Welcome to the second part of this article, and arguably, for those of us at CG Realm, the most important. Today I will be covering how to fight the two big colors seen in our local meta – blue and black. Whether your spells are getting countered, your opponents are drawing a bunch of cards, or Grave Pact and Reassembling Skeleton are staring you down, these strategies are a pain in the neck to deal with them. Luckily, I’m here to help you find ways to fight these strategies, so without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
THE BLUE META
Blue – the best color in the game. I’m not joking you, there is nothing blue really can’t do. It arguably makes the bulk of two of the major three archetypes in control and combo, and even has had its share of tier 1 aggro decks in Constructed’s time (Illusions, Merfolk, etc.)
More than anything else however, is the color’s prevalence over here at The CG Realm. We’re a bit muddled by counterspells, to be perfectly honest, and while it can get cute, the constant control warring that’s been going on for the past few months has gotten – personally at least – extremely dull. It’s the easiest meta to get tired of, as nobody likes to have their spells countered, their permanents mass bounced, and above all, nobody likes to watch your opponents play with themselves when the control player decides to make his or her move, Time Walking 20 times, or other shenanigans. All the while, the rest of the table is at his or her mercy while they figure out which sword he’s going to cut your head off with.
CARDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
A general post, really, but there are a bunch of these effects blue has access to. It’s the bread and butter of what blue does – tells you sit down and think about what you just did. It’s frustrating when the blue player plays politics, and counter a spell that has no intention of harming them because they think you’re out to get them. Playing politics here is key – tell the player what you intend to do with the spell. It seems a little mundane, but it could very well be what decides whether that spell resolves or not. (Keep in mind, if you cast a spell or activate an ability that targets, you will have to announce your targets when putting the spell on the stack. Again, this helps the control player evaluate whether or not the spell is worth countering.) At the same time, control players are best dealt with by pressuring them, so if you want to cut them off their ability to deny you your spells, there are a wide variety of effects that fight counterspells (Grand Abolisher, Boseiju, Who Shelters All, Vexing Shusher, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, City of Solitude, Dosan, the Falling Leaf, Price of Glory – the list goes on). Aggro decks are poised to smash control decks (specifically mono-blue ones, who can’t have white, and more specifically Wrath of God, to hold in their hand), so applying pressure with undercosted, aggressive creatures works wonders (Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, Doran, the Siege Tower, Deus of Calamity, Serra Ascendant, Taurean Mauler, Terra Stomper – basically any decent attacker that can punch through whatever dinky blocker they put up. Trample is really strong here, too, since sometimes the blockers are Fog Bank-esque creatures). Lastly, hand disruption is extremely strong against counterspells. Mass discard is at a premium here (Chandra Ablaze, Persecute, Identity Crisis, Sadistic Hypnotist, Mind Slash, Mind Sludge, Wit’s End). If you really have a deep-seated hate for counterspells, Telepathy is an extremely cute way of fighting them, as the game’s a lot less fun for the control player when the secret’s out.
Here’s a general tip when playing against the blue player – if they draw a lot of cards, they generally are going to win the game. Remember in my last article when I mentioned the incremental life gain that Soul Warden provides, and how it’s hard to notice those increments until your opponent is at 100 life? The same logic applies here – you don’t notice how many cards Rhystic Study has drawn the blue player until their Venser’s Journal trigger gains them 25 life. When playing against this card, the best way to deal with it is to kill it before it’s drawn that player even two cards (Krosan Grip, Austere Command, Allay, Return to Dust, Revoke Existence, Decimate), but if you can’t kill it, effects that punish your opponent for drawing cards are excellent here (Underworld Dreams, Phyrexian Tyranny, Spiteful Visions, Breathstealer’s Crypt, Kederekt Parasite). Hand disruption also beats their stupidly large hands, so effects that give or take a set number of cards can really screw up their game plan (Reforge the Soul, Mind Shatter, Rakdos’s Return, Monomania).
