Mind's Desire in Legacy!? A High Tide Primer
📅 September 20, 2023•
⏱️27 min read
“Marcus likes playing without creatures more than he likes winning” - anyone who knows me, probably.
I wasn't expecting an unban in Legacy at all, at least not a card like Mind's Desire. Wizards of the Coast has been pushing creatures and planeswalkers for the last couple of years, moving the game away from the wonderful stack and instead focused more on this weird “red zone”. As much as I am surprised by this unban I'm also very happy! It is of no real benefit for them to unban cards for our beloved format, just a lot of work and a risk of breaking something. Hats off to them!
Mind's Desire is in fact a very broken Magic card and in this article, I'll sum up my testing process and what I found. I hope you enjoy it.
My latest build can be found on Moxfield at this link here.
Since the last time I wrote an article about High Tide, much has changed in the format. I'm not going to talk about how awfully low the tides were during the Expressive Iteration/White Plume Adventurer-era. After the bans things got a bit better for High Tide, but the blue matchups still felt rough. With the printing of Orcish Bowmasters I thought it was all over, but phew here we are.
So how does a card like Mind's Desire solve any of High Tide's problems and what new strategic/tactical advantages does it bring to the table? Let's go over them one by one but first a quick aside on [Lórien Revealed].
What is the cost of flexibility? Lórien Revealed, and its lesser cousins from the LOTR-set, all consist of the landcycling option stapled onto a D-tier draft card. Despite that they still see a ton of play - how is that possible? I guess the answer is how nicely the different options overlap. Lórien Revealed as a 5 mana draw 3 is not a very good card, but Ancestral Recall certainly is. The powerlevel is there, but the cost is too steep. Depending on the game state the difference in mana cost between the two might not be all that relevant… or if you happen to cast it for free off of Mind's Desire.
The floor of Lórien Revealed (which is how a card is often evaluated) is still a 1 mana investment to find a land / pitch-card to Force of Will, similar to what Preordain offers. But instead of only one medium option it has one option for when you have almost no mana and one option for when you have plenty. In a deck with 7-8 pitch counters having Lórien Revealed to refill is both a very powerful and realistic strategy, especially against opposing combo decks. Lórien Revealed also compliments Brainstorm/Ponder nicely as an additional shuffle effect. It even allows for “the perfect brainstorm” as early as turn 1, because you can land-cycle and shuffle your deck before your second draw step. This is particularly relevant in a world of Orcish Bowmasters.
The absolute biggest weakness of High Tide is its speed. A combo deck going for it turn 4 is not exactly where you want to be in 2023, which means that you must put a lot more energy into playing the reactive game, dodging more bullets, as opposed to the faster combo decks out there which can win before disruption from the opponent becomes relevant.
Mind's Desire won't speed up the process, but it will increase the chance that you'll have a pay-off spell ready by turn 4, so you are more free to prioritize your precious mana on other things along the way. High Tide was already consistent to begin with, but now it's even better. The overall power level of the deck has gone up quite a bit too with the inclusion of Mind's Desire, and you can brute force a win in certain situations.
To facilitate the turn 4 combo my previous build (pre-Mind's Desire) included a Merchant Scroll-Intuition-Time Spiral line which I found to be the best way to find Time Spiral. Sadly, this meant that to ensure having Time Spiral in hand, I had to spend all available mana on both turn 2 and 3 while naturally drawing High Tide and getting to 4 lands. On top of this I also became weak to Surgical Extraction, which meant that the Intuition was often sided out – making the hunt for Time Spiral a bit dicey in post-board games, and often the choking point of any attempt to combo off (because we had plenty of ways to find the other pieces of the puzzle e.g. lands, protection spells/answers and High Tide).
Mind's Desire makes the post-spiral lines a lot more trivial as well. There are just fewer things that could go wrong if you have a bunch of free spells at your disposal...
There are several cards that would help us get there a turn earlier (or even by turn 2 in some rare scenarios!): Cloud of Faeries, Snap, Sapphire Medallion, Candelabra of Tawnos, etc. They all provide a boost in speed after we have resolved High Tide. My issue has always been getting to that point in the first place, and this still holds true. In some matchups you just want to go fast and care very little about the opponent.
