Last week was a great week—we went over a streamlined blue/green Doubling Season planeswalker combo deck and broke down the strategy here. I promised that I would be back this week with updates to the deck and a matchup guide, so this week we’re getting into the details.
I think this deck is a fun deck that is also competitive. I wouldn’t call it a top tier deck, but it’s different, plays different cards, and has a unique turbo-extra-turn playstyle that really speaks to people. So for anyone seriously interested in playing the deck or for casual observers, let’s get to it!
Doubling Season Updates and Possible Advances
There are a lot of great ideas to include around the core strategy of this deck and I won’t say there’s only one way to do it. I have a reason for my method, but if you choose to deviate to accommodate your own personal inclinations I encourage you to do that.
In my version I have several changes in the main and sideboard from last week to this week. The main emphasis in changes has been trying to make the deck more interactive against various spells. If our strength is against creatures, our weakness is against spells. Let’s have a more well-rounded deck against various matchups.
Kiora has won us a few games in epic Kraken fashion, but has been lackluster overall. Its fragile loyalty-body is at the exact wrong spot on the curve. I decided to cut her.
In place of Kiora, Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command are amazingly versatile blue spells in any blue deck. Having access to these cards around our core can do a lot to help us out.
I know a lot of people want to see red in this deck for Ral Zarek. Ral Zarek has 3 awesome abilities, beefy loyalty, and ultimates right away with Doubling Season. There’s an issue in adding a 3rd color though.
We could cut a couple basics for Steam Vents and Stomping Ground and have 8 red sources to start off. Not a whole lot, and every time we draw one we are paying 2 life over a basic when we need it untapped. Most Modern decks attack the life total, and I’m not a huge fan of paying extra life where I can avoid it. Ral Zarek is great and Pyroclasm in the board would be great, but I prefer the 2-color mana consistency.
Fog is a great 1-mana spell against creatures and Spell Pierce is a great 1-mana spell against spells. What do you want to beat? I’m choosing a mix.
I’ve decided to try out Halimar Depths over Temple of Mystery. It does make only 1 color of mana, but it looks at 3 cards and we can shuffle away what we don’t want with fetchlands.
Why not just play untapped lands? We could do that, but the deck is configured to have very few plays at 1 and 3 mana in order to play tapped lands turns 1 and 3. I haven’t felt that 10 is too many for that, but if you do you could shave them and maybe even try splashing red.
Polymorph–Emrakul has won a game, but most of the time it has just rotted in the sideboard. Everyone leaves in their Lightning Bolts anyway and it’s a clunky 4-drop with some useless Emrakul draws.
We should be able to get kills with Garruk, and alternatively Avenger of Zendikar or Wurmcoil Engine could fill that role.
If you choose to continue playing with Polymorph plus Emrakul I understand, but I have been enjoying 5+ extra interactive cards in the sideboard instead.
I think a mana creature like Birds of Paradise or Lotus Cobra could be great coming in against decks that have no way to touch our creatures. It’s the same idea as the Polymorph-Emrakul plan, but instead spends fewer slots and on a 1-drop.
Before I was on Negates, but after losing to Pestermite with only Negates I realized we need to counter creatures.
A lot of the time, Garruk ultimate is our route to victory, so the more random bodies we have on the field the better. Vendilion Clique is a great one in various matchups.
Sideboarding with Doubling Season
As we get into the matchups, I am not going to be specific in how to sideboard. There’s many factors to consider more than the matchup—the opponent’s playstyle, what cards looked good or bad, who’s playing first, whether there could be another game after this, what cards were revealed or not revealed.
Use your imagination in sideboarding and treat it like a new process every time.
Strengths – Fighting Fair
I feel that the strength of this deck is against decks that are fighting fair—your average creature deck with disruption. Lots of decks fall under this category from aggro to midrange to control.
At our core we are a protect-the-planeswalker deck. Are planeswalkers good in this matchup? Can we protect them with Khalni Garden and Fog? If yes, we are not necessarily highly favored, or favored, but we have a strong game plan that can win us the match.
I’m not going to claim we have an easy matchup against what many consider the best and most influential deck right now, but we match up in a way that’s competitive. I would expect a close match—possible to win, possible to lose.
