This week's Make the Play Monday asked us to evaluate opening hands from some of Pro Tour Magic 2015's new decks. Some of them, like Matt Sperling's Boros Burn or the Peach Garden Oath's Orzhov Control, are variations on format stalwarts; others, like Jund Superfriends, are rulebreaking new decks featuring brand spanking fresh All-Stars-to-be like Nissa, Worldwaker.
These are some of the decks that will be defining Standard at least through the summer, at least until Return to Ravnica Block rotates out of Standard, so knowing what to do with some of these decks -- especially when hands are challenging and not-obvious -- is going to be a valuable skill for tournament players.
Who better to help us evaluate these hands than the guy not just staring at the best players in the world wielding them all last weekend, but in many cases interviewing them about both large-scale strategies and individual decisions? The Pro Tour Historian: Brian David-Marshall!
Let's get to the hands and the evaluations of those hands…
Jace, Architect of ThoughtSphinx's RevelationSupreme VerdictQuickenSyncopateHallowed FountainPlains Question One: Keep or ship U/W Control on the play?
"Can I just swap out any non-land, non-Quicken for a Divination? Watching Floch play at the PT, he just wanted to play lands every turn and I would keep this on the play with the ability to "cycle" Quicken on turn one and stymie them on turn two with Syncopate."
One of the things I like most about Quicken is that you can burn it on a one-land hand on turn one and start the flow of dominoes that will yield land after land. This isn't even a one-land hand!
If we burn Quicken we are favored to hit our third land on our third turn. It's like BDM says, because of that Divination would be great in this hand. Nevertheless I think I would tend to keep this hand.
If you hit four lands this hand actually has a ton going for it.
The down side is that of the three big branches of decks you might hit in Standard, I don't think you are favored against any of them. The big question is whether six in the dark is better or worse.
Brian - KeepMike - KeepQuestion Two: Keep or ship U/W Control on the draw?
"I would also keep it on the draw but I am already off curve with the Syncopate which is likely to sit in my hand until at least turn six if I manage to hit a Divination or just rip the two lands. I am playing Supreme Verdict or Jace on turn four and...you know what? I think I have talked myself into mulliganing this on the draw but not on the play."
Interesting commentary around the Syncopate there...
Given the "on the play" hand we have some potential blanks on account of not having four for Supreme Verdict or Jace, Architect of Thought. But on the draw, Syncopate often under-performs. I can therefore see Brian's evaluation of this as "a six-card hand anyway." That said, if I am going to keep the first hand, I am likely going to keep the second hand (one more swing at my third land, after all).
Brian - MulliganMike - Keep
ThoughtseizeAbrupt DecayForestForestLlanowar WastesTemple of AbandonTemple of MaliceQuestion Three: Keep or ship Jund Superfriends on the play?
"With a pair of scry lands I am going to keep the Jund hand on the play and the draw, I probably love Scry too much but I have the Thoughtsieze to give me better information about my scry and an Abrupt Decay to deal with anything before turn four. I am probably starting this game out on 17 with Thoughtseize off of Wastes and having faith in the top -- and near top -- of my deck."
I think this hand is kind of weak, but with the combination of a card that is always good (Thoughtseize), a card that is usually good (Abrupt Decay), my first five land drops, and two Temples to fix my draw I can't see for shipping this on the play or on the draw. A paradigm for mulligans Gerry Thompson once taught me was to look at my hand, and ask myself if I would have been happy to mulligan into that hand. Imagine a two-spell six-card hand… I'd be overjoyed at this on six cards! It's just not bad enough to mulligan in the dark. Those two Temples just do so much work.
I think the operations here ask us to play Llanowar Wastes into Thoughtseize, which help inform our Temples. Even without information from Thoughtseize, I think our general inclination will be to push lands.
Brian - KeepMike - KeepQuestion Four: Keep or ship Jund Superfriends on the draw?
Brian - KeepMike - Keep
Boros CharmChandra's PhoenixEidolon of the Great RevelSearing BloodYoung PyromancerYoung PyromancerMountainQuestion Five: Keep or ship R/W Burn on the draw?
"I desperately want to keep this hand but I have to ship it back. If I miss even one land drop I am going to be too far behind. If nobody is looking at FNM I probably just keep and am mad at myself for the rest of the match."
I wanted to make this a challenging hand to evaluate -- lots of two-drops -- but I have grown to dislike it more and more the more I thought about it.
Sperling's deck is powerful in part because he can attack explosively. But it is also capable of an inevitable long game that plays around the opponent's big spells. Unfortunately this hand is bad for both fast and slow games. Because it doesn't have a second land, it is possible you just do nothing early on (meaning you're not exploding, and not putting pressure on). So in that case we are taking zero advantage of the relatively low mana costs in our hand. Long games are also kind of off limits here. The decks that win slow, long games tend to be the ones who play a land every turn; don't bite when the opponent does something, and overpower them once it is a battle of very high casting costs. This hand does the opposite of hitting all its lands.
Brian - MulliganMike - Mulligan
Desecration DemonPack RatPack RatThoughtseizeElspeth, Sun's ChampionCaves of KoilosSwampQuestion Six: Keep or ship B/W MIdrange on the play?
"Thoughtsieze is a helluva drug. I have a turn one and turn two play and even if miss a turn of land can get my rat race going with a hard cast rat. Keep and prepare for Owen to yell at me about it."
This hand isn't half bad. One of the reasons I cut evaluating it to only being on the play rather than on the draw is that I figured most folks would snap-keep it on the draw.
This hand gives good curve. You can start off on Thoughtseize, move into Pack Rat, and still play the second Pack Rat even if you miss your third land drop. Two 2/2 creatures for two! What are we? Rich?
On the other hand, Desecration Demon and Elspeth, Sun's Champion are a mite out of reach unfortunately, but drawing even one land we can turn them into more bigger Pack Rats.
Brian - KeepMike - KeepIn summary:
1. Keep2. Mulligan3. Keep4. Keep5. Mulligan6. Keep
1. Keep2. Keep3. Keep4. Keep5. Mulligan6. Keep
Both Brian and I kept most of the hands, differing only on scenario two. I actually thought Brian's thoughts on the Syncopate on the draw extremely insightful, but I also know that if I said I wouldn't keep a two land Quicken hand on the draw I'd be lying.
Unfortunately there was no one who matched up with Celebrity Guest Brian David-Marshall's answers!
For agreeing with YT, however, Matt Eagle earns a $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificate as well. Greedy, Matt Eagle. :)
Make sure you send a message (not a post on our wall) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prize! Spend your $25 on something awesome!
Brian David-Marshall is a sometimes Pro player, sometimes tournament organizer, but always the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Historian. He has been a regular contributor to the various Wizards of the Coast official web properties as a columnist and coverage reporter for over a decade. Brian has been the co-host of the Top 8 Magic podcast with YT since 2005. If you aren't already following him on Twitter at @top8games you should really take a moment to evaluate these horrible choices you call a life.