Difficult Decisions

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Okay so with the expansion it looks like there will be some of those "Opponent chooses between A & B" type cards (i.e. Vexing Devil) which usually just gets resolved for whatever is the lesser of two evils at the time. Turn one devils? Usually taking the 4 damage rather than putting the 4/3 on turn one on board. Later game, lower hp, good board presence? Probably avoid the damage and put the creep down. NBD.

But recently I realized some other situations come up in the game where the opponent faces very difficult decisions and I think I know what I'd do, and when opponent doesn't I usually go "Yes. Thank you." or something inside my head.

Case in point: I've turned my Elvish Visionary into a Terastodon turn 4 so many times recently through Natural Order I can't even believe it. I always target my opponent's lands reducing them to either 1 or 0 lands on field. They now have 3x 3/3 elephant tokens vs my 9/9 single elephant. Every game I've done this my opponent chooses to triple block my 9/9 with all 3 tokens. This is what I've always considered my ideal outcome as I've essentially traded a 1/1 elf and 4cmc to do a one-sided land wipe. I always wonder why they don't buy more time but keep some board presence with the potentially dangerous tokens. Now, it depends on deck and hand, sure. If it's Garruk I'm facing, the trade is probably ideal. But it happens vs so many ppl that have so many other ways to deal with the 9/9 (Unsummon, Disperse, Murder etc. etc.) for 3 or less mana. Granted I just wiped them and granted I don't see their hand but I think unless I'm royally screwed in my hand with zero more mana or no cheap removal/bounce I'd rather chump, even with a token or two, until I can remove the threat and then I still have 1 or 2 3/3s out of it.

What do you guys think? Have any of you had similar situations where there's no good just a less bad option for either you or opponent and what was the decision and why?

EDIT: Sidenote, I just realized the way the Portal version of Natural Order is worded seems to indicate you could like Pay 4 mana, search for Thragtusk on an empty field, gain 5 life, then sac it and get the 3/3. The rulings and Visions version clearly state that sacrificing is part of the cost, but yea that's weird that the Portal text is so out of touch.
I think triple blocking Terastodon is usually the right play. If you did wipe out all their lands, by the time they get three lands down to play Murder, for example, you could have two additional creatures down. It's better to kill the 9/9 while you can, then deal with whatever may or may not come.

Edit: I think a difficult decision with Terastodon is choosing to destroy only 2 lands vs. 3. If you only destroy 2, then they only have 2 tokens and can't kill your 9/9. 
Triple-blocking is indeed what I'd do as well. After all, the damage has been done already. 9 damage is not something you can let through twice (2 life is extremely dangerous and allows your opponent to practically decide your moves for you), so what happens when you let it go through the first time? You're probably forced to keep your tokens untapped and triple-block it next turn (AKA you let 9 damage go through for absolutely nothing at all), or you're going to chump-block it everytime (AND waste a kill spell) which makes you lose even more, relatively speaking.

And as said: the damage has been done already. 3 3/3's are equal to a 9/9 (this can vary depending on the deck. Swarm decks and defensive decks, like Krenko and Jace, prefer to have many weaklings over just 1 strong one), so the triple-block move itself loses you nothing (though of course, it also gains you nothing).
Triple-blocking is indeed what I'd do as well. After all, the damage has been done already. 9 damage is not something you can let through twice (2 life is extremely dangerous and allows your opponent to practically decide your moves for you), so what happens when you let it go through the first time? You're probably forced to keep your tokens untapped and triple-block it next turn (AKA you let 9 damage go through for absolutely nothing at all), or you're going to chump-block it everytime (AND waste a kill spell) which makes you lose even more, relatively speaking.

And as said: the damage has been done already. 3 3/3's are equal to a 9/9 (this can vary depending on the deck. Swarm decks and defensive decks, like Krenko and Jace, prefer to have many weaklings over just 1 strong one), so the triple-block move itself loses you nothing (though of course, it also gains you nothing).



You don't have to let it through. You can still chump it with any creatures you played over first 3 turns OR a single elephant. You could block with just elephants for 3 consecutive turns even if you didn't have any other creatures less valuable than a 3/3 token to chump with. The way I see it. many decks will have a way to get rid of my 9/9 before they lose all 3 tokens. I agree the real damage is done, you're behind 3 turns in mana, it stinks, but I'm saying if you're that behind you might want some board position.

