(last updated 5/31/18)
Revoker targets: Most of the cards in the deck
Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Number: 1
Deck Strategy and Key Cards
If you’ve made it this far, I assume you have a pretty good understanding of the basics of the deck. In order to win the mirror, you need to understand your role and your opponent’s role as the match proceeds. Your role may shift as frequently as every turn, and you need to adapt appropriately. Failing to recognize what is important in the mirror will result in your demise.
The Matchup and Important Interactions
The mirror is awful and amazing at the same time. It is incredibly skill intensive as well as incredibly frustrating. I believe it is best described with the phrase, “No one gets to do anything!” Between Mother of Runes, Phyrexian Revoker, Pithing Needle, Council’s Judgment, Flickerwisp tricks, and Karakas bouncing, it’s very difficult to get anything done quickly. The mirror often comes down to who makes fewer mistakes over the course of twenty turns.
That being said, there are some games where an aggressive Vial-based or Jitte-based start just threaten to end the game immediately. In terms of evaluating your role, you want to stop whatever card is putting your opponent ahead. While that sounds simple, it is much more difficult in practice since any card you shut off with a Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker is also dead one your side of the board. Battles are often waged over Phyrexian Revokers, and sometimes that means throwing away a card (usually Flickerwisp or a Swords to Plowshares) to tap a Mother of Runes.
One of the most important parts of understanding the mirror is figuring out what you can ignore. If your hand is very slow, you might need to stop an opposing Aether Vial so that you don’t get overrun by fliers. If your hand is very aggressive and equipment heavy, you may need to shut off an opposing Mother of Runes so that you can get your first Jitte counters. If your opponent has no fliers and a Jitte, but you have Mother of Runes and a few Mirran Crusaders, you might actually be able to ignore the Jitte temporarily since you opponent can’t make use of the Jitte yet. If your opponent is hellbent, you probably don’t need to deal with the opposing Aether Vial.
Generally speaking, you want to trim Thalia in this match, as it is low-impact and just gets bounced by Karakas. After that, Vryn Wingmare, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Sanctum Prelate and Brimaz, King of Oreskos are somewhat lackluster if you are playing them. Since you want to win the equipment war, I’d start by boarding in Council’s Judgments, Pithing Needles, and any additional equipment you have.
There’s an alternative school of thought for sideboarding for the mirror. Some people believe that it is best to board out Aether Vials in an attempt to make your Revokers and Pithing Needles less symmetrical and to increase the quality of your top decks in the late game. This comes as the cost of some amount of potential tempo, but allows you to board in additional cards like Containment Priest, Warping Wail, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Banisher Priest without cutting your maindeck cards that are already powerful.
More often than not, the mirror is an elaborate dance. Some games will be decided quickly by equipment, but most will drag on and require a large number of decisions. Play tight and be willing to change your gameplan frequently. The more conservative play is often correct in the mirror, as you don’t want to open too many doors and give your opponent the chance to pull ahead. I’ve lost games to odd scenarios that I never would have expected (e.g. Warping Wail making a colorless token to block my Mirran Crusader wielding Sword of War and Peace). That being said, if you are losing the equipment war or falling far behind on tempo, the risky play may be worth taking.
Data as of 5/31/18
Win rate with WW D&T: 12-7 (63.2%)
Win rate with RW D&T: 10-5 (66.7%)