On Make the Play Monday this week we returned to the world of GW Devotion.
GW Devotion is a deck that really benefits from new release Dragons of Tarkir. Deathmist Raptor might just be the best card in Dragons of Tarkir, and GW Devotion is a deck that is already tailor made for it.
The obvious thing is that Deathmist Raptor can return to the battlefield from the graveyard when you flip another creature card face up; GW Devotion was already the most face down-tacular strategy in Standard with both Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental, making for lots of potential Deathmist Raptor re-buys. But even more simply, GW Devotion is one of the few decks in Standard that can profitably (and correctly) play four copies of Elvish Mystic.
Turn one Elvish Mystic, turn two Deathmist Raptor? What a powerful opening, offensively or defensively!
So anyway: GW Devotion - already one of the best decks in Standard.
Deathmist Raptor: Probably the best card in Dragons of Tarkir, perfect fit to GW Devotion; peanut butter...meet jelly. Scratch that. Peanut butter...meet chocolate.
So like I said on Monday, I am taking a long, close look at GW Devotion for the impending April 25th Regional PTQs, which was the impetus to this week's scenarios.
I used Daniel Cecchetti's Grand Prix-winning decklist for these scenarios, but we already know that there are some strong tools from Dragons of Tarkir that can contribute, even beyond Deathmist Raptor.
To wit, this is Lan D. Ho's decklist from the first PPTQs allowing Dragons of Tarkir:
And for a special treat, here is Lan's sideboard guide from the tournament!
"Study and grow strong."-Frank Kusumoto
It probably surprises none of you that Lan is this week's Celebrity Guest.SCENARIO ONE
To me, this is a question almost entirely of discipline.
Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should do that thing.
For me, personally, I think that I have more game-losing errors lifetime in making some play that maximizes my mana consumption on a single turn (for example tapping out for a Consecrated Sphinx instead of playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor with Mana Leak open) or maximizes my short-term card advantage instead of properly evaluating the specifics of the situation. You know, the old "all cards are not created equal" saw.
The incentive here is to use Mastery of the Unseen to make a 2/2 face down creature. Mastery of the Unseen plays a dual role in Standard; when you are jockeying for control it is a kind of Jayemdae Tome or Treasure Trove (with some upside); or it can muck up the battlefield to either preserve or gain life (when you are trying to slow the beats).
In a very slightly different world the obvious play would be to activate Mastery of the Unseen and get the free card (and free X life, incrementally, in one life point increments).
The problem is that Cecchetti's decklist has all of one Banishing Light, and Courser of Kruphix is telling us where that card is. We don't have an overabundance of ways to deal with Wingmate Roc. We can certainly be raced from this position. The opponent can produce eight power in flying offense per turn [that we can't block] which will kill us in three swings. If he has Sorin, Solemn visitor, he can upgrade that to 11 damage, which will kill us in two swings.
Given that it is possible that he has Utter End or Banishing Light to deal with our Mastery of the Unseen, it is by no means certain that we can use large bursts of life gain to undo some of these attacks.
Moreover, if he opts for a non-all-in offensive strategy, like attacking with just the Wingmate Roc (or more likely the Roc and the Vampire) and leaving back the other Bird on defense, he can eat our potential attackers if we go for a race.
Are we in an overwhelmingly good position here?
No, probably not overwhelmingly good; but good. If we make a face down Banishing Light it is entirely possible we will improve our chances to win the current game relative to our current position, with the opponent gripping two cards only; however I think we will improve our chances more by not making this particular 2/2 creature and using the Banishing Light on the Wingmate Roc on our following turn.
In addition to severely impacting the opponent's ability to beat us up us in the air, we remove a source of two to three additional life gain, no matter what.
The other option is that we Banishing Light one of his token creatures (probably the Bird, as all other things held equal a 3/4 flying non-card is better than a 2/2 flying non-card). This is better if he has Utter End or Banishing Light himself...but honestly I would much rather he unlocked a Banish'd Wingmate Roc (even if it meant a future Raid trigger) than used the same card on the Mastery of the Unseen, especially as we are likely to continue to expand our mana base in the next turn or three.
Mike's Play: Do nothing; draw the Banishing Light.
"Here I think I would do nothing and draw the Banishing Light and use it on the Wingmate Roc (actual card). You are kind of weak to flying and your opponent can attack for five and gain two each turn if he attacks with the Wingmate Roc and the Vampire token. Your opponent will probably leave the Bird token behind, so you can't profitably attack into him. If you Banish a bird, the opponent can attack for only two a turn.
"I like our topdecks more than his since we're drawing extra cards a turn and gaining life from both Courser of Kruphix and Mastery of the Unseen, and can control our draws somewhat by combining those cards.
"An argument can be made for Banishing the bird token as opponent probably has Utter End, but I still think I'd rather just stop his ability to gain life."
Lan's Play: Do nothing; draw the Banishing LightSCENARIO TWO
"I think the board situation is actually favorable to you and you are about to turn the corner, but you have to fade six power of flying, which is a pretty big problem. As the opponent is tapped out, we can proceed with impunity.
"We should assume that opponent has no lands in hand. We would have to think about how he played the previous turns to come to make a reasonable guess as to what's in his hand, but we can guess that he does not have a removal spell, as Whisperwood Elemental is still on the battlefield. I am making the assumption that he topdecked the Roc, which would give him a chance to win, which led to him suiciding the Seeker in order to activate raid. Maybe his hand is Thoughtseize, Erase? Maybe an Elspeth?
