Nacatl Burn: The Best Deck in ModernNacatl Burn gives us a fast, proactive deck, capable of goldfishing a fast kill (exactly how fast depends on the build, more on this later) while also being quite resilient post-board. I don't want to claim it's the 'best deck' in some sense which makes it nigh-impossible to get a good matchup against it (a la Caw-Blade), but I do think it has few matchups which are very bad, that it's unrealistic for most other decks to be built well against us while not simultaneously punting a huge chunk of the rest of the format. In some simple sense, I think this is the fastest deck in the format which is comprised generally of good cards rather than massive synergy. Obviously, Lava Spike isn't great, but the point is that all the pieces are interchangeable, and don't really need much in terms of other specific cards to function. This property makes the deck fairly difficult to disrupt. Perhaps most importantly, the deck is highly adaptable to be able to fight against whatever metagame you expect.
In this deck guide, I'll walk through the general principles and game-plan of the deck, look at card choices and potential card chioces in both main-deck and sideboard, as well as examining what metagames different cards shine in, then look at plans for different common matchups across the format. Of course, we want to look at cards which are problematic and pose problems for the Burn deck, as well as what we can do against them. Finally, I will offer a few different decklists for different builds and angles you might want to take, though this will definitely not be exhaustive! Let's begin.
Lava Spike was one of the first cards I ever cracked out of a pack. It didn't take much though to get to "Seven of these, win the game". Of course, we have to play 60 cards, and we don't get unlimited Lava Spikes, so things aren't that simple. Still, there's a good thought exercise here that can lead you to a rudimentary understanding of mana ratios, variance, and even Card Advantage - as especially arises one you start to realize that, with the game lasting a few turns at least, a decent creature will do more damage than a burn spell, if it gets through.
However, for more experienced players, these things tend to be well-established. Still, there is some very basic appeal to playing a burn deck - namely, it's very hard to interact with. There are generally 4 ways of trying to deal with burn: Counterspells, Life Gain, Removing the ability to cast the burn spells, and Killing the burn player faster. Most decks, to be able to have a chance against you, are going to go for a combination of these. We need to be prepared, at least to some extent, for all of them.
Beating the Hate
Counterspells are generally going to be bad against most of these builds because our mana curve is so low. Modern is a bit inhospitable towards counters now anyway, we are almost always getting a mana advantage (I suppose they can Spell Pierce you sometimes, but Spell Snare and Dispel are the main ways for this not to happen), and a good amount of the time, their spell doesn't really stop what we're doing anyway. Even when they do have counters, hopefully the sheer number of burn spells will allow us to get there.
Life Gain is, from a theoretical standpoint, the best way to counter burn spells in particular. Life gain spells are basically always more efficient than their burning counterparts. However, they are just far worse cards to play overall. Because of this, there aren't many of them floating around, even in sideboards. Nevertheless, we do have a good game-plan here: Nacatls et al provide recurring damage to negate the life advantage they would get, and between maindeck and sideboard, we are running quite a number of Skullcrack effects.
Stopping these things from being able to be cast could potentially be devastating, but it's a strange and weird effect that you don't really see. In Modern, we will see some cards like Runed Halo or Meddling Mage once in a blue moon - we can usually ignore them. Chalice of the Void and Leyline of Sanctity are sometimes seen in sideboards, so we're packing our own sideboard answers to those. Land destruction is generally not played much, though if there happens to be enough in the metagame, we may need to take measures against it. Finally, we also have a healthy enough suite of creatures to be able to get ahead on board, hopefully giving us a puncher's chance even if we can't burn the opponents directly.
Finally, I believe that Killing us Faster is ultimately going to be the most problematic approach, for the most part, against us. We take quite a bit of damage form our mana base, and against infinite combos, we generally don't have very much disruption. The big way we try to deal with this is to just try to be faster, indeed as fast as possible.
In general, we're looking to play some efficient 1-drop creatures on the first couple turns, attack, and finish them off with a few burn spells. Creatures are very good if they're unlikely to be able to block, providing the most damage-for-mana over the course of just about any game. There's some amount of diminishing returns, though, as creatures need time to do their work, and every successive creature has less time to do its thing. They get quite a bit worse once your opponents can interact with them. Of course, virtually every deck in the format can interact with creatures; Removal spells are actually okay for you (though efficient ones are by no means great), because you aren't getting down on cards, and them spending time on a removal spell gives you more time for your burn to do its job. Having larger creatures to block with is more of a problem, as those eventually will come back to hit at you.
Piloting Skill Required: Medium-Low (for the format)
There tends to be this common misconception around decks like this (as well as Affinity) that the deck more or less plays itself, creature creature burn burn, no skill I win. In truth, even goldfishing isn't entirely trivial, as you need to do some math about how likely you are to draw certain things a couple turns down the line. The margins are thin, so flipping things one way or the other to cost 1 or 2 damage can very often mean a whole turn.
The more important skill, though, comes in being able to play around what the opponent is doing. This requires a lot of knowledge of the format as well as a lot of measuring ability. How likely are they to have a counter here? Which counter is most likely? Do you jam through, or wait? Sometimes you need to actually consciously forego damage in order to be able to make them have problems in using their mana effectively. In other cases speed is key. Sometimes your concern is tempo, but other times you need to maximize the damage out of each card, because as it stands, they aren't adding up. Even with a decent amount of practice, I mess these things up all the time - I assume pro-level players are going to do better, but even then, you can't necessarily just jump in and be fine. Practice with the deck will help a lot - you really need to know how likely you are to draw that extra burn spell, or two burn spells, that you need to finish them off.
Another one of the key skills in piloting this deck is knowing when to throw your creatures into their blockers, chump-attacking for damage, and when to hold them back. Usually, your attacks will get worse as the game goes on, because your creatures are generally going to be cheaper and thus coming out sooner than those of your opponents. However, if you know you're going to be adding more to your board, or if you need to in order to be able to win, it's not incredibly rare for an extra creature showing up on your side to tip the balance. More importantly, keeping your creatures alive can often dis-incentivize your opponent from attacking, since that would allow you access to a bigger crack-back. Holding back can often buy you time to draw into the burn spells you need. The balance of all these factors can be tricky.
How fast you goldfish is very dependent on how you build your deck. Increasing the likelihood of a one-drop into two one-drops first couple of turns goes a long way toward improving your goldfish speed. Other measures which help are taking out every metagame-directed card (no pure removal, like Path to Exile, or utility-ish cards like Searing Blaze or Lightning Helix). You can also throw caution to the wind, damaging yourself potentially quite a lot with cards like Gitaxian Probe.
The best goldfishing versions of the deck kill turn 3 something like 35% on the play and upwards of 60% of the time on the draw; this rises to over 80% (with, of course, a more modest improvement from being on the draw) when you extend to turn 4. These figures are also built with the mindset of never mulliganing EVER, which means the real figures are probably a bit higher than this, especially when it comes to the turn 4 kills (turn 3 starting on only 6 cards is possible, but especially on the play, you need to run close to perfect). It's pretty hard to calculate exactly, and I'm not sure I've built the absolute best goldfishing version (since that doesn't really matter), but I'm fairly confident it's possible to make a deck that deals 20 by turn 3 over half the time.
The best starts in the deck, and typical turn 3 kills look like this: Turn 1 Stomping Ground (or fetch), Wild Nacatl (or Goblin Guide). Turn 2 Sacred Foundry (or fetch), Goblin Guide (or Monastery Swiftspear), Goblin Guide (Swiftspear). Turn 3 Any two burn spells. In some cases, Atarka's Command can sub in for a pair of burn spells, or a turn 2 Nacatl if the burn spells are good enough (this needs a 3rd land), or... there are a lot of options. The absolute max damage is achieved in Steppe Lynx builds, where Atarka's Command can potentially be very nasty.
