(Editor’s note: The first part of Stephen’s impressive series can be found here.)
Long Versus Control
The real trick to playing this deck is under threat of Sphere of Resistance and Force of Will. And so the next deck we are going to look at is a deck which poses perhaps the biggest threat to Long of any: Psychatog. The Tog build we used is an updated version that was used to win the Vintage Championships at GenCon, sporting four Duress, as well as the amazing Mind Twist, on top of the already-strong Force of Wills and Mana Drains. We have chosen Tog because it is widely acknowledged as the best pre-Mirrodin Control deck. Functionally, it is the most dangerous for Long because it has four Duresses on top of the regular Control complement. Some might argue that the full Wasteland and Gorilla Shaman complement of Keeper would be more threatening – but that ignores how powerful Duress is, and overestimates this decks weakness to Wasteland.
I don’t want to go too deeply into the analysis, until you have read through the Logs. Let’s go through some games that I have selected from testing and then I’ll make some general assertions. I have really worked hard to make these games readable – to read them and get a real feel for the games. I’ll try and point out some of the major choices, and contextualize the games a bit.
My opponent for these games is Kevin Cron, Five Color guru and semi-finalist at the Vintage World Championship. I roll the die. Long plays first. Good times for me.
We pile shuffle, riffle, and cut.
My opening hand:
Lion’s Eye Diamond
No matter – an automulligan. Kevin does the same. Kevin notated his hand and gave it to me after the games to fit into these reports.
Unfortunately, for me, this is one of those rare situations where I get two mana sources, but each is useless alone (along with Dark Ritual, Tolarian Academy, and Mox Diamond).
My new hand is the oh-so-explosive:
City Of Brass
In retrospect, both of us have extremely slow hands. I drew three of my eleven lands. It all depends on what we draw this game. I am also thinking that my Brainstorm could very well get me some acceleration and throw back some of those lands.
Now I need to really think. Even this early in the game, critical elements of this matchup come into play. In fact, the most important plays with Long occur on turn 1 as it usually is trying to set itself up to win on turn 2. How well you play here defines your game.
At worst, I can expect Mind Twisting on his turn. More likely, I’ll face Duress and Force of Will. I need to somehow make my hand Duress-proof, but maximize my plays on the next turn, since my hand isn’t that explosive. Recall that the rest of my hand is Time Walk, lands, and Burning Wish. I literally take about five minutes to think this over. I have several options here. These decision trees are what make the difference between a good player and a bad one.
Steve: I play one of the Gemstone Mines, Brainstorm into Lion’s Eye Diamond, Duress, and Wheel of Fortune.
Playing the Brainstorm was an obviously correct play. The first reason is that the three lands in my hand are slowing me down, and I need to find some acceleration. Now I have more options. Recall that my business spells are Burning Wish and Wheel of Fortune; I can help set up my game with Time Walk, getting another land in play, and the Duress can help clear the way. The Lion’s Eye Diamond assures that I have enough mana that either Burning Wish or Wheel of Fortune is going to be strong. The difficulty comes into trying to maximize both cards. With Lion’s Eye Diamond, I might be put into a situation where I have to play the Wish or the Wheel, but am not able to sac the Diamond because if the spell I play is countered, I want to be able to play the other on the following turn.
In order to decide what cards to put back on top from the Brainstorm, I need to think ahead.
1) Next turn I could Time Walk, then I could untap and Wheel the following turn, popping Lion’s Eye Diamond… But then I won’t be Duressing. This is a great example of Duress slowing me down, since it’s a play that just loses if he has a Force of Will or plays a turn 1 Duress.
2) Another option is to Walk next turn, then untap, and instead of playing Wheel, I could Duress, and Wish and sac the Diamond for black to Will. Saccing the Diamond would send the Wheel to my Graveyard, which I then could play. The problem with this plan is that it is vulnerable to Duress, if he takes my Time Walk or my Burning Wish. If he Duresses my Burning Wish, I could just go for the straight Wheel of Fortune plan – but then I lose the Duress protection, since I won’t have enough mana to both Wheel and Duress.