Why the hell is this thing legal, seriously?! How do I even begin to describe this unholy abomination? It is the reason the blue meta exists – the more your opponents are drawing cards, the better this gets. If multiple players control one, it’s an unholy covenant of card advantage that leaves the players who aren’t playing blue wondering, “Hey, why don’t I get in on this?“, which is a toxic line of thought. You have no idea how much I’d like to see this disgusting, lanky little bird die in a fire, never to see the light of day again With that being said however, it’s legal, still, so we have to deal with it. The same concepts apply to Consecrated Sphinx as Rhystic Study, really – hand disruption and punisher effects work wonders here, but if all else fails, Cloning it (Phyrexian Metamorph, Rite of Replication, Followed Footsteps) or stealing it for yourself (Sepulchral Primordial, Evangelize, Bribery) are good strategies Sphinx has the same disgusting reputation as Primeval Titan – it warps the board state entirely around itself in a gross black hole of “hurr durr draw 20 cards”, and when you win with it, you feel empty inside, regretful. Don’t play this card. You will be at the top of my hit list if you ever play this card, so help me God.
This card is for when you draw so many cards and don’t want to deck out, so you play this card instead and make your little Consecrated Sphinx play-with-yourself sessions a win condition! Fortunately, unlike Sphinx, this thing is not a massive headache that makes you question why you don’t run Choke, Boil or Nature’s Wrath, but with inevitable backup, it’s harder to deal with than you’d think. My personal favorite way to deal with the card is to snipe it from the hand or deck early (Praetor’s Grasp, Jester’s Cap, Sadistic Sacrament), but using Split Second to deal with it is also effective (Wipe Away, Sudden Spoiling, Molten Disaster). Aside from that, the only other real viable answer to it is to outright prevent the card from hitting the board, and outside of counterspells you have “ban” effects (Meddling Mage, Nevermore, Voidstone Gargoyle).
This thing is incredibly painful when combining with card outside of blue, but inside there’s still Palinchron and other such annoyances to make this card a huge pain. U/G/X is where this thing shines – when you have enough mana to make every creature you control immune to spot removal, that’s when it becomes a real issue. Sweepers are the first and foremost answer to this thing (Final Judgment, Planar Cleansing, Blasphemous Act), but preventing it from activating its effect is also fine (Damping Matrix, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Phyrexian Revoker). A personal favorite card to combat effects like this is Torpor Orb. Almost every time, the Navigator will bond itself to a 187, and the Orb will just destroy their entire game plan.
My personal favorite blue finisher. With enough dinky cantrips and salvos this thing will clear entire boards with impunity. Though also a good strategy with it, a great way to fight this thing is to Clone it (Phantasmal Image, Dance of Many, Spitting Image), and stealing it for yourself is also great (Word of Seizing, Treachery, Sower of Temptation). If the controller of Tidespout Tyrant doesn’t have a lot of cards in hand, another great option is to grant your permanents hexproof (Lightning Greaves, Asceticism, Privileged Position).
Probably right up there on my mental list of “Most Overpowered Card in Magic”, this effect is just stupidly strong. With Sol Ring legal and a good target, you have the opportunity to win the game on turn 3. One of the best ways to fight this card is to actually just play utilitydorks.dek – as then you won’t be a target that way. Bribery is only as powerful as your best creature, so the less universal a purpose your creatures serve, the worse of a target you become for Bribery. From first-hand experience, the number one counter to Bribery is actually to have your own copy resolve first (Reverberate, Wild Ricochet, Reiterate), but another great option is to give yourself hexproof if you have a decent target to steal (Leyline of Sanctity, Witchbane Orb, Ivory Mask). Aside from that, preventing your opponents from getting a look at your library is also an efficient counter (Stranglehold, Mindlock Orb, Aven Mindcensor). However, like I said, if your deck contains creatures that only benefit you (for example, any creature with a colored-cost activated ability not in the Bribery player’s colors), you’re in the clear. Just be sure to prepare for a Bribery game – if you don’t have an answer to that fattie, you may very well be screwed.
This thing is the stuff of dreams – it provides crushing amounts of tempo if you’re ahead on mana. If you can manage to cast it twice a turn unanswered it’s literally gg. This card completely buries aggro in a shallow grave. Like a Tidespout Tyrant trigger, giving your permanents hexproof (Greater Auramancy, Oak Street Inkeeper, Privileged Position) is the best way to fight it. However, forcing them to discard it is also great (Persecute, Identity Crisis, Wheel of Fortune). Another somewhat decent strategy against this card is to pack your deck with good 187′s that can pressure a life total (Molten Primordial, Indrik Stomphowler, Sylvan Primordial).
