Today I’m revisiting the last “What’s the Play” article where I presented you with some situations and a couple of options. I hope you voted on . Today, we’re taking a look at the results of the poll and my answer.

Situation #1

You’re playing a B/G Winding Constrictor deck that splashes blue for The Scarab God. You’re on the play against an unknown opponent, and this is your opening hand:

My Answer

Option 1: Forest, Llanowar Elves

Here you have two options. You’re either trying to play a turn-1 Llanowar Elves, or you’re trying to draw a card from Siphoner by playing it plus Aether Hub on turn 2. It’s not possible to play both turn-1 Elves and a turn-2 Siphoner/Hub combo unless you use the energy from the Hub to cast the Siphoner (which is counter-productive), so you have to choose one of the two.

Overall, playing the Elf on turn 1 is a better choice. If you play Elf turn 1 and follow it up with a Siphoner, then on turn 4 you can play a Ballista for 2 or a 2-drop (your deck has plenty of those) and then a Ballista on 1. That’s especially relevant if the 2-drop you draw is Winding Constrictor. That’s worth delaying the Siphoner.

I also like that if you play Elf on turn 1, it serves as bait for removal spells like Magma Spray or Fatal Push. You’d rather the Elf get killed than the Siphoner, because you don’t truly need the Elf with this hand—it’s just a nice bonus.

The card this play is bad against is Goblin Chainwhirler. If you play Siphoner/Hub on turn 2, then you get to draw a card before it dies and you can sandbag your Elf if you really want to, whereas if you play turn-1 Elf, turn-2 Siphoner, then you won’t get to draw a card before they both die. But your hand is already pretty weak to Chainwhirler anyway, and in this scenario you at least get a Ballista for 2 in play before they can Chainwhirler you, so I think it’s the best choice.

Between the two lands to play on turn 1, Forest is the best choice. Obviously, you want to play Botanical Sanctum early if you can, but you want to play Siphoner on turn 2 without spending an energy, and that means playing Woodland Cemetery untapped.

The People’s Choice

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Situation #2

You’re playing the B/R mirror, post-board. You’re on the draw.


My Answer

 Option 1: Play the Mountain.

I think this is a hard one, because you have multiple factors to consider. First, it’s whether you want to be able to play a Magma Spray turn 1. If you lead with Slough and your opponent plays Scrapheap Scrounger, then you’re looking at taking 6 or potentially 9 damage from that card before you can Spray it, or delaying yourself a whole turn to do it, whereas if you lead with Mountain you can Spray it immediately.

Second, you are looking at either playing or cycling that Canyon Slough. At this point, you’re happy playing one, but if you draw another Mountain, then perhaps you’ll wish that you had access to the second cycling land.

So is it worth playing the Mountain to Magma Spray a potential Scrounger (and for the possibility of cycling Slough later on)? Or is it worth playing the Canyon Slough, which guarantees that you’ll have untapped mana every turn of the game after that until turn 4?

For me, it’s better to lead with Mountain. I think that playing the Mountain sets you up for the best possible scenario of turn-1 Spray, turn-2 Kari Zev, turn-3 Chainwhirler, which you’re giving up if you play Canyon Slough.

Also, these matchups tend to go a little bit longer post-sideboard, so you will end up with time to cycle the second land if you flood out. If you don’t draw a Mountain by turn 3, then you have to skip playing Chainwhirler, which is unfortunate, but you still have a decent turn of playing Canyon Slough and cycling the other one—or potentially playing whatever 2-drop you drew since you didn’t draw a Mountain after all.

Basically, I think playing the Mountain sets you up for the best-case scenario and for the worst-case scenario (flooding), whereas playing the Slough on turn 1 is the “safer” play and more in the middle. I think the extremes are more important here.

The People’s Choice

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Situation #3

You’re playing Grixis Midrange, and you’re on the draw against an unknown opponent. They lead with Forest and Llanowar Elves. What’s your turn-1 play? (Ignoring the discussion on whether this is a keep or not—I don’t think it is, for whatever that’s worth.)

My Answer

Option 1: Play Fetid Pools.

This hand is awkward. It’s already flooded, yet it also has mana problems, which is an uncommon combination. You have to choose between playing a turn-1 Fetid Pools and then forgoing the ability to cycle it, or playing a turn-1 Sulfur Falls or Catacombs and then, on turn 2, having to play Field of Ruin, which means that if you don’t draw a basic, you’ll be one turn behind the whole game.

I don’t think you can afford to play catch-up with a hand like this. You have to play the Fetid Pools on turn 1 and hope that things work out. Maybe you draw a bunch of spells or maybe you draw a Champion of Wits that lets you find action, but when so many of the lands in your hand rely on having a basic land type in play, you have to bite the bullet and play your cycling land.

The People’s Choice

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Situation #4

You’re playing Mono-Blue Paradoxical Outcome and you’re on the draw against an unknown opponent. They lead with Forest and Llanowar Elves (always). You keep a one-lander (again, ignore whether it’s right to keep or not, but I think this time I’d keep), brick turn 1, and play your Zhalfirin Void. You see Renegade Map.

My Answer

Option 2: No, put it on the bottom.

In Magic, there are moments to play it safe and moments to take a risk. This is a take-a-risk moment. If you bottom Renegade Map, then you could end up never drawing a second land (or a third land), and that sucks. But if you keep Renegade Map, I don’t think you’re winning the game here. You’re simply too far behind, and you can’t compromise on drawing a land a turn later. You need to draw a land immediately so that you can play Prism, hope to topdeck another land, and play Statuary. That’s how I think you’re going to win the game.

The People’s Choice

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Situation #5

You’re playing an average R/W Aggro deck in M19 Draft—you have a bunch of creatures, some removal, and some mass pump effects. Your deck has nine Mountains and eight Plains in it. You’re on the play against an unknown opponent, and you mulligan to 6. You keep this hand, you scry, and see a Mountain.

Do you keep the Mountain on top?

My Answer

 Option 2: No, put it on the bottom.

This is similar to the previous spot, and I think the answer is similar. Keeping the Mountain here is the “safe” play, since it means that you are guaranteed to be able to cast the Boggart Brute and the Trumpet Blast if you want to, but is safe going to win in this spot?

I think the answer is no. Even if you can cast a Brute turn 3, you’re not going to win the game if you don’t draw a Plains. So in a situation like this, I’d rather make sure I’m going to draw my Plains a turn sooner. Yes, it could happen that you draw a bunch of red cards and then you would have won with that third Mountain, or that the third Mountain buys you enough time to draw a Plains, but I think the most likely scenario is that if you don’t find white mana soon enough, a third Mountain is not going to save you. So I accept the spots in which I lose because I can’t cast a spell, because those spots are the ones where I think I’d lose anyway, since there won’t be a Plains among the top cards of my deck.

The People’s Choice

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So the lesson from the two previous hands is that playing it safe isn’t good when the safe play doesn’t win the game. Sometimes you have to spike.

Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments!