Last week’s GP Gent had 14 Teferi, Time Ravelers in the top 12 decklists to the surprise of actually no-one. But not many people have noticed that another War of the Spark planeswalker appeared 12 times in the top 4 of the last Modern team GP.
True to its nature Ashiok has been sneakily creeping into Modern decklists, where it spends its days lurking in the sideboard. So let’s talk a bit about the 3-mana semi-headless menace.
When I evaluate a card I look at its floor and the ceiling.
The floor of this card is me casting it on turn 3 while I have no board to defend it and my opponent does have some creatures out and doesn’t really care about his graveyard or searching his library. In this case my opponent will probably just ignore it and kill me and I spent 3 mana for 0 value. That’s a sub basement level floor.
The ceiling of Ashiok Dream Render is accelerating it out t2 on an empty board while my opponent’s deck heavily depends on searching the library/using the graveyard. In this case with a bit of support it can just win me the game. So the ceiling is very high. It’s also flexible as it is both one-sided yard as search hate, so can come in vs decks that care about either.
A very low floor and a very high ceiling means this is a classic sideboard card. At 3 mana with a prison effect it is best in slower decks that can control or dominate the board. If you have some graveyard shenanigans going on you can even use it to mill yourself.
So let’s see how this stacks up against what I consider some of the top decks in the format:
Whirza: fetchlands, Goblin Engineer, Whir Of Inventions and Inventors Fair all search the deck and it has a bit of graveyard synergy as well so Ashiok is a good card to bring in. It will not win the game on its own, you will still need to control the board because Urza, Lord High Artificer can just win the game on its own.
Midrange-Tempo Stoneforge decks: fetchlands, stoneforge mystic. These decks have some deck searching cards but stoneforge typically comes down before Ashiok. Your opponent is trying to beat you on card advantage and possibly tempo so Ashiok is quite bad vs these decks.
Burn: fetchlands. Only bring this in if your burn matchup is so ridiculously good that you want to troll them by casting this do-nothing.
Jund/UW Control/Grixis Death Shadow: fetchlands, some very mild graveyard synergies. Watching some streams over the weekend I saw multiple people casting this vs Jund. Ashiok generates no card advantage so is actively bad vs a deck trying to trade 1 for 1 and then take over by pure efficiency. Don’t board it in in these matchups!
Tron: Expedition Map, Sylvan Scrying, Sanctum of Ugin. It seems like it is really good vs Tron but their searching spells are usually cast before turn 3. In my experience it’s just ok vs them, you need earlier disruption as well to win. I still usually bring in old Ashy though as so many cards in my main deck are even worse vs Tron.
Dredge: It’s the same as vs Tron, but only the graveyard part matters now, you need other, earlier graveyard hate as well to have a chance. But if they have a slow start, or you can slow them down, Ashiok can take over.
Amulet Titan: Primeval Titan, Tolaria West, Summoner’s Pact. Against Amulet Ashiok is great. Their search spells are cast later in the game and are the core of their engine making the Dream Render a slam dunk.
TitanShift: All their ramp spells, fetchlands, Primeval Titan, Scapeshift. Titanshift doesn’t play to the board fast and has no easy ways to get rid of it. Ashiok is disgustingly good vs them shutting down almost their entire deck. Just make sure not to downtick him below 4 loyalty so he can’t be picked off by a bolt. TitanShift has been gaining some popularity and I’ve heard some whispering that it actually is the best deck in this slower format going into the GP weekend. So it seems the highest placed participants in Gent came prepared.
And if you like obscure cards there is even another War of the Spark planeswalker that dumps on TitanShift as long as you get to cast it turn 4 (or ramp into it):
Cancels the Valakuts, Bolts, Angers, Chandra, Magmatic Sinkhole and even exiles their Titans, maybe something to consider if you’re in white and in a heavy Valakut meta. Just make sure you have their Field of the Dead covered.