#62 — Winter Orb is the real deal.
Winter Orb used to be a staple in Miracle Gro, which was the original Threshold’s predecessor. In Gro, Winter Orb was a four-off in the maindeck, even though the deck didn’t have Stifle and Wasteland to make it even more devastating. Canadian Threshold runs both of these cards, so I find it surprising that Winter Orb hasn’t seen much play in the deck.
If you have played with Fire // Ice, you will know that tapping down even one land at the right time can be devastating. Winter Orb does that to your opponent every time they cast a spell. Outside of simply punishing decks that try to cast spells that cost more than one mana, it is the best solution to Sensei’s Divining Top out of Miracles and it’s great against opponents who are pressured to cast Life from the Loam to make their mana work. Every time they Dredge and cast Loam, they are giving up a draw step and two mana. Countering it to hinder their mana development is a good play already, but it’s almost a hard lock when you also have Winter Orb so that they can only cast Loam every other turn.
#63 — Beating Æther Vial decks.
Many novice Threshold players will tell you that the key to winning with the deck is to mana screw your opponents. While not entirely accurate, there is some truth in this statement. The only reason I don’t like the term mana screw in this context is the fact that most players understand mana screw as the complete inability to cast spells.
I prefer talking about mana denial that leads to the inability to cast relevant spells through your soft counters. I don’t mind my opponent casting Ponder, I just don’t want them to cast Entreat the Angels for X=3 with three untapped lands.
So how does this relate to Æther Vial strategies?
Canadian Threshold is a deck that operates on a level where it can cast efficient but unimpressive spells and keeps the opponent from resolving more powerful, expensive spells. Æther Vial decks operate by cheating on mana by generating six mana from a single card in the first four turns of the game, and potentially much more in longer games. Death & Taxes mostly exploits this by using their lands as mana denial (similar to Candian Threshold), Merfolk tends to spam beatsticks much quicker than it should be able to and Goblins has the ability to do both.
It is certainly possible to mitigate these decks’ advantages by just killing all their creatures (after all, Goblins is the only one of them with real cardadvantage) and winning by being a very efficient killing machine. But if you prevent them from playing their game by attacking their mana just like you would with other decks, you can have much easier games.
I have found that it pays off to dedicate resources to dealing with Æther Vial — you always want all copies of Force of Will, even all copies of Daze on the play, potentially some copies of Spell Pierce on the play and preferably 1-2 copies of Ancient Grudge. Grudge is especially nice because it can deal with multiple copies of Vial while also dealing with equipment, Chalice of the Void and Relic of Progenitus, all of which you will regularly encounter in these matchups.
#64 — Mapping results is greatly beneficial.
I recently starting taking notes for all tournament matches I play, including Magic Online. I have spreadsheets for each deck I play, where I keep records of matchups, individual game results and mulligans (and, in the case of Storm, victory conditions). I can’t recommend doing this enough, as it makes recognising patterns much easier than having to track results in your head.
For example, I noticed there was a big decrease on win percentage with UW Eldrazi in Modern when taking mulligans. Going to six cards was noticeable but not too bad, whereas going to five cards meant putting yourself in a very disadvantageous position. Once I noticed this, I started keeping a wider range of six-card hands, increasing my overall game win percentage.
In the case of Canadian Threshold, I noticed that I was doing badly in preboard games against Miracles, but winning almost all postboard games. I attributed this to the fact I was maintaining the same play style throughout all games against Miracles despite having Lightning Bolts in some games and Winter Orb in others. This made me think about the dynamics in the matchup and draw the following conclusions:
#65 — Before sideboarding, you have to be aggressive against Miracles.
I have mentioned this is previous articles, but never in this specific context: When you are a Lightning Bolt deck, you have to Lightning Bolt your opponent. If you lose a game with your opponent at nine life while you have three counterspells and two Bolts in your hand, it’s likely that you should have used your countermagic more aggressively to convert cards into damage.
Before re-learning this, I have found myself in this situation a lot recently.
#66 — Once Winter Orb is a factor, you can out-control Miracles.
When I am playing sideboarded games against Miracles, I never protect my creatures from removal spells. I’m playing a very patient game where I play out my creatures one by one and focus all my countermagic on my opponent’s win conditions — I don’t counter Sensei’s Divining Top or any other cantrips, I actually ignore everything but Counterbalance, Jace and their creatures. As a matter of fact, even Snapcaster Mage is often not worth countering, despite the fact that it’s slight cardadvanage.
This game gets even easier once you have Winter Orb. All their relevant spells cost two or more mana, most of your spells cost one mana at most — Daze can even net you mana under Winter Orb. Winter Orb punishes them for activating Sensei’s Divining Top. As long as you have Orb on the battlefield, it will be very hard for them to keep up with you. The only things you have to watch out for are very aggressive starts on their side and the round time — it’s easy for these games to take very long, depending on how many copies of Nimble Mongoose you draw.
#67 — Some ideas seem funny but are actually good.
#68 — It is possible to splash a colour in Canadian Threshold.
No mistake here, these two are in fact related.
Discussing the Canadian Threshold vs. Shardless Sultai matchup with Kai Sawatari and HJ Goddik, I jokingly suggested running an Underground Sea and some number of Painful Truths in the sideboard. After all, Canadian already has good cards, the only issue it has in the matchup is not drawing enough of them.
Kai actually took my suggestion seriously, so he went ahead and tested it, replacing a Tropical Island with an Underground Sea and running two copies of Truths in the sideboard. He said the mana worked and urged me to try it as well.
I did, and I believe in Painful Truths as a card. So far, I have won every game I resolved one of them and I have not lost any games to the Underground Sea. Interesting to note is that Underground Sea also pays for Dismember, so I am currently running two copies. It does not come up often, but it does happen every now and then.
However, I am not sure if Underground Sea should be the 14th or 15th land. Especially with Winter Orb, you sometimes want to make a for Canadian Threshold unusual amount of land drops. Wasteland not adding to Painful Truths’ Converge count doesn’t help either.
Long story short, it turned out that splashing in Canadian without running Deathrite Shaman wasn’t too unreasonable, so I wonder if there are more cards that might justify light splashes. For now, I will continue running Painful Truths in my sideboard. If you’re interested in trying out the list for yourself, this is what I played locally and online so far: