This Saturday, FacetoFaceGames will be hosting their PTQ of the current season. More than a hundred of us will be battling it out in the THS/BNG Limited environment. The timing is therefore fitting to discuss the importance of sideboarding in Limited. I will also be presenting a collection of combat tricks and powerful card interactions that are now possible in the hybrid THS/BNG Limited environment.
Wise Ways to Sideboard
One of the more complex aspects of Magic the Gathering is sideboarding. Sideboarding in Limited is perhaps even more complex than in constructed since your sideboard consists of everything from your card pool. You can theoretically play game two or three of a match with a deck that shares not a single card in common with the deck you used for game one. I would dissuade you from wasting time trying to build two completely different decks during a timed deck construction, though. Most people think more clearly when they are not under any form of time constraint. Thus, I encourage you (when possible) to take time after round one to thoroughly examine your sideboard options.
By no means are you required to make a second deck completely independent of the one you registered during deck construction. However, you might be able to sideboard out an entire color and replace it with another. At the last GP in Toronto, which happened to be Theros sealed, I constructed an aggressive style red and blue deck. While waiting for the second round to start (I had one bye) I was able to construct a white sideboard. After every game one, I sided out all of the red cards and [card]Mountain[/card]s and replaced them with white cards and Plains, thus giving the deck more of a midrange style. Sometimes this can catch your opponents off guard, particularly if they just sided their deck to be stronger versus the more aggressive deck you used in game one.
I strongly suggest bringing at least 60 of the same card sleeves to any sealed event. This allows you to sleeve the part of your sideboard that you have the greatest chance of using. Having your sideboard sleeved in advance saves you a significant amount of time; you no longer have to bother unsleeving and sleeving cards between games and matches. In Toronto, after every game one I simply shuffled my entire set of sleeved white sideboard cards into my deck and then removed all the sleeved red cards (sleeved [card]Mountain[/card]s were replaced by sleeved Plains).
If the match went to a game three, to sideboard for the final game I had two options. I would take the original set of red cards and shuffle it into my deck but not necessarily leave them there. If I thought that the blue and white version of my deck had a better chance of winning game three than the blue and red version, then I would simply take the red set back out. In this case the actions I take to sideboard are more of an illusion than anything else. At least this way, it may seem like I have sideboarded back to the original blue and red deck from game one.
Ideas that Inspire
A combat trick I have used on many occasions in the exclusively Theros Limited environment involves the black cards [card]Necrobite[/card] or [card]Boon of Erebos[/card]. These cards can do even more for us now because of the inspired mechanic introduced with Born of the Gods. The key to the trick is realizing that when a creature would normally die but gets regenerated instead, it becomes tapped. [card]Necrobite[/card] and [card]Boon of Erebos[/card] allow you to block with an inspired creature and then have it tap, thus triggering inspired when you untap it on your turn. Both black instants also have the potential act as a removal spell, killing an opponent’s creature without losing your own.
Black is not the only color that can do combat tricks that involve inspired. For those of you who are partial to green, the common instant [card]Savage Surge[/card] from Theros works perfectly. It is entirely likely for the following situation to take place in the current Limited environment: you attacked with an inspired creature on your previous turn (it did not die), and now you are being attacked by your opponent. Before the declare blockers step, you cast [card]Savage Surge[/card] targeting your tapped creature. Simultaneously, you have gained a boosted blocker and caused inspired to trigger during your opponent’s turn.
There are other cards you can use to do this type of trick. For blue, simply replace [card]Savage Surge[/card] with either the Born of the Gods common [card]Crypsis[/card] or the Theros uncommon [card]Triton Tactics[/card] in the same situation as I described above. The protection granted by [card]Crypsis[/card] has the potential of allowing a vanilla creature to block and kill an attacking creature with double strike, since the protected blocker does not receive any first strike or normal damage but still deals damage to the attacker.
[card]Triton Tactics[/card] is amazing for what it can do for a single blue mana. It targets two creatures and untaps both! This means that you can theoretically trigger inspire twice if both creatures you target happened to be tapped and have inspired. And do not forget about the heroic ability. [card]Triton Tactics[/card] has the potential to trigger two separate heroic abilities as well, or one inspired and one heroic! Furthermore, if your boosted blockers from [card]Triton Tactics[/card] happen to block any creatures with inspired, then you have denied your opponent from triggering inspired on their next turn since the blocked creature does not untap during its controller’s next untap step.
