TES Infernal Tutoring # 1

As the last snow flakes are falling on a Canadian island, the Storm season already peeks for the local Magic league. Following the last summer reports, I’m getting back into action to provide a better, improved, beginner-targeted content. I’ve surrounded myself with some of the best Stormtroopers around, a variety of TES geniuses & enthusiasts hoping their teachings will help all of us improve. With these Infernal Tutors (pun intended), we’ll take a look at different reports, scenarios, game states and other subjects of discussions over this brand new series. With the use of the amazing learning tool that is Cockatrice and the visual support it offers, we will show a new perspective over our favorite deck. Without anymore introduction, let’s bring our first case!

Please note: For these exercises, I used my last registered deck list – which is from my last league event last year. This list will change over the weeks to be much closer to the standard TES lists, as if I understood something from last summer, it’s that a good Magic player always brings the most optimal deck list for his environment.



Situation #1 – LED Dredge

We barely won game 1 and the Dredge player chooses to be on the play for game 2. We almost saw the power of Breakthrough in the first game, fortunately a lucky Dark Ritual draw gave us the win. During sideboarding, we removed the Empty the Warrens from the deck and brought in Pyroclasm from the sideboard.

Our opponent begins the second game with a Faithless Looting, discarding a Bridge from Below and a Golgari Thug to the graveyard. We kept a hand of: Polluted Delta, Rite of Flame, Lotus Petal, Polluted Delta, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, and Underground Sea before drawing Dark Ritual for the turn.


EDITOR’S NOTE: You may click on the images to enlarge for better viewing.

The crucial dilemma is, do we go for Empty the Warrens and hope to win before the Zombies or do we hold on until a secure kill, but risk being hit by Cabal Therapy? What is the best line of play?

I decided the best decision was to go all in and make 12 Goblins.

This is a fairly common situation against Dredge, and combo decks in general. You have to decide between a fairly underwhelming attempt at combo-ing before they can kill you or tear apart your hand, or waiting back and seeing what happens. Fundamentally though, Dredge is a combo deck that can produce some quick kills, and since our opponent really only needs to put five creatures on the table by turn three to effectively have us unable to kill him, I’d say that our chances of winning with twelve Goblins is fairly low. If we still had the Empty the Warrens in the main deck, we could Burning Wish for Dark Petition and make 14 Goblins, which I’m a lot more confident in, but I do believe that boarding out Empty the Warrens is a reasonable choice in this matchup.

All that said, my line would be to play Lion’s Eye Diamond and pass the turn. Our opponent is very likely to name Infernal Tutor with the first Cabal Therapy, and I’d be surprised if our opponent is able to fire off more than two Cabal Therapy next turn. So, we would end up losing the Burning Wish, but we would have gotten some time from our opponent, which will end up being valuable in that case. Additionally, there is a very reasonable chance that our opponent only gets to use one Cabal Therapy next turn, in which case we are likely in an even better position. Next turn we can use Dark Petition to get Ad Nauseam and have a safer kill. Some people might feel a bit apprehensive to this line, because it feels so easy to lose without actually doing anything, but losing without doing anything isn’t functionally different from losing after you made 12 Goblins that only got to attack for like 12 damage, so that fear shouldn’t drive your play.

The question here is, if you feel comfortable to gamble with 12 Goblins against the opposing army of Zombies established within three turns or to hope that the Golgari Thug’s Dredge 4 ability does not mill a Cabal Therapy and a way to cheat a creature into play (to flashback the Sorcery), into the opposing graveyard. The better odds here given the hand in the scenario is to bet against the Cabal Therapy and it finding the right target. Dropping a fetch land, Lion’s Eye Diamond and passing the turn would be my play here.

Even if the Cabal Therapy would hit the opponent’s graveyard, it still leaves my opponent puzzled if Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish is to be named in that case. If your opponent passes the turn without casting discard, you can break the fetchland for a red mana source, untap, drop the Underground Sea, cast all your mana and wish for Dark Petition to grab Ad Nauseam for the win.

You have to look at the situation as the turn you will kill them, which at best is turn three on the draw with Goblin tokens. I view this as a much larger risk than the probability that your opponent hits a Cabal Therapy and a Narcomoeba that turn. Hitting that off a Dredge for four is slim, they would need to mill another Dredge creature during their draw step and then have another draw spell. On top of that, there’s the game of, “Which card do I have? Burning Wish or Infernal Tutor?”

You were a mana short on your last turn for Burning Wish for Dark Petition to find Ad Nauseam. You’re guaranteed to have that mana with your land drop, plus possibly more depending on your draw step. Even with the worst case scenario that they discard Burning Wish, you’re still just a draw step away from their death.