It's pretty hard to calculate exactly, and I'm not sure I've built the absolute best goldfishing version (since that doesn't really matter), but I'm fairly confident it's possible to make a deck that deals 20 by turn 3 over half the time, given an even split of play/draw. In general, the deck is a lot more likely to be able to hit 16-18 damage by turn 3 than it is to have 20, so it's fortunate that most Modern mana-bases are as painful as they are. On the other hand, it's also worth noting that in most of these cases, just about any kind of disruption stops 20 damage on turn 3 (the best hands can avoid this, like many of the other goldfish decks, but they're quite rare), so what turn 3 kills you do get are largely relying on those mana-induced points of pain.
Obviously what hands you keep and what you mulligan are going to be fairly dependent on both your exact build and what opponent you're facing. The general notes here are that you basically always mulligan hands with fewer than 1 or more than 4 lands; both 1-landers and 4-landers are not great, but generally I will keep them (and almost always keep them after a mulligan). However, it's also usually quite important to have a creature if you're trying to apply a fast enough clock to kill on turn 4 or even 5 in a lot of cases, so I tend to mulligan 0-creature hands as well. Mulligans are one of the trickier parts of the deck, and if you're in goldfish mode (which is much more often true in game 1 than anywhere else), I would recommend playing a lot of practice goldfish games at 6 cards, to know what your conversion rate is with your particular build there (how often you can turn 3, especially turn 4) in prep for the tournament. Then, when you're actually playing, you can see what you need to draw to overcome that, compute roughly how likely that is, and compare to your testing baseline.
The mana is very tricky and almost certainly the worst part of the deck. I tend to favor 20 lands for versions with no cantrips (though it's possibly to argue for anywhere from 18-21 pretty reasonably, and I don't think 19 is much worse than 20). This number is borne out by the testing I've done, but it really falls back on the hypergeometric math: having 0 lands is disaster, 1 is pretty bad but not totally unwinnable, 2 is excellent, 3 is excellent, 4 eventually is okay, and beyond this you're hemorrhaging cards. So we want to have at least 2 in our opener with high probability, and we want to have no more than 4 on turn 4-5, say, either. You can play around with different weights of exactly how bad each scenario is, you can get slightly different answers, but you're going to find yourself somewhere in this ballpark. Once you start adding some cantrips in, you can shave some lands. Most of your lands need to be fetches, in order for you to be able to hit all of your colors reliably when you need them.
Speaking of colors, I tend to favor a Naya version. This enables Wild Nacatl, plus a number of white cards which are pretty nice to have (Boros Charm, Lightning Helix, some creatures, and several sideboard cards), and in green, also the Nacatl, the very excellent Atarka's Command, and one of your most important sideboard cards in Destructive Revelry. Some builds add Black, but I definitely think you need all of the Naya colors. While I have played a 4-color version, and it has some points in its favor, I think in general this is too much to ask of your manabase.
To be able to have all your colors by turn 2, which generally is your goal, you want to stay as close as possible to the Fetch+Shock manabase as you possibly can. Wild Nacatl also demands the basic types, which heavily dissuades us from playing alternatives from other dual-land cycles. You generally do want to run some number of basics. Blood Moon is actually quite effective against the deck if they can get it down in time and not by dying, which in general is not something that happens terribly often. Furthermore, you can float mana and Destructive Revelry the Moon in some cases. For these reasons, I tend to not worry too much about Blood Moon, but if you expect the metagame is saturated enough with the card (as is possible due to Tron and Eldrazi being serious decks), you might want to pack a Plains and a Forest. More generally, I include basics (almost always a Mountain and often a Plains) to be fetchable against Ghost Quarter and Path to Exile, as well as to be a bit less painful against other aggressive decks. The Plains is in particular nice in the mirror, where I want to bring in Kor Firewalker - some builds I'll even have one in the board just for the mirror.
However, it's important to not have too many non-Fetch/Shocks, as nothing hurts worse than being unable to cast all of your spells after having drawn your Basic Mountain, and that is something which will happen. Effectively by including basics, you're cutting your number of sources of each color, which just makes everything harder to come together. It's because of this (mostly) that we run more fetches than fetchables by a wide margin (I tend to run 5-8 fetchables, most often 6), though due to various Land Destruction effects, we want to make sure we keep at least two of both of our duals. This brings up the question of Temple Garden. I'm generally against running one wanting all my lands to make red, though depending on your specific needs and build, it's not necessarily so bad.
Utility lands should be avoided I mean, you can run them if you really need to (e.g. Ghost Quarter in a deck absolutely full of Eldrazi and Tron), but I find that most land-based decks aren't that bad of matchups anyway. Moreover, if you do really need to run such a land, keep in mind that it needs to take a spell slot, as there probably isn't a card in your main deck (and few if any in the sideboard) that colorless mana can actually help cast.
One note before going into the specific cards is that creatures want to be run out on turn 1, so they actually have time to get damage in. They generally all want to played turn as soon as possible, which can create somewhat of a log-jam. The haste creatures tend to be a bit better to hold back, when you have to make a choice. You want to make sure you have at least one creature in your opener, and you'd like an extra 1-2 to play on turn 2, but at the same time, you don't want too many, as they tend to be worse topdecks than burn spells. I've run anywhere from 12-22, but the math tells me that the sweet spot tends to be around 16-17.
The namesake card is the most efficient thing you can be doing on turn 1 (with some fringe-y exceptions, and assuming Delver doesn't flip 100% of the time). Hitting for 3 on turn 2 makes this a Lava Spike that leaves a 3/3 behind, which is a big game. It probably isn't the best creature in the deck, but it is top 3, and you want at least that many creatures. Run 4.
The long-time best card in the burn deck has probably slipped down to being the second-best creature, but it's still amazing. Always run 4. It's worth noting that the trigger isn't 100% draw-back, since seeing what they're going to draw can help you play around a good bit.
It's actually pretty close between this and Goblin Guide, but I think general consensus is that this girl is better. It's a slightly worse top-deck, but your games are short enough that this isn't a huge factor; it survives against more, it has higher overall damage potential, and of course it doesn't have the drawback trigger. Always run 4.
This is quite possibly the actual best turn 1 play, and it's certainly the most explosive. It can do some filthy things with the land mode of Atarka's Command. Most of your mana-base being fetches means this card will often be hitting for 4 on turn 2, in which case it's payed for itself. You need to be pretty careful/crafty when playing and cracking your lands with this in play, to both maximize damage and play around your opponent's options. It's a terrible top-deck, and we aren't running all that many lands total. Drawing the second one is pretty much disaster, and for that reason, you don't want to run too many. I like 0-3, tending to go with 1 or maybe 2. Of all the creatures, this is the one you want on turn 1 the most BY FAR.
This is the least mana-efficient card in the deck by a pretty big margin. The rate is simply not good, so I don't tend to want to run it if I can avoid it. Having said that, it's a threat that can sustain damage even against an opponent with blockers, and it can kill problematic cards on the other side. This makes it excellent against decks like Elves, Affinity, and Pyromancer/Delver. How many of these you want is definitely a meta-game call, but I would certainly stick somewhere in the 0-2 range. It's also possible to mance some lava out of your board, but that's a pretty grim plan, as it's just not enough impact for my taste. If you are running some main-deck, they're often the first cards to come out.