A typical example is Elves, where Allosaurus Shepherd makes the game all about speed since your line of defense (countermagic) is rendered mostly useless (Dress Down aside). Burn is another example: you have to counter Eidolon of the Great Revel and perhaps a Pyrostatic Pillar out of the sideboard, but mostly it is a race to the finish line. I found that these types of matchup are not common enough for me to add any more potential “dead weight” to my deck (untap effects). You win faster, easier and bigger with more mana – but the chances of winning overall are lower, as the cards you have to cut for speed either provide a line of defense or a way to set up the combo.
All of that said, I think some kind of untap effect to bridge the gap between resolving the Spirals/Desires is warranted. I have been very happy with Turnabout for this, especially with Mind's Desire in the picture, as it gives me the most mana straight up from a flip. If you hit a Candelabra of Tawnos with no mana floating, it actually does nothing on its own. Compared to the other cards on the list, Turnabout can provide some utility outside of the combo. It is slightly worse than the other options when you fight through exactly countermagic, as committing 4 mana is a lot more compared to Candelabra of Tawnos for instance, where you only spend 1 and if it is countered maybe you can try again with another untap effect. But Turnabout can:
- Fog a combat step
- Tap your opponent's lands on their end step
- Let you go from 5 to 6 mana with 5 lands in play and cast an emergency Time Spiral.
- Pitch to Force (unlike Candelabra of Tawnos)
- Ignore Stifle, Null Rod, Torpor Orb, etc. Instead it is “just” weak to the same type of card the rest of the deck is already weak to.
- Combo with Search for Azcanta (more on that later)
I understand that casting Cloud of Faeries for mana now also nets additional “cards” via Mind's Desire (Storm as a mechanic is like a 9/10 on the Companion scale), after all, but it's not enough reason for me to play it, personally. I'd rather play to the strength of the deck which is incredible consistency and resilience. These other variants are still fine, but more on the combo side of things.
Instead of going faster, we can slow the game down. Let's explore this a bit more, if we sculpt an ideal hand of the bare minimum 1 High Tide, 1 Time Spiral with 4 Islands in play, then the rest of our resources should ideally be spent on non combo game pieces. We just want to make sure that our stuff resolves and that there is no disruption that stops us. So, in a scenario where we are under little pressure, and we are also not that worried about the top decks of our opponent, chances are we better just play a land and pass the turn, with a Force of Will at the ready. So, in one sense having another land drop makes up for lacking the acceleration a card like Cloud of Faeries would provide. Slowing the opponent down rather than speeding up ourselves but doing so with more solid mana.
I love to give myself a sweet wish-board, full of “just the perfect answer” for every situation - and Cunning Wish has served me well for many years (with Fae of Wishes making a brief appearance). I have tried the most reasonable silver-bullets in the format, but honestly about 95%+ of the time I've cast a tutor it was in one of the following scenarios: dealing with troublesome permanents, dealing with countermagic on our combo turn, and winning the game. As sweet as it is to Cunning Wish for Teferi's Response when they Rishadan Port your land or to cast Commandeer on their Karn, the Great Creator, it does not come up often enough to warrant the slots.
In theory not much has changed with the unbanning of Mind's Desire, a Wish-board is still sweet, but sadly the mana cost is too steep for this kind of flexibility in 2023. It's not like the opposing deck is just sitting around for three turns doing nothing (that's us!). Compare Cunning Wish to recently printed Beseech the Mirror and the efficiency difference is obvious.
So, without Cunning Wish we cut the 3 mana-middle-man and speed things up, but how do we solve the issue with opposing permanents? How do we feel safe on the stack? How do we even win? I'll break it down piece by piece below. I just want to add that I was already on the fence about cutting Cunning Wish, and Mind's Desire certainly made it easier.
Luckily for us a card like Dress Down solves most of what a wish-target would ever do, at a lower price, with a free card to boot. Thanks F.I.R.E. design!
Main deck Dress Down is something that we haven't really seen in High Tide before, because the number of decks where it would shine was previously limited to mostly Death and Taxes and Thassa's Oracle combos. With the printing of Orcish Bowmasters this list now also includes most blue control and tempo decks, the new mono black decks and well… most of the rest of the format (8 Cast with Bowmasters, Painter with Bowmasters, Elves with Bowmasters, Bowmasters with Bowmasters and so on). So more often than not, the card has useful text, and the floor is still a blue card that cantrips end of turn.
