Through the Looking Glass: 4c Minsc Control with Brian Coval

Brian Coval

Special Guest

A few words on Brian Coval:

(Twitter: @BoshNRoll | MTGO: Bosh N Roll)

Brian has been playing Magic: the Gathering since 1997 and specializes in non-rotating “Eternal” constructed formats (Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Pioneer, Pauper). He is a Star City Games Invitational winner, a Grand Prix champion, Eternal Weekend Vintage Champion, member of the Vintage Super League, the Pauper Premier League, host of The Eternal Glory podcast, and has played on the Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour.

What are the key differences between the 60-card and 80-card [[Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath]] piles? Why do you favor the 60-card variant?

The key difference is, of course, fewer cards mean you see specific cards more often. I love a big steaming bowl of [[Yorion, Sky Nomad]] soup in a fair metagame when having specific cards matters less than having more cards. I prefer to raise the floor of a deck rather than the ceiling. I want to see my specific cards to solve specific problems that drawing more cards doesn’t solve.

How do you identify that your opponent is playing combo? What key indicators would tip you off to The EPIC Storm?

A black mana source is my first hint. Almost every combo deck is black and very few non-combo decks are. After that, it’s play pattern. A [[Volcanic Island]] deck playing cantrips instead of threats of the first two turns hints at someone sculpting a combo, not playing Delver.

The EPIC Storm is full of big hints and smoking guns. It’s the only deck that favors [[Bloodstained Mire]] fetching [[Bayou]] or [[Taiga]] locks it in. [[Mox Opal]] is a tell, [[Wishclaw Talisman]], and more recently [[Mishra’s Bauble]].

What interaction does this archetype have in game 1? What should The EPIC Storm be prepared for?

[[Force of Will]] is the main piece of interaction, as with any blue deck. [[Endurance]] matters less against TES than it does ANT, but it could mess with your [[Rite of Flame]]’s or if you hang an [[Echo of Eons]] out on a priority pass. Many versions have one main deck [[Pyroblast]] that can clip a [[Brainstorm]] or [[Echo of Eons]].

[[Prismatic Ending]] is uniquely relevant against TES compared to other combo decks because you have so many things you’d like to put into play for the future. [[Wishclaw Talisman]] is the best target, but I don’t mind clipping a [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] or [[Chrome Mox]] if it’s there.

Most versions play 1-2 [[Wasteland]] and at least one [[Life from the Loam]]. Clipping your lands is one path to victory.

How do you best prepare for combo decks to “go for it”? How do you identify when to interrupt the turn? What do you want in your hand?

I want to dictate the terms of when they can go for it as much as possible. Given unlimited time with no pressure, the combo deck will always beat the control deck eventually. I use my threats to manipulate the pace of the game. If I have a [[Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes]] with [[Force of Will]] backup, I’ll jam my threat and demand my opponent make their move into my counter or lose to the threat. If I have the [[Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes]] but no protection, I don’t want to force my opponent into a spot where they have to act when I could bluff a hand full of interaction by playing draw-go until I actually have it.

The TES matchup is pretty bad without specific sideboard hate. [[Force of Will]] is the only true counter in the main deck, and it stacks up poorly against [[Veil of Summer]] and [[Galvanic Relay]]. In game one, my best winning board state is [[Narset, Parter of Veils]] and [[Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes]] in play with at least one counter in hand. Post board, I’m looking for a [[Collector Ouphe]], [[Deafening Silence]], or similar to supplement that game-one board state.

Do you value removal spells, like [[Prismatic Ending]], higher or lower than counterspells in the matchup? Why?

They’re both parts of the plan, it’s hard to put one above the other. I am more likely to keep a speculative hand with [[Force of Will]] than I am with [[Prismatic Ending]]. Counters can at least catch you going for a quick [[Echo of Eons]] if things are desperate. [[Prismatic Ending]] doesn’t do anything there.

Recently, The EPIC Storm removed copies of [[Ponder]] in favor of [[Mishra’s Bauble]]. How do you think this affects the usage of [[Pyroblast]] in the matchup?

[[Pyroblast]] is worse than it used to be, but I’m still going to have 1-3 in the deck post board. [[Echo of Eons]] is still important and protecting lock pieces from [[Chain of Vapor]] is valuable. [[Hydroblast]] is great though and moving up in the metagame overall, TES has several important red cards.

Where does The EPIC Storm rank in the meta amongst other Combo decks you prepare for? Ex. [[Doomsday]], Reanimator, etc.

TES is the only one I’m pointing specific hate at. [[Doomsday]], Oops All Spells, [[Show and Tell]], and Reanimator get overlap with the deck’s copies of [[Endurance]], [[Karakas]], [[Narset, Parter of Veils]], [[Pyroblast]], [[Surgical Extraction]], even [[Swords to Plowshares]] has some text. When you see me registering [[Null Rod]] and [[Deafening Silence]], that’s for Storm combo specifically.

What does your sideboard plan look like for post-board games? How is it different for game two vs. game three?

Creature removal out, good cards in. [[Swords to Plowshares]], any [[Supreme Verdict]]/[[Terminus]] stuff, [[Life from the Loam]] if I still need to make cuts. I bring in any lock pieces, then any soft counters, then additional artifact removal ([[Force of Vigor]], etc). I do not bring in any additional graveyard hate. Games two and three look the same. These big [[Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath]] decks don’t have a lot of nuance like a [[Daze]] would. It’s just “these are my best 60 cards.”

How aggressively do you mulligan in games two and three? What does an ideal hand look like for you in those games?

I’ll still keep basically any hand with lands and spells. TES isn’t the speed demon it used to be. They want to sculpt and so do I. I’ll never mull just because a hand doesn’t have [[Force of Will]].

An “ideal” hand though has [[Force of Will]] + Blue card, [[Deafening Silence]], [[Collector Ouphe]], and two lands if we’re living in Christmasland.

What do you think the biggest mistake [[Force of Will]] players make against The EPIC Storm? How do you weigh your decision to counter cards like [[Dark Ritual]] or [[Rite of Flame]] that don’t ultimately end the game?

Ramming [[Force of Will]] into an obvious [[Veil of Summer]] is the biggest mistake you can make. If you’re holding up green mana with some cards in hand, I’ll probably let you do whatever you want and act like I have nothing. Maybe you’ll have to commit to a [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] later in the turn and lose the [[Veil of Summer]].

What is The EPIC Storm’s strongest card against you and why?

[[Veil of Summer]]. Unless I’m on specific counterplay like [[Mindbreak Trap]] or my own [[Veil of Summer]], there’s really nothing to do after your [[Veil of Summer]] resolves.

How do you value slower cards in your opening hands? For example, the newly implemented [[Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes]], [[Expressive Iteration]], and [[Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath]], etc.

I talked about how I use threats to dictate the pace of the game above. That covers [[Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes]] and escaped [[Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath]]. [[Expressive Iteration]] and the front half of [[Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath]] I’ll basically use as soon as I can. [[Flusterstorm]], [[Spell Pierce]], [[Veil of Summer]], etc. are at an all-time low. The only thing I’m reasonably representing with mana open is [[Hydroblast]] or [[Pyroblast]]. If they can beat [[Force of Will]] they’re going for it anyway, draw your cards.

At what point do you feel you have turned the corner in the matchup and can begin to go on the attack?

ASAP with any protection. I’m clocking as soon as I have a safe-ish window.

Any final thoughts or comments? Any plugs or shoutouts?

I am a believer in punting away low-percent matchups in deckbuilding. If it would take a 13-card sideboard to beat [[Goblin Charbelcher]] and there’s only one [[Goblin Charbelcher]] player in your region, just chuck that matchup. Use your sideboard to beat decks you’ll actually play against.

This modern-era Bant shell with [[Endurance]] and [[Narset, Parter of Veils]], however, gives you a lot of game against the type of deck that would previously be in that punt bucket. Making room for 1-2 game breakers for the decks [[Endurance]] doesn’t help with (like TES) is something I recommend. [[Null Rod]] effects splash over to 8-Cast, Moon Stompy, Lands, and Death & Taxes. That’s a wide swath to hit with one card while massively improving an otherwise punt matchup like TES. Play [[Null Rod]], people!

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I would like to take a moment to thank Brian Coval for joining Through the Looking Glass and providing some spectacular responses on the 4c Minsc Control versus The EPIC Storm match-up.

Until next time, keep storming!