Pure Skill - Pauper Teachings
Let me introduce myself - My name is Anton Nikolov and I play pauper on MTGO exclusively. In "real" world I have been playing magic for two years now and I have one 19th and one 32nd place in the Nationals of my country. Enough about myself :) I decided to write this article about UBw Teachings because it made several top 8 appearances in the past month and this is the most discussed deck in the Paper Deck Challenge forums (I even noticed a few articles about it here) and everybody wants to know which are its good and bad match-ups. Let's discuss the deck and its match-ups. But before we do it I will show you my build + a few comments on the cards in it.
This is the original deck that addicted me to Teachings a few weeks and countless playing hours ago:
And of course my build, which may not be optimal but I like it and it fits my playstyle:
3 Orzhov Basilica The advantage land!
4 Terramorphic Expanse
The "counterspells" - I don't play anything special here, just the basic counterspell package.
4 Counterspell You don't want to side out these no matter the match!
2 Soul Manipulation
3 Condescend These are the generic counterspell slots. Post SB you should change them with something specialized for the match.
1 Traumatic Visions This is how you are going to tutor for lands with teachings.
1 Guardian of the Guildpact The old faithful :)
2 Crookclaw Transmuter A finisher that can be tutored for.
The "advantage" creatures:
3 Aven Riftwatcher The most important card in the worst match-up - BURN! Every Riftwatcher is basically one card less in the hand of the burn player.
4 Mulldrifter Your alternative finisher.
1 Agony Warp Very useful in staying alive early game vs fast aggro decks.
1 Rend Flesh Very good generic removal.
2 Diabolic Edict One of the spells that I won't remove from the build. Good vs aggro without token generators and vs controls.
1 Echoing Decay Always consider that you can tutor this one!
4 Mystical Teachings No comment here:) Just this - teachings for teachings is one of the most devastating plays if you can afford it :)
3 Brainstorm I always try to use this one with some kind of library shuffle, otherwise it isn't anything special.
Other useful tools:
1 Grim Harvest With this one decks like MBC can't deny you your finishers.
1 Momentary Blink This one is fantastic. I tried playing 2 but I noticed that when I flashback my first I have already won the match :)
1 Capsize This is your Finisher vs decks like MBC, MBCu, Parlor Tricks, and other control decks.
And of course the Sideboard:
1 Holy Light Really useful spell against goblin-storm and all sort of non-white aggro decks like goblins.
The anti-aggro package :)
2 Agony Warp
1 Doom Blade
1 Diabolic Edict The bane of G/W pro bears.
1 Echoing Decay
You should probably side-out Condescend and side-in one of these according to your match.
1 Essence Scatter
And finally one extra finisher.
1 Crookclaw Transmuter - This slot is open :)
Okay, you already know my build but how is the appropriate way of playing this deck and what makes it tick? The truth is that this is basically a goodstuff.deck and as such you must play at least 10-15 matches to get a good grasp of it. The heart of this deck is the counterspell package, Mystical Teachings and Mulldrifter - you can tinker with almost everything else to adjust it to your play style or for the meta that you are going to play it in. In fact I strongly recommend you to start tinkering with this deck, because this is the reason it is so fun to play - there is so much room for creativity :) There are many variations of the teachings control deck and here are some of the more popular:
I want to say that this section applies mainly to my build and playstyle. Your mileage may vary :)
The Big Players:
Lets start with the big players - you WILL play vs some of these decks even if you just play a casual game every now and then. Every time you want to try a new deck you should first try your match-up with these decks.
MBC - This match-up favors us but still the MBC player have plays that can devastate you - Distress into Chittering Rats into Okiba-Gang Shinobi. If he doesn't rape you with such draw the game is going to be REALLY long. To win you must counter only his win conditions and build a solid mana base. You should tutor for Capsize, when you have 12+ mana. The next step is to deny him all his lands and drop a win condition - you should be the winner several turns later.
MBCu - Another match-up that favors us. To win you should play almost the same way as with MBC with a few minor differences. The most critical moment in this match is when he reaches 5 mana for Probe and Mulldrifter - you MUST have a counterspell or he can devastate you. On the other hand if you counter his Mulldrifter with Exclude, you will start feeling a pleasant warmth in your belly :)
UBW Teachings (the mirror) - The most appropriate name for this match is TheBrainDamage. To win fast in TBD you must have better draw than your opponent and he must be mana screwed :) Most of the times this match will be won by the person that play faster (his opponent's time run out) or by decking. If you notice that the game is going to be won by decking, both players have 5+ cards in hand and 15 or less cards in their libraries, you must stop using you card draw and Terramorphic Expanse. And don't forget to play fast!!
UB Teachings (MBC variant) - You have slightly better match against them. Follow the intstructions about MBCu and you should win this match.
UB Teachings (MUC variant) - They have slightly better match against you because they have more card advantage and counterspells like Faerie Trickery. If you want to win you must play as the aggro or counter/kill their Errant Ephemeron. The aggro variant is played this way - you tutor for Crookclaw Transmuter and flash it at the end of his turn with mana for counter spell. The purpose of this play is to tap him out and resolve a Mulldrifter or a second Crookclaw Transmuter. After this it is BEAT DOWN TIME :) The counter/kill their Errant Ephemeron gameplan is much easier - just tutor for insane amount of creature removal and counterspells and destroy the pesky thing. This build doesn't have graveyard recursion so after you deal with his creatures decking him will be much easier (if he doesn't plays Oona's Grace ).One final word of wisdom - play fast because there is always the chance of winning by timing out your opponent.
