Sideboarding Ponza for competitive(ish) meta?

Modern Deck Help forum

Posted on Aug. 14, 2017, 2:05 p.m. by clayperce

I'm playing Ponza at an upcoming PPTQ, and I'd love your thoughts on sideboarding.

Serious Ponza

Modern clayperce


Considering the current meta and especially the Tops 32s from Birmingham, Sao Paulo, and Richmond, here are my thoughts on sideboarding, based on the match-ups I'm expecting and my personal win percentage against them:

Mainboard is fine; no sideboard slots needed

  • Bant Knightfall: 100% (2-0)
  • UW Control: 83% (5-1)
  • GBx Midrange: 80% (4-1)
  • Jeskai Control: 75% (3-1)
  • Death's Shadow: 70% overall (6-2 vs. Grixis DS, 1-1 vs. Jund DS)

Needs Artifact hate: 3x Ancient Grudge

  • Affinity: 57% (4-3)

Needs more Lifegain and Sweepers: 1x Obstinate Baloth, 3x Kitchen Finks, 1x Bonfire of the Damned

  • RDW, 53% overall (1-0 vs. RW Burn, 3-1 vs. Mono-R Goblins, 2-1 vs. Mono-R Burn, 3-6 vs. Naya Burn)

Needs more Land hate: 1x Beast Within, 3x Surgical Extraction

  • Eldrazi Tron: 50% (2-2)
  • Gx Tron: 50% overall (1-0 vs. RG and mono-G, 0-1 vs. BG and GW)
  • Titan Shift: 50% (1-1)

Needs more Removal and Sweepers: 1x Beast Within, 1x Bonfire of the Damned

  • Hatebears: 50% (1-1 vs. Mono-W)
  • GW Company, ~50%? (It feels like 50% in testing, but I've never faced the deck IRL)

Needs Combo hate and more Removal: 3x Trinisphere; 1x Beast Within

  • UR Storm: 0% (0-2)

Based on all that, I'm thinking of a sideboard like this:


Bovine073 says... #2

I love having the ability to play Moons 5-6 with Magus of the Moon. I think our burn matchup is good enough already, and then with three Trinisphere as, that you should be able to make those cuts for them. They're just so good when you need them.

I've said it time and time again, Gut Shot is just a real great one of in the deck. Bring it in against a lot of tough matchups such as D&T or Affinity, and always against opposing Mana Dorks. I always like having a Shatterstorm, but if you feel like the 3rd Grudge is better then go for it. It's better against Lantern, that is for sure. Pithing Needle is another interesting option.

My cuts would be surgical(s) and Finks from that list.

Also: do you side in Trinisphere against Affinity? I think it's the correct thing to do on the play but not the draw.

All in all I think there's a lot of different ways to sideboard with Ponza and I am by no means 100% on what is correct. If it works for you, it works for you.

August 14, 2017 2:27 p.m.

abby315 says... #3

Some considerations, but I don't play the deck so final judgment is all yours:

Crumble to Dust vs Tron is an all star, and probably more consistent than the two-card LD+Surgical combo. At the very least it can support it.

Chalice of the Void > Trinisphere vs combo except for budget considerations. It's really useful vs storm and probably a good investment overall.

INSTEAD you could actually look into Eidolon of the Great Revel. They can't win with it on the field, and the resources they put into removing it may save you enough time to take them off the necessary lands. Eidolon isn't bad vs burn, either.

August 14, 2017 2:43 p.m.

Moonbar says... #4

Ok, I'm going to start from the bottom and work my way up.

Trinisphere: I really like 3-ball in this deck. I think it gives us the opportunity to get some really busted wins in, especially with it on turn 2 on the play. However, if you are playing it in the purely "anti-storm" way, I think that you should probably play 2 copies and more removal/graveyard hate. The Storm deck has a very hard time winning without a graveyard, and if you can kill their cost-reducers it slows them down significantly. I would recommend at least one Grafdigger's Cage as well in the sideboard.