The Punisher card that could. The problem with this card is that if you play it turn 1, you're probably getting a slightly-better Lava Spike, which is a fine card in your deck (it would make the deck absolutely broken if they printed it), but not a terribly exciting turn 1 play. Later, they take the creature and can fairly likely deal with it. I think the optimal time to play this is generally turn 2, so if you're in the range of numbers of creatures that makes that likely without hurting you too much (typically 13-16), then you might run say 0-2 of these. I tend to want more creatures than that though. If you do play this one, you generally want to play it at the beginning of your turn - 1st main even and before making a land drop - unless you need to hold something else up (or bluff it, maybe). This gives your opponent less information to make their decision, and gives you the information of their choice to help you plan better yourself.
Kird Ape/Loam Lion
These cards are depressingly worse than Wild Nacatl. I've heard the argument that Kird Ape is better off of just a Stomping Grounds, which I guess is true, but I don't think that's meaningful almost at all, since the third point of toughness makes a difference so rarely. In fact, I tend to prefer Loam Lion over Kird Ape - it's definitely worse for the goldfish, but given that Kor Firewalker and Burrenton Forge-Tender are two of the more highly-played and highly-effective board cards against you, I tend to give Lion the nod. It's pretty rare that I am keeping a 1-lander with this as my only creature anyway. In any case, you'll run from 0-5 but basically just because you need to pad out your creature count to where you want it to be.
Kytheon, Hero of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged
I have actually spent a lot of time testing with one of these in the deck. You can definitely build the deck to have enough 1-drops to make getting 3 of them out on turn 2 a very real possibility. The issue is that this means you aren't transforming until turn 3, and you don't get your 4/4 to attack until turn 4, at which point it's not that amazing. The walker abilities come up occasionally, but not terribly often (except, of course, the turn it flips). Things get a lot better if you can go this on turn 1, 2 haste creatures and flip on turn 2, but with only 8 in the deck, this isn't terribly likely. Perhaps the bigger problem is that it's just not that great anyway. Sure, if you can flip it turn 2 every time, it would be the best creature in your deck - but not by much. It doesn't actually do more damage than a Nacatl or Goblin Guide until turn 4 in this case, and the improvement is incrementally slow, which isn't really what this deck wants. The indesctrutible ability can be good, mostly if you ever get to a situation where you're blocking. But it doesn't come up that often, and is a huge mana sink. I've run as many as 2 of these in the past, but can't recommend anything more than 0-1.
Eidolon of the Great Revel
I suppose this is the
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
People throw this out as the reason to play black in the burn deck. I really, really don't understand that. It actually can't come out until turn 3 at least (unless you're running 0-mana cantrips). That is way later than I want my creature to come down, and actually, it probably won't even cost 1 mana then, given that you want to play other creatures first, which hopefully don't die. Once it comes down, it is big, and eventually it will win you the game (if you have double green), but that process takes a LONG time, and is vulnerable to removal. A definite 0 copies. Do not play this card in this deck!
I don't think this card is better than Burst Lightning. I'm not even joking. Okay, I am joking, but I also believe that's true. The problem is, you get lands into the yard pretty consistently, and Instants aren't hard to turn on, sure. But creatures aren't dying that fast (at least hopefully), and you generally aren't running many Sorceries in your deck. You're unlikely to actually get this to being a 4/5 by turn 3, or eve a little later, at least without help from your opponent. And while it is definitely card-efficient once you get it there, it's not that mana-efficient. Also, it's around this point that I tend to start expecting my guys to be dying, and they'll kill your Goyf fast. So I don't necessarily think it's a crazy include, but I'm pretty sure it reduces your speed, so I would recommend going with 0 of these.
Abbot of Keral Keep
This is an interesting one. I thought that this thing would be good, theoretically. It isn't. The problem is, it's quite slow. It's really bad as a turn 2 play, and even with 2 lands out/3rd in hand, it's not that stellar. I don't really want to wait to have access to 4 lands to play my 2-drop in this deck, and even in that best-case, it tends to not be that much better than just having drawn the underlying card - your hand is probably empty... This is card advantage, so if you're in a super-grindy, removal-filled matchup, the card is fine. Not great against counterspells though. I suppose worth a consideration against Grixis and Jund, but really, if those decks are such a heavy part of your metagame, your plan A should be racing them, and if for some reason that isn't working, then you probably ought to be playing a different deck (because you probably have a very in-bred metagame). I recommend 0.
Primary Burn Spells
There aren't diminishing returns on these cards as there were on creatures. Burning your face on turn 1 is about as effective as it is on turn 7. They tend to be good top-decks as well. The potential issue is that card quality declines as you have to go further down the list. I want to note that while being able to hit creatures is nice, you're almost always just going to fling these at the opponent's face. The going rate is 1 mana for 3 damage, which is great. If we could play more of those cards, we would. 2 Mana for 4 damage is also pretty good, being better in terms of card advantage while obviously less mana-efficient. The mana-efficiency makes these worse overall, but you will play both.
Probably the best card in the Modern format. Play 4.
Clearly worse than Lightning Bolt is still clearly good enough to play 4 of without second thought. Ironically, you could argue that this was even better than Bolt against Splinter Twin, since Dispel can't counter it. I expect that to be less of a consideration now. :)
The printing of this card is what I think really pushed this deck over the top, particularly this build with 1-drops over Eidolons. Playing it to pump your attackers is often good for 5+ damage, and that's not even considering the Skullcrack option, which lets you fight life-gain very effectively. Knowing when to play vs hold this is one of the trickier parts of playing this deck post-board, but it's almost always going to be excellent. You also use every part of the
Another 4-of part of the core of the deck, and another card where you're going to use every mode sometimes. 4 Damage is by far the most common, of course. Indestructible comes up a decent little amount, too - sometimes you just save a creature, sometimes you can save two. Double Strike most often comes up when my opponent can't be targeted, as a way to still get some damage through, though on rare occasions you can actually build a creature up enough for that to be slightly profitable.
Look, we're desperate for more copies of Lightning Bolt. Saccing a land is a really big cost, though, especially as we aren't running so many, especially that stick around (though you can sac a superfluous fetch if it comes to that). So this is fine as your last spell to finish them off, not great against counterspells, and hilariously wonderful against Spreading Seas. I recommend running 0-1.
Another Lightning Bolt, this is not. Taking a whole extra turn is a massive cost, as very often it just means giving your opponent an extra turn. It's also a bad card against Remand in a deck full of cards which are pretty much without exception good against Remand. Yes, you can cast it for 3 off the top, but its' such an ugly card... either don't run this card, or run 0.
This is an interesting one. It's never so bad, but if the life isn't going to matter, it's a bit inefficient. If you're expecting an aggro-heavy meta (lots of burn, mirrors, Affinity), then you're going to be wanting to pack quite a lot of these. If, on the other hand, your own life total doesn't matter, then you can ignore them altogether. You really can be anywhere from 0-4 on these, depending on your expected metagame. It's also not a crazy card to have in the sideboard.
Bump in the Night
This one is the real reason to play Black. And yes, Lava Spike is so incredibly good in the deck that it's not totally crazy to go there. The mana is so bad, though, that I don't think it's actually worth it. The life loss vs damage is basically irrelevant, since nobody plays damage prevention, but neither are you ever actually redirecting to a Planeswalker. The flashback is nice, but in practice you aren't really getting to 6 mana (it is enough of a bonus that I'd probably try to play 7 actual mana-producing lands though). 0 or 4, but not in between.
