Hello friends! Today I am going to give you one of the tried and true articles that date back to the beginning of people writing about games – what’s the play? I have a very interesting scenario to discuss today, and it comes from an actual game that I played.. I have given my answers to the questions below, but the scenario itself is complex despite the limited range of possible actions, and it is not designed to have a clear definitive answer. If you find a differnt line than I do, be sure to share it in the comments section or on the Reddit thread. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Fear the Reaper
We are playing a typical Combrei midrange deck, while our opponent is playing a fairly typical Stonescar midrange deck. It is currently our turn.
The current game state (both of the enemies units are readied)
The following sequence of plays occurs: We take no action and pass the turn. Our opponent draws for their turn and attacks with the Impending Doom alone. We do nothing, and take 5 damage from the Impending Doom. Our opponent then casts Vara’s Favour targeting their own Umbren Reaper and we die to its Entomb effect.
Question 1: Should you have been able to figure out that Vara’s Favor was in their hand from the attack? Why?
Question 2: If you somehow knew the top card of their deck was Vara’s Favor, what was the optimal play? What is the “psychic” play (the optimal play with perfect information)?
Question 3: Assuming you had no idea what their top card was, what would be the optimal play?
Given the scenario, attacking with only Impending Doom seems really fishy. It seems like they would usually want to attack with both flyers in hopes that you had nothing and attempt to sneak out a win, or hang back with both of their units hoping to top deck some action next turn. The only reason to attack with the Impeding Doom but not the Umbren Reaper must be to try to dissuade us from using a Desert Marshal. If they had Fast Speed removal (like Annihilate or Deathstrike) they would attack with both units and kill their own Reaper in response to the Desert Marshall effect (if you had one) to guarantee the win. Therefore, it is likely that they have a non-fast removal spell like Vara’s Favor or Combust, although Combust is rarely included in Stonescar Midrange decks.
I think there are two valid answers here. You can either ambush the Umbren Reaper during combat, or just play the Desert Marshal on your turn. If you do nothing on your turn, I think the only two lines of play that are valid given their position are to either attack with both units, or just the Impending Doom. The Impending Doom is putting them under a very serious clock, and there are a ton of draws that shut the door on the game in your favor. They need to try and end the game. With that logic in mind, they need to attack you in order to win the game.
If they were to attack you with only Impending Doom, you would be able to silence the Umbren Reaper during combat. This leaves you at 3 health and them at 2 health (after casting Vara’s Favor at your face and losing one health to Impending Doom) with only one blocker to our three attackers. They then die to our alpha strike.
If they attack with both the Umbren Reaper and the Impending Doom, we can ambush the Reaper in combat as before, but now we can also block (it doesn’t really matter what we block with). Once again, this line leaves you alive, with a lethal alpha strike next turn.
Another possibility is that you just use the Desert Marshal on your turn. At this point, they have no lines of play that lead to victory and the game is over when you alpha strike next turn.
I have thought about this senario at length, and I am fairly certain that I have the correct answer, though I would be interested to be proven otherwise.
I believe that you are supposed to cast Desert Marshal on your turn, silence the Reaper, and pass the turn. Here’s why:
First, we have no good attacks this turn no matter what we do with the Desert Marshal. Our best scenario would be silencing the Reaper and attacking with only Marshal Ironthorn, which trades off with the silenced Reaper. This doesn’t really leave us any further ahead. Attacking with Healer obviously does nothing (it gets blocked by Impending Doom).
Since we have no good attacks no matter what, we are going to have to pass the turn. Let’s spend some time thinking about the possible draws our opponent has to get out of this situation. Although we don’t know the exact list our opponent is on, we can still consider the most common cards the could be playing and assess what might happen under each scenario. The following table summarizes how good or bad each scenario is for us, and is color coded to illustrate approximately how good or bad the situation is. I have included a detailed explanation of each possibility below the diagram.