After making 12 Goblins, they were matched by 4 Zombies before they could even attack. I was victim of good a Dredge paired with Cabal Therapy (sacrificing a Narcomoeba). I tried to apply some pressure by attacking, I lost momentum as quickly as I was losing Goblins and ended up swarmed by an army of 2/2 Zombies.

Situation #2 – BUG Delver

We once again won game 1, this time after a good Ad Nauseam from 10. We saw Delver of Secrets, Hymn to Tourach, Stifle, Daze & Wasteland, but no sign of Pernicious Deeds or Golgari Charm. Since I play Bayou main deck, we could keep the 3rd Chrome Mox in and only swap Empty the Warrens for Tendrils of Agony.

The previous lessons against most Delver of Secrets decks taught me to go as fast as possible and to avoid Hymn to Tourach at all cost. Additionally, there’s roughly 40% chance of a first turn Force of Will, which is why I choose to keep the following hand:

Burning Wish, Ponder, Polluted Delta, Lotus Petal, Ponder, Lion’s Eye Diamond and Burning Wish.

Our opponent starts the game with a Deathrite Shaman out of a Polluted Delta into Underground Sea. His hand is now 5 cards, the probability of him having Daze or Force of Will are now lower. I believe the risk is worth taking with his land tapped, to help avoid Stifle or Spell Pierce for the moment.

Our turn soon begins, we draw a Rite of Flame. Do we go for it or play a Ponder?

BUG Delver 01

I went for the natural Goblins straight away, without a second thought about Ponder. I didn’t want to get a blue producing land without going off or without a Brainstorm, in fear of Wasteland.

10 Goblins really isn’t a lot against a turn 1 Deathrite Shaman. Not only are there a few combinations of creatures that could cause us to naturally get blocked out of the game, but we are giving our opponent at least three turns of using draw spells to find an answer when we really don’t want to be giving him even two. To me I see two possible outlets here. We can Ponder to try and find a Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, or Rite of Flame, or at the very least set ourselves up with a land and a Dark Ritual, or we can just Ponder to try to sculpt an Ad Nauseam hand. Either way I think we are casting Ponder. Playing a Polluted Delta and passing is how he beats us with Wasteland without even needing to have one. You have to be a little bit fearless here and trust that, at the very least, Ponder will find you a backup land.

Whatever mana source we find allows us to make 14 Goblins instead of 10, which very easily kills him in two turns unless we plays a ton of creatures, at which point he doesn’t have as much mana for using draw spells aggressively and we can still very likely kill him in three turns. If we are lucky enough too, we can even potentially set up an Ad Nauseam kill with the Ponder, but I’m not putting too much weight on that. Overall, my line is to turn Polluted Delta into a Underground Sea (I want to protect Volcanic Island, and we have another Underground Sea anyway) and cast Ponder with the hopes of either setting up something strong next turn, or making 14 Goblins this turn. If we get really lucky on the Ponder, we could even Ponder again to grab another mana source and make 18 Goblins!

First of all, I don’t see a reason to remove Empty the Warrens for Tendrils of Agony, unless you also board in Past in Flames to mimic ANTs game plan despite the obvious problems of that plan with Deathrite Shaman. In my books, I would not be too afraid of countermeasures to Empty the Warrens. For me the plan to go for 10 Goblins against a Deathrite Shaman on the field is not a good one as your opponent has at least 4 turns total to deal with your ambush in different ways, not to talk about the danger of falling victim to any Daze or Force of Will your opponent may holds. The combined chances of failing with the Empty the Warrens play line, leads me to think that starting the game with Ponder to stabilize the mana should be the preferable play line.

You’re aware that there’s roughly 40% chance that a Force of Will is in the opening hand, the same math applies to Daze. Meaning, there’s about a 60% chance that the opponent has either. Think of it this way, you’re playing Poker at the casino and you’re about to go all in on a losing probability – it just doesn’t make much sense. Let’s say you manage to win against the low odds here, you’re able to put 10 Goblins on the table.

Your opponent already has one blocker than can repeatedly kill one Goblin per turn. Now, think to yourself, if they didn’t have any interaction, “what do they have in their hand?” the answer is creatures. Blockers for the following turn(s) are very likely.

I would just search for Volcanic Island and cast Ponder.

On his second turn, a second Deathrite Shaman and a Delver of Secrets enter the battlefield. A secondary question would be, despite the blockers, do we attack to put pressure and accept to lose some Goblins, or do we hold on to block on our own, flashback a Cabal Therapy to rip their counterspells, while being at risk of a mass removal like Golgari Charm? In this case, I attacked, and ended up beaten to death by the black activation on the pair of Deathrite Shaman. 10 Goblins weren’t enough when he drew 2 Delver of Secrets that with which he blocked, killing a Goblin each time and exiling the creature later to gain 2 extra life.