The inherent downside of cantrips is that you flood out with a smaller deck, so you compensate by shaving lands, but then your mulligan decisions are a little bit harder, which is bad if your cards have a flat power level. The idea behind running cantrips is that Nacatl, Swiftspear, Goblin Guide, Bolt, Spike, Atarka's Command, and Boros Charm form a big chunk of cards at the core of the deck which are the most efficient by a reasonably healthy margin, and concentrating down to a deck of these is going to increase your goldfishing ability (and increase the effectiveness of your sideboard cards), so we'd like to do that if it doesn't cost us too much. 1 Mana is too much, but we have some options....
The best of the bunch. This one costs 0 mana, 0 life, is an instant, and can even fix your mana a little bit. There's some concern that it can also hurt your mana, since you don't necessarily know what colors you need, but in practice this is very, very rare. The thing is, you can usually cast this with a precise follow-up planned in hand. By the time you're empty-handed, you almost always have your third land to be able to hold up all three colors and cast whatever you draw. Sometimes you're a bit incentivized to cast this on 2 and end up drawing something which would have been better if you know to take that mana, but it doesn't come up often, and if you think about it, having to play a slightly sub-optimal card is what you'd generally have by playing a different spell over this card anyway. This card can be genuinely bad against Thalia (because it costs a mana), Eidolon of the Great Revel, Dragon's Claw, or Kor Firewalker. Or Rule of Law/Ethersworn Cannonist/Eidolon of Rhetoric, but those cards should live in the board and probably not come in against you. It's also possibly not great against certain conditional counterspells (though it's not often it fails when its replacement wouldn't also have). The bigger concern, of course, is that it clogs your hand if you haven't hit your 2nd land drop yet, potentially even slowing your access to a creature, which desperately wants to be played turn 1 - on the other hand, you once again weren't drawing that creature if this were some other card, anyway. I don't necessarily think you need to run this card, and you could go anywhere from 0-4 based on your ratios, but I favor 4 copies. It's definitely worth noting that this actually gets damage in with Monastery Swiftspear, which is fantastic. Knowing when to play this card is reasonably skill-intensive. The fixing would promote playing basic forest and basic mountain to some extent, though it's also a way to cast your spells out from under Blood Moon (which was the primary reason to run Forest anyway).
This one is a sorcery and costs life, which given the amount of damage we're taking, is a fairly precious resource. It doesn't have the clog-your-hand problem, though. If you somehow expect your life total not to be in danger, go ahead and run this. The information is nice in some ways, but not a huge factor, usually. Also, this is pretty bad against Remand. If you're also playing Manamorphose, you can potentially hard-cast this occasionally. Again, you can go 0-4, but this time I would lean to 0.
Compared to Gitaxian Probe, this gets you no information, doesn't trigger Swiftspear, and plays worse against Scavenging Ooze (while being slightly harder to cast off of Manamorhpose). On the plus side, it's better against most counterspells (though you get completely wrecked by Squelch - look it up), and better against Living End by a decent margin. If somehow you expect tons of Living End in your meta, you might play this. You might also play this after having maxed out on Probes if you're some kind of suicidal madman who never expects to be attacked. I suppose I should be gender-equal - you could be a madwoman as well. 0-4 but really really 0.
Fun fact: this card has an error in its Oracle entry on Gatherer. I'll wait. Okay, don't be gone too long, though - the answer is at the bottom of the article if you get really frustrated. Anyway, the card is actual 0 mana, 0 life, which is good. It does grow opposing Goyfs, which is a little bad, but the big problem with this card is that it's slow. That extra turn can make a world of difference. This does trigger Prowess, by the way. But you aren't getting much benefit out of knowing the top card, either, with no way to manipulate either library except for fetching (and usually you can't really wait to fetch anyway). I strongly recommend 0 copies of this card.
I'm trying to include absolutely every other card I would or have considered playing in the deck, as well as cards I've seen other people play in the deck, or things which I think people might be inclined to try. Many of these cards aren't good at all in the deck. I've probably forgotten some things, and I've left some out on purpose (e.g. Delver is a different deck, and Spark Elemental doesn't make much sense unless you need to be budget/monoR for some reason).
Path to Exile
The best point removal spell for larger creatures (and also for things that need to be exiled). Giving them the land is a real cost, but hopefully the game doesn't last long enough for that to be too much of a problem. Potentially you can path your own creature in order to trigger landfall or get a much-needed land (in response to a removal spell already, hopefully), but no, I haven't had that come up yet. Before the recent bannings, I always wanted to have access to 3-4 of these, but they were amongst the best cards against both Twin and Amulet/Bloom, so that need has gone down. I like running 0-2 main now with an additional 0-3 in the board for an overall count of 0-3. The card is main-deck-able, but there are a number of matchups where it's very poor, and not all that many where it's actually great.
It's possible that this helps you goldfish a little better, because 0 mana is a great price, even if 2 damage is a bit less than what you want from a card. You wouldn't run it for that effect alone, but of course the primary purpose is as a defense against opposing Lightning Bolts. Still, I'm not a huge fan of the card, and would only run 0-1.
Searing Blaze/Searing Blood
This is the other major possible Main-deck card. Blaze sees quite a bit of play, actually, out of main-decks, but I tend not to like it. The reason is, I really want to be playing creatures of my own on my first couple turns, and after this, landfall is not very reliable. If you kill a creature and do 3, it's obviously excellent, but you also have to look at how many creatures and of what size you're facing. The plus on it vis a vis Searing Blood is that you can get your damage in even if the creature doesn't die (plus the 3rd point). However, when I want to have the card, I generally prefer Searing Blood - though obviously being more limited, that's a worse main-deck card. You can run anywhere from 0-2 copies of either.
More creature-oriented decks might want to throw this in as a way to bust through blockers. It's also just another 2 mana 4 damage if you can have an attacker that you know won't get hit by a removal spell. It's potentially possible to combine this with Boros Charm's double-strike for a lot of damage out of nowhere, but despite being my jams in Standard a couple years back, that is pretty unrealistic (as you rarely get to so many lands and rarely need that much damage). The card is pretty risky, though, and needs you to be able to attack. It does, of course, have the upside of being castable as a creature later in the game, but that is very marginal. I would run 0-1 copies in either the main or board. However, if it's particularly high-toughness creatures (and not chump-blockers) that you're worried about, and you want a sideboard card, I would strongly recommend looking at 0-1 copies of Ride Down. Yep, it's a very nice way to tangle with Tarmogoyfs and Tasigurs as well as a reasonable 1st-pick draft card.
This is potentially the most efficient spell in your deck at dealing damage, in terms of both cards and mana. The problem is, you need an unblocked creature, and you get blown out very badly by removal. It's also not so trivial to fill your graveyard early (at least while still having a creature alive), which is by far the time when it's most likely for you to be 'in the clear'. This gets significantly more attractive with "free spells", particularly Gitaxian Probe. It's pretty risky, but in some builds you can do 0-1 for sheer speed. As a note, all the other delve spells (i.e. Hooting Mandrils) aren't worth running largely the same reasons as this and Tasigur aren't.
This is probably your most important sideboard card. It kills many of the most common hate cards played against you, and because of the damage, it's almost a 2-for-1 (3 damage is basically worth a card for you). It's straight worse than Smash to Smithereens against artifacts, and you tend to use the card more against artifacts than anything else. However, this isn't too hard to cast, and the 1 damage, while significant, isn't necessarily back-breaking. And there are some enchantments that you want to hit - most notably Leyline of Sanctity. Beyond this, Revelry is also very good against Bogles and hits Pyromancer's Ascension out of Storm, Heartless Summoning out of that version of the Eldrazi deck, and various random things (pillow fort, Phyrexian Unlife, etc.). For this reason I want 3-4 copies in my sideboard for sure. The fewer of these, the more artifact hate cards you want, because there are a lot of artifacts out there right now.
