The format: Modern

The turn: Turn Two

The deck:


We kept a not-perfect but arguably-keep-able hand of:

Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Snapcaster Mage
Bloodstained Mire
Scalding Tarn
Watery Grave

...and started on Watery Grave.

The opponent laid a Mountain and brained us with a Lava Spike.

Lava Spike! We took a narrow look at the six we had left -- Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Snapcaster Mage, a couple of lands and a couple of removal cards -- knowing we might already be dead.

We followed up with Bloodstained Mire and passed.

...which brings us to the turn in question.

Our board, thusly, is this:

The opponent followed up with his Lava Spike with a Goblin Guide, like so:

Well, what are we going to do about it?

This week we are getting attacked by a deadly Red Deck opponent. He started on Lava Spike and followed up with Goblin Guide.

In order to find the best play against such an opponent, I went to the deadliest Red Deck mage I know, Patrick Sullivan, to offer his perspective.

"This one feels relatively straightforward to me; the only particulars are in the details. Playing against Burn, our life total is of paramount importance, so we're killing the Guide one way or the other. The only question is if we are using Lightning Bolt, Terminate, or Snapcaster Mage to block. Since Lightning Bolt is better for us to keep in hand (cheaper, kills everything Terminate does, can go upstairs) and Snapcaster Mage has way more value as the game progresses, it seems better to use Terminate in this spot. The only argument for using Lightning Bolt is it sets us up for Snapcaster + Bolt next turn, but that seems unlikely to matter as we have another Terminate for a follow-up play and are likely to be playing towards a fast Tasigur in the short term anyway.

"The other question is if we want to use our Bloodstained Mire before or after the Guide trigger. Typically, you would want to do this after the trigger, as you are fractionally more likely to draw a land this way and the information on the top card could inform how you want to fetch. This is an exception to that rule, as we only have one Mountain in the deck, and if we reveal it from the Guide trigger we instead have to fetch an untapped dual or take the Guide hit. Since taking unnecessary damage against Burn is a disaster and the upside of being slightly more likely to reveal a land is nebulous anyway, best to err on the side of caution and fetch preemptively.

"My play is to allow Goblin Guide to attack, and with the trigger on the stack use Bloodstained Mire to fetch a Mountain and cast Terminate on Goblin Guide."

Patrick Sullivan's Play: Use Bloodstained Mire with Goblin Guide's trigger on the stack to fetch Mountain; Terminate Goblin Guide

I joyfully concur with basically everything Patrick has laid out here, up to and including his play.

I do have a couple of things to add, though.

Like Patrick said, it is important to use our Bloodstained Mire with Goblin Guide's trigger on the stack. Under most circumstances you will want to let Goblin Guide's trigger resolve before using your fetch land, as (at least assuming you don't know what your top card is) you want to maximize the chances of getting that extra land.

However in this case the one land difference is critical: It is our lone basic Mountain. It would actually be bad for us to draw the Mountain for free because it would then no longer be in our library. If it's not in our library we can't fetch it, meaning if we want to cast one of our red removal cards this turn we need to get Steam Vents or Blood Crypt -- and pay two additional life -- for the privilege.

Going down two additional life is a Catastrophe in this spot; it is very much like handing the opponent an extra burn card and spotting him the mana to cast it.

Heck, it's bad enough we have to pay a point to begin with :(

I agree with Patrick that the right way to deal with this Goblin Guide is Terminate. There are three reasons for this.

First, it's just the clean play. All other things held equal having two consumable mana, it is cost advantageous for us to use both of the mana instead of using Lightning Bolt and leaving the other land fallow. On some future turn we might have one spare mana, which would allow us to play the Lightning Bolt but not the Terminate. Ergo it would be most useful for us to retain the Lightning Bolt rather than one of the Terminates (and we have a redundant Terminate anyway).

Secondly, the creatures in the Red Deck aren't very good. Goblin Guide and Eidolon of the Great Revel are both 2/2 creatures. We can kill them with Terminate or Lightning Bolt...but probably more importantly, there are no Dragons or whatever that would incent us to save Terminate for something bigger. By using the Terminate we can retain the flexibility of Lightning Bolt to go to the face.

Third and most strategically based on what we know so far, we can already see where this game is going. Why didn't he play his second land before attacking? Isn't that kind of weird? He's still got six cards in hand. We're already at 17 and are going to go to 16 (minimum) this turn. He has between 10 and 18 points in hand, meaning we could already be dead. Our greatest hope is just that he can't get his cards out quickly enough, giving us a chance to race. One thing that is very bad for us is that he kept his hand, even though it has obviously come out sub-optimally. (Why start on Lava Spike and then play second turn Goblin Guide otherwise?) But one thing that is good for us is that his hand is not coming out the way he probably wanted. It is almost certain that he just ripped that Guide, meaning that his hand probably hasn't improved in terms of speed.

Like I just said, our greatest hope is in racing. If we play Tasigur, the Golden Fang next turn we actually have a decent chance of racing. Tasigur, the Golden Fang costs six mana. We currently have zero cards in our graveyard. We are planning to have Bloodstained Mire and a removal card [Terminate] in our graveyard. Next turn we intend to make our land drop via Scalding Tarn. If we sacrifice Scalding Tarn for Island we will have three untapped lands in play and three cards in our graveyard... The perfect number to set up Tasigur, the Golden Fang!

There are a couple of cards that can mix up this line of play. For example, if the opponent shows us a Thought Scour that is going to give us a much more interesting Tasigur setup. We would probably be able to leave up Lightning Bolt!

Remember: Our greatest hope is in racing. If we play Tasigur, the Golden Fang on turn three, we probably won't be able to win with it before turn eight.


We have Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt in hand. Lightning Bolt by itself can shave the better part of a turn off of our clock, and two Lightning Bolts (which we can extrapolate from the presence of our Snapcaster Mage) can make for more than a turn. Plus, Snapcaster Mage might be able to get in there himself!

What all that means is that we will be better off delving the Terminate rather than delving the Lightning Bolt, because the Lightning Bolt will actually help us to win before we lose to a hand he is already telegraphing as juiced to high heavens.

Mike's Play: Use Bloodstained Mire with Goblin Guide's trigger on the stack to fetch Mountain; Terminate Goblin Guide

This week's Make the Play Monday had two elements that I am glad [many] readers picked up on: 1) when to break the fetch land, and 2) which removal spell to use. Together, these two elements make not just for tight Magic but are subtly strategic.

Great job to many of you!

Since this Flores Rewards Friday is kind of the opposite of the last one (lots of people making plays that agree with Yours Truly and / or the Celebrity Guest rather than no one hitting the bullseye), I'm happy to allocate one of our orphan prizes from last time.

This week's winners:

Liam Cahalan
Ian Hill
Eric Conan Hawkins

Great job guys! All three of you have earned $25 gift certificates from here at Congrats. Make sure you send a message (not a wall post) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prize!


The first time I played Patrick Sullivan he had two 2/1 White Weenie creatures and a Phyrexian Negator in play while I had a Masticore...that I forgot to pay upkeep on. The beatdown specialist has not been one whit kinder to opponents in the ensuing fourteen years.

A Red Deck specialist with numerous Open, Invitational, and Grand Prix Top 8s, Patrick is a full time Magic commentator for StarCity Games, covering their Open Series and Invitationals. You can follow Patrick on Twitter at @basicmountain.