Surgical Extraction: I truly don't understand this one. This is a land destruction deck. E-Tron, Traditional Tron, and Titanshift (to a lesser extent) should be free wins without any sideboarding. But if you are determined to have more land hate, then I agree with abby315 about Crumble to Dust. It's one card instead of two, and can come in for your Mwonvuli Acid-Moss to accomplish what you need.

Obstinate Baloth: Ok, short disclaimer here. I don't know how normal Ponza lists do against Burn and its variants. I haven't lost a match to RDW in a long time since I main the Madcap Experiment and Platinum Emperion combo, which wins me the first game right off the bat. What I have ended up doing is running 2x Kitchen Finks and 1x Huntmaster of the Fells. Huntmaster is interesting because he makes 2 blockers, still gains life, but more importantly plays well in a grindy matchup. It's a lot more value to get 2 life and a 2/2 in a value matchup than just 4 life and one 4/4. But if you feel the need for the 4 life, then the baloth seems good to me. I just realized that I run a Thragtusk in my main as well, so that helps too.

Kitchen Finks: I really like this card against everything aggro, so 2-3 copies seems great to me.

Bonfire of the Damned: I would suggest 1-2 copies of Anger of the Gods instead of bonfire. Anger always costs 3, and is a life saver against Dredge, as well as being very good against GWx company. I think that the added speed and utility is important in a sideboarded damage wipe.

Beast Within: You know that I like 4 copies in the main of this card. I think it is quite powerful when you have 4, but the one-of in the sideboard seems a little weak. I would either bring it up to 2 because of how versatile it is, or drop it all together.

Ancient Grudge: As Bovine073 said, I don't really like 3 copies of this in the side. I prefer Shatterstorm for the Affinity matchup, and it can be a haymaker against lantern etc.

There are my thoughts, and good luck at the PPTQ!

August 14, 2017 3:10 p.m.

GeminiSpartanX says... #5

I'll start by saying that in my experience Ponza is as flexible as you want it to be against certain matchups in a perceived meta. That being said, I'm not a huge fan of how your posted MD is set up, which may be why you're having more trouble against certain decks than I've had. I run MD Tragtusk, Baloth and primal command in my version, and combined with the 2nd baloth and Scooze from the side I've never felt like burn was terribly bad. I never side out blood moon vs them since it cuts off most of their SB options along with their best 2cmc burn spells, which has often given me the time to finish games against them. I think if you are expecting burn (which you should in a larger event), some MD changes would be your best bet.

I have a great record against tron decks, with the exception of blue tron. I run a single Crumble to Dust in the SB and don't dedicate any other slots to the archtype. I prioritize keeping a fast hand with minimal disruption (at least 1 LD spell) over a heavy LD hand with no threats since they have inevitability about getting lands into play since that is what half of the cards in their deck do.

Against aggro decks, Inferno titan has been all I needed. I've found Beast Within to be lacking when it functions as creature removal. I'm considering running a single Dismember in the SB though since the occasional oddball creature ruins my day (it was a Predator Ooze this past week that did me in). Against storm, the most important thing to do is kill their cost-reducing creatures. Again, Dismember helps here and running 2 trinispheres wouldn't be bad against control decks either. Mass grave hate also makes it tough for them to win. Make sure to keep in your sweepers for the SB games since they'll often go more all-in on the Empty the Warrens plan.

I'm always going to run 3x Ancient Grudge since affinity is tough, and it randomly hoses the thoper sword combo decks and lantern control as well.

I don't like Surgical Extraction in this deck as the only grave hate. I run a mix of relics and Scoozes to help in the matches that I need the hate. Along with the primal command in the main it's enough if you open with one or more of them.

Hope I've been able to help. The best thing I've learned is not to be afraid to mull a slow hand. Turn 3 fatty after a turn 2 LD spell is the goal, so aim for it.

August 14, 2017 3:32 p.m.

wylie72 says... #6

If you're looking at just one lifegain fattie in the side, I would go with Thragtusk over Obstinate Baloth, as it can trade with Tasigur and Angler in the Death's Shadow matchup. I have found Obstinate Baloth to be superior to Huntmaster of the Fells in the aggro matchup, so maybe curve out and go to 2 finks, 1 baloth, and 1 thragtusk?