Whether they have an early flipped Delver or not has a huge impact on the game. Surprise. Ground creatures like Monastery Swiftspear can be blunted by Plant and Beast tokens, and Young Pyromancer can be disabled with a Jace shield. But Delver in the air will keep turning sideways and the most we can do is race.
Most Delver builds are aggro decks that are burn-heavy in the first game and switch to counter-heavy in the second game. The burn plan can touch our planeswalkers and get through our Plants, but counters are a lot scarier, as a 1-mana Spell Pierce hitting our 4-mana planeswalker can be backbreaking.
In straight blue/green I think our best sideboard card is Spell Pierce. For the most part we can deal with the creatures and Spell Pierce will help us force through our important spells or stop Treasure Cruise.
If we were looking for a sideboard bullet to splash for, Pyroclasm would be up there. A 2-mana sweeper could win the matchup, but the life payment could cause us problems everywhere else.
Our weakest cards are likely the nonessential 4- and 5-drops and Remand. Remand is great against Cruise but does nothing against certain openings. This does depend on who is playing first, so keep that in mind.
The last thing we need to look out for is Blood Moon. Blood Moon can hose Simic Growth Chamber but we have enough fetches and basics to prepare.
Taking a Young Pyromancer and ending with an extra turn should be enough to reverse the board and win.
Key Card – Jace, Architect of Thought
B/G decks will always be a force, as certain people like the disruption + creatures playstyle. I would expect Jund to fall off a bit for Junk. Siege Rhino is an absurd creature.
I feel that we are fairly well positioned to grind against a deck like Jund. They can tear apart our hand but we will have insane topdecks while they will have almost useless Abrupt Decays. Maelstrom Pulse has fallen off, so they will have a hard time fighting our planeswalkers except through attacking on the ground.
Goyf, Scavenging Ooze, and Courser of Kruphix can be pretty slow and ineffective against chump tokens. Dark Confidant can up the stream of pressure, but that life payment is real. We will have opportunities to steal the game with a series of extra turns into Garruk ultimate.
This is one of the matchups where theoretically Kiora or Tamiyo are at their strongest. The icing creatures effects can really stabilize a board.
From their sideboard, Liliana can be scary for her ultimate ability. We are well positioned against the sacrifice effect, but sacrificing half our permanents can ruin us.
For sideboarding, they don’t have any silver bullets that really crush us so their deck is unlikely to get much better. On our side we can beef up a little bit with extra Dig Through Times and a fat creature or two.
For cutting cards, it all depends. If Fog won a game it may be best to take it out. Maybe the Time Warps are a bit situational. Again, play it by the situation.
There are lots of ways to beat midrange decks by stabilizing the board on the ground or attacking the life total with Beasts.
Control has really fallen off the map, but there are certain individuals that will still play it. Jeskai, Grixis, and Esper are likely options.
Control-type mirror matches are frequently about midgame land drops, and Simic Growth Chamber helps tremendously here. It can help us keep advancing our mana to the point that the opponent needs to make a move before we have a mana advantage.
Another way to create a game-winning mana advantage is through Garruk. If we can stick a Garruk and untap two lands for Remand it can become pretty hard to lose. Every turn we can advance our board while keeping up mana to interact with them.
It’s totally dependent on their build, but in general planeswalkers will give us a good chance in the match even if our maindeck Fogs could be a bit weak.
Moving on to sideboarding we want to configure our deck to have as many instant-speed counters and as much action as possible. Whatever we can do to stop them from advancing or to advance our own board at instant speed. Whatever we can do to force through a planeswalker and start riding that advantage. Counterspells and Dig Through Time are our friends.
Resolved planeswalkers are problematic for control players.
Weaknesses – Unfair Decks
Aggro, midrange, and control are generally fighting on a battlefield where planeswalkers shine. But what about decks that quickly go over, through, or around them?
We are weak to various combination decks. Decks like Scapeshift, Twin, Ascendancy, Storm, and even Birthing Pod. If that’s a scary large part of the metagame, I understand, but that’s where we’re at.
