I really hate the Boros guild. As in really hate them. Control the combat phase, and the Boros player will launch Sudden Shocks till you die. Protect yourself from the burn, and you'll quickly lose control of the combat phase, and die to a Silver Knight. That deadly combination is why Boros is the format-defining deck right now, in two different formats! In extended, a strong boros matchup is key to having a good day at any tournament. So how can you improve your win percentage against the RW juggernaut? Here's one way you probably haven't tried: drop your current deck and play slide instead. No really, Green-White Slide. Take a look:
|GW Slide by HKKIDMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
2 Nantuko Monastery
4 Secluded Steppe
4 Tranquil Thicket
4 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
Anti Combo Package
3 Orim's Chant
3 Gilded Light
3 Renewed Faith
4 Loxodon Heirarch
4 Wrath of God
|Win conditions and goodies|
4 Wall of Roots
2 Eternal Dragon
1 Decree of Justice
4 Astral Slide
3 Eternal Witness
2 Plow Under
2 Living Wish
2 Life From the Loam
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Eternal Witness
1 Exalted Angel
1 Teroh's Faithful
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Loaming Shaman
1 Gilded Light
1 Orim's Chant
2 Krosan Grip
4 Rule of Law
Here's a few things that every slide player should know. Astral Slide is the best card in your deck. Combine it with Loxodon Hierarch and you have an aggro player's worst nightmare. Other strong comes into play abilites include Loaming Shaman, and Harmonic Sliver. Slide plus Eternal Witness is a key part of this deck, and it is critical to establish this mini-combo in several matchups. Both Orim's Chant and Plow Under can be used with the Witness-Slide combo to create a soft-lock.
Gilded Light should not be cycled unless you need to. It shuts down Tendrils of Agony, Brain Freeze, All targed burn (including a Hellbent Demonfire) Mindslaver, Haunting Echoes, Tormod's Crypt, Cranial Extraction, all targeted discard, Gifts Ungiven, and even really random stuff like the Sunny-Side Up Pyrite Spellbomb and Cephalid Coliseum kills. Generally the only time you'll want to cycle them is to slide out a Loxodon Hierarch against aggro, or an Eternal Witnes against control or combo.
Because MC Hammer is savage technology.
Because MC Hammer is savage technology.
The biggest reason to play GW slide is that it eats beatdown decks for breakfast. With Orim's Chant and Renewed Faith, GW can stall the early game rather effectively. Once the game goes long it's the combination of Astral Slide and Loxodon Hierarch that puts the game out of reach. It's like casting Congregation at Dawn for three elephants, except you can cast it during your turn, slide it out, block on your opponent's turn, and slide it out again. Net result, the elephant just blocked a creature and gained you 12 life. Makes it darn near impossible to burn you out, and attacking past a 4/4 who is never going to die in combat isn't very easy either.
As a matter of fact, the combination is so powerful I've added a Teroh's Faithful as a Living Wish target. They don't offer as much offense as Hierarch, but they still net four life when slid, and they chump block. The other life gain target on the sideboard is Exalted Angel. Generally it's better to wish for Faithful if you are low on life, or the board is unstable, while you wish for Exalted if you need something to put the game away. Faithful costs less mana, gains you 4 life right away, and can pick up a grand total of 12 by your next untap phase. Exalted Angel costs more mana, and can only gain you 4 life by your next untap phase, and that's only if she blocks something. On the other hand, she does fly and hit with 4 power, and it's nice to be able to wish for a win condition.
Of the aggro decks, the only one that causes problems is Trinket-Solution. A Meddling Mage set to Wrath of God is a big nuisance, and almost impossible to kill. Actually, unless they attack it into a cycled Decree of Justice it IS impossible to kill the mage. You can always slide it out, but a savvy trinket player will do his best to keep slides off the table. Generally your best answer to a mage is to overpower it with Loxodon Hierarch and kill the opponent with either decree tokens or an Exalted Angel.
Tron Decks (except TAN).
Most Rock Varients
This may come as a surprise to people who haven't followed slide since T2, but in extended it's mostly a wash versus other control decks.
