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Sideboarding for Hammer Time


More people have been playing Hammer Time, as they should be. The deck is tier one, arguably tier zero and the Modern format's deck to beat. This article will give you sideboard tips along with the technology to overcome the strategies trying to stop you as well as tips for the mirror. We will begin with a list similar to the stock list, and I'll end with a meta variant for your consideration.

For a longer discussion of my card preferences, you can read my previous article on Hammer Time. In brief, I will say I believe many of the card choices in Hammer Time are due to inertia from copying decklists of challenge winners. Though it is great to try new cards like Ingenious Smith, you will want Kor Outfitter to pummel your nemesis, Mill.

Versus Mill

Even with a fast equip of Colossus Hammer, this is a tough matchup. People gunning for Hammer Time will reach to Mill. They had the advantage even before the printing of Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Since your deck traditionally has a collective mana cost of forty-one, this new sorcery could two-shot you.

When considering a difficult matchup, you always have to determine if it's worth fighting. Some pairings are so bad you are better off conceding them and dedicating sideboard spots to ones you can win. Also, Hammer Time is more or less a combo deck; those never want to sideboard too many cards for fear of diluting your core strength.

I believe we can beat Mill, but only if we change our maindeck. You'll note I added three Emeria's Call to the above list. Yes, this land can be painful, but the 7-drop is a necessary speed bump to Tasha's Hideous Laughter. The double-face cards increase your deck's collective mana cost by 50%. This change will give you a fighting chance to make it worthwhile to attempt to win post-board games. If you're not willing to add Emeria's Call, then don't bother with dedicated sideboard hate. It probably won't save you.

Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave

Versus Hammer Time

The mirrors are wild. They often are decided by a Colossus Hammer sneaking onto Inkmoth Nexus, and for that reason I like leaving an Ornithopter on defense. The second clearest path to victory is being first to start producing constructs from Urza's Saga. If you're on the play, I like minimal sideboarding. If you're on the draw, sideboard in a few more cards to try to slow down your like-minded foe.

On the play:


Players of Legacy may be familiar with Manriki-Gusari as a mirror-breaker for Death and Taxes. The difference here is that you may die before you can activate it, but also you have more ways to search for the equipment hate. For even more anti-mirror tech, look for my second decklist at the end of the article.

When you're on the backfoot on the draw, I want more removal. Make the additional changes below. Here also, Esper Sentinel is worse because the extra cards may not matter if your skull is getting beat in right now by a Colossus Hammer.

On the draw also swap:

Versus Murktide Regent Izzet

You have the advantage over Izzet decks in the maindeck. In post-board games, they may try to rain artifact hate down on you, but it's important to stay calm and not over-dilute our potent strategy with countermeasures. On the play, I would only side in Sanctifier en-Vec, which not only has protection from their removal but also hurts their graveyard. On the draw, I would give more respect to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer with removal.

On the play:

On the draw also swap:

Versus Lava Dart Prowess

As above, except take out the Memnite cards instead of the two Ornithopter.

Versus Rakdos Midrange

This foe is angling to knock you out with four maindeck Kolaghan's Command. If you expect more Rakdos Midrange than mirror matches or Mill, you may want the fourth Sanctifier en-Vec. That's not to say you should deploy two at a time to the battlefield. They are vulnerable to Engineered Explosives. Keep in your Pithing Needle for the same reason. Rakdos will also try to remove your key creatures with discard. But you know what they can't make you discard? Urza's Saga. Side in Expedition Map to chain them together. They can counter with Alpine Moon, in which case you can use the map to get your second White source. The artifact can't find Emeria's Call, but these grindy games may end in you casting that 7-drop.

Urza's Saga and Expedition Map]

Urza's Saga
Expedition Map

Versus Amulet Titan

Against any deck with Green you should expect to face Force of Vigor. It's good to prepare for it, emotionally. You shouldn't let the fear of it stop you from going for it and smashing face. If you have the Colossus Hammer and an equipper in hand, try not to also expose an Urza's Saga. Keep that as your backup plan.

Don't be overcautious against other fast decks like Amulet Titan. Here we are siding out Esper Sentinel not because Amulet doesn't play non-creature spells, but because drawing cards may not matter if we die too quickly. Also, our singleton Chalice of the Void may steal a game if they need to resolve Pact of the Titan.

Versus Crashing Footfalls

You may have noticed the absence of Drannith Magistrate in our sideboard. While this is a good tool against cascade decks with Crashing Footfalls, it's not one we need. Rhinos look small against an Ornithopter equipped with Colossus Hammer. It gets even worse for them when you add Urza's Saga and Shadowspear into the equation. Your enchantment land can tutor of Chalice of the Void on zero. Just make sure you deploy your Welding Jar first.

Versus Living End

Now this is a tough matchup, one best won with a lucky quick win. Adding more sideboard cards will only increase your win rate marginally, but we do at least have one Chalice of the Void. If more people play this archetype, you could consider adding Drannith Magistrate, or choosing a different deck.

Versus Yawgmoth

This is another scary one. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician can keep you from safely equipping a hammer then kill you next turn. This monster is one of the reasons you're playing maindeck Pithing Needle.

Grafdigger's Cage shuts down their entire deck; that's why we're playing it over other choices. You get the most utility out of sideboard cards you can tutor up. And remember, if they kill your cage you can replay it with Lurrus.

Versus Asmo Food


Here's the main reason for the maindeck Pithing Needle. Expect them to have bigger construct tokens than you. You could try to play a more grindy game with Seal of Cleansing, but I would prefer to focus on winning quickly.

Versus Chalice of the Void decks

Hammerites often ask what they should do against Chalice of the Void. It is a serious problem, sometimes. If you're on the play, your Colossus Hammer may already be on the battlefield. You can also slam it down through a chalice with the help of Stoneforge Mystic or Urza's Saga. As a failsafe, I would also side in a few pieces of flexible removal. Remember, you can spend two mana on Prismatic Ending and still exile a zero-cost permanent.

Versus Heliod Life

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

There's some talk that Heliod combo is a good meta call against Hammer Time. While I don't think that's true, I still expect more people to play this deck in paper. You don't have to fear infinite life when you can make an 11/11 Inkmoth Nexus against a deck with zero flying blockers. Use Expedition Map to search for the deadly land and Urza's Saga to find the map.

This meta deck yields the Mill sideboard plan to gain points in the mirror. While Magnetic Theft is a bad card against interactive matchups, it excels against opposing decks with Stoneforge Mystic. There's nothing so hilarious (and powerful) as stealing your foe's equipped Colossus Hammer at instant speed. I also want to seize a Kaldra Compleat to make a 5/7 indestructible Ornithopter.

Magnetic Theft

To better understand my preference for Aether Vial, you can read my previous article on Hammer Time. I do think Gemstone Caverns is worth two spots in the sideboard to regain tempo on the draw. Engineered Explosives is good against the mirror, chalice decks, and rhinos. This version of the deck can more consistently get a turn-three win, at the cost of being able to create constructs from Urza's Saga as often on turn two. Kor Duelist is also superior to Esper Sentinel in the mirror and against other combo decks like Living End. You may even be able to out-race Mill. One-shotting an opponent has its advantages, especially when the most popular removal spell is now a sorcery in Prismatic Ending.

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