Choose Your Own Adventure

April 28, 2016


25 Years old from France,
Top 8 Pro Tour Nagoya 2011
Top 8 GP Amsterdam 2011

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Hi all you Magic players!

Today I want to try something new and more entertaining than a regular article… You may know the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books – a series of children’s fantasy gamebooks, popular in the 1990′s, in which the reader assumes the role of the protagonist, making choices that determine the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcome. If you haven’t heard of this then you’re definitely younger than me, lucky you!

The way these books described situations before offering choices may look like a Magic game. However, Magic is not only a succession of simple puzzles, and decisions are much harder to make during the flow of the game. Practicing making these decisions can make your job easier when you’re at a table.

I’ve prepared a bunch of puzzles for you, some of which are easier than others. They are meant for your enjoyment and to make you think, so don’t look up the answers too fast.

This first game was a daily sealed deck on Magic online and my pool was kinda good. This is my build:

This is now OUR deck!
After talking with some people I think that I have underestimated Aqueous Form and I should have main decked it. Other than this, feel free to comment on the build (the Temple of Mystery is obviously counted in the 17 lands).

The puzzles take place in the last round of this event. We are at 3-0 and this is the first game of the fourth match, so we have no information about our opponent’s deck.

Situation 1

We’re on the play.
Mulligan or keep?

Answer 1
Keep. Definitely not a crazy hand but not bad enough to mulligan. I know I’m a bit too conservative but this one’s better than a random 6.

Situation 2

On turn 2, we draw a Sedge Scorpion that we obviously play. On turn 3 we draw another Forest and attack with the 1/1. Now it’s turn 4 and our opponent plays his first spell: a Wingsteed Rider. We draw another land. What do we do?

Answer 2

Of course we play the Nylea’s Emissary. We want to put pressure on the board and playing Griptide right now doesn’t make any sense since we don’t have any information about his hand. We also attack with the Sedge Scorpion for 1 damage.

Situation 3

On turn 4, our opponent plays a Hopeful Eidolon on his Wingsteed Rider to create a low-cost Baneslayer Angel and attacks to drain us for 4 life. We draw a bestow card of our own, Nimbus Naiad and play a land. What then?

Answer 3

Naiad is one of the best cards to draw on turn 5. Turning your 3/3 into a 5/5 flyer is a threat which is hard to deal with in this format, but it doesn’t race a 4/4 flying lifelink. Of course you can Griptide it later but attacking for 5 and being drained for 4 doesn’t advance your position in this race. When you play UG in sealed, all your games are basically races. Making a 5/5 and then keeping it back to defend is a really bad idea: any trick, any bestow, almost any spell will make you lose both tempo and your creature. At this point we need to play Griptide and not hold on to it as we did previously. If our opponent has a Gods Willing in hand and we don’t play Griptide while we can, he will never tap his White mana again and we’ll lose. We attack before playing Griptide, since trading the Sedge Scorpion for the Hopeful Eidolon isn’t the best play.

Situation 4

On the next turn, our opponent attacks with the Eidolon and plays again his Rider, immediately enchanting it with a Dragon Mantle. On our turn 6, we draw a Voyaging Satyr. What’s the move (haven’t played a land yet)?

Answer 4

If you chose to attack with Nylea’s Emissary and play Horizon Scholar, it probably cost us the game… Our opponent could have kept Red mana open in order to pump his Rider, but chose not to. Maybe it’s a bluff, maybe he tapped his mana wrong or maybe he just didn’t care and wanted to push F6. Either way, he has White mana open and if he has Gods Willing and plays it on his blocking Wingsteed Rider on this attack step, we’ll lose our creature and a lot of tempo. It’s true that he may think we have another Griptide or Journey’s End in hand and decide not to block even if he does have Gods Willing in hand. However, if he thinks it through he should use it anyway, since Gods Willing beats any pump spell we may have and I believe he is committed to block.

In any case, we shouldn’t speculate when there’s a viable safe alternative. Even if it’s not mana efficient, bestowing the Nimbus Naiad and attacking with it does a good job, because we can start the beatdown, put a big threat on the board and we still have another turn to check if our Gods Willing read is good or not.

Since the game seems to be played in the air, we shouldn’t attack with the Sedge Scorpion so that we can keep it to block the Hopeful Eidolon and stop the drain 1 per turn. We could have done this on the previous turn, but now I know it’s less likely that a big ground creature is gonna be important, and the chances that our Sedge Scorpion is going to trade with anything better than the Eidolon are rather small.

Situation 5

Our opponent does not block our 5/5 flyer and takes 5. On his turn, he attacks with both creatures and we block the Eidolon as planned. He pumps his Rider twice, dealing 5 damage.

He plays a Cavalry Pegasus passing the turn. We draw a Triton Tactics. Awesome! What’s the play?

Answer 5

Well, this is not hard. We want to play our second creature so we can put a lot of extra strength on the battlefield while having a second target for Triton Tactics. We don’t even die to Portent of Betrayel. Keeping Triton Tactics up by playing Voyaging Satyr isn’t a good move because it’s enough that our opponent attacks us on his turn to force us to use the Triton Tactics right away. By doing so we’ll be open to basically anything that he can play. Remember: always try to be the proactive one and always be the player with the instant spell on the top of the stack, not on the bottom. Make your opponent react to your threats then react to his reaction. This is extremely important and especially so in Theros limited.