I decide to go for speed and the Walk, Duress, Will plan. So I put back Wish so that if I get Duressed it’s safe. I also figured that the Duress is what makes sure my plan goes off and that if he Duresses me, he might not realizing how fast my hand is. It seems to me that the obvious card to take is Wheel. The Time Walk affects what cards I can put on top of my Library, if it resolves, since I can then draw both cards.
Seeing as how the Wish and the Duress are key to my plan, and the Time Walk looks somewhat inconspicuous, I decide to put the Wish on top, and then the Duress on top of that.
Just as a side note, one other possible play, just looking ahead, is that I could do plan two – but instead of sacrificing the Diamond in response to the Burning Wish, I could just wait to play Yawgmoth’s Will the following turn, and if that is countered, Wheel on turn 4. The problem with that sort of play is how slow it is, and how it makes Mana Drain a real threat.
So I pass the turn.
Polluted Delta, fetching Underground Sea – which he taps to play Duress. After some deliberation, he takes Time Walk! Bummer. I guess he wants a new hand of seven. I still don’t think there is anything I should have done differently without more knowledge.
I play another Gemstone, drawing Duress. I play it. He pitches Tog to Force of Will. At this point I have been stunted. My plans are foiled by his Duress + Force… But his hand is low. If I had just tried to Wish, he might have Forced that, and as long as I didn’t blow the LED, I’d still have the Wheel – but if I blew the LED, I would have been dead in the water. Duress served its purpose here. I pass the turn.
Kevin plays Island, Time Walk. Draw, Go. He has three cards in hand. He has two blue untapped.
I play the COB. I have three lands and an LED in play. Thinking – should I play the Wheel or the Wish? We discovered that this is a situation that comes up a lot in this matchup. This is a case where playing the best cards isn’t the best solution; the best solution is maximizing the number of good threats. If I just Wheel and it resolves, I have lost a Wish. If I Wish and sac LED, I lose the Wheel. This also puts a constraint on the capacity to freely use LED – an important lesson of this matchup. Any deck that has such strong Force power means that if you pop LED and rely on it, you may lose big time.
He has three cards in hand. I’m going to play the Wish. I don’t sac the LED though, and that is critical. I get Yawgmoth’s Will.
Kevin: Draw, go
I draw Mana Crypt. Now here is my dilemma. He has two lands. I could only play either Will or Wheel, but I am one mana short of playing both. Recall that I have Mana Crypt, three lands, and a Lion’s Eye Diamond. If he Drains, he can cast Intuition + Accumulated Knowledge, assuming he has Intuition. In other words, allowing him to Drain gives him too much mana that he doesn’t have, and access to more answers… So I need one more mana to play both. That way I can have one be safely drained, but yet still”go off.” I play it safe and pass the turn in the hopes of drawing one more mana source next turn. This is risk, but I think a risk that is worth it considering that he gets a huge tempo boost off of Mana Drain. So I pass the turn.
Kevin: He plays a Polluted Delta, and passes the turn.
I draw a Brainstorm. I play it: I see Black Lotus, LED, and Sol Ring. I keep Lotus, obviously. And put LED and Ring on top.
I play Lotus, it resolves. I sac the Lotus for black. And play Will – obviously, it gets Mana Drained as expected! Fortunately, I planned that I would wait until I could play both spells. All I needed was a land – but heck, I’ll settle for a Lotus!
I play Mana Crypt, tap it, and tap Gemstone to play Wheel; in response, I break LED for black. He breaks the Delta for a Volcanic Island. Wheel resolves!!
His hand was two Togs and a Cunning Wish.
My new hand from Wheel:
I have two lands untapped, and BBB floating. I think. A plan coalesces in my mind: All I need is for a Demonic Tutor to resolve and I win. How? You’ll see.
