GW Valuetown: How to Adapt to a Changing Metagame

I’m a “Value Towner”. I was a blue mage for a long time, but green mana now flows through my veins. Ever since I first picked up G/W Company, I’ve been absolutely infatuated with the archetype. It’s a fair, midrange deck that aims to bring your opponents to their knees as you grind them into dust by out-valuing them and sometimes you even Strip Mine them out of the game. I’ve really taken the deck under my wing, and have become something of an aficionado. To learn more about the deck and how it works, check out my primer, as well as an update to the deck.

An old friend of mine used to always say, “complacency kills.” The same stands in life, as is does in competitive Magic. To stay competitive, you have to adapt to change. Let’s take a look at how I’ve changed my deck to adapt to the metagame and what things you should look out for with your own deck.

I’ll be speaking in a little bit more general terms to start, and then toward the end of the article here, I’ll be breaking down specifics and providing an updated sideboard guide for G/W Company. For starters, let’s take a look at one of the earlier versions of the deck I played, and let’s compare it to the most recent version I’ve been playing:

Zach’s GW Valuetown (December, 2017)

Link to decklist on StarCityGames.com

Zach’s GW Valuetown (May, 2018)

Link to decklist on StarCityGames.com

The mainboard is 58 of the same 60, and the sideboard is 6 cards different. While this may not seem like a lot of change, it’s pretty drastic for a deck that plays very tight and needs a lot of things working to get the engine moving.

Bannings and Unbannings

Nothing shakes up a format quite like a good banning or unbanning. Something major happened in modern a few months ago: Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf got unbanned. This meant control decks got a very powerful finisher, and R/G decks got a new way of generating some aggressive card advantage. Of note, this made blue moon viable, gave Ponza a tool to make the curve a little smoother, and put Jund back on the map (though it has yet to actually do anything).

New Sets/Cards

When new sets come out, it means new cards are lined up to be tested as modern staples. Fatal Push turned the format upside down, and even pushed Delver of Secrets decks completely out, while also enabling the Death’s Shadow decks to have a cheap and efficient way of dealing with most of the creatures in the format.

With Dominaria, we saw the printing of cards like Damping Sphere and Shalai, Voice of Plenty, which give certain archetypes powerful new silver bullet sideboard options…as if we didn’t have enough already.

Addressing a Meta Shift

The addition of these two powerful four drops caused the meta to shift into a more aggressive direction. Decks like Affinity, R/G Eldrazi, Humans, Bogles, and RB Hollow One have started to do very well since the unbannings. In anticipation of a more control and midrange-heavy format, everyone has started to play decks that can get under the slower grindy and control decks, or have played a more interactive game. When a change happens, you typically want to decide which side of the aisle you want to be on.

I don’t particularly like playing aggro decks because I don’t enjoy getting run over by control and midrange, so I’m a midrange/control player by nature. Your sideboard is the area where you can best address specific matchups or archetypes; however, it’s not uncommon to try and spike a meta by throwing some spice in your mainboard. For example, I played against Esper Control this past weekend in Baltimore, and, in acknowledging the fast aggro meta, my opponent was playing Timely Reinforcements in his mainboard, and multiple Baneslayer Angel in the sideboard. Turbo Depths in Legacy plays mainboard Pithing Needle and sometimes even Abrupt Decay to help address things that are hard for it to deal with. We naturally tune our decks to beat others, but it can be done a little more aggressively when we’re conceding that a meta shift is on.

How I’ve Addressed the Aggro Meta: Hot & Spicy Tech

G/W gives me access to a broad array of creatures and other spells to choose from. I keep a box of many cards that are playable in the deck: anything from Thrun, the Last Troll and Whisperwood Elemental to Ghostly Prison and Dromoka’s Command. It’s generally a good idea when building a deck to also keep a card pool that can move in and out of the pile.

I’m going to shift gears at this point and explain how I’ve adapted personally.

