January 3, 2018
By: d8dk32, Doishy

Doomsday by Committee, Setting the Scene

"Eye of twilight, give us sight.
Take our offer, give us might.
Make our power tears of night."

"Guys do we intend to try and beckon forth power through the Eye of twilight?"
"Why, what's wrong with the Eye of twilight?"
"I'm sure there are more powerful entities out there."
"Like whom?"
"Hanarsh the soul taker? We have virgins right here..."
"No! Look, Eye of twilight is the best otherworldly entity that
may be willing to grant unholy power.So he is what we will reach out to. Understand?"
"Okay. Where were we....Eye of twilight, give us sight..."
"Do we really always have to wear black?"

Hello and welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a series of articles whereby some players get together and either observe and discuss live games with DDFT or go over scenarios presented by people. The idea behind this is to try and work through the decision process used by different people, to help highlight how different people think and to hopefully provide meaningful examples that give lessons others can take away and apply to their own play.

In this first ritual meeting we have two members of the super-secret-shadowy-Doomsday-cabal (TM)*
d8dk32 and Doishy playing through some games of an MTGO league. Instead of doing a complete breakdown of every game instead we'll just focus on some of the more thought provoking or interesting decision points and provide some insight into our respective discussion of those points and how the decision came about, whether it was correct and whether it worked (because those two can be mutually exclusive!).

It's d8dk32's list and he is the primary pilot and will be explaining most of the scenarios. Doishy is watching and will add further commentary.

The decklist:

d8dk32's decklist

*super-secret-shadowy-Doomsday-cabal (TM) might not exist....

Scenario 1:

We are on the play and started with a Misty Rainforest. Opponent leads Turn one Verdant Catacombs and passes. We play a Badlands, crack the fetch for an Island, and cast Preordain, which brings us to here:

Scenario 1

Doishy and I quickly agree that we go for it here. By leaving both cards on top and drawing Doomsday, we can cast Doomsday and win that way if it resolves, and if not we Brainstorm into a Burning Wish for a lethal Tendrils (including the extra storm from the counterspell). In this case, Doomsday resolved and we had to decide how to build our pile. Our storm count was already plenty high so we only needed four cards in the pile to achieve lethal storm. There were two options available to us for what to do with the 5th slot:

A. Hide the Laboratory Maniac at the bottom of the pile.

B. Use the spare card to Gitaxian Probe to see what they are on.

What is the correct play?

We decided on choice A, to hide the Lab Man, thinking that there was more to be gained from having a trick up our sleeve. We only briefly discussed what the opponent could be on and sort of assumed it was Czech Pile and they got caught with their pants down. For game two we sideboarded conservatively, swapping a Therapy for the sideboard Thoughtseize. Unfortunately, game two was a bit of a blowout that started with a turn one [email protected] from the opponent, who of course is playing 4C Loam (Aggro Loam). In hindsight this potentially could have been avoided by choosing choice B.

Knowing how to sideboard properly is important, and losing the suprise factor of the Lab Man plan is insignificant in comparison, especially considering the matchup. Compared to Czech Pile, a deck like 4C Loam requires much more specific sideboarding to fight back in games two and three. Furthermore, this is a good example of how format familiarity goes beyond simply knowing what spells a deck plays. Czech Pile rarely plays more than one or two Verdant Catacombs, if any, whereas it is essentially always a four-of in 4C Loam.

Doishy's comments:
*Our discussion was a tad more in depth here. From a previous match we had faced an elves opponent who had started with a dramatically slow opening and so pondered whether this was another elves start. It could also have been Czech Pile who missed the Ponder/Deathrite opening or even some sort of Aggro Loam or Maverick build. Small mention was also put towards Turbo Depths however most of these decks have enough one drops to make it strange to not play something. In hindsight we for sure should have gone for Option B, especially given most relevant boarding from our opponent is based upon the other fifty nine cards they will see over the one they won't. Information is crucial and seeing seven points of information is much better than hiding one.*

Scenario 2:

It is our turn three in game two vs Elves. They have Gaea's Cradle, Cavern of Souls, Wirewood Symbiote and Quirion Ranger in play, with Dryad Arbor and Cabal Therapy in hand. Our board consists of tapped Tropical Island, untapped Swamp, and Lotus Petal, and our hand is Brainstorm, Doomsday, and Dark Ritual. Our life total is still relatively high so we have an easy opening for a pass-the-turn pile with Lab Maniac. The important question here is what to put in the pile. To answer this question, we need to consider what disruption they could have and what of that we can even play around.

Scenario 2

The pile that quickly jumps to mind is a 'basic' pile like [AoI, LED, LM, GP, GP]. This neatly plays around Therapy, and the 4 life paid is fine in this situation. The problem with this pile is it requires the use of the Petal to cast AoI, meaning they'll have a turn to find something like Reclamation Sage for the blowout.

You could build [LED, AoI, LED, GP, LM] and use the Brainstorm in hand to kick things off next turn. This doesn't require the use of the Petal but could be ruined if they find a black mana source to cast Therapy.

They could potentially draw Surgical Extraction as well. Using the Brainstorm in hand to draw into the pile would improve the odds of getting the right cards even if the our pile got shuffled.

We thought for a bit about what pile would beat the most kinds of hate but just went with the 'basic' Maniac pile since Therapy seemed most likely happen and to avoid running down the clock too much. This pile ended up working fine, but no sooner had we committed to it than Doishy came up with a better pile: [Volc, AoI, LM, LED, GP]. With this, we can hold the Brainstorm and if they Therapy or play artifact destruction on their turn simply cast Brainstorm off Petal to draw the Volcanic Island, dodging both kinds of hate. Volc will be the red source for AoI next turn. Otherwise, we'll hang onto the brainstorm until our next turn. Draw the Volc, crack the petal to brainstormn into AoI, play the Volc and win. If at any point they cast Surgical, we Brainstorm after it resolves and hope the pieces we need are in the top three.