Affinity - This match-up is really funky. It is like tossing a coin - if they have one of their uberdraws you don't have any game plan :( If they have normal draw you must save your counterspells for their Rush of Knowledge and Myr Enforcer, because If you deny them their draw the game will be yours. After SB you should side in you anti creature package and side out Condescend and remember that they bring Pyroblast.
G/W Slivers - This match-up is fairly easy. They have really quick draws that can kill you on the spot but after SB you should have enough creature removal to deal with them. Just don't keep slow hands in games 2 and 3 and the match should be yours.
G/W cloak - I will be honest about this match-up - I haven't tested enough and I'm not 100% sure how to play against it. I eagerly await your opinion about this one.
Burn/Burn Range - Bad match-up :( They are just too fast and if you lack some early game control and/or Aven Riftwatcher+Momentary Blink you will probably lose. The game plan is to side in the Hydroblast and hope for the best :) If you are going to play in the queues you should expect to be seeing a lot of this deck. If you want to have a good match against them I strongly recommend the decklist from this article and if you want to know what this deck look like I recommend this article.
B/W mimic aggro - Really easy match-up :) I don't have any particular advice - just kill them with card advantage, don't be afraid to use Capsize without buyback when they try to enchant their beaters and keep in mind that this deck has Castigate and can remove your most valuable spells from the game.
Let's continue with some deck that you might encounter. They are not as common as The Big Players, but you will be paired with at least some of these decks in almost every big event and in the queues.
Goblins - Actually this deck is on the rise right now. Don't rely on your echoing spells in this match because they have many sac outlets. Don't hesitate to kill their creatures. After SB you have creature hate + Hydroblast + Holy Light so this match is not particularly tough.
WW (soldiers) - A walk in the park :) They are not fast enough to kill you. The only way you are going to lose this match is by keeping really bad hands and/or not drawing anything relevant. Just side in the creature hate and you should win this match.
MUC - This match-up favors them. You have the card quality but they have the card advantage. Almost everything that I wrote about UB Teachings (MUC variant) match-up applies here too with one major difference - you cannot deck them because they will deck you with Oona's Grace first. And don't forget to play as fast as possible.
Parlor Tricks - The match is tied. They have tricks and you have many counterspells and removal. Post SB most of the builds bring in Relic of Progenitus and Shred Memory, so don't overextend with useful cards in the graveyard. I haven't tested enough to give any other advice.
Fish - The person that draws more cards will almost always win the first game. After SB you have a secret weapon - Holy Light. This match is almost even but Teachings is slightly stronger. For more info about this deck you should read this article.
UGRB/GRB Thunder - This is kind of a bad match-up. Most of their win conditions are uncounterable and they can easily kill your win conditions. Before SB you must hope for Riftwatcher with blink or the game will probably be theirs. Things only get worse post SB - they bring in Relic of Progenitus and Pyroblast and you can only bring in Hydroblast :(
Goblin-Storm - Easy match-up. Just tutor for an echoing spell pre SB or for for Holy Light post SB and watch them lose.
Grapeshot Storm Kill - If you are going to the queues you will encounter this one! The match is in our favor, but all we can do is counter their draw spells( counter ONLY the draw, they bring in more mana post SB) and hope for the best. If they try to go off early or you don't have many counterspells in hand you should try to counter only their draw 3 spells and let the others resolve. This match is also discussed here.
Some of the other decks that you might encounter. Keep in mind that these decks are not very popular but some of them are really powerful.
Elves-Combo-Storm - Relatively easy match. The only problem with this deck is that their combo pieces can attack you. The solution is to kill them :) Post SB you should side in all the creature hate + Holy Light.
U-mad Nomad(nomad combo) - Just kill or counter their nomads (they have only 8 creatures that are relevant). Sometimes they will go off on turn 2 or 3 but if that doesn't happen the match is probably yours. Also you have Crookclaw Transmuter so you can stop their combo fairly easy even if you don't have a counterspell or removal.
Yak Attack - Not exactly good match-up. This deck tries to deny you your lands so you must try everything in your power to protect them. If he didn't destroy a land or two early in the game the match will be yours. SB all the red and spell hate and hope for the best.
Tortured Existence/Dredge - Relatively easy match - just counter Tortured Existence and watch for Okiba-Gang Shinobi post SB and the match will be yours.
Random aggro decks - Just side in all the removal and creature counterspells and you should be ok.
The Pilot - Yep you or me :) This deck requires some level of strategic thinking and you must be able to think as a control player to win matches. If you lack these skills you will be the worst match-up of this deck!
Conclusions about the match-ups:
Good match-ups: MBC, MBCu, UB Teachings(MBCu), G/W Slivers, G/W cloak, Storm Decks, Mimic Aggro, Elf Combo, Nomad Combo,White Weenie,Tortured Existence
Bad match-ups: Mirror, UB Teachings(MUC), MUC, Yak Attack(land destroy decks), Burn, Thunder decks
Even match-ups: UBW Teachings, Affinity, Parlor Tricks, Fish
As you can see Teachings has a good match against almost every deck that is played extensively so if you like playing pauper this is a deck that you must play with and against. So if you want to test with someone feel free to look for me in MTGO - my nick is TheDwarf and I have almost every deck posted in this article ready for testing.
Everything that I wrote here is my opinion and I am open to constructive criticism. So what are you waiting for? Flame away... Or just post a response to my puny attempt to think and play as control.
I really enjoyed writing this article so I hope that you will enjoy reading it!