Tron variety control generally has very weak permission (in both the UR and UW versions). That's because Tron wants to play a tempo and board control game until it can get the Tron online and cast something expensive for the win. Unless that something expensive is Sundering Titan (and most Tron players don't use them), Slide has answers for it. What's more, unless they get Spellburst going, Tron has a difficult time keeping you from resolving Astral Slide. That goes double if you draw a hand with multiple Orim's Chants and Eternal Witnesses. Mindslaver can pose real problems, but Guilded Light is a very effective response. Also, the weak permission means the Tron player is surprisingly vulnerable to the Slide-Witness-Chant and Slide-Witness-Plow locks discussed earlier. While you don't have to, I recommend trying to hold onto your Orim's Chants as long as possible against UW tron. If your opponent ever cycles Decree of Justice for a ton of tokens, kicker the chant during his upkeep, and Wrath them away on your turn.
The big difference between T2 tog and Extended tog is Upheaval. In t2, the tog player only had to counter the Lightning Rift, and it became almost impossible for the slide player to win before the lethal Upheaval-Psychatog combo. Upheaval is too slow for extended, and Tog doesn't really have a huge advantage anymore. The key to this matchup is successfully resolving Astral Slide. Do that and you should win, fail at it and you should lose. Tog cannot race a sliding Hierarch, and it can't deal with the card advantage of a sliding Witness. Even Nantuko Monastery is problems with a slide in play, since the monastery is now 4 power and immune to removal.
Rock variety decks have no permission, and a real weakness to Plow Under tricks. On the other hand, between Pernicious Deed and (generally) Mortify or Vindicate, they have no problem taking Slides off the table. The real key to the game though is Withered Wretch. If you can Eternal Witness your stuff back, all his removal and discard doesn't matter. If he can empty out your graveyard, you lose. Your best strategy is to Wrath of God the wretches on sight, and aim for a Chant or Plow lock as soon as possible. Depending on the version of Rock you are facing this can vary from a very easy matchup to almost impossible.
Most Combo decks
Anything that can punish you for only playing 6 basic lands
The 8 LD versions of Boros
Thankfully, the latter three items on that list are relatively rare. Unfortunately the first item is rather common. GW slide doesn't have enough early game speed to pressure a combo player into going off before he's ready, and it also doesn't have much to stop any of the modern extended combo decks.
Sunny Side will have a 100% win ratio in game 1. You literally can't disrupt their combo, since a well timed Orim's Chant or Gilded Light will be responded to by Second Sunrise. After he gets everything back you're dead next turn unless you can recur the answer spell. Even then, Slide+Witness won't hold in this matchup, since the opponent has access to both Engineered Explosives and Wipe Away.
Dirty Kitty also tends to roll you quite badly in game 1. Regular Goblins with Fecundity are bad enough, even without the ability to combo kill you. Empty The Warrens with a storm of 3 or 4 isn't very hot against most decks, but against Slide it's deadly. You can't ignore or block that many different creatures, but if you kill them Fecundity practically guarantees your opponent the win. The only way I've managed to win game one is the Orim's Chant lock discussed above.
If you must face combo, you really want it to be TEPS. Tendrils of Agony is a sorcery, so if you can Orim's Chant your opponent as soon as he gets a storm count of 9, he won't be able to cast a lethal Tendrils that turn. Obviously Chanting in response to Mind's Desire is also rather strong, since it removes from the game everything that was revealed. Gilded Light can similarly stop the Tendrils, although you then need Wrath of God, since odds are the TEPS player can manage Burning Wish for Empty The Warrens. Whatever you do, don't EVER tap out after turn 2, because you always at least need the threat of a Chant/Light. Your key to victory will be to set up the Chant-Witness lock as soon as possible. The one trick you have that most TEPS players won't anticipate is Living Wish for Glowrider. They've got a much more difficult time going off with him in play, and will generally have to Burning Wish for Pyroclasm to kill him, setting them back at least two turns, AND costing them a wish.
No really, why does it cost 5 mana?
No really, why does it cost 5 mana?
