TES Infernal Tutoring # 9


Welcome back to the Infernal Tutoring series!

This edition should show a major shift in my attempted learning process. As such, we'll start this article with some (minimal) applied logic.

To contextualize, with all the talks and discussions around our favorite deck, I couldn't help but notice that I as a player had been stagnant for quite a while. My win rate on Cockatrice had never been so low and my confidence in my plays (note: not in the deck) decreased over the past few weeks.

As much as I love seeing everyone's progress (with the help of this series, I hope!), I felt like it was time for me to step it up. This might be a problem shared by some of you, which is why I'm breaking it down here – how do you progress when you hit a wall?

Despite the quality content, I couldn't relate to what was presented. The experience was too pleasant to be anywhere close playing a TES game on my own. From a spectator perspective, reading reports or watching streams, it was much easier to read the lines properly or even predict a few moves ahead. While playing online, I would face my hand and phase out, staring blankly at the cards while unable to think. Nothing I would do would feel as smooth as watching a stream or read a playline. Does that feel familiar to you?

You might be trying to apply a solution for a problem that isn't yours, hence a lack of results.

In concrete terms, the disappointment caused by the lack of progress in my TES gameplay got me thinking about what I was doing wrong. After some harsh hours, I realized I wasn't asking myself the correct question.

I assumed I was doing poorly with TES because I lacked experience and knowledge with the deck. To fix that, I watched more matches and read more posts. It didn't feel that helpful and it showed no results. The absence of progress made me lose confidence and got me questioning things I shouldn't have been, thus wasting my time and lowering my morale for no reason.

The tricky part

I misjudged what the issue was. What I believed to be a lack of knowledge and experience is in fact an inability to replicate that knowledge and experience in a proper game. And thus, I could stop complaining about why I wouldn't learn a thing – I was learning, I just wasn't applying what I learned in games.

I was really trying to improve as I told myself I didn't know what to do when facing cards, I believe it was the best option to be ''honest'' with myself and admit I didn't know anything. That reasoning was giving me an objective for the next time and it that sense I could improve; I stood with a false premise. From this point on, I'm trying to tell myself "you typically know what to do in a given situation, what do you have in front of you and what can you work with?". The difference is HUGE! The workarounds also aren't the same.

But where to go from there?

I'll be honest: I don't have a miracle solution to process all that knowledge at once. However, I now know better what to seek in the games and what to fight against. A good example of that is, for instance, the deck list. Because my goal for this week wasn't to crush a particular meta but to have games that would feel closer to what we can catch of stream, I just picked the most recent TES deck list and went with it. Not only did it deliverer in wins, it also helped me building some trust back and put me on a winning streak.

Hopefully this will continue!

TL;DR It's nice to put effort in learning new things, but you also need to apply what you learn in your games, or else you won't win anything.

And thus, for this week, the latest version of The EPIC Storm was used from Bryant's most recent article.

Deck List

 

SITUATION #1 - Miracles, take 1

This is a warm-up game against Miracles. We won game 1 and sideboarded in the Abrupt Decay, Bayou, Surgical Extraction and Past in Flames for the Chrome Mox, Ponder and a Lotus Petal.

I kept a hand of Burning Wish, Volcanic Island, Gitaxian Probe, Lion's Eye Diamond, Rite of Flame, Badlands and Cabal Therapy.

My opponent drops a Volcanic Island and passes. I draw a Brainstorm and open my turn with a Gitaxian Probe. I drawing a Brainstorm off of it.

The revealed hand shows Polluted Delta, Brainstorm, Arid Mesa, Ponder, Force of Will and Sensei's Divining Top. I assume the reason they didn't start with Ponder or Sensei's Divining Top is a fear of discard, leaving Brainstorm to hide their Force of Will.

At that point I could follow with main phase Brainstorm, however I choose to force their play a bit and cast Cabal Therapy. It is indeed met with their own Brainstorm.

On resolution, I believe they hid Force of Will, I choose to name Sensei's Divining Top. Swing and miss! They kept the Force of Will and show Entreat the Angels and Tundra. That means they hid a Sensei's Divining Top and an unknown card.

On their turn 2, they play Counterbalance, leaving Sensei's Divining Top on top. My own turn 2 draw is a second Brainstorm which I can't play due to the enchantment. Similar to the Cabal Therapy play, I choose to be hyper aggressive and wait until the Sensei's Divining Top on their turn 3 resolves before attempting to Brainstorm myself.

Yes, it could have been casted in response, but for some reason I feel like pressuring their top deck if I can. I hope for them to activate and put the artifact on top, so I can keep drawing more cards until I'm ready to do something. It works as intended, but the game is already sour, I'm already unsure if the intention was a good one. I draw a Bayou on my turn, lay it down as my third land, and pass.