Time Warp and its cousins
Perhaps one of the most frustrating blue effects if only because of the lack of counter play available to it. (In fact, the only card that prevents Time Walk effects is Stranglehold, which is one card. In one color.) It’s the “I’m making my move” signal for blue, as rarely will you ever get another turn if the blue player casts this. Aside from Stranglehold, you have to play along and copy them (Fork, Twincast, Curse of Echoes) or redirect the effects that target (Wild Ricochet, Redirect, Swerve). Overall, this card is extremely annoying to play against, and I really wish Wizards would print more counter play to effects like this. Stranglehold was a giant step in the right direction, but green needs this effect, too, and maybe an artifact or two wouldn’t hurt as well.
Blue is the best color to tuck generals with, despite its lack of innocuous cards in doing so (*cough*Chaos Warp*cough*). Tucking, while generally seen as a douche move for the most part, can be necessary in some games, as there are decks that rely entirely on their general to function. Putting them on the bottom of a library hurts, but there are a multitude of ways to deal with tuck effects, tutoring being prime among them (Demonic Tutor, Worldly Tutor, Planar Portal). If you’re lacking in tutors, shuffling does just fine as well (Evolving Wilds, Rampant Growth, Solemn Simulacrum), but for the most part, the “making your spells uncounterable / your permanents hexproof” argument works wonders here. (Cavern of Souls + hexproof general = great success!)
GENERALS TO WATCH OUT FOR
The truest sign of the tryhard control player.
This thing has to be the biggest douchebag in all of Magic. It’s an unquestionably black effect tacked onto a blue card. What’s worse, they gave it Flash. Worse still, it’s 3 power for 3 mana. Oh, and it flies, too. If you see a player sit down with Clique as their general, kill them dead.
How do I stop Clique? You don’t stop Clique. Clique literally stops you. Regardless…
-Tuck Clique. Most Clique decks are heavy on permission and light on creatures, and will tap out end of turn 3 to cast Clique. Respond in kind by saying “NO U” and Chaos Warping it for great justice. Mono-blue, like mono-white, is oddly enough very light on tutors, so with one of its only creatures buried in its deck, the Clique player is reduced to miserably countering spells until he draws enough cards to recast Clique and unleash hell again. Which is why you…
-Pressure their life total. This is a common theme against blue, much like tucking is in white – Attack that player. Aggro players should single out and murder the control players’ face off. Cheap, early aggression is the name of the game, and if that’s not an option, resolve Sorin Markov lategame and seal the deal.
-Toolbox. Decks that access their 99 almost entirely though the deck itself all work wonders against Clique, as they would rather have their spells in their deck than in their hand. Examples of toolboxes are Birthing Pod, Sunforger and Sliver Overlord.
-Don’t let them draw cards. Again, a common theme against blue – blue takes advantage of advantages more than any other color does, but when the blue player isn’t being threatened, and drawing a bunch of cards, that’s when they’re actually the biggest problem.
-Be political. Clique is a douchebag in the first place. If he targets you with it, feel free to go full-throttle all over Clique’s face. If you’re running Clique in a casual meta, I’m sorry, but you are a tryhard and you deserve to die first.
That other tryhard general everyone hates. Notice how a bunch of them are blue? Not a coincidence, I assure you.
Azami, Azami, Azami. You draw cards. You draw some more cards. And when you’re finished that, you draw cards again, until you can’t anymore. Then you cast Mind Over Matter and laugh. Much like Clique, this deck is douche mode monoblue, but unlike Clique it needs more than its general to win the game.
How do I stop Azami? Any 4-person table will not let Azami realistically ever combo off. If they do, they’re doing it wrong. Azami is a combo deck. Combo decks always die first in EDH games, in my experience, so apply one of the following to make sure Azami’s silly combo never sees the light of day:
-Tuck Azami. Secondary to making sure the key combo piece never gets through is making sure the Azami player can’t draw 28 million cards by removing what allows them to do so from the equation. While light on tutors, blue is also dismally light on shuffle effects without the help of artifacts, which means despite the bonkers draw power Azami innately has, it’ll be hard-pressed to find her when she’s at the bottom of your deck.