Luckily Sunny Side, Dirty Kitty, TEPS, and even Heartbeat all have a common element. They all need several spells in one turn to win. Enter Rule of Law. It's not a permanent solution (Kitty can Krosan Grip it, while the other three decks all have Wish targets). However, for them to kill the Rule requires time, mana and spells. As a bonus for you, the [card]
Rule of Law[/card] also shuts down the major draw engines of each deck, making it harder for them to set up the combo underneath it, and harder for them to draw the answer they have to it. As with before you want to use that time to try and set up a Chant or Plow lock.
Avenues of Further Exploration
So, what can you do to improve GW slide? Here's a few ideas.
When Slide was first discovered in t2, it was a that occasionally splashed green for Krosan Tusker and Nantuko Monastary. Red still has a lot to offer the deck, although it has lost quite a bit of relative power since t2. Burning Wish leaves you with a bit more flexibility than Living Wish on the sideboard (although it does eliminate your ability to wish for slide targets). Avalanche Riders can replace Plow Under as an effective method of mana denial. Blowing up lands is weaker than putting them on top of the library, but it lets you mana-lock the opponent without Eternal Witness. Lightning Rift is a strong choice, although I'm not a fan. To play rift you generally have to cut either cyclers (generally Renewed Faith) or Loxodon Hierarchs, and replacing either of those cards with rift will actually worsen your aggro matchups, not improve them. Overall, the red splash is a solid decision that strengthens your matchups against control decks.
Over the past year and a half or so, Slide players have been splashing black to help against combo. A well timed Duress or Cabal Therapy slows combo significantly, and should buy you enough time for a Cranial Extraction. It is true that a single Extraction will only slow - but not cripple - any combo deck in the format. However by further slowing the combo player you have a chance to draw a second Extraction (or an Eternal Witness). Aside from TAN, there isn't a combo deck in the format that can survive double extraction if you name the right cards. The tradeoff is that the black really hurts your aggro matchups. You have to pull Orim's Chant to make room for the discard spells, and to make the manabase work you'll need to double your number of shocklands. Losing Chant makes the Ichorid matchup unpleasant, and hurts tremendously against boros. The extra shocklands mean you'll take twice as much self-inflicted damage and will be more vulnerable to LD inflicted color-screw and non-basic land hosers. That's a very steep price to pay for improving your combo matchups.
Don't splash blue... it doesn't bring anything to the table.
One final note about splashing. Mana acceleration becomes critical. In GW slide the ability to accelerate your mana is a luxury, and the deck functions just fine without it. With three colors however the mana accelerants provide color fixing and help reduce the pain you'll be taking from the extra shocklands. Furthermore, they rush you to 4 mana (the number you need for Wrath and Hierarch). This is important because you probably cut Orim's Chant and Renewed Faith, and so you probably don't have anything else to do against an aggro deck until you hit that 4 mana threshold. Six mana fixing spells seems to be the concensus minimum amongst slide players, but eight is a much better choice.
Other Interesting ideas
This would be a good idea if it wasn't so bad
This would be a good idea if it wasn't so bad
One idea that I've been working on is Sterling Grove. On paper it looks very good, allowing you to tutor for singleton copies of Solitary Confinement, Rule of Law and other key enchantments. It also protects said enchantments from removal spells. The grove hasn't really worked in testing yet, but i've not given up on the idea.
A singleton copy of Solitary Confinement can prove strong in certain metagames. It works as Gilded Light on steroids, and you can keep it alive indefinitely with Life From the Loam plus cycle lands. It was left out of the current list because it does nothing for the problematic combo matchups, but if you live in a combo-free environment the confinement is pure gold.
Maindecking Rule of Law helps the bad matchups quite a bit. It hurts the game against control (where even weak permission like Remand or Memory Lapse becomes much stronger), but doesn't mess you up against aggro the way the black splash does.
If you want to play slide with a heavy red commitment, it's worth looking at Seismic Assault. The result is almost a hybrid between CAL and Slide, and is a deck that hasn't been explored much.
If you live in an aggro dominated metagame, slide is definitely worth taking a look at. It eats Boros for breakfast, and farts in the general direction of Ichorid. Control matchups are all acceptable, and you even have options against TEPS. Non-TEPS combo is god-freaking awful. So you have to ask yourself, is having an auto-win against Ichorid and Boros worth having an auto-loss against Heartbeat and Tooth? If so, then I've got the deck for you.