This week, I am going to wrap up the “How to Use Them” part of this series by going through every popular Modern deck and each key card to take with discard spells in the matchup.
In this article, I will be analyzing each matchup through the eyes of the Grixis Shadow deck and the Abzan Traverse deck from my last article (decklists available there as well).
These cards can all be taken with both discard spells (Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek), and are all relevant for different reasons. While your deck does want to damage itself if you are playing Grixis Shadow, Eidolon of the Great Revel provides much more damage than you realistically want to take against Burn. Grim Lavamancer can grind you out, Deflecting Palm can turn the tides of a race, and Lightning Helix can be a 6 point life swing, which can become very relevant in the mid to late game.
Death’s Shadow can actually be used to your advantage, as if they have it, they will play in a certain way, prioritizing damaging themselves, a line which your deck can sometimes beat easily. This means that you have to weigh the benefits of taking a powerful threat against the benefits of having them play into your own plan. Oftentimes, it is correct to take it. A more important card in my opinion is Snapcaster Mage, which can buy back all the grindy spells in the deck, easily putting you on the back foot. Kolaghan’s Command is in the same boat, and removal can be a nuisance for your deck sometimes.
The crucial thing to understand about Affinity is that your deck is a million times better when they do not have one of these important pieces. They will often keep a fast hand with one, or a slower hand with 2+. You must also remember that you do not automatically win the long game. After taking one of these pieces, you still have to get them dead as soon as possible, because a topdeck can easily swing the game in their favor. Both decks that we are using as examples for these articles have a decent amount of removal, so be sure to take Cranial Plating and Etched Champion over the other cards, as you can reliably kill the other creatures as soon as they hit the field.
Abzan / Jund
While there are more important cards, I think these are some of the more relevant ones. Because all of their cards are just as good as yours, you have to get rid of a certain axis they can fight on. This means that if you have a Scavenging Ooze in hand as Abzan Traverse, you should take their Ooze, because you now control the graveyard interaction, and can set the pace in the game. Likewise, if you have a Liliana of the Veil, their Liliana becomes a better target because you can now be the only player with a planeswalker, giving you an edge in that aspect of the matchup.
Sadly, Jace, Architect of Thought and Gideon Jura are not going to be legal Inquisition of Kozilek targets, and neither is Supreme Verdict. These are all crucial cards, but can be played around if you only have Inquisition. For example, if you see a Gideon Jura as well as a removal spell, you can take the spell and build up a board which will kill Gideon regardless, or even kill the opponent before Giddy even becomes relevant. With Supreme Verdict, you can easily force the opponent to fire it off by taking their removal and playing 1-2 relevant creatures, after which you can apply real pressure. Snapcaster Mage and Ancestral Vision are relevant for the long game, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to kill them before they resolve, it is possible that correct the pick is one of these two cards.
This one is pretty simple. If they have Urzatron and one payoff spell, take the payoff. If they have a big spell but need cards to make Urzatron, take the Expedition Map, Sylvan Scrying, or Ancient Stirrings. Stirrings is always a good hit for Inquisition of Kozilek, which I do admit is pretty awkward against some hands from the Tron player.
Inquisition of Kozilek in this matchup is literally Thoughtseize, without the life lost, which makes it stellar, but ironically, life lost often doesn’t matter in the matchup, so that feels bad at first. Your discard spells are exactly the same. Moving on from superficial things, Ensnaring Bridge is the devil, and should be treated as such. Unless you plan on killing it in some way, discard it as soon as possible. People make the mistake of taking something else if they have multiple discard spells and get punished by an opposing discard spell off the top.
If they resolve a Bridge, most decks have a hard time winning, but fortunately both Grixis Shadow and Abzan Traverse have outs. However, it is still important to take it and kill them before they find an Academy Ruins, which starts the fun (misery) all over again. The only time you take a combo piece is when they have the combo ready to set up and your hand needs help, in which case you need the top of your deck to be live.
In this matchup, you want to disrupt their ramp as much as you can. Primeval Titan finding 6 burn damage does not feel good for Abzan or Grixis, so you want to be in a dominating position before they can have that option open to them. Scapeshift is also an option, which is much better taken late. With a Scapeshift in their hand, their primary objective will be to get to 7 lands and kill you that way, which you can beat by taking their Scapeshift when they have cast a bunch of ramp spells. Titan is also a relevant piece to take, as that is one of their primary win conditions, but keep in mind that they can find it with Summoner’s Pact.
One of the most crucial cards here is Eternal Witness. Naturally, you will want to take it out of most hands, but there are some exceptions like the hand I discussed last week. Remember that whatever you take will not necessarily stay in the graveyard, and can be bought back and utilized. This is especially relevant when considering taking combo pieces. You are not immediately safe for the rest of the game once their Devoted Druid or Vizier of Remedies is gone.
Storm, Dredge, Ad Nauseam, Living End
These are all pretty similar decks to play against with discard spells. You usually want to take any combo piece you can nab, but sometimes taking draw spells or early interaction can be the right choice, depending on your hand.
As always, thank you so much for reading, and I hope you learned something new from this article! If you have any questions or comments on what I wrote about, feel free to let me know in the comments, and good luck in all your upcoming Magic endeavors!
See you next week with the final part,
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