The blue common creature [card]Breaching Hippocamp[/card] from Theros can also be used to do these sort of combat tricks, since [card]Breaching Hippocamp[/card] can be played at instant speed and untaps a creature when it enters the battlefield.
For the Simic colors, [card]Kiora’s Follower[/card] and [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card] can both cause your inspired creatures to trigger on your opponent’s turn. I found these little tricks by searching for instants from Theros and Born of the Gods that contained the word regenerate or untap, as well as creatures that contain the word untap.
Apologies to those of you who enjoy building Limited Boros decks; I did not come across any red or white cards to do these kinds of tricks. Let me know of a combat trick using red or white cards that includes triggering inspired off of your creatures on your opponent’s turn in the comments section below.
Although it does not involve inspired, Born of the Gods has provided red with some new powerful synergies. My two personal favorites are the [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card] and [card]Lightning Volley[/card]. The key to both of these cards is to realize that that they both allow creatures to deal damage without receiving any. This can lead to some devastating plays when used in conjunction with creatures that have deathtouch. Think of the [card]Archetype of Finality[/card] and [card]Lightning Volley[/card] combo as one-sided global removal. In the current Limited environment, this synergy is only possible in decks that are some combination of red and black or green. However, the only green creature in BNG/THS Limited with deathtouch is [card]Sedge Scorpion[/card]. ([card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card] is technically green but it is also black and requires a black mana to gain deathtouch until end of turn). All the other creatures in the current limited format with deathtouch are black.
I am partial to the equipment [card]Fleetfeather Sandals[/card], [card]Gorgon’s Head[/card], and [card]Prowler’s Helm[/card]. All three of these cards can have a substantial effect on the dynamic of a game. Did you know that the only wall in the current Limited environment is [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card]? That means [card]Prowler’s Helm[/card] becomes essentially, “Equipped creature is unblockable,” in most cases. In this way, [card]Prowler’s Helm[/card] provides us with a pseudo [card]Aqueous Form[/card] which synergizes extremely well with the inspired mechanic. Making a creature with inspired unblockable via [card]Aqueous Form[/card] or [card]Prowler’s Helm[/card] is a fast-track to victory in most cases. Not only do you get to consistently deal unblockable damage to an opponent, but you also get to consistently trigger inspired when the attacker untaps.
Many creatures with monstrosity have an ability that triggers when it becomes monstrous. [card]Voyage’s End[/card] is a great card to play in response to your opponent activating monstrosity because the trigger does not happen if the creature is not on the battlefield when its monstrosity ability resolves. Monstrosity costs are high, so an opponent sinking most or all available mana into a creature expecting to trigger its ability, only to have it immediately returned to their hand, can be a game-changing setback. Not only does your opponent have to use a turn (and more mana) to recast the creature you bounced, you also get another chance to counter the creature while it is on the stack. For this reason, cards like [card]Voyage’s End[/card] and [card]Griptide[/card] work well in conjunction with counterspells.
I recently considered what would happen if the card [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] was activated to reanimate a creature with the tribute mechanic. The fact that any creature you reanimate with the Whip gains haste and is exiled at the end of turn has some interesting consequences when a creature with tribute is reanimated. Let’s consider a few theoretical scenarios involving activating the Whip to reanimate a creature with tribute. Reanimating [card]Fanatic of Xenagos[/card] guarantees you get to swing with a 4/4 haste creature with lifelink, regardless of whether or not the tribute is paid. Similarly, reanimating [card]Pharagax Giant[/card] means sending five damage towards your opponent, either directly or via combat, whether or not tribute is paid.
In the previous two examples, the extra conditions imposed by the Whip interact with tribute, causing the set of two possible outcomes (either tribute paid or tribute not paid) to merge into one single outcome. Conversely, if we consider reanimating [card]Thunder Brute[/card], your opponent gets to choose between getting attacked by an 8/8 trample, haste, lifelink or a 5/5 trample, haste, lifelink. In this case, the extra conditions imposed by the Whip have interacted with tribute causing the set of two possible outcomes to be polarized.
Hopefully, you will keep a few of these tips in the back of your mind and put them to good use during any future BNG/THS Limited events you take part in. Let me know of any noteworthy card interactions you come across while playing in the current Limited environment in the comment section below.