-Pressure their life total. Most Azami shells are utilitydorks.dek, so if you attack them enough, they’ll have to throw their dorks under the bus eventually.
-Punish their draws. More than any other blue decks, punisher / group slug strategies are fantastic against Azami. A single Underworld Dreams effect means they can’t go off while it persists, so packing multiples will really add up.
Some men just want to watch the world burn. Over and over.
Hey, it’s another blue combo deck! Shocking!
Arcum was one of my first ever generals when I played EDH. I had dreams of using Nevinyrral’s Disk and Darksteel Forge together. I was naive, okay?! I didn’t know why everyone was attacking me! It didn’t make sense to me!
How do I stop Arcum?
No, I’m not kidding. That’s literally it. They will cry.
Don’t let him get the Disk/Forge combo out. If he gets it out, it’s pretty much gg. But he’ll then pull out Mycosynth Lattice and you will know the true face of fear.
-Disrupt Arcum. It’s a creature without hexproof with an activated ability that requires it to not have summoning sickness. The possibilities are endless. Tuck it, Edict it, bounce it, counter it, exile it, beat it up in the nearest alleyway – do what you have to. You don’t let Arcum make its way around the table. Ever.
-Artifact hate is a necessity if it’s a problem. Luckily, it’s plentiful. Damping Matrix, Null Rod, Stony Silence, Return to Dust, Vandalblast, Shattering Pulse, Aura Shards, Revoke Existence – all of them disrupt Arcum extremely well.
-Pressure their life total. Attack them, attack them, attack them. Without a turn 1 Sol Ring, this deck really isn’t that big of a problem if one of its three opponents has an answer. If you keep it bogged down by attacking them and disrupting Arcum, you’re honestly in the clear.
-Prevent tutoring. Aven Mindcensor literally makes this deck scoop on the spot.
-Deck disruption is also very powerful here. The aforementioned Praetor’s Grasp is especially excellent when you can cast the Forge later yourself.
“I am NOT a freaky fish guy!”
My go-to mono-blue general, Talrand is efficient because he makes Ponder a win condition. A general that has the power to do that is definitely the type of deck I can get behind.
How do I stop Talrand?
And watch them cry.
Believe it or not, Talrand is perhaps the most vulnerable of all mono-blue generals – he doesn’t combo, but he’s threatening enough that players will want to disrupt him, and he’s not strong enough to force through a win while all eyes are on him, unlike most other blue generals, unless you have significant resources at your disposal.
-Disrupt Talrand. Honestly, above everything else, if Talrand is dead, the deck is significantly weaker. Some shells even go so far as to go all-in on the effect Talrand provides, which make them that much more reliant on Talrand. Without a combat-relevant body, and when you need the mana to cast counters, having Talrand cost 8 mana can be downright crippling to deal with.
-Sweepers are at a premium here. I only really have experience with my own deck and one other list, and both get shut down incredibly hard by Wrath effects. Talrand depends on the incremental advantages it grinds out through getting Drake tokens off cantrips, and when you remove the fuel it has, even if the Talrand player has a bunch of cards in hand, only so many can replace themselves.
-Pressure their life total. Depending on the shell, the deck will either run Talrand out on turn 4, guns blazing, or will play to the late game and sit on card draw and counters to get to where it needs to be to win. Either way, combat-relevant creatures will win you the day here, as the all-in plan is destroyed by a single removal spell at Talrand’s face, and the permission-heavy control plan is extremely vulnerable to aggro.
-Punish their draws. Talrand depends on constantly casting spells, so being able to make them pay life to draw cards can put the Talrand player in a difficult position.
-Prevent them from attacking you. Regardless of how they do it, most Talrand decks tend to have a decently-sized army to apply pressure with, so being able to prevent that army from smacking you in the face is going to ensure you live long enough to answer that army. Cast that Ghostly Prison!
SUMMARY OF THE BLUE META
Pretty much, do what’s natural to Magic, and play the rock-paper-scissors matchup – let aggro beat control, control beat combo, and combo beat aggro.
