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Sideboarding with Mastermind Ramp

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my Mastermind Ramp deck this past week. While people really enjoyed the list and tweaking numbers here and there, they were still left with one glaring question: “How do I Sideboard with the Mastermind Ramp deck?” This question was asked a lot more than anything else. I always go with the Occam’s Razor guideline, take out the bad cards in the matchup and bring in the cards that are good in the matchup. It’s simple enough, but sometimes it’s hard knowing what’s bad. I think people are tripping up over Mastermind's Acquisition. That card is getting in the way of how they Sideboard because they want “wish” targets. While I can’t write about the same deck every week, today I am touching back up on Mastermind Ramp. I will not only give you Sideboarding notes but I’m also going to give you my most up to date version of the deck. I love all the messages and tweets I’ve gotten, and the insane board states you guys have shown me with the deck. Keep those coming! In the meantime, let’s look at my current list.


After Asa Snyder showcased the deck at Grand Prix Memphis, I reached back out to him to try and find the most optimal list. We threw ideas back and forth and the thing we both agreed on is that we really wanted to play Profane Procession. We really wanted a constant way to exile creatures, and this card provides that. This is important against the god cards like Hazoret the Fervent, The Scarab God, and eternalize creatures. The only creature deck that I’ve had a tough time beating was the rg monsters deck and that’s because they ran eight eternalize creatures. Profane Procession solves all these problems as well as giving you a steady stream of threats when it becomes Tomb of the Dusk Rose. Just be careful of putting The Scarab God into play only to have your opponent kill it and then have it trigger to return to your opponent’s hand.

The two big win conditions in the deck right now are the two Carnage Tyrants. These can be anything from Zacama, Primal Calamity, Wildest Dreams, or Approach of the Second Sun. The reason I am going with Carnage Tyrant because it helps against one of the strongest decks in the format, ub Scarab God midrange/control. Carnage Tyrant bashes through Torrential Gearhulk and The Scarab God. For The Scarab God to team up against Carnage Tyrant it needs to reanimate creatures. By doing this it forces your opponent to hold up mana and if you have Scavenger Grounds, you can really punish the ub player. Another reason to play Carnage Tyrant is because it keeps removal dead in your opponent’s hand and doesn’t turn on Essence Scatter.

The sideboard is dependent on what you are expecting to play against. I will rarely have the same sideboard weekend to weekend. This is because the metagame shifts or I find out a card isn’t nearly as good as it once was. I could also just be wrong about a card. For example, right now I have Hour of Devastation because it kills planeswalkers and Gods. However, it might be better to just play Yahenni's Expertise or Bontu's Last Reckoning because you can cast them without needing Cascading Cataracts or a Gift of Paradise. Time will tell!

Sideboarding

Before we dive into what to bring in or take out in certain matchups, let me just talk briefly about sideboarding with this deck. I’d much rather teach you how to fish then just giving you the fish. A lot of people are getting hung up about having a “wish sideboard.” You traditionally do not want to sideboard in your wish targets. When playing cards like Glittering Wish, Cunning Wish, Living Wish, Burning Wish, etc, you were taught to leave the wish targets in the Sideboard so you always have access to them. Forget that. This does not apply to Mastermind's Acquisition. Mastermind's Acquisition is a unique “wish” card since it can just be a Diabolic Tutor. Feel free to bring in Profane Procession, Lost Legacy, and Wildest Dreams because you can still just pick the Diabolic Tutor mode. You don’t always have to go for your Sideboard. Even I sometimes forget what’s in my Sideboard in games two and three. The best thing to do in this scenario is to just announce you want to look at your Sideboard. This way you can tell if you’ve brought in both your Profane Processions (or whatever card your curious if you brought in or not) or if one is still in your sideboard.

Keep in mind this is a sideboarding guide. It’s not written in stone, it’s okay to sideboard differently. This is especially true if your opponent is playing a unique sideboard or a new deck. All right, let’s go ahead and dive in!

rg Monsters

The more Khenras they play, the harder this matchup can be. They can’t interact with Approach of the Second Sun and the life gain is a lot more relevant than a 7/6 beater, especially since they play Rekindling Phoenix.

Mardu Vehicles

You can bring in Zacama instead of Hour of Devastation but if you’re expecting 3+ planeswalkers and/or Hazoret I’d go with Hour of Devastation.

