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Talking About Nonbasic Lands in Thunder Junction Standard

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Inspiring Vantage is Great... So Why Does Darkslick Shores Suck So Much?

And to be clear: Sundown Pass is completely unacceptable.

The last couple of weeks I've written predominantly about Dimir Crime Spree and Dimir Control decks. That means that I invested A LOT of gems into black-blue to try to sound like I knew what was going on.

Mileage on both decks varied. They did some stuff that I liked.

Primarily: Competitiveness against beloved blue-white, which is one of the most popular decks (but, more important than anything else, draw-prone). I did feel like the volume of point removal was somewhat exaggerated in its ability to suppress the beats. But one thing I really, REALLY, didn't like?

They both played Darkslick Shores.



You have to understand that my point of view is coming from testing predominantly Azorius Control in Standard. Even though the former World Champion made the PT Finals with two copies of Seachrome Coast...


... That doesn't make it right.

Seachrome Coast sucks even more than Darkslick Shores sucks.

Think about this for a second. Why might it suck "even more" than the Black-Blue version?

Both Dimir and Azorius decks might want to hit seven on turn seven (and certainly five on five). These are the mana flash points for Memory Deluge flashback and the preferred mode on Three Steps Ahead. But if you consider Edgar's Top 8 deck - which doesn't have Mirrex - Dimir has slightly less need for hitting eight untapped. An Azorius deck, with not only Samurai but Maps, has even more potential upside to an 8 mana Three Steps Ahead than Dimir, which might have either Mites or Clues. Azorius, of course, has all these artifact / token options.

It loves eight and hates Seachrome Coast as a result.

So I hadn't played Seachrome Coast since a Top 4 RCQ bow-out with a far clunkier Azorius build. Therefore, I was quite jarred when playing these two Dimir decks that might have any number of late drops be terrible Darkslick Shores. Why? In previous testing, the commensurate "fast" land literally never bedeviled me.

You simply don't want your seventh or eighth land to enter the battlefield tapped. At least unless you're getting something out of it. A Restless Anchorage might kill them; and a Sunken Citadel is essentially a Sol Ring. But just entering the battlefield tapped? Time traveling to the Coastal Tower? For nothing? It feels bad every time because it is bad. And when you can't Cover-Up the battlefield on turn five? You don't need me to tell you why.

On balance, all these decks - Dimir, Dimir, and Azorius - have upwards of 27 lands. You have a greater variety of lands to play early, generally mitigating the value of a Darkslick Shores or a Seachrome Coast. Sure, sometimes you'll have to play your Deserted Beach off-curve, but that comes up not nearly as much as getting stuck with a Darkslick Shores on turn seven... Especially when you're playing four or - gasp - using Memory Deluge to find any land drop in a storm.

While Darkslick Shores and Seachrome Coast are so bad - specifically in Control decks - Inspiring Vantage is truly inspiring in its recent re-arrival in Standard. I'd argue that its inclusion, simultaneous with Three Steps Ahead from the other side, has done more to change one of Standard's most polarized matchup than anything else in recent memory.

My original assessment of Inspiring Vantage (from 2017):

Plateau

Remember when I said Eidolon of the Great Revel was the Most Powerful Card in Modern?

Ironically, Inspiring Vantage may be the best card in the actual Burn deck.

From my perspective it is g-d transformative, and one of the main reasons Burn is just better than everyone else. It gets to play Plateau!

Only this is a very queer Plateau that doesn't actually turn on Wild Nacatl's +1/+1 clause twice.

The recent printing of Plateau Inspiring Vantage has done more to impact the structure of Burn decks in Modern than anything else since the printing of Monastery Swiftspear.

Simply, almost all the Burn decks have moved away from Stomping Ground. Yes, most still play one Stomping Ground for sideboard Destructive Revelry, but almost no one plays Atarka's Command main deck, and even fewer players run Wild Nacatl any more.

Others, like YT, are completely Green-free, opting for the full four copies of the best card in the deck, to go alongside our four copies of the Most Powerful Card in Modern. Plateau.

