In my previous article, Planning Every Aspect, I proposed that having a plan was one of the most important aspects of your game. At the SCG Regional Championships this weekend in Boston I got the privilege of watching a teammates rubber match between Hollow One and Naya Company in the 8th round. The game had enough decision points in just the first four turns that it ended up being a 30 minute discussion that was only cut short due to round 9 pairings being posted. Let’s break down the game turn by turn and see what plans we can formulate.
For reference, here is the list that Martin Juza took to the top 8 of GP Atlanta the weekend before that was being used for the event:
Making a plan: sideboarding
Before we even go into the opening seven cards, we are presented with the first opportunity to consider a broad plan and sideboard our deck accordingly. The deck operates in an interesting space between both Aggro and Midrange and does have potential sideboard plans to swap between each role.
We just lost a very close game 2 where we were top decking to any removal spell to clear the final creature preventing lethal due to worship. We have no answer in the 75 to a resolved Worship, so we will have to either attempt to snag it with a discard effect or completely clear the board, additionally, we will get initiative and be on the play. There are also a few main deck cards that are very difficult for us to deal with, mainly Collected Company which sets us very far behind in card advantage. Finally, the Naya shard does include access to white hate cards, particularly Rest in Peace.
The Naya Company Deck is chock full of threats that can actually outgrow ours in the form of Tarmogoyf, Voice of Resurgence and Knight of the Reliquary with the potential additional threats such as Thragtusk. Another angle of attack that the Naya list can come at us from is the potential to make their own Hollow One with the card Obstinate Baloth, it’s best that avoid making our Opponent randomly discard a card.
In this match we opted to take on a more controlling slant and made the following sideboard adjustments:
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Fatal Push
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Burning Inquiry
Lands and Spells
Unfortunately we had to mulligan, but these 6 actually line up really well with the plan of slowing the game down and playing a midrange game. We get to open on a land into Flameblade Adept to present some minor pressure that is backed up with some heavy disruption and removal.
Turn 1: Hollow one
Most of the Naya cards that we care about with Thoughtseize all cost 2 or more which reduces the need for us to have to open with the Thoughtseize. We also, have plenty of land in hand to start double spelling with the Lightning Bolt on our second turn, so we can forgo holding up a red to bolt the bird. We do have a requirement of two black sources for Liliana of the Veil if we want to cast it on curve and do want to be able to prevent as much incidental damage as possible. Luckily, out land distribution allows for us to be able to search for a basic Swamp if needed. Blackcleave Cliffs looks to be the correct play here, giving us the most flexible mana base on the following turns with the least pain.
Turn 2: Naya Company
Play Stirring Wildwood
A tapped land and no Noble Heirarch is great news allowing us to leave bolt up for more powerful threats down the line and trade up on mana.
Turn3: Hollow One
Draw for the turn, Mountain.
This is where the amount of decisions in the match up start to pile up, this turn is going to be one of the most crucial turns in the game as we have access to a truly skill testing card in the form of Thoughteize and this is the point in the match where I look to take a different path than what was actually taken by the pilot. Generally, you will want to gather as much information as possible before making a play which leads us to a reasonable level 0 autopilot play of Thoughtseize.
At this point in the match what are we trying to take with our Thoughtseize, is this the opportune time that will grant us the most information? We can assume their is an absence of Noble Heirarch as this is the most powerful turn 1 play that Naya can muster, it is a little scary that the Opponent kept a hand that presumably does Noble Heirarch yet is still powerful enough to warrant a keep, which means there must gas laden. Being on the Draw we can also predict that their hand may also be land light as there is a greater chance of getting to the 3rd/4th/5th land with the added draw step, which pushes more toward hot fiery GAS!
What cards are we looking to snag with the Thoughtseize, why did we sideboard it in in the first place? Through the last two games we determined that there had been a few problem cards that need to be dealt with before they hit the battlefield. Those cards being Worship, Collected Company (which we have seen already) and Rest in Peace. Of these three cards, the only potential card to resolve next turn would be the Rest in Peace. If we look at the context of our hand, can we beat a turn two RiP. yes, easily, we had also skewed our deck to be less reliant on the graveyard as we identified it as a problem card for us. Additionally, the Naya list is also running Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary which are both reliant on a stocked graveyard which means that it’s pressence in the 75 is much less likely and other hate cards such as Scavenging Ooze or Surgical Extraction are closer to the cards that the deck is actually playing. The only other troubling card that comes to mind that may punish us is a Voice of Resurgence but with the skew of our hand being more midranged we should be able to push through.
