A Tale of Two Plays

Written by Joshua Claytor on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

A Tale of Two Plays

Joshua Claytor

Joshua is the current content manager of Legitmtg.com and Puremtgo.com.

On Tuesday, I woke up, worked on PureMTGO.com for a few hours and tried to relax as much as I could, because at 3pm, I was going to be playing in the Twitch Rivals Arena event.  It was really cool of the team there to run a free event for 275 players, and it was set up to highlight Standard in a post ban world.  The tournament, despite some issues, was really well ran, and I ended up not making a huge ass of myself, which is good, but also sad. 

It used to be I wanted to win everything I entered, but as I have gotten older, my goals for events have changed.  I’ve embraced the fact that I am not going to be on the Player’s Tour.  I’ve lost a lot of fire, and a lot of play skill. Regardless of that, to make sure my goal of not making an ass of myself happened, as soon as the banned list was put out by Wizards of the Coast, I got to work. 

With Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time and Veil of Summer leaving the format, my first thought was to look at successful decks that didn’t run those cards.  Decks that featured Fires of Invention or Witch’s Oven appeared to be hurt the least, while stuff like Sultai Food was dead.  Golgari Adventures had already started to move away from running Once Upon a Time, so replacing Veil of Summer, for instance, seemed really easy.  I think my expectation was there would be a lot of cats being thrown in to ovens during the event.  I expected Rakdos Knights to show up a lot, as well as Jeskai Fires, because honestly, Fires of Invention is the best card in the format right not.   With small changes, I was sure I could find something I liked. 

I jumped from deck to deck, starting off with Rakdos Food, and then Jund Food.  I quickly learned to love the synergy that these decks had between Mayhem Devil and Midnight Rider.  The decks had multiple advantage engines, be it life gain with Cat and Oven, damage with Mayhem Devil thrown in to that, or draw engines with Rider or Korvold Fae-Cursed King.  The Rakdos deck felt a bit safer, with better mana, but the Jund deck felt more powerful with slightly worse mana. 

I plugged away, streaming some decks I tried out, to get content for the YouTube channel and such.  I really liked the idea of Embercleave but only tried Rakdos Knights.  It’s a fine deck, but not one that I enjoyed playing.  I didn’t try a Gruul build.  As for Adventures, I tried two Golgari builds, one with Bolas’s Citadel, one without.  I enjoyed those builds, but didn’t like the Fires matchup. 

I tried a couple of versions of Jeskai Fires as well, one running a Fae of Wishes wishboard, and the other running Cavalier of Flame and Cavalier of Gales.  I liked both of them.  I tried a Grixis Fires, and a four color Fires reanimator list.  The only thing that I recognized as being a good choice, but didn’t try was Temur Reclamation.  I feared the format might have been to aggressive for it, and decided to not spend my limited time on it. 

After going over my results, looking at stats and what I played against, I narrowed my two choices to the food decks.  I went 16-4 on Monday in matches played, and while that’s not a ton of games, I was just trying to get a feel for the decks that I was deciding between.  I was torn, and after talking to Andy, Jacob and Jason, three Kentucky magic player who I have worked with before and respect their thoughts about what I should run, and they all said Jund Food.  Having taken out the Veil of Summers for Leyline of the Void, (my open decklist tech for cat decks), I submitted my list, and went to bed, confident in what was going to happen Tuesday.

This isn’t a tournament report though.  I went 4-2, good for 51st place and 300 dollars.  I lost two straight win and ins to make the top 32 cut.  So why am I writing this? 

I played two turns that I wanted to talk about.  The first, my opponent, World Series Champion Hunter Pence, was on Rakdos Food.  The second my opponent, on Rakdos Knights saw me make a mistake and then let that build up and snowball out of control. 

Let’s talk about the positive play first. I’ve embedded the clip below. 

Watch Devils play: A complicated turn. from LegitMTG on www.twitch.tv
The Setup:  I have scried to the top a copy of Mayhem Devil.  I control an additional copy of a tapped Mayhem Devil, a tapped Midnight Rider, and Gilded Goose. I just attacked them from 17 to 11.   I also have two copies of Witch’s Oven in play.  I am also at 18 life. 

For KidMerlin, they have a Priest of Forgotten Gods in play with a Mayhem Devil.  It is also their turn. 

So the play starts off pretty innocent enough.  They cast a Gutterbones to go along with their creatures, I don’t see any threat in this and it resolves.  They follow that up with Claim the Firstborn targeting my Mayhem Devil.  This I see as a threat. 

I feel like I am in a great position in this game, and being down a game after KidMerlin ran over me in game one, I wanted to even things up and get back in to it.  A second copy of Mayhem Devil coming would make things even better for me, especially as I have multiple ovens in play. 

So I respond to the Claim the Firstborn by sacrificing my Midnight Rider, targeting the Priest of Forgotten Gods with my Mayhem Devil, and doing the same with the food token that I use Gilded Goose to make mana with. 

