I suppose I have always had a thing for bad boys. James Dean. Marlon Brando. Arthur Fonzarelli. And now, Revolutionary Rebuff.
The card’s been met with widespread scorn. It’s trouble, they said. Steer clear, they said. In some ways, it makes sense. I didn’t know how good I had it with Mana Leak, and then Mana Leak left me all those years ago and now I’ve gone running into the arms of its leather jacket-wearing, Camel-smoking cousin, who dropped out of Counterspell school after flunking artifact class.
But you take what you can get and things aren’t so bad with Revolutionary Rebuff. Or so I tell myself.
With the uptick in B/G Delirium decks, U/W Flash pilots have found themselves desperate for a way to fight back against Ishkanah, Grafwidow and it’s driven many of them, myself included, into the arms of Rebuff.
As weak as Revolutionary Rebuff looks, I think it is the right way forward so long as midrange-y delirium and flash decks comprise the bulk of the metagame. While I’ve had mixed results with the card in mirror matches, which I’ll get into in a bit, it has drastically improved U/W Flash’s matchup against B/G.
I already had a rosier view of the matchup than many people, I think. In my experience, U/W Flash was able to take a healthy chunk of games from B/G Delirium by simply getting out to a quick start and finding a way to push through the last points of damage after Ishkanah arrives with either Archangel Avacyn or Thalia, Heretic Cathar. Overall, a pre-Rebuff build of Flash was only a slight underdog in the matchup, and B/G Delirium was not the U/W Flash killer many made it out to be.
The adoption of Revolutionary Rebuff has not only significantly improved the matchup—to the point where I now believe U/W Flash is a slight favorite—but has also fundamentally altered the way the post-board games play out. In Game 1, things remain relatively constant. A smattering of Revolutionary Rebuff helps a bit to stave off Delirium in the late game, but for the most part you’re still trying to “tempo them out.”
But, when you pair Rebuff with a handful of Void Shatter and Spell Shrivel after sideboarding, you have the ability to contend with Delirium into the late stages of the game. B/G is fundamentally a slow, clunky, tap-out deck. If you have enough countermagic, they won’t be able to win a game where they try to remove your threats and then land a haymaker creature. They’ll generally only have access to between six and eight removal spells and U/W’s threats are either cheaper or able to be cast at instant speed or both.
You’ll still want to apply early pressure, but with an actual, robust package of counterspells, U/W is now able to fall a bit behind on the board in the midgame, and subsequently retake control. It’s not all that unlikely to take a few hits off a Grim Flayer or Mindwrack Demon, and then counter the Delirium deck’s bigger and more substantial threats like Ishkanah, Grafwidow or Noxious Gearhulk and then retake the initiative with Avacyn and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
As an aside
This does not hold true for more aggressive B/G decks. The plan of winning a fast, tempo-based attacking game is not possible against their larger creatures, and Blossoming Defense makes U/W’s removal spells, Stasis Snare and Reflector Mage, look like bad jokes. The matchup was already rough and adding Rebuff only makes it worse. From the U/W side, the G/B Aggro matchup is a nut I can’t crack, and if you’re expecting an especially large amount of U/W Flash in your local meta, G/B Aggro seems like a strong choice. Okay, that’s enough about that deck for now.
In the U/W Flash mirror, the benefits of Revolutionary Rebuff are less clear to me, but I think I like it. Most lists, and mine, have been trimming during sideboarding in places like Reflector Mage, Selfless Spirit, and Stasis Snare to make room for Rebuff. In the mirror match, I generally cut all my copies of Reflector Mage and will occasionally trim Spirits, so replacing those with Rebuffs in the maindeck seems like a net positive. I’m less keen to lose access to Stasis Snare, as they can be crucial for removing Avacyn and the other large angels like Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade that generally come in after sideboarding.
That sounds like a marginal net positive for Rebuff in the U/W Flash mirror, but games, especially postboard, tend to drag out. Often, players will end up in something of a board stall, where neither can nor wants to flip Avacyn and both are just sitting around waiting to try to draw either a planeswalker like Jace, Unraveler of Secets or to assemble the Gisela/Bruna combo. In that sort of play pattern, Rebuff becomes a dead draw pretty quickly, though it can occasionally still help win a counter war. All in all I’ve had mixed results with it.
Still, given the boost Rebuff gives in the B/G Delirium matchup, I’d advocate starting the bad boy, as much trouble as he looks. I’ve been playing three in the maindeck and looking to run three or four additional counterspells in my sideboard. I go back and forth between Void Shatter and Spell Shrivel, and tend to prefer Spell Shrivel as I’ve too often been burned by Void Shatter’s stringent mana requirements. I’ve not cut Negate from my board entirely, but am increasingly trending in that direction, as it’s not great in matches against either B/G Delirium or U/W Flash, which lean primarily on creature-based threats.
One last thing to note about sideboarding is that I think it’s more important than ever to ensure you have a reasonable number of anti-aggro/anti-Vehicles cards. Rebuff is no good at all against one-drops, Smuggler’s Copter, or Cultivator’s Caravan. Pack plenty of Declaration in Stone, Fragmentize, and Immolating Glare. I think U/W is favored against Vehicles, Rebuff or no Rebuff, but know that you’re making the matchup a bit worse with Rebuff and prepare to adjust accordingly.
Do you enjoy problem solving in Magic? Read Ryan Saxe’s final article here on Spellsnare.com before his big move to Starcitygames.com, found here, to learn how he approaches problem solving in the game.
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