It's the first turn of game three.

The opponent has five cards in hand and just a tapped Hallowed Fountain on the battlefield.

We have just drawn. Our eight cards are:

Bile Blight
Lifebane Zombie
Thoughtseize
Golgari Guildgate
Mutavault
Swamp
Temple of Malady
Temple of Malady

What can we say about this?

The opponent has started on six [great!]

The opponent has started on Hallowed Fountain [horrible :( ]

Or is it?

Seeing as it is game three and the opponent played first (and you can see that we have eight cards), there are certain things that you can probably infer from this game.

1. We lost game one (to go first in game two).
2. We won game two (so the opponent can go first in game three).

But what is Bile Blight doing there?

Isn't Bile Blight kind of a weird card to have in a sideboarded game against Hallowed Fountain?

Are we so scared of eventual Elspeth token creatures that we would play it? Especially with Hallowed Fountain-hater Thoughtseize right there in our opening grip?

So...first turn Hallowed Fountain.

It can do so many things.

It can summon an AEtherling. It can blink out an AEtherling in trouble; or give AEtherling some of the best angles on a Serra Angel.

It can Dissolve our best threats.

It can tap for either side of an Azorius Charm to draw a little bit early. Or contribute to a massive and concerted cause for a huge Sphinx's Revelation later.

Ah, Hallowed Fountain.

I know you are probably making some assumptions about our deck; and might already be thinking ahead to what our deck in a sideboarded game might want to do against Hallowed Fountain.

We have cards like Thoughtseize that can pre-empt many of our opponent's key cards / threats, or Overload with Duress to get more and more and more.

But...Bile Blight?

So...Hallowed Fountain.

The opponent could be doing all kinds of dangerous stuff like tapping six for Elspeth, Sun's Champion or [virtual] seven for AEtherling. He could be countering target spell or destroying any number of creatures.

...but in this case its job is to make guys like this:

Or this:

Thank the gods!

Here's what you need to know:

Our weapon of choice for this scenario is Josh Ravitz's Washington-winning deck from a recent event, Black Devotion splashing green:

DECKID=1201294

Josh's deck has much the same structure as the traditional Monoblack Devotion decks, but touches Golgari Guildgate, basic Forest, Overgrown Tomb, and Temple of Malady to run Abrupt Decay and some key sideboard cards.

Abrupt Decay is of course awesome at destroying Chained to the Rocks (one of the few cards RW has for our big 6/6), and gives the strategy some play against problem Vindicates like Detention Sphere and Banishing Light -- UW's answers to...anything we can play.

All the green sideboard cards are awesome at what they do. Golgari Charm is more anti-enchantment action (and has more text, to boot). Vraska the Unseen and Primeval Bounty give this middle turns deck some tools to go over the top and compete against more powerful opponents as the Devotion deck grinds some near term card advantage with Underworld Connections.

On balance, Josh's version lacks the Nightveil Specters that are so dangerous for other mid-range and control decks to deal with, saving space and rolling the dice with maindeck Lifebane Zombie.

Lifebane Zombie is of course whiz-bang great against a deck full of Battlewise Hoplite and Phalanx Leader.

Thank the gods!

So...back to where we started:

Our opponent is tapped out with a Hallowed Fountain. He has five other cards.

We have:

Bile Blight
Lifebane Zombie
Thoughtseize
Golgari Guildgate
Mutavault
Swamp
Temple of Malady
Temple of Malady

Pretty straightforward, right?

Or is it?

Play your first turn.

If this is your first time checking out Make the Play Monday / Flores Rewards Friday, here's how we play:

● On Mondays (ie. "Make the Play" Mondays) I put up a hypothetical like this one.
● Anyone and everyone can answer the hypothetical in the comments below (today's being "play your first turn").
● We collect answers -- good, bad, and sideways -- for the next several days, until...
● Flores Rewards Friday! On Fridays, I say what I either did or would have done, and hook in a Celebrity Guest for his or her opinion. The Celebrity Guests are awesome one and all, and have thus far included Hall of Famers, Pro Tour winners, former R&D members, specific strategy specialists, and even the Magic Pro Tour Historian!
● Each week, one responder who agreed with me, and one who agreed with the week's Celebrity Guest, each win a $25 gift certificate from the generous folks here at TCGplayer.com!

Make the Play Monday / Flores Rewards Friday seems like it's about one thing (awesome prizes) but is really about another thing: playing better Magic: The Gathering. Magic is a game about lacing together play after play, decision after decision. Players who consistently make better decisions finish better in tournaments. This weekly feature is about helping Magicians better reason through the plays they make to do just that: Finish better in tournaments.

So...play your first turn.

Answer in the comments below.

LOVE
MIKE