I'll second keeping 3x Ancient Grudge or 2 grudges and 1 Shatterstorm for affinity and lantern.

For dredge, I haven't found anything better than scooze, as it hates the graveyard and blocks. Anger of the Gods is very good also, and if they're expecting it I've had Dredge players slow down to play around it.

I would like at least two Anger of the Gods in the side. Much better than Bonfires if you have it in opening hand game two against aggro.

I find the idea of Eidolon of the Great Revel very interesting, never thought of it before. I could see it being good against storm and deaths shadow, but not really sure if it is better in the slot than Trinisphere.

August 14, 2017 4:18 p.m.

GlistenerAgent says... #7

People have covered the cards, I'll just say that you shouldn't put a ton of stock into such small sample sizes.

August 14, 2017 5:51 p.m.

clayperce says... #8

Thanks so much for all the comments! WOW!

I've played a bunch of matches with Blood Moon #5 in sideboard, but my match-ups vs. the three-color decks are all good enough that I don't think it's the best use of a sideboard slot for this deck.

Gut Shot's is amazing vs. mana dorks on T1-2, but for anything else and for any turn after that, I like Sudden Shock and Lightning Bolt much better. And to get Gut Shot on T1-2 I'd want to run it as at least a 3-of.

Shatterstorm's great too, and I ran it in sideboard until just recently ... when I discovered (the hard way) what a non-bo it is with my Trinispheres! :-D

I really like the idea of Pithing Needle, but I personally haven't done enough studying/gotten enough reps in with it to use it effectively. I suspect you'll see it in my board this time next year though!

Funny you should ask about Trin' vs. Affinity. I hadn't been bringing it in at, since they can usually dump their hand before it comes online. But I was thinking it could be REALLY effective, so I've been trying it out in lately ... which is why I just pulled the Shatterstorm lol!

Thanks again!

Ok, I'm totally embarrassed I never thought of Crumble to Dust! That's EXACTLY what I'm trying to do with Surgical Extraction but Crumble does it so much better it's not even funny. Thanks so much!

Chalice of the Void is amazing, but I like the fact I can still easily cast though Trinisphere. Plus you're right on the budget ... it'd be a solid investment, but the cost prevents me from using it anytime in the near future.

Eidolon of the Great Revel though? That's a VERY intriguing option, and one I had never considered. Thanks so much!

I love Trinisphere too, and I've been amazed at how useful it is vs a wide range of decks. Against Storm though, I like your idea of Trin' + Gravehate.

Surgical Extraction is actually great as a "generic" sideboard card. It gain us a ton of information, stops every Lightning Bolt/Thoughtseize/whatever after the first, blanks Snapcaster Mage's Flashback ability, nerfs Tarmagoyf, and generally messes with Graveyard decks. And though it's an edge case, you can also use it to reduce the chance of late-game mana flood by hitting your own Fetchland. So when I started thinking about how to beat Titan Shift, it was the first card that came to mind. All that said though, I agree that Crumble to Dust and some better Graveyard hate is MUCH better for what this deck wants to do!

Yeah, every single time I face Burn I think about you and Big Robot! I did a TON of testing a while back with Huntmaster of the Fells  Flip in the main, but I'm embarrassed to say I never really thought about him in sideboard. That's really interesting, and I'll give him a hard look.

I've gone back and forth on Anger of the Gods vs. Bonfire #4 in the sideboard, but your point about GW Company is really good. I think Anger will get the slot again, for now.

I love Beast Within but I don't like seeing it in my opening hand, so I'm not inclined to bump it up to 4x in my 75. If I've got the space though, I know there are enough Planeswalkers, and big beaters (in Colorless, Black, and Green) in the match-up list above to justify Beast #3. We'll see ...

And yeah, Shatterstorm vs. Ancient Grudge is probably going to come down to how whether I end up using Trinisphere vs. Affinity ...

