TES Infernal Tutoring # 4

GP: Columbus is coming fast and Cockatrice is surely aware of it! Newcomers testing their lists or veterans sharpening their skill, everyone seems to be there to give a challenge for this fourth edition of Infernal Tutoring.

For this week, the latest version of The EPIC Storm was used. It is, of course, available on the home page.



Situation #1 – TITI Twister

This match was my first encounter with a deck built around Thing in the Ice. Surprisingly, I lost my first game after the Awoken Horror flipped returning all my Goblins to my hand. I did however, notice a few things in the deck: Counterbalance, Back to Basics, Force of Will and a white splash.

I won the second game after sideboarding, noticeably using Void Snare on Ethersworn Canonist for the win and thus we begin the third game with my opponent on the play.

Sideboarding: -3 Chrome Mox, -2 Lotus Petal, -3 Ponder, +4 Abrupt Decay, +1 Bayou, +2 Thoughtseize, +1 Void Snare.

Luckily, my opponent mulligans to 5, while I keep a hand of Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Polluted Delta, Ad Nauseam, Abrupt Decay, Lion’s Eye Diamond and Duress. This hand is an automatic keep for me: protection to play on turn 1 and the possibility of casting a natural Ad Nauseam on turn 2 with 3 mana floating? Yes, please! I feel confident in drawing either a land, a Lotus Petal or even an extra Dark Ritual by my second turn.

NOTE: If they were kept post-sideboard, a Chrome Mox could have done it too. However, with Abrupt Decay as the only legitimate target, Chrome Mox requires to search for a Badlands if I stick on my discard plan for turn one. It would be the only combination allowing for a turn one Duress and a turn two Dark Ritual + Rite of Flame for Ad Nauseam.

The game opens with a suspended Ancestral Vision and pass. As hoped, I draw a second land in Volcanic Island. Using my Polluted Delta, I search for an Underground Sea and cast Duress revealing: Island, Scalding Tarn, Back to Basics and Force of Will.

Great! Force of Will is sent to the graveyard and I pass. Everything seems settled for my next turn until my opponent plays a top-decked Counterbalance. The win can’t be assured anymore, but the Counterbalance would require a great share of luck to prevent a win next turn. I draw a Burning Wish and decide to open my combo line with Lion’s Eye Diamond.

Lion’s Eye Diamond is the assurance policy here. It provides bonuses if resolved, but is by no means necessary for the win. I could recover if I lost it, however, I couldn’t say the same about losing Dark Ritual or Rite of Flame. At best, Lion’s Eye Diamond will show an irrelevant card for the Counterbalance and I’ll be able to combo freely. The okay scenario would reveal a land and counter the Lion’s Eye Diamond, but then not prevent the rituals and the Ad Nauseam and the worst that could happen would be a converted mana cost 1 revealed to prevent the rituals from being used at all.

Swords to Plowshares (!) is the revealed card.

TITI Twister - 1EDITOR’S NOTE: You may click on the images to enlarge for better viewing.

As I know my opponent will draw a Swords to Plowshares next turn (not relevant in the game), I pass, expecting Back to Basics to be played. It comes down and I draw an Underground Sea for my third turn.

If I take for granted that, for once, my previous play was correct, how would you play this third turn?

TITI Twister - 2

Because of Back to Basics, it is unsafe to just cast Burnish Wish and expect a result. I believe the best choice is to test the luck and play both Dark Ritual and Rite of Flame then casting Ad Nauseam, but keeping the Lion’s Eye Diamond. With the new Underground Sea as extra mana, I think the Lion’s Eye Diamond has more value being kept for an emergency solution. I think the probability for a converted mana cost 1 or 5 for Counterbalance isn’t worth not taking the risk and I believe the Lion’s Eye Diamond has more value being kept for a plan B with Burning Wish. I could see the Ad Nauseam win the game without the extra mana, but I can’t see a win if the Ad Nauseam plan doesn’t work and I wasted the Lion’s Eye Diamond in the process.

Lead with Dark Ritual to test for Counterbalance. I would rather have the Rite of Flame for an attempt at 6-8 Goblins on a following turn if we can’t win this turn. I don’t want to keep the Dark Ritual in the hopes that we would hit another mana source when an Ancestral Visions is coming off of suspend soon that could lock us out of the game. If the Dark Ritual resolves, combo off with Ad Nauseam leaving an Underground Sea untapped and do not sacrifice the Lion’s Eye Diamond. If we sacrifice it and the only tutor we hit is Infernal Tutor and there is a 0 on top, it could potentially be difficult to win. Winning from 1 mana floating, especially with an Lion’s Eye Diamond in play, shouldn’t be difficult. There is an argument that it will be hard to win with 1 mana floating without being able to play 0 drops anyway, but then at least we still have our hand and a Lion’s Eye Diamond to try and win on the following turn.