Power: If they draw power, they are dead to an alpha strike on our next turn even if we draw nothing. They go to 1 health from Impending Doom and we have three lethal attackers to their two blockers.
Burn (Torch or Obliterate): We are dead, and no line we can take will stop this. One of the two flyers will hit us and then the burn spell will finish us off.
Fast removal (Annihilate or Deathstrike): In this case, if we let them go to their turn before casting Desert Marshall we are 100% dead, assuming they play correctly. They will attack with both of their unitsunits. If we silence neither unit we will die to combat damage. If we silence the Umbren Reaper, they kill it in response and we die to the Entomb plus Impending Doom. If we silence the Impending Doom and block it, they hit us for 5 with Reaper and we die to the removal spell on the Reaper post combat. We need to silence Reaper on our turn to survive.
If we silence on our turn, they are in a tough spot. Removal doesn’t help their attacks, so they would either kill a unit and pass the turn or just pass (doesn’t really matter in this scenario so lets say they pass). Now we alpha strike, and their best line leaves them using removal on Ironthorn, trading 5/1 with 2/5 and eating 2/2 with Impending Doom. In this case they are dead to a lot of things we can draw, as well as needing to draw burn to close out the game before the Impending Doom kills them. It is also possible for them to trade away everything, leaving them at 1 life and us at 8, which is also a very bad position for them.
Slow removal (Vara’s Favor or Combust): See the answer to question 1.2.
Generic unit (Statuary Maiden, Steward of the Past): If we were to silence on our turn, they know they are dead if they attack with Impending Doom, in which case they must play their unit and pass, hoping to draw something on their next turn (and for us to miss). If we were to wait until their turn, we might encourage an alpha strike so we can ambush the Umbren Reaper, thereby ending the game. They may also decide to play it safe and aim for an alpha strike next turn, in which case we would silence the Reaper at the end of turn, leaving us in roughly the same position as if we had played Desert Marshal on our turn.
Overall, by playing out our Desert Marshal on our turn we end up in a slightly worse position than if we had played it on their turn since we do not encourage them to attack. We are still in very strong position.
Evasive unit (Umbren Reaper, Champion of Chaos): This senario is the primary reason not to play out Desert Marshal on our turn. If we do play Desert Marshal on our turn, they will play their unit and pass hoping to set up an alpha strike on the following turn, in which case we must draw a great card of our own in order to win. If we wait until their combat to play the Desert Marshall, they may be bold and attack us with both of their flyers, setting us up for a lethal counter attack. That being said, most Stonescar lists do not play many evasive units. Impending Doom is not an out here, since it would kill them, and most lists do not play the full 4 Umbren Reapers.
Multi-unit card (Assembly line, Scraptank): This draw would be a difficult card to beat as it puts too many blockers in play and buys them too much time. We would need to draw something in order to win.
Infernal Tyrant: Most of the senarios where they draw Infernal Tyrant are very good for our opponent. If they play the Infernal Tyrant precombat and then attack with the Impending Doom, we will be unable to respond to the Umbren Reaper dying and be forced to silence, then block the Impending Doom. They will go back up to a comfortable 5 or 6 life (depending on whether the Impending Doom survives. If they attack with both units, we will silence the Umbren Reaper and take 5 damage, then the postcombat Infernal Tyrant will set them to 3 life with a large lifesteal blocker and a lethal flyer in play. Attacking with just the Impending Doom is not a line to consider if they are planning to play Infernal Tyrant as it is strictly worse than either previously mentioned line of play. Regardless of what they do, neither player wins on the spot but our opponent is comfortably stable and we will need to draw something. Silencing the Infernal Tyrant is never a real option as it leaves us dead to the flyers.
Treachery: Although not every Stonescar list plays this card, if they happen to draw it we will win if we have played Desert Marshal during our turn. If we have not and they play Treachery before attacking, we will lose because we will be unable to play Desert Marshal in response.
Sabotage: The card does nothing here. Same effect as if they drew Power. We will win.