The Guide to Lantern Control Matchups

Feature Article from Brian Braun-Duin
Brian Braun-Duin
12/21/2017 11:01:00 AM
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A lot of people hear the words Lantern Control and they immediately think of a deck where you control your opponent using Lantern of Insight. Those people are wrong. Lantern Control refers to the strength and dexterity required to maintain a steady grip on a lantern. EX: It will take a lot of Lantern Control to maintain a tight and even grip on this kerosene-based lantern while traversing through the pit of misery. “Sally demonstrated her mastery of Lantern Control when she held the lantern steady and did not drop it even when evil spirits attacked her in the dark, haunted alleyway.”

In this article, I talk about areas where you want to use a lantern, such as to provide light in a dim, haunted cave, or to provide light in an even-dimmer, even-more-haunted house. I also discuss different matchups for Lantern Control and how to beat them. The most common matchups for Lantern Control so far have been the wind, your scared friend trying to steal the lantern and head back to safety, or some dark, evil, otherworldly being attempting to knock down or snuff out the light from your lantern to create a situation where you are plunged into eternal darkness surrounded on all sides by a powerful malevolent force with ill intent. These are all favorable matchups for a master of the Lantern Control archetype. Masters of Lantern Control will never drop...a lantern, however they will frequently drop from a tournament at 2-3-1 after they hit the three players in the room playing Tron.

Let's start out with my current list of Lantern Control.

Last week I wrote an article about piloting Lantern Control. In that article I wrote that my list frequently changes by a few cards. Since that article, I have done exactly that. I cut Maelstrom Pulse from the sideboard because I simply did not like it. It's a useful card for dealing with things like multiple copies of Stony Silence or Leyline of Sanctity and other 4+ CMC problem permanents that can't be Abrupt Decayed, but most of the time I draw it, it greatly underperforms. Pulse has gone in and out of my list many times, and I have yet to be impressed. I'm just done with it by this point.

I'm trying Ghirapur Aether Grid as another card to improve matchups like Abzan Company, Infect, or Green-White Value Town, as well as being another threat against some Stony Silence decks. I've heard from masters of the archetype like Kanister (Piotr Glogowski) that Ghirapur Aether Grid sucks, but I'm stubborn and I've liked it so far, with small sample size. I also went up to one Surgical Extraction to improve matchups like Tron, Living End and some all-in combo decks.

Let's go ahead and jump into the matchups. Keep in mind that these are just guides to help. True mastery of Lantern Control involves more than guides. It involves paying constant homage to the Lantern Gods. Failing to pay your respects and perform the right rituals to the Lantern Gods will result in a poor finish. Jarvis Yu mocked me when I told him about this and then he went 0-3 with Lantern Control while I cruised to a SCG Classic Top 4 finish. He was swiftly and justly punished for his heresy. He will never mock the Lantern Gods again so long as he has breath.

White-Blue Control

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Jace, Architect of Thought, Mana Leak, Negate, Logic Knot, Sphinx's Revelation, Search for Azcanta, Cryptic Command, Detention Sphere, Opt (sometimes)

Sideboard: Runed Halo, Stony Silence, Ceremonious Rejection, Dispel, Surgical Extraction (sometimes), Vendilion Clique, Geist of Saint Traft (sometimes)

Plan:

Game 1: Game 1 is usually not a problem for Lantern because the opponent has so many dead cards. Assembling as much of the Lantern lock as possible is priority number one. They have a lot of manipulation, so it is nice to get as many Shredders and Pyxis into play along with a Lantern to get full control. It is also important to get a Bridge in play at some point. That point happens earlier if they have a clock like Gideon of the Trials. You can ignore all Gideons as long as a Bridge is in play, because once you mill off their library you can loop Pyrite Spellbomb with Academy Ruins to kill all the Gideons and beat the emblem. If they have Gideon Jura and an emblem, you need Pithing Needle because Jura's +2 matches the pace of Pyrite Spellbomb. Codex Shredder can rebuy Academy Ruins to beat Field of Ruin. Don't lose to Spreading Seas plus Gideon emblem, though.

