Welcome back to What’s the Play?

I apologize for the delay between posting the problem and the solution, but Thanksgiving came out of nowhere and ambushed me. I was able to subdue it, but was very sleepy afterwards, and this column got pushed off a few days as a result.

The Situation

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I wasn’t clear enough initially, but the opponent has missed one land drop (Natural Connection getting them to the current number), and you were on the play. Also remember that you don’t care about exiling with Benthic Infiltrator.

This is one of those situations with a lot of options and no clear right answer. Let’s start going through them.

Option 0

Double-block Broodhunter Wurm with Incubator Drone and Benthic Infiltrator. You only get fully punished by Sure Strike and Stonefury (though Infuse with the Elements isn’t pretty either), and the two cards you are risking aren’t very important. Given the Tightening Coils, it’s unlikely Incubator Drone ever attacks, and Infiltrator pecking in for 1 isn’t critical.

I call this option 0, because I’m inclined to do it regardless of what cards I play this turn. This is a good double-block, and assume it’s added to any of the other plays.

Option 1

Cast Shadow Glider and Tightening Coils on the Grove Rumbler. This removes your opponent’s biggest threat, and sets you up to start attacking for 2 in the air.

Option 1b

Cast the other Shadow Glider and the Tightening Coils. Technically, this is a different option, and technically correct is the best kind of correct.

Option 2

Cast Rush of Ice on Grove Rumbler, either by sacrificing the Scion to get an attack for 3 in, or by tapping out. Sacrificing the Scion for an extra 2 damage isn’t worth it, so I’d rule that out. I don’t love this play because if you don’t draw a land, you will have this 3/3 that you want to keep tapping for mana, which makes casting the Rush lower value. At that point, I’d rather deploy my threats first and cast Rush later, when giving up a land is less costly.

Option 3

Cast Windrider Patrol. If your opponent has a land, this means that Grove Rumbler is smacking you for 5, but it sets you up for the highest payoff over the next couple turns. The sooner you start scrying (and bashing for 4), the better, and it’s pretty typical of blue/white fliers to take damage early so it can develop its board. The reason it gets to do that is because it can often shut down opposing creatures at will, and your hand here demonstrates that. Even if you take 5 and the opponent adds a random 4/4 or 5/5 to the board, your followup of Tightening Coils, Shadow Glider, and perhaps even Rush is a good one, and with chump-blockers like the Scion, you should be able to race easily. Plus, there’s always the chance the opponent doesn’t have a land or a big threat, in which case this works out wonderfully.

The worst-case scenario is that your opponent has Stonefury, Touch of the Void, or creature + Outnumber, in which case you get to play Coils and Glider as a fallback, which still puts you in a solid spot.

My Play

Cast Windrider Patrol and pass the turn. Plan on double-blocking Broodhunter Wurm with Incubator Drone and Benthic Infiltrator (though if a 3/3 Grove Rumbler attacks, block that instead). Follow up with Glider and Coils unless a better play presents itself.

The key here is that your hand has all the tools necessary to stop the opponent from attacking, so paying 5 life to get a big threat into play is worth it. Casting cards like Coils and Rush while attacking with a 4-power flier is much better than doing them in the other order, and the downside of taking damage is something you can afford. Note that I would make this play even if the opponent hadn’t missed a land drop, but them missing makes it that much less likely that Grover Cleveland, as it’s known, rumbles into the red zone next turn.