Another common thing we used the wish board for previously was to deal with Chalice of the Void on X=1, which is both a very troublesome and common card. Not only will Chalice stop us from resolving High Tide, but it also shut down our ability to dig using Ponder or Brainstorm. To address this issue a friend of mine suggested a bounce spell main deck, and I chose to include one copy of Echoing Truth. I am not a huge fan of this, because in theory I want to keep the number of potential “dead” cards to a minimum. The cost of including one Echoing Truth is quite low, and the upside with 4 Merchant Scrolls outweighs the downside of a potential dead card you draw every now and then. The floor is still Force-fodder, which is not bad – but not enough of a reason on its own to play it. Echoing Truth can sometimes be a “removal spell” (Marit Lage) and offers sick value plays with bouncing multiple Dress Downs on the combo turn, so there's that. I just don't want to scoop to Chalice of the Void.
Mind's Desire changes our need for countermagic to protect the combo. The Storm mechanic is broken, and the opponent will need a counterspell for each copy of Mind's Desire to be safe (with some exceptions in Mindbreak Trap and Flusterstorm). As a result the counter war is now moved away from the payoff spell (previously only Time Spiral) to High Tide instead, with our opponent trying to choke mana development instead of the payoff. The reason for this is that if we do “unlock” our Islands, chances are we can find a way to beat multiple counterspells simply by just chaining a few cantrips into a big Mind's Desire, with no obvious choking point from our opponent's point of view. As a result, we only commit a High Tide to their Force of Will, trading cards at parity or better, and we can just cast another High Tide and try again right away or later.
Mystic Sanctuary trick: If our goal is to combo off by turn 5 we can cast High Tide in our upkeep, and then we have the option to activate a fetch land and search for Mystic Sanctuary and put it back on top before our draw step. This would give us more mana to work with but can also be a way for us to beat a counterspell.
In short, Because of the access to Mind's Desire we now commit fewer resources to the combo before we engage in a counter-war, and the need for a counterspell of our own is lower – we can oftentimes just cast another High Tide instead.
Mind's Desire also changes the play patterns post-Spiral by a lot, you no longer need to start by casting Merchant Scroll for a Pact of Negation (just to be safe) if your hand contains a Mind's Desire.
There's something elegant about not having to play any wincons main deck. The classic wincons Brain Freeze and Blue Sun's Zenith aren't exactly “good cards” before you are ready to win the game so keeping them out of the deck before you actually need them is a big upside.
After watching me go off with Mind's Desire and Brain Freeze a friend of mine half-jokingly said that I could just win with Thassa's Oracle after casting my whole deck instead of relying on the usual suspects. I figured Jace, Wielder of Mysteries would offer the same, with the additional upside of being a “decent” card pre-combo. It's also a card that would allow me to play “Oops! All counterspells” vs. opposing combo decks and grind control decks hard with its +1 ability (supporting the Lórien Revealed plan). Thassa's Oracle is also a nonbo with our own Dress Downs.
I was skeptical at first, Jace seemed fragile and having Desire into Desire seemed a bit much, but after one league I was convinced. Desire into Desire, every blue mage's wet (!?) dream - not just a dream, after all. Jace was even better than expected and once I went off it was trivial to get to a point where I had all of my library exiled with Mind's Desire.
The theory was that If Jace was ever removed from the battlefield, it would be shuffled back in later with Time Spiral. There are some exceptions, of course – Like Thoughtseize + Bojuka Bog, Prismatic Ending on X=4 and Force of Negation on the stack, but it's always good to have the option to play it for value, and since it is just a one-of you very rarely expose Jace unless you really want to. Unlike Thassa's Oracle, Jace is not weak to Swords to Plowshares.
Finally, unlike Blue Sun's Zenith and Brain Freeze - Jace doesn't care about protection from The One Ring nor from Veil of Summer.
Not having to rely on Cunning Wish frees up mana in-game, but it also frees up slots. Moving Dress Down and Echoing Truth from the sideboard to the main deck opens some additional sideboard space. Although the deck no longer has access to Cunning Wish, we still have some silver-bullets left that can be sided in and found with Merchant Scroll in post board games. For now, those cards are Snap and another bounce spell either Hurkyll's Recall or Wipe Away, in addition to more counterspells in Pact of Negation / Force of Negation.