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 Lantern of Insight
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Prevent them from drawing Detention Sphere and Cryptic Command (or Snapcaster for Cryptic Command), which can interact with Bridge. Keep them from cards that can allow them to find Cryptic Command and Detention Sphere even through a Lantern lock, such as Sphinx's Revelation, Opt, Jace, and Search for Azcanta. Pithing Needle can also stop Jace and Azcanta (name Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin with Pithing Needle).

Sideboard: The game plan remains the same, except their deck improves greatly and yours gets a bit worse because you have to bring in answers for some of their sideboard cards. I frequently cut a Mishra's Bauble and a Mox Opal against Stony Silence decks or in matchups where speed is not a factor.

In:

2 Abrupt Decay
1 Search for Azcanta
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
1 Nature's Claim

Out:

1 Mishra's Bauble
1 Mox Opal
1 Whir of Invention
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Ensnaring Bridge

G/x Tron

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Walking Ballista, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Emrakul, the Promised End (sometimes), World Breaker, Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Oblivion Stone, Chromatic Sphere, Sanctum of Ugin, Ancient Stirrings, Sylvan Scrying...basically every card in their deck except Wurmcoil Engine.

Sideboard: Nature's Claim, Pithing Needle (sometimes), Surgical Extraction (sometimes), Crucible of Worlds (sometimes).

Plan

Game 1: This is the worst matchup. Almost all of their cards are relevant threats, and even the ones that I didn't list as relevant mostly all cantrip into relevant cards. The plan in game one is to get as many Pyxis of Pandemonium and Codex Shredders into play as you can along with a Lantern of Insight. You need sometimes four or five mill rocks in order to feel safe that you can keep them off an impactful card. Pithing Needle is the most important card to shut down Oblivion Stone and Karn Liberated, the two hardest cards to beat. Ugin must also be dealt with, but you have a little bit of time before they can ultimate Ugin. Chromatic Sphere allows them to draw any card through the Lantern lock due to its weird wording. Keep those off the table.

There are two ways to win game one. One is to allow them as much mana as possible, Pithing Needle problem cards, and just keep them off of drawing threats. The other is to use Pithing Needle to shut down stuff like Expedition Map and aggressively keep them off of Tron by milling lands or ways to find lands. Both are about equally likely from my experience. Hand disruption is key early to figure out which avenue is most likely to be successful.

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 Pithing Needle
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Sideboard: The matchup greatly improves after board. The most important card is Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, which can kill them extremely fast. I have won some games on turn five by playing a turn three Tezzeret, and using the -1 ability three times until they die. Tezzeret also beats Karn, which is nice, because you can then focus your resources elsewhere. Getting access to a third Pithing Needle is useful, as is Surgical Extraction, which can be used to permanently take them off Tron if you mill over a Tron piece or permanently take them off Oblivion Stone or Karn Liberated, which frees up some pressure. Some lists of Lantern play Crucible of Worlds and Ghost Quarter for Tron, but I find that package takes up a lot of slots and is only a marginal upgrade in the matchup. Phyrexian Revoker is also a relevant sideboard option. Revoker shuts down Chromatic Sphere, their best card against you, whereas Pithing Needle cannot, as it is a mana ability.

The plan is to kill them with Tezzeret after sideboard, however, the game one plan of assembling tons of mill rocks with Lantern of Insight and treading water with Pithing Needles while you keep them off relevant threats or keep them off of lands can still sometimes work.

In:

1 Surgical Extraction
1 Pithing Needle
2 Welding Jar
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Out:

2 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Inquisition of Kozilek

Abzan “Counters” Company

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Walking Ballista, Noble Hierarch, Viscera Seer, Eternal Witness, Chord of Calling, Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter, Rhonas the Indomitable (sometimes).

