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Nether Void Primer
By Oscar Tan aka Rakso
NETHER VOID PRIMER by Matt D'Avanzo
Matt on www.bdominia.com
December 28, 2000
(edited by Oscar Tan aka Rakso, Type I Maintainer, www.bdominia.com)

Originally known as the O¡¦Brien Deck (after it¡¦s creator Sean O¡¦Brien), Nether Void was one of the most brutal decks of the early days of Magic and (after such the creation of Type II) Type I.


NETHER VOID
Cost: 3B
Color: Black
Rarity: Rare
Type: Enchant World
Set: Legends

Card Text: All spells cast are countered unless their casters pay an additional 3.

Errata: Whenever a player plays a spell, counter it unless its controller pays {3}. [Oracle 99/09/03]

Flavor Text: These days, some wizards are finding that they have a little too much spell left at the end of their mana.

Rulings:
„h This is not an additional play cost, it is a triggered ability (see Rule A.4). [Duelist Magazine #9, Page 60]
„h The countering effect does not take place until after Nether Void resolves and is in play. It does not affect its own casting or any casting in the same spell stack. [D'Angelo 95/12/09]
„h Cannot counter mana abilities since they resolve completely before this effect can trigger. [D'Angelo 00/03/03]
„h Note - Also see Enchant World, Rule K.12.10.

Artist: Harold McNeill
Released: 6/1994


Centered around this powerful Enchant World, the deck used a modest amount of true landkill (usually just Sinkholes), Strip Mine and Wastelands as ¡¥free¡¦ land destruction under the Void, and Mishra¡¦s Factories as free creatures.

The original method of death-dealing however was the then unrestricted Black Vise, as it is hard to empty one¡¦s hand of spells that suddenly cost 3 more while your land is being Stripped/Sinkholed away.

Failing that, a Juzam or pump knight would serve beats and kill you in 4 turns. Either of those creatures is tough to deal with for certain decks by themselves (one can¡¦t burn Juzam and can¡¦t Plow pump knights), but under a Nether Void they are nearly impossible to get rid of in time. Nether Void, while often a control or lock card, is not unlike casting Armageddon to seal the momentum of an aggressive white weenie deck after it lays a horde of 2/2s.

One of the more interesting things about it is that while the deck splashed blue for the power, it did not rely on them at all and was mostly mono-black. While this may not seem particularly daring to people who have lived through years of Necro decks, various Type II Hatred and Suicide Black decks, and tutor-based control black decks, being mono-black was something of an oddity amongst tier one decks in Type I¡¦s earliest days.

Below is a Sean O¡¦Brien Nether Void decklist, post-Ice Age and before Black Vise was restricted. Note that half the deck is mana.

THE O¡¦BRIEN DECK, POST ICE-AGE

Mana denial (12)
4 Sinkholes
4 Icequakes
4 Nether Void

Damage sources (12)
4 Black Vise
4 Juzam Djinn
4 Order of the Ebon Hand

Others (5)
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Underworld Dreams
1 Ancestrall Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Timetwister

Mana (32)
4 Dark Ritual
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Black Lotus
4 Strip Mine
4 Mishra's Factories
8 Swamp
4 Underground Sea
4 Underground River

The sideboard included Gloom and Mana Crypt, and the anti-Moat tech of Flying Carpet!

The restriction of the Vise made way for the use of Necropotence as a broken card drawing engine (and not just in Nether Void). Hypnotic Specters also made it into the deck as replacement damage sources for the mighty Vise.

Keep in mind that few things in magic are as nasty as a Hyppie under a Void. You stare at the Plow in your hands, then at the Nether Void, and finally in dismay at your two mana on the board. Little by little the Hyppie eats away your hand until finally he snags the plowshare a turn or two before you would have had the critical four mana to cast it.

Here is one such version of the O¡¦Brien Deck after the restriction of Black Vise:

DEATH IN THE VOID, (THE O'BRIEN DECK, POST-MIRAGE)

Mana Denial (13)
4 Sinkhole
4 Icequake
1 Choking Sands
4 Nether Void

Damage Sources (11)
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
3 Hypnotic Specter
4 Juzam Djinn

Others (5)
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
2 Necropotence

Mana (32)
4 Dark Ritual
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
8 Swamps
4 Underground Sea
4 Underground River
4 Strip Mine
4 Mishra's Factory

Sideboard (15)
4 Paralyze
1 Arena
2 Gloom
4 Dystopia
1 Serrated Arrow
1 Underworld Dreams
2 Hurkyl's Recall

Hurkyl¡¦s Recall was the best answer a blue/black deck had to mana artifacts. The idea was to Hurkyl during their end step and then drop Void next turn. Moxen, Mana Crypts, etc. aren¡¦t nearly as broken when they cost three. Arena was used with Juzam as creature-control.


The is the most modern version of Sean O¡¦Brien¡¦s deck I could find. It comes from Origins 1997, where it won several tournaments. Note the radical change of adding a third color to support Gorilla Shaman and Dwarven Miner!