  • WORSHIP in the mainboard.This was previously a one-of in the sideboard, but having a second copy in the main gives us more opportunity to steal games from the aggro decks in the format like Humans and Bogles. Sometimes you cast Worship in game one, and your opponent just concedes since they can’t beat it.
  • BOJUKA BOG. This was a tough decision for me to make. I hate “enters the battlefield tapped” lands, but the bog has been an absolute all-star ever since it’s inclusion. It is a fetchable Knight of the Reliquary target, and has also meant that I could shave a Scavenging Ooze since I can blast a whole graveyard at instant speed. This can also be recurred via Ghost Quarter and Ramunap Excavator, which is pretty dope.
  • SHALAI, VOICE OF PLENTY has been a stellar inclusion to the sideboard. She flies, she pumps the team, and she is fantastic against decks playing a lot of removal, and even against decks like Storm and Scapeshift that aim to close out the game by going upstairs. This is a Leyline of Sanctity (and then some) that you can tutor up with Eldritch Evolution. You want her against Burn, Jund, Mardu, Humans, Hollow One, Storm, Scapeshift, etc.
  • A second ELDRITCH EVOLUTION in the sideboard. The best way to have game vs a wide variety of decks is to have a toolbox of answers. What better way to operate with your toolbox than to have an efficient means of finding your answers. I was previously playing only one Evo, and a bunch of silver bullet creatures. This gave me effectively two draws that produced the creature I’m looking for. Unfortunately, I’m a greed monster and I wanted more ways to find specific creatures, especially since some of them (like my girl, Shalai) are just so powerful. In conjunction with this, we’re able to cut down on some of the numbers out of the board. This also helps us with finding specific cards we need from our mainboard. For example, against Tron, we really want to find our “combo” of Ramunap Excavator and Azusa, Lost But Seeking so we can Ghost Quarter them out of the game. Now we have extra copies of these cards, so to speak.
  • WINDBORN MUSE. I experimented with Ghostly Prison and it was always a 10/10 when I drew it. With the direction of the deck now in going more toward a silver bullet package, having a one-of noncreature spell felt very strange to me, and just not like it was quite enough. Muse gives us a tutorable Ghostly Prison. Generally speaking, 3 toughness would be problematic; however, in the matchups we want it, they play very little removal, and if they’re using creature removal on our 2/3 flyer, we’re probably already way ahead.
  • KATAKI, WAR’S WAGE. I was never a huge fan of this card (I know); however, when we’re playing two copies of Evo, it means we can bring in (effectively) three Katakis against decks like lantern, Affinity, and other artifact-based decks. Value!
  • CATACLYSMIC GEARHULK. This card is such an absolute house, I cannot explain enough. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a bunch of clue tokens, Evo’d away a three-drop, chosen Gearhulk as your artifact, Courser of Kruphix as your enchantment, and Tireless Tracker as your creature, then watch it grow as you sac all your clues for free-fiddy. The card is written to be symmetrical, but it’s anything but. It’s absolutely busted against decks like affinity, lantern, bogles, humans, fish, etc.
  • Goodbye SURGICAL EXTRACTION. This was mostly for combo decks, but we have some better tools now, and decks like Dredge aren’t really in the format.

When I showed up to SCG Baltimore, I was determined on one thing: I AM NOT LOSING TO AGGRO DECKS…and I didn’t, save for one match against Affinity, that involved multiple mulligans to five.

How to Sideboard with G/W Valuetown (subjective)

Everyone has a different approach to sideboarding, and I don’t keep a written guide on me, so I will sometimes board differently than shown here when doing it on the fly. I’m going to try and keep this brief, so if you have specific questions, feel free to reach out to me personally. I’m not going to write out guides for every deck, but let’s look at some of the matchups you’ll face most often, and how to tackle them.

R/B Hollow One

This matchup is very favorable, barring heavy mulligans and rough Burning Inquiry from our opponent. The hardest threats they have for us to deal with are delve creatures and Flamewake Phoenix, so if we deal with those, we’re good. Scooze and Bog are very powerful here when timed correctly. Voice is very weak here, your land recursion plan is also pretty weak, as we’re not really trying to win this one by ghost quartering them out. Their threats are all pretty good on their own, we need to make sure we do the same. I frequently shave one coco because of the amount of coco hits that we frequently cut. I also like to cut tracker against them, as it’s frankly just too slow. Sometimes they can go super wide, and Gearhulk helps put us ahead. We mostly want to lock them down so they can’t kill us.

