Welcome back to #theweeklywars! It’s been a while and this series never quite took off (it performed miserably compared to my other articles), but I like writing these and it’s a great learning exercise for myself, if nothing else.
In case you’re new to these, I basically talk about random MtG-related things I have learned throughout the week. I hope I can manage to post these on an actual weekly basis again, but we’ll see. I might miss a couple over the holidays, whatever.
Some of the things I am covering here will be very basic. Others will be more complicated. Maybe there’s something very specific. Maybe there’s something rather broad.
Also, there’s a new thing I’m doing. Here are all the decks I have been playing this week. There might or might not be extra info in their deckstats.net descriptions (I am actually updating those every now and then; I hear the Elves one is quite lengthy).
Legacy UR Delver (deckstats.net link)
Pauper Affinity (deckstats.net link)
Pauper Izzet Blitz (deckstats.net link)
Pauper Elves (deckstats.net link)
That’s it for decklists. Let’s get into the actual lessons (re-)learned:
#79 — Do not waste Brainstorms.
I think this is a pretty interesting scenario that highlights a common pitfall. The cards we know from Gitaxian Probe are Brainstorm and Swords to Plowshares. Our hand is all cantrips and we have a fresh Delver of Secrets.
In general, I feel players are too trigger-happy on their Brainstorms when Delver of Secrets is involved. Yes, you might miss out on two points of damage, which can be very relevant in Lightning Bolt decks.
However, we are cantrip-flooded and even if we do tap out here, the only thing our opponent can do is Swords to Plowshares, for which we have Daze. If a Brainstorm prompts them to Swords here, I think that’s a net positive for us, even if the Brainstorm is subpar. How likely are they to Swords though? I think it’s highly likely they are content to take 3 here and just activate Top in our End Step, then Swords Main Phase while being Daze-proof.
So what are we giving up on if we Brainstorm here? For starters, we are losing a Brainstorm. It’s the best card in the format and we only have four. Using one to go two cards deeper into our deck when we have nothing we want to put back is certainly not the best use. We also lose out on the fetchland, which is not only great with our cantrips but also with Delver. If we fail to transform Delver this turn and then find another fetchland, we get to shuffle post-cantrip (we are definitely mainphasing a cantrip next turn, no matter what we draw), but we also get a free shuffle for an unwanted Delver-reveal.
My verdict: don’t Brainstorm here.
(I came across this situation going over last week’s replays, trying to assess why I was doing as badly as I did. Well, I did cast Brainstorm here, which baffled me when watching the replay. I guess sometimes you just have to brush up on things.)
#80 — Keep enough countermagic open.
This is another thing that I did wrong when I was playing Legacy Delver last week. As a general guideline, if your opponent has cards you lose to (Counterbalance, Past in Flames, Reanimate) it’s a good idea to keep as much countermagic open as you can. Don’t randomly cantrip or cast creatures. You don’t need a turn four kill, you only need one creature, eventually. That is usually good enough in combo matchups, at least if you are able to stop your opponents from killing you. If you are stuck on one land, it’s usually better to Brainstorm at the end of your opponent’s turn than to cast Ponder Main Phase. Don’t be afraid to go to the discard step. You are not forced to spend your mana.
#81 — Don’t get too antsy with your Lightning Bolts.
This one can be really hard to correctly assess. Sometimes you need to start throwing Lightning Bolts at your opponent’s head as early as turn two. As a general rule of thumb though, don’t start randomly casting them End Step just because you can. It can be correct to Bolt/Chain your opponent turn two if you have prowess creatures on the battlefield and it can even be correct to End Step Bolt their face, just make sure that you’re getting some value out of it that you would not be getting if you Bolted them another time. Good reasons to preemptively Bolt are mana-constraints and Bedlam Reveler, for example.
#82 — Always prioritise killing creatures in Delver mirrors.
Not actually something I had to learn from a mistake, but something that is true nonetheless.
I almost never fight over my opponents’ removal spells in Delver mirrors. I think it is way more important that my opponent doesn’t have a creature than it is that I have one. If I can decide between casting a creature and killing my opponent’s creature, I’m going with the latter a large portion of the time.
If your opponent plays a creature and then you play a creature that they kill, they got to deal free damage to you. This is what every Delver mirror ultimately boils down to — a race. Only it’s not about playing a creature turn one, then bashing and throwing burn at your opponent’s face. Rather, it is about not allowing your opponent to deal damage.
This is why UR Delver is the best deck in the Delver mirror: It has eight Bolts. It barely even matters that the deck has absurd amounts of reach, the fact that it almost always gets to immediately opposing creatures is a huge advantage in Delver mirrors.
Canadian, by the way, is second best in Delver mirrors; it beats everything but UR. Why? Because it has Nimble Mongoose while having roughly the same amount of removal as the other decks (plus more countermagic and mana denial, which also work as removal).
Here we have reached the end of the Legacy portion of this article. Now, Pauper!
#83 — With Affinity, board out Gearseeker Serpent in aggro matchups.
Nothing fancy here. Gearseeker is just too slow to come down in aggro mirrors. Yes, it completely dominates the board, but UU is not trivial. You only have so much coloured mana and you already have to cast Carapace Forgers, draw spells and removal spells.
#84 — Birchlore Ranger has Morph…
…and 2/2 hits harder than 1/1. I have played a bunch of Elves in Pauper so far, but it has only come up once that casting Birchlore as a Morph was the correct play. Guess what I did? I did not cast it as a Morph, that much I can tell you. Well, it’s still possible, so keep it in mind.
#85 — Birchlore lets you use Sentinel.
I’m gonna be honest here. I do not clearly remember why took this note. But I think it was in reference to a situation where I had the choice between Birchlore and Quirion Ranger turn one, went with Quirion and then got punished by drawing Nettle Sentinel, which cost me one mana on my second turn (if you lead Birchlore, you cast Quirion for free, the other way round you have to pay for both Birchlore and Sentinel turn two before you start using them).
#86 — Stay conscious of Sentinel (not) untapping.
Yeah, I messed this up so much in my first couple games with Elves. Not only do you want to keep track of maximum untap-value, you also need to factor in that Sentinel does not actually untap during your untap step. It can be correct to keep a creature in hand to be able to untap multiple Sentinels — not doing so would end up costing you precious damage (sometimes you do not massively overshoot).
#87 — Quirion Ranger is free if you only have one land.
Another really simple one. Sometimes you only have one land. If that is the case, casting Quirion Ranger is free (assuming you have a land drop, that is). Going into turn two with just Forest, you can go Quirion Ranger, untap Quirion Ranger, replay Forest, cast another Elf. I want to say I never missed this, but I can’t guarantee this is true.
#88 — Blow up the Tron piece they played last.
I guess this is also Modern-relevant information? Either way, I’ve been running some land destruction in Pauper to combat Tron (Tron will always ruin your fun by going over the top). From what I’ve seen, most people tend to go after Tower because it’s the best land, but as a matter of fact, if you’re breaking up their Tron, all lands are equally bad. Therefore, I think it’s best to destroy whichever land they have played last; it will likely be the one that’s hardest to replace for them.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading.