"If the best-case scenario isn't even that good, I probably shouldn't head down that road in the first place."
The deck in question from Make the Play Monday - Best of a Bad Lot was the wacky new Tomoharu Saito GW Enchantment Special:
【Standard】Deck1:GW Enchantment Special. #mtg #mtgjp #SaitoWayfinder pic.twitter.com/oJid1vMxxO— TomoharuSaito/トモハル (@TomoharuSaito) May 2, 2014
The first of almost a score of new deck concepts from one of the Top 10 Deck Designers of All Time, Saito's "Deck #1" attacks Standard from a unique angle (or set of angles).
The GW Enchantment Special combines a ton of mana ramp -- existing Standard staples Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and Journey into Nyx newcomer Font of Fertility -- with a specialized set of top end threats and synergies.
But enough about how the deck is "supposed" to run.
The problem of Best of a Bad Lot was to evaluate a series of "bad" all-land hands.
The hands were as follows:
Hand A Forest Forest Forest Plains Plains Plains Plains
Hand B Forest Forest Forest Forest Forest Forest Plains
Hand C Temple Garden Temple Garden Temple Garden Temple of Plenty Temple of Plenty Temple of Plenty Temple of Plenty
Hand D Forest Forest Forest Temple of PlentyTemple of Plenty Temple of Plenty Temple of Plenty
Oftentimes with Make the Play Monday we only ask one question for the Flores Rewards Friday solution; but this week we asked three different questions...
The questions:1. Rank the above four seven-land hands from worst-to-best. 2. Which (if any) of the hands would you keep on the play against an unknown opponent? 3. Which (if any) of the hands would you keep on the play against Monoblack Devotion?
What do you think, Celebrity Guest Zac Hill?
"We actually did a lot of these kinds of thought experiments in R&D!
"I think D is clearly the best hand. The difference between D and C is that the mana fixing on your Temple Gardens is redundant, and the damage is actually quite a substantial drawback -- it's unclear to me how much better that hand is than a hand with no Temples, but the selection is important enough assuming you'd keep a hand like this that it outweighs the damage in this case. You need the selection to power out of such a mana-glut though. Then, the hand with a balanced amount of Forests and Plains is quite a bit better than the hand with essentially all Forests.
"So B < A < C < D.
"I wouldn't keep any of these hands against any opponents, including specifically against Monoblack Devotion. Think of the best-case scenario, that each Temple produces a spell on the next draw step--that's still an awful ratio of lands-to-spells for an opening hand, and there's of course no guarantee that they do in fact produce spells each time. The ones without Temples are way, way, way worse, too, because even though it seems like you're meaningfully diluting the mana-density of your 60-card deck, you aren't doing so by as much as it seems (15/53 versus 22/60--a difference of less than ten percent) especially since the Saito deck has so many nonland mana producers to begin with. It's a method I like to use as a shortcut from time to time: if the best-case scenario isn't even that good, I probably shouldn't head down that road in the first place."
Zac Hill's responses:
1. B-A-C-D2. Keep none of them.3. Keep none of them
I would rank the hands worst-to-best thusly: B-A-C-D.
The main difference between hands C and D and hands A and B are the presence of Temple of Plenty (versus not). I think most respondents agreed that the Temple of Plenty hands are better than the non-Temple of Plenty hands; so I will talk about them in discreet pairs.
Hand A vs. Hand B
Three Forests and four Plains is just better in this deck than six Forests and one Plains. Basically both hands allow you to play an untapped land for each of the first six turns. Neither hand is particularly good; with this many lands -- in the unlikely event that you kept -- you might hope and pray to naturally hit a lot of spells. With Hand B if you hit Elspeth, Sun's Champion on turn five or six -- despite hitting every land drop -- you will not be able to drop the Planeswalker! With Hand A, you can; one hand is simply better than the other given the construction of our deck.
Hand C vs. Hand D
This is a bit trickier I think.