In:

1 Reclamation Sage
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
2 Eldritch Evolution
1 Windborn Muse
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 Worship

Out:

1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Ramunap Excavator
2 Voice of Resurgence
2 Tireless Tracker

Humans

They go wider than us in the first few turns of the game, so if we can survive until turn 5 or 6, we’re usually able to stabilize, as long as we keep their flying creatures at bay. I like having big flying creatures to get in front of their Mantis Rider, and also to clock them. Worship isn’t enough on its own anymore, as they’re now playing Rec Sage, so we also want to bring in other ways to try and shut them down. Voice of Resurgence is extra bad here, given the four copies of reflector mage they play. They also don’t play during our turn, so having creatures be better than just a Grizzly Bears is important. Scooze does very little, as creatures won’t do a whole lot of natural dying in this matchup

In:

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Worship
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out:

4 Voice of Resurgence
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Collected Company

Affinity

This one’s a doozy. It can either go really well for us, or really poorly. Mulligan aggressively. Given the amount of cards we bring in, I always cut all four Cocos here, since we need very specific cards, and none of them are coco hits. We want flying creatures, and we want them to not be able to kill us. Note the synergy between Kataki and Tracker, but I usually just board my trackers out.

In

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Windborn Muse
2 Stony Silence
1 Worship
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Collected Company
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Bojuka Bog
2 Tireless Tracker

Storm

This matchup is very very difficult. We need to aggressively mulligan and hit a specific number of things. We want to hose Gifts Ungiven (Shalai gives us hexproof and Mindcensor bottlenecks their search), and we want to eliminate their graveyard. Our best play in game one is turn-two Knight so we can hold up an instant speed tutor for Bojuka Bog. Aven Mindcensor is often very good, but I’ve had opponents rip the perfect 4 off the top multiple times. EE deals with Baral and Electromancer, and can also wrath away an army of Goblins. Tracker is straight up just too slow. We don’t have a lot of time to find our answers. Voice does very little in this matchup, and it can’t even attack profitably through Baral.

In

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Worship
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

2 Ramunap Excavator
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
4 Voice of Resurgence

Jund

We already throw this deck in a dumpster. We get a little stronger matchup now. We how their removal and their edicts. Courser, Knight, and Voice are all-stars here. Beware of Grafdigger’s Cage and Leyline of the Void. Land recursion isn’t super important here. We can get there game one by ghost quartering them out, but It’s a little too lofty to try again in game two/three, as I’d rather just play better cards than them. Collected Company is a nightmare for them.

In

1 Reclamation Sage
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 SIgarda, Host of Herons
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

1 Worship
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Ramunap Excavator
2 Tireless Tracker (if on the draw…you always should be in g2 vs jund, keep on the play)

Tron

This matchup is great. We dump on them. We can now more aggressively assemble our “lock” through the use of Evo.

In

1 Reclamation Sage
2 Stony Silence (better on the play)
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

1 Worship
2 Path to Exile
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Bojuka Bog

Mardu Pyromancer and Grixis Pyromancer/Thing

Treat this matchup like Jund, but with a lot more removal. Engineered Explosives on one or two is a house here. Aven Mindcensor is pretty weak as a 2/1 flyer here because of Lingering Souls.

In

1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Eldritch Evolution
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
2 Engineered Explosives

Out

1 Worship
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
2 Ramunap Excavator
1 Tireless Tracker (on the draw)
2 Aven Mindcensor

Bogles

We are favored. They can be really fast but we can steal a game from them in g1 if we see Worship. Our creatures tend to outclass theirs. Be wary of Rest in Peace and Gaddock Teeg in game two. I like to keep two Paths in to deal with annoying things. Shaving Azusa is fine here because one ghost quarter per turn is typically enough to Strip Mine them out of the game.

