You Make the Play – Getting Out of Harm’s Way

I fear that the installment of You Make the Play (starring Elite Vanguard) may have been too easy.

If you haven’t read that entry, go back and check in on Elite Vanguard and friends (and foes!), read the entry, and then back button over this way. Don’t worry. We’ll wait.

La la la.


Tight as hell, dawg.

The answer — as my old Team Red Bull and Underground compatriot Brian Kibler put it — “Savage Lands, go.”

Is the answer that easy?

To be honest, I was planning to run Lightning Bolt on Elite Vanguard on my own main phase. My theory being that my hand is pretty good and that I just want to get rid of some potential damage. It’s pretty clear he has something in his hand; I am choosing to put a Harm’s Way read on him.

Basics… Let’s imagine he does have Harm’s Way. It’s clearly better to send Lightning Bolt at Elite Vanguard rather than Goldmeadow Stalwart because one of those creatures can live through a Lightning Bolt and the other one can’t (and they have the same amount of power). All things held equal, it’s better to leave the Elite Vanguard on the Battlefield rather than the Goldmeadow Stalwart because, even though they have the same power, the one toughness on the Vanguard is an exploitable liability on the part of our deck; not only can you stick a Lightning Bolt through a single Harm’s Way, you can block and kill it with Borderland Ranger even though Honor of the Pure or Ajani Goldmane (the same is not true of the somewhat tougher Goldmeadow Stalwart).

My initial guy on the play reflects the fact that even though it is better to be able to block and kill creatures, if our plan is Hallowed Burial, this is no requirement for winning.

I have since revised my position to go in-line with Kibler’s. He actually had a good explanation. You can wait until the opponent does something, gives you more information, before making your own decision. For example, what if he hasn’t got another land, and he taps for Honor of the Pure? Clearly the better play is to stick the Goldmeadow Stalwart to death, take three, and leave yourself with a mutual block on the Elite Vanguard.

Some other ideas and issues…

  1. If you don’t shoot the Elite Vanguard on your own turn, I am not convinced you are so much better off waiting for upkeep. It may sound horribly stupid but you are open to say a double Harm’s Way. This is also 2/3 of a Time Walk and a bit of a one-for-two (even if it buys you five to seven free damage, maybe even more)… You’re probably going to win if he runs that because he will not have mana for a cream dream draw involving Spectral Procession. Generally speaking, I am willing to make a slightly sub-optimal play in order to control certain variables. You lose some measure of that control by making a pre-additional information move with your Lightning Bolt, but moving that move to upkeep.
  2. I am not scared of Path to Exile in response to Lightning Bolt. That is tantamount to playing around Rampant Growth.
  3. At least we all agree that we are not going to play the Exotic Orchard.
  4. Here is one that didn’t get as much attention as I might have guessed… Just taking a beating and leaving your Lightning Bolt for Ajani Goldmane. Losing this game will probably be associated with an unchecked Spectral Procession, and the deadliest combo Kithkin can generally muster is Spectral Procession + Ajani Goldmane, so there you go.
Anyway, sorry for a too-easy You Make the Play this time. Sadly, I got it wrong myself, and I was the motherlover writing it!
How’s this for a Firestarter…
What elements influence your playing Captured Sunlight versus Borderland Ranger on turn four?
If I don’t say it enough, I am glad to have all of you here; thanks for visiting this blog and commenting and participating as much as you do.
Currently Reading: Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 2) (Paperback)
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#1 MTGBattlefield on 07.16.09 at 7:44 pm

You Make the Play – Getting Out of Harm’s Way…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#2 bjbrains on 07.16.09 at 8:34 pm

This is going to be a bit of a long list, but here’s my shot:
1: Do I need a land? If I don’t have my 4th land drop, or my 5th if I had an important 5-drop in hand, then that’ll really make me want to run out the ranger. If I have a relevant 1 drop, then I’ll also want to drop the ranger.
2: Will the ranger improve my board position? If the ranger will do little to nothing on board (x/3s or higher, evasive beats), then that makes me want to run out captured sunlight if I’m playing removal. This is doubly true if I’m packing relevant sweepers. On a blank or nearly blank board, I’ll run out the ranger.
3: Am I the beatdown? The ranger helps put some pressure on my opponent. Sunlight probably won’t. If I need to have a guaranteed presence, then the ranger helps me by getting my to my bigger spells faster and also hitting for 2.
4: Is the life relevant? If my life total makes me feel uncomfortable, then I’ll run out the sunlight (This is pretty rare, although kithkin and burn could do this if they get a good start and I’m on the draw with no early removal). This is different from the ranger’s board impact (If the ranger is going to help my life totals as much, then this question becomes irrelevant).
5: What is the chance of the sunlight blanking? This ties into #2. If I am only running cards that will be relevant, then that makes sunlight better. This leads into…
6: Is there something amazing right now that could come out of sunlight? If there’s a significant chance that the sunlight card will not only be decent, but fantastic (Sweepers versus an early push by my opponent, kitchen finks if I’m playing a Jund/RB aggro variant, even something like Great Sable Stag versus Faeries). This is a secondary consideration, as the odds of hitting the needed card will probably be fairly low, but a 5-10% chance of cascading into my needed card is better than losing if I don’t get that card.
Hopes this helps flesh out my thought process. The most common play will probably be the ranger, but it’s important to consider whether the sunlight will do what needs to happen.

