Let me be honest with you guys. I fully expected this to be the article about how I won Grand Prix Lille by dredging all the Amalgams on turn 2. It turns out that the number of dredged Amalgams at Grand Prix Lille by Marijn Lybaert was 0. And that the number of matches I won at Grand Prix Lille was close to that amount (it was 2). So what happened?

Leading up to the Grand Prix, I was totally set on Dredge. When packing for summer holidays (which was 2 weeks before the GP and I did not return home before the tournament), I decided not to take any other cards because I was 100% sure I was going to play Dredge.

It was that same weekend that literally EVERYONE started talking about Dredge. Not only were people talking about it, the deck itself was also winning tournaments here and there, with a version that I believe to be inferior to the one I posted here. Unfortunately, the version that was being played had 4 Leyline of the Void in the sideboard, so unless I adapted my own sideboard, I’d have a very bad matchup against it. As a result of people talking about and playing Dredge, everyone started adding hate to their main deck and sideboard. Whereas before people would have 2, 3 hate pieces max, now people would go out of their way and add as many Nihil Spellbombs, Grafdigger’s Cages, Anger of the Gods, and Relic of Progenituses as they could. At one point I even saw an R/G Valakut deck with 4 Anger of the Gods and 4 Relic of Progenitus between main and sideboard.

It was at that point that I chickened out.

chickenboy

Instead of sticking to my guns, I went back to an old love of mine, Infect. The result was pretty poor. I must have used all my luck in the trial on Friday, going 4-0 against Naya Chord of Calling, Jund, Jund, and Affinity. I was feeling confident with my choice at that time, even when I noticed that the room was full of Jund, a matchup I knew not to be the greatest for Infect. But if I could beat it twice in the trial, I could surely beat it in the tournament… right?

It turned out I couldn’t. I dropped at 4-3 (including the 2 byes I had won on Friday), losing to Jund twice and once to Jeskai Control, while beating 1-drop Zoo and Burn. Most games were very close, but I pretty much ended up losing them all. The worst part about all this is that I only lost to good matchups for Dredge. But that’s how it goes sometimes…

Do I think Infect was a bad choice? Not necessarily (after all, it won the Grand Prix). But it is a deck with a lot of variance. I’ve noticed that with Infect, a lot of games are decided on your last 2 draws. I’ve had many games where a pump spell on my last turn would have resulted in a win instead of a loss (or vice versa). With 16 pump spells, you end up on the right side of things quite often. This makes it so when playing Infect, one of the keys to learn is to give yourself as many draws as possible, while playing around the cards you think your opponent has in hand. It’s a tough balance though, because you don’t want to overdo it and give your opponent the time to draw that removal spell you assumed he was already holding. It takes practice, and sometimes you’ll just end up making the wrong choice. When faced with the decision of whether or not to play around a certain card, I noticed that asking myself the following 2 questions really help:

  1. Did my opponent have the opportunity to play that certain card before, or is this the first chance they have to play it? Or is there anything that indicates that they’re holding the certain card?
  2. Can I play around the card next turn? Or do I still lose to it?

Of course these two questions won’t solve every problem. Sometimes your opponent just draws the card. Sometimes there is just no way to play around it. But it’s a start.
Anyway, enough about my own tournament.

Luckily (for you), I’m not a sore loser. At least not when you give me a couple of days to get over these nasty topdecks, horrible mana floods, the worst possible draws and unlucky pairings… f***@!+=!!(#$(*@*&

So instead of continuing this loser’s report, I’ve got some winner’s advice for all of you! You see, with 3 Modern Grand Prix being played on the same weekend, there’s a ton of stuff to analyze. I could talk about the metagame, the decks that did well, those that didn’t, or the brews that surprised everyone, but this is all stuff you could do yourself, right? And if you don’t feel like doing it, there are plenty of people already doing it for you.