This card is mainly positioned against Affinity, where it turns off some of their lands, Mox Opal, and notably most of Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, and Steel Overseer. It certainly doesn't end the game, but their best cards are suddenly Signal Pest and of course Etched Champion. This tends to make things way more manageable and is likely to give you the time you need to win. However, it's also important to note that the card also plays against Tron, the various Krark-Clan Ironworks Decks, and Lantern Control. I run 0-2 Sideboard, but it's a metagame call - if you know these decks are going to be a huge part of the meta, you could go up to even more, but of course you have ltos of other artifact hate as well.
I am not sure if it's ever right to run this card. It's possible that there are simply always going to be better options, with Shattering Spree, Shatterstorm, and the aforementioned Smash to Smithereens being real contenders. Indeed, I am inclined to think Spree is probably just better for this deck, and probably Smash goes enough with your game-plan that it's better still. The main reason you'd run Grudge is for Lantern Control, because the flashback can really save you there. 0-1 sideboard if you're worried about that deck specifically.
This is your other most important sideboard card. Despite having Atarka's command giving you a lot of this effect main-deck, you definitely want to run 3-4 copies of it, and I've even dabbled with putting one in the main (though this is more to save board space than anything). Apart from stopping life-gain, which is the main point, the anti-prevention clause also helps against such cards as Kor Firewalker and Etched Champion which are otherwise tough to deal with.
I am not as high on this card as I was a few months ago, but I still like having 0-2 copies in my sideboard. There are just enough Modern decks that try to kill you in one fell swoop. Plus, this doesn't target, making it the ultimate trump card against some matchups. Principally, this is directed against Bogles and Infect, where it's the nuts. It's also good against most of the Through the Breach decks, as there's nothing more delicious than letting an opponent's Emrakul kill them. In many of those matchups, drawing this card with mana to cast it can just be game (though it is a little bit tricky, as you need to hold the mana up and generally can't apply actual 0 pressure). It can have applications against affinity, but I am not sure that they go all-in against us enough for that to be worth it. It's also potentially playable against random decks that have reasonably large creatures as their way to kill you, but those decks are much more likely to be able to play around this in some way, so I tend not to recommend it. Best story is using this against an Ad Nauseam opponent on their Lightning Storm, hoping they boarded out their Pacts of Negation, and getting paid off (followed by boarding this back out for game 3).
Somewhat similar to Deflecting Palm, this one is easier to keep up and harder to interact with. On the other hand, this one doesn't kill them in return, as Palm often does (given that you're still being pretty aggressive), and it only prevents the last point of damage (plus overkill). It's way worse against Infect (you lose as soon as it's your turn anyway). Generally, you're going to want this card if and only if you have an opponent who's going all-in against you. It's the nut against Ad Nauseam, and might have applications against Storm or Grishoalbrand. Again, you need them to not just be able to kill you on the next turn, so this is pretty narrow. I like running 0, but you can go up to 1 in specific metagames.
It probably seems strange to think about boarding this in when it's often boarded in against us, but here we are. I will run 0-2 copies of this in my side board and not be too unhappy. It is good against Affinity, Elves, Tokens, and Delver, which comprise some of our tougher matchups. And when we cast it, it is generally only killing Goblin Guide out of our creatures (and we can prepare for this coming). I am not sure whether this is bad enough to make us prefer Electrickery or Scouring Sands.
Chalice of the Void might be another card to consider against Affinity on the play (for 0), as might also be true of Engineered Explosives, but I think these are probably too narrow to really want to go for.
This is one I've enjoyed having 0-1 copies of in the board when I'm playing black. The anti-graveyard is good against a few decks (e.g. Living End, Storm), the extra artifact kill comes up occasionally, and the last mode... well, it used to be a possible Twin disabler, and I guess it still works against Kiki-Jiki combos, but mostly it is directed against tokens, Elves, and Affinity, the same as Pyroclasm.
You need to have a plan against the mirror, particularly the pseudo-mirror, and I believe that this is the best card for that matchup. Of course, the problem is the casting cost, which might lead you to other options. You can go anywhere from 0 to 4, depending on the metagame you are expecting and what other plans you have for the mirror. The applications outside the mirror are very slim, though you can bring it in against Delver and maaaybe Storm? Probably not Storm. I tend to go with 2-3.
A worse card than Firewalker for sure, but way easier to cast. The nice thing is that this is much easier to cast. You have to worry a little bit about them having Revelry (they shouldn't, but might if they think you have Eidolon). I would go with 0-1 most of the time, though I suppose you could do more if you're really off of the Firewalker plan.
Another potential anti-burn card, but with a bit wider applications against any red sweepers. In terms of impact against Burn, though, I'm not even sure that it's better than running a Lightning Helix. I tend to lean to 0, but if you expect a lot of Firespout/Anger of the Gods/etc, you might want some of these.
Leyline of Sanctity
This may well be the best anti-Burn card. Making yourself hexproof takes away most of their sting, especially in the not-quite-mirror, as your creatures are a little bit bigger than theirs in this case. You can potentially cast this, but it's pretty unlikely, especially against those decks. The good news is that the game lasts short enough that you're far more likely to have it in your opening hand than to draw it. The card has some other applications, too, as some of the combo decks (e.g. Storm) need to target you. They almost always have ways around this card, but they might not read you for a card like this (in these cases, if you show it game 2, I would seriously consider taking it out in game 3), and anyway it's one more thing they need to have. You can potentially also use it against Jund-style decks, but I tend to find my slots are best used elsewhere in those matchups. There are definitely diminishing returns to extra copies, so I go somewhere in the 0-3 range.
I don't tend to like this card, especially post-Twin. It plays against Boggles and Infect mostly, but those decks are going to be well-prepared for the card. I am basically always going to prefer the harder-to-deal-with Deflecting Palm against those decks. Some people like it against Burn, but I don't think that's where we want to be.
DO NOT RUN THIS CARD. It's actually something you don't want to see in play, as it hurts your own deck substantially. It also just doesn't work so well with your gameplan, and given that Bloom has been banned, it doesn't do enough to just kill any of the other decks. 0 0 0 0 0
These are cards I tend to look for against Blue decks if I am playing Green or Red, respectively (and of course not playing blue myself). In this deck, though, you're going to run 0 for sure. Most blue decks have quite a number of non-island lands (even Merfolk has some), and it just doesn't work well with the gameplan of this deck. You have to ask yourself, how many games can I cast this (and it's an expensive amount of mana) and have it disrupt them enough to give you so much extra time that just a burn spell wouldn't have also won? The answer isn't 0, but it's not high - I suspect the burn spells are actually better overall almost every time, and even when they aren't, the impact is just far too low for a precious board slot.
This mostly has the same problems as Choke and Boil, but at least the fireball aspect goes with your plan of killing them. I could see some universe where this is a good card against Eldrazi, given that it so wants Urborg, but I still really doubt it's good enough to include. Stick with 0.
Crumble to Dust
I guess you can run this for Tron and Eldrazi, but I think that it's once again too slow to really be good enough.
I think this is probably the best Land-attacking card, likely by a pretty high margin, as the damage is really relevant, making it, like Destructive Revelry, almost a 2-for-1. Still, I tend to doubt that this is the plan you want to go with rather than "kill them very fast", which tends to be good against those decks with specialty lands anyway.
