How to Play a Second Turn Iona, Shield of Emeria

Concerning:

Iona, Shield of Emeria :: Seven Traits of The Best Deck :: Presenting the Unbeatable Hand
Lotus Cobra :: Flashfreeze :: … and Iona, Shield of Emeria

So a bunch of people were asking about how I played a second turn Iona, Shield of Emeria last weekend. The answer was pretty simple, and many of you have probably already figured it out!

Day One of the TCGPlayer $5,000 was disappointing, though arguably less disappointing than Day Two, where I started off 4-0, finished 6-2, and ended the tournament with EXACTLY THE SAME NUMBER OF POINTS AND INCREMENTAL DOLLARS THAT I DID AT THE END OF DAY ONE.

I lost first round to an eventual Top 8 player (G/R Valakut); Josh Ravitz and I were paired in the second round and I offered a draw (which Josh accepted)… and then I hit a U/W deck.

In the first game I played a grinding game and eventually killed him with Tectonic Edges and Stirring Wildwoods. The second game I played a second turn Lotus Cobra.

“Mana Leak?” I asked.

“No.”

I moved to pass the turn, but he showed me Flashfreeze.

I showed him Summoning Trap and the result was a certain 7/7 Mythic Angel.

Iona, Shield of Emeria

This was the first time in a long time that my opponent refused to shake my hand. He had Jace, the Mind Sculptor but his fourth land came into play tapped. I had double Tectonic Edges and showed him that even if we pretended that we lived in a universe where he had five lands, that I would have demolished him with Primeval Titans. But still, no shakes.

The deck list:

4 Birds of Paradise
2 Explore
4 Joraga Treespeaker
2 Llanowar Elves
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Primeval Titan
2 Rampaging Baloths
4 Summoning Trap

4 Baneslayer Angel
3 Iona, Shield of Emeria

1 Arid Mesa
4 Forest
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
3 Plains
1 Razorverge Thicket
4 Stirring Wildwood2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Tectonic Edge
3 Verdant Catacombs

sb
4 Nature’s Claim
2 Obstinate Baloth
3 Celestial Purge
4 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
2 Revoke Existence

Before you ask, I no longer recommend this deck for Standard. I was going to play it at States despite not doing well in the $5K… But testing versus Pedro Quintero’s version of U/W was enough. Prior to Scars of Mirrodin, G/W absolutely demolished U/W… But the Ratchet Bombs in the new build really punish the accelerator creatures in this one. You have Have HAVE to commit guys in order to cast the bigger guys, and therefore the G/W deck has lost a lot of its attraction. Additionally, G/W is the worst of the Titan Ramp decks. And anyway, I made up Pyromancer Ascension 🙂

The G/W is not “the worst” in the sense of being “bad” (for instance, the G/W has strong positive expectation in against a Goblin Guide deck whereas a Mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp deck doesn’t) but it has the least expectation when facing off against other Titan decks. In my experience:

G/R Valakut > Mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp > G/W Trap

The issue is that Mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp can “catch up” with All Is Dust. G/W Trap can get ahead, but if All Is Dust goes off, the only gas left will be on the Mono-Green side. Part of that is the dynamic that the G/W deck has all creatures for acceleration whereas Eldrazi Ramp has predominantly extra lands. When a sweeper occurs, one side still has permanents. Et cetera.

Valakut covers Mono-Green in than its Primeval Titans are somewhat more powerful. That is the G/R deck’s Primeval Titan can kill the Mono-Green deck’s Primeval Titan with Valakut activations. With the right setup, the G/R deck can therefore win when playing the second Primeval Titan (though the Mono-Green version will usually win playing the first Primeval Titan).

Regardless, even with the potential holes that the G/W version might have, it still has the ability to present multiple essentially unbeatable hands (especially in-matchup). For example, the deck will present hands that a typical U/W deck can’t beat, but might be beatable by a Red Deck.

Right now this is one of the most important things to me in terms of picking a deck list.

When I qualified for US Nationals with Grixis Hits, I won all great matchups leading into the win-and-in round. In that round, I was paired against Jund, and I knew that I could present an unbeatable opening hand. I imagined having a ton of Spreading Seas in my opening hand… and I had them. Between Nationals Qualifiers and US Nationals, I would walk from my office on 42d & Madison to Columbus Circle all summer, imagining hands with tons and tons of Spreading Seas.

Is it any surprise that I chose a deck that not only played four Spreading Seas but Ponders and Preordains for more and more of the above?

Here is my main reason for so emphasizing decks that can present an unbeatable opening hand: Even when your unconditional “I win” hand comes relatively infrequently (for example Pyromancer Ascension can win on turn two in the single digits), that still changes the number of games that the opponent has share to win. So instead of having X% of 100%, they get to jockey for X% of some smaller sum.

It’s almost like the game is rigged.

Pretty profound when you think about it like that, right?

LOVE
MIKE

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#1 MTGBattlefield on 10.11.10 at 11:18 am

How to Play a Second Turn Iona, Shield of Emeria…

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