As for only killing 2 lands not 3 to help protect my 9/9, I disagree with that. If opponent went first that leaves them w/ 2 lands and 2/3 mana in most decks have a way to kill my 9/9 outright. Even if they went second they still have 1 land and still, 2 mana has a lot of ways to deal with my 9/9.
In the Terastadon situation, I think there's a lot that goes into how you handle it, if you have 3 3/3's vs the 9/9.  I think most people will just triple-block, not because it's the best play, but it's the simplest.
I agree with Scary here. Trading is the worst thing you can do. Don't forget that you too have 9 power in the board. And 90% of the time 3 3/3 are better than 1 9/9. The best thing you can do here is a race for damage. And we all now here who's in advantage in this race (hint: the guy with more creatures). To be honest, I don't run Terestodon and I don't like the case in point play exactly because of the points I listed above. If I was the one playing it, The best play for me would be blowing 2 of my opponent's lands and one of mine. This way I gained advantage in tempo and gained double the power.

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Post #2000 on Sep 04, 2013

Respond to ETB trigger with a murder that'd  be funny. Just saying...
I agree with Scary here. Trading is the worst thing you can do. Don't forget that you too have 9 power in the board. And 90% of the time 3 3/3 are better than 1 9/9. The best thing you can do here is a race for damage. And we all now here who's in advantage in this race (hint: the guy with more creatures). To be honest, I don't run Terestodon and I don't like the case in point play exactly because of the points I listed above. If I was the one playing it, The best play for me would be blowing 2 of my opponent's lands and one of mine. This way I gained advantage in tempo and gained double the power.



That's exactly my thought process. Yes, I've taken 3 of your lands, but I've given you 9/9 in power/toughness spread over 3 creatures. Individually, a 3/3 is nothing to sneeze at. Multiplied by 3 and that's a serious threat. Yes I've got 1 9/9 but it's usually far easier to deal with a single 9/9 than 3x 3/3. Also, if I'm keeping back my 9/9 to block you can get through 9 damage over the next two turns as turn 1, my 9/9 kills one 3/3 I take 6. Turn two, it kills a second I take 3. Now flip it. If you keep all 3 tokens to block, it would take me 4 turns in the same situation to get to the same point damage wise. Yea my board look a lot prettier my turn 3 if I've got a 9/9 vs your 3/3, but I'm also down almost 50% my total life and this isn't a vacuum, you can probably get rid of my 9/9.

I'm scared every time I play it, but I've gotten bolder about it since everyone seems to just trade. Like I've said, I've got no problem essentially sacrificing a vanilla 9/9 body for 4cmc to kill your 3 lands on turn 4. With my +3 mana I'm probably going to gain board position first anyway so why not hold onto the tokens a bit?

I should say I don't think there's a solid right or wrong answer here. I can see it both ways and I don't think either situation is a favorable one for my opponent, but if I did I wouldn't ever play Terastodon

In fact I only play Terastodon in essentially 3 situations: 1) the above described turn 4 play to dramatically slow down an opponent; 2) late game, hard cast and destroy 3x my own land to get 18 power/toughness spread over 4 bodies on the field, esp. if I have a Taunting Elf or Overrun; 3) I desperately need to remove some non-creature permanent/s on the field...like desperately- I'm about to die to or Sulfuric Vortex in next two turns, I can't break double Silent Arbiter or get around Worship etc. In those situations I'm praying for or Beast Within but yea I'll play Terastodon if need be (I don't think I've done it yet, but I would if I needed to).

 
Respond to ETB trigger with a murder that'd  be funny. Just saying...



There's that too, but I wouldn't do that play vs black with 3 free lands open. I also won't do it against Jace as the can land drop and Unsummon and then I'm screwed. I fetch Gigantomancer vs Jace. If he stays on board til my next attack phase I profit. Even if they bounce him, I can respond to bounce with making some weenies 7/7.
Probably my favorite 2HG combo is Talrand/Yeva. I've pulled turn 4 Terastodon's a lot, and the enemies triple blocking next turn is probably the most predictable move in DotP, and in my opinion, the ideal outcome for me. Opponent's with three 3/3's is potentially problematic, so, as has been stated before, I'd happily trade that Terastodon for their creatures. Now they're down three lands and significant board presence for only four mana.