THE O¡¦BRIEN DECK, ORIGINS 1997

Mana denial (14)
4 Sinkhole
4 Icequake
2 Choking Sands
4 Nether Void

Creatures (11)
4 Knights of Stromgald
4 Juzam Djinn
2 Gorilla Shaman
1 Dwarven Miner

Others (4)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Knowledge
1 Demonic Tutor

Mana (32)
4 Dark Ritual
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Black Lotus
4 (Winter) Mishra's Factory
4 Strip Mine
4 Underground Sea
4 Badland
2 City of Brass
5 Swamps

Sideboard (15)
4 Paralyze
4 Dystopia
3 Hymn to Tourach
2 Null Rod
2 Swamp

Sean O¡¦Brien commented on the inclusion of red to help deal with early mana artifacts (always a main weakness of Nether Void): "I truly believe the 4 Vise , 3 non-black spell version is the best one ever made ... It does lose out with the inclusion of a third color, why? Because it loses consistency and speed, Vises were fast and 2 colors (really almost one) were consistent."

When I built my Nether Void deck I kept those words in mind. Also, I never felt that splashing blue was worth it in the first place. For me, Ancestral is great only if you draw it (you aren¡¦t playing Keeper with 10 ways to find a card and reuse it) and Walk is just a nice cantrip. Timetwister will probably help your opponent more than you as it puts land back into their deck and refills their hand full of burn or counters.

Hippies were in the original version, but I eventually swapped them out for pump knights. Impossible to Plow or block with Mishra¡¦s factories, they acted like miniature Morphlings, cruising to victory in five turns against control decks that sat there wishing their Plowshares were any other card. (Speaking of Morphling, this deck forced a few control players to cast superman as a chump blocker!)

For a brief time, one was allowed to play 4 Wastelands and 4 Strip Mines in Type I. Had that policy continued, Nether Void would have certainly become the top deck in Type I. I would love to see Strip Mine and Vise become unrestricted for a few months and wreak havoc with a truly broken Nether Void deck.


(Rakso: Simply to demonstrate another route to abusing Nether Void, I would like to insert an example of a mono black Necropotence deck that also uses Sinkholes and Nether Void. These decks could use discard and land destruction to keep an opponent off balance while applying pressure for the win. Nether Void sealed an advantage caused by the cheap spells drawn through Necropotence, and further card drawing allowed even faster recovery, if needed.

The most famous such deck is that of Michael Long, played in the 1999 Magic Invitational in Kuala Lumpur. He used Necropotence in an attempt to disrupt the Type I Trix decks that made up most of the field, and played a similar deck with Chains of Mephistopheles and Nether Void in the preceding Invitational, which was dominated by Tolarian Academy-based combos. His 1998 Necrodeck lost in the finals to an Academy deck.

LONGPOTENCE, MIKE LONG
1999 Magic Invitational (Kuala Lumpur)

Disruption (15)
4 Duress
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Unmask
3 Sinkhole

Creatures (8)
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Phyrexian Negator

Others (11)
3 Necropotence
1 Demonic Tutor
4 Demonic Consultation
1 Yawgmoth's Will
2 Powder Keg

Mana (26)
4 Dark Ritual
1 Mox Jet
1 Black Lotus
15 Swamp
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland

Sideboard (15)
3 Glory Hound (Juzam Djinn, actually)
4 Contagion
2 Nevinyrral's Disk
2 Spinning Darkness
1 Sinkhole
1 Nether Void
1Vampiric Tutor
1 Necropotence

The Sinkhole in the sideboard was always sided in, by the way.)


BLACK PONZA BY MATT D¡¦AVANZO 1998-9
(Ponza is the nickname of mono red land destruction decks in the present Type II)

Mana Denial (14)
4 Sinkhole
4 Icequake
4 Rain of Tears
2 Nether Void

Damage sources (8)
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
4 Knight of Stromgald

Others (11)
4 Duress (were Hymns prior to Urza¡¦s block)
4 Powder Keg (were 3 Nev¡¦s Disks and a Black Vise previously)
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth¡¦s Wil1

Mana (27)
4 Dark Ritual
16 Swamp
1 Mox Jet
1 Black Lotus
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland

There are several key differences compared to Sean O¡¦Brien¡¦s deck. This is a much more aggressive deck that seeks to cast an early Knight and ride it to victory, while disrupting your opponent¡¦s man base and keeping them from dealing with it. There is a massive amount of landkill in the deck and the addition of Powder Kegs neutralized Moxen (thus, there was no need to add red for Shamans). The worst match-up for the early O¡¦Brien decks was any sort of fast creature rush, and Kegs help those match-ups as well.

The mana curve flowed better than earlier void decks. While Hymn to Tourach could snag land early, a turn one Duress meant my turn two Sinkhole, Keg or pump knight would go through. It could also be cast the same turn as Void to force it through counters.

I loved playing this deck in tournaments and playing turn one Ritual + Rain of Tears, turn two Sinkhole, turn three Icequake, then turn four Nether Void. Instead of hours of brain-burning control I often had people conceding in 8 turns or less.

It was also the easiest deck in the world to sideboard¡Xmost of the time two or three cards, if any, were all it needed. The most common question I was asked was, "Why no Necro?" Truth be told, I had thought a single Necro, or a pair, would have been good, but I had a Necro deck already and I wanted some variety. The only thing that really hurt it was an early Abyss, but even that could be solved by casting Nether Void (which removes The Abyss, as both are Enchant Worlds).


MINER SETBACK, MATT D¡¦AVANZO AND ERIC WILKINSON
October 2000, immediately before the restriction of Necropotence in Type I

Mana Denial and other disruption (14)
4 Sinkhole
3 Powder Keg
3 Nether Void
4 Duress

Creatures (10)
3 Gorilla Shaman
3 Dwarven Miner
4 Hypnotic Specter

Others (5)
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth¡¦s Will
1 Necropotence (restricted in November 2000)
1 Mind Twist

Mana (31)
4 Dark Ritual
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Lotus
4 Badlands
4 Sulfurous Springs
5 Swamps
2 City of Brass
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland
4 Rishadan Port

The above was developed during the last days of Type I Trix (it absolutely crushed that deck into ashes). My friend (and co-creator of the deck) needed a new deck as his Trix was facing impending doom on November first.

He had previously played Necro for years so he couldn't return home, thanks to the DCI's foolish choice to kill an entire archetype rather than restrict combo pieces. I reminded him of my Nether Void deck and how bad it could crush control and pointed out that Dwarven Miner, for most Type I decks, is a lock under Nether Void. The deck seemed just decent until I suggested adding Rishadan Ports for more ¡¥free¡¦ landkill under the void.

As Janky as the idea of Ports sounded in Type I the deck suddenly became a monster, tearing Trix limb from limb and able to give Keeper a decent headache (Eric did manage to beat Mike Pustilnik with the deck)¡XI kicked myself for not having thought of it when I was playing the deck regularly.

My friend and I had only one disagreement. I felt that the deck needed a pair of Icequakes, whereas he felt having Mind Twist was more important. (On a side note, when I first met Eric Wilkinson, he killed me with a B/G Nether Void deck with no Dark Rituals, but full of Ernhams, Juzams, Sinkholes, Icestorms, and the (then) newly-printed Creeping Mold.)


Below is the latest version of my Nether Void deck. When I need a break from playing Keeper, this is my first choice. Duress fit the curve too well to let go, but Hymn to Tourach came back in anyway. Cast in turns 1-3, they¡¦re basically Sinkholes with the possibility of killing two lands. The 3cc Necro critters came in for the pump knights, although Negator maybe get swapped out for Knights of Stromgald. It is such an advantage to look at an opponent¡¦s hand and take something nasty, leaving the Plowshares since you just don¡¦t care about it. Also Negators are only good as kill cards (oh, but what a kill card!) while the knights are excellent blockers, and this is a control deck at heart.

NULL AND VOID, MATT D¡¦AVANZO
December 2000

Mana denial and other disruption (19)
4 Sinkhole
3 Nether Void
4 Duress
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Powder Keg

Creatures (7)
4 Hypnotic Specter
3 Phyrexian Negator

Others (4)
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth¡¦s Will
1 Necropotence

Mana (29)
4 Ritual
1 Jet
1 Lotus
14 Swamps
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland
4 Rishadan Port

(Rakso: One thing that has to be mentioned when discussing the history of Nether Void decks is the effect of Sixth Edition rules. Nether Void does not prevent spells from entering play, it counters them when they are played unless 3 mana is paid by the controller. The interaction of Nether Void and Dark Ritual changed several times. Originally, it was an interrupt, and useless under Nether Void because one had to pay the 3 mana. Then, Dark Ritual was reclassified as a mana source, which could not be countered, and thus generated 3 mana under Nether Void. After Sixth Edition, it was reclassified as an Instant, and is again useless under the Void.

Also note that because of the specific wording of Nether Void, spells that say they cannot be countered are unaffected by it. The most prominent example, at present, is the well-hyped Urza¡¦s Rage from Invasion.)


GENERAL DECK-BUILDING NOTES: MANA BASE

Although adding red for utility or blue for power is certainly acceptable, I feel Nether Void functions best as a mono-black deck--either the more controlling version I have now or the aggressive pump knight deck further up. A less-acceptable, but interesting idea is using green¡¦s uncounterable creatures, like Scragnoth, Kavu Chameleon and Blurred Mongoose, which can be cast normally under Void.

Mono-black¡¦s greater consistency increases the possibilities of a nasty play on turn one via Dark Ritual and prevents mana-color screw induced by opposing Wastelands. There is nothing more embarrassing than a mana-denial deck getting land-screwed by a few Wastelands, after all.

