MTG March of the Machine: Aftermath available now!
   Sign In
Create Account

Hybrids: Two-Plan Decks


Today, I'd like to go over a very misunderstood concept: beating a deck. For the past several years, it was pretty easy to overhear people saying something like, “Yeah, my four Volcanic Fallouts and Vexing Shusher beat Faeries.” I would like to go over the points that decks are very capable of sideboarding into completely different decks and that it is quite essential to playtest against the Games 2 and 3 configurations.

Let's take the Faeries list that I played from the last Extended PTQ season as an example.

Certainly, Volcanic Fallout and Great Sable Stag were reasonable (if not great) cards against this deck. Will they beat this deck by themselves? No, the reason being that people failed to account for what would happen in post-board games. Assuming I was playing against Jund with Great Sable Stag and Volcanic Fallout, I would board out three Thoughtseizes, one Jace Beleren, two Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and two Vendilion Clique for four Vampire Nighthawks, two Wurmcoil Engines, and two Tectonic Edges.

Faeries sideboarded into U/B control with Vampire Nighthawk and Wurmcoil Engine, letting you play a very good game against Great Sable Stag and Volcanic Fallout by sidestepping both of them quite nicely. To combat this in your sideboarding, you should have considered good answers to Wurmcoil Engine (some Jund players did go to the next level and had Slave of Bolas!) and Vampire Nighthawk (leave in your Lightning Bolts and potentially Maelstrom Pulses as the Jund player).

Another great example of a deck that has several different plans that you need to playtest against is Dark Depths Thopter Foundry. The deck was innovated by Gerry Thompson for a MODO PTQ to hybridize Dark Depths and Thopter Control. Adam Yurchick innovated it slightly for Grand Prix: Houston 2010 and was the victor.

There are many different plans you have to cover against this deck, and people put way too much focus on fighting the 20/20 Marit Lage token. Certainly, you did want to be able to have answers for it, but the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combination and potential Jace, the Mind Sculptors throw a wrench into these plans. Even so, if you maxed out on Path to Exiles and Temporal Isolations, you could still lose to Adam Yurchick's Rite of Consumption for his 20/20. At the midpoint of the season, people discovered Damping Matrix to cover two of the three plans (Vampire Hexmage and Thopter Foundry), but being able to board into Jace, the Mind Sculptor usually gave you the ability to trump that plan with a lot of removal and Jace.

There are also green decks that have followed this pattern of completely changing plans from Game 1 to Games 2 and 3; for example, Terry Soh's Troll and Nail from the 2005 Invitational.

Here, the game plan is pretty obvious: board in undercosted creatures and keep casting them until your opponent is dead; take out your Tooth and Nails, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breakers and Sundering Titans. This proved to be an extremely effective plan that laughed at your opponent's Sowing Salts and Molten Rains.

From Grand Prix Boston: 2005 (my first Grand Prix ever, where I decided to play Scepter Chant to a very mediocre 2–2–1 finish) comes a very interesting deck: Cephalid Life.

Plan A: Gain an arbitrarily large amount of life with Worthy Cause, Nomads En-Kor, and Daru Spiritualist (which a friend of mine managed to do in Tempest Draft). If that's not good enough (suppose you're playing against Aluren, which can deal more damage than the amount of life you gain with Worthy Cause), Plan B: Mill your entire deck with Nomads En-Kor and Cephalid Illusionist, and then Reanimate Sutured Ghoul, which brings back Dragon Breath to attack with a very angry, hasted Sutured Ghoul. This is probably one of the best examples of a perfectly hybridized deck, since Vampiric Tutor, Worldly Tutor, and Brainstorm let you figure out which combination you can go for while giving a ton of redundancy.

An example of a red creature deck that had a Plan B post-board is Gobvantage (played by Geoffrey Siron) from Pro Tour: New Orleans 2003:

The Game 1 plan is to kill the opponent with hasty Goblin Piledrivers by stacking your deck with Goblin Recruiter and chaining Goblin Ringleader into four more Goblins at a time. The Game 2 plan (against Engineered Plagues and faster combo decks) is to stack your deck with Recruiter (forty or more Goblins) and then Goblin Charbelcher the opponent. It's hard to fight both of these plans at once, although this was the Pro Tour where Tinker dominated and was capable of casting Upheaval and a large artifact guy on around turn two or three.

To summarize, playtest post-boarded games against decks that have a clear switcheroo plan. Even better, try to come up with an effective sideboarding plan to sidestep any potential hate you might face for your deck.

A more recent example of that would be Matt Costa and Jason Ford deciding to board Batterskull and Jace, Memory Adept against U/B control to sidestep Curse of Death's Hold and removal spells.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down Magic's history covering these sorts of decks that can run the transformation or have two plans embedded in the deck.

As usual, I welcome constructive criticism here or on Twitter: @jkyu06.

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist