Match Report: Pure Attack vs Pure Defense

Written by Ron Saikowski, February 5, 2018

You know what happens when you write a post about making your new deck all about attack with no defense? You get a chance to put your money where your mouth is. And that's exactly what happened to me.

Hoping online last weekend, I found someone looking to play and we faced off for an evening match. Little did I know this match was going to test my deck like never before.

I have all damage. No protection. A good number of my cards even do damage to me. They're often fast games... if my opponent doesn't do me in, I can easily do it to myself without much trouble thank you very much.

After our match, my opponent and I discussed our respective deck builds for a while. He asked that I not give away any of his deck tech and I will honor that here so I'm just going to recap the match briefly and highlight the lessons I learned.

He won 2-0 without much trouble
The first two games were incredibly tough for me. Losing both, I couldn't get my deck to work faster than his defenses could be set up. By the time I had any real threats on the board, he had far too much in place for me to overcome.

At one point, we realized he was playing Swiss and was playing EC so I swithced over by dropping two Strip Mines and replacing them with Islands. I wanted to see how my deck would do in a similar format and welcomed the challenge of only one Strip Mine.

Side note: I really like having mutiple Strip Mines.

I attribute my problems in the first game to drawing tons of land and not much else. It happens to all of us at one point or another. In the second game, I avoided the land surplus problem, but poor sideboarding on my part didn't help me at all.

I wasn't sure how to deal with this one. I'd never played against someone who'd gone completely towards the protection angle in their deck. I was already running as many Disenchants as I could.

The third game... an experiment in sideboarding
After the two games, I asked to play again and sideboard out of the game to see if I could even overcome his defenses. I am not the best at sideboarding and I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity to really practice it. It was my only hope of pulling out a win even if I had to cheat to do it.

I ended up swapping out a total of five cards. The biggest decision to was to add in two Energy Flux. They were going to make it difficult for me to make a quick opening, but I hoped it would be enough to slow him down as well. I wanted him to have to pay to keep his artifacts in play. The other three cards were extra direct damage in hopes of drawing more sooner.

A Demonic Tutor in my opening hand allowed me to go get an Energy Flux and test my theory within the first few turns. It was gamble, but it was the only plan I had. There was no Plan B. It either worked or I crashed and burned again.

I also started dropping all my direct damage immediately instead of holding onto it for key targets later on. One way or another, this was going to be a fast game.

The Energy Flux worked. Not great, but it cost him just enough to cause some problems. Of course I was suffering too, but I kept at it. I managed to get him down to one life with constant attacking by my Mishra's Factories and direct damage as soon as I drew it. A well played Balance on his turn brought all that to an abrupt end and completely crippled any further attacks from me.

Only by luck did I pull out the win a turn later by Fireballing him for his last point of life.

He beat me fair and square the first two games. I gave him no quarter and asked for none in return. He was gracious enough to allow me to sideboard from outside the game to see what I could do. It's the only reason I managed a win in the final game.

The biggest lesson of all
I realized when I go to sideboard, it's not only what you put into your deck, it's what you take out that's just as important if not more so. When it comes to sideboarding, you need to have a plan and go all out executing it. Don't do it half way. Switch out as many cards as you need to in order to make your plan work.

It's not about "tricking" your opponent with new cards. It's about modifying what you have to make it even more lethal against them. I learned that in the third game. The win is not what matters here, it's that I learned a good lesson when it comes to sideboarding. Like building my deck, it's an all or nothing approach.

Don't go half way.

Related Reading:
Deckbuilding 101: Threats or Protection?
The joy of discovering hidden gems in your deck

Image credit: Painting by Ilya Repin. Energy Flux card from Wizards of the Coast.