Understand that you have a very love-hate relationship with your deck's mana-base. All your spells are cheap and your creatures are often weenies, but you're running as many mana sources (at least 24-28) as the most mana hungry control decks because you need 6 mana to function effectively under the Void. The longer you wait to get to 6 mana, the easier it is for your opponent to slip out of the Nether Void lock.

The addition of other colors makes Wastelands better against you, and as you are only running 15 black producing lands (plus the Jet and the Lotus) as it is, the possibility of screwing you out of BB or BBB for key spells is there for any opponent running 4-5 Strip Mine/Wastelands. You always run the possibility of drawing too much land when you don¡¦t need it or too few when you do, but playing too many colors aggravates this problem and allows decks like Keeper to hurt you with Mox Monkeys and Wastelands.

You are also running 4 Dark Rituals which are totally dead cards once Nether Void hits; however, their early explosiveness (and synergy with the Yawgmoth's Will) is too valuable in this deck to let go. I have heard suggestions like running Unmasks to pitch them to under the Void (essentially turning Unmask into a Coercion), but I feel this is a grave mistake. Once Void hits, the game is over 90% of the time. You desperately need cards that help you while you are fighting to gain control, not cards that work better once you are already winning.

Finally, it must be emphasized that (with the exception of a deck like my 'Black Ponza') you need a minimum of 24 mana to even think about functioning under a Void¡X
26 is much more realistic. ('Black Ponza' was designed to do it's dirty work BEFORE the Void hit, and drop the Void like a White Weenie deck would a Geddon.)


GENERAL DECK-BUILDING NOTES: LAND DESTRUCTION

The amount of landkill also varies, depending on both your deck and what you expect to face. My current decklist (Null and Void) is heavily metagamed against control, Keeper in particular. Against other decks, more landkill is important, thus I pack 4 Iceqaukes in the sideboard. If I was going to play in an environent with less control, those Hymns would become Icequakes and Negators might be replaced by Knights of Stromgald.

Especially when you aren't running a huge ammount of landkill you need to be very choosy about what to include. Obviously the 2cc Sinkhole is the best by far, but the 3cc range provides more room to experiment. The first pick after Sinkhole is Icequake, which destroys any land but provides a tiny advantage in the rare event that it targets a snow-covered land. The third best pick, Rain of Tears, is practically identical to Icequake, and if my Icequakes weren't all lucky, I would run two of each to confuse players and make them think that I am running more landkill than I really am. (I heartily recommend Portal Rain of Tears, by the way, for their excellent artwork.)

The next pick, Choking Sands, is interesting, but is potentially a dead card against decks with mostly swamps or swamp dual lands (such as Pox). Since Nether Void decks are control decks, the 2 damage is not very significant. Anything 4cc (Befoul, Despoil) is totally unfit for a Nether Void deck as it will cost 7(!) post-Void.

No matter what the exact design of the Nether Void deck, the objective remains the same: disrupting your opponent's mana as badly as possible BEFORE the Void hits. Unless your opponent's mana base is seriously crippled, Nether Void will often help your opponent rather than hurt him. Knowing when to drop the Nether Void is almost like playing Keeper and deciding when it is the right time to cast Timetwister.


GENERAL DECK-BUILDING NOTES: OTHER SPELLS

Like Dark Ritual, Yawgmoth's Will is also unplayable under the Void. However, it is a huge mistake not to include it in a deck that consists of lots of mana and very cheap, disruptive spells. The Will is like Nether Void's Balance. If you are winning, it is a dead card, but so what¡Xyou're winning.

If you are losing though, one Yawgmoth's Will will turn the game in your favor by bringing back a horde of landkill, discard, Kegs, or (this is key) maybe a Void that didn't make it past counters. This is done by casting Dark Rituals in hand before the Will, then recasting all the Rituals and artifact mana in the graveyard. Even without Dark Ritual, though, Nether Void builds up mana fast, and recycling even a single disruption spell at the right moment can be key.

Even under Nether Void, you can still use your Yawgmoths' Will to bring back a Strip Mine or Wasteland. It may not be that exiting to people standing around watching, but it is highly effective as every destroyed land after Nether Void is in play will set your opponent back several turns. Finally, when constructing the deck, I consider Yawgmoth's Will to be my fourth Nether Void

Hypnotic Specters are no-brainers in the deck, but Negators could be replaced. Juzam is a possiblity, but I strongly feel that the most expensive spell in the deck should be Nether Void, just like a White Weenie deck doesn't play with any spells equal to or more expensive than Armageddon. Getting 7 mana is a pain, even with 26-28 lands (especially since your Wastes are basically used as more Sinkholes not for mana). Also, Juzam's drawback is often more serious than Negator against burn, because once Void hits, no more burn spells are flying around to endanger Negators (but beware of Urza¡¦s Rage). I have won many games at less then 4 life (Vampiric Tutoring for Void is often a good idea against Sligh and its much lower land count, even if you are at 3 life)¡Xin which case Juzam would have killed me. Negator is not your only creature option by far, but Juzam is certainly not a better replacement. I would choose both Pump Knights and Skittering Skirge over the mighty Djinn.