Doishy's comments:
*We dicussed the different interactions that could be found with Natural Order being the primary one. Natural order finding a Craterhoof would just kill us there and then so that is one thing we basically had to ignore (assuming the opponent had retained the card in their deck post board). Normally Reclamation Sage is a one of in the SB but, alongside Green Sun's Zenith which is normally a three to four of the odds of finding it were higher. This does not even count for them finding something like an Elvish Visionary and starting an "Engine" turn. I think the Volc line was the safest choice given the inherent risk of a pass the turn pile against a deck that can literally explode from nowehere.*

Scenario 3:

We've just lost game one to RUG Delver and are in the process of sideboarding. The question of whether to bring in Xantid Swarm comes up. It is obviously powerful if it sticks around, but dies easily to Bolt. This can be a difficult matchup if the RUG player has a countermagic-loaded hand. After some discussion we decide to bring in Swarm, reasoning that Bolt is only four cards and their only good way to remove it. Our game two mull to six let us cast Swarm on turn one, with Ritual and a Wish already in hand, a good start. However the Swarm immediately dies to Bolt, leaving us way behind on tempo and vulnerable to Wastelands since we had to use Tropical Island. It's possible that playing Swarm right away was incorrect, but since the aim was to go off in the next turn or two it seemed best to run it out immediately.

So back to the question at hand, is Xantid Swarm good against RUG Delver, and Delver decks more broadly? I think the answer is "no". I used to think of Swarm as an easy solution for all manner of blue decks but this discussion has started to change my opinion. Xantid Swarm is a less popular choice for Storm sideboards lately but Delver will often keep Bolts anyway as a hedge against Xantid Swarm and as reach. Swarm can also be blocked by flipped Delvers, which decreases its usefulness in the pre-combo turns. Finally, against Delver variants in general, countermagic is expected and we can fight through that; it's the additional axis they attack on that causes the problem. In RUG, this is mana denial, and in Grixis, this is discard. Swarm doesn't really help against either of these. I think these sideboard slots could be used in a better way, although I'm not quite sure how yet.

Doishy's comments:
*I personally was against Swarm coming in. Locally my meta is full of Grixis Delver variants and all run Bolt, even post board as, if nothing else, it forces us to consider whether we can go off and lose half our life in the face of a potential three damage, especially if relying on Probes. As part of our discussion on this we actually went and checked the sideboard of every top placing, large event Storm deck to see what they were running in terms of sideboards and whether Swarm was a heavy feature. Many didn't run any or ran only a Miser's copy. This actually kick started some faulty chicken-and-egg logic. We reasoned that because Storm doesn't play a lot of it now, the opponent would likely not be prepared to face it. What we should have considered was that maybe not many were being played because Bolt was so prevalent.*

Bonus Discussion:

Over the course of the four rounds we played, Doishy noticed that I was bringing in Thoughtseize every round and suggested I play it maindeck. In the past I have been averse to playing Thoughtseize anywhere in the seventy-five because I thought the two life would relevant. It took a lot to convince me to even play it in the sideboard, so the idea of maindecking it never crossed my mind. However, if you're sideboarding something in every single match, you ought to at least consider maindecking it. As such, I am now testing three Duress, three Therapy, one Thoughtseize main, with the fourth Therapy in the board. The two life from Thoughtseize has not been as relevant as I anticipated and the flexibility it provides is useful. Not needing to guess what hatebear an opponent is holding, being able to take a Snapcaster that would flashback a Flusterstorm, being able to see the opponent's hand before deciding whether to take Force of Will or Leovold, all of these are realistic scenarios where Thoughtseize is potentially better than Duress or Therapy. However, the life loss would quickly add up so I don't think I want it in multiples just yet.

Doishy's comments:
*This observation was in some part due to the fact that d8 would not simply add in an extra discard spell but swap it out for a Therapy. There was also some bias here as for the last year I have been running a Miser's Thoughtseize main and it whas been very strong, especially in the face of Thalias or Eidolons so much so that I have consider switching from three Therapy, two Duress one Thoughtseize main to three Therapy, one Duress and two Thoughtseize main.*

Parting Thoughts:

d8dk32's comments:
I often talk to myself when I play online, but it's much more informative to talk to someone else who also knows your deck. Hopefully reading this and any future articles we publish will help people learning to play this deck, but I think this pair-playing process is a valuable learning tool and if you can find a willing partner would be an excellent way to learn on your own. Just as important as learning to build piles is learning how to make the plays in the early turns to reach the point where you get to build piles. Having someone to watch over your shoulder helps you play better by catching mistakes and providing a sounding board when the best line isn't clear. Doishy and I agreed on most things this time but discussing the reasoning behind our choices is helpful regardless.

Doishy's comments:
*I for one really enjoyed watching d8 play whilst we discussed decisions. What made me feel confidant was, barring some of the decision points above, we quite often agreed very quickly on what line to take with most being the correct one. In addition to the above we had a classic turn two "Do we jam?" vs what turned out to be an Esper Stoneblade/Delver variant. We both said yes and it was 100% correct given the circumstances. One thing that it made clear to me is how important it is having these very fluid conversations during gameplay. Although people at my local shops know me and my deck of choice none of them really "know" the deck to the point where I could properly discuss my card choices, play choices and similar.*

Hopefully you enjoyed this first installment of Doomsday by Committee. We shall hopefully return with more of the super-secret-shadowy-Doomsday-cabal (TM) that might not exist with further discussion on other play points, opening hands, scenarios and occasional puzzles.

Thank you for reading!

Tags: Doomsday by Committee