I would conclude that while not casting the Thoughtseize and holding up the bolt and fetch land is the right call. However, hind sight is 20/20 so let’s dive right in!
The Thoughtseize suspect lineup
Ajani Vengeant – Does this card even have a text box? Does not answer any of our large threats or recursive threats, only a speed bump at best. NEXT!
Knight of the Reliquary – This has the ability to out row our removal in hand by the time it hits the battlefield and equally as quickly outgrow our threats, on top of also dodging a vanilla Fatal Push. Good contender outside the fact that we can edict it with our Liliana of the veil. soft next.
In the end, the path which we put ourselves down does almost require us to take the take the Tarmogoyf, followed by using Lightning Bolt on the presumed follow up Qasali Pridemage and top it all off with Liliana of the Veil Edict on the Knight of the Reliquary, keeping the board clear of threats.
Turn 4: Naya Company
Cast Qasali Pridemage
Just like we wrote it up.
Turn 5: Hollow One
Draw for the turn, Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Time to upgrade our plan of riding a single 1/2 threat to victory into two threats! For us to have any chance of winning the match we will need to first apply pressure, and then follow it up with disruption. We had been accomplishing this so far, keeping to board state in our favor and disrupting the curve of the opponent which now allows us to take a turn off of disruption and add a large threat.
Turn 6: Naya Company
At this point, the Opponents plays are starting to feel a little scripted. It’s almost like we chose which spells we wanted to play against with our turn two Thoughtseize.
Turn 7: Hollow One
Draw for the turn, Hollow One
We don’t want to cycle away one of our end game threats at this point, we are running a little thin on our pressure. Ack, the board isn’t clear! we had better do something about it!
Cast Liliana of the Veil, -2 Edict the opponent, push through 5 points of damage (15-9)
Turn 8: Naya Company
Play Forest, Pass the turn
Uh oh, this is our nightmare situation, they are holding up Collected Company just waiting for us to flinch. Regretfully move to untap.
Turn 9: Hollow One
Draw for the turn, Street Wraith.
This new card isn’t very helpful for the situation, our best bet is to try to cycle to get to some sort of interaction.
Cycle Street Wraith (13-9)
This isn’t any much better, let’s keep digging
Cycle Hollow One
The wheels are about to completely fall off based on this next decision.
Cast Hollow One and move to combat with all
Complete blackout scenario…
…What happened? Where did our board go? Why is the slip filled out and my Opponent has 2 points to my 1? Let me think really hard and try to recap what had happened. We kept our Opponent off balance as we slowly whittle away at their life resource. We had presented a decent boardstate and were crashing in for near lethal damage.
Casting Collected Company
A third of our board is now neutralized with the free removal of our Hollow One. The two fresh creatures can now team up to take down the elusive Flameblade Adept, two thirds gone and a large threat now present. The final dagger, that four mana do nothing speed bump Ajani Vengeant just turned our Tasigur, the Golden Fang into a frozen lump (interesting ability from R/W mana). The game unraveled so quickly it put all of our heads into a spin.
Lessons to be learned
- We had a great plan ready to go, but sometimes name sake cards in a deck can cause complete upheaval of everything we had set out to accomplish. When you cast a Thoughtseize it is a good bet to take the card the entire deck is named after.
- A quick slip into autopilot can be disastrous for your game. You really do need to think about and reason why you are making every play of the game, sometimes even before you play your first land.
- Know the use of each of your cards. The consequence of casting our Thoughtseize prematurely resulted in the inability to answer an early threat which forced us to leave behind one of the cards we actually brought Thoughtseize in to answer. We filled a round hole with a square peg.
- Always be thinking and talking with your teammates, after intense debate and extreme analysis on these few turns I feel like I have grown as a player even if ever so slightly. Having only ever played from the eyes of Collected Company, I now know what it feels like to be on the receiving end…A new life experience.
- Honestly though, always be thinking and talking with your teammates. You alone cannot tackle the entirety of this immensely complex game.
Until I watch someone cast Thoughtseize again, Good Luck; Have Fun!