Miracles, Sneak and Show and the like... the meta I used to play in surely has evolved. While Cockatrice initiated me to some of these match-ups, I wasn't prepared to face friends around a kitchen table with their brand new weapons. Armed with my dusty paper TES deck, with an admittedly outdated sideboard, I struggled to give them any kind of challenge. I also forgot how much it was rewarding to play for improvement instead of winnings. Playing with friends really allowed me to slow the game down, think and theory craft about certain plays occurring live. I missed that so much! I sincerely hope all of those reading, have your own play test group and ask question around the table. If that happens and leaves you with related TES questions, you can always submit a comment below so our own Infernal Tutors can answer them in a future article!
Here are some situations recreated on Cockatrice and that had us arguing for hours in the night.
Stay tuned and enjoy!
For these situations, I used what I had in my deck box at the moment. You'll notice a good amount of artifact hate, those who read my previous series will understand why. However, it seems the meta shifted a lot, thus this should be reworked soon.
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 2 Duress
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Ad Nauseam
Situation #1 - Miracles
Game 3, on the play, against Miracles. This is one of the hardest decision I've had to make yet as a Magic player, despite the match being just for fun.
My first hand is Rite of Flame, Polluted Delta, Infernal Tutor, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish, Abrupt Decay, Cabal Therapy. This seems unkeepable and I shuffle down to six cards: Gitaxian Probe, Bloodstained Mire, Cabal Therapy, Lion's Eye Diamond, Abrupt Decay, Xantid Swarm. While not optimal, it feels much better, as I can play while searching for business – instead of hoping for a land and more rituals.
I start thinking about the possibilities as I lay down my land. If I take Sensei's Divining Top with Cabal Therapy, Xantid Swarm loses some utility by not having to prevent the top deck draw or will most likely die anyway. If I take the Counterbalance, Abrupt Decay becomes a dead card in my hand, but again I have a Brainstorm. If I take Electrikery, I will most likely lose Xantid Swarm to Force of Will and let my opponent resolves his full combo of Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance. If I take the Force of Will out, I will lose Xantid Swarm to Electrikery before I can use it.
Yet to play anything, we need our only land to sacrifice a color from a card in our hand: either we go without blue, so no Brainstorm, or without green, for no Abrupt Decay and Xantid Swarm. Do you play anything on that turn and if so, what land do you search for?
I would search for Bayou and then cast Cabal Therapy naming Sensei's Divining Top. This is going to be a long game where you need to sculpt a hand, you can't afford to let them pick the best card every turn. On the following turn I would cast Xantid Swarm, this leaves the opponent with two options.
- Hope you're stupid and don't flashback Cabal Therapy allowing their removal to turn live.
- Force of Will removing Vendilion Clique to protect their Counterbalance (from flashback Cabal Therapy).
If they take the second option, you already have Abrupt Decay and are back in the game. Games like this are all about navigation and game plans, seeing turns ahead rather than the short-term.
Situation #2: Shardless BUG
The introduction touched the subject of stopping a game state and wonder ''what would happen if...?''. I hope you like to theory craft, because this situation is all about it. Below is the board state:
We have Burning Wish, Infernal Tutor, Lion's Eye Diamond, a pair of Lotus Petal and a pair of Dark Ritual in hand. There's also an Underground Sea and a Volcanic Island on the field untapped. Our opponent is at 18 life.
The actual game was rather easy to win with a tutor chain because the Force of Will couldn't be cast due to a lack of blue cards and I didn't fear the Deathrite Shaman as it was summoning sicknesss. But what if?
What would be the best winning sequence to play...
This is a good example on why you should run discard effects in your sideboard: a simple Burning Wish into discard would make things much easier. In any case, I would start my playing the pairs of Lotus Petal and Dark Ritual from the Underground Sea.
Since I'm not going to Ad Nauseam or use Past in Flames, both hypothetical scenario will end the same way. After the Lotus Petal and Dark Ritual, I would play Burning Wish (using one floating black and Volcanic Island). Storm would be 5, with 4 black mana floating and two Lotus Petal in play. At that point, if at any time the opponent counters anything else than Tendrils of Agony, we would have lethal.
I see it this way: if Burning Wish is countered, there's still enough mana with Lion's Eye Diamond to cast Infernal Tutor for Burning Wish, Tendrils of Agony, for 10 Storm. If Burning Wish resolves and then we try an Infernal Tutor that gets countered, we get a free Storm counter. Our Tendrils would hit for 20. However, if Infernal Tutor resolves after the resolved Burning Wish (Storm 6) and we search for Lion's Eye Diamond, play both (Storm 7 and 8), then Tendrils of Agony at Storm 9, if the opponent counters a copy, they drop at 1 or 2 life, depending on how the Force of Will was paid.
For this reason, I would most likely use Burning Wish to grab Empty the Warrens would it resolve. Then, I would play the Infernal Tutor, Lion's Eye Diamond for Storm counters and hope my opponent doesn't find a mass removal: I totally believe I could race the Deathrite Shaman and Shardless Agent. Despite its vulnerability, I believe the Empty the Warrens plan (when going for 18 or 20 goblins) is still better than searching empty handed for anything when our opponent is at 1 or 2 life.
Situation #3: Sneak and Show
Time is running out! Playing against Sneak and Show, I managed to keep the opponent on their toes, but not for long: they're only missing a creature to cheat into play via a resolved Sneak Attack and they're now playing in top deck mode.
I was deceived when I played this hand the first time. Again, with no discard spells in the sideboard, it's impossible to remove Force of Will before casting Ad Nauseam from hand. I couldn't manage to save enough mana for two expensive spells in everything I tried. That means we rely on the opponent to counter Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish before. As stated previously, I would rather not play a line that requires my opponent to my a mistake, but as far as I can see in this case it's that or die next turn.
I would put back Chrome Mox and Infernal Tutor on top, cast both Lotus Petal, both Dark Ritual, Burning Wish and hope it get countered, then Ad Nauseam. If Burning Wish resolves, I would get Past in Flames as a default option; I don't think it would help at all.
I'm actually a little disappointed in how you tapped your lands here. There was no reason to use Underground Sea.
The best play is to probably put back Infernal Tutor and Chrome Mox. But now you're forced to use a Lotus Petal to cast Dark Ritual, which makes it a more appealing Force of Will target - buying the opponent more time. If both copies of Dark Ritual resolve, play the pair of Lotus Petal and then follow up with Burning Wish with the last card in your hand being Ad Nauseam. They'll likely counter the Burning Wish because you don't have enough mana to do anything statistically other than have the random Ad Nauseam. If Burning Wish resolves, I would grab Past in Flames - but we're hoping it doesn't. Then to follow up with Ad Nauseam, it would take some bluffing in person - which is something you really lose out on online.
Thanks again for your viewership!