Sideboard: Kataki, War's Wage, Abrupt Decay, Qasali Pridemage, Tidehollow Sculler (sometimes), Stony Silence (sometimes)

Plan:

Game 1: This is a dynamic matchup. What is relevant or what needs to be dealt with constantly shifts throughout the game. The most important plan is to usually get a Grafdigger's Cage in play as early as possible, because that will blank Chord of Calling and Collected Company, two cards that are very hard to beat, otherwise. Tireless Tracker cannot enter play or else the game is almost assuredly over, because they have so many relevant cards and you can't keep them off of everything when they can draw so many cards at instant speed.

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 Ensnaring Bridge
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Ensnaring Bridge isn't usually immediately important to find, but at some point they will start to assemble a beatdown board presence, in which case Bridge must be found. Walking Ballista can generally be ignored unless they assemble infinite mana (which is generally okay to let them have, otherwise). You can continue to ignore it if you find a Witchbane Orb. Pithing Needle should primarily be used for Duskwatch Recruiter, which is very hard to beat, because it finds Tireless Tracker and Eternal Witness, which are both huge problems. You unfortunately cannot Pithing Needle a Clue Token, so other relevant targets include Walking Ballista, Viscera Seer and Gavony Township, the latter of which can present lethal even through a Bridge if they have enough Noble Hierarchs and Birds of Paradise.

Inventor's Fair undoes the damage from one Noble Hierarch, but Pyrite Spellbomb will have to be found if they find additional copies, or if you don't have a Fair, as Noble Hierarch can represent lethal eventually. If they have Rhonas in their deck, you can't let them get it into play or must Pithing Needle it, or else every Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch becomes a lethal threat.

Sideboard: The sideboard games play out much like game one, except they now have cards like Kataki, War's Wage, which cannot remain in play if you hope to win. Unfortunately, because of Eternal Witness, it is hard to keep them off of Kataki because each Eternal Witness represents more copies of it. The same goes for Abrupt Decay and Qasali Pridemage in combination with Eternal Witness. Surgical Extraction is useful to take care of cards like Eternal Witness or keep them off of key hate cards like Kataki or Stony Silence. Note: they can't crack clues if they have a Stony Silence in play. Sometimes allowing them to keep Stony Silence is actually a relevant consideration if you can't stop a Tracker and have something like Ghirapur Aether Grid.

In:

2 Abrupt Decay
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Ghirapur Aether Grid
1 Pyroclasm
1 Welding Jar

Out:

1 Witchbane Orb
1 Mox Opal
1 Mishra's Bauble
2 Thoughtseize
1 Pyxis of Pandemonium

Lantern Control (the Mirror)

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Codex Shredder, Pyxis of Pandemonium, Ghoulcaller's Bell (sometimes), Abrupt Decay, Pithing Needle, Whir of Invention, Academy Ruins, Witchbane Orb

Sideboard: Ancient Grudge, Search for Azcanta, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Maelstrom Pulse, Nature's Claim, Leyline of Sanctity

Plan:

Game 1: Mill them as aggressively as possible with Codex Shredder. Every turn, target them. Start from turn one. Make it your first play of the game. Take their Shredder with your hand disruption (most of the time). Both players have access to Pithing Needle, which means that a lot of resources get invalidated as the game goes on, and a lot of games come down to one simple question: Who has less cards in their library once everything gets locked down? The rest of the game becomes about managing resources better. What to Pithing Needle and when to Pithing Needle is important and predicated on who is winning and which cards matter for you to come back if behind or to maintain the lead if ahead. Academy Ruins can stop them from milling out indefinitely if Codex Shredder and Pyxis have been hit by Pithing Needle. Codex Shredder can get back cards from the graveyard, like Academy Ruins or Abrupt Decay. Witchbane Orb prevents being targeted by Codex Shredder, which can also protect your draws steps from their control. Lantern of Insight is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it helps your opponent more than it helps you. Don't leave it in play if that's the case. Use it to shuffle a library and go dark again.

