Home Strategy The Mailbox: Answering an ancient annoyance

WiNGSPANTT and Top Tier Tactics are always looking for feedback from you, our readers! Got a question or query? Why not send it our way today?

It’s been a while since we received a message that could benefit the greater population, but this week, one of you wrote in with a fairly specific quandary. And if there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s good ol’ fashioned quandary solvin’.

And since today’s answer might just help players eke out victories in the T3 Magic tournament, there was no better time to receive this request.

Hey WingspanTT,

My friend who is usually shitty at MTG 2013 has been practicing a lot with Ancient Wilds. He’s gone from losing to me 90% of the time to winning about 60% of the time. The whole deck synergizes together in a way that is almost utterly unbelievable.

I usually play Exalted Darkness or Crosswinds. I do well if I can get an early squire/duty bound so I can pound him early before he gets enough mana to destroy, but with all the artifacts/enchantments in both those decks and him having three acidic slimes, I seem to get really hosed.

Do you have any general strategies for dealing with Ancient Wilds, particularly as crosswinds or Exalted Darkness?


Ancient Wilds is easily the most versatile deck in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. It has removal for every type of permanent, ways to shut down flyers, and just enough lifegain/recursion to make comebacks a frequent occurrence. So, to start with, don’t feel bad about having a hard time winning.

Both Exalted Darkness and Crosswinds have weaknesses that give Ancient Wilds a strong matchup against them. Neither deck has a particularly formidable defense against swarms of elves, and both can be shut down if key permanents (No Mercy, Panoptic Mirror, land!) are removed. In addition, ED and CW can typically win a long game by starving the opponent out of threats, but AW is particularly good at restocking them, whether it’s in the form of Vengevines that never die, or enchantments like Wild Pair that generate large amounts of card advantage.

For Exalted Darkness, evasion is key. Yes, Ancient Wilds has a few creatures with reach, but the vast majority of the deck offers no way to block Aven Squires or Daggerclaw Imps. And obviously, nothing can really prevent you from swinging in with a Tormented Soul, or a Whispersilk Cloaked creature (which also can’t be Beast Within’d, though the equipment itself can). Yes, you might have to trade with an archer early game, but it’s better to lose a 1/1 creature to it than a more important Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis. Ditch the majority of your low-toughness ground creatures (mainly knights), leaving Guardians of Akrasa, Silent Arbiters, and Duty-Bound Dead to defend against Thragtusks and the like.

Yes, it’s possible something scary will hit the board, but that’s what removal is for (Doom Blade yes, Pacifism no). The most dangerous cards you can run into are probably Beast Within or various artifacts/enchantments (Erratic Portal is particularly disastrous), so don’t waste Vindicate or Mortify on anything that isn’t a game-ending threat, especially not a creature. Get your threats out early, swing in hard, and keep an Unmake or two in hand for a Wurm. Whether you win or not from there will depend on smart plays.

For Crosswinds, you’re better off going for the long game. While Ancient Wilds can technially win on the fourth turn, it’s not likely to happen, especially if you build your deck to stall. Fog Banks can’t die to deathtouch (though they will easily eat webbing from Stingerfling Spider), and Kraken Hatchlings can hold the ground for at least three turns in most cases. Since bounce cards like Disperse will often help your opponent, they’re not too useful for stalling on the opposite side of the board, but remember they can be used to protect your own cards as well. Judicious use, as well as countermagic and recursion of your own, will help you survive to larger land counts.

Once you’re at five or more lands, the advantage can swing towards you, if you’re adept at weighing risks. Sure, AW can stop your Panoptic Mirror combo in multiple ways (and force you to waste two turns and lots of mana), but it can’t do anything about Time Warp hard-cast, buying you time. Azure Mage, which is normally mediocre, is much better in longer games, and its 2/1 body gives you a chance to make favorable trades, if necessary. Sphinx Bone Wand is also great against Wilds, but it’s susceptible to removal… Talrand is a better bet. Your actual game-winner against Yeva’s deck is using her own cards against her. Blatant Thievery can’t really be stopped, not to mention Rite of Replication, so make sure you consider stocking all of them. Five Pelakka Wurms or Thragtusks? Yes please.

2 replies to this post
  1. I just lost a AW vs Crosswinds (me) game where I ended up getting milled after ~30 turns. I RoR’ed his elderscale.

    He kept using Eternal Witness to bring back Beast Within and block my panoptic mirror – time warp combo.

    What could I have done differently – save a cancel for eternal witness would have won me the game.

    Alternatively, I could have saved 1 panoptic + 2 time warps +2 cancels and waited till I had 15+ mana. I almost pulled it off but only had 1 cancel to his 2 beast withins

  2. Dude, just play goblins :)

    I’m a massive Ancients player, but 90% srsly win rate with goblins vs it if you make it fast and lean.

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