#theweeklywars #10 — Canadian Threshold

#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:


(deckstats.net link)


4 thoughts on “#theweeklywars #10 — Canadian Threshold

  1. Hey there, first of all thanks for your insight on the deck, RUG isn’t getting much attention lately but it’s definitely good (as always) and obviously it’s a blast to play!
    – Vial decks; I can’t say much about Merfolk but I have played a ton of Goblins and Death&Taxes (and of course RUG) and boy, there’s no way RUG can win the game if Vial sticks…that being said, how do you evaluate Winter Orb here? It seems to me that the card is a bit of a gamble, if we aren’t able to stop Vial, Orb is going to be complete thrash, maybe even worse for us than for the opponent. Would you advocate playing Null Rod over one copy of Winter Orb? You’d get weaker vs Lands (which seems pretty hard anyway) but you’d gain a nice tool vs Storm, Vial decks and Miracles too.
    – The B splash; what did you guys figure out about the Shardless matchup that makes you go for the Painful Truths plan? It seems to me a big risk honestly, you add to the deck a land that doesn’t cast nor creatures neither bolts/blasts and you only have 2 Tropical Island which is a kinda dangerous in the face of Wasteland…vs Miracles PT seems great but 3 mana sorcery isn’t exactly what we usually can afford to do. Is all of this worth having a (much) greedier manabase? Sylvan Library is a monster vs Miracles and it also comboes very well with STP on Tarmogoyf.
    – Glad to see that you went up with the number of Tarmogoyfs, sometimes you really want to draw your monster =).

  2. I don’t think Canadian has always been good – when Jund was a deck people played it wasn’t that strong. But I’m also surprised how little play it sees in relation to how good the deck currently is.

    Against Vial decks, I like Winter Orb a lot. As you said, games are much harder if they have Vial (because of the mana advantage), but if they don’t and you have Winter Orb, they have a real problem. Instead of getting their creatures for free, they have to pay double or triple.
    I think fighting Vial is your number one goal anyway, so it’s reasonable to play under the assumption that they don’t have it (and the games they do, you lose, that’s fine). I’m actually going to run a second copy of Ancient Grudge the next time I play the deck, likely in place of one of the True-Names, which haven’t been doing much for me.
    I also really like Winter Orb against Lands, which seems to be a very reasonable matchup when you have Orb in my experience.

    My philosophy to the Shardless Matchup is that the only reason you lose is because of how many cards they have. Their cards are not particularly powerful, it’s just that most of them generate card advantage. Overall, your spells are more powerful and more efficient. This is another on of these matchups where Ancient Grudge is pretty good. Between Grudge and Painful Truths, it’s definitely possible to fight even games (in terms of card quantity), which you are likely to win.
    Not having the third Tropical has not been a problem for me so far. Underground Sea has not done any harm yet, but I did get to cast Dismember for less life, plus Painful Truths is obviously absurd. I don’t think the mana is much worse, at least I haven’t noticed it yet (at all, really).
    Sylvan Library is a less powerful effect than Painful Truths. Paying 3 life to get +2 cards is a lot less than paying 12. I’ve had a few games where my opponents had Snapcaster Mages that hit me for 10+ damage, those games I probably wouldn’t have won with Library, but I did with Painful Truths.
    The third Tarmogoyf is really only in the deck because there is nothing else we want to play. I board it out against Miracles and I never want more than twelve creatures after sideboarding, so when I bring in the True-Names, I often cut down on Goyfs. It might as well become a True-Name, which would allow me to still run two copies despite replacing one with an Ancient Grudge in the sideboard.

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