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One Thoughtseize vs. GR Atarka Devotion

Hi everyone. Welcome to another edition of One Thoughtseize. This scenario was recommended to me by none other than ChannelFireball’s own Luis Scott-Vargas—a real game situation that came up in a game between Olle Rade and Antonio Del Moral Leon in the MOCS.

Here’s the Situation

You’re playing Abzan Midrange against GR Atarka Devotion. You’re on the play. On turn one you played an enters-the-battlefield-tapped land, and your opponent plays a basic Forest. On turn two you cast Thoughtseize.

Your Hand

Your Opponent’s Hand

What I Would Take

It seems like the most important thing you need to do here is figure out how and when you plan to spend your Hero’s Downfall. You can use it as a 1-for-1 removal spell on any of the cards in your opponent’s hand. Rattleclaw Mystic and Polukranos can both be destroyed for no gain to your opponent. Courser of Kruphix can be removed at the possible cost of a free land for your opponent. Hero’s Downfall on Xenagos gives your opponent a free 2/2.

Polukranos is the “biggest” threat in your opponent’s hand, but logically speaking, if you decide you want to trade up, spending three mana to remove a 4-mana card, there’s just no reason to plan to Downfall Polukranos over Xenagos. Because you’re playing a grindy Abzan midrange deck, your opponent may play Courser of Kruphix on turn 3 to start getting value as quickly as possible. So you might be able to hold Hero’s Downfall, cast Crux of Fate removing everything your opponent had and have a Hero’s Downfall to spare.

It’s also important to analyze your opponent’s curve. It stands to reason that if you take any card other than Rattleclaw Mystic, he will play Mystic face up on his 2nd turn and have the option of playing any of the other cards you haven’t selected on the following turn. He could play Courser first to get value or he could try to play the most expensive cards first to have the best possible threats on the board and the best clock.

You could attempt a high-risk-high-reward line of Thoughtseizing one of the “mana sources” (Rattleclaw Mystic and Courser of Kruphix) with the intention to Hero’s Downfall the other one. If your opponent doesn’t draw any more mana sources for a couple turns, you’re likely to be able to get Elspeth into play sooner than he’ll have any chance of dealing with. Unfortunately, the risk is just too high here. If your opponent does draw a land and you can’t cast Elspeth on exactly your 6th turn, you’ll fall too far behind Xenagos. Honestly, if your opponent does draw a land and casts Xenagos on his 4th turn, you might still be too far behind for even Elspeth to save you. So while tempting, I think the mana sources are out as choices.

Give that we’ve determined that taking Rattleclaw Mystic or Courser is too risky, and that taking Polukranos is a strictly worse line taking Xenagos, we have a clear answer here in what to take: Xenagos, the Reveler. In my last Thoughtseize article, my confidence was significantly lower than in this one. Xenagos matches up great against your hand, and is also your opponent’s best card. I think you’re doing really well in this game, and I’d expect to win most of the time, although, it’s still Magic, and anything is possible. Oh, and for what it’s worth, Antonio ended up selecting Xenagos as well.

Do you all agree with taking Xenagos? Are there any major points that I missed? If you have a better line, please let me know in the comments.

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If you have any interesting Thoughtseize situations that you think would make for a good article, post them below as well. I’ll try my best to use one or two of the most interesting ones in a future article. Thanks for reading!

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