With fewer reasons to play silver-bullets instead we can play more “hammers” (true haymakers for commonly seen/difficult decks), and maybe even fit some dedicated graveyard hate, which the wishboard did not allow for before.
As mentioned the counter-war is now often about resolving High Tide and therefore a classic anti-blue sideboard card like Defense Grid becomes much better than before. Whereas previously the opponent could just let High Tide resolve and lessen the impact of its taxing effect (High Tide is symmetrical) and still have mana to cast two counterspells. Now instead they are more likely to start fighting before they have this extra mana available. Defense Grid is very good versus tempo decks, because they are built in such a way that they don't want to spend resources (cards) on making more land drops than necessary.
These days I even chose to side in Defense Grid vs. control a lot of the time, which is a huge deal. Defense Grid used to be a huge liability and often a death sentence, because it's symmetrical this meant that you could never counterspell an opposing Narset, Parter of Veils or Teferi, Time Raveler. Both are still big problems for the deck, but because of Mind's Desire at least we now have a plan to beat them once in play - which we did not have previously (the Sapphire Storm list being the one exception with Spellseeker - Snap lines, see my previous article on that).
Control is still very hard, because of how they attack us from multiple angles and our answers sometimes line up poorly. For example, Pact of Negation is a fantastic card to fight countermagic on our own turn, but it's awful trying to stop planeswalkers from resolving. This made sideboarding vs. control very, very tricky. Your best cards would sometimes also be your worst. I ended up not siding in any additional Pact of Negation, and instead relying on Force of Negation to fight over their hate pieces. It was not pretty and with an endless stream of must-counter threats I ran out of gas fast.
With the printing of Orcish Bowmasters, planeswalkers see less play overall (which is nice), but not only that, Mind's Desire changes how much you care about the two aforementioned planeswalkers. You can't fight a counter-war over High Tide with Teferi in play, but you can always just cast more High Tide – building Storm in the process. With patience, some luck and good timing you can still get a Desire for 6-7 – which is often enough to just power through.
Narset is the same thing, you can't draw cards with Time Spiral, but you can generate enough Storm and cast Mind's Desire to find the answer, or another Mind's Desire, which then finds the answer or another Mind's Desire… and so on.
Deafening Silence and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade both come down early and are even more difficult to beat, as the answers to them while in play rarely resolve (because of how they both shut us down from fighting back on the stack). I tried Otawara, Soaring City and it was OK. A plus for Otawara is that it's unique in being uncounterable, and you can get rid of a Teferi on their turn, even with something like Defense Grid in play!). Sadly, we can't tutor for it and it does nothing once flipped off of Mind's Desire. Wipe Away is not perfect, but it's probably the best option. The matchups where we need Wipe Away (and when we are also afraid of counterspells) are often very slow, so it's not unreasonable to lean on finding a one-of in time.
Split Second is powerful, and it can be found off of both Merchant scroll and my pet-card Search for Azcanta. In theory this card does everything I want - it gives me selection, mana and cards, at a low risk investment of only 2 mana. Once flipped it becomes magnificent and I can not understate how good it is to be able to pass the turn with a free Impulse up at all times. Sometimes the opponent casts a thing which you need to answer, and then (hopefully) you can find it in the top 4. But if they don't you are free to dig for something else at the end of turn, never lowering your guard and not diluting your hand.
The color Black got a huge resurgence because of recent powerful printings, which means that discard spells are back in the format, and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin lines up well against them. Discarding cards even speeds up the process for it to flip and once it does, you no longer roll over to discard spell+bomb, as you can activate the Impulse effect with the payoff spell on the stack, protected from discard. It also lets us build resources in the face of Orcish Bowmasters without taking damage.
Search for Azcanta is on the more fair side of things by 2023 standards, but its effect covers a lot of holes for the deck (especially after cutting Predict) and once you start going off it becomes ridiculous. (Turnabout turning into both mana AND a free Impulse!) - See for yourself here! Game 3 is particularly insane.
Teferi's Realm and Dress Down are very similar in that they not only answer one thing, but all of them at once. Free countermagic is how we gain tempo on the stack and these cards are the secret to how a slow turn 4 deck can regain tempo and beat creature/prison-decks in a format as fast as Legacy. It doesn't really matter which hate-pieces your opponent puts into play, they are all textless or phased out when we are ready to combo (Dress Down usually cast at the opponent's end step, to free up mana on the combo turn).