... Sounds about right, still.


My assessment of the Azorius-Boros matchup (from just three months ago):

In practice, Azorius was up about 80% over Boros for me in Arena Events and paper. In fact, in my RCQ win, I took out Boros 2-0 with little stress.

However that has flipped dramatically since the printing of Outlaws of Thunder Junction. Today I would put Boros among uw's more difficult matchups in current Standard! What happened?

Part of it is just Inspiring Vantage.

Prior to Outlaws of Thunder Junction, Boros had a much less attractive mana base.

This is the same reason you can't play Sundown Pass. Look at Matsuura's mana base from Pro Tour: Thunder Junction. Are there any Sundown Passes? Sundown Pass is substantially worse in Boros than Seachrome Coast is bad in Azorius.

In fact, every time my opponent plays a first-turn Sundown Pass I tend to just win.

But previously? A performing Boros deck might have not only Sundown Pass but an Ox-maker in its mana base; not for lack of discipline, but lack of options.

The other half of this is that while Three Steps Ahead has been a godsend against Temur Analyst and the mirror, the card is a liability against Boros, which is so fast and card advantageous. A one-for-one for 3 mana (because getting to five might be a pipe dream) is much worse than trading early and then tapping out for Ezrim, Agency Chief to hold down the battlefield with a huge butt + lifelink. Ergo the matchup has gotten worse in three ways. This is besides the fact that Azorius adding four clunky Counterspells is contextually even worse against a deck with - speaking of mana bases - four copies of Cavern of Souls.

Today I am much more wary of the Boros matchup; but win almost every game against a geriatric mana base that starts on Sundown Pass. Beatdown! You just don't need that one any more.

Three Specialty Lands and How to Use Them

Mirrex

In the control mirrors and quasi-mirrors, Mirrex is a pivotal card that can slide under the 4 mana The Wandering Emperor / Memory Deluge sub-game. Many Azorius mirrors come down to literally nothing more than who drew Mirrex (and Field of Ruin) early.

But remember that Mirrex also fixes your mana! Sometimes you'll have a marginal draw that has lands, but a lot of them produce colorless mana. Was one of those lands Mirrex? Don't forget you have this turn-two play pattern:

Plains
Mirrex
Deduce

In a deck with upward of 14 Blue sources, Mirrex-into-Deduce (when you know your opponent is on a slow deck) can justify a keep.

Sunken Citadel

One of the most criminally underplayed lands in Standard, Sunken Citadel, among other things, can accelerate the Mirrex sub-game. Once you have 4 mana, it can be dangerous to activate your Mirrex... Not because it's going to get "Countered" but because if you tap out on turn four your opponent might then be able to resolve The Wandering Emperor (which can shut down your Mirrex offensive advantage).

With Sunken Citadel you can tap at will from five lands, leaving up two for Phantom Interference or No More Lies.

That's not the mention here, though.

Restless Anchorage
Sunken Citadel
Deserted Beach

Let's say you have to play one of these on turn one. Which one gets played first?

With no other information, Deserted Beach obviously gets played third but which is first?

You might imagine there is no difference between Restless Anchorage and Sunken Citadel... But one is much, Much, MUCH better: It's Restless Anchorage.

Why?

Because you might draw a basic! If you play Sunken Citadel on Blue, then draw an Island... You look kind of foolish. Restless Anchorage smooths your second turn whether you draw Island or Plains.

Cavern of Souls

Bad Domain players name Angel because they just want to resolve their mid-game cards (not really cognizant of the fact that the opponent doesn't care if they resolve Atraxa).

Good Domain players name Human because they're imagining the last turn. One strike, one kill.

But great Domain players? If they know their opponents know what is up with Herd Migration (meaning they're never going to get that Alpha Strike turn)... They name Merfolk. At least when there is a Tishana's Tidebinder in their deck.

May your lands - no basic or otherwise - be plentiful, but not too plentiful!

LOVE

MIKE


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