A simple solution.
Finkel’s second Law.
… And Esper Charm.
When last we rocked and rolled I presented the following situation…
[Y]ou run out the Vivid Creek.
Your remainding cards are:
Who knows what your next card is going to be?
But there is an interesting mental exercise…
What land do you play?
… So, why is this interesting again?
As you could probably tell from the screen shot, this actually came up for me last week, playing with my Mono-Cascade deck*. I was going to just run out Mountain…
Why would I run out Mountain?
When you play this kind of a deck enough–even now that we’ve layered it with four main deck Baneslayer Angels–you try to play around Anathemancer. I know it’s only turn two… But really, you start to train yourself to play Mountain in these kinds of spots as a default.
Anyway, I thought to myself, if I pull Blightning, I can play it on turn three anyway.
It was at that point that I realized my error.
There is only one right play: Reflecting Pool.
Because you have an equal chance of drawing Blightning or Esper Charm!
Your path is clear starting on turn four. If you only want to consider four mana spells, you have no issue. Any order of your next three lands will allow you to play a pair of Bloodbraid Elves. In this deck, that two-turn sequence is automatically devastating. The opponent will be under pressure and will be down four cards… That’s just how the deck is designed.
But if you draw an actual three mana spell, you can put yourself so far ahead come turn four or five that the opponent will be in topdeck mode whereas you will be playing Ultimatum Magic (that is actually part of the reason I like the Mono-Cascade deck the best… It is just ferociously more powerful than basically everything else that people seem to be playing… but more on that later).
So in this case, you can see that playing Reflecting Pool is the best turn two play. The next best play is Plains.
If you play Plains and then draw Blightning, you can play Reflecting Pool or Mountain and cast the Blightning; it is inferior to Reflecting Pool on turn two because in this case you will have to take a counter off of your Vivid Creek in order to play the Blightning. This may or may not be relevant in the particular game at hand, but this kind of haphazard play can and will have a negative effect on your long term victory prospects if you are not aware of it.
… For the exact same reason that playing Reflecting Pool is better than playing Mountain on turn two.
We sometimes talk about the general rules in Magic.
Zvi calls this one “Finkel’s Law” (it was made popular by myself and Justin Polin during our short term at Brainburst Premium): Focus Only On What Matters.
Some people who listen to the Top 8 Magic Podcast know that Finkel actually has more than one law. This is a second one: Magic is a game of options. Generally the better play is the one that preserves the most options.
So in this case, playing a Reflecting Pool on the second turn is better than a Mountain because it helps leave open your options… You will be able to play Esper Charm or Blightning on turn three, regardless of which (if either) you draw.
By the same token, playing Plains is better than playing Mountain on turn two, but worse than playing Reflecting Pool because it shines a similar light (or lack thereof) on your options. You will theoretically be able to play either three mana spell, but if you draw Blightning, you will have to spend a counter on your Vivid Creek that you would not have to spend if you instead played Reflecting Pool first. That Vivid counter might end up mattering.
So what really happened?
I actually just pulled another land (either Plains or Exotic Orchard, I don’t remember). He was playing a U/W deck of some sort and got annihilated by discard into more discard into sixth turn Enlisted Ultimatum… Just like they all do! 🙂
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