Sideboard: The mill-them-aggressively-with-Codex-Shredder plan is still possible, but it doesn't win as easily as it did pre-board, and also represents small risk as most lists play Ancient Grudge. Leyline of Sanctity messes with that plan, and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas represents alternative ways to win that don't rely on cards in library. There is also a much higher density of ways to deal with Pithing Needles, Codex Shredders and the like with the addition of Ancient Grudge, Nature's Claim, more Abrupt Decays, and so forth.

Tezzeret is the easiest way to win after sideboard. Sometimes making a 5/5 or two will just go all the way. Ultimating is unlikely because of Leyline, but the +1 is still powerful for pulling ahead if they find a Bridge to shut down the 5/5 plan. Search for Azcanta is another way to win by providing way too much advantage for the opponent to come back from. The key post-board is to try to find these windmill slam haymakers and get them in play while using your removal wisely to avoid losing to theirs.

In:

2 Abrupt Decay
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Welding Jar
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
1 Pithing Needle
1 Search for Azcanta
1 Nature's Claim

Out:

3 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
4 Lantern of Insight
4 Inquisition of Kozilek

Dredge

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Conflagrate

Sideboard: Abrupt Decay, Ancient Grudge, Nature's Claim (sometimes), Maelstrom Pulse (sometimes), Destructive Revelry (sometimes), Engineered Explosives (sometimes)

Plan:

Game 1: Game one s fairly straightforward. Get Ensnaring Bridge in play, get hellbent, and beat Conflagrate by either finding a Grafdigger's Cage or Witchbane Orb. Bridge plus either of those artifacts along with zero cards in hand is unbeatable for Dredge.

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Sideboard: They bring in a lot of ways to blow up artifacts, but it is easy to keep them off drawing those cards and easy to use hand disruption and Welding Jar to deal with the ones they start with. The game plan remains the same. Get a Bridge, find a way to beat Conflagrate, and make sure to keep those in play through their hate. Surgical Extraction can either take out Conflagrate and then focus the game on protecting Ensnaring Bridge or it can take out something like Ancient Grudge or Abrupt Decay to protect cards like Grafdigger's Cage.

In:

1 Surgical Extraction
2 Welding Jar

Out:

2 Pithing Needle
1 Pyrite Spellbomb

Humans

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Kitesail Freebooter, Meddling Mage, Noble Hierarch, Phantasmal Image (on one of the above three)

Sideboard: Vithian Renegades, Hostage Taker (sometimes), Kambal, Consul of Allocation (sometimes), Stony Silence (sometimes)

Plan:

Game 1: They can't beat Ensnaring Bridge except by clocking with Noble Hierarch. The plan is to get Ensnaring Bridge in play, get hellbent and then keep them from assembling too many Noble Hierarchs to punch through afterward. You can beat one Hierarch with Inventor's Fair. Two or more must be dealt with by recurring Pyrite Spellbomb. Kitesail Freebooter can mess you up by taking something relevant out of the hand, but a much bigger problem is Meddling Mage. Mage on Bridge and Mage on Whir of Invention is basically unbeatable. Meddling Mage can also mess up Bridges later in the game by preventing you from casting whatever card you draw, especially if vialed in on the draw step. Getting rid of Meddling Mage is first priority, especially if they have Phantasmal Image to double down on it.

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 Welding Jar
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Sideboard: They still basically can't beat Bridge, and they only get a few relevant sideboard cards, mostly just a few ways to blow up an artifact and potentially Stony Silence. This matchup is very good and does not get significantly worse after sideboard.