Play proactively against blue – attack them, target them, and disrupt them. That’s basically the gist of how to beat the blue meta. Don’t let the blue player get ahead on board, or you’ll find yourself in an impossibly difficult-to-win board state.
THE BLACK META
“Hey guys, LD is douchey, so let’s play black!”
Black – the color that spits out a million mana and wipes the board with impunity. Well, everyone’s board but theirs. Jerks. Using Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to Skullclamp their Reassembling Skeleton 45,000 times a turn is the name of the game for the black player, and it only happens every single game because they tutor, and they tutor, and they tutor!
CARDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Basically, these little miscreants run around like 4 year-old spawns of Satan, being rowdy and causing havoc everywhere. They combo with every sac outlet known to man, and make Grave Pact just ridiculous. The linchpin of every black deck, the tide and true way to counteract them is with graveyard hate (Relic of Progenitus, Tormod’s Crypt, Rest in Peace), but exiling them also works (Merciless Eviction, Path to Exile, Ashes to Ashes). To be perfectly honest, the two don’t do much on their own – Bloodghast particularly. Usually, they’re accompanied by a nasty sac outlet which is easily dealt with (Mortify, Putrefy, Orim’s Thunder), so deal with that first.
These two are practically the bread and butter of every black strategy out there. When I first started playing EDH, I convinced myself, “I don’t need those cards, they’re not that great!” Now however, all of my black decks in EDH currently utilize either (or, in one case, both) of these effects to great use. Grave Pact is incredibly resource-efficient and can grind out absolutely insane increments if left alone. It’s also the absolute best card at fighting hexproof and indestructibility, because it doesn’t target, and indestructible creatures can still be sacrificed. Aside from destroying either of these effects, a decent counter play strategy is to fight Grave Pact‘s triggers with non-resource-intensive creatures (Assemble the Legion, Sacred Mesa, Avenger of Zendikar). Aside from that, “don’t kill me” cards are great against this effect (Anger, Academy Rector, Yosei, the Morning Star), and you can always use effects that prevent you or even your opponent from sacrificing (Tajuru Preserver, Sigarda, Host of Herons, Angel f Jubilation).
Grave Titan, AKA Big Black Daddy
This guy brings the hurt, and is a potent finisher in control and aggro alike. Even if he gets removed, his tokens often don’t, but of course sweepers are the best effect against him (Wrath of God, Chain Reaction, Phyrexian Rebirth). You can also Clone it (Evil Twin, Followed Footsteps, Rite of Replication) or reanimate it (Animate Dead, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, Sepulchral Primordial). Without a doubt, Grave Titan falls under the category of the “That is in play so the board state revolves around it” type of creature.
Not a card I’m a particular fan of after I scrapped the deck it was in solely based on the fact that it created a very un-fun infinite combo, if only because it usually brings just that with it – very un-fun infinite combos. However, the strategy is not without disruption. Without hexproof and a way to protect itself, you can remove it or counter it, but other great counter play is to prevent their creatures from hitting the graveyard or coming back (Leyline of the Void, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Grafdigger’s Cage), exiling Mikaeus (Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Oblivion Ring), or to use Torpor Orb to shut down whatever Mike brings with him.
The poster girl for reanimator strategies everywhere, Sheoldred just keeps grinding your opponents out of threats while constantly dragging more threats for your opponent from the dirt. She also beats the crap out of the hexproofindestructiblebubble.dek, which is getting more and more popular lately. To fight Sheoldred, the best way to do it is to have effects that create multiple creatures (Avenger of Zendikar, Sacred Mesa, Rapacious One). Alternatively, lock them out of their graveyard if you fear what’s coming (Identity Crisis, Scrabbling Claws, Bojuka Bog). Finally, taking her for yourself isn’t a bad idea (Switcheroo, Volition Reins, Evangelize). Be aware, though – if your board state isn’t immediately affected by her triggered effect, and someone else’s is, play politically, take one for the team, and let Sheoldred be the answer to an otherwise annoying board state before dealing with her yourself.
