Here we are! The finale! Here I will be going over how to effectively play against hand disruption. There are three specific common situations that I want to go over today.

You can read parts 1, 2, and 3 here (1), here (2), and here (3).

1. Keeping a hand that curves out perfectly

Right about now you’re saying: “Wait, Riccardo, you want us to ship a hand that has 3 lands, a one, two, and three drop, and a good removal spell!?!?!?” Let me expand. Many decks have a “most important” mana cost. For Affinity, I would argue that it is 2. For Abzan Counters Company, 2. Burn, 1. What I am getting at by saying that you shouldn’t always snap keep hands with a great curve is: If your hand is only good because you curve into your Cranial Plating on turn 3 or your Vizier of Remedies after a Devoted Druid, you should be wary against a deck packing hand disruption. If you keep a sick hand that has a turn 1 that looks like: Darksteel Citadel, Ornithoper, Springleaf Drum, Signal Pest, and your hand is now 2 lands and a Cranial Plating, your “perfect curve” is now completely useless against a deck that can get rid of your Plating with their turn 1 play.

The same goes for any other deck that will have its curve ripped apart by a single card. If your three mana spell is so important that you can’t make this hand work without it, and you know you’re up against Abzan or Grixis, the hand starts to look more and more like a mulligan. The best way to fight this effect is to make your deck redundant. Burn and Eldrazi Tron, for example, are great examples of this. With Burn, you can Inquisition of Kozilek away my Lightning Bolt, but I can be sure that I will find that type of card in the next few turns. My deck gives me that insurance.

With Eldrazi Tron, I can keep a hand with Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine, and know that whatever my opponent takes, I can still rely on my deck to give me more huge and impactful spells, because they are a common sight in my deck. While deckbuilding, see if you can jam multiple cards that fill the same spot on the mana curve (but are not too weak by themselves). This will give you insurance against a discard spell destroying your curve.

2. Aggressively Mulliganing to a Hate Card

Say you are playing against Lantern Control. You board in your copies of Stony Silence, and in a search for them, mull down to 5. 3 lands, a Tarmogoyf, and that Stony Silence. Your opponent now casts Thoughtseize. The crucial mistake here is focusing on one specific card. It is very different if you literally cannot win the matchup without this card, but most times, you can find another way to win against most decks in the format. If your 7 is a hand that you would keep normally, but doesn’t have the potential to completely shut down your opponent’s deck, that’s totally fine. Remember that you have to put your own plan in motion to win the game, not just stop their’s.

People commonly make this mistake with cards such as Leyline of Sanctity. Believe it or not, you can still beat Abzan as Ad Nauseam without a Leyline of Sanctity. As good as discard spells are, you can absolutely beat them. Don’t let your bad experiences dictate your mulligan decisions, try to let your playtesting do that. Cards such as Rest in Peace will not win you the matchup from your graveyard, but maybe a decent hand which does not fold to an Inquisition of Kozilek will.

3. Over Sideboarding

While this may seem like a general tip, I personally believe that it is most exemplified when playing against a deck with discard. A good example of this is an Abzan Company Counters deck that board in 4 Path to Exile and 2 Condemn against Abzan Traverse. If you then draw a hand of 3 lands, 2 of the sideboarded removal spells, a mana dork, and a Kitchen Finks, you feel like you are in great shape. Now, if as the Abzan Traverse player, I simply take the Kitchen Finks with my discard spell and play my Liliana of the Veil turn 3, you are in terrible shape.

A crucial aspect of playing against discard spells which I feel I need to emphasize is that you always need to be trying to win. You cannot keep a hand of just sideboard cards in a deck that needs proactive cards to win. This Abzan deck you are playing against is always going to have more threats than you have removal spells. The reason removal spells are good in many decks is because you can be killing creatures while applying pressure. If there is no pressure, then you cannot win. It’s as simple as that.

Parting Advice:

Another minor thing to watch out for when playing against a deck with discard spells is that they are still active in the late game. What I mean by this is that holding a decent spell against a deck with discard spells turns on some of your opponent’s dead cards. If you draw a Vizier of Remedies and your plan is to draw a Devoted Druid, you may as well play it. If they have removal, they are going to kill the Vizier once you play the second piece anyways, so keeping it in your hand is just giving them an opportunity to draw live. While their removal will eventually be live regardless, 6 whole cards in their deck are dead if you play Vizier, and turning on 10% of their deck is definitely not what you want to be doing.

As always, I hope you enjoyed and learned something from this series. It was a blast writing it, and I hope your ‘Seizes and Inquisitions will seem more favorable after reading! I will be taking a short two week break from writing for vacation, but am super excited for this Standard format. My next event is GP Washington, D.C. in a month, and I am super excited to get to testing. Have a great summer and good luck in all of your upcoming events,

Riccardo Monico

For some great Hour of Devastation sealed practice, read this article from Ben Pall, as he assesses an interested sealed pool.

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