I doubt you can afford to sit it out and wait for the green mana to dig out of the soft-lock on the table. I would test the water further with Rite of Flame, as if the Counterbalance isn’t revealing a 1 converted mana cost card, you can at least accelerate into either Ad Nauseam and decide to pop the Lion’s Eye Diamond depending on the revealed converted mana cost off the opponents Counterbalance. Is the Rite of Flame countered, you may will be able to try once more in your 4th turn if your top deck is good enough to combo off before the Ancestral Vision fires. In case the way is clear to cast Ad Nauseam, have an eye on the flipped converted mana cost, as it determines if you can go for the kill directly or have to aim for value with the Ad Nauseam by looking for mana, removal and setting up a Past in Flames loop.

 With a lack of discard spells, I would chance it as you’re not favored for the long game in this scenario. I would cast Rite of Flame, the reason being that if it’s countered by Counterbalance, on the following turn if you draw another land – you can cast Dark Ritual into Ad Nauseam. If the Counterbalance reveals a converted mana cost of two, you still have a black mana available so that you could potentially cast the Abrupt Decay in your hand.

Situation #2 -Lands

This scenario might be the easiest yet in this series, but probably the one that struck me the most too. We won the first game against Lands and sideboarded as the guide says:

+4 Abrupt Decay, +2 Hurkyl’s Recall, +1 Bayou, -4 Cabal Therapy, -2 Duress, -1 Empty the Warrens.

I have to mulligan to 6 and keep a hand of Polluted Delta, Infernal Tutor, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Brainstorm. In other words, one mana short for the Ad Nauseam. I’m confident that I can find the missing piece soon enough, especially with a Brainstorm in hand.

My opponent opens with a Wasteland and I draw a Ponder for my turn. I would rather not have a land destroyed yet, so I pass. My opponent decide to play the control game and lay down Rishadan Port, tapping my Polluted Delta on my second upkeep as I draw a Bloodstained Mire. I drop the land and pass, still waiting for more mana of any sort. Then I am met with a second Wasteland and this vicious play on my third upkeep:

Lands - 1

What do you do with your Polluted Delta?

The opponent’s play is clear: first, the Polluted Delta gets tapped, then I can expect the second Wasteland destroying a tapped, powerless fetchland. I ended up searching for a Swamp in response. Sure, it only delays a turn as we might see the same threat on the Bloodstained Mire next turn and we risk the Chalice of the Void or any other hate, but I don’t think it’s the best idea to lose a land yet. Waiting a turn gives an extra draw for us too, which could be the missing mana piece. I’m trying to apply here concepts learned in the last Infernal Tutoring: against no pressure, no need to rush.

Sacrifice the Polluted Delta for a Swamp and go to our draw step. Giving our opponent extra turns seems unnecessary when we are weak to a drawn hate piece and have a win already. If we don’t draw a mana source, fetch for Underground Sea and just go for Ad Nauseam. We have a virtual mana floating since we haven’t made a land drop yet. I like this over casting a cantrip because, even though they might replace the mana they use, it might be replaced in the form of a land, meaning that we won’t have any mana floating, virtual or otherwise. The chances of winning from 18 with a land drop to make are high enough for me that I don’t want to take the chance for extra mana sources at the potential risk of losing our land drop. If we did hit a mana source in our draw step, I would cast the Ponder, as the potential for a Lion’s Eye Diamond or Dark Ritual, or even just anything else to replace the mana used for Ponder, is worth the potential loss of the second floating mana.

Search for a Swamp. You will draw a card, Brainstorm off the Lotus Petal, shuffle with the Fetchland remaining and win unless you are VERY unlucky with the outcome of the 4 fresh cards drawn this turn AND the optional Ponder. The reason for dodging the opponent’s land destruction combo here by going for the basic land, is that it’s a massive tempo swing in your favor (by him/her tapping two lands and you being not affected at all), as you can still fully profit from your cantrips thanks to Lotus Petals and the 2nd Fetchland. There is no need to play into your opponent’s hand by losing a mana source at this point.