So instead of analyzing all this information, I reached out to the finalists of all 3 Grand Prix, and asked them if they would like to share their sideboard plans against the 7 best performing archetypes of the 3 Grand Prix (Affinity, Infect, Bant Eldrazi, (Naya) Burn, Jund, R/G Tron and Death Shadow’s Suicide Zoo). Sideboarding is, and remains, one of the most important things in Magic. Especially in a format like Modern, where a lot of decks are easily hated out by a single card, having the right sideboard plan for as many decks as possible is crucial. With so many decks around, you can’t really have too many cards that are only good against 1 archetype (there are, of course, exceptions like Shatterstorm). Versatility is key. Some cards might even surprise you and end up being good against a deck it wasn’t meant for (for example: Ancient Grudge vs. Infect, Obstinate Baloth vs. Dredge, etc.).

I was able to reach 4 of the 6 finalists in time and they were all so kind to share everything they knew. Underneath you can find the sideboard plan for 4 different decks:

  • Infect (by Meciek Berger—winner of Grand Prix Lille)
  • Naya Burn (by Wu Kon Fai—finalist at Grand Prix Guangzhou)
  • Red-Green Valakut (by Rob Pisane—finalist at Grand Prix Indianapolis)
  • Death Shadow’s Suicide Zoo (by Thomas Hendriks—finalist at Grand Prix Lille)

The part on Infect will be a little bit longer, as it was the deck I was playing myself and because Meciek Berger was generous enough to also share some general advice on top of his sideboard plan.

Infect Sideboard Plan

By Meciek Berger, Winner of Grand Prix Lille

Meciek’s deck list can be found here.

Vs. Affinity

Out

In

All games against Affinity should be rather close, but Infect usually kills faster. The key card in this matchup is definitely Blighted Agent. It’s also one of the main reasons why there is a second Distortion Strike in the sideboard.

After sideboard, you don’t want to use the Nature’s Claim too fast. If you can, try to keep it for Ghirapur Aether Grid or Blood Moon, as both these cards are hard to beat. Twisted Image is great as it kills Ornithopter, Signal Pest, Spellskite and sometimes prevents damage by switching the power and toughness of a creature with Cranial Plating on it. Spellskite is a good blocker, and don’t forget that it can take modular counters from Arcbound Ravager. It also blocks Etched Champion if necessary, just like Inkmoth Nexus does!

Vs. Infect

Out

In

In this matchup, playing a defensive game will be more effective than being too aggressive. You don’t want to be overly aggressive and hope your opponent doesn’t have it. Usually it is better to stay back and block at that point. Of course, this changes when your opponent has a Blighted Agent in play, which you should kill whenever possible (sometimes that means waiting a turn so you can protect your Dismember with a Spell Pierce). Vines of Vastwood is definitely an all-star as it not only protects your creatures, but it can also be used on your opponents creatures to “counter” a pump spell. Remember that poison damage is not combat damage, so trying to pump your creature so that it survives combat is not an option (the -1/-1 counters will stay on it). On the play, you could keep the Distortion Strike instead of a Spell Pierce.

Vs. Bant Eldrazi

Out

In

Once again a race, but one you should win fairly often, especially if you can kill their turn-1 Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch with Twisted Image or Dismember. Distortion Strike helps quite a lot as well.

Kitchen Finks seems tempting, but it’s slower than Thought-Knot Seer and doesn’t help a great deal against Reality Smasher. Spell Pierce and Dispel will often be dead cards and with Vines of Vastwood and Spellskite (which also works against Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope), you should be fine. In games 2 and 3, be aware of Engineered Explosives!

Vs. (Naya) Burn

On the Play

Out

In

On the Draw

Out

In

This is one of your worst matchups, and it doesn’t get much better after sideboard when they have Path to Exile and Deflecting Palm (which doesn’t target, so Vines of Vastwood doesn’t help). Many people run more Kitchen Finks in the sideboard, but it’s pretty much the only matchup where you really want them, and they also die to Path to Exile. Nature’s Claim can kill Eidolon of the Great Revel and can kill your own Spellskite or Inkmoth Nexus if you need the life.

Vs. Jund

Out

In

This is another tough matchup where you have to play very carefully. Spell Pierce is better than Dispel because of Liliana, Damnation, and Night of Souls’ Betrayal. Spellskite is not great, as it dies after one removal (and to Ancient Grudge), but sometimes that’s all it takes. Inkmoth Nexus is your best friend, so try to protect it whenever you can. Unfortunately, they bring in Fulminator Mage and sometimes even Blood Moon. Taking out Dismember is kind of a gamble because Grim Lavamancer is tough to beat, but when you want the game to end as quickly as possible, you don’t want to risk drawing dead cards early on (some goes for Kitchen Finks).