In:

2 Abrupt Decay
1 Pyroclasm
1 Ghirapur Aether Grid
2 Welding Jar

Out:

-1 Grafdigger's Cage
-2 Pithing Needle
-1 Witchbane Orb
-1 Pyxis of Pandemonium
-1 Whir of Invention

Grixis Death's Shadow

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Kolaghan's Command, Stubborn Denial, Liliana of the Veil (Sometimes), Thought Scour, Opt (sometimes)

Sideboard: Ceremonious Rejection, Liliana of the Veil, Surgical Extraction (sometimes), Engineered Explosives (sometimes), By Force (rarely),

Plan:

Game 1: The plan is to get as many Ensnaring Bridges into play as you possibly can. Lantern of Insight isn't that great against them, because they have so many instant-speed ways to manipulate their deck along with fetch lands that oftentimes Lantern of Insight actually helps them more than you. They can also target you with Thought Scour, which can mess with your draw steps when Lantern is in play. Because of this, it is often better to just Whir of Invention for a second or even third Ensnaring Bridge and force them to find enough Kolaghan's Commands and Snapcaster Mages to beat it all rather than search for a Lantern of Insight, unless you have a minimum of two mill rocks in play. Some lists only play one Kolaghan's Command, which means they can't actually beat three Ensnaring Bridges unless they ultimate a Liliana of the Veil, which many lists also don't play main.

Sideboard: They get to trade their Fatal Pushes for more interaction after sideboard, but you also get to upgrade your deck. I don't think this matchup is that bad for Lantern Control. It is at worst 50/50 or even slightly favorable. The game plan is still to deploy and protect as many Bridges as you possibly can, only now Liliana of the Veil ultimate is more a relevant concern and Engineered Explosives is a huge problem if they have it in their sideboard. Lantern of Insight is still often a liability against them. Pithing Needle stays in for Liliana of the Veil and sometimes Engineered Explosives if you know they have it.

They have an unreal amount of disruption after sideboard between Kolaghan's Command, lots of countermagic, Liliana of the Veil and all their hand disruption. Tezzeret and Search for Azcanta are both great at fighting through their disruption. Leyline of Sanctity also wrecks them by shutting down Liliana's ultimate and all of their discard.

In:

2 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Search for Azcanta
2 Welding Jar
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Out:

1 Witchbane Orb
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
3 Lantern of Insight
2 Pyxis of Pandemonium

Storm

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Remand, Grapeshot, Opt, Sleight of Hand

Sideboard: Shattering Spree, Some bounce spell (Wipe Away, Echoing Truth, etc.), Pieces of the Puzzle, Empty the Warrens

Plan:

Game 1: Witchbane Orb and Ensnaring Bridge is a lock against most lists. They can't Grapeshot you out or attack you to death with Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer. Grafdigger's Cage buys an enormous amount of time against some hands by locking out Past in Flames. Using hand disruption and the Lantern lock to prevent them from having Baral or Goblin Electromancer can sometimes slow them down enough to give you time to get Witchbane Orb in play. Keep in mind they have Remand, so sometimes you have to Whir when they can't cast it or set up an end of turn Whir, untap and Whir again after they Remand.

Sideboard: Witchbane Orb and Ensnaring Bridge still beats them, however, they now actually have ways to deal with those cards. Pieces of the Puzzle is a scary card because it lets them draw into Shattering Spree without the Lantern lock having any influence over it. Leyline of Sanctity and Witchbane Orb prevent them from being able to cast Gifts Ungiven, because that spell targets an opponent. You can often ignore Gifts in their hand if you have a Leyline effect or will be putting one in play soon. You have to walk a tight balance between keeping them from finding their hate cards like Echoing Truth and Shattering Spree while making sure you don't die to Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens, and Past in Flames is always looming if you don't have a Cage in play.

In:

2 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Surgical Extraction

Out:

2 Pithing Needle
1 Pyrite Spellbomb

Affinity

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Signal Pest, Ornithopter, Thoughtcast (sometimes)

Sideboard: Ancient Grudge, Wear/Tear, Spell Pierce, Blood Moon (sometimes), Ghirapur Aether Grid

Plan:

Game 1: Use Ensnaring Bridge to shut down almost all of their creatures. Signal Pest and Ornithopter can still attack through Ensnaring Bridge and represent lethal attackers with Cranial Plating moving over at instant speed or an Arcbound Ravager moving counters over after attacks. Sometimes a Steel Overseer activation can also push in the last points. Pithing Needle takes care of Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating. Ornithopter does nothing by itself. Signal Pest can be handled by Inventor's Fair or looping Pyrite Spellbomb. Galvanic Blast can steal games, so be conscientious of it.