I cast Tutor. In Response, Kevin plays Ancestral Recall. He is now tapped out.
Storm Count: 8
The Demonic resolves! I fetch out Tolarian Academy because it’s uncounterable and allows me to cast a broken Mind’s Desire. I play both Lion’s Eye Diamonds. I play the Mox Jet, Sol Ring, Mana Vault, and the Academy.
Storm Count: 13
I tap the Academy for five Blue, and I have two black floating, and three colorless from Mana Vault. I play the Desire, leaving two Blue and two Black mana floating with two unused Lion’s Eye Diamonds sitting on the board.
Mind’s Desire for 14.
My Desire Reveals: Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Sphere, Duress, Gemstone Mine, Brainstorm, Lotus Petal, Underground Sea, LED, Mox Sapphire, Windfall, Demonic Consultation, Dark Ritual, and Mox Ruby, and City of Brass. Recall that all these spells are all free. I play both Spheres.
The key in this situation is to figure out how best to get Burning Wish, or my maindeck Tendrils. Since I have plenty of options, its best to go about it conservatively. I could Windfall, and since he cast Ancestral after Wheel, I’d get ten cards. However, I decide to start off carefully. I blow one Sphere, and I see Burning Wish. The coast is clear. I play Duress and see no Force of Will – and so I play the Mox, the LED, and the Lotus Petal. Recall that I have BBUU floating. I sacrifice the Petal for R, and tap the Mox Sapphire for U. I play Burning Wish to fetch out Tendrils of Agony and play it with about 24 storm. Just to see what was coming. I Brainstorm into Mystical with Sphere on the board – another way to get Tendrils – or I could even Consult for Wish.
When I played Tendrils, I won.
And so already you can see that the thought process needs to begin before a single spell is played. You need to consider the costs of what is going to happen in the successive turns. You also see that I can win through Force of Will and Duress if Tog has no real draw to keep up the power. In fact, too many answers may mean insufficient other elements.
This game also really illustrated how to play around Mana Drain. He could have drained into a Wish for Blue Elemental Blast to Counterspell the Wheel if I had walked into it. Or he could have Drained into the Wish to get a Vampiric Tutor. It could have been worse if he had an Intuition; he would have been able to play both the AK for three and the Intuition with the Drain Mana. The point is, I slow played, realizing that with thirty-two mana sources, my chance of topdecking another was pretty high. The key was not just winning faster than Mana Drain, but that overwhelming Mana Drain is just as good as blitzing by it. In other words, I rammed through control that game.
I think the game also illustrates how Long is just so broken. It can blow through a multiplicity of answers through a precise combination of mana and threats at an incredibly rapid speed, despite my slow-ass hand. Recall that Kevin played Duress, Force of Will, and Mana Drain in the first four turns.
For reference, Kevin’s first hand that game:
He decided that this hand was too slow, and I probably agree. His second hand was:
Force of Will (he drew another Tog off the top).
Obviously, Kevin was going to keep that.
Recall that my hand was: Gemstone Mine, another Gemstone Mine, City Of Brass, Brainstorm, Time Walk, and Burning Wish.
Kevin is playing first.
My opening hand:
City of Brass
I keep this hand, because, like game one, I can Brainstorm away some land into some more acceleration. But beyond that, it’s pretty busted as is. These hands are a little weird because they aren’t the type of hand I’d necessarily keep while goldfishing… But I hate to mulligan against tog. Also, again, I have three of my eleven lands.
Kevin is playing first. He starts out with Polluted Delta, fetching Underground Sea, which he taps for a Duress. He takes my Brainstorm after some debate; after all, that is the card that optimizes my hand. Walk is obviously not the card to take. While I still have Consult, taking Brainstorm really makes this game more difficult for me as I have to play even better. You see, now my decisions become riskier with only Consult and Walk.