Rest in Peace
I believe this is the best piece of Graveyard hate you can run. You aren't relying on your own yard at all, so it doesn't hurt you, and it's pretty cheap and castable. The other main option would be Relic of Progenitus, but there's a decent amount of stuff that doesn't do. This would do good work against Storm, Loam, possibly delve, and to some extent Goryo's Vengeance (though I think those might be more looking for Through the Breach, anyway). Given that I don't expect these to be a big part of the metagame, I generally run 0 (as the matchups aren't so bad to start), but I could see going up to 2 depending on your expectations.
A possible graveyard hoser that's also a creature to synergize with your game-plan a bit. It gains some life, too, for the mirrors (where creatures often die). The big problem is that it's a bit slow. You might really run one, but I tend to find it not impactful enough. I suppose it's even main-deckable, though, if the metagame has a lot of decks you might want this for.
This draft format is full of 2/3s, so it might not be stellar, but it's still a playable card for sure. Wait, we're talking Modern? Yes, this one isn't crazy, because it's a way of dealing with problematic Pro Red creatures like Kor Firewalker, Burrenton Forge-Tender, Etched Champion, and possibly even Master of Waves. Having said that, Skullcrack is already doing a lot of this work, and if you're really so hard-pressed, I would probably recommend Pyrite Spellbomb over this one.
Cards That Are Good Against Us: The Best And Most Innovative Title For A Subsection Ever™
I believe that this is actually the best card against our deck. It comes down and gains some life, holds off our board and gains more life. Skullcrack effects don't do all that much for us, since it's spread out. Trading a creature for this is about the worst. It can even start attacking. Path to Exile is the best answer we have. Beyond this, we generally try to shift our deck away from creatures (because attacking into this is so bad) and more towards straight Burn.
Anger of the Gods/Radiant Flames/Firespout
Pretty good as ways to Wrath our board. The only ways of playing around this are to not run all the creatures out (usually not an option), in some cases hold up Atarka's Command to pump out of range, or just power through win anyway. The latter is usually best, since the creatures are really ok with just getting in a hit or two (though obviously you'd like more).
This is even better than the red sweepers mentioned above, for most decks (as all of our creatures are 1 CMC). 3 mana between Wrath and Plague wind. Obviously if they leave it out you can play around it some, but usually they're going to be able to pop it in one go, in which case it's the same story as the above.
Everyone's old standby. It's pretty good, though not utterly backbreaking if not supported - we have lots of creatures. We have Revelry for it (and possibly Smash), which we'll bring in if we think they're packing it.
This is quite similar to Dragon's Claw. I think the Darksteel uncommon to be slightly better than that from Mirrodin, but regardless, this is more dictated by the opposing deck than your own. We treat the two pretty similarly.
Leyline of Sanctity
The best way to stop us from burning opponents out. Atarka's Command gets around it, we can lean on creatures, Boros Charm can go for Double Strike mode.... nevertheless, this is one of the main reasons we run Destructive Revelry over Smash to Smithereens. The bigger a problem this card is, the more creature-centric we want to run.
I find that this card is incredibly overrated against us, especially out of non-blue decks. It's probably a bigger deal blocking than it is in stopping spells. If they can't play the blue, it's only saving them 1 or at the max 2 life anyway. And the two halves of the card (block and stop burn) anti-synergize. In blue decks, it's better, but not unbeatable. And again, we have artifact hate to help.
Our deck is very well-eqiupped to fight against this card. First of all, even if it fully gets off, we can simply have enough firepower to fight through, if the opponent doesn't have fairly good support. Moreover, we take a lot of damage from our own lands, meaning we can often naturally be lower than the opponent anyway. Knowing that the opponent is at least semi-likely to have the card lets us play round it 'naturally'. Then, we also have access to quite a bit of Skullcrack equity.
Feed the Clan (lifegain du jour)
This is largely the same story as Timely, though we're a bit more all-in on Skullcrack. 5 life is actually fairly beatable, though 10 is tough. Fortunately for them, having big creatures is also a good way to stop our ground game. So Skullcrack effects and/or some hard removal are fairly necessary.
Like Feed the Clan, being both a big body and 5 life (and even another body) is just what a deck needs to beat you. Fortunately, 5 mana is quite a lot, so it's pretty slow, especially without mana dorks to speed it up. Plan A is definitely to race this one, but Skullcrack effects come in handy, too.
This card is a beating. Path to Exile is plan A. The next best way we have around it is to have creatures which aren't red. Skullcrack can also help a good bit (Atarka's Command does not though). If you're really desperate, you can go to something like Pyrite Spellbomb. The point is that by lessening the effectiveness of our burn spells, the game is elongated, which lets the Firewalker have more chances to be good against us, snowballing in on itself a litlte bit. It's possible to overpower this by sheer force of numbers, and the card certainly doesn't beat you by itself, but it goes a long way.
This is easier for most decks to play than the Firewalker. Fortunately for us, it's also significantly less effective. All of your creatures can attack in safely here - it just gets to wall one of them. And yeah, it can be a 1 mana counterspell, but we have to play against some of those anyway (no bonus points for guessing "Which Spell?"), and this is not that much better.
Chalice of the Void
I have not really seen this played, but it can be a real beating, especially if they can get it down before our 2nd turn. Most of our deck is 1-drops. The rest is 2 drops, so 2 of these can actually straight-up be game over in a lot of cases. Definitely bring in your artifact destruction if you expect this - though I'm not sure when you would expect it, given the current metagame. Still, if you're looking to beat this deck, this might be a card to look at.
This one has been growing quite a bit in popularity in black decks. Fortunately, it's not great against our builds, which aren't running Eidolon of the Great Revel. Beyond this, we have some Revelry action ready to take this out if slapping this on a fatty is a big part of their game-plan. If this survives on a Tarmogoyf or delve fatty, it can be big problems, though it's worth noting that a Skullcrack effect can buy a little bit of time if you're closing in.
Before we begin here, I want to note a few things. First, I am not including every possible matchup. There are too many, and importantly, I don't have enough experience in some of them (I'm looking at you, Eldrazi deck). I'm also not going to give exact board plans with numbers of cards to take in and out (it varies too much, and you should be thinking for yourself based on nuances - they're important). I also don't want to give hard evaluations - certainly percentages aren't something I know with precision, but most of the time, I don't even like "favorable" judgments, because it depends quite a bit on the builds of both decks and especially sideboards. In general, you are probably going to be able to get a good matchup against any deck, but not every deck - this is the whole deal with metagaming. How much they are packing for your deck is also going to be a pretty massive influence on how things play out. Finally, the die roll can matter an awful lot in the format, and with this deck in particular (though perhaps not quite so much as some people think, as we're actually somewhere around a third of a turn faster on the draw, apart from the extra card).
There are also some notes which come up in general. In many matchups, we are going to be boarding a lot of creatures out and going to much more of a straight burn deck - this is because most decks will have some way of dealing with our creatures, and there are fewer that have ways of dealing with spells. This is especially true against decks that have lots of GW sticky creatures (Kitchen Finks, Voice of Resurgence, etc.) Creatures tend to be a little better on the play than the draw, though I don't make much difference. Occasionally you can board out a land on the draw. Against aggressive decks, you need to be careful about fetching, as every time you're shocking yourself, it's almost like casting half a spell for them.
Having gotten that out of the way, let's dive in.
