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…
- 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.
- I am not scared of Path to Exile in response to Lightning Bolt. That is tantamount to playing around Rampant Growth.
- At least we all agree that we are not going to play the Exotic Orchard.
- 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.