Mono Red

You could bring in the approach package, but I wouldn’t. Carnage Tyrant gains you life here by blocking everything, pressures Chandra, can’t be Earthshakered /Ahn-Cropped Crasher, and turns the corner when you’re ready to start bashing face. It can be punishing to take a turn off against Mono Red with Mastermind's Acquisition. I’d rather “draw” a card with Gonti and put a creature on the battlefield or if I’m going to tap out, to tap out for Wildest Dreams and just close the game out. I still want one Mastermind's Acquisition because it’s so versatile. I just won’t die by having multiples in my hand.

ub Midrange

This is the deck that plays Gifted Aetherborn, Gonti, Champion of Wits, Siphoner, and The Scarab God. They run few to no counterspells. Carnage Tyrant can get blocked by a deathtouch creature easily, so we cut him. The ub Midrange deck leans on The Scarab God so much that I just bring in Lost Legacy. I want to actively Lost Legacy their Scarab God because, without him, the matchup is very easy. I cut a Mastermind's Acquisition for a Wildest Dreams even though it’s good here because your first Mastermind is almost always going to get you a Wildest Dreams.

ub Control

I bring in Lost Legacy here because we just have so many dead cards. My go to cards to name for Lost Legacy (depending on how many copies they’ve played) is:

  1. Disallow
  2. The Scarab God
  3. Nezahal, Primal Tide

Disallow can be so backbreaking. Countermagic against ramp decks has always been good but being able to also stop a crucial Scavenger Grounds activation is brutal. Without the Scarab God they will heavily rely on Torrential Gearhulk and Nezahal. Nezahal is a problem unless you can stick a Profane Procession. In fact, just one Profane Procession resolving will make it very hard for them to win. They usually only have seven win conditions and they are all creatures. Profane Procession backed by Vraska's Contempt can really stifle their ways to win the game. Carnage Tyrant does so much work here. It even trades with Nezahal and if they blink it out after blocking, they’ll still just take all seven damage to the face thanks to trample.

Grixis Control

Basically, same thing as ub control but they tend to trade some countermagic for Red removal like Magma Spray and Harnessed Lightning. This is very good for us because removal is almost dead against us. Just watch out for a transformational sideboard plan of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and their one Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. May your Gonti find that Nicol Bolas!

AbzanTokens

If they are expecting you to have Approach of the Second Sun or you beat them with it in Game 2, then you’ll want to leave one in your sideboard to wish for. That way if you get Lost Legacied, you can still Mastermind's Acquisition for the one in your Sideboard. Lost Legacy is very medium in this matchup but we just have so many dead cards that we bring it in. It’s better than Vraska's Contempt. Hitting Anointed Procession before they resolve one can really help. You still have Profane Procession and one Thaumatic Compass for any random creatures they may bring in like Regal Caracal.

bgx Snake

This matchup was as close to a bye as you could get if you didn’t let Winding Constrictor live. That was easy to do thanks to our plethora of removal spells. However, thanks to Jadine Klomparens and her love of Winding Constrictor, you can now die out of nowhere. This is because of Hadana's Climb. Winged Temple of Orazca will make any creature threaten lethal. Watch the F*%# out!

Esper GPG

Compass doesn’t do much here when half their creatures don’t care about Maze of Ith. Kitesail Freebooter, Champion of Wits, Minister of Inquiries, Dusk Legion Zealot, and Trophy Mage all do their thing without having to deal damage. Profane Procession is better since it exiles. Zacama is fantastic since they don’t play Essence Scatter.They are bringing in Negate and Duress. Zacama doesn’t care about either of those, and when she resolves, she’ll eat all their artifact toys and clear the battlefield of tiny to medium sized creatures. If they didn’t see Carnage Tyrant Game 1, then they shouldn’t keep in their Gifted Aetherborns. Even if they leave them in you should have plenty of ways to kill them with your removal and Ifnir Deadlands. Carnage Tyrants are like Zacama in that they dodge Negate and Duress which they will assuredly bring in against you.

Approach Decks

Same sideboard as ub control. They all basically play the same game. You just must get approach and if you can do that, then you’re usually good to go. They are usually forced to leave some number of Settle the Wreckage or Fumigate for Carnage Tyrant. This will make sideboarding for them a little harder.

Hour of Promise.dek

This matchup seems miserable, especially if you’re playing the same list. This is the way to board if they aren’t playing many creatures/planeswalkers. Just try and be the deck that asks questions instead of giving answers. This means just slamming threat after threat and trying to make them have the answer for it. Naturalize is fine at killing Gift of Paradise but try to save it for Arguel's Blood Fast. Mastermind's Acquisition isn’t great in this matchup because you’re basically bringing in your entire sideboard. The card I would Lost Legacy first is either Approach of the Second Sun if they’re playing or Wildest Dreams. This isn’t always the case obviously, just in most scenarios. If they aren’t playing Approach of the Second Sun it’s most likely correct to just name Lost Legacy with your own Lost Legacy to insure they can’t strip you of Approach of the Second Sun, since that card is the mirror breaker.

I talked to Asa Snyder a little about Sidebaording. He likes the board plan except he would rather not cut Mastermind's Acquisition if you can help it. He says, “So many times lists differentiate a bit especially sideboard and the flexibility it gives you to adapt to the flow of the game is huge.”

He’s not wrong at all, if you are not sure what your opponent could be bringing in then I would 100% just leave in all the Mastermind's Acquisitions. They are much safer to board out when you know what’s going on. Feel free to not bring in Wildest Dreams and just keep the main deck Acquisitions if you think your opponent might have a spicy sideboard card.

This was a lengthy article, but I wanted to cover as much as possible. Go out and increase your IQ. Be like Nicol Bolas and become a Mastermind!

As always, thank you for reading. Feel free to leave comments here and I’ll try to get to them as soon as I can.

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