It’s that time again folks. If you already know what’s up then go ahead and skip ahead down to Stage One and I’ll meet you there. For everyone else join me in the spoiler tag for a moment and we’ll talk this through.
Here’s how this is going to work. For each stage I’ll be the one setting it. I’ll describe our deck, our opponent’s deck, our opening hand, and any other factors that I find relevant to the decision making process. Then you try to decide what you would mulligan, and more importantly why you would do so.
After you’ve got that answer, or if you just want to watch instead of participating, go ahead and pop open the spoiler tag underneath and see if we agree. At the end hit me up in the comments or drop by my stream later if we have conflicting opinions and you think I got it wrong. I am always down to learn new things.
Also take note that these scenarios will often intentionally be designed to be at least a little bit tricky. Don’t just go with your gut reaction but take at least a few seconds to think through the ramifications before you decide. Ready? Let’s jump into it.
For the first setup today let’s step into the shoes of an old boogeyman that still seems to make its way into many tournament scenes in the form of Turbo Thralls. We’re going to be playing against a rough matchup in the form of Poppy Rally. We’ve got the attack token and our first four cards show up as Succumb to the Cold, Blighted Ravine, Draklorn Inquisitor, and Avalanche. What do you do?
To make this decision correctly I think we have to start by asking ourselves, “What does a win in this matchup look like?” Games will break down largely into two possible scenarios. In scenario A Our opponent has Poppy, and in scenario B they do not.
In scenario A we are going to need to get a couple of pretty fast 8/8’s down to have a chance, probably by turn five or six. In scenario B we can sometimes take a little more time and assume the role of a real control deck. Throwing out removal spells while calmly awaiting the ticking clock of our inevitable frozen victory.
If we assume scenario B then we could quite reasonably keep all of our cards but Draklorn here and hope to buy enough time to get done what we need to get done. However, given that our opponent will be mulliganing for their Poppy Scenario A is more likely. (59% by turn four assuming two mulliganed cards according to our friendly hypergeometric calculator.)
Therefore to give ourselves the best chance between the two scenarios I believe the correct play here is to ship back everything but the Avalanche. We keep a reasonable amount of early disruption while maximizing our chances for a more combo based hand that lets us compete against their power draws. If we both miss, then we have additional outs of re-drawing our second Avalanche effect anyway to reset onto the plan B that the original almost full-keep would have gotten us.
We were half-combo for that last one so this time let’s go all the way. The power of Nami/Zoe is on our side facing down the midrange brutality of Sion/Draven. We’ve got the attack token and pull up Gifts From Beyond, Double Trouble, Sunblessed Vigor, and Hush. Who stays and who gets consigned to the depths of our deck?
The knee jerk reaction here is that we are playing Nami, we have Double Trouble, and we don’t have Nami or Shelly. Therefore everything else hits the bin and the Trouble gets to stay. While doing that would be ok, I want to look a little bit closer here and see if we can do better.
Let’s take a moment and think about how we win this particular matchup. We can occasionally do it by just having Nami on board for one turn, making a gigantic Sparklefly, and then watching Nami die and the sparkle float us away to victory. That’s definitely possible. But if Nami gets to live then instead of possibility we are looking at a high likelihood of crushing victory.
Add to that the fact that it’s easy to get said sparkle-friend killed if we don’t have backup for it and you can see how, in my opinion, Sunblessed Vigor is one of the most important cards in this matchup. I will even posit that it is sufficiently important to be kept alongside Double Trouble and leave us looking one card shallower for our Nami.
This line makes it slightly less likely we will get to go off in general, but significantly more likely that said going off will actually cause us to win the game. And when we are making decisions the only thing that should matter is which ones cause our overall percentages to go up, not which ones will make us feel better.
This type of thinking is tough because this will definitely increase the amount of games you will feel bad about losing for having not gotten to play, but on straight win percentage, you will likely see an increase. Since human brains are wired to remember feels bad moments more than close wins, you have to fight the urge to get steered away from these lines of thinking by your own evolutionary psychology. Counterintuitive I know, but worth thinking on.
For our third stage today we’re going to be bringing out another power player in Sivir/Akshan Demacia. Our opponent is on Ping City. They’ve got the attack token and our deck offers up Sivir, Akshan, Cataclysm, and Merciless Hunter. What’s the play?
At first glance this one looks pretty good already. To figure out exactly who stays and who goes though I think we need to take a moment and think through what the first couple of turns of the game will look like. Most specifically turn one.
If our opponent, with the attack token, has a one drop and we don’t have one to face off against them then we are going to be on the back foot from the word go. That is exactly where we don’t want to be as a deck that does not defend the best, and where Ping City thrives.
Also since we’re attacking on four this merciless hunter is really not going to get much done for the first couple of turns of the game. Anything we target when we play it is just going to happily swing into us and either force the vulnerable to not matter or put more damage and pressure directly onto our poor defenseless nexus.
Keeping all this in mind, as much as it will hurt me to throw back all these amazing cards, the only one that I would keep out of this starting hand would be Akshan. The rest get tossed back and we hope for early drops to trade down the board till the value of our deck and make itself known in the mid stages of the game.
So how did your decisions match up against mine through it all? You with me, learned something, maybe think I am crazier than Bandle City’s own mayor? I’m always interested to hear feedback in comments so hit me up here, or on my stream or twitter at twitch.tv/xxwhatamixx or @xxwhatamixx respectively. And as always, I’ll see you out there on the ladder.