For similar reasons, I choose not to play with Mind Twist. It's too expensive to be worth it early on (barring a ridiculous draw), and by mid-game, either your opponent's hand has already been Duressed/Hymned/Hyppied away or Void has been cast, leaving you with a really expensive Specter's Wail in your hand.

Depending on your exact version Demonic Consultation may or may not be worth it. Personally, I don't like the card and look for excuses not to play it (I may be the all-time greatest Hymn-er, but am certainly the worst Consulter ever). "Black Ponza" could get away with it¡Xit's so redundant, but in a deck like "Null and Void" you might easily lose 2-3 Sinkholes during a Consult and cripple yourself.

(Rakso: Demonic Consultation can be used to set up plays from a second-turn Sinkhole or Hymn to Tourach to fetching Nether Void at the right moment. It is far more effective than any other tutor card because it is an instant and does not delete the next draw, unlike Vampiric Tutor. However, it is dangerous in decks with very few threats, and in decks like Matt¡¦s ¡§Null and Void¡¨, the land destruction spell can be considered kill cards.)

One card which does have possibilities for a Nether Void deck is Dust Bowl. However, a Nether Void control deck (as opposed to an aggro version) wants 26 lands and Ports are just better than Bowls. Ports work on basics and non-basics alike. With only 4 Sinkholes, mono-red and black will have an easier time with you, but Ports are Sinkholes 5-8. In an aggro deck you wouldn't care so much (because Void is already on the table with a creature), but in a deck designed to work under a Void, Dustbowl causes you to sac your own lands making your life more difficult, not just your opponent¡¦s. It's still not terrible, but Port can also tie up the opponent¡¦s mana, but can produce mana when needed to. Getting to 5 and 6 mana ASAP under the Void is crucial!

Playing the deck is fairly simple, but by no means brainless. The proper style of play depends largely on your opening draw and, to a slightly lesser degree, the deck you are facing and your exact deck construction. No matter what though, there can be no stalling with this deck¡Xif your opening hand isn't full of some type of aggressive disruption, I would mulligan as the first 5 turns are the most important by far. Just remember that for optimum results, in the maindeck and sideboard, include only cards that are cheaper than the Nether Void itself.


BUILDING YOUR SIDEBOARD

You will find that Nether Void, even in a difficult matchup, demands very little from the sideboard. Be happy, Nether Void has almost no bad matchups. Usually, 2-3 cards are all that will ever be exchanged. Most of the "good" decks (Keeper, Mono-U, Combo, etc.) already fear every card in your maindeck, so the majority of your deck should be dedicated to what hoses you.

Apparently the absolute worst matchup for you is anything green. Nether Void decks may give Keeper fits, but something as simple as Stompy will beat your head in game one unless you really play and draw well. Mana-producing creatures (Birds and Elves) frustrate your efforts at hurting their mana base, and a Quirion Ranger neutralizes every land destruction card you have.

You need to draw a Keg right away, blow it for one and then drop Void. If any higher-cc creature threats were dropped in the meantime (Boas, Trolls, etc.), you will have a big problem as the longer you leave Void in your hand, the higher chance that more mana creatures will hit the table. Engineered Plague solves this problem wonderfully and I highly recommend running three in your sideboard.

Again, this may sound janky as hell in Type I (may I point to the Flying Carpets in Sean O'Brien's sideboard?), but it wins an otherwise barely winnable match-up for you. Plus you'll be converted when you find how many other matchups it sneaks it's way into. It's a great card against Sligh (Hounds, Goblins, Ball Lightning) and shuts down all of White Weenie's best creatures (Clerics, which includes Mother of Runes, Order of Leitbur, Soul Warden, Soltari Priest and Soltari Monk). Engineered Plague is a great source of card advantage as every time the opponent draws an Elf, Cleric or whatever you named, it's like you drawing an extra card.

Woe unto you who leaves this out of your sideboard¡Xyou will lose to stupid little kid's decks and watch your Type I rating plummet. A tuned version Nether Void beats good Type I decks, but bad decks can be a problem. Finally, if you play with one set of pump knights, be sure to run Knight of Stromgald over Order of the Ebon Hand as you want to be able to name Clerics versus White Weenie and not hose yourself. (Just hope you won't run into the one weirdo stuck in the Mirage block with four knight-killing Knights of the Mist in his sideboard...)

Additional creature elimination is a good idea. Edicts, which happen to kill Morphlings, are very good in this deck, but you really don't have any room to side them in versus control (the deck is perfect as is and you might be forced to side 2 Dystopia depending on what they put in), so base your choice on whether to run them as if Morphling didn't exist. Contagions and Spinning Darkness are both good depending on what is more prevalent in your area. With the latter, if you do not expect a lot of black creatures, the fact that you can blow up a land and kill something on the same turn early on is invaluable as each time you stop disrupting to deal with a threat you open up the door for something nasty to happen. Finally, the forgotten card of older mana denial decks, Paralyze, is a black Swords to Plowshares in a Nether Void deck running more than 4 true land kill spells.