Both hands have four scry Temples; one has three expensive dual lands and the other has three boring old basic Forests. I would guess that some folks would snap-pick the Temple Garden hand but it is, to my mind, inferior to the basic lands hand.
The bet on either of these hands is that any given Temple of Plenty can get you to a spell. What spell you can dig to though? Who knows!
You can generally speaking use your non-scry Temple lands to cast whatever you need on-curve. For example if your first Temple of Plenty revealed a Sylvan Caryatid you could play a Forest / Temple Garden on the second turn to drop that nice little accelerating blocker. The difference is that one of those hands will cost you two life and the other won't.
Temple Gardens, all other things held equal, are better than basic Forests. Generally speaking, a Temple Garden can do whatever you need a basic Forest to do. It can come into play untapped and tap for G. It just costs you two life, one time, for the privilege. Every turn after the first Temple Garden is simply the better card.
...but not in the C vs. D hands.
Having four -- four -- count 'em, FOUR copies of Temple of Plenty allows you to cast any card in your deck. Your most difficult cast being the aforementioned Elspeth, Sun's Champion at WW. Since you don't need Temple Garden for the W; the basic Forest-laden Hand D is just better than Hand C in this head-to-head.
As for the other questions...
The reason I went with the "would you keep or mulligan these hands" line is that we don't often talk about all-land hands. All-spell hands, sure. We all know to mulligan almost all of them. But all-land hands? There is by comparison relatively little literature.
I think, in general, you don't want to keep very many all-land hands (especially against unknown opponents). For example if you were playing against a Monored Aggro or RW Devotion deck, most of these hands would just burn up and die without putting up much of a fight.
I would certainly mulligan both Hand A and Hand B against an unknown opponent.
I would be much more tempted to keep Hand C or Hand D against an unknown opponent; with the possible bet of implying four spells. The problem (again) is that we have neither a guarantee of four spells, nor can we control which spells we will get. I think that you can't really afford to keep either of them, either; though I can tell you from personal experience that I have won a little more than 50% of tournament games, lifetime, where I kept seven lands.
Encouraged? A coin flip is substantially below my lifetime percentage, and every time I kept it was probably because I was steaming from a manascrew the previous game.
Please learn from my mistakes.
Now unknown opponent vs. Monoblack Devotion is an interesting bit of additional data.
I think generally speaking the Temple of Plenty hands are stronger against Monoblack Devotion than against any random deck. The reason for this is that Monoblack Devotion isn't a super quick pressure deck plus you have the possibility of blanking their first-turn Thoughtseize (which is a moral victory).
But a moral victory isn't, you know, an actual victory. They might be down a card but you're down, I dunno, seven.
Of the four hands I would be most inclined to keep Hand D against Monoblack Devotion but I can't imagine I would be particularly favored.
I can't pretend that -- especially tilting after a manascrew -- I might not foolishly keep a seven lander...but it's not right. My official responses, therefore, being:
1. B-A-C-D2. Keep none of them.3. Keep none of them
Hopefully lots and lots of you won this week by being exposed to these cool Saito decks!
But the real winners (or at least the winners of this week's $25 TCGplayer gift certificates) are Tyler Lavine and Andrew Haines.
-Tyler Lavine agreed with Yours Truly (and also Celebrity Guest Zac Hill).
-Andrew Haines agreed with Celebrity Guest Zac Hill (and also YT).
Congratulations to Tyler Lavine and Andrew Haines. Your clear thinking and ability to parse seemingly close calls served you well this week! Make sure you send a message to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prizes! Thanks to everyone who played.
Directly before joining the Magic: The Gathering Development team at Wizards of the Coast, Zac Hill achieved every player's dream, adding a Pro Tour Top 8 to his standout Grand Prix Top 8 resume. Today, Zac is the COO of The Future Project in NYC and a writer for The Huffington Post. Follow Zac on Twitter at @zdch