This is made even better by playing with Talrand, so that when they triple block Terastodon, as they almost invariably do, we can just Repulse one. Boom, they're down three lands, few if any creatures on board, we have a 9/9 and got a great value cantrip. This play has resulted in more quits than I can count.
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This thread also reminded me of one of the toughest choices I've ever made in DotP. Was playing with a random Liliana partner who was mana starved with 6+CMC creatures in hand. We had very little board presence. We were getting stomped. I Natural Order'd into Terastodon and chose to wipe my team mate's only three lands. Using them, as well as other creatures as stall tactics allowed us to just barely escape death and steal a win. We would have lost if I hadn't made that call.
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Probably my favorite 2HG combo is Talrand/Yeva. I've pulled turn 4 Terastodon's a lot, and the enemies triple blocking next turn is probably the most predictable move in DotP, and in my opinion, the ideal outcome for me. Opponent's with three 3/3's is potentially problematic, so, as has been stated before, I'd happily trade that Terastodon for their creatures. Now they're down three lands and significant board presence for only four mana. This is made even better by playing with Talrand, so that when they triple block Terastodon, as they almost invariably do, we can just Repulse one. Boom, they're down three lands, few if any creatures on board, we have a 9/9 and got a great value cantrip. This play has resulted in more quits than I can count.



I did something similar in 1v1, though obviously not as good. I hit one of the blocking 3/3 with Beast Within to essentially unblock one of them as it just put a new 3/3 token on the field. Dude was heated even though 99/100 times that's probably one of the worst targets for that spell ;)
The only deck I have that can deal with turn 4 Terastodon is Odric, but it generally takes so much effort that by the time the elephant is gone the portals/pairings are up and you're dead regardless.
The only deck I have that can deal with turn 4 Terastodon is Odric, but it generally takes so much effort that by the time the elephant is gone the portals/pairings are up and you're dead regardless.



Liliana deals with it like a champ with Innocent Blood
I will only give my opponent 3 3/3 elephants if they don't have a lot of board position already and I have creatures to lay down in the following turns. Whenever they triple block I'm always happy, specially if I have a Briarpack Alpha or Giant Growth in hand. If the situation seems risky I'll usually destroy 2 lands of theirs and 1 of mine.
It really depends on what else is on the board, hand and the deck playing. I'd triple block if I prefered a stall to a race and had nothing in the hand that could deal with that huge guy before I was out of elephants. That said, it's dangerous to Natural Order into Terrastodon breaking their lands if they have untapped mana and instants or if they're a fast deck that benefits from the fuel of 3 3/3s.


EDIT: Sidenote, I just realized the way the Portal version of Natural Order is worded seems to indicate you could like Pay 4 mana, search for Thragtusk on an empty field, gain 5 life, then sac it and get the 3/3. The rulings and Visions version clearly state that sacrificing is part of the cost, but yea that's weird that the Portal text is so out of touch.


Portal text is generally terrible.
But probably still not as bad as olde Magic card text:


"Hey, has anyone seen my land??"

"Dang, now I have buy new land."


Yea old school MTG had such inconsistent language. I feel like I recall some kill cards referring to the kill effect as "discard" and then there used to be "bury" which was just destroy + no regen.


 


Even the phrasing on Dingus Egg is so bad. It almost makes it sound like a cumulative effect. I don't know, when I first read it I thought it was I lose a land it's 2 life. The next time I lose a land, I've lost 2 lands so I take 4 damage. Etc.  That was back when Sinkhole and Stone Rain were pretty commonly played too. Ah, sinkhole... 2 mana for land kill. So freaking dirty.

I agree with Scary here. Trading is the worst thing you can do. Don't forget that you too have 9 power in the board. And 90% of the time 3 3/3 are better than 1 9/9. The best thing you can do here is a race for damage. And we all now here who's in advantage in this race (hint: the guy with more creatures). To be honest, I don't run Terestodon and I don't like the case in point play exactly because of the points I listed above. If I was the one playing it, The best play for me would be blowing 2 of my opponent's lands and one of mine. This way I gained advantage in tempo and gained double the power.



It depends on what you have in your hand.   If you have a way to deal with Testradon in the next couple turns then chumping and hitting back for 6 and then 3 would be the way to go.   If you don't then you obviously have to triple block it.    If you chump it 3 separate times you end up with a good chance of still having no way to deal with it and now nothing to block with it.    I don't think that just fervently hoping I pull an answer is the right play if I don't have one. 

Ways to deal with Terestodon for 2 mana or less.  I'm just going from the top of my head, so might miss some. And of course, there are LOTS of 3 mana ways.  