Vs. R/G Tron

Out

In

This is the matchup you want to face all day. One defensive spell (like Spell Pierce) can win the whole game. Even against their best draw (turn-3 Karn), you have outs like Vines of Vastwood, Spell Pierce, or Spellskite. Keep Warping Wail, Lightning Bolt, and Firespout in mind after sideboard. Some people also have Platinum Angel, in which case you want to bring in some Nature’s Claim.

Vs. Death Shadow’s Suicide Zoo

Out

In

This is a strange matchup as you basically have 5 extra Infect creatures (Noble Hierarch and Dryad Arbor have “Infect” when your opponent deals himself on average 10 damage a game). It is one of the reasons why you don’t want to fetch too fast. Fetching a Dryad Arbor for Distortion Strike will actually win you quite a few games.

They have quite a few answers (Thoughtseize, Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and Inquisition of Kozilek) with a fast clock, so most games should go fast but in the end I think you are slightly favored. Spell Pierce helps quite a bit and so does Vines of Vastwood (to save you from Temur Battle Rage or Dismember). On the play you could consider adding another Spell Pierce instead of the Distortion Strike.

Some things to consider:

  • Wild Defiance: It seems fine against Jund and Nahiri Jeskai but will probably be too slow and doesn’t work well with Spell Pierce.
  • Moving Spellskite to the main deck: As you can see, against most decks you bring in your 2 Spellskites, but they are mostly a reaction to them bringing in more removal as well.
  • Thing in the Ice: Great against Death Shadow, Burn, Chord Toolbox, and Merfolk, but sometimes it’s just a slow Dismember.
  • Sylvan Scrying: I think it’s too defensive for the current metagame. It’s nice to be able to search for a pump spell (Pendelhaven), a creature (Inkmoth), or sometimes even a singleton Ghost Quarter from the sideboard, but you don’t want to be too defensive in an offensive deck.
  • As a general rule when sideboarding: when you’re taking out 5+ Phyrexian mana spells (Gitaxian Probe and Mutagenic Growth), you can easily take out 1 Become Immense. The same goes if you’re boarding in a lot of defensive spells (Spell Pierce, Dismember, Spellskite).

Naya Burn Sideboard Plan

By Wu Kon Fai, Finalist at Grand Prix Guangzhou

Wu Kon Fai’s deck list can be found here.

Vs. Affinity

Out (On the Play)

Out (On the Draw)

In

Vs. Infect

Out

In

Vs. Bant Eldrazi

Out

In

Vs. (Naya) Burn

Out (On the Play)

Out (On the Draw)

In

Vs. Jund

Out (On the Play)

Out (On the Draw)

In

Vs. R/G Tron

Out

In

Vs. Death Shadow’s Suicide Zoo

Out

In

Red-Green Valakut Sideboard Plan

By Rob Pisane, Finalist at Grand Prix Indianapolis

Rob Pisano’s deck list can be found here.

Vs. Affinity

Out

In

Vs. Infect

Out

In

Vs. Bant Eldrazi

Out

In

Vs. (Naya) Burn

Out

In

Vs. Jund

Out

In

Vs. R/G Tron

Out

In

Vs. Death Shadow’s Suicide Zoo

Out

In

Death’s Shadow Zoo Sideboard Plan

By Thomas Hendriks, Finalist at Grand Prix Lille

Thomas Hendriks’ deck list can be found here.

Vs. Affinity

Out

In

Vs. Infect

Out

In

Vs. Bant Eldrazi

Out

In

Vs. (Naya) Burn

Out

In

Vs. Jund

Out

In

Vs. R/G Tron

Out

In

Vs. Death Shadow’s Suicide Zoo

Out

In

And with that I’ve come to the end of this article. I know at least one guy who’s going to be using one of these sideboard plans during the next WMCQ. If you guys like this type of article, please let me know in the comments as it might be something I’ll do again in the future.

Before I leave, I’d like to thank the 4 people who helped me out with this: Merciek Berger, Wu Kon Fai, Rob Pisane, and Thomas Hendriks. Next time we meet, I owe you one.