As always, thanks so much!

Yeah, my mainboard is VERY much optimized for the Death's Shadow match-up, and I've absolutely sacrificed some percentage points vs. Burn to do so. I think that's the right meta call ... though I of course won't know for sure until it's too late! :-D

And I totally agree on the goodness of Blood Moon vs. Boros and Naya Burn. I learned that the hard way early on, when I had the opportunity to cast a Blood Moon in First Main, chose not to (so I could use the mana for something else in Second Main), and promptly died to Deflecting Palm. Oops!

I like Beast Within vs. GW as an Instant-speed answer for Vizier of Remedies or a Knight of the Reliquary I accidentally let get out of hand, but I hate using it on little dudes.

That's a really good point on keeping Sweepers post-board vs. Storm for Empty the Warrens. Thanks!

And I'm with you on Ancient Grudge and Surgical Extraction (now that I've seen Crumble to Dust).

I'm not sure who first taught me about mul'ing aggressively, but it's once I've passed on to others as well. There's one big exception though: When facing a bunch of hand disruption. I'd MUCH rather keep a meh 7, than mul' to an amazing 5 ... which turns into a meh 4 on my opponent's T1!

Thanks again!

Thragtusk is a superb card, but I like Obstinate Baloth better for this deck. Mostly because it's lower on curve but also because its Discard-to-Battlefield effect is randomly useful. Plus, Death's Shadow is already an easy match-up.

Yeah, I keep coming back to Scooze as my favorite Graveyard hate too. I think you'll see it when I update!

I love Anger of the Gods vs. Dredge too (I pulled it out of my sideboard a while back, only because Dredge kind of died off locally). But yours and other comments here have me liking it more and more ...

Idk on Eidolon of the Great Revel yet either ... I look forward to figuring out an opinion though!

Thanks again!

Good point ... there may actually be more variance here than data!

Other points I try to keep in mind are the timing of my wins and losses (I'm still pretty new to the deck, so plenty of the losses were punts and clueless sideboarding) and the casual-ness of my meta (plenty of the wins were against people testing new cards, rather than against the finely tuned decks they'll be bringing to a PPTQ)

Thanks though for the reminder!

Thank you all again! I REALLY appreciate the time y'all invested in making my deck better!

August 15, 2017 1:02 p.m.

clayperce says... #9

Ok, after everyone's comments, here are my thoughts ...

GOOD MATCH-UPS (Bant Knightfall, UW Control, GBx Midrange, Jeskai Control, Death's Shadow): Mainboard is fine; no sideboard slots needed.




  • The more I think about it, the more I think Beast Within is the key. Say an opponent casts Scapeshift and sacrifices 7 Lands to fetch 6 Mountains (basics and non-basics) and a Valakut. All the Lands enter simultaneously and 6 Valakut triggers go on the stack. With the triggers on the stack, I kill a Mountain. The trigger from that Mountain will resolve and I'll take 3 damage. But the triggers from the other 5 Mountains fizzle, since "the ability will do nothing if [my opponent controls] fewer than 5 Mountains other than that new one by the time it resolves" (source).
  • Beast Within is also superb against a resolved Primeval Titan.
  • I might be able to catch an inexperienced pilot with Crumble to Dust, but an experienced pilot will wait until the last second (i.e., fetching them with Scapeshift) to play their Valakut. Crumble may still be worthwhile though ... partly for free wins against less experienced pilots, but mostly because hitting Stomping Ground will leave most decks with only 10 Mountains ... depending on the board state, that will often not be enough for lethal.
  • Blood Moon is of course amazing in the match-up, but post-board they will almost certainly have Engineered Explosives and Reclamation Sage to deal with it. Still, Blood moon #5 may be worthwhile.





The bottom line (for now anyways) ...

Main: 1x Obstinate Baloth


August 15, 2017 5:46 p.m.

clayperce says... #10

Oops! I still need to find room for some Gravehate (probably Scavenging Ooze) ...


August 15, 2017 6:05 p.m.

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