In short, if they are tapped out on their turn three and you can bring in the big boy, against most decks they have very few answers and some of those answers only delay things (like Fog Banks) and others are situational (like Innocent Blood which lets me choose which critter to kill).  Teresodon has won me a lot of games.  And the option to only destroy 2 of their lands is always available.  

Edit: Added a card I forgot. 


2 x
  



They have the sentry guy too. His name elludes me currently. (W) 1/1 any creature blocked by is destroyed.

Interesting how the very scenario I've brought up almost has an equally difficult decision for the owner of Terastodon in a) whether he's the go to for a turn 4 Natural Order, and if he is what do you target, if anything, with his ability.

Anyone have any other situations to discuss?

One that always screws with me is combat math against goblins. The odds are they don't have Goblin Grenade in theory, but in practice they always  seem to. It's like taking insurance in black jack when it seems the dealer always flips 21. You know it's the "Sucker's Bet" but you start to think/feel like you need to assume GG is going to GG you with a GG (see what I did there? cause GG = Goblin Ganglands/Good Game(beat you)/Goblin Grenade).
Counterspell/Mana Leak the initial cast of Natural Order lol... And for PI you could count giant growth if you consider combat tricks. Don't know if we should open that door though.

  
Counterspell/Mana Leak the initial cast of Natural Order lol... And for PI you could count giant growth if you consider combat tricks. Don't know if we should open that door though.

  




Well probably wouldn't play it against open mana vs blue in that situation. Generally someone not playing anything on turn 2/3 when they're blue means they're waiting to counter. Same w/ black and Murder usually- at least I find that in dotp.

As for Giant Growth I thought only Yeva had that and Garruk had Primal Bellow. I don't run growth in Yeva, seems unneccesary. And Primal Bellow doesn't help much if Iv'e just nuked your only 3 forests. At most it'll be +1/+1 the next turn. Enough to still save one token though.
Counterspell/Mana Leak the initial cast of Natural Order lol... And for PI you could count giant growth if you consider combat tricks. Don't know if we should open that door though.

  




Well probably wouldn't play it against open mana vs blue in that situation. Generally someone not playing anything on turn 2/3 when they're blue means they're waiting to counter. Same w/ black and Murder usually- at least I find that in dotp.

As for Giant Growth I thought only Yeva had that and Garruk had Primal Bellow. I don't run growth in Yeva, seems unneccesary. And Primal Bellow doesn't help much if Iv'e just nuked your only 3 forests. At most it'll be +1/+1 the next turn. Enough to still save one token though.



I don't play PI so you're likely correct. So just move that Giant Growth to Yeva for combat trick. I know I stopped the elephant with two Phantasms which were pumped to their 5/5 potential.

If it's your 4th turn and their 3rd, I'd think maybe doing 2 of their lands and 1 of mine. Seems like a better I win situation. Pending what you have in hand. I know I played against AW once and they kept me @ no mana via they got to play first, 3rd turn wood elf, 4th turn natural order to the elephant, 5th turn acidic slime, then next turn roaring primadex dang God Hands! lol

There is a reason land distruction isn't popular in paper magic haha.     

If it's your 4th turn and their 3rd, I'd think maybe doing 2 of their lands and 1 of mine. Seems like a better I win situation. Pending what you have in hand. I know I played against AW once and they kept me @ no mana via they got to play first, 3rd turn wood elf, 4th turn natural order to the elephant, 5th turn acidic slime, then next turn roaring primadex dang God Hands! lol

There is a reason land distruction isn't popular in paper magic haha.     



That's probably wise to an extent too, though I think if I was only going to kill 2 of their lands I think I'd just cancel the third target. I don't want to give you two 3/3's to give myself only +1 land advantage. Truth be told I don't think I've ever lost a game I dropped elephant turn 4 and wiped out all 3 lands. Even if they went first taking 3/4 lands is usually game over, esp. when they sac all 3x 3/3 to kill my 9/9. That's why I started this thread.  For me, when I have between a 3 or 4 land advantage turn 4 that usualy seals the game there.

Part of that is because most people keep hands with 3 mana, sometimes two with some kind of card draw mechanic. That means usually when I blast your 3 lands you might have 1 land in hand. Begging your library to start top decking lands on turns 5-7 is usually a sign that you're probably already dead, even if you kill my only creature I have fielded on my turn 5 when I swing the big 9/9. That mana curve means I'll be playing things like Pelakka Wurm when you're just getting to start dropping 4 drops.