There are a lot of sideboard options out there, but unless the meta changes drastically (like any new set release). I am focusing on balancing my current sideboard by tweaking the numbers for the expected meta game, rather than adding more options.
Time Spiral is still the most powerful card in the deck. Mind's Desire is certainly no slouch either, but it must get up to around 6-7 Storm to compete on the same power level as Time Spiral, and it's still a bit more lopsided because you never know beforehand if mana or cards will become your bottleneck, and sometimes you get neither. Time Spiral will always give you a bit of both.
In some matchups building a high enough Storm count can be difficult (vs. decks with plenty of discard and no interaction on the combo turn) and sometimes a lot easier (vs. blue decks with countermagic, where exchanging counterspells nets 2 Storm count). When I sculpt my hand in the early turns I usually prefer to go for a Time Spiral, because it requires the least amount of resources. However, I'm always open for a Mind's Desire line should it present itself along the way. There is always some risk involved with giving your opponent a fresh grip of cards from Time Spiral, so I try to avoid that when possible. Sometimes you end up chaining enough cantrips and just stumble upon a Mind's Desire kill instead, but this is hard to plan in advance.
Once we go off (with a Time Spiral or a decent sized Mind's Desire) the path to victory is very similar to previous builds, but it now also has this “Oops, I win” button for when you find a Mind's Desire with a reasonably high storm count.
Depending on the matchup you need a different amount of layers of protection for the combo turn. If you have too little you obviously lose, but it's of equal importance (and a lot harder to identify) that you don't have “too much”. Because resources are finite you might end up in a spot where you spend that Merchant Scroll on Pact of Negation and lose because you ran out of mana, chances are you should've found a Turnabout instead.
Post-Time Spiral tip: If you find yourself post-Spiral with multiple Forces and Turnabouts in hand, but only a few cantrips, you should consider resolving Turnabout before you expose your draw spells to countermagic. This way you are able to hardcast Force of Will if needed, instead of pitching a card. You still spend the two cards, but there's a chance you net some mana in the process - and for every scenario where you don't need to actually cast the Force of will you have 5 more mana to spare.
In most cases it's technically not correct to Turnabout before you dig further (since there's a chance you'll find another High Tide), but it makes going off less stressful and you lessen the risk of “getting got” by a taxing counterspell, i.e if you have to cast Turnabout in response to them responding to you casting Ponder.
Post-Spiral I recommend evaluating the new hand in the following order:
- Will this hand allow me to dig further and go off?
- How much protection do I typically need in the matchup? With the hand given, am I OK or do I need to find more? (with some consideration to mana when facing taxing counterspells)
- How much mana can this hand generate?
- How many cards can I draw / see?
- With the resources left, how do we prioritize between protection, mana and cards? Where are my choking points?
Here is an example that I hope will illustrate the thought-process and what to look out for when going off. We play Game 1 vs. a non-interactive deck. We play our fourth Island and cast High Tide + Time Spiral. We untap 4 lands with 0 mana floating and look at the following hand:
High Tide, [Lórien Revealed], Merchant Scroll, Ponder, Force of Will, Flusterstorm, Island.
At a first glance we have both card draw and mana. Let's go!
Post-Time Spiral tip: Since we have no mana floating currently we better start the chain by casting High Tide as early as possible, in order to maximize the mana generated. Once we tap an Island for UU we sort of have one “free” mana to spare, and in a scenario where we have a High Tide in hand but a very limited amount of card draw, i.e., just a Ponder and nothing else. => It's “free” to start with Ponder and see if we can continue, before committing another High Tide. Chances are we have to pass and try again later, and then we really want that High Tide to stick around. Even without mana floating it can be correct to cantrip first and see what's up before committing to another High Tide (or Turnabout).
In this example we don't need any protection, not to complicate things. In reality there are plenty of cards to consider, even out of the non-blue decks. Most of them we answer the same way, with counter-magic. Prioritize accordingly.
Post-Time Spiral tip: if we ever find Brainstorm then the Force of Will and Flusterstorm in hand could be swapped for something more useful. Same goes for the Island and every other land we find from now on. Keeping this in mind makes cantripping a lot faster, and less taxing for the player. In some instances it can actually be beneficial to Force of Will your own spell and then Pact of Negation the Force of Will. This way you generate 2 extra Storm and if you pitched a “dead” blue card this means that there is one fewer bad card off of the next Time Spiral.
