From our previous installment we came into this one at the start of game three.

The matchup: UW Heroic (them) vs. BG Devotion (us)

Our deck list:


We split the first two games and were on the draw in game three. The opponent started on six cards and led with a tapped Hallowed Fountain. Our opening eight were...

Bile Blight
Lifebane Zombie
Golgari Guildgate
Temple of Malady
Temple of Malady

→ How would we play our first turn here?

How would our Celebrity Guest Josh Ravitz approach this one?

"This is an interesting scenario, sort of waking up in the middle of a match and trying to figure out what's going on, but I'll give it my best. You've already pointed out that WE have a Bile Blight in our hand and that we should infer that the enemy is attempting to create voltrons, as such it is paramount that we disrupt their synergy with Thoughtseize as early and as often as possible.

"Synergy-based decks are often very susceptible to Thoughtseize because it can break up what they are trying to do before they can defend themselves in any way. This is especially true in the Standard format where decks are not robust enough to survive Thoughtseizing due to the size of the cardpool (and no redundant options existing.) In this case we get the first crack at their hand before they do. I'm assuming that they either have Favored Hoplite + God's Willing (with the intention of protecting it from our Bile Blight effects [not our Devour Flesh effects, though!] or they simply don't have a Favored Hoplite (they could have shocked themselves to play it).

"The fact that the rest of our lands come into play tapped or don't produce black mana is of little relevance to me because I am assuming we will merely want to Zombie them on turn three and then have Bile Blight afterwards. If they somehow have assembled something too large for Bile Blight well, we can race with Mutavault and Lifebane Zombie or try to draw a Hero's Downfall or a Devour Flesh.

"It's worth noting that while theoretically we played two games against this opponent and we know what their deck contains, since I didn't actually play the games I couldn't tell you what cards I'd want to keep with Temple of Malady if we chose to play it on turn one. If we Thoughtseize them we get a ton of information with which to maximize out Temples beyond simply moving excess lands to the bottom of our deck."

Josh Ravitz's Play: Swamp into Thoughtseize.

For me to answer this question I would catalogue for a moment the history of Standard beatdown decks. No really! I think it's important to create some context for what we are likely to see across the table here.

Circa Mark Herberholz's Pro Tour Honolulu, Tsuyoshi Fujita, one of the Ten Best Deck Builders of All Time (and generally considered the best beatdown deck designer ever) developed the 20/20/20. The 20/20/20 was a simple model of twenty creatures, twenty burn spells, and twenty lands.

The 20/20/20 was actually a little light on lands for Standard beatdown decks, and a little heavy on burn. The 20/20/20 was a deviation and an innovation of two things that were important moving forward though: 1) it formalized a framework for us to look at beatdown decks, and 2) with its heavy burn component, it was a favorite against control decks whose board/creature removal cards might have nothing to interact with.

How is an understanding of the 20/20/20 useful here?

The 20/20/20 is in one sense perfect; it can draw whatever spells to go with its lands and they tend to move the strategy forward. Creatures are the proscribed threats of this kind of deck, and whether you are sending a Shock at the opponent's creature or face, your Shock still has text.

One of the things I have always disliked about the heroic archetype is how its model deviates from the 20/20/20.

You can't actually play twenty Heroic creatures, twenty lands, and twenty buffs (at least I don't think you can). That is because you need more creatures than buffs because -- unlike the burn spells in Fujita's 20/20/20 -- these buffs have no text unless you have a creature already on the battlefield. Plus they get worse and worse if we have removal on curve.

In this sense, a Heroic deck is almost like a Ramp deck. You need to play (and by extension draw) your cards in a particular order in order to do what you want. You get some extra payoff if you do, but you don't get to do anything if you don't. Drawing your cards in the right order is tough enough with seven cards...but six?

Now is our chance!

The opponent's draw is starting out compromised. Of his six cards we can guess he drew (at least) two were probably lands. That leaves four business cards to deal with. Of the four business cards, how many were likely to be heroic creatures? Two? There is no way he kept a hand without at least one creature.

Our Bile Blight gives us some play against a single creature on the battlefield, but our hand is potentially weak to a two- or three-creature hand on the opponent's part, with him going first. We can blunt that somewhat by stealing the play.

To that end, I would play the Swamp into Thoughtseize.

Mike's Play: Swamp into Thoughtseize.

The potential weakness of this line is that all the rest of our black mana comes into play tapped, which will likely take our Bile Blight off-curve by a turn. But...knowing our opponent's hand might make that irrelevant.

Josh and I obviously agreed on our first turn plays this week (Swamps in both cases) but for what it's worth, I think that Golgari Guildgate is better than Temple of Malady on the first turn. Usually you want to use a card like Temple of Malady on turn one to dig for lands in a low-land hand or otherwise tune your draw, but that's obviously not the kind of hand we have. Our eight is a little land-heavy so we might want to push lands, but the spot we're in lacks quite a bit of context. Thoughtseize or Lifebane Zombie would be helpful. If we use Temple of Malady on turn one, it would (obviously) be without the information afforded by an early Thoughtseize.

From my perspective then: Temple of Malady < Golgari Guildgate < Swamp + Thoughtseize

So how did we do?

For agreeing with Yours Truly, Jesse Clark receives a $25 gift certificate. Good job on good play Jesse Clark!

For agreeing with Celebrity Guest Joshua P. Ravitz, Drew Pieterick also receives a $25 gift certificate. Well played Drew Pieterick!

Congratulations to Jesse Clark and Drew Pieterick; and thanks to everyone in the community for playing. Make sure you send a message to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prizes! Thanks to everyone who played.


Joshua Ravitz is the reigning Washington State Champion and has been playing magic for about 20 years. Josh boasts numerous Grand Prix, Open, and Invitational Top 8 finishes, with his most recent professional level high finish a 3rd place at Grand Prix Denver 2013. You can follow Josh on Twitter at @jravitz and watch his ever-popular Magic stream at