This seems like a no-brainer so me (I’m actually wondering why your opponent wasn’t dead on your last turn). Search for Swamp using the Polluted Delta. Draw, search again for a Dual land (non-Bayou) play both copies of Lotus Petal, followed by Lion’s Eye Diamond and then cast Infernal Tutor using your two lands.

Activate Lion’s Eye Diamond and the two Lotus Petal to cast Ad Nauseam. Am I missing something? Why wasn’t this done last turn? Is it because Brainstorm and Ponder are being over valued? I also would’ve played out my artifact mana to avoid a Sphere of Resistance making life miserable.

Situation #3:Elves

The third match actually happened in paper, against a friend playing on Elves. On the draw, I keep the following hand: Chrome Mox, Ponder, Brainstorm, Empty the Warrens, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Bloodstained Mire.

Despite Empty the Warrens and Chrome Mox, I believe this hand is keepable. I don’t think I’ve ever mulligan with Lion’s Eye Diamond and cantrips in hand. Depending on the draw, it would be possible to play the Lotus Petal or the Chrome Mox (imprint: Ponder) to play Brainstorm and shuffle away Empty the Warrens with the Bloodstained Mire. Unlike the previous cantrip issue I had in the last Infernal Tutoring, an Elves deck is very pressuring, trading the control aspect for speed. I do know I’ll die by turn 3 if I’m not doing anything.

My opponent plays a Deathrite Shaman played off a Bayou. To add to my confusion, I draw a second Ponder.

Multiple lines are now available. I have two Ponder and a fetchland as shuffle effect, Brainstorm to put a card to shuffle and three different initial mana source. Would it be the best plan, putting Empty the Warren on top, using Ponder to draw and sacrificing Lion’s Eye Diamond would put some Goblins too. This game will be won on a resource management / speed ratio.

Elves - 01

How do you expect to win this game?

When I have a situation in which I have a lot of options, but each options missing a small “something” to be the best, I tend to play Brainstorm over Ponder first. With that hand, I don’t value any option over another, really, but I value speed over anything else: I’m not searching for a key card, but for any card that could fit with Empty the Warrens or Lion’s Eye Diamond. I would feel fine with Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish, Ad Nauseam, Cabal Therapy for going Empty the WarrensBrainstorm allows me to change up to three cards in hand, which might allow me to combo on turn one anyway. I wouldn’t bother with the Bloodstained Mire as shuffle effect, in the very worst case, I will use a Ponder next turn. My final play would be Bloodstained Mire, search for an Underground Sea and play Brainstorm, then see from there.

I very rarely feel comfortable going for an Empty the Warrens line in the dark against Elves, so I’m writing that off. The best way to maximize our Ad Nauseam line then is to cast Ponder right now. If all we see is a land then that is fine as we can Brainstorm into Ponder next turn and almost certainly have a turn 3 kill if not a kill on that turn. If we see an Infernal Tutor, we can very likely Ad Nauseam next turn, possibly with a land drop left to make. I’d like to go for what is most likely to win on turn two while still nearly guaranteeing a turn three win and I believe casting Ponder off of Underground Sea this turn does just that.

Important to note is, that a lot of Elves builds moves away from the Natural Order + Craterhoof Behemoth and the more common threat these days being Green Sun’s Zenith grabbing Gaddock Teeg. That being said, dropping 12 goblin token on the table with the play-line outlined in the scenario is madness and a near guaranteed loss as Deathrite Shaman and some 1/1 or 2/2 Elves can realistically beat that number of goblins. My play would be grabbing an Underground Sea and cast Ponder to find another Fetchland, an Infernal Tutor or a discard spell (Green Sun’s Zenith), trying to sculpt an Ad Nauseam by turn 3 (maybe even turn 2, if your Ponder and Turn 2 Brainstorm are golden). There is the option to be greedy by Brainstorming off a Lotus Petal in your turn 1, but hat needs you to find Infernal Tutor AND mana with the cantrip to win by turn 2, which is a bit too much to ask for statistically speaking and blowing cards potentially in an unnecessary way.

This is an interesting hand. I see us winning the game with Ad Nauseam almost every game in this match-up. I would start with a Chrome Mox (Imprint: Ponder) and then cast Brainstorm. Depending on what we see, after that search for Underground Sea and cast Ponder. This sets us up in the best position to cast Ad Nauseam on turn two. If it wasn’t against another deck with some speed, I would just play Ponder looking for a second land. By playing Brainstorm and then Ponder, you have a good look at seven cards to find what you need. Which can be accomplished with Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish into Dark Petition.

See you next time for the next Infernal Tutoring!