I don’t consider these matchups to be unwinnable, but with Khalni Gardens and Fogs doing very little, we make for a clunky deck without many ways to interact. It’s possible to shore up these problems in the sideboard and win the match, but it will make for an uphill battle with my current configuration.
Birthing Pod is maybe the second-most popular and influential deck, and I can’t say we have a good matchup. A turn-2 Pod is close to unbeatable. The stream of disruption and aggression is lights out and there isn’t too much we can do about it.
We could try to counter Pod, but with Voice of Resurgence on duty they are pretty well positioned against counterspells. Their beatdown plan is no slouch.
But if they don’t have Birthing Pod, things are definitely winnable. Siege Rhino may have trample, but it’s a 4-drop. Their other creatures can be disruptive but slow at pressuring us. We don’t have a lot of control over whether they have the Pod or not, but luck gives us a chance.
Sideboarding is a quandary as counterspells can stop Pod but are weak against the Voice. Nature’s Claim could clear up Pod but not before they get one activation.
It’s a tough call and I don’t have a confident plan yet but I think it’s possible to make this a reasonable matchup with more work.
No Birthing Pod no problem!
Scapeshift has been picking up in popularity in various forms. It’s a combo deck that does not attack on the ground and finishes with a big spell. In the main we are too light on hard counterspells, but after sideboarding we have a good chance.
Here Garruk shines. There will be opportunities to sneak Garruk through and ride countermagic to victory. He is our main path to victory.
For sideboarding, the more countermagic we can fit in the better. Generally Scapeshift struggles to win if they can’t resolve Scapeshift, so a card like Negate is fantastic.
An additional tip against Scapeshift is to try to stay above 18 life until they get their 8th land out. From 7 lands they can only do 18 damage, so save that second fetch land to buy an extra turn.
A stream of counterspells with planeswalker support is a good plan against Scapeshift.
Splinter Twin is an interesting matchup that can come down to deck configuration. If their main threat is Deceiver Exarch then Jace is our best card, but if they have Pestermite we may just be dead.
Fog is the big wild card here. Are they going to play around it? Are they going to just go for it? This can determine a lot of games and is an opportunity for us to sneak out the win.
Simic Growth Chamber can be a liability here as they can tap it with their creatures and that can set us back ages. It’s important to be able to counter their creatures so Mana Leak is an amazing sideboard card here and Negate is not nearly as good.
Like all the other blue matchups, Garruk is our easiest route to victory, though he can be a bit harder to defend in this matchup. In general, against all these blue combo decks that we are “weak” to, Garruk + counterspells can save the day.
Garruk untaps will give us the extra mana we need to beat Twin.
We have to group Affinity among the combo decks here as they come out so fast and attack in the air almost exclusively. While Fog can buy some time, Remand can be really bad, and it’s easy for them to kill us before we ever get going.
This is a matchup where Birds of Paradise is at its best. We could use the extra speed, they can’t kill it, and it makes for a nice air blocker.
It might be worth having a Hurkyl’s Recall in the board to shore up this matchup. We would have a reasonable chance of finding it in one of the sideboard games and that could be enough to win the match.
It’s possible to get fast draws and goldfish them, though Hurky’ls Recall or Creeeping Corrosion make things easier.
Doubling Season Metagame Adjustments?
As I see it, our strengths are against the fair decks and our weakness is against the combo decks. This may be acceptable to you depending on the metagame, but there is definitely room to sacrifice on one end to improve on the other.
If you are concerned about winning game 1s against the combo decks, the easiest thing we could do is cut down on Fogs and Khalni Gardens for some untapped lands and counterspells. This would give us a good chance of winning game 1 and the match through Garruk + counters, but it would mean losing some points against the decks trying to slog through to our planeswalkers.
Overall, I find this deck to be competitive enough. It’s built around 4- and 5-mana clunkers and has some inherent disadvantages, but Doubling Season is sweet and that’s reason enough to go all-out.
If you enjoyed this deck or series, we have one more video set coming out this week. Let me know your play experience and thoughts on the deck.
On the following week, we dive into Fate Reforged brews. I’m also interested in hearing what new cards are exciting to you and worth brewing around.