I'm jumping right in with the matchup that has me the most puzzled. Die roll is certainly important here, as very often we're just in a dead race - or at least can be. You can play for a race, or to try to stall the game out enough for your burn spells to do the trick. I'm not sure which route you should be looking for in general, but I am pretty confident that it depends a lot on what cards are actually drawn. It's very important to remember that Atarka's Command can give your guys reach, which can definitely win you some games. My general impression is that they usually have a slight advantage against you in game 1, as if they aren't a faster goldfish, taking damage from your lands probably swings it a little bit to that side.
Their best cards against you are Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Etched Champion, and Vault Skirge can be pretty good as well. Post-board, things should get better, as you are going to bring in all of your artifact hate, Searing effects, Pyroclasm effects, probably Path to Exile, and maybe Skullcrack (which helps with Etched Champion and Vault Skirge). It's also possible to bring Deflecting Palm in, as it's very good against plating or if they go "all in" with Ravager, but there are also games where they just go wide, and it does little, so it's a matter of how much space you have. I don't really know where this puts the matchup overall, but again, I think it depends a lot on the specific builds.
Whether U-based or GR, this matchup tends to be very good. They are simply a bit too slow in doing enough, and their haymakers aren't all that great against you - sure, Karn is fine, but killing one creature for 3 mana isn't that hot. Killing 2 creatures isn't that great even. It comes down too late. Same thing with Ugin. You do need to watch out for ultimates, as those tend to be pretty good against you, but it's not that hard to kill them fast enough usually. R sweepers aren't that great against us, as some of our creatures are immune (or can be - be aware to sometimes hold up saving your Swiftspear in lieu of getting a damage in when that's the only way you can lose). U counterspells are a bit better, but we get enough board advantage and have enough instants that they aren't amazing either. Wurmcoil engine tends to be the best card against us, but we have ways to make it not back-breaking already.
Post-board, we are mostly running back the game 1 plan, though bringing some artifact hate can definitely be appropriate as well. Stony Silence tends to be better than the destruction cards (especially against RG). It's important to not dilute yourself too much - kill them dead is really the #1 plan by a wide margin. You bring more artifact hate in against U than RG, as they're more reliant on them (especially ones that stick around).
This tends to be very favorable post-board. Dark Confidant is best used as a blocker for you - sometimes you don't even want to attack into him (though usually you do, as having good free cards is a way you can lose). Thoughtseize is not a nothing card against you, but usually it comes out to something like B, use a card, save 1-2 life, which is not very good. Inquisition is a good bit better, doing a good Healing Salve impression. Liliana can do some decent work, killing your worst creature and then threatening to strip your hand a bit. Because of all the discard, in this matchup, it's very important to hold lands if you don't need them, especially in game one. Something to potentially watch for is killing your own attacker post-blocks if you've seen the top card of their deck is going to do a lot of damage to them off their Bob (via a Goblin Guide reveal). Their best pre-board cards against you are the removal spells (Lightning Bolt is predictably very good) and Tarmogoyf.
Post-board, things tend to get worse, though not awful. They tend to have a number of life-gain spells to bring in. You're on the plan of board out of the worst creatures (Lavamancer, Vexing Devil, Steppe Lynx, any Kird-Ape style cards) and add in all the Skullcracks you can muster. Path to Exile is fine as well, though you need to still provide a reasonable clock. They aren't good at dealing with a slew of burn, so that's got to be plan A.
This matchup is very similar to Jund, though on the whole I think it's a good deal worse. They tend to run more life-gain in the form of Siege Rhino and maybe Kitchen Finks, even in the main deck. Their not having Bolt is your biggest advantage. It's possible that they can be bringing Leyline in, which is pretty crushing, since Reverly is otherwise pretty dead, making it kind of risky to bring in. You have to make some guess on that, maybe just hope they don't have it. If they get to playing some number of Oath of Nissa, then you are definitely bringing Revelry in, and that should help you a lot. More or less, you're on the same burn-them-out plan as against Jund, though creatures are slightly better here.
This is a deck which might have a better goldfish than us. Fortunately, between their lands and Gitaxian Probe, they tend to hurt themselves a fair bit, and they have very, very little interaction. You ask them a tough question game 1 (of whether they need to go for it turn 3, since they're fairly likely not to get a turn 4), and die roll is probably pretty big. The game-plan is pretty straightforward, though I should note that you really need to kill Goblin Electromancer on sight. Post-board, you don't change much, but probably bring some copies of Revelry in, since Pyromancer Ascension is such an important card for them. Also bring all graveyard hate you have - it's excellent, as usually they either need an active Ascension or Past in Flames.
This is another deck which has the possibility of goldfishing better than us. As such, we are far more likely to want to use Lightning Bolt to kill their creatures here than in just about any other matchup. Also, though, we want to use this very rare mechanic known as "blocking". To be fair, they will sometimes block us, as well. Atarka's Command for Reach is once again a very relevant mode here - keep it in mind. Game 1 is pretty tricky to navigate. Post-board, things tend to improve - we want to bring in artifact destruction, mostly for Inkmoth Nexus, but getting Spellskite is very nice as well. Deflecting Palm is the absolute best card, generally winning the game if you can resolve it, though you can't rely on it 100%. Generally what you take out are some of your worse creatures as well as e.g. Lightning Helix - your own life total matters VERY little of course. This is a matchup which depends a lot on how you build - I've had it be extremely favorable for me, though the way I tend to build my decks now, it's a bit less good. I tend to be afraid of the UG versions quite a bit more than BG, though of course Phyrexian Crusader is fairly good (and we tend to need to block with Nacatl or kill them fast against that card).
Another fairly difficult game 1 which improves quite a bit post-board. Skullcrack, Revelry, and Deflecting Palm all do a lot of work. Your creatures, particularly the non-hasty ones, are fairly bad, since they will have a giant vigilance guy so often. Matchup definitely depends on how you're configured (this one is the biggest reason to have 4 Revelry in your board), but I haven't found it to be unwinnable by any stretch.
Watch out for Spreading Seas, as it's effectively 2 mana cantripping Stone Rain (i.e. very good). Between that and AEther Vial, you want your Revelries. Also, between the Seas and Cursecatcher, they present a decent amount of disruption. This is the best matchup possible for Shard Volley. This is that rare matchup where you'll be bolting creatures probably even more often than face (but specifically you want this to be lords). In general, I think the matchup is slightly favorable for us, but I'm not confident in that.
Hatebears/Death and Taxes
In some respects, I suspect this is one of if not the worst matchup for us. The GW version is likely a bit better, though WB isn't so bad either. Their creatures are pretty sticky and hard to get through. They very often have Kitchen Finks main, and with Flickerwisp as well - it's pretty nasty. Their creatures match up just fine against us, and the hate generally hurts us. Leonin Arbiter is a beating as our mana-base is very sensitive and relies heavily on fetching. Thalia is also good against us. Generally we want to board in good Searing effects and Pyroclasm if you have it, but ultimately trying to fight against their creatures is a losing battle, and you need to go the Burn route. If they are also boarding against you in any kind of significant way, it's virtually impossible to make this one a good matchup.
Goryo's Vengeance/Through the Breach
There's a version that goes for Emrakul, and there's a version that goes for Borborygmos Enraged via some splice and Nourishing Shoal/Worldspine Wurm hijinks. Either way, they're typically using Griselbrand pretty heavily, which is good news for us - we want to get their life total low so as to limit their ability to draw cards. Skullcracks tend to be pretty good against the Griseldad, and especially against Shoal - countering one tends to be game over. The tricky part, of course, is that they can go off at instant speed, which makes it hard to time anything. You also need to be a little bit wary of them flashing a Griselbrand in to block. Path to Exile is supposedly good here, though I'm not entirely convinced that it's great, since they can usually respond by activating whatever ability they need. Deflecting palm is so-so against Grishoalbrand, but very good against Emrakul. In my experience, the matchup is very good, especially post-board (though definitely still loseable, as their best draws will beat yours), but I know that others feel very confident on the other side.