I will however cast the second Brainstorm in response to their next Sensei's Divining Top cast. It resolves and shows Past in Flames, Lotus Petal and Brainstorm.
The rest of the game is trying to find a discard spell before they play Entreat the Angels, which never happened.

 

There were many mistakes made that game, but we need to know which one was the worst.
  • Was it the Cabal Therapy on turn one, which was casted too soon? It could have been kept until we were ready to go.
  • Was it naming Sensei's Divining Top instead of an other card? After all, the reason we couldn't get pass the Counterbalance lock was the Force of Will.
  • Was it not casting Brainstorm on turn 1? We could have not played Cabal Therapy, but it doesn't say if we should have waited or cast a cantrip.
  • Was it waiting too long for the Brainstorm on their turn 3, locking up myself by Force of Will, as I couldn't use any discard spell with a converted mana cost of one on top?

It is not appropriate to just look back at what cards you drew and what they ended up having when you try to be correct. It is possible to make a mistake and end up winning, but it is also true that making the proper play can lead to a loss anyway.

For this reason, as we're looking for play that had the most impact not on the anecdotal loss, but on the probability of winning, not keeping Cabal Therapy for a future use has to be the worst. Not casting Brainstorm on turn 1 had less impact than the loss of a precious discard spell, but I would have casted it anyway, as the hand I had was good and could have lead to an Empty the Warrens with more initial mana sources.


This game may have been fairly difficult regardless of what we tried to do, but I think our best chance is to develop our hand a bit and wait to use the Cabal Therapy later. Casting it now leads to too many scenarios where we effectively waste it, especially given that even if everything goes perfectly, we might still be a few turns away from winning. I'd be more inclined to play Cabal Therapy aggressively if we had the win in our hands, but I'm expecting to buckle up and play a bit of a longer game with this hand.

Casting the first turn Cabal Therapy despite seeing their Force of Will and Brainstorm is something I can't relate to. You need the Cabal Therapy for your combo turn and here you threw it right into the bin, and then you did something similar with the Brainstorm you cast into the Counterbalance. Think of it as essentially a mulligan to five against a third turn Counterbalance plus Sensei's Divining Top, backed by Force of Will. You should've been more patient.

All you needed to do after the Gitaxian Probe is to drop a land and pass the turn. If they happen to slam an early Counterbalance, you need to draw into an Abrupt Decay. After that, destroy the enchantment end of turn, untap, cast Cabal Therapy and win.


Well, for starters, I wouldn't have sided in Past in Flames - but instead, Tendrils of Agony. This way you just don't lose to a Surgical Extraction. Aside from that, I don't understand the thought process of just jamming the Cabal Therapy on the first turn. The odds of missing are quite high. I likely would've just played a land and passed. It's worth noting that I also don't think playing Lion's Eye Diamond post-board is correct as the opponent has Engineered Explosives and Wear // Tear in their deck. As for the second Brainstorm I would've held it until I had seven or eight cards in hand, that way it gives you the maximum number of cards in your deck to find Abrupt Decay instead of redrawing blanks.

 

SITUATION #2 - ANT

Game one against an unknown opponent. I lose the dice roll but keep a very decent hand:

Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Burning Wish, Infernal Tutor, Brainstorm and Volcanic Island.

My opponent put a Volcanic Island into play and then cast Gitaxian Probe (paying life). I reveal my hand, start my turn, draw Lion's Eye Diamond and pass. I would rather not play Empty the Warrens for 10 on the draw against an unknown opponent, and it seems a bit weak and vulnerable to Force of Will.

On their second turn, my opponent drops an Underground Sea and cast Cabal Therapy. These two cards together seem familiar for some reason... from that point on, I assume they're on Storm too. Brainstorm reveals a Lion's Eye Diamond, Rite of Flame and Cabal Therapy.

Without black mana, Infernal Tutor is useless to me. I know I'll have to go on a Burning Wish line, which is why I hide it, but not before putting the second Lion's Eye Diamond under it. With three Rite of Flame, the extra mana isn't that needed and I assume they'll name Lion's Eye Diamond or Infernal Tutor anyway.

I'm not sure what I would have named if I was my opponent. I couldn't have known none of the Brainstorm cards were lands and that Rite of Flame was the only thing keeping this hand alive, but at the same time it explodes so much it might have been the correct choice. My opponent however names Lion's Eye Diamond, which is most likely what I would have done too. One goes in the graveyard and I still have the second copy as the second card on top of my library. They pass.

 

I draw Burning Wish and need to make a choice:

A less optimal line could have been Dark Petition for Ad Nauseam instead of Past in Flames.

Three copies of Rite of Flame seem too risky to keep in hand. Who knows, maybe do they have an other Cabal Therapy that they couldn't play due to a lack of black mana? I'm not risking that or a Duress on Burning Wish.