The balancing of X Turnabout vs Y High Tide with Z number of lands in play in order to maximize mana is certainly an Excel-table ready to happen on a rainy day. In this example we only have the option to Merchant Scroll for either gas (Brainstorm) or mana (High Tide / Turnabout). If we spend all of our cards in hand to maximize mana over anything else, we can generate the following:
Cast High Tide (1 mana floating, 1 Island tapped), Tap 3x Islands for (10 mana floating), Merchant Scroll (8 mana floating) for Turnabout (4 mana floating) and untap 4 islands with 16 mana available.
Cast High Tide (1 mana floating, 1 Island tapped), Tap 1x Island, Merchant Scroll (2 mana floating, 2 Islands tapped) for High Tide (1 mana floating, 2 Islands tapped) and tap 2 Islands with 9 mana available.
So without any more untap effects in the picture we get more mana out of merchant scroll if we find Turnabout rather than a third High Tide (which actually sets us back 1 mana!). We have between 10 and 16 mana total to play with, depending on what we decide to Merchant Scroll for, either Turnabout or more gas (e.g. Brainstorm).
In order to maximize cantrips you want to avoid seeing the same cards twice, which means that we always want to cast Lórien Revealed before we cast a cantrip. If Merchant Scroll is to get a Brainstorm we should get the most out of the shuffle effect. So ideally we cast Lórien Revealed (5), Ponder (1), Merchant Scroll (2) for Brainstorm, Brainstorm (1). This sees +3, +3 (+4 if we shuffle off Ponder), +3 cards at a cost of 9 mana total. If we find either Time Spiral or Mind's Desire on the last possible opportunity the total mana cost is 9 + 6 = 15 mana total.
So with 3) and 4) in place we see an issue. In order to maximize the number of cards seen we are (15-10) = 5 mana short to cast them all and have 6 mana left to cast a payoff spell. If we instead decide to scroll for Turnabout we see 3 fewer cards (no Brainstorm). How to best proceed from here? This is not something you can realistically be certain of on the fly, but you can get a good feeling for where the choking point likely is (mana or cards). The most flexible card in hand is Merchant Scroll, and we only have one. In order to determine how to best use it, we want to delay our decision until the very last point possible. This basically means that we can dig with cantrips all we want - as long as we leave 6 mana left in order to cast Merchant Scroll for Turnabout. Without taking Merchant Scroll into account we have at least 10 mana available, which means that we are free to spend (10-6) => 4 mana to spare before we reach this choke point, and have to scroll for Turnabout.
If we could we would rather be casting Lórien Revealed before Ponder but we can't, since if we brick on more mana from the three cards off of Lórien Revealed, it would leave us with not enough mana, unable to cast a Mind's Desire / Time Spiral. Sometimes you have to hope it works out, but in this case it's safer to start with Ponder. We are looking for ways to generate more mana or a Mind's Desire / Time Spiral. If we find neither it can sometimes still be worth keeping another Ponder on top, as this would let us see one more card before we decide to shuffle (remember, we have 3 mana left to spare).
We tap an Island for UU and cast Ponder (with U floating) and see the following:
Turnabout, Island, Island.
Now this is not a payoff spell, but finding a Turnabout here will generate enough mana to “unlock” the Merchant Scroll for Brainstorm, plus it will also let us cast Lórien Revealed before we cast Brainstorm (with 2 High Tide going and 4 lands in total a Turnabout will net 8 mana.
With the one floating mana we decide to commit to a combo line and cast High Tide.
We now have 9 mana total available and the choking point is moved from 6 mana (Merchant Scroll for Turnabout) to 4 mana (only Turnabout). In theory we could therefore cast Lórien Revealed first, before casting Turnabout (with the upside of more mana generated should we find a High Tide). However, we already know that the top 2 cards are Islands, so in order to maximize the chances of finding a payoff spell we better shuffle first if we can.
We want to cast Merchant Scroll but first have to decide if we think we need gas or mana.
Let's re-evaluate mana available with the new information given. We have zero mana floating, 2 High Tide resolved and 3 islands untapped. This gives us a total of 9 mana if we tap out. We can then cast Turnabout (5 mana floating) and untap 4 Islands for access to a total of (12+5) => 17 mana available. This is a lot of mana and the decision to Merchant Scroll for Brainstorm is pretty clear. Now our hand is:
Flusterstorm, Force of Will, Island, Brainstorm, Turnabout, [Lórien Revealed]
We have 2 Islands untapped and one mana floating, which gives us access to 7 mana total.
