Splinter Twin is probably the deck I enjoy playing the most in Modern. A deck that can kill on turn 4 AND plays Cryptic Command? Sign me up! The fact that the deck has the ability to kill on turn 4 drastically changes the way your opponents play compared to playing against a traditional control deck. The deck is incredibly tricky to fight and I’ve seen opponents refuse to cast spells for several turns just for fear of getting combo’d out.
But my favorite part about playing Splinter Twin is the fact that the deck can win without the combo and play the role of a control deck. I’ve won countless games with the combination of Snapcaster Mage, counters, and burn spells. Its plan B is so strong that one of the sideboard plans for the deck involves taking out the Splinter Twin combo entirely.
For those new to Modern, here is my primer to UR Splinter Twin. I recommend you start there first.
When looking for the optimal list for Twin, the first place I looked at was PT Fate Reforged Champion’s Antonio Del Moral Leon’s list:
I think Antonio had a very solid version of Splinter Twin and can see why he was able to pilot this to a Pro Tour victory. This is a very controlling take and I think that is the proper way to build the deck.
After tinkering with the deck a bit with the help of Sam Pardee and Andrew Baeckstrom, this is the list I decided to run at GP Vancouver:
Grim Lavamancer is incredible against Infect, the breakout deck of the PT, and Affinity while still going very well with the Plan B strategy of burning the opponent out. It matches up fairly poorly against Zoo but I did not think that deck would be popular at the Grand Prix (especially because Pat Cox was playing in Memphis instead).
The 4th Snapcaster Mage absolutely needs to be in the deck and is probably the biggest issue I have with the PT-winning deck list. Outside of that, Sam convinced me to switch out the Peek for a Thought Scour to fuel both Snapcaster Mage and Grim Lavamancer. In the end, I’m still not sure which is better but I do know I want a 5th one-mana cantrip spell in the deck.
With the addition of Grim Lavamancers to the main deck, Pyroclasm and Anger of the Gods become much worse. Engineered Explosives is the natural replacement as it serves a similar function without killing Lavamancers. It also gives additional outs to kill Tarmogoyf.
Jace and Sowers: You want to bring in cards that are very effective against Junk, but they need cost 3 or more mana. This allows you to dodge Inquisition of Kozilek and Abrupt Decay. With Keranos and Batterskull already coming in, I don’t want to overload on the 5-drops so these are the best 4-mana options available.
I was a bit skeptical about Jace, Architect of Thought but I was surprised at the amount of value he provided. He is a card advantage engine that can also shutdown Lingering Souls tokens. This is a luxury slot, but it did a lot of work for me in Vancouver. Sower of Temptation was suggested by Andrew Baeckstrom and I can say I was very impressed with the card. Let’s just say that we were able to steal our fair share of ‘Goyfs, Tasigurs, and Siege Rhinos over the course of the tournament.
I built this deck to beat Infect, Burn, Affinity, Twin, and Junk, so here is a quick sideboard guide for those matchups:
There are a ton of good cards to bring in this matchup. Ancient Grudge is very strong as they have 4 Inkmoth Nexus to go along with Spellskites that they will likely bring in. Blood Moon is also very good as it shuts off Pendelhaven and Inkmoth Nexus. I’m not so sure on the number of Splinter Twins and tappers you want in the deck. At some point you are going to want to combo them off so I want 3 Splinter Twins, in which case you could also probably cut one Deceiver Exarch from the deck. Spell Snare is actually fairly effective and I can see keeping it in over an Explosives (which is quite slow but is an out to Wild Defiance)
There were many games I absolutely needed to get a Mountain on turn 1 that I found it difficult to cast Cryptic Command on turn 4 a lot of the time. Remand is very bad as almost all their spells cost 2 mana or less.
Depending on their list, Lightning Bolt should not be as good after sideboard since most people cut some number of Pestermites and/or Grim Lavamancers. It’s still a cheap burn spell to use with Snapcaster Mage, but you don’t want too many of them stuck in your hand. The matchup is very slow and grindy after sideboard and the big threats are usually the best way to win the matchup.
It doesn’t seem very intuitive as getting it countered then getting combo’d is a bad thing, but you aren’t just going to play Batterskull and Keranos on turn 5 into open mana. I also find that Spellskite is surprisingly mediocre in the matchup and only keep one in case the opponent decides to try to go full combo after sideboard. I also like to bring in an Ancient Grudge as they will almost assuredly have some combination of Spellskite/Batterskull/Vedalken Shackles in the sideboard.
It is just way too difficult to actually try to get the combo off against a Junk opponent. Trying to play around Path to Exile, Dismember, Abrupt Decay, and Slaughter Pact is a nightmare and I’d rather just take the combo out completely and transform into a Blood Moon control deck. The Engineered Explosives and Sower of Temptations allow you to deal with the most problematic threat in the matchup in Tarmogoyf and I’ve found that the matchup is slightly favorable after sideboard.
I played against two Junk decks at the GP. I got crushed in both of the game 1s but managed to win the post-board games in both matches. Another benefit of boarding out the combo is that many Junk players will tend to just overload on disruption for said combo only to find that it no longer exists.
Bonus: Amulet of Vigor
The burn spells are generally not very good as they do very little to interact with them. Ancient Grudges are only good at killing Amulet of Vigor but a quick Amulet is one of their best chances at beating you. I prefer Lightning Bolt to Electrolyze since it can kill Azusa while on the draw but I can see keeping Electrolyzes on the play. This is a good matchup for Splinter Twin as they just can’t beat a resolved Blood Moon and have very little to disrupt the combo. Also, their better draws involve playing a Primeval Titan with haste on turn 3, which can simply be tapped down with a Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite.