Back when he still lived out in his native New Jersey my friend and former Number One Apprentice Joshua P. Ravitz and I once differed on the play of Ponder.

In a tight game that could have gone either way, Josh saw me push some non-instant / non-sorcery spells and try to have a go of it. My Delver of Secrets was indeed still a Delver of Secrets itching to become an Insectile Aberration and my fist full of Snapcaster Mages...well, they ended a string of lowly not-quite Ashcoat Bears. I traded some not-instants / not-sorceries for not-spells-at-all and that game that could have gone either way ended in flooded X/1s.

"Can't push spells."

Can't you?

I doubt Josh meant this to be a 100% blanket statement. Obviously you can push spells, say when you're using Ponder to dig for lands, or in a less-close scenario when you can predict that the cards on top are definitely not going to cut it.

Suffice it to say that this was at the very least a useful tool and different way to think about resource risk mitigation.

The interesting thing is how the "top of your library" skills can stick around and help you decide on stuff in later, seemingly unrelated formats. Ponder's look at the top of your library isn't so different from the ubiquitous scry mechanic today.

So…push spells?

Here is a deck I have been playing around with on MTGO.


It isn't tuned and definitely not perfect for what it wants to be when it grows up; in part it is what it is because of which cards I have on MTGO right now, which include the full set of Chord of Calling but not all of the interesting new cards from Magic 2015 Core Set. Case in point I would probably play the full four copies of Reclamation Sage. Even in a Chord of Calling deck that card is just too good. I think of all the mileage I have gotten out of one Keening Apparition (and how pinched I've been for a single W at times) and anything less than the full four copies seems silly to least for initial tests. The card is great against every real deck, taking down Eidolon of the Great Revel, Underworld Connections, Detention Sphere, Whip of Erebos, Assemble the Legion, Chained to the Rocks, and more. Almost every deck is vulnerable to some kind of enchantment or artifact hate and this card is simply in-theme.

To make up for not having Reclamation Sage yet I played one copy of Sylvan Primordial and I don't think I would cut it. It has actually come in handy as a lucky topdeck and a long-game Chord of Calling target; one of the rare cards in this list that can contain large flyers lest we forget that one of the format's most popular large flyers starts out Protection from White (sorry Banisher Priest).

If you haven't caught the theme yet, this is a "mana and bombs" deck in the classic vein of Magic boss Aaron Forsythe at his Pro Tour deck design height. All the cards are either Elvish Mystic / Sylvan Caryatid, select bullets (the aforementioned solo Keening Apparition), or some kind of table-snapping semi-soft lock or at least two-for-one.

It is really hard to get ground out with this deck. If your curve is Elvish Mystic into Courser of Krupix [getting top of the library value] into Eidolon of Blossoms (or Polukranos, World Eater, which is two-for-one-ish in certain matchups), a deck playing fair is simply going to get buried in card advantage. The impetus behind this strategy with all the two-for-ones (Courser of Kruphix / Banisher Priest / [theoretically] Reclamation Sage / Eidolon of Blossoms / Sylvan Primordial) is to combat the card advantage of Lifebane Zombie. Thoughtseize-into-Lifebane Zombie is the main thing holding down green in Standard (let alone green'white!) so I thought maybe playing a slew of two-for-ones could help to even the battlefield.

One small note on playing Chord of Calling if you haven't played with it a lot yet (that I remember from winning a PTQ with it the first time around!), you can "cycle" a one mana Elf with Chord of Calling. Say you have ten lands in play and an Elvish Mystic and a Chord of Calling in hand. You can of course just tap all ten to Chord for even the big old Sylvan Primordial in this deck. But! You can also just play the Elf. This leaves you with nine in play; because a summoning sick Elvish Mystic can still Convoke for G, you can play one and keep the full efficacy of your Chord mana. It's obvious when laid out like this, but something that might not seem intuitive the first couple of times you play.

You're welcome.

In my limited play so far, this deck has shown some real promise. If you have an Elvish Mystic draw you can often completely bury an opponent attempting to play fair; and even when the opponent has over the top type cards like Supreme Verdict or Sphinx's Revelation you have some good Staying Power and can keep pace on cards while dealing damage.

But no, this can't be the perfect deck; not just yet.

Here are some scenarios using this new strategy.

Scenario One

It's game three against a Jund Monsters deck. The first two games were the typical screw-screw you will see in Courser of Kruphix semi-mirror matches. In game one we kept a one-land hand, got a Courser and, even though we were able to bolster our mana with Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid, lost with a 3-7 lands disadvantage on the 'field.

In game two it was the reverse. One of the unsung disadvantages of Courser of Kruphix is that in games where you are not drawing lands it tells the opponent everything you are drawing. So I knew my opponent was drawing all these awesome Doom Blades and Putrefies, but also that he was not drawing lands. So I punked him with a Keening Apparition to buy a turn that helped me eventually take it into game three.

So potentially similar situation:

We're on Elvish Mystic.

He doesn't want to fall behind and Dreadbores (!) the Elvish Mystic.

Then it's dueling Sylvan Caryatids. Our Caryatid follow up is Temple of Plenty; which reveals...

Keening Apparition!

Keening Apparition in this spot reminded me of Josh's Ponder admonitions ("can't push spells"). In fact, Keening Apparition was key in game two.


4 cards in hand


Mana Confluence
Mana Confluence
Overgrown Tomb
Sylvan Caryatid

18 life


5 cards in hand:

Temple Garden
Polukranos, World Eater
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Chord of Calling
Eidolon of Blossoms


Sylvan Caryatid
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Plenty (wondering if it should keep or push a Keening Apparition)

Scenario One Question - Keep Keening Apparition or push?

Scenario Two

We've played some monsters; they've bought some Putrefies.

The opponent has previously sprung a Stormbreath Dragon (putting us to 16). Now it is coming and its monstrous ability is on the stack. The opponent has helped us out a little due to double Mana Confluence and is on 15.

He now has 0 cards in hand and has only a single Mana Confluence untapped.

His battlefield is two Elvish Mystics (one tapped); a tapped Sylvan Caryatid; and the Stormbreath Dragon that is about to be coming.

We have 16 life and two cards in hand:
Banisher Priest
Chord of Calling

We have one Forest tapped for a summoning sick Elvish Mystic, and the rest of our battlefield is...

Temple Garden
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Plenty
Sylvan Caryatid
Nylea, God of the Hunt [not presently a creature]
(the Elvish Mystic)
...all untapped.

We know the Stormbreath Dragon is likely to be coming. The opponent has its monstrous on the stack; what if anything do we do?

In case you need to know: In this game we have -2 Ajani, Mentor to Heroes, +1 Banisher Priest, +1 Keening Apparition.

Scenario Two - What if anything do we do?

It's Make the Play Monday!

Every Make the Play Monday we propose scenarios like this one and put them out to the community. You all are meant to put your prospective answers in the comments below.

Each week, one lucky commenter who agrees with my solutions (posted on Friday) will get a $25 gift certificate.

But wait, there's more! Each week we elicit the help of a Celebrity Guest (who may or may not agree with YT); a different lucky commenter who agrees with our Celebrity Guest will earn another $25 gift certificate!

The store credit flows like the ambrosia of the gods of Theros, and the plays get better as we work through and discuss instructive in-game situations.

What are you waiting for?

Comments below!