I’d also like to comment at this point in the article, that one thing you want to try and do as often as possible with Long versus control – another principle, if you will – is that you want the control player to be the one making difficult decisions. It increases the chance that they will screw up, and it means that you are correctly applying pressure.
He passes the turn.
I draw Lotus Petal. I play it and a Sea and then play Time Walk. Next turn I draw Black Lotus; pretty good.
I Tap Underground Sea, Ritual, Consult for Wish. I get it. I Play City of Brass, Tap, Wish (B floating, 3 storm so far) for Yawgmoth’s Will. It resolves. I play the Lotus and sacrifice it for Black playing Yawgmoth’s Will. 5 Storm.
It resolves and I have one black floating over. I win because he has Force of Will, but no other blue spell. I replay Black Lotus, Lotus Petal, Ritual, Demonic Consultation for Burning Wish. I play the Burning Wish off the Lotus Petal for Tendrils and play the Tendrils with precisely enough mana and eleven spells.
Force of Will
I’d like to comment that is a turn 1 win after Duress. If he had a blue spell, we’d both be in topdeck mode… But the speed of my deck means that Kevin has little time to optimize. If you noticed, I won before Kevin got a second Turn and after a Duress. The Brainstorm would have been amazing, considering I had a Black Lotus on top!
It is possible, however, that the Brainstorm was the wrong target for Kevin. But if you look at my opening hand – Underground Sea, Underground Sea, City of Brass, Dark Ritual, Brainstorm, Time Walk, and Demonic Consultation – it seems extremely unlikely that I win on turn 1 without Brainstorm.
Moreover, while the previous game illustrated the principle of over-powering control, this illustrated the idea of blitzing past it before 1) they can optimize, and 2) allow the full power of their deck to get behind the idea of stopping you. It also illustrates the point that the more pressure you apply and the more difficult their decision, the greater uncertainty that they are making the correct one.
My opening hand:
If I go first, it’s almost an unbeatable turn 1 win unless they Duress or counter the Lotus. There are psychological ways of making sure that doesn’t happen, though – for example, pretending to consider to play a land first or some other card. The hand falls neatly into the”Just Win Now” category I talked about last week: It has plenty of acceleration, three tutors, as well as a way to protect the spells with Duressing first.
Kevin is playing first.
Kevin: Polluted Delta, fetching Underground Sea, tapping for Duress. Darn. We’ve seen this before. He wisely takes Black Lotus. At this point, I’m thinking I’ve gone from darn near 100% win to 100% loss. He passes the turn.
I draw and play City of Brass. How lucky! I play Ritual. He Force of Wills, Pitching Cunning Wish. He has seen my hand and knows I have Duress. He also knows that he can Duress away another card the next turn. That’s pretty wrong. This could be an incorrect play, only in consideration of the fact that he plays Duress next turn. I’m not sure what I could Consult for that would be strong that I could use this turn that wouldn’t be vulnerable to Duress. We’ll mark this down as a questionable play made under difficult circumstances.
Kevin Duresses me. What should he Duress? He takes Brainstorm. Recall I only have one land in play – that would leave me with Wish, Ritual, Duress, and Consult. He passes the turn.
I play Ritual, Duress. I see the coast is clear and take Brainstorm. I Demonic Consultation for Gemstone Mine. I play the Mine and tap it to cast Demonic Tutor (which I drew) with one mana floating. Remember that my Lotus is already used. I removed my Mana Crypt with Consult and a lot of other lands. I don’t have too much left; my options are pretty limited. What I need, and badly, is another mana source so I can start playing some spells that I might topdeck. Tutoring for a land seems just as good as getting a Mox. I realize that I could get a Duress and try and Wish – but I would be stuck at two mana, so it would take two turns unless I got a mana source in which case I could Wish and then Will.
So I tutor out an Underground Sea. Exciting, isn’t it?
Kevin Brainstorms, and plays a land.
I draw and play the Sea, then the Wish for Yawgmoth’s Will, and pass the turn.
Kevin plays Mox Sapphire and passes the