"You have access to either 26 green mana and four white mana or 19 green mana and five white mana, depending on what you untap with the Satyr.
"Now, if we were as Lucky as some, we would do nothing and then Whisperwood Elemental manifests a Polukranos, World Eater, at which point you would generate 21 mana in order to flip it up, gain eight life, and use the remaining 17 mana in order to kill both flyers.
"But that would require a very lucky Whisperwood, and you have only about an 11% chance of raw manifesting a Pokukranos this turn while your opponent is tapped out.
"One thing you can do is generate 20 mana and then play your Nykthos, Since you need 17 mana to kill both flyers, you can use two mana to return your Hydra to your hand and give your Sabertooth indestructible, You then cast Genesis Hydra for 12, which I think gives you almost an 81% chance of hitting a Polukranos, at which point you have six mana remaining, then tap your Nykthos, which now has 11 devotion because of the Polukranos in play, and shoot down both birds. At this point you send in with the Sabertooth and seem like you're well on your way to winning.
"However, I think there is a better line.
"What I think I would do is:
"You tap two Forests and activate Nykthos, generating nine green mana; tap Satyr, untap Nykthos, and activate it again; you now have 16 green mana.
"You spend two mana to pick up Hydra and give Sabertooth indestructible. You have 14 mana left.
"You Hydra for 11. You have one green mana left.
"If you hit Polukranos, you can generate 17 mana (using the other Nykthos in your hand) with which to destroy both birds. (You have about an 80% chance of hitting Polukranos.)
"If not, we assume you hit a green spell and put that into play; you then play the other Nykthos and tap both remaining untapped Forests to activate it. You generate 10 or 11 mana this way (depending on whether you put a permanent with one or two green mana symbols into play). You spend two of that to activate Sabertooth, picking up the Mastery. Then you can tap a Plains to play it. At this point you have nine to ten green mana and three white mana available to you. You can activate mastery twice and hope you hit a creature to gain nine life. If you don't hit within the first two, I think you still have to manifest a third time, leaving the Caryatid untapped. You still get another manifest from the Whisperwood Elemental, but you can flip it only if it's an elf. Also, you have no mana left so you can't protect anything with Sabertooth.
"I think this gives you 80% to hit a Polukranos and 83% chance to hit a creature with your two shots on Mastery with enough mana to flip anything if you need to gain life, including Whisperwood Elemental. At this point you manifest it before combat so that your mana doesn't drain. You then send in with the Sabertooth.
"So in conclusion: I think the best play is to...
1. Generate 16 green mana, pick up the Hydra and give the Sabertooth indestructible.2. Hydra for 11 and see if you get a Polukranos (by Hydra'ing for 11 we will have enough to kill both birds).3. Proceed as appropriate (can't really tell from this position) but pick up the Mastery and use mana appropriately before crashing with the Temur Sabertooth."4. You should definitely NOT attack with Whisperwood Elemental. He will be happy to trade with Brimaz, King of Oreskos.
I certainly didn't do all the math that Lan did going into Scenario Two.
I knew one of the big pulls to this deck -- from Lan's initial "guess what, I won another PPTQ" email to me Saturday night -- was the ability to use Temur Sabertooth as a Demonic Tutor in conjunction with Genesis Hydra, but I took a simpler line.
The things I focused on here were my life total (seven) and his flying damage potential (six). I'm likely alive through next turn, but I would in fact guess that the opponent is smelling blood in the water. I need a source of life gain to stabilize here.
All I did for immediate plays was to pick up the Mastery of the Unseen and re-play it before attacking with Temur Sabertooth. I don't think there is any difference in when you pick up Mastery of the Unseen as the opponent knows you can make Temur Sabertooth indestructible so it's not like he is going to block.
It's possible I didn't think about losing Mastery of the Unseen enough (i.e. his having an additional Erase), or getting super unlucky with manifesting non-creature cards. My thinking was simply that I was unlikely to die on his next attack, and that I would have tons of shots at getting both Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental creatures, and that something would be able to go face-up. Once that ball starts rolling (given this board including Voyaging Satyr and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx) his Roc-racing actually becomes irrelevant.
Obviously my mana would have to be meted out appropriately; but for now the play was just...
Mike's Play: Return Mastery of the Unseen to hand, making Temur Sabertooth indestructible; attack with Temur Sabertooth and re-play Mastery of the Unseen.Lan and I agreed on the first scenario, but took very different lines on the second. Obviously the second scenario will be quite open ended given the amount of resources at hand, and what ends up happening on the other side of the table (most notably if he has another Erase).
In the real game he actually had back-to-back Wingmate Rocs (which is about the best thing he can have, at least if we don't have Mastery of the Unseen) but I went to over 100 life in the next two turns, prompting a disconnect.
For agreeing with my plays, Sean Blough earns a $25 TCGPlayer.com gift certificate. Way to go Sean!
And for agreeing with Lan, Enrico Avallone earns a $25 TCGPlayer.com gift certificate as well. Tough road, Enrico.
Make sure you send a message (not a wall post) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prize!
Thanks for reading everyone,
Lan D. Ho is a tastemaker, troublemaker, and two-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor (including the legendary and star-studded Grand Prix Kansas City 1999). Lan is also the father of Movie Klub, founding the Austin, Philadelphia, and of course New York chapters. Follow Lan on Twitter at @lanield