Mexico City’s Toughest Turn

GP Mexico City was a great tournament for me. I’d finished 2nd at a Pro Tour and 2nd at multiple GPs, but I’d never actually finished first. I want to thank my teammates Eric Froehlich and Ben Stark. We worked really well as a team.

Rather than go over every step of the tournament, I’m going to focus on a single turn. It happened in game 1 of the finals versus Matt Nass. Thanks to Corey Burkhart’s twitter coverage of the finals, we have this picture that shows the board state.

The game state is the following: I’m at 4 life with no cards in hand. Matt is at 4 life with 2 cards in hand. He is attacking me with Maverick Thopterist (equipped with Inventor’s Goggles) and Bastion Inventor.

On my previous turn I had cast Sweatworks Brawler tapping Fireforger’s Puzzleknot. Since Matt is at 4 and I have 8 lands it might seem tempting to just leave all my mana untapped and try to use the Welder Automaton 4 times. This wouldn’t have worked out all that well because Matt could move the goggles and then alpha strike. Almost any spell would’ve killed me at that point.

Let’s skip back to what actually happened. Matt drew his card for the turn, thought for a little while, and attacked with his two tapped creatures. At this point I need to decide how to block. There’s two basic choices. First, I could try to preserve my life total as much as possible and win with the Welder Automaton over several turns. Second, I could try to block as little as possible and set up a win on my next turn.

At this point we need a little bit more context. Here’s my decklist:

(40)
Mountain
Plains
Renegade Map
Consulate Dreadnought
Eager Construct
Fireforger’s Puzzleknot
Daredevil Dragster
Irontread Crusher
Welder Automaton
Iron League Steed
Inventor’s Apprentice
Embraal Gear-Smasher
Sweatworks Brawler
Speedway Fanatic
Lightning Runner
Skyship Stalker
Alley Evasion
Restoration Specialist
Bastion Enforcer
Gearshift Ace
Renegade Wheelsmith
Dawnfeather Eagle
Consul’s Shieldguard
Fairgrounds Warden

If you look at the decklist closely, you’ll note there aren’t really any good draws for me. I don’t have any burn spells. I have several haste creatures, but Matt has plenty of chump blockers. I have almost no creatures that can profitably block a Bastion Inventor. This means that if I want to block in a way that stabilizes the board, I’m going to want to try to kill the Bastion Inventor. That would require a double block. I can use Sweatworks Brawler and a 2/1. I’d lose two creatures that way and would still go to 1 from the thopterist. Alternately, I could block the Inventor with the Brawler and Dawnfeather Eagle. I’d then be able to chump the Thopterist with Speedway Fanatic. The problem with this is that the Eagle would die, and I’d be facing 3 fliers and a goggles the next turn. Overall trying to make a stabilizing block doesn’t look promising.

The other option is try to find a way to win on my next turn. In order to get to my next turn I’m going to need to block the Inventor. The Fanatic is my worst creature, so it can chump block. Does that leave me enough to win if Matt has nothing? I can use the Welder Automaton to put him to 3 at the end of his turn. Then on my turn I can kill a Thopter with the Puzzleknot. I’ll have 3 attackers, one with menace, and he’ll have only 3 blockers so I will get through for 2 damage. I can then finish him off with the Welder Automaton. That looks good if he literally has nothing, but it requires me to go to 1 life from the Thopterist and if he has any artifact I’ll die immediately to the Reckless Fireweaver. I also won’t be able to kill him if he is able to play another blocker.

Neither of these options is good which is what makes this such a tough turn. I’m generally a pretty fast player who makes most decisions intuitively, but I thought for quite a while. The decision basically comes down to what do I think Matt has in hand. He’s had one card for a while. There’s a decent chance that card is a land. He’s also just drawn a card for the turn. If he had drawn a removal spell he probably would’ve already cast it and attacked with more creatures. Realistically it’s going to be hard for me to win even if it is just a creature. At the time my intuition was telling me that his attack indicated that his hand was actually weak. I decided to go to 1 and chump only the Inventor. I was able to win the next turn because it turned out that he had nothing. I’m still not sure if his attack actually meant that his hand was weak, but I do know that because my deck had so few good draws it was probably right to try to win on the next turn.

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