/ Limited

What's the Play: Lions and Tigers and a Boar Oh My!

Ravnica Allegiance is rising as one of my all time favorite formats. Both the draft and gameplay are incredibly deep and challenging. Even with well over 100 drafts under my belt, I consistently find myself in new and complex game states. Today, I bring you one of my most recent in-game puzzles in our latest installment of What's the Play?

THE DECK

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You’ve got a fairly low to the ground Simic Gates deck with Gatebreaker Ram and Gateway Sneak as your gate payoffs. A good density of two and three drop plays, some flyers to close out the game, and a good bit of interaction in 2x Slimebind, Arrester’s Admonition, Code of Constraint, Savage Smash, and, you saw that right, Quench. Quench is a card I am incredibly low on. However, a lot of recent discussions with people I trust have me wondering if I should give it another shot. And I think this kind of shell is the best home for this card. Oh, and if you can’t see it, there’s Depose // Deploy hiding behind the Thrash // Threat.

THE SITUATION

You're up a game going into the second against a deck you did not glean much information from. You saw three islands, four forests, Senate Griffin, Prying Eyes, and Wilderness Reclamation. Your 5/5 Gatebreaker Ram did the heavy lifting to close out that game uncontested. In this game your opponent has been bringing the beats in the air with two copies of Aeromunculus backed up by some good tempo in the form of Applied Biomancy and Frilled Mystic. (Wilderness Reclamation rears its head again on the battlefield and at the bottom of the graveyard.) You’ve used Savage Smash to take down one of the adapted flyers and your Mammoth Spider seems to have the other at bay. Guardian Project is giving you a huge edge in card advantage. You seem incredibly stable hen your opponent plays their eighth land and taps out for the last card in their hand.

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Yikes! What a frustrating card to see. You had everything all locked up and even have two cards that let you interact at instant speed in hand, but nothing that stops this big old boar from entering the battlefield and smashing your face. Which brings us to our first of a couple decisions in this game. With End-Raze Forerunners on the stack, what’s the play?

ANSWER

I will begin by saying I believe there are multiple correct paths in this game. It’s a complicated board promising some serious combat math. I can only walk you through my thought process at the time.

Having Depose // Deploy here makes things very interesting. Both halves of this card essentially gain you 7 life. Deploy gains you 7 and then provides you with two 1/1 thopters as bodies to soak up two more damage or make trades a little better. Depose gains you 7 by tapping one of their two largest attackers, either the Boar itself, or the Skitter Eel after it gets pumped. The other benefit to casting Depose, which I missed at the time, is that it gives you a 1 in 18 chance of drawing a clean answer to this Overrun on a stick: Quench. If you cantrip into a counterspell here, you can answer the Forerunners before it ever hits the battlefield. That, coupled with the Slimebind, Arrester’s Admonition, and Code of Constraint you could draw, makes casting Depose with Forerunners on the stack the correct play in my opinion. I missed it at the time, decided that Deposing Skitter Eel at the beginning of combat was still my best move anyway. The reason I chose to tap the Eel rather than the Forerunners is that after this turn the Eel turns back into a manageable creature whereas the Boar is always going to be a 7/7 with trample. I need to make sure to kill that in combat this turn. I now find myself with a new set of decisions:

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Arrester’s Admonition certainly adds a new layer to the game. You now have two choices available: you can bounce something to reduce the number of trampling threats or you can cast Faerie Duelist to shrink something and get an additional blocker. Working out blocks this turn with your available resources, how do you put yourself in the best position at the end of combat to win this game. What’s the play?

ANSWER

I believe to set yourself up for the best chance to win this game, you need to make as many trades as possible. These attacks are brutal and chumping to absorb damage is going to leave you in a precarious position moving forward. I think Arrester’s Admonition is going to give you the most leverage this turn and Faerie Duelist will have a bigger impact next turn when creatures are smaller. Bouncing the Forerunners is out of the question since your opponent will just get to recast it next turn and you’ll face the same problem all over again. Similarly, bouncing Frilled Mystic would be a mistake, especially given the fact that they will untap all their lands at the end of their turn and be able to recast it right away. Returning Benthic Biomancer would allow your opponent the opportunity to loot again off of the adapt, not to mention that you can just ignore it this turn and still survive as long as you soak up the rest of the damage. All of this leads me to the conclusion that bouncing Aeromunculus is the correct play.

With that decision out of the way, there's now the matter of lining up blocks. Forerunners has to die, so I would put Gatebreaker Ram and another of your smaller creatures in front of it. Frilled Mystic doesn’t have to die, but it needs to be blocked. You could put Mammoth Spider in front of it with another small creature to kill it, but that would be a fatal mistake in my opinion. Don’t forget about the Aeromunculus in your opponent’s hand. If you don’t draw removal for it, the spider is your best chance at keeping it at bay. That means Mammoth Spider cannot die this turn and therefore should block the Benthic Biomancer to soak up 4 damage. That leaves you with two other creatures which will go in front of the Frilled Mystic and you should be safe this turn.

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At the end of this, your opponent is left with a 2/2 and a 5/5 in Biomancer and Skitter Eel with Aeromunculus in hand. You’re left with Mammoth Spider in play and a Faerie Duelist in hand and three precious life. It’s not a winning position, but you can survive next turn and have multiple shots at drawing into some action with the help of Guardian Project.

You and your opponent both have fantastic top decks. Luckily for you, your Thrash // Threat in tandem with the Faerie Duelist is able to take care of the Applied Biomancy shenanigans that would have left you dead the next turn and you go on to win the match.

I believe there were many paths to victory in this game. Did you see a different route that I didn’t consider? Let me know what you would have done! And, as always, Happy Drafting!

Lords of Limited Ultimate Masters Takeover!

One last thing before I go. The Cardsphere team invited Ben and I to takeover Ultimate Masters on draft.cardsphere.com, so for as long as the flashback drafts are firing on MTGO, you can practice against bots programmed exclusively with our ratings! Practice up and we'll see you on MTGO.

Ethan Saks

Ethan Saks

Ethan, AKA LordTupperware, is a magic streamer on twitch and co-host of the magic strategy podcast "Lords of Limited."

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