Breaking Mirrors – Kessig Wolf Run
I played this weekend in the 2011 State Championships in Seattle. Over 280 people turned out for 9 rounds of Magic, and my weapon of choice was Wolf Run Ramp with very few tweaks from Brian Sondag's SCG winning list. Unsurprisingly, it was one of the most popular decks in the room, and I was underprepared for the mirror. My list:
Wolf Run Ramp
My two losses on the day before I dropped were to the mirror match. I don't remember a ton of details about the first loss other than I kept a speculative 7 in game 3 on the draw with a lot of ramp spells, two land, and no green mana, and I ended the game with no green mana. The second loss against eventual finalist Brad McArtor sticks out, though. I lost game 1 rather convincingly, and in game 2, I had the advantage with a super quick Primeval Titan. I fetched up an Inkmoth Nexus and a Kessig Wolf Run, but he had the Beast Within for the first Wolf Run. I grabbed the second one, and he had another Beast Within, leaving me without any way to pump my creatures. He was able to stabilize with a Primeval Titan of his own, and he ended the game on 9 poison and 7 life. It didn't help that I drew nothing but land for 4 turns, but when you have an opponent so close to losing the game, you always have to look back at alternate routes to victory.
What tools are there to dominate the mirror? Here are a few cards to take a look at when building your deck if you expect a lot of Kessig Wolf Run in your tournament.
This was my chosen addition to the deck going into States. With cards like Hero of Bladehold becoming more popular in white-based token and aggressive decks, Devil's Play can be an effective answer where Slagstorm can't always finish off those bigger creatures. In the mirror match, Devil's Play can pick off a pair of Primeval Titans or end your opponent's game in two sudden bursts. The problem with this plan, though, is it's often a little too slow, and not quite versatile enough. It doesn't deal with Kessig Wolf Run or Inkmoth Nexus. It's a pretty inefficient answer to Wurmcoil Engine. It doesn't really solve the problems the mirror match puts in front of you. It does shine somewhat in other matches, but overall, I wasn't thrilled with it.
Into the Maw of Hell
One of the problems the mirror match presents is your opponent playing a Primeval Titan, fetching up a Kessig Wolf Run and an Inkmoth Nexus. You look down at the one Beast Within in your hand. What do you hit? You really want to kill that Kessig Wolf Run, but he's just going to tutor up another, and you don't have an answer ready in hand for it. Do you kill the Primeval Titan and hope to dig for an answer to the Run/Nexus combo in the two turns you have left in this game? Into the Maw of Hell does a lot in this situation. You get to kill the Wolf Run AND the Titan! They don't get a Beast token! The value is unreal... but it's probably too narrow. Maybe it's a good response to Not Solar Flare reanimating a Sun Titan? I don't know. It doesn't seem like it's good enough in any other matchup to justify slots in your sideboard unless your metagame is severely warped towards Wolf Run. If that's the case, you might want to take a look at Cedric Phillips's States-winning deck as it eats Wolf Run up for dinner:
U/W Tokens by Cedric Phillips
Kessig Wolf Run
Yes, it's already in the deck. Hell, it's part of the deck's name! But in the mirror match, it's so important that you should have access to four copies of the namesake land. If your opponent has early Beast Withins to destroy your Wolf Runs, you're left with 1/1 Inkmoth Nexuses as your opponent tramples all over you. In addition, drawing it naturally isn't bad in the mirror, where it can be suboptimal in other matchups. The question is, do you build your maindeck's manabase to support 4 Wolf Runs, or do you use sideboard slots up with more copies of the land? Right now, I'd advocate 3 Wolf Runs main, and if you feel like there's a lot of chances to have mirror matches, or if there are matchups where you want more land, have the 4th in the board.
Gut Shot/Marrow Shards
These cards are made to answer the Inkmoth Nexus half of the deck even when you tap out for a Primeval Titan. Marrow Shards gets much less exciting if your opponent has a Sword of Feast and Famine, but is more versatile in other matchups. Both cards rely on surprise factor. The more people know you have one or the other post-board, the differently they'll play against you, being more willing to deal 20 damage to you instead of relying on 10 poison counters. They're interesting answers to different, yet similar problems aggressive decks pose as well. They're obviously miserable against the control decks of the format, but a card that has game against a lot of popular matchups is something I'd certainly look at right now. If you think these cards provide enough value in the mirror, I'd lean more towards Marrow Shards due to its value against token swarm decks, but keeping in mind Gut Shot is better in the mirror.
Green Sun's Zenith is an important card in the mirror match, finding accelerants and Titans. Adding another copy of Acidic Slime can give your mid-to-late game Zeniths real utility as it allows you to tutor up land destruction. It also provides utility against the token matchups if you can survive the early rush of critters, catching an Intangible Virtue or Honor of the Pure in its moldy grasp.
These are just some of the cards that can help tilt the Wolf Run mirror in your favor. Let me know what else you think is powerful in this matchup in the comments or on Twitter @StillHadThese!