t want to have a dead card like Vial, while on the draw you are trying to catch up so you still need it.

Affinity

As I mentioned in the first part, with this build Affinity is pretty much an unwinnable matchup. You just have to hope they have a bad hand and you nut-draw them. If you don’t like it, then feel free to change the sideboard accordingly, but you will eventually have to give up on something anyway. I believe this gives you an overall higher win percentage against the field. You usually want to save removal for a creature with Cranial Plating.

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GW Hate Bears

This is a very good matchup, both decks are similar but your creatures are way more powerful, not to mention that you have Master of Waves which breaks parity. Spreading Seas is also very good here but watch out for a potential Flickerwisp if they have Vial on 3 because it can blink their land with the Seas on it and you can get blown out. Some versions also run Restoration Angel. Use the trick I mentioned last time with activating your Mutavaults in their upkeep if you are planning to block with it and have Kira in play because they have 4 Ghost Quarters.

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Pretty much the only way how to lose this matchup is Choke, which is the reason behind the two legendary lands in the deck, so play them before Islands, and if you draw a Vial on turn 2 then play it instead of a 2-drop. This is often the right play in other matchups as well, but it’s twice as important here because of Choke. If you suspect they might have a full playset of them then you can bring in some Spell Pierces as well.

RG Tron

Game one favors them, after sideboard you pretty much can’t lose. Always play Lord on turn 2 instead of Adept because of Pyroclasm. Cursecatcher is one of your best cards here, especially when you are on the play. Their best card is Oblivion Stone which is the reason they are favored game 1. You usually can’t kill them before they are able to activate it, which also destroys all the Spreading Seas.

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Watch out for Nature’s Claim and Combust after sideboard. It might seem like your opponent is nowhere close to assembling Tron but he can easily destroy your Spreading Seas at the end of turn, play another Tron land and blow up the board with Oblivion Stone or All is Dust. Combust can kill your lord and make the rest of your creatures vulnerable to Pyroclasm. Don’t let them get you with any of that and you should be fine.

Burn

Burn is a close matchup that depends a lot on who wins the die roll. Try to be as fast as possible and make sure to play around Goblin Guide off the top if you have lethal next turn and can afford to leave a blocker up.

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Bringing in 1 Tectonic Edge is fine because you have a lot of cards to take out and it can at least help you curve out. Watch out for Searing Blood and Ensnaring Bridge, sometimes they also have Volcanic Fallout or Flamebreak. Spreading Seas is only good gainst the 3-color version on the play. If you see a lot of Grim Lavamancers and Hellspark Elementals, then leave Relic in the deck.

I’d like to thank Petr Sochurek again for helping me understand how to play all the tough matchups and his help with this article. Watch out for this guy, he just Top 16’d the first PT he played in and will be in Portland as well.

Hall of Fame

Let me start by saying that I will never vote for anyone who was proven guilty of repeatedly cheating people. If it was up to me, then anyone who got banned twice would never be allowed to play Magic again. You got a second chance and you blew it, go do something else. I only started playing in 2003 (man, time flies by really fast) so I don’t know if rumors about certain people being shady at some point in their careers are true or not, but if you got banned by the DCI then there probably was a very good reason for it.

My stand on Wafo is that he didn’t cheat anyone, WoTC just screwed things up with their godbooks. I’m actually glad that it happened (the existence of godbook revealed to the public, not Wafo getting banned) because it was creating an unfair advantage for a few players while the rest of the world didn’t even know about. I like Tomoharu Saito as a person, he’s always good times and a lot of fun and he’s doing a lot of good for the Japanese community now by running his 300 person store in Tokyo, but I also like my mom and try to do nice things for her but I don’t think that’s a good reason why I should get into Hall of Fame.

I waited for the last possible moment to see as many ballots as possible and decided on these 5 names. I really wish Marijn Lybaert would get in, he pretty much has the same results as Willy, but for some reason nobody wants to vote for him. He Top 8’d a Pro Tour for 4 straight years while never being one of the guys who plays Magic all day long. He has a job and a wife now and is still as passionate about Magic as he was 10 years ago, but time will only let him go to so many tournaments these days. Seeing him Top 8 the World Magic Cup and winning the Sunday Super Series last month was great and I really hope he gets that one more result everyone is asking him for because he’s probably the person who could use the lifetime invite the most and would really appreciate it. He’s the kind of person I would give spare keys from my apartment to. I’m probably a bit biased in this because he’s a good friend of mine and I know this isn’t the Hall of Trust or Hall of Nice Guys, but I just wanted to express how much of an impression he made on me over the years.

If he were on more ballots I would vote for him this year, but I decided to go with Shouta instead because even with the lack of Top 8s I believe he should be recognized as one of the game‘s greatest. As Frank Karsten mentioned in his Facebook post, one of the first things all the people from spectators to the coverage guys ask at every Magic tournament he attends is “What is Shouta playing?” which is pretty telling. He also plays blazingly fast while never making mistakes which is very impressive.

A lot has been said about Paul, Mihara, and Willy, these guys have been among the best in the world for a long period of time, they have the results despite not being able to devote to Magic as much as all the young kids with no jobs, and always play really well. I especially respect Paul for his sense of humor and great sportsmanship.

That said, I voted for Paul Rietzl, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Makihito Mihara, Willy Edel, and Shouta Yasooka.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to hang out with all of them, including the Japanese guys, many times over the last 10 years so maybe I’m biased because I like them, but I really think all of them should get in. I guess I’m from the group of people who would rather have the Hall be bigger than smaller. If it were just about absolutely exceptional playskill then there would be about 3-5 people. But even just as a big fan of Magic I think it’s good for the game if these guys get recognized as some of the very best to ever play.

That’s it for today, good luck if you are playing GP Boston, PT or GP Portland, and if you see me around feel free to come say hi or talk about anything.

I might take a break next week because things are a bit hectic now before the PT, but I’ll definitely have an article about M15 Limited ready for the week after that.

Thanks for reading,
Martin