The end result of this is I am down to a single Mayhem Devil and two Witch’s Oven.  My opponent is down to a Mayhem Devil and a Gutterbones with the Claim on the stack.  I have an untapped Oven, and can sacrifice the Devil to it to make a food, but with the one I drew from my Midnight Rider, I really want to have two in play.  I don’t see a problem with my opponent taking my Mayhem Devil.  They no longer have a visible sacrifice outlet, but the possibility of Witch’s Oven exists.  I let them take it without sacrificing, they attack me to six and remove one of my copies of Witch’s Oven with Embereth Shieldbreaker.  They pass the turn. 

Why was this complicated?   Well for one if I just let them have the Devil, I’m not getting it back.  I will get attacked, and it will get sacrificed to the Priest.  So that’s not a thing that can happen.  That branch on the decision tree leads to catastrophe.  The next branch is the is argument that I could sacrifice the devil to the Oven, but that seems mediocre, as it doesn’t deal with anything in play, and takes away a source of damage for me.  This seems like the worst play.  Expanding on that, I could have sacrificed the Goose to the oven and then the Devil, killing off the Priest, but leaving me with a Midnight Rider, two food and two extra cards.  They would still have a Gutterbones and a Mayhem Devil.  This feels pretty okay, but not great.

The line I took, I feel gave me the best chance to win.  It gave me the best chance to lead my opponent into making a mistake with their own Priest of Forgotten Gods.  While no mistakes were made, it did allow me to take advantage of two devils and an oven.

I eventually went on to win this game and the match.  Hunter Pence is a fine Magic: The Gathering Player. 

The second play was the one I imploded during play. Watch A magnificent punt. from LegitMTG on www.twitch.tv
Why am I showing off this play? It’s pretty embarrassing I know.  I let so many things that were in my control spiral out of my control, and it eventually led to me letting my opponent play to their outs. 

We’re in game two, and it’s a tight one. I was feeling a bit down because they just crushed me in game one, but until this point I had played the game very well.  My opponent is at 2 life, I am at 3.  I have a Vraska, Golgari Queen and a Liliana, Dreadhorde General in play.  I have six lands in play with a Gilded Goose, a Paradise Druid and a freshly drawn Angrath’s Rampage in hand.  My opponent has three creatures and is at two life with a Leyline of the Void in play and no cards in hand. 

The correct play is to minus Liliana, and then clean up their board with the Rampage. Then cast my creatures, and tick up Vraska.  This would leave me at 4 with two creatures in play.  I would be presenting lethal. 

I however, did not make that play.  I was tilted you see.  Somehow my dummy self was really concerned with not drawing cards from Liliana whenever they died. I was going a good job of staying alive against the Rotting Regisaur, but each time I blocked and didn’t get a card I let my mind drift.  I got mad.  I was upset, and instead of taking a minute to ground myself, and rethink my plays I just made a parade of errors. 

Let’s kick off this parade with the first play I made, casting goose!  I think the idea behind it was I might need the life from the food.  I pause, count my mana, and cast my Paradise Druid.  I tick up Vraska, sacrificing a tapped Swamp and draw Assassin’s Trophy, which just messed up my thoughts even more.  I’ve still got time to make up for these terrible plays.  All I have to do is minus Liliana and I’m back on track, it’s not great, but there is hope.  I can’t even block each of their creatures because one of them has menace.  

Instead as the Grand Marshal of this clown parade, I tick Liliana up, get a zombie and pass turn, holding the Rampage and the Trophy. 

Okay, that was a really bad turn, but I could salvage it.  They don’t have lethal despite their creatures, and all I have to do is block the Knight and the Dinosaur.  I’ll be fine right?  

I continue to make it bad on my opponent’s turn and attack step.  I have three creatures, am at three life, and they have Stormfist Crusader, Rotting Regisaur, and Knight of the Ebon Legion.  I can afford to block with Goose and a dork and take two from the Crusader.  It leaves me with one creature and one life to their one life. 

Instead continued to allow my opponent to play to their outs.   I let the Knight go unblocked, because I figured well, if they don’t have Embercleave, I’m okay. 

They had Embercleave, and I deserved it.  They pumped the Knight, I trophied it, they cast the equipment in response and it was all over.  My opponent did an incredible job of taking advantage of my own misplays and played to their outs perfectly.  If I make the correct play of wiping the board and then casting creatures, I might have won game two.  I know that they draw Embercleave, but with the Crusader in play I was unsure of when they drew it.  They might have blanked on their actual draw which would have left the game to me. 

Had I blocked the Knight of the Ebon Legion and taken two from the Crusader, I still had Assassin’s Trophy to deal with the Embercleave, and could crack back with lethal on the next turn. 

I of course, can see this now, and I can justify my poor play with well it was game two, there was no telling what would have happened in game three, and I might have lost still anyways. 

That’s true.  I might have lost, but allowing myself to tilt off, took away that chance of getting to game three.  I might have won, hell I might have lost still but gotten a different round 6 matchup, one that wasn’t an auto-loss. 

You can’t allow what-ifs to take over though.  Yeah those things might have happened, but they didn’t and that’s okay.  I’ve learned a valuable lesson about going on tilt and grounding myself, calming myself down and such before making plays. 

I think I showed you all an example of a good play that went well and a bad play that went poorly.  Next time, I play on looking at Mill again, in a post ban format! 

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