What land should we play on turn one?
How should we attack -- and defend -- that tricky turn six?
Who is the best BW Midrange player I know?
Let's find out the answers to these questions and more in this edition of Flores Rewards Friday!
The idea of using this as a Make the Play Monday scenario formed in my head as I looked at the opening hand of:
Bile BlightBrimaz, King of OreskosSorin, Solemn VisitorElspeth, Sun's ChampionCaves of KoilosPlainsPlains
...though I must admit ripping the second Caves of Koilos probably makes the "right" answer a bit easier.
In terms of evaluating those seven as an opening hand, I think we will all agree it is a pretty keep-able hand. We have 100% action on a turn-three Brimaz if we want it and a 3/7 land ratio is about what you want in your opening hand for most decks against most unknown opponents.
The right land to play?
What did the best BW Midrange player I know think here?
"I would play Caves of Koilos and I feel strongly this is the correct play for two reasons: The first is that my opponent played a Temple of Triumph which leads me to believe he has Goblin Rabblemaster in his deck and it will be important to kill that when I have two lands to his three next turn. This makes it so the Rabblemaster doesn't get out of control too fast and it's also nice because it allows me to use my mana and spells in a way that's very efficient. Lastly if for whatever reason I decide I don't want to play my second Caves of Koilos on the following turn I can just play a Plains into a Plains and cast the Brimaz pain-free so in the end it costs me nothing and I save the tough decision for next turn."
Owen Turtenwald's Play: Caves of KoilosAnd yours truly?
Caves of Koilos of course!
Mike's Play: Caves of KoilosWhat made Caves of Koilos my turn-one land of choice?
Concurring with Owen's reasoning, Caves of Koilos is the only play we can make that leaves open the opportunity for turn two Bile Blight with this opening hand. If need be (say the opponent runs out a turn two Seeker of the Way) we can play the second Caves of Koilos (or, better, a basic Swamp if it comes up) and eliminate the threat prior to deploying our planned Brimaz, King of Oreskos on turn three.
Because it is so contextually driven, Magic has few general rules for clean game play. But one of them is this:
"Magic is a game of options. Generally the better play is the one that preserves the most options." - Jon Finkel
So when presented with multiple plays of similar cost and value, the better one is the one that preserves the most options relative to other choices. Because Caves of Koilos leaves open the option to play Bile Blight on the second turn, I think it is better than Plains here.
As Owen said, while Caves of Koilos implies second Caves of Koilos on turn two, we are by no means locked into that. In the real game we are looking at, the opponent didn't do anything interesting on his second turn, so I made the calculated gamble of playing Plains as my second land (cutting off my Bile Blight option but buying myself a future life point). The opponent didn't play Goblin Rabblemaster, luckily, or I would have looked rather foolish.
He did, though, Cracking Doom poor Brimaz before I ever got a token-producing attack out, helping him to get the Sorin-jump on us turn four.
Some time later our heroes found ourselves in this bit of a pickle:
"You should attack and kill the guy's Sorin. Pretty obvious but worth mentioning!
"Beyond attacking here, the choice is a bit more difficult but I would cast Elspeth and use her -3 ability to clear out the Stormbreath Dragon and -2 my Sorin to get a 2/2 Vampire Token. I'll lose my Elspeth next turn to an attack from the goblins but it's not the best attack for my opponent and it'll leave the board in a way where I have a clear advantage unless my opponent has many more tricks. I also like that as my hand currently sits I have no good answer to the Stormbreath Dragon so killing a creature that it's obvious I'm struggling to deal with is appealing to me. I would do everything in my power to prevent losing to a lucky series of burn draws from my opponent so any play that involves not killing the Stormbreath Dragon means he can monstrous if he draws a land and deal a ton of damage very quickly."
Owen Turtenwald's Play:
Just a nod to lots of readers here... Note that Owen didn't use Sorin's [+1] ability to kick up Brimaz, King of Oreskos, so he isn't worried about a potential blunder with Elspeth's [-3] sweeper.
1) Attack and kill Sorin, Solemn Visitor with Brimaz, King of Oreskos2) Play Caves of Koilos and cast Elspeth, Sun's Champion3) Use the [-3] ability on Elspeth to kill Stormbreath Dragon4) Use the [-2] ability on Sorin, Solemn Visitor to make a 2/2 Vampire Token
I tanked on this one pretty hard. There are several lines we can take, and subtle variations in them will lead to very different places.
For instance, in my first blush [-3] line evaluation, I would likely have paired killing the Stormbreath Dragon with [+1] on Sorin. My reasoning there was that of course I would be taking out the opponent's Sorin, and if the opponent committed to attacking my Elspeth, I could get him really good with blocking + lifelink.
He is a red deck and I didn't want to put myself in a spot where I was committing a ton to kill Stormbreath Dragon only to lose my Planeswalker(s) to a burn spell. I was in this spot willing to gamble he wouldn't have a seventh untapped land for Monstrous. I'll admit I was more than a little greedy at the prospect of his running out a second Dragon into an Elspeth explosion.
Based on his previous attack I was willing to accept a Stormbreath Dragon attack [presumably on Sorin, Solemn Visitor] that I could blunt with Bile Blight and cash in for bigger returns later.
So my line was just to run out Seeker of the Way and leave up the rest of my mana.
One of the things I wanted to be able to handle was Crackling Doom (which took down my first Brimaz). My thinking here was that if I had a potentially lifelinking Brimaz online (and Elspeth as a solid follow up to whatever his turn would be) I could take this one.
So this was my specific sequence:
My play paid off... Sort of. Halfway.
1) Play Seeker of the Way2) Activate Sorin, Solemn Visitor for [+1]3) Attack Sorin, Solemn Visitor with Brimaz, King of Oreskos (and cash in the cat + lifelink)
My opponent did in fact have Cracking Doom. I responded with a Bile Blight on his Goblin Rabblemaster before he could make a second Goblin, which leveled up (well, Prowess'd up) my Seeker of the Way...
But he had a Lightning Strike!
My initial read was right, but he had the follow up.
It was splatterville for Team Flores, with me basically keeping a Cat Token on the turn.
I followed up with Elspeth, Sun's Champion to kill the Stormbreath Dragon, but he ripped another Lightning Strike to take down my planned semi-soft lock.
Then began a long, desolate, topdeck war that I eventually won due to superior card drawing.
Really interesting mid-game, I think you will agree!
Okay...what you've all been waiting for! Prizes!
This week was one of the tougher scenarios we've had. If you hit Owen's solution of double Planeswalker minus abilities, I commend you! But I can only reward two of you (which, to be fair, is still twice what we usually do).
The lucky recipients of the Owen Turtenwald BW Bonus are:
Leo Alberti and Jeffrey Schneck!
Great job with your solutions, Leo Alberti and Jeffrey Schneck; the very nice people at TCGplayer.com would like to reward your sharp minds with $25.
And my solution?
Allen Beck chose the "Play Seeker of the Way" line, and picks up a $25 TCGPlayer.com gift certificate as well.
Make sure you send a message (not a wall post) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prizes!
Thanks for all of your participation everyone! You make this column fun to write and review every week.
Owen Turtenwald is one-third of the legendary Peach Garden Oath. In addition to being the best BW Midrange player I know, Owen has more Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Sunday Super Series, Player of the Year, Star City Open Series, and MaxPoint Championships titles-slash-other standout finishes to list here. He is truly one of the most dangerous opponents you can ever sit across at a tournament table, and a lynchpin of not only the Peach Garden Oath but the CFB Pantheon. Follow Owen on twitter at @owentweetenwald