Welcome back to What’s the Play!
It’s the start of your turn, and you haven’t played a land yet.
First, let’s clarify how much mana you have. Thanks to Weirding Wood, you have 4 mana available from your land (2 of which can be any color), and thanks to Loam Dryad you have an additional mana. If you are able to play 2 creatures without tapping both Dryads, you could get to another color, but that’s not very likely.
That gives you 5 mana to work with, letting you play any of the 3-drops plus Confront the Unknown, Vessel of Ephemera, or crack a Clue. Alternately, you could play and use Vessel of Ephemera. Let’s work through each line.
I’m going to eliminate playing a 3-drop plus a Vessel right away, since spending 2 mana on a Vessel you aren’t using is worse than cracking a Clue or playing Confront, as it doesn’t do anything right away.
Option 0: Cast Confront the Unknown/Crack a Clue
I’m calling this option 0 because regardless of which 3-drop you play, you are going to use the 2 leftover mana on one of these two effects.
Confront grants +3/+3, letting you defeat Pyre Hound unless the opponent has a trick. Leaving mana up for Confront also lets you audible into cracking a Clue if the opponent does something like play multiple spells (making the Pyre Hound too big).
Cracking a Clue main phase does let you potentially hit a land drop, which is tempting.
Let’s keep both of these in mind when going through the other options.
Option 1: Cast Tireless Tracker
Tireless Tracker is a great card, and playing her lets you start getting value. If you do play Tireless Tracker, cracking a Clue main phase is the likely followup. If you hit on land, you end up with a 4/3 and still 2 Clues, and if that land is a Forest you get to have your cake and eat it too (as you can still cast Confront the Unknown).
This is a high-reward play. Note that this is also how I would approach this in a game—I naturally look at what the most intrinsically appealing play is, and often that ends up being the play I make. Still, part of making the right plays in Magic is due diligence, and it’s imperative that you track down your other options, as sometimes there’s a better one.
Option 2: Cast Dauntless Cathar
Dauntless Cathar is a card you don’t care about losing, so it makes some sense to run this out first to try and soak up removal. Additionally, if your plan is to block, it’s much better to do so with Cathar than Tracker, as there’s much less punishment if something goes wrong.
Casting Dauntless Cathar also opens up the door for a triple-block on the Pyre Hound. If the opponent has nothing, you trade Cathar for Hound, which is great, and Confront as a +3/+3 means that any single-target bounce or removal doesn’t save the Hound, with Uncaged Fury being the only single-card answer.
If the opponent doesn’t attack, cracking a Clue end of turn means that you don’t waste any mana.
This line has the highest likelihood of getting Pyre Hound off the table, and that makes it very appealing. Your hand is well set up for the late game, so stopping a rampaging Hound is a good way to guarantee the game goes in that direction.
Option 3: Cast Ulvenwald Mysteries
You could cast Mysteries, as getting Mysteries out before your creatures gives you value against opposing removal spells (though it matches up poorly against bounce spells).
That leads you down the rabbit hole of what to do post-Mysteries, as there are 3 sub-options:
Option 3A: Block Pyre Hound with both Loam Dryads, and cast Confront on the one ordered first. That plays around the opponent having a lone instant that doesn’t affect combat, and if the Loam Dryads die, you get some Clues.
Option 3B: Block Pyre Hound with 1 Loam Dryad, and cast Confront. This matches up better against bounce or removal as you only lose the 1 Dryad (plus Confront).
Option 3C: Crack a Clue main phase, make a Soldier, and hope to draw a land to play. This is strictly better than passing with 2 mana up if you aren’t planning on blocking the Hound.
Playing Mysteries adds the least to the board, but it does set you up for next turn well. Of the 3 sub-options, C is best, as it plays into the strength of having Mysteries. Making 1/1s means that the Loam Dryads both start to add mana, and cracking a Clue and hitting a land drop gives you the mana to leverage all the powerful cards you have access to.
Option 4: Play and Use Vessel of Ephemera
This is worse than playing Mysteries, as the extra 1/1 you get is not as good as having a Mysteries in play. You shouldn’t take this line.
Play Dauntless Cathar and pass the turn with the intention of triple-blocking. If the opponent doesn’t attack, crack a Clue.
This was a complicated scenario, and thanks to everyone who answered it. There are a lot of things to consider, and at the end of the day, this gives us the biggest chance of dealing with the opponent’s only threat, all while not wasting any mana if the don’t bite.
Have a sweet scenario of your own? If you think you can stump the readers (and me) then send it to LSV@ChannelFireball.com*, or via Twitter—just send a screenshot @LSV and I’ll be happy to take a look!
*Please keep your answers in the comments below, and not in my email inbox—I love reading through these responses, but I wouldn’t want to lose any good submissions amid the answers. Thanks!