Lurrus of the Dream-Den has been a pillar of Modern for a while now, and thanks to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Dragon’s Rage Channeler, the archetype has been supercharged. Black and red are the common base colors for Lurrus decks, but as Modern has evolved, they’ve included all five colors at various points. Each splash color has its own strengths (with relatively low costs), and each can bolster different match-ups. My preference is between Four-Color Lurrus and Grixis Death’s Shadow, so I’ll be going over sideboard options for both decks.
Grixis Death’s Shadow and Four-Color Lurrus, while both built under the same restrictions, are stylistically different decks. Grixis Death’s Shadow wants to play a much more aggressive, tempo-oriented game, while Four-Color Lurrus is more in line with Modern control decks. Grixis Death’s Shadow will have cards like Kolaghan’s Command and Drown in the Loch to have more equity in games that go long. Four-Color Lurrus already has all the tools to control the board, instead that sideboard is focused on shifting answers to fit the specific matchup at hand. Four-Color Lurrus has a slower clock than Grixis Death’s Shadow, so it is imperative that it is able to configure its removal suite appropriately.
Let’s take a closer look at the popular sideboard options for these two decks, as well as some other cards you could consider for your sideboard.
Engineered Explosives may just be the best sideboard card in Modern — so much so that I have seen Grixis Lurrus and Izzet Murktide include them in the main deck. When Temur Footfalls was rising to popularity about a month ago, Engineered Explosives started to show up in increasing numbers in sideboards. Hammer Time, Food variants, Temur Footfalls, and even some of the Lurrus decks can struggle to beat Engineered Explosives in the mirror, especially when it’s on repeat. It can be an awkward draw when you’re playing Ragavan and Dragon’s Rage Channeler, but thankfully, you can choose when to play and activate it.
Alpine Moon waxes and wanes when it comes to Modern playability. I’ve never been a huge fan of it as a way to target Tron or Amulet Titan, but Urza’s Saga changes the whole equation. Tron, Eldrazi Tron, Amulet Titan, Hammer Time, and Food have all adopted the Modern Horizons 2 all-star. Lands that generate three-for-ones are going to be hard for Lurrus decks to beat, given that they’re built to use one-for-one removal. Alpine Moon cleanly answers Urza’s Saga, and makes sure that any other copies are blanks, as they go to the graveyard due to state-based effects. What’s more, all of the major Urza’s Saga decks (with the exception of Food) have several solid targets for Alpine Moon, should your opponent not have a Saga early in the game.
Fatal Push has nearly fallen off the map given the popularity of Lightning Bolt, Unholy Heat, and Prismatic Ending. However, savvy Modern players have been exploring threat suites that can outsize Unholy Heat with Death’s Shadow, Murktide Regent, and Colossus Hammer. While Unholy Heat is undeniably powerful, having access to Fatal Push to handle Death’s Shadow, anything wearing a Colossus Hammer, or large Construct tokens is a nice safety valve. I wouldn’t go overboard, but while planeswalkers are fairly uncommon, I like having Fatal Push as my additional cheap removal spell out of the board.
Soul-Guide Lantern vs. Nihil Spellbomb is a constant debate between players of black midrange decks. In Death’s Shadow, I prefer Soul-Guide Lantern because you just can’t afford to have your graveyard hate lose to Leyline of Sanctity out of decks like Living End and Dredge. In Four-Color and Mardu Lurrus, I tend to favor Nihil Spellbomb because those decks also have access to Kaya’s Guile, which gets around Leyline of Sanctity. Both can be boarded in against other Lurrus decks to pick off opposing Kroxas or to stop Snapcaster Mage from flashing back Kolaghan’s Command.
My opinion of Dress Down over the last couple weeks has changed drastically. I used to think it was just a cute trick with Death’s Shadow, but when I saw AspiringSpike playing multiple main deck copies, I decided to give it a try. After playing the deck, I changed a handful of cards to my liking, but never removed any of the copies of Dress Down.
Dress Down does force Shadow decks to make a few concessions. You’ll need to drop Scourge of the Skyclaves, but getting to pump Shadow in response to a Lightning Bolt or an Unholy Heat is nice. Kroxa also plays well with Dress Down; you can cast it on your opponent’s end step, untap and play a Kroxa without having to sacrifice it.
Dress Down also does a nice job of answering Constructs from Urza’s Saga, Urza, Lord High Artificer, and Karn, Scion of Urza. But the real prize is that Dress Down is a stone cold killer against Elementals, which is one of the harder match-ups for Lurrus decks. If you play Dress Down in response to an evoked Solitude, they don’t get the enter the battlefield trigger, and they still have to sacrifice their creature as part of the evoke cost. An instant-speed Hymn to Tourach that draws a card and plays well with your creatures seems like a win to me!
Drown in the Loch is one of those generically good Grixis cards that I always want in my sideboards. Counterspell got a ton of hype when it was printed into Modern, but so far, it seems that the classic option has been overshadowed by Drown in the Loch (or, as I call it, “Split card: Counterspell // Terminate”). Modern has an exceptionally low curve at the moment; zero-mana spells are popular cascade targets, and people are filling their graveyards with Thought Scour and Dragon’s Rage Channeler. If you can produce blue and black mana, you’ll want Drown in the Loch somewhere in the 75.