In:

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Windborn Muse
1 Worship
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out:

1 Bojuka Bog
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
4 Voice of Resurgence

Living End

Sigarda. Sigarda. Sigarda. Living End cannot kill this card, and it also breaks the symmetry of the deck’s namesake card. Bojuka Bog and Scooze are great here. Gearhulk helps deal with a resolved living end. Our creatures tend to be bigger and better. They often sideboard Blood Moon, so they have a good number of basics. Ghost Quarter isn’t our primary plan here. Shaving Paths is fine; they never have just one-two creatures in play without a Living End. If they’re casting creatures, we’re doing just fine

In

1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Worship
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

2 Path To Exile
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
2 Ramunap Excavator

Jeskai Control

We are favored. Keep your opponent off of white mana (Supreme Verdict/Wrath and God). Courser, Knight, and Voice are your best creatures here. Don’t overextend into a board wipe. You can bring in Evo, but be aware of counterspells. Sometimes they play Engineered Explosives or Detention Sphere in the side, so Rec Sage is a good protection against liabilities.

In

1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 Reclamation Sage

Out

1 Worship
2 Path to Exile

KCI Combo

Attack their mana aggressively, mulligan to Stony Silence.

In

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Reclamation Sage
2 Stony Silence
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

4 Path to Exile
4 Voice of Resurgence
1 Tireless Tracker

Lantern Control

We are typically favored here. Mulligan aggressively. Artifact hate is king in this matchup, but beware of Ghirapur Aether Grid. We want to prevent them from locking us. They WILL have multiple Grafdigger’s Cages. Shaving CoCo is a nice hedge. We don’t need a fast clock, just to find our silver bullets. This sucks a bit for our Eldritch Evolution plan, so just don’t be afraid to mulligan early and often. Aven Mindcensor is INSANE vs them, as it completely hoses their Inventors Fair and Whir of Invention plan. DON’T WALK YOUR COCO AND EVO INTO AN INSTANT SPEED GRAFDIGGER’S CAGE. Courser of Kruphix is abysmal in this matchup because we don’t want to be giving them a free Lantern of Insight.

In

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Reclamation Sage
2 Stony Silence
1 Kataki, War’s wage
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty (protection from Thoughtseize and mill rocks)
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

4 Path to Exile
4 Courser of Kruphix
1 Worship
1 Voice of Resurgence

Titanshift

This matchup is very hard, but winnable. We want to have fast huge Knights as a clock, and we want to hit Aven Mindcensor early and often. Voice is very medium and slow. It never gets converted into a token, so it’s just a bear. If we can Ghost Quarter them off of green, we’re doing very well. Sigarda+Worship=heaven. They have to have some form of enchantment removal, or they won’t be able to kill us.

In

1 Worship
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out:

1 Bojuka Bog
1 Scavenging Ooze
3 Voice of Resurgence

Burn

We are very favored. Courser is your best mainboard card, and Shalai is your best sideboard card. Ghost Quarter off white if possible, but don’t lean on that too hard. Remember they often play Ensnaring Bridge in the sideboard, so don’t get punked out of the game. I defeated my Burn opponent last weekend with a Noble Hierarch through a Bridge and Ghost Quartering him off white. Rec Sage hits Eidolon, Bridge, and RIP. They straight up cannot beat worship in game one, and usually can’t beat it in game two or three.

In

1 Reclamation Sage
1 Worship
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
2 Voice of Resurgence
2 Tireless Tracker

Counters Company and Vizier Elves

Other Company decks are hard for us as they’re usually either faster or more interactive with spells and creatures. The boarding is generally the same. All CoCo decks tend to have sideboard Worship, so be aware of that. Gearhulk is nuts. We typically won’t be trying to Ghost Quarter them, as they often play 10+ mana creatures.

In

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Worship
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Eldritch Evolution

Out

4 Voice of Resurgence
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
2 Ramunap Excavator
2 Tireless Tracker

As previously mentioned, this isn’t a guide for every matchup, as there are just too many to list, but this should give you some direction against a lot of the really important ones. Sometimes sideboarding is really counterintuitive, but with the new direction the deck is taking, we want to really make sure we grind our opponents into dust with our silver bullet plan. I hope this has been helpful for you, and as always, if you have specific questions, feel free to hit my inbox on Facebook!

Zach Goldman