RUG Twin stood out as the most innovative and exciting deck of Pro Tour Born of the Gods. It followed up with a convincing performance at Grand Prix Richmond, and it has gotten plenty of attention online in the weeks since. What I have not seen is a detailed sideboarding guide. While Splinter Twin may look like a straight-forward deck, it is filled with nuances and intricacies that are not so obvious at first glance. This only compounds post-sideboard, when the deck adapts its game plans in a variety of ways to combat particular opponents. RUG Twin is the most complex Splinter Twin deck yet.
None of the articles out there address this sideboarding concern, and they leave players in the dark when they need help the most. Today I will rectify the problem by giving a run-down of the most popular matchups, how they play out, and how to sideboard to get the biggest edge. I will cover what cards come out, what cards come in, and why. I will also talk about the important factors in the various matchups, and what plans provide the most likely avenues to victory.
RUG Twin is the next evolution of the Tempo-Twin deck. It benefits from the addition of Tarmogoyf, which allows it to function as a very robust, fair deck. Traditional Twin decks are forced to rely on the Splinter Twin combo, which puts them at the mercy of targeted removal. Tempo-Twin is built to play aggressively, and it is designed to win many games with creatures and burn spells. Tarmogoyf super-charges this plan, and it turns the combo into a decisive backdoor to victory, not the main plan. This deck takes full advantage of Tarmogoyf with its fetchlands, sorcery card draw, instant disruption, creature package, and even Splinter Twin enchantment.
Tarmogoyf is excellent in a deck filled with card draw and creature removal. Tarmogoyf has the effect of hastening the pace of the game, and it forces opposing action and removal. It clears the way for the combo creatures Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch, which can pair with Splinter Twin and win the game instantly. Compare Spellskite, which is often played by traditional UR Splinter Twin decks, to Tarmogoyf. Tarmogoyf protects the combo pieces in practice, and it's also a powerful and dynamic threat. In some games the Twin deck will not even resemble a combo deck, but instead will play like a RUG tempo deck.
Against aggressive decks like Zoo, Tarmogoyf is a brick wall that buys the Twin player a lot of time. Fast decks with rush creatures and burn can be the most difficult matchups for traditional Twin decks, and Tarmogoyf does a lot of stabilize the matchup. Tarmogoyf buys a lot of time on defense, and it also allows Twin to change gears and turn the corner once it establishes board control. Tarmogoyf is a critical part of the puzzle post-sideboard, where Twin transforms into a legitimate creature-control deck.
Against the controlling decks, like UWR and Jund/Rock decks, Tarmogoyf gives the Twin deck a reliable, fair plan. Tarmogoyf is actually quite difficult for control decks to remove, and it will often draw either Path to Exile or two burn spells. When Tarmogoyf sticks, it puts the opponent on a fast clock and forces their hand. This draws out their resources and mana, and will often clear the way for a combo kill.
Against other unfair decks, Tarmogoyf can serve as a fast clock that pairs with Counterspell disruption to turn the Twin deck into somewhat of a fish deck.
Supplementing Tarmogoyf is Scavenging Ooze, which is a powerful tool against the format. It shines against creature decks when paired with the removal suite of RUG Twin, which allow it to grow and take over the game. Scavenging Ooze is also quite useful as maindeck graveyard hate. It answers the ubiquitous Snapcaster Mage and disrupts the combo engine from unfair decks like Melira Pod and Storm.
RUG Twin is a powerful combo deck that can switch into a variety of roles, making it a very potent deck in games two and three. This also makes it quite difficult to sideboard against, to the frustration of opponents. They are forced to always respect the combo even if the Twin player is not relying on it. This leads them into reactively playing cards that are ineffective against the control plan, which makes their draws awkward and further exposes them to aggression.
I put together a sideboard plan guide against the top decks of the format. I talk about the dynamics of each matchup, how to sideboard, and why. I've arrived at these sideboard plans through a lot of analysis and with consideration into how my opponents will sideboard. I've also done a bit of research, and as much as possible I've based these plans based on information that Patrick Dickmann himself has shared or demonstrated.
Sideboarding often depends on a variety of factors, including what particular cards the opponent has or is likely to have, how they played in previous games, and more. My guide focuses on the top decks in the format, these decks being the most likely opponents in a given Modern tournament. Modern is extremely wide, but most of the plans and strategies I share today can be extrapolated against any other decks in the format. Please turn to the comments section if you have comments on plans or questions about sideboarding in additional matchups.
Here is my decklist, which is a tuned based on the current Magic Online metagame:
This is a close matchup, and both decks are quite capable of capitalizing on opposing mistakes and stumbles.
Melira Pod has little interaction in game one besides Abrupt Decay, so the combo can be a reliable route to victory. Scavenging Ooze is an excellent answer to their combo, and it's also a valuable resource when fighting a fair game.
After sideboard the Twin deck takes on the control role. The banning of Deathrite Shaman makes winning the fair game much easier for the Twin deck; the loss of some graveyard removal makes Snapcaster Mage and Tarmogoyf more powerful, while nickel-and-diming the opponent has become more viable.
A couple pieces of each part of the combo come out, which corresponds to its reduced importance in post-sideboard games. Remand plays poorly against their mana acceleration, low curve, and Voice of Resurgence.
Anger of the Gods goes a long way in controlling the board. It is a clean answer to Voice of Resurgence and persist creatures. Threads of Disloyalty does not have many targets but it is a great answer to Voice of Resurgence and Spellskite.
Birthing Pod is their most important card, and it causes problems for the control plan because it can create value turn after turn. Controlling Birthing Pod with Counterspells is difficult and ultimately futile over a long game, so both Ancient Grudge come in. This gives the Twin deck a good amount of Birthing Pod control throughout the game, and it ensures that the Pod player cannot get out of hand. Birthing Pod may still create value, but after sideboard the Twin deck is equipped to fight an attrition battle.