However, I don't stop at 10 Goblins until I win or die. The only ''free'' turn they get is their next, as I don't have my Lion's Eye Diamond yet and haven't attacked either. If I can survive that short time-lapse, instead of waiting for my Goblins to end or to get a black mana for Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor, I'll be proactive and play the Lion's Eye Diamond to discard my hand! With Cabal Therapy in the graveyard, I can sacrifice a Goblin for its flashback cost and name Infernal Tutor. It seems to be a much better alternative once you already committed and it might be the best overall option too


Since our opponent ran out Volcanic Island before playing Gitaxian Probe, I'm slightly less inclined to think that they have a second Cabal Therapy or a Duress. That said, we can easily lose to a lot of lines here. Our opponent can simply make 12 goblins and Cabal Therapy us using Flashback, and then we might have a little bit of a tough time winning. If they have the win next turn, neither of our lines matter. If they have the win in two turns, then we should wait and kill them next turn. The only time the Goblins works out better is if their win in two turns required Ad Nauseam (but they still can't win with it next turn) or if they have a hand that has another Cabal Therapy or a Duress and are unable to win until at least three turns from now. There are other situations, but I think this is the most likely. With that information in mind, I think the situations where waiting and winning next turn is better outnumber the situations where making goblins is better.

The crucial mistake here was not playing the Lion's Eye Diamond if you opt to go the Dark Petition route. If you did, your defensive Brainstorm would have had the chance to hide two Rite of Flames as these are the most likely target for your opponent, given your manabase and them assuming you hide your business spell. If you are less into gambling, you can put back the Burning Wish and a Rite of Flame on top. Your opponent won't hit anything crucial and you can go freely for Dark Petition.

There's so many things I'm confused about during this game... why did they name Lion's Eye Diamond from Volcanic Island and Brainstorm? But also, I think you should've actually have let Cabal Therapy resolve. Your hand couldn't have been worse unless you cast the Brainstorm, no matter what piece they took, they risk dying on the next turn. I would not have gone for Goblins in the storm mirror without a few Cabal Therapy to back it up with.

 

SITUATION #3 - Miracles, take 2

This scenario is a bit simplistic but may add more depth to small details against a Miracle deck. This is one the play in game two.

Abrupt Decay, Volcanic Island, Duress, Duress, Ad Nauseam, Lotus Petal and Bloodstained Mire are in hand.

Because we have a pair of Duress, I choose to play one with the Bayou hoping to hit Sensei's Divining Top.

It reveals Monastery Mentor, Force of Will, Surgical Extraction, Flooded Strand, Scalding Tarn and a pair of Ponder. I take the Force of Will. My opponent then plays a Ponder after fetching and pass. I draw a Lion's Eye Diamond, which I lay down before an other Force of Will can appear. I also play Lotus Petal and pass.

My opponent plays another Ponder, lays down Sensei's Divining Top and I start my 3rd turn. I draw an Infernal Tutor.

With Ad Nauseam in hand, Infernal Tutor doesn't give me much. At that point I'm obviously waiting for a Dark Ritual or at least more mana to cast Ad Nauseam from my hand, not to play an Infernal Tutor.

 

What's your use for your Infernal Tutor?

Without Counterbalance in play and with Abrupt Decay already in hand, I don't feel the need for a second one, even if it would reduce the average CMC for our Ad Nauseam. Duress is always nice to have but one seems enough too.

I would hold on Infernal Tutor just in case anything happens with Ad Nauseam. Moreover, they have Surgical Extraction in hand and could use it on the subpar Infernal Tutor. Sure, it would be nice if they removed more 2 CMC cards from the deck, but that implies Ad Nauseam is assured, which it isn't at the moment.


Getting Abrupt Decay seems fairly weak, and getting Duress would be wasteful given that they then murder us with Surgical Extraction. I wish we had held at least one of these artifacts, but given where we are now, I think that our best bet is to leverage the power of Abrupt Decay plus Duress to keep him from floating a counterspell. So I would do nothing for now, and then as soon as we are ready to go off, presumably we've drawn at least one more land and can use Abrupt Decay and Duress to clear a path. As with the last Miracles match, I'm prepared to play a bit of a longer game here, but that is fairly typical of my playstyle in the matchup.

The Infernal Tutor probably just sits in your hand until you draw the next mana source (hopefully Polluted Delta or Bloodstained Mire) to copy and develop your mana.

Given our lands that we have, I would Infernal Tutor for Duress. We can't actually cast multiple Abrupt Decay and our opponent will likely cast Surgical Extraction on the Infernal Tutor - which we're okay with. I'm still not a fan of you playing out your artifacts in this matchup, that's what you should've done in the storm mirror!

And that's it for this edition! Feel free to comment, submit your question or share your stories with us.

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