Tezz Gifts

Last week, I tested my favorite Modern decks to prepare for a local PPTQ. Perhaps I was too picky. Junk felt too draw-dependant, Delver too matchup-dependant. Twin is my usual fallback, but I couldn’t buy a win in my last-minute testing. Finally, after not touching Tezz Gifts for over a year, I slapped it together at 3 in morning and made a few updates.

The deck performed well, 5-1-1’ing into the Top 8 before losing a close match in the semifinals. Since then, I streamed it some, cashed a few Dailies, and received a slew of questions. Here are the answers:

FAQ

Why not a Gifts package of 1 Wrath, 1 Day of Judgment, 1 Supreme Verdict, and 1 Damnation?

The original list ran a split of sweepers. Back then, Deathrite Shaman was a thing, and there were times when you didn’t want to Gifts for Unburial Rites. Against a board of Deathrite and some other pressure, it made sense to tutor up a Wrath package.

Now, there’s only one deck with a few Scavenging Oozes. In general, if you’re Gifts’ing for a sweeper it’s going to be Elesh Norn + Unburial Rites. After naturally drawing the wrong sweeper a few times, I decided to swap out the package. If the Wraths are mostly just there to keep me from dying on turn three (when Gifts might be too slow), then I want to make sure that it actually sweeps the board instead of getting blown out by Golgari Charm or Welding Jar.

Why Wrath over Supreme Verdict?

Supreme Verdict is a great card, the problem is that it’s much harder to cast than Wrath of God.

That said, there are metagames where Supreme Verdict is worth it, specifically when aggressive blue decks like Delver and Merfolk are popular. With Delver at an all-time low, I don’t like it but could see that changing down the line.

What is Tezzeret doing in this deck?

Tezz attacks from a different angle than the Gifts package. The opponent might have an answer to Gifts but be cold to a 5/5 every turn, and in some matchups the uptick is very good. They both fit the shell, benefitting from the artifact acceleration and control elements.

There are a few tricks with Tezzeret. Often, turning Darksteel Citadel into a 5/5 indestructible is enough to win, especially when paired with Wrath of God to clear away blockers. (Note: the indestructible is also good with Ghost Quarter, letting you “fetch” a basic).

Tezzeret is one of the reasons to run Inkmoth Nexus, as it gives the deck a two-shot win condition that can kill out of nowhere. The interaction is a bit counterintuitive if you’ve never seen it before, but basically Inkmoth’s ability ends at end of turn but Tezzeret’s ability lasts permanently. So if you activate Inkmoth and then make it a 5/5 you can hit your opponent for 5 poison, and at end of turn it’ll lose infect and flying but still be a 5/5. If you activate Inkmoth again, it’ll regain infect and flying but lose the 5/5, so to two-shot someone you need to keep Tezzeret around or play out another one.

Tezzeret is at its best in planeswalker wars. If the opponent goes Liliana + uptick on an open board there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to just eat it, leaving them with a ‘walker and a 5/5 to deal with. It’s the same story against Karn + downtick, though it is a bit worse against Ugin simply because of the sheer mass of loyalty that the Spirit Dragon comes down with. On the plus side, your 5/5s are colorless, so there is a chance to grind.

Is this deck well positioned?

Yes. There are decks that fold to Iona, and there are decks that fold to Elesh Norn, and we play both.

We can fall back on generally good control cards, with sweepers and planeswalkers and Wurmcoil Engines, like Tron but less of a glass cannon. While we don’t crush the fair decks as badly, we do beat decks that Tron is cold to like Twin, Infect, Affinity, and Burn.

What are the bad matchups?

You’re more likely to lose to a misplay or a stumble than a bad matchup. Fortunately, the deck is quite powerful, and it’s not uncommon to win a match after throwing a game away.

The most difficult matchups have either pressure + counters (Merfolk, Delver), or pressure + reach (Zoo).

Merfolk and Delver are dangerous because they get in large amounts of early damage and have counters for sweepers and Vapor Snags for Wurmcoil Engines. Between the two, I’d rather face Delver because our spot removal is better and Elesh Norn can at least clear the board.

On paper, I thought the Zoo matchup might be fine since we have this nice Wrath into Wurmcoil Engine curve, but that’s not actually very good against Zoo, a deck that gets in early damage before finishing you off with reach. Similarly, Tron has a rough time with this matchup, and that deck has a similar control plan.

Unlike Affinity, Zoo isn’t cold to Elesh Norn.

It seems like Burn would be a rough matchup in the abstract, but it’s weak to specific cards like Iona, Timely Reinforcements, and Leyline of Sanctity, all of which combine to create a reasonable anti-Burn game plan. I focused on fixing this matchup because I tend to face Burn at least once an event while other troublesome matchups are more rare.

The maindeck Timely Reinforcements have been solid. Against other decks with reach, dropping to six can give them a sort of inevitability even after you’ve stabilized the board. Timely gives you something to do besides waiting to get burned out. In grindy matchups, the tokens can matter by shutting down cards like Liliana of the Veil or ending Snapcaster Mage beats.

Tips on Sideboarding?

There are some cards in the main deck that are more or less dead in various matchups. Wrath of God, Timely Reinforcements, and any of the creatures can be cut completely in the right matchup. It’s more rare, but sometimes Path to Exile is bad too. Most of the sideboard is there to fill in for potentially dead maindeck cards.

If you’re at a loss for what to cut, you can always shave Tezzeret, though I don’t like cutting it completely because there’s a risk of running low on threats.

While the extra Unburial Rites is at its best against countermagic, I leave it in against everyone so that I can Gifts for it even if I naturally draw it. Sometimes, you don’t have a fifth mana source or maybe you lack black mana.

Celestial Purge is mostly there for Liliana decks, but I board it in against Twin as well, even though good Twin opponents will board out some number of Splinter Twins. Blood Moon and Keranos aren’t big enough concerns on their own, but there’s enough overlap to make Purge generally useful.

Blood Moon in particular is beatable with the eight mana rocks (be sure to fetch the basic Swamp!), though shutting down Inkmoth Nexus makes us weak to Vendilion Clique beats. Sometimes, artifact hate combines with Moon to shut us down.

Caleb Durward