Situation #3 – 12 Posts

We’re in game one against an unknown opponent. We have a hand of: Cabal Therapy, Gitaxian Probe, Bloodstained Mire, Volcanic Island, Ponder, Infernal Tutor, and Lotus Petal. As we lost the dice roll, the versatility of this hand should be more than enough to handle most situations after we see what our opponent is on. Even more in our favor, our opponent did mulligan to 6.

He opens with Thespian’s Stage & Expedition Map. Usually, these decks are slow, but we never know if a Chalice of the Void can show up or if they can kill our Goblins with The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.

The draw for the turn is Chrome Mox. Our turn one can be crucial as we may face a Wasteland on our next turn. Despite the risk, I choose to lay down my Volcanic Island and play Ponder. Mainly because I still have a land in hand and a Lotus Petal as plays for next turn. Another option would have been to play Gitaxian Probe to make sure we weren’t facing a Chalice of the Void on the next turn. It would probably have been the better play, as we would have seen an additional card deeper with Ponder paired with the available information.

The cards seen off Ponder are Bloodstained Mire, Underground Sea, and Chrome Mox. Not exactly what we needed, I shuffle and draw an Underground Sea.

On the opponent’s second turn, they lay an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and crack the Expedition Map to search for a Cloudpost. We now know what we’re against.

Our draw for the turn is a Burning Wish. We’re lacking the mana to combo, so I cast Gitaxian Probe using my Volcanic Island to pay its cost as I don’t think I can go off this turn, and would like to save life when possible. The Gitaxian Probe reveals: Buried Ruins, Cloudpost, Glimmerpost, Maze of Ith and Expedition Map. The draw off the Gitaxian Probe is Infernal Tutor. No real threats, but to leave the Empty the Warrens option open, I choose to play Cabal Therapy using Underground Sea. This shuts off the ability to search for The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.

Posts 02

On his turn, our opponent plays a Pithing Needle, naming Wasteland: we didn’t show enough for him to know we’re playing a Storm deck. On our third draw phase, we draw a Rite of Flame.

Posts 03

With this rather stable board, an overload of tutors in hand, what is the best play? How can we secure the victory within the next few turns?

I decided to Infernal Tutor on my next two turns, grabbing more copies of Rite of Flame, with the intention of winning via Past in Flames. This felt slow and tedious, but somewhat safe.

Waiting and setting up a safe kill is a reasonable play, and honestly I think whether you wait or go for something now is up to personal preference. However, one thing we have to be aware of is that next turn our opponent can use Buried Ruin to return Expedition Map, setting up a Tabernacle on the following turn. I think that with three lands though, we can actually get him low enough that saving three Goblins on our turn after that is good enough.

With that in mind, my line is to first play a land. Use two lands to Infernal Tutor for Rite of Flame, then use the third land to cast it. This leaves us with two mana floating. Use the Lotus Petal to play the second Infernal Tutor, getting another Rite of Flame and leaving us with one red mana floating. Use the red mana to cast both Rite of Flames, which puts us to six red mana. Play the Chrome Mox imprinting nothing, Burning Wish for Empty the Warrens, and make 18 Goblins. This allows us to attack for 18 on the turn that he gets back Expedition Map and then kill him by paying to save at least two Goblins on the turn that he finds Tabernacle. I don’t think that 12 Post plays anything in the main deck to punish this line, so it seems like a fairly solid choice given that it plays around the potential for any future drawn Chalice of the Voids.

Thespians Stage and Expedition Map clearly indicate the deck you play against here and its commonly known that the deck dies not play Wasteland at all, but fears it so much themselves that they often play Pithing Needle to stop decks with Loam to destroy them. Chalice is also not known to be a card for them as the deck not only plays Expedition Map, but also cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Crop Rotation and Brainstorm on a common base.

Passing the turn after dropping a fetchland is probably my preferable line as the opposing deck has no interaction with you for the first three turns and it enables you to cast Gitaxian Probe and a cherrypick-Ponder turn two, as you can not only shuffle the remaining cards away with the Bloodstained Mire, but also can follow up with the Cabal Therapy if needed.

At the time you have the mentioned number of Tutors and Rite of Flame, I would aim for a natural storm kill rather than Past in Flames, as 12-Post has access to Bojuka Bog via Expedition Map & Crop Rotation, to mess with your plan.

I would Infernal Tutor for a second Rite of Flame. On the following turn, play Chrome Mox (Imprint: Burning Wish), use it to cast both Rite of Flame. Use Bloodstained Mire for another black source, then use the two lands and Lotus Petal for three black mana. Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam.

This line dodges the graveyard so that Bojuka Bog isn’t an issue, isn’t destroyed by The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and is faster than waiting to build up enough resources for a natural storm kill.