- 3 Remand- 2 Splinter Twin- 2 Deceiver Exarch
+ 2 Anger of the Gods+ 2 Ancient Grudge+ 1 Threads of Disloyalty+ 1 Dismember+ 1 BatterskullAffinity:
This is a favorable matchup. Affinity lacks much interaction, generally relying on just a few Galvanic Blast, so the combo is a reliable path to victory. The combo creatures are effective at containing their Cranial Plating, while Tarmogoyf is a very fast clock when fighting the fair game.
In anticipation of increased opposing interaction, after sideboard the Twin deck reduces the combo and shifts towards the control plan. Twin brings in a slew of artifact removal and sweepers, turning it into a legitimate control deck that wins with Tarmogoyf or Batterskull.
- 4 Remand- 2 Splinter Twin- 1 Deceiver Exarch
+ 2 Anger of the Gods+ 2 Ancient Grudge+ 1 Batterskull+ 1 Vandalblast+ 1 Engineered ExplosivesRUG Twin Mirror:
Landing the combo is quite difficult, so after sideboard the mirror becomes a battle between two aggro-control decks. Threads of Disloyalty is MVP in a matchup with so few relevant threats. Experience is key in this pairing, which sits among the most complex matchups in the format.
- 3 Splinter Twin- 2 Deceiver Exarch
+ 2 Threads of Disloyalty+ 1 Dismember+ 1 Dispel+ 1 BatterskullUR Twin:
They are reliant on the combo, so bring in every Counterspell and piece of interaction for their combo. You have plenty of tools to stop them, so games will tend to go long. Tarmogoyf is a huge threat without parallel on the other side of the board, so given careful play RUG Twin has the clear advantage. Stick a Tarmogoyf and ride it to victory while playing around their combo.
- 3 Splinter Twin- 2 Deceiver Exarch- 3 Lightning Bolt
+ 1 Ancient Grudge+ 1 Dismember+ 1 Negate+ 1 Dispel+ 1 Counterflux+ 1 Combust+ 1 Spellskite+ 1 Engineered ExplosivesStorm:
This matchup is a race, and Storm is faster as it is capable of winning on turn three and consistently on turn four. The Twin deck can win somewhat unreliably on turn four, but it does have some advantages. Where the Storm deck has essentially no interaction, the Twin deck has Scavenging Ooze to fight their Pyromancer Ascension and Past in Flames, in addition to a set of Remand and more Counterspells after sideboard.
This is the one of the few matchups where the combo remains plan A after sideboard, so a couple of Tarmogoyf are removed.
- 2 Flame Slash- 2 Tarmogoyf
+ 1 Counterflux+ 1 Dispel+ 1 Negate+ 1 Engineered ExplosivesBig Zoo:
Zoo is a matchup where Tarmogoyf shines. It gives the Twin deck a robust, fair plan, which it transitions to post-sideboard. The full suite of removal spells come in, including Combust to deal with cards like Loxodon Smiter and Knight of the Reliquary. Remand is poor against their slow curve and especially Voice of Resurgence. Threads of Disloyalty shines here, and it deals with problems like Voice of Resurgence and Tarmogoyf.
- 4 Remand- 2 Splinter Twin- 1 Deceiver Exarch- 1 Electrolyze
+ 2 Anger of the Gods+ 2 Threads of Disloyalty+ 1 Dismember+ 1 Combust+ 1 Engineered Explosives+ 1 BatterskullUWR Control:
Their combination of removal and Counterspells makes this a difficult matchup. Winning with the combo is near impossible, and since UWR is the true control deck in the format, beating it with the control plan is still pretty difficult. It is important to be patient, but it's also important to strike when opportunity arises. The key card here is Remand, and the best use for it is to return one's own spell in response to an opposing Counterspell, and to counter their Snapcaster Mage flashbacks.
- 2 Lightning Bolt- 3 Splinter Twin- 3 Deceiver Exarch
+ 1 Dispel+ 1 Negate+ 1 Counterflux+ 1 Combust+ 1 Dismember+ 1 Batterskull+ 1 Spellskite+ 1 Ancient GrudgeJund/Rock:
Their combination of aggression, creature removal, and discard make this challenging matchup.
After sideboard Twin fully embraces the control plan, removing all but one back-up Splinter Twin. Remove two Deceiver Exarch as well, but combo creatures are still useful as a way to interact with the opponent and draw-out opposing removal spells.
Threads of Disloyalty is quite effective against their creature base. Dark Confidant can be a juicy target, and it must be removed at all costs by some sort of removal, but Threads of Disloyalty is best saved for the most difficult to deal with creatures, Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze.
Remand is not ideal, and more can be removed for other cards, but it is the best way to slow down Liliana of the Veil.
- 3 Splinter Twin- 2 Deceiver Exarch- 1 Remand
+ 2 Threads of Disloyalty+ 1 Batterskull+ 1 Spellskite+ 1 Engineered Explosives+ 1 Dismember Scapeshift:
Twin is advantaged. Your combo is faster, you have more interaction, and you can win a fair game more easily. The combo is the plan A, but sticking a Tarmogoyf and protecting it to victory is a common plan post sideboard. Ancient Grudge comes in to combat their Spellskite.
- 1 Lightning Bolt- 1 Flame Slash- 2 Scavenging Ooze
+ 1 Dispel+ 1 Negate+ 1 Counterflux+ 1 Ancient Grudge
I'll answer any questions in the forums. I would like to hear about how others approach sideboarding for different matchups.