Another classic case of needing to board down on creatures and into more of a burn deck. Searing effects and Pyroclasms are great, though most often you want to be able to take out their really key cards - Elvish Archdruid and Ezuri, though sometimes also Heritage Druid. You need to care rather a lot actually about what build they're on, since Dwynen's Elite tends to be quite good against you, and other things less so. If you can pinch them on mana, great, but most often I find that to not be an option. Holding things back to block tends to be a losing proposition, so even when you're in a semi-bad position on board, you often need to attack through. Watch out for Chord of Calling for key cards against you, mostly Burrenton Forge-Tender (usually you can see a white land if they have this, but not always) and sometimes Spellskite (which is only so-so, of course).
I believe this tends to be a bit of a bad matchup. So many tokens gives them the ability to at least chump block for a long time, and eventually have an army to kill you. I tend to be on the board-out creatures, turn-into-burn plan, which helps a fair amount, but nothing super special. Obviously you want your sweepers as well. I will generally board in some Destructive Revelry in the dark, as Intangible Virtue is a card they'll usually run, but I also want to be protected from the hate. Skullcracks are ok e.g. against Sorin, but they're not at their best in this matchup. They will often be running Inquisition of Kozilek, so if you can empty your hand pretty fast, that tends to be good.
You would think that a deck where the whole schtick is gaining life would be good against Burn, but I have not found that to be the case. Certainly you want all the Searing effects, Lavamancer, and sweepers, but in general... your creatures are actually good, since there's aren't really up to par. they tend to not really have enough time to set up, in my experience. The biggest potential problem I've run into is a very fast Martyr of Sands pop, followed by Serra Ascendant. If they can get one of those online, it's a huge beating. But in my experience, it takes very good draws to do that. This is another one I haven't run into a lot, but I think the matchup is just fine.
All the cycling and the way their deck is set up means that they will usually have time to get a Living End off, and then you need to have enough burn to finish them off. In general, I have not found this to be particularly difficult. Your life total is actually fairly relevant, but if you can pressure them more for a little damage, you are going to want to do so. The point is, the more turns you give them before forcing them to Living End, the more time they have to fill their yard, which also means the fewer attacks their suite of creatures need to be able to kill you. Obviously you want to bring in any graveyard hate you have, and I definitely favor shaving some creatures (Lavamancers are very lousy, Steppe Lynx is better here than normal, since you are only getting to attack once or twice anyway), but knowing that their board plan is usually some combination of Brindle Boar and Gnaw to the Bone, you also want your Skullcracks. Armed with this knowledge you should be totally fine.
This matchup is largely a race. They have a good number of counters, and playing around that in terms of timing your own spells is pretty important. The key point of course is that they need to develop out 7 lands and have a Scapeshift to play; having the actual card Scapeshift tends to be much easier now with the Bring to Light builds, so you're typically okay to assume they're almost always going to have it. The tricky thing then becomes for them, they need to both be ramping their mana and try to hold up some interaction (the aforementioned counters and Lightning Bolt) to slow you down - for this reason Sakura-Tribe Elder is their best card. I would not try to stay above 18 to make them need an extra land - it's going to cost you more time than it will them - and given this, your life total is pretty unimportant. Their most common sideboard card is Obstinate Baloth, so be prepared to have some Skullcracks (it's not worth enough to bring path in). They generally aren't gong to have enough to really stave off what we're trying to do, so while it's certainly possible to lose, I think the matchup tends to be quite favorable.
Alternatively, they could be playing the GR version with Primeval Titan and lots of creatures. In this case, your life total is far more important, and you want to make sure you actually keep your Path to Exiles in. Creatures I think tend to be a bit worse here than against the pure combo version, but in both cases, the theme is clear: you need to kill them before it gets too late.
By "Burn" I don't mean the straight mirror as much as I do more 'traditional' burn decks that start with more burn spells (like Rift Bolt) and less on the Nacatls. This is one of the hardest matchups I've had, mostly because our being a little bit faster than them tends to be less important than the increased damage we take off of our lands. Die roll is very important, and you have very difficult decisions ahead with when you play your shocklands tapped or not. you really want to avoid damaging yourself, but sometimes the tempo hit is massive. More than anything else, this is the matchup for which you want to be playing basic lands, for just this reason. The cards to board in tend to be fairly obvious. You generally want to cut Path to Exile and your worse Burn spells - Boros Charm falls into this camp in many cases. If you suspect they might have Dragon's Claws or somehow Leylines, you are going to want Revelry, which is reasonably safe to bring in anyway against Eidolon (though I'm not sure - they might board those out). This one is difficult, but like most hard matchups, you're not really a massive underdog, as sometimes you just race better.
I have to imagine you're probably the very worst matchup possible for them. They really need to assemble both their Lantern and Mill Rock set up as well as have Ensnaring Bridge out and online very fast, and then hope that you don't have enough burn to finish them off. It's certainly possible for them to have that, but it's not terribly likely. Things tend to get even better post-board, as you get to bring in all the artifact hate.
This isn't a matchup I have tons of experience with. Typically they'll have some number of big Delve threats, but I don't think this is enough to do a massive shift down on the number of creatures you have. Your own life total isn't entirely irrelevant, but in my experience it matters less here than in many other matchups. Disruption will be coming in the form of both discard and counters, and it can be a little hard to play around the combination of both, but in general I don't think it's so horrible - if you have a window to play your stuff out, jam as much as you can then. Usually they will take some time to play e.g. Serum Visions. They will probably have some amount of board hate for you, but knowing what to board against is pretty difficult, as their are too many different builds. Some favor Vampiric Link, while others go for Tribute to Hunger. In either case, I wouldn't go too overboard on diluting my own deck, especially before you know exactly what's up. I don't have a great sense of how favorable the matchup is, but my gut is that it's a bit good for us?
I have a number of lists prepared, different builds for highlighting different things or aspects that you may be trying to hit. The point here is to expose you to many ideas more than one perfect list, as it's not like I have thousands of games with each, and of course the changing metagame is going to shift things around a good amount.
This is the list I would recommend overall at the moment. 16 creatures is a sweet spot. We're kind of pre-boarded in a few directions - one Path, a Loam Lion (which is usually going to be the first card taken out), a Skullcrack, and three Helixes. This gives us enough space to get everything we want into our sideboard.
This one's a very similar idea, but we've upped the cantrip count to help our Goldfish. I'm not really a very big fan of this version, because I think it's trying to tow the line of being midway between too many different things.
Here we've gone all-out into cantrip land, making ourselves quite a bit more explosive in game one. This does make us quite a bit more vulnerable to aggressive opponents, which changes our mana base a little bit and our post-board plan a bit more. All the cantrips make us more likely to draw any individual board card we bring in, so we shave the numbers of some, and add a couple silver bullet "I win" cards. We also have a Plains and a very healthy anti-aggro package we bring in (taking out the Street Wraiths in this case).
Here, we've taken that idea to the extreme, throwing Black in as well. This deck will come really close to killing itself pretty often, but it kills opponents fast, too. I think this is a bit too suicidal for my tastes in general, but it is an option. I almost want to toss some Death's Shadow in there, partially because that's just my favorite card in general, but I actually tend to doubt that it's fast enough, and too chump-able.
Mishra's Bauble error: the flavor text is missing the exclamation point after "fool".