Situation 6

These are the cards we see on top of the library through Horizon Scholar‘s scry ability. What do we keep and in what order?

Answer 6

We obviously want Voyage’s End on the top. We also keep Breaching Hippocamp second from the top because it could work very well with the two big flyers we have, although it’s hard to predict what the board’s gonna look like 2 turns from now.

Situation 7

Oh no! The bad guy is toning up the aggression by playing a 4/2 with haste and bashing us with everything. Our Horizon Scholar is the only blocker we have. What should we do?

Answer 7

We didn’t expect this situation, but now we have an interesting choice. Blocking the Wingsteed Rider is something we don’t want to do unless we’re forced to. We had a read on Gods Willing and since then our opponent did nothing but strengthen this read. Maybe he’s still bluffing but when you play around something once, you have to follow it up for the rest of the game, unless something proves that your intuition was wrong. This isn’t the case here.
We also have an important piece of information: the WR player taps RR to play his creature, leaving only WW open when he could have kept WR, which is telling us a lot of things. Well, he doesn’t have a Titan’s Strength, but he also doesn’t intend to pump his Wingsteed Rider. This does not mean that he doesn’t have Gods Willing, but he probably has something else. He is also attacking with the Cavalry Pegasus, giving us the option to block and kill it. Why would he sacrifice his 1/1 flyer if it wasn’t to end the game? Here we know that if we block Wingsteed Rider we’ll lose our 6-mana creature to a 1-mana spell, improving his own flyer, and if we block Cavalry Pegasus (which is what he wants us to do by attacking with it) we’ll probably lose the game to a Battlewise Valor, making his Wingsteed Rider 6/6 for lethal damage.

So the smart choice here is to block the Minotaur Skullcleaver and play around Battlewise Valor. When you choose to play around a read on an opponent’s trick, you have to make sure that you can actually beat that trick. Here, if we choose to play around Battlewise Valor and Gods Willing, we will have to keep on playing around these cards for the rest of the game. We know that we have Voyage’s End and Triton Tactics on the top of our deck so we can afford to do that. However, if we knew we had a land or a vanilla creature on the top instead, we would be forced to block either the Rider or the Pegasus in the hope that our opponent was bluffing.

Situation 8

Our creatures kill each other and he plays a Favored Hoplite and passes.
We draw the Voyage’s End as expected. What now?

Answer 8

The Favored Hoplite can be a problem but he only hits for 4 with a Battlewise Valor, which makes it a total of 5 with the Pegasus. Here, we obviously attack with the Nylea’s Emissary, just taking him down to 5 and planning to play Tactics next turn, with the bounce in case of emergency. Playing the Voyagin Satyr costs us nothing and can be useful.

Situation 9

Ouch! Our opponent is being really mean. Portent of Betrayal can finish us. What’s the plan?

Answer 9

Here, there’s only one choice: Voyage’s End on our creature. We still have an untapped 2/2 flyer and we can play the 5/5 again next turn by bestowing Nylea’s Emissary. Assuming he has Gods Willing, playing Voyage’s End on any of his creatures would result in defeat.

Situation 10

Our Breaching Hippocamp is still on the top of the deck. Do we want to keep it?

Answer 10

I’m not sure. It seems that we know what we’re going to do on the following turn and how we’re gonna win. We won’t have the mana to do anything aside from bestowing the Emissary so we’re looking for a card that we may use only if things don’t go as planned. Although it’s a really good card in this kind of situation, we will not be able to cast this 3/2 before winning the game, unless something goes wrong with our 5/5 flyer. Here, I feel like I don’t want anything but Griptide to use on a bestowed creature in play for immediate effect, but I may be wrong. We put it on the bottom.

Situation 11

Our opponent attacks with only his Rider. How can we win this game?

Answer 11

Since he has Gods Willing (OK, NOW we know), we have to block before playing Triton Tactics. Otherwise, he will play Gods Willing before blockers, giving his attacker protection from Blue, forcing us to take 4 damage and have his attacker untap during his next turn.

Situation 12

On our turn, we draw a Temple of Mystery, bestow the Nylea’s Emissary on the Nimbus Naiad and attack. Our opponent obviously blocks with the Pegasus and plays Gods Willing on it to save it. Seeing this instant doing such a poor job at this point is already a victory!

When scrying from the land, we see another Nimbus Naiad on top… Should we keep it?

Answer 12

This is the card we want to see. If we survive this turn and something happens to our first Naiad, we’ll be able to build another flyer. Keep!

Situation 13

This is the decisive turn! Our opponent plays Battlewise Valor on his Favored Hoplite as planned, then attacks with everything… We take 5 and go down to 1. We live!

On our turn we just attack with everything for the win. Congratulate your opponent and prepare yourself for game 2!

A side question: is there any card that can still make us lose, and is there something that we can do about it?

I really hope that you enjoyed this new type of article, which is both good for solving puzzles and for going deeper into game strategy. I know there are probably a lot of things to change but if you liked it I will try to improve this – with your help – and come back soon with new ideas!

Keep on fighting.

Elie Pichon (@EliePichon)

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