#3 ProdigalT on 07.17.09 at 12:58 am

@bjbrains, read the question with more care. You know the exact contents of the deck and the situation, including what’s in your hand, what they’re playing, and what game it is. There are no sweepers, Sunlight will automatically hit Kitchen Finks, Maelstrom Pulse, Ranger, or Naya Charm, assuming those are all still in the deck. You are most assuredly NOT the beatdown.

Anyway, much better question. Essentially, it’s what else I’ve drawn and what they’ve played. Do I need Hallowed Burial on turn 5 and I don’t have the 5th land? If so, than I run out the Ranger (I assume I ran out the first one on turn 3). That’s probably the largest single factor. A lot of the time, it’s going to be Ranger anyway, assuming I killed a guy with the Bolt, and they’re not on the verge of winning. Ideally, you can follow up a Hallowed Burial with Enlisted Wurm or Sunlight and gain supreme advantage. If they haven’t run out any fliers, or their development seems slow, and they haven’t played Crusade, and especially if I drew the 5th land, I might run the Sunlight, which will either get me an effective blocker or remove something of theirs. But it might also be awkward if you get Finks, for example, and then have to cast Burial the next turn in the face of flying beatdown. Like Mike, I love to get me some land. If things go according to plan, there will be time for Sunlight later.

#4 matt_sperling on 07.17.09 at 9:52 am

I play borderland ranger iff the amount my next turn is better with a 5th land * probability of NOT drawing a land if I dont ranger (what i lose if I dont ranger on average) > 4 life + average increase in quality of 3 or less cc card in my library over a borderland ranger

Assumptions/fleshing out the above equation
A) Im not saying the next turn is all that matters, but its usually most relevant here, and I fold into the concept of “how good is my next turn” the idea of “how close did it bring me to future better turns” (e.g. turn 5 is better if you played a land if u have enlisted wurm in hand, because turn 5 put you in a better position going forward)
1) do I have a 5th land? Equation changes if I do. (it still may be right to borderland, such as when they have nothing to pulse or naya charm)
2) Is my next turn substantially better with a 5th land? (sometimes all your stuff costs 2)
3) do they have targets for my 3 or less drop removal?
4) how valuable is a 2/2?
5) is one of the other 3 drops a blowout? (think their board is 6 procession tokens)
6) any chance I die without the 4 life? (maybe better phrased “how good is 4 life?”)
7) he plays broken ambitions in his deck and has 2 mana up.

Non-exhaustive list of factors but I think I hit the ones I might have time to consider in the course of a timed match.

#5 StaplerGuy on 07.17.09 at 12:37 pm

Goldmane, not Vengeant. You said it right the first time but then wrong later.

#6 kbreid on 07.17.09 at 12:44 pm

I just run out the Borderland Ranger to increase the amount of pressure he needs on the board. I’ve essentially “removed” both of his guys by doing this and Bolt, so he must commit to the board to win the game. The more I force him to commit, the bigger Hallowed Burial goes. You beat Kithkin by stifling the fast start and getting actual card advantage with a Hallowed Burial. A single Spectral Proc ain’t gonna do it for them, so they’re going to need to find a Crusade or something quick.

The only time I consider playing the Captured Sunlight is if they whip out a Spectral Proc and an Ajani. Then I fire it off to buy me another turn and pray for removal. Captured Sunlight should be cast on a mostly-empty board (with at least a target for Pulse, but little else) if you otherwise have ways to effect the board.

#7 admin on 07.17.09 at 1:59 pm

Thanks – I fixed it 🙂

#8 ascensionblade on 07.18.09 at 3:03 pm

I don’t know if I agree with the plan of playing Lightning Bolt and Borderland Ranger on the way to a fifth-turn Hallowed Burial. If I do those things, I’m making my Burial worse (in the case of Bolt) or neutralizing my own card advantage (in the case of Ranger). I don’t want to flip up a removal spell or creature with Captured Sunlight either, though.

In other words, I can’t really say I’m a fan of the situation, even though you are likely to win with only spot or only mass removal. I’d prefer to play a deck where my card advantage and board position aren’t negated by my sweeper.

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