I’ve been playing U/W Flash for the last several weeks now. As the results of the last several Grand Prix have demonstrated, Standard’s in a fairly bi-polar place, dominated largely by U/W Flash and B/G Delirium. That means if you sleeve up one of these two format-defining archetypes, you’d better get used to playing the mirror match.
When I first sleeved up the deck, I followed, roughly, the sideboarding guide laid out in this article by Andrea Mengucci, trimming Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Reflector Mage, and a maybe a Selfless Spirit or two, and boarding in countermagic and large angelic threats. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is very vulnerable to the many flyers in the opponent’s deck, and leaving behind a single 2/2 is not worth four mana and an attack step. The thought behind cutting Reflector Mage is that most of the opponent’s creatures aren’t very attractive targets. You don’t want to bounce a Thraben Inspector, for instance. It can be fine to remove a Selfless Spirit, but you’re getting the short end of the mana-cost stick in that exchange, and the most important, expensive card, Archangel Avacyn, has flash.
Meanwhile, counterspells give you the ability to get ahead on mana, trading up for the opponent’s higher-end threats while allowing you to continue to build up your own board. Bringing in a suite of large angels like Linvala, the Preserver or Bruna, the Fading Light gives you a healthy long game and can really stretch your opponent’s limited number of Stasis Snare and Declaration in Stone.
So this was the rough plan I followed. For a while. But, after a stretch of middling results in the mirror, I decided to shake things up and take a different tack and have had a lot more success ever since.
For context, here’s the list I’ve been using recently, including for my PPTQ win about a week and a half ago:
U/W Flash – Peter Rawlings
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Spell Shrivel
2 Declaration in Stone
1 Immolating Glare
1 Collective Effort
2 Gisela, the Broken Blade
1 Linvala, the Preserver
1 Bruna, the Fading Light
1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
It’s nothing too fancy. The one spicy, or at least mildly spicy, deviation from the stock U/W Flash lists is Collective Effort in the sideboard. I picked this up from some friends and have been very happy playing one or two copies, because it’s fantastic in the mirror. It destroys opposing Stasis Snare and angels and can power up your team to give you the edge on a stalled board. It’s a lot for one card. Being a three mana, Spell Queller-able sorcery is unfortunate, but oh well. It’s worth it. I think.
But that’s not the important part. The important part is the way in which I’ve changed my evaluation of countermagic and Reflector Mage in the mirror. No longer am I cutting the annoying little fellow. I now leave in all my copies on the draw, trimming no more than one or two when on the play.
Part of the reason for this change in evaluation stems in part from the fact that everybody else seems to roughly follow Mengucci’s plan and cut their own Reflector Mages. When both players have 2/3 ground creatures, the body is not worth very much. But, when a player has no Reflector Mage on board, that body gets significantly better.
The ability is still good too. Returning a Spell Queller to your opponent’s hand can be an enormous tempo swing, as can returning a large, sideboarded angel, like Gisela, the Broken Blade. Reflector Mage is good at putting you ahead on board early, and forcing your opponent to play on the back foot. The mirror can often end up in large board stalls, and Reflector Mage is helpful in post-board games at cracking those open too. I probably don’t need to sell you on the merits of Reflector Mage any more. It’s been a force in Standard since it’s printing, and I think I was wrong to aggressively cut it.
I am, instead, a bit lower on the other three-mana gold card in the deck: Spell Queller. It might sound heretical, but this is now where I’m more likely to trim in games two and three. While the flash spirit has a powerful effect, games tend to drag out to the point that an opponent will eventually get their spell back. Most games will, eventually, see a transformed Archangel Avacyn and that trigger will kill your Queller unless you have a way to boost its toughness—hard to do, if you’re cutting Gideon—or protect it with a Selfless Spirit or another Avacyn.
I know, I know. Reflector Mage, too, gives he opponent their card back eventually. The difference, in my view, is that Reflector Mage can answer the really important stuff—Gisela and Avacyn and the like. And do it at a time of your choosing.
The other change I’ve made to my plan for the mirror is this: I’m off counterspells. If you’re greedy enough to play Void Shatter or Scatter to the Winds (I’m not), then fine, yes, those are solid answers to the top-end threats you can expect your opponent to be packing. But cards like Revolutionary Rebuff and Spell Shrivel no longer make the cut for me.
The reason is, again, that games of the U/W mirror tend to get dragged out. Counterspells that simply tax the opponent’s mana become dead as the game goes later and later and players have access to more and more mana. Dead cards are, well, a death knell in a grindy match-up where neither player has access to any true card drawing engine except for, maybe, a single copy of Jace, Unraveler of Secrets.
So with all that in mind, here, more or less, is how I approach the sideboarding for the mirror.
On the play:
On the draw:
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