Perish and Massacre (free is good in this deck!) are possibilities, but I chose to run 3 Dystopia instead as it kills nasty anti-black enchantments as well as Moat and the evil, evil Sacred Ground and even more evil Land Tax.

Unless your maindeck packs a full complement of landkill, be sure to put 4 Icequakes or Rain of Tears in the side for decks packing basic land (Sligh, etc.). Note that landkill is generally nastier than discard against non-control decks.

This is my current sideboard:

4 Icequake
3 Dystopia
3 Engineered Plague (the Type I Rating Protector)
3 Contagion
2 Spinning Darkness


GENERAL PLAYING NOTES
In a vacuum, it is most effective to alternate between killing the opponent's land and hand (starting with the hand). However, Hymn to Tourach, if you draw any, should be cast as fast and as often as possible as this will increase the chances of snagging lands before they empty their hand.

While there is nothing wrong with going Ritual/Hyppie or Ritual/Negator and then covering it with a barrage of Duresses and Sinkholes, you are essentially playing a control deck and openings like that, while potent are very uncharacteristic¡Xnot unlike a Keeper player dropping Morphling on turn 1-2. It happens sometimes, but overall you'd prefer to have a less dramatic, but rock-solid hand instead (an ideal hand might look like Duress, Sinkhole, 2 Swamps, a Wasteland, a Keg, and a Hymn). However no two draws are alike, and sometimes you'll draw a handful of discard or a handful of landkill instead of a mix, which is not usually a problem assuming the other shows up relatively soon.

The general guide to playing various match-ups with a Nether Void deck is that you have an excellent chance against any deck unless your opponent draws an extremely explosive opening hand. Explosive openings are entirely possible in Type I, but I don¡¦t think you can ask for much more out of a deck that basically promises you victory unless your opponent can come up with something reasonably broken. Besides you can always do something broken in return.


VERSUS SLIGH/BURN
Game one is a fairly even matchup, and depending on your decks' construction it can be slanted either way. If you have more landkill than four sinkholes in the maindeck, you ought to win easily. Otherwise, you will need to play with a bit more thought¡Xstill the match-up is about 60% in your favor (not bad for a deck maindecking Negators). Try and use your discard as fast as possible, even if you ignore their land for a turn longer than usual, as their hands run out and will turn them into dead cards. Ideally you can leave them top-decking with an empty hand while you blow up their lands in the turns to come with a buffer of 14 life or so.

There is nothing wrong with tutoring for a Sinkhole in this matchup, especially if you have a Nether Void in your hand. Often these decks run very light on land so a few lands killed or ripped out via Hymn will render them helpless under a Void. You can also use your Wastelands to kill theirs as keeping them under 4 mana (the price for a Bolt or Jackal Pup under a void) is critical. Sometimes, the mono-red player will be foolish enough to help you by responding to a Sinkhole with a Fireblast.

Kegs kill Cursed Scrolls and 2/1 critters. This is important since Cursed Scroll can still beat you under Nether Void. Most burn players (it's not called "Stupid Red Burn" without reason) don't realize that they can just cast their burns spells as normal and let them be countered to empty their hand, setting up Cursed Scroll.

Of course, you don't exactly have to point this out to opponents. The first time I play Nether Void (even if I know they know what it does) in a game, I usually say, "All spells cost 3 more or are countered now". If they can't figure out what to do from there, that's not my fault¡XI'm not going to teach them how to play their deck. So it's not Nether Void that stops the Scroll, it's your Landkill (which keep them away from three mana) and Ports (which clog the hand, but can still be responded to by floating mana). Do not be afraid to take a little early damage, or do something like Vampiric Tutoring down to Bolt range (hopefully discard took care of any Fireblasts) for Void because as soon as it hits, barring something awful and unusual, will put you in total control.

In game two, things get really bad for the red player. You side in more basic landkill (Rain of Tears or Icequake) for Duress. This does mess with your curve a little, but Hymn is just better in this matchup unless they play with Guerilla Tactics (ouch!). Depending on the amount of creatures in the opposing deck, you may want to side in 2-4 Contagions or (even better) Spinning Darkeness. The Necro and one Negator can also be sided out. Removing one wasteland would not be bad either. With 4 Icequakes or Rain of Tears added to your Sinkholes and Hymns your Nether Void might as well be an Ivory Mask for all the amount of burn they'll be casting. Be sure to (playfully) taunt them as Phyrexian Negator smashes them despite their hand full of Bolts.


TELETUBBIES
Admittedly, a turn one 4/4 or 5/3 could present a problem, but no one by my parts plays this deck. You do pack more discard than they do, and they only have 8 blue sources¡Xall non-basic! Be as disruptive as possible and at the first opportunity, play a free Keg (that is, one that isn't needed right away to kill moxen or a threat ) and get it up to 4 counters. The next game, you have Contagions and/or Edicts to help out so don't fret too much.