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 Pyrite Spellbomb
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Sideboard: Same plan except there is a new card to deal with in Ghirapur Aether Grid and they have more answers in Thoughtseize, Spell Pierce and artifact destruction like Ancient Grudge. Overall, this is a favorable matchup that does not worsen after sideboard.

In:

2 Abrupt Decay
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Pithing Needle
2 Welding Jar
1 Nature's Claim
1 Pyroclasm
1 Ghirapur Aether Grid

Out:

3 Thoughtseize
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Whir of Invention
1 Codex Shredder
2 Inquisition of Kozilek

Burn

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Eidolon of the Great Revel, Atarka's Command (sometimes)

Sideboard: Destructive Revelry, Stony Silence (sometimes), Shattering Spree (sometimes), Wear/Tear (sometimes)

Plan:

Game 1: There are three relevant things to do in game one. Keep Eidolon of the Great Revel out of play. Get Witchbane Orb in play. Get Ensnaring Bridge in play and get hellbent. They can't beat Orb plus a hellbent Bridge in game one except with Eidolon. Pyrite Spellbomb can take care of any Eidolons that slip into play.

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 Leyline of Sanctity
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Sideboard: Orb or Leyline plus a hellbent Bridge is still the plan, only now they have a bunch of hate cards in the mix, between Destructive Revelry and the occasional mix of Stony Silence, Shattering Spree and Wear // Tear. The matchup is reasonably straightforward, but very close and high stress. This matchup used to be a nightmare for Lantern Control but these days I win more than I lose. After board you get to board in more answers for Eidolon of the Great Revel as well as adding Leyline of Sanctity, a must-deal with card for them. Of note, they can protect Eidolon of the Great Revel from a removal spell with Boros Charm. Kill those while they are tapped out.

In:

2 Abrupt Decay
2 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Welding Jar
1 Nature's Claim
1 Pyroclasm

Out:

2 Pithing Needle
1 Grafdigger's Cage
3 Thoughtseize
1 Whir of Invention
1 Academy Ruins

Titan Shift

Relevant Cards:

Game 1: Scapeshift, Primeval Titan, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Summoner's Pact, Prismatic Omen (sometimes), Chandra, Torch of Defiance (rarely)

Sideboard: Engineered Explosives, Ancient Grudge, Reclamation Sage, Chandra, Torch of Defiance (sometimes), Tireless Tracker, Beast Within (sometimes), Nature's Claim (sometimes)

Plan:

Game 1: Game one is quite straightforward and very favorable for Lantern. Get Ensnaring Bridge and Witchbane Orb in play and they lose. They can't target you with Valakut or attack you with creatures.

Sideboard: Sideboard games become much harder. Keeping Tireless Tracker off the field is priority number one, as it is basically unbeatable since you can't keep them off of lands or beat them stocking up clues and then using them all to draw some key card. Ancient Grudge needs to be dealt with by Pyxis of Pandemonium, and Engineered Explosives is a huge problem. Most lists nowadays have lots of very problematic cards for Lantern to beat after sideboard. The key is to still work toward Bridge and an Orb or Leyline effect, but try to mitigate the damage from their hate as much possible by stopping Tireless Tracker and Engineered Explosives first and foremost.

In:

2 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Welding Jar

Out:

1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Pithing Needle
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Codex Shredder

As Modern is a very diverse format with a ton of matchups, I can't cover them all in one article. I plan to hit the rest of the main decks in a follow-up piece. If you have a specific deck that you want to see, let me know, and I might add it in if I think it's a relevant enough part of the metagame to cover.

- Brian Braun-Duin
@BraunDuinIt




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