Demonic Tutor and friends
The name of black’s game is to search its library to either accelerate its own game plan or to disrupt yours. Sometimes, what they tutor is frustrating to deal with and you’re stuck trying to have chance favor you while your opponent is able to assemble their game plan perfectly because they’re playing black. The best way to combat this is to give it the Bribery treatment and prevent them from looking at their libraries (Shadow of Doubt, Aven Mindcensor, Stanglehold). Another good way of slowing down the player who tutors is to limit the amount of spells they can play a turn (Arcane Laboratory, Curse of Exhaustion, Rule of Law). Alternatively, you can get in on the fun yourself (Wild Ricochet, Reiterate, Twincast). When using counterspells, remember this – don’t counter the tutor, counter what the tutor tutors. Generally, black players will get around this by wasting their tutors on their Cabal Coffers combo lands, but that’s not an issue if they don’t have a million cards in hand to abuse their mana with.
Not exactly the most innocuous card in black, but definitely something akin to Rhystic Study. The card advantage this provides, while costly, is extremely powerful, and shouldn’t be ignored. The tide and true counter to this is Angel of Jubilation, who can lock the Necropotence player out of drawing cards completely, but aside from that, pressuring that player’s life total to offset the cost of Necropotence is probably the best way to deal with the card (Stigma Lasher, Malignus, Heartless Hidetsugu). Aside from that, effects that punish players for losing life is also an effective counter play to Necropotence (Bloodchief Ascension, Exquisite Blood, Wound Reflection). Also, for great success, try Burning-Tree Shaman!
An answer just as much as a must-answer, Sorin does two things extremely well – screw over impressive board states by making that player’s life total a much more pressing matter, and threatening a looming Mindslaver trigger to screw you over with. The undeniable best counter to Sorin is to give yourself hexproof (Witchbane Orb, Leyline of Sanctity, Ivory Mask). Static lifegain beats being set to 10 (Shattered Angel, Soul Warden, Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice). If you find the Sorin player tends to lean on the Mindslaver effect more, try stealing it before he can activate it (Word of Seizing, Confiscate, Commandeer).
GENERALS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Because spot removal is bad in multiplayer EDH, right?
Oh, Drana. The deck that takes advantage of Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth better than almost any other, she kills everything on board without batting an eyelid and threatens 21 general damage very quickly.
How do I stop Drana? To be honest, Drana is an annoyance more than anything else. Sure, she threatens general damage better than most generals due to easy access to ridiculous amounts of mana, but at the same time, she’s not without flaws. She lacks hexproof and haste, meaning that short a Lightning Greaves, she won’t be too scary to any player who has the tools to answer it.
-Cut them off mana. Tectonic Edge, Strip Mine and especially Wake of Destruction do insane amounts of work in this deck. Drana needs mana to do anything, and without it, sure it turns Drana sideways effectively enough (a 4/4 flyer for 5 is strong on its own), but it’s not killing you in one glorious swing while unceremoniously eating whatever you can block with to do it.
-Disrupt Drana. That Lightning Greaves looks worse and worse when Drana costs 11 mana to cast, now doesn’t it? Tucking Drana is the best way to deal with it, but try doing so after they’ve wasted their tutors. Unlike white, blue and red, black and green can just tutor their generals back to their hands with impunity, so you can’t shove their generals in their 99 without batting an eyelid – assess the situation and plan accordingly.
-Non-resource-intensive fliers are great at stopping Drana. Black doesn’t have a lot of trample to go around, so putting up a single blocker deters Drana’s game plan greatly. Sacred Mesa, Sigarda, Host of Herons[card], and [card]Luminarch Ascension all do pretty well at weathering Drana’s assault.
-Remember, -most- Drana decks are Voltron. Ironically enough, other black-heavy decks with a Grave Pact package are excellent at stopping Drana.
-Be conservative with your creatures. If they lack hexproof, try not to play them – giving Drana food to kill you with is never a good idea.
I want the yellow tractor, mommy!
Chainer, admittedly, is not the titan he used to be. Back when Primeval Titan was legal, I used to play absolutely disgusting games against this thing. My Primeval Titan would scream for it to all be over, and after he tutored Coffers/Urborg, it thankfully was.