VERSUS MONO-U
Pretend you're playing Suicide Black and just go kick their head in. Rip apart their hand, and use your Sinkholes on turns 1-4 as Timewalks. Kill cards may be dropped earlier than normal without fear of Swords/Bolts/etc. Try and drop an early Keg and leave it at 5 counters in case superman shows up via top-decked Lotus. If they play with Ophidians leave it at 3 counters as you will still have plenty of time to get the keg up to 5 for Morphling. Basic landkill or Edicts may be sided in if you so desire. Barring the dreaded early Morphling, finish your match in six minutes, shake their hand, and go grab some food and drink before your next match.


VERSUS ZOO
If your opponent is playing a fatty-based version (big Djinns and such) you will, unless he gets a broken start (like a turn one monster), wreck him horribly. If this is the weenie-based version (2/1s and 2/3s) it will be a battle, although I still give the edge to Nether Void. In favor of the Zoo deck, all his spells cost very little mana, he can kill you in four turns, and will dump or refill his hand like lightning thus partially negating the effects of your discard.

On the other hand, all his lands will be Wasteland-able, all his critters are bait for Powder Keg, and, once Void hits, you no longer need to fear burn (unless it is from an active Stormbind). Often, the first game will come down to whether you draw Powder Keg or not in time. After game one, creature control comes in for some or all of the discard (Duress goes first) and you ought to win. Like with mono-red, creatures are usually played after the void hits. Finally, be sure to side out the Necro.


VERSUS WHITE WEENIE AND STOMPY
White Weenie and Stompy can present some problems game one. Once again, it comes down to Powder Keg as, at one counter for Stompy or two for WW, it will wipe the board clean. The biggest problems in this matchup are the large amount of basic lands and the possibility of Quirion Rangers or mana-producing critters that negate your landkill. Land Tax is a nightmare¡Xhope the WW deck isn¡¦t playing it.

After praying for a timely tutor or Powder Keg in game one, add in basic landkill and creature control. Dystopia should come in to negate Land Tax and nasty sideboard surprises (Compost or Sacred Ground), but the most important card in this match-up is Engineered Plague.


VERSUS KEEPER
Get ready for the battle of the century. Recently Keeper has added a few cards to its arsenal that you fear¡Xparticularly Teferi¡¦s Response and Misdirection. An early Duress is crucial in this matchup, preventing either of those cards from wrecking a game you otherwise should have won. Powder Kegs are also crucial for destroying moxen and your arsenal of uncounterable landkill (Wastes, Ports, Strip) must be used with the intention of forcing a window to safely cast Hymn to Tourach or Sinkhole (which will in turn open the door for creatures or a Void). You cannot afford to have a Sinkhole countered 1-for-1 early on.

In the early game, something disruptive must happen to your opponent every turn. If I see UU untapped and I have no reason to suspect his hand is devoid of counterspells, discard is a better option. My general rule is to cast sinkhole as soon as UU is not available (either due to previous landkill or them tapping mana) or I am reasonably sure they have no counters left.

The idea of not Hymning Control may seem like heresy, but take this scenerio: You Duress your opponent taking a Force of Will on turn one leaving him with U-producing lands, 2 Mana Drains, and a Timetwister. On his turn he lays a U-producing land. Now you lay swamp number two and can either Hymn or Sinkhole him. Sinkhole is a better play, because unless you Hymn like me you won't nail both counters in his hand, which means that next disruptive spell will be countered. If you Sinkhole he'll still be stuck at one blue next turn allowing you to Hymn him then (or do anything else you feel like doing). On the off chance your oppoenent drew a Force of Will as the one card since you Duressed him no big deal--think of it as a very good Hymn since you killed a Force of Will and a Manadrain or Twister (all cards you're happy to see go). (Of course, a Misdirection on the Hymn is not pleasant at all.)

The Nether Void player MUST understand that they are not playing Necro or Pox, despite sharing many of the same cards. In those decks landkill slows down the opponent long enough for Hymn and other discard to be more effective. In Nether Void, it is the reverse¡Xdiscard is there to clear the way for landkill. If you don't mess up their mana base your key card, the Void, is useless. Likewise, Sinkhole is great when the opponent has 3 lands in play or less, but if he has 6 by the time you get one through it's a negligible effect.

Hypnotic Specter under Nether Void is god in this matchup, as he will eat away all of Keeper¡¦s game altering cards (Balance, Timetwister, etc.) before they get the three extra mana to use them. If you see a window of opportunity to cast a creature, you¡¦d much rather lay Hyppie than Negator in this matchup as the Specter will ensure that all your future attempts at killing their lands and hands will go through.

Abyss can stop all your creatures, but stay calm and continue to disrupt their mana and hand so you can eventually drop the Void which (due to the Enchant World rules) will clear away that hated card. Other than an Abyss, an early Morphling or Misdirection on Hymn to Tourach is all you fear. Nearly every card in your deck is scary for control, and they know it. Even if they manage to get off a Timetwister, you can still draw into Duress and Hymn and wreck their hand again.