Ideally we want to be casting High Tide -> Card draw (to draw into more High Tide) -> Turnabout, to maximize mana. We already know that mana is very unlikely to be our choking point, so in this example it's not a big “cost” of casting Turnabout before we draw more cards, and miss out on resolving more High Tides that we might draw.
With 7 mana currently available we can cast Turnabout (3 mana available) and untap 4 Islands for a total of (3+12 mana) => 15 mana available. Lórien Revealed (10 mana available) - Draw Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Ethersworn Canonist, cast Brainstorm - See Savage Beating, You are already dead and Mind's Desire (Put back +4 and Queen of Spades).
Cast Mind's Desire - Storm is (High Tide (1), Time Spiral (2), High Tide (3), Ponder (4), Merchant Scroll (5), Turnabout (6), Lorien Revealed (7), Brainstorm (8) for a total of (9) Copies.
We find another Mind's Desire, which finds another Mind's Desire and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries - With no cards in library we cast Jace and, for no obvious reason, we decide to Ponder for the win! GG's!
Since my list is not set in stone it makes no sense to write +/-. Instead, here is some general advice for sideboarding, but please remember that this can change drastically depending on the opponent's sideboard plan. i.e. a Prison deck with Mindbreak Trap or a Tempo deck with Deafening Silence.
Upgrade Force of Will to Pact of Negation, swap Echoing Truth for Snap (as a way to generate mana or to get rid of a Murktide Regent in a pinch). Defense Grid and sometimes Search for Azcanta comes in by trimming on Mind's Desire and Ponder. The goal is to go off by turn 5 with double or triple counter-backup. By delaying the combo a turncycle you have an extra land to pay for Daze.
Depending on their list we either want Pact of Negation or Dress Down. Turnabout is a card that I usually cut, but because of Search for Azcanta I like it more now, but I still think Defense Grid is better. I always “upgrade” Echoing Truth to Wipe Away, because the extra mana is definitely worth it. If you need access to both and have nothing else to cut you can trim Force of Will or a Land. In general you want to go off as late as possible.
Lands (and Similar Strategies)
Even though these can sometimes be Urza's Saga decks I don't think we want to keep Dress Down for post-board games. Unless they can snipe us with a fast Marit Lage their clock is usually too slow, and we are very favored in the matchup overall. But beware, most lands-players know this and fill their sideboard with Pyroblasts and Chokes. So rather than sideboard for their maindeck we should try to hedge a bit, so I usually keep a Pact of Negation around but cut the Flusterstorm. I bring Teferi's Realm and the extra bounce spells. Force of Negation is also pretty good, you can shave some Ponders to make space. Unlike most combo decks you don't actually have to get rid of Sphere of Resistance - with enough lands and High Tides you can power through a lot.
Taxing-trivia. I've won games with Damping Sphere on 14 - you just have to believe (and get lucky).
Creature-Centric Prison Decks
Pretty much the same approach as for the Lands-strategies, but normally you don't have to worry as much about countermagic or non-creature hate (Deafening Silence aside). The clock can be reasonably fast so be aware of that. Dress Down / Teferi's Realm are insane here. Search for Azcanta is generally too slow, it's weak to Wasteland and it takes collateral damage from graveyard hate people tend to bring (for no real reason, most of the time).
You play the control role, pretty much always. Cut combo pieces, Pact of Negation and trim a land to make space for Search for Azcanta and Force of Negation. Dress Down is great for the Thassa's Oracle matchups and the Graveyard hate covers most of the rest. A common misconception is that multiple Forces are not an ideal game plan, because you 1for2 yourself and run out of cards. This is only partly true because in reality most Forces trade 1-for-1 with discard spells, it's only the Force that you pitch-cast that is actually card-disadvantage! It is also reasonable to assume that you can cast Force of Negation for mana versus these type of decks. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, Search for Azcanta and Lórien Revealed are your gameplans, setting up an actual win is secondary.
Thanks to Min and Max for letting me put stuff up on the site. Thanks to the High Tide community for helping out with proofreading. Extra thanks to @aleberganton3 for providing the combo pictures.
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