How do I stop Chainer? Don’t ever misconstrue the concept of Chainer – Chainer is an anti-Reanimator deck more than an actual Reanimator deck. Chainer uses your graveyard a lot more than its own, so be sure not to have that Consecrated Sphinx you hold near and dear to your heart hit your graveyard – it will be employed by Magic’s favorite pimp.
-Graveyard hate is at a premium. Relic of Progenitus is a workhorse in this matchup. A good portion of Chainer decks rely on your graveyards more than its own, so being able to politically strong arm a Chainer trigger with Relic is invaluable. Scrabbling Claws is more potent against the lists that also rely on their own graveyards, but in general, so long as you can prevent Chainer from graverobbing everything, you’re doing the right thing.
-Disrupt Chainer. Because Chainer’s ability costs mana, the effect gets less and less potent the more mana that ability effectively costs. The later the game goes, the more targets Chainer has, and the more important it becomes to disrupt him before his setup gets too ridiculous. Arguably, it’s more important to disrupt Chainer while he’s in play rather than while he’s being cast, when he’s setup a few creatures. When you remove it from the board, you concurrently exile his reanimated creatures so he can’t reanimate them again.
-Try to minimize the amount of targets the Chainer player can use for themselves. Utility dorks and mana-intensive activated abilities beat Chainer pretty handily, so the less targets you give Chainer to rob, the better.
-Pressure their life total. The payment of 3 life per creature can certainly add up, so a Sorin Markov trigger, constant pressure from aggressive dorks, and evasive threats can really make the Chainer player think twice about trying to reanimate constantly.
-Cut them off mana. Every color has their universal red flagpoint – black’s is its dependence on Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to generate stupid amounts of mana. Given that Chainer, like Drana, uses an ability that costs mana, being able to limit the number of activations the Chainer player has access to is generally a good idea. As referenced earlier, Tectonic Edge is a workhorse at dislodging this stupid combo, but if Vesuva and/or Thespian’s Stage have hit the board already, Wake of Destruction is a powerful answer to them.
Because everyone loves starting at 10 life, right?
Skittles the Not-So-Tasty Rainbow Dragon has to be one of my least favorite ways to actually win a game of EDH. I understand Infect is a much faster clock when aggro players get frustrated with the number of hurdles put in front of them (aggro gets hosed harder than any other archetype, which in a format like EDH, makes absolutely no sense outside of 1v1), but it’s honestly just a douchebag move to make.
How do I stop Skithiryx?
Because black has enchantment removal, right?
Unlike Drana, Skittles is an actual problem if only because he can give himself haste, and is much more difficult to remove due to his innate ability to regenerate.
-Prevent Skittles from attacking you. Pillowforting is great way to prevent yourself from tasting the rainbow, so play that Ghostly Prison as soon as possible.
-Disrupt Skittles. It’s a Voltron deck through and through, so tucking it is great despite the inevitable tutor. Consistent disruption will win you the day here. Hateflayer is an absolute house against Skittles, especially if you can remove Lightning Greaves from the equation.
-Cut them off mana. Coffers does work if only because it can allow the Skittles player to constantly recast it, or cast something disgusting like Hatred on the same turn they cast Skittles.
-Be political. If you can successfully deflect Skittles’ oh-so colorful assault, allow the player to deal with your opponents, and then put Skittles in his place afterward. What so few players understand is how to work with the aggro player as much as against it. If you put up one hurdle to deflect their efforts, they’ll focus on someone else. Your end goal is to make sure your opponents lose, sure, but why do you have to be the player who does it?
-Remember, -most- Skittles decks are Voltron. Much like Drana, a good Grave Pact engine will grind Skittles into the dust.
SUMMARY OF THE BLACK META
Black lacks enchantment removal almost as much as red does, and while not universally aggressive like red is, letting them beat the tar out of a problem matchup is perfectly fine. If you’re having trouble against black aggro, Ghostly Prison effects are definitely the way to slow the bleeding, and make sure to sleeve up a Tectonic Edge for their Cabal Coffers. I hope I’ve helped give you some insight on tactics and cards to fight these various metagames with so far!
So that’s part 2 of this article completed. Phew, that was a mouthful. Next week, we delve into red and green. Until then!