Game two is nearly the same. Dystopia can come in if you think Keeper might have sided in Sacred Ground, COP: Black, and similar cards. Moat, due to Hyppies and the fact it is difficult to get WW versus this deck, is less of a concern. Edicts can also come in to deal with Morphling. Eric Wilkinson (co-creator of ¡¥Miner Setback¡¦) likes to have answers to early supermen, whereas I feel the maindeck is about as good as it gets versus Keeper and anything sided out for an Edict makes it weaker and less disruptive (thus increasing the chances of superman being cast effectively).

I feel that, with the loss of Necro, Nether Void is the best anti-Keeper deck possible. The fact that it will be only 50-50 or 60-40 (depending on the exact construction of your deck and his) is not an indication of Nether Void¡¦s weakness as an anti-control deck, but a testament to how strong control is in Type I. This matchup will be a test of skill for both players, with the Nether Void player needing to know how to force through the mana-disruption spells with discard.

Generally I would consider it a good time to drop Nether Void if they have 2 mana (so they can¡¦t cast Force of Will, Misdirection, or Moxen) or less and you have at least 4 (hoping to draw the crucial fifth and sixth lands soon). If you¡¦ve been wasting their land and you know they¡¦re land-screwed (as they¡¦ve been missing land drops) I would not hesitate to Ritual a Void out with 2 mana on the table--especially if I had a couple of more lands in hand, the opponent¡¦s hand is decimated, or if one of my lands is Port. Once again the proper use of Wastes/Ports is key, manipulating their mana supply so you can cast Sinkhole and Hymn.

VERSUS MONO-BLACK (SUICIDE BLACK / NECRO / NETHER VOID)
This is the most luck-based matchup. Mono-Black is a little scary as the presence of Dark Ritual allows them to do nasty stuff off even one land if they get lucky, and a discard-filled start can ruin your day. Kegs can be left at three to lie in wait for Hyppies and Negators, but if they get one out (especially on turn one) you are going to have massive problems. Against black, pray for turn one Duress to snag whatever discard is going to strip your hand. Try and get the first landkill spell in. Ports are really good as black has few instants to cast during its upkeep worthy of note.

Remember, if you can, alternate your hand and landkill. Hopefully, this will keep them off balance enough for you to drop Void or a game-ender. And, if Void is out, be sure to watch the opponent¡¦s face as he draws¡Xif he looks really pissed off after drawing his card don¡¦t Duress him then because he probably just drew a Dark Ritual.

Hopefully, you included some Contagions or Diabolic Edicts in your sideboard for game two. Siding in your basic landkill is also not a bad idea, although not quite necessary. I would remove some or all of the Kegs (too slow), a Wasteland, and one Negator for a mix of Edicts, Contagion and Icequakes, thus conceding the beatdown role and attempting to play control. If the deck you are playing against has an exceptional amount of creatures (Suicide Black), you will need to side in more creature control and less landkill. After the first three turns (when discard is most effective), I would treat this match-up as I would any other aggro deck like Stompy. Kill their threats, blow up their lands, and go for Nether Void lock as usual.

Remeber to play the match-up from the perspective of the control deck, not the beatdown, but if you can get away with a fast Negator while they have no creatures and then drop Void right after, do it. They'll never recover in time.


COMBO
Having played Nether Void against pre-restriction Trix and Pros-Bloom, I have a very high opinion of the deck¡¦s chances versus combo, especially if you play with 4 Ports. If you can get Nether Void into play versus a combo deck, they should concede as they¡¦ll never have enough mana to play it out.

Combo is the one deck style where it makes sense to throw down a Nether Void, even if their mana base isn¡¦t totally ruined. Note that most combo decks: A) rely on Moxen and other fast mana, which now cost 3 to play; and B) run just enough mana to play and protect their combo. Suddenly adding 3 mana to each combo piece slows them down tremendously.

By then, you ought to have your mana base stabilized and be ready to hurt them with discard and landkill. I've never played versus 21 and some of the other combo decks, so I can't say for sure, but I'm definitely not impressed by the new, post-restriction Trix.

If some nasty combo is big in your area, I recommmend siding in 4 Unmasks. That strategy served me well during Necro-Donate's hey-day.


CONCLUSION
In summary, Nether Void is relatively cheap to build, fairly easy to play, yet highly effective versus every major deck archetype. Most importantly, it is a very fun (for you that is, your opponent tends to get bored fast without mana) deck style to play.

I would feel extremely comfortable taking this to a large Type I tournament with a large spectrum of decks knowing that I have a 60% or greater chance of winning against almost any deck without even sideboarding. Yes, an early Abyss can still hurt and I suppose there are more answers to the Nether Void Deck being printed with each set (Sacred Ground, Teferi's Response, Seal of Cleansing, etc.), but in the words of Sean O¡¦Brien:

"People often ask what I do about Moat? And what do I do about ...[insert annoying spell here]. The answer is usually, they won't have enough mana to cast [whatever]."

Read More Articles by Oscar Tan aka Rakso!

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