Part I: Watch This Space!
We've been running Make the Play Monday and Flores Rewards Friday for about a year and a half now. You might remember that we debuted the column back in February of last year that the initial response was pretty much record-breaking. 782 likes. 651 comments. Quite a welcome [back] for Yours Truly, all in all. That sure was cool!
The focus on tactics plus incorporation of different, expert, and rediscovered voices on this site has been pretty successful overall, and I'm quite happy with what we've accomplished, up to and including improving my own game back to PT-caliber again.
…it's probably time to shake up the format a little.
There are no plans to sunset Make the Play Monday / Flores Rewards Friday completely (and I don't plan to go anywhere right now), but if you've been a little complacent about participating on any given week, I'd suggest you sharpen your keyboards this week and the near term moving forward. Change is in the wind and we are probably going to transition away from the weekly / twice-a-week format in the near future.
The goal is to have features - Make the Play or other - that you, our community, will never want to miss, and we're going to keep pushing. So…..watch This Space!
It will be worth it ;)
Part II: He cut the Golden Fang
About a month ago Yuuki Ichikawa won Grand Prix Shanghai in dramatically controversial fashion: Breaking one of the fundamental rules of competitive deck selection, Ichikawa played -- gasp -- sixty-one cards!
There are few good reasons to play sixty-one cards instead of sixty; especially when you have cards like Siege Rhino that are so far and away better than every other card in your deck, but Ichikawa had about the best reason you could: he didn't know what to cut, and felt like an under-informed cut would make for a worse deck than his sixty-one.
In times past notable deck designers have come up with all kinds of ideas on the subject of sixty-one, up to and including cutting a random card (under the thinking that any sixty-card deck being better than most any sixty-one), but you clearly can't do that with Ichikawa's deck.
What if you "randomly" removed a Siege Rhino?
This deck only has twenty-four lands; you can't really cut a Satyr Wayfinder or you're never going to be able to hit your sixes.
This hybrid strategy grafts the upside of Abzan Megamorph onto the Abzan Control shell; not only is Satyr Wayfinder important for the mana balance, it catalyzes the megamorph threats themselves (Deathmist Raptor) or stockpiles assets for future tutoring (Den Protector). You probably don't want to cut either Satyr Wayfinder or any of the megamorphs.
Ichikawa was unwilling to cut anything in particular, but former Number One Apprentice Josh Ravitz had more time.
On the way to making Top 8 of the StarCityGames Invitational in Columbus last weekend (his second Invitational Top 8 if memory serves), Josh figured out what to cut:
Tasigur the Golden Fang.
I mean, I can't say I like that much either.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang does so many things, up to and including third-turn setup synergy with the aforementioned Satyr Wayfinder.
The cut worked for Josh, though, helped put him into another great finish (though he says with different pairings Tasigur #2 might have been preferable to Deathmist Raptor #4), and at least brought him down to an acceptable sixty-count range.
I do think that Abzan Megamorph Control is an interesting choice. It has a lot of two-for-one opportunities with Deathmist Raptor, Den Protector, Satyr Wayfinder, and Abzan Charm; Siege Rhino, Courser of Kruphix, and Crux of Fate make for even more advantage opportunities, while Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Elspeth, Sun's Champion can actually win over the top. From a matchup perspective it's great against most other Abzan decks, can completely overwhelm fast rushing red decks with Drown in Sorrow and Arashin Cleric out of the sideboard (on top of some pretty good life gain and blocking main) and, at the very least, has relatively little fat to trim against control maindeck. There are few if any truly dead cards against, say, Esper Dragon Control.
Abzan Megamorph might not be the most powerful…but it is powerful.
You probably get how to play an Abzan deck generally given its past several months (beginning with winning Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir)... But that probably just means that stretching those decision-making muscles is even more apropos than usual for this column!
Let's check out some scenarios:
Scenario One: Keep or No?
The opponent is unknown.
Heroes are on the draw.
Crux of FateSiege RhinoCourser of KruphixDeathmist RaptorElspeth, Sun's ChampionLlanowar WastesPlains
Keep or no?
We've been getting a little beaten up.
The opponent had a Monastery Swiftspear then followed up with a couple of Goblin Tokens via Dragon Fodder.
Joining Dragon Fodder in the graveyard is a Wild Slash that took down our Courser of Kruphix when we blocked the Monastery Swiftspear. For its part, the usually-1/2 creature gained a third toughness via prowess, and lived.
The hated opponent has four cards in hand, but only three are mysterious: We know one is a Goblin Heelcutter. The Heelcutter is a big reason we're so beat up. We started on Satyr Wayfinder and followed up with a couple of consecutive copies of Courser of Kruphix, but a certain dashing individual has kept us from playing exactly the defense we want.
As bad as the first four turns have looked -- basically us doing nothing and him braining us repeatedly -- we have some decent options here.
It is our pre-combat main phase.
Our surviving Courser of Kruphix is telling us Deathmist Raptor is on top.
In our hand are two more copies of Deathmist Raptor! (and a bunch of other stuff, all of which are good in-matchup)
What should we do?
● 20 life● Four cards in hand (one is a Goblin Heelcutter)● Two cards in graveyard - Dragon Fodder and Wild Slash● Notable Permanents - four Mountains (all tapped), Monastery Swiftspear (tapped), two Goblin Tokens
● 11 life● Six cards in hand - Siege Rhino; Sorin, Solemn Visitor; Courser of Kruphix; Deathmist Raptor; Deathmist Raptor; Satyr Wayfinder● Five cards in graveyard - Windswept Heath, Ultimate Price, Satyr Wayfinder, Abzan Charm, Courser of Kruphix● Notable Permanents - four lands, Courser of Kruphix, Satyr Wayfinder
It's turn five; what should we do?
It's our third turn.
The opponent has a Wind-Scarred Crag, Plains, and Mountain. He has a fourth land -- an Evolving Wilds -- in the graveyard…
(but nothing else so far)
We played Llanowar Wastes and Plains over the first two turns. We have a land drop to make and a decision of what to play (if anything) to follow.
Crux of FateHero's DownfallSiege RhinoDeathmist RaptorDeathmist RaptorCourser of KruphixElspeth, Sun's ChampionWindswept Heath
Play turn three.
As you probably know already, this is Make the Play Monday.
The philosophy of this column has always been -- and remains -- to find the best plays. The thinking is that each choice we make puts us either closer to winning or farther away. Making better choices, over and over, game after game, increases our chances to win more games.
By challenging readers with choices like the ones in this column our hope is that all of us make more, better, choices (and win more).
In this column we asked you to make the following three plays:
1. Keep or no?2. It's turn five; what should we do?3. Play turn three.
Please submit your answers in the comments below.
I will return on Friday and go over some potential answers. In tow will be the pilot of this weekend's heroics, Josh Ravitz, with his view of the same.
We will comb the submissions in the comments and find one reader who agreed with me, and one who agreed with Josh. Each of those two lucky (and well-opinionated) readers will receive $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificates.
See you Friday!