My initial reaction to Feed the Swarm when it was printed was, “I don’t know that I’ll play this often, but I’ll be happy to have it when I need it.” Blood Moon is a popular answer to folks trying to fight against Elementals and three-or-more-color midrange decks these days. Grixis colors aren’t known for their ability to remove enchantments, but thankfully we have Feed the Swarm to bail us out. Doubling as Terminate in most cases is a huge fail case, though you’ll want to be careful about targeting Murktide Regent! Feed the Swarm gets a nice bonus from being able to tag a Sigarda’s Aid as well. I’m reasonably happy to include one copy in my Lurrus sideboards at the moment.
Terminate is here much for the same reason as Fatal Push: some things are just too big for Unholy Heat. As it turns out, some things that are too big for Unholy Heat are also too big for Fatal Push, which is where Terminate comes in! Murktide Regent is Terminate target number one, but Primeval Titan, Elementals, and any creatures out of Eldrazi Tron are all excellent targets. Nothing fancy here, just getting the job done.
Kolaghan’s Command is a Grixis mainstay, and currently good enough for you to play multiple copies. Command excels in the Lurrus mirrors where Shock, Raise Dead, and Raven’s Crime are the common choices. Hammer Time is a large reason for the rise in playability of Kolaghan’s Command, as it will almost always get two permanents for three mana. Being an instant is absolutely huge in the Hammer Time and Lurrus match-ups — you get to pick off a Colossus Hammer in combat, or Raise Dead a creature on the end step to dodge any discard spells your opponent may be holding. I like having two or more copies in the 75 right now; it’s generally strong, and it plays very well with Snapcaster Mage.
Flusterstorm was a Legacy-only card for a while, even after it was printed into Modern with Modern Horizons. Now, Flusterstorm is found in most blue sideboards because it can cleanly answer Crashing Footfalls and Living End for one mana. Force of Negation is relatively popular right now, and Flusterstorm gets to sidestep it with relative ease. It’s also just a solid card in blue mirrors where you may expect to fight counterspell wars over a key spell, as it’s one of the only cards that can efficiently counter multiple spells. As long as Cascade decks are popular, I imagine that we’ll continue to see Flusterstorm show up in Lurrus sideboards.
Lavinia may not have been on your list of sideboard cards to try, but she’s a powerful option against opponents trying to cascade, evoke Elementals, or just play Green Tron. It’s fairly difficult to find a card that works in all of these match-ups, and she can provide pressure to boot. I don’t mind that she can be targeted by removal spells, because you can just pick her back up with Kolaghan’s Command, Unearth, and Lurrus. While I doubt that Lavinia will be a sideboard card we see all the time, I do think she is quite solid for the time being.
Wear // Tear is here mostly thanks to Hammer Time. Being able to kill Colossus Hammer and Sigarda’s Aid at instant speed with a single card is huge. It’s also worth noting that Wear // Tear is quite the blowout against Urza’s Saga. You can wait for your opponent to spend their turn making a Construct and then fuse Wear // Tear to kill both the Urza’s Saga and the Construct. Killing a creature, Stone Raining your opponent, and wasting one of their turns is quite the haul for three mana. Wear // Tear also plays well against Amulet Titan, where it has the same interaction against Urza’s Saga, but also can tag an Amulet of Vigor and a Dryad of the Ilysian Grove.
Kaya’s Guile is an underrated all-star right now. An edict to handle larger creatures such as Murktide Regent is already possibly playable, but exiling the graveyard to prevent any follow-ups is quite good. Gaining four life and making your opponent sacrifice a creature during combat is incredibly good against any of the aggressive starts in Modern. While the ability to make a 1/1 flyer isn’t a popular choice, you can’t discount it; that damage can add up in longer games, and you can even make one in response to your opponent’s Kaya’s Guile so you don’t have to sacrifice your best creature! Because Kaya’s Guile makes the opponent sacrifice a creature before exiling the graveyard, it cleanly answers Kroxa, which is traditionally a strong card against opposing midrange decks. Modern has enough graveyard synergies that having main deck graveyard hate attached to the rest of a card is powerful (it’s what makes cards like Dauthi Voidwalker good, after all).
These cards make up the current sideboard of my Grixis Death’s Shadow and Four-Color Lurrus decks, but I wanted to touch on a couple more options that just missed the cut.
Torpor Orb hasn’t seen a lot of play since Humans was the best deck a couple years ago, but it’s your best bet if you’re looking for a way to shut off Elementals. I chose not to include it because it’s just a bit too narrow, and it competes with Dress Down for a spot in a similar swath of match-ups.
Blood Moon isn’t the best choice for either Grixis Death’s Shadow or Four-Color Lurrus, but I have seen Rakdos Lurrus play it fairly easily. I’ve also seen Grixis and Mardu Lurrus make some changes to their mana bases to be able to accommodate the powerful enchantment. It can shut down Elementals and Amulet Titan, and it will get you some extra points in the Tron and Eldrazi Tron match-ups.
Void Mirror is good against Cascade decks and Tron — and about nothing else. However, it’s so valuable against both of those decks that you can certainly make room for it if you want to target them. If you’re looking to play Void Mirror, I’d cut Flusterstorm, Lavinia, or Drown in the Loch. While all those options are more versatile, I wouldn’t fault someone for wanting to take a more surgical approach.
The current Modern metagame has a good bit of room for innovation right now. Cards that haven’t seen a ton of play, like Dress Down and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, are starting to show up in greater numbers. What is your favorite sideboard card in Modern right now? Be sure to let me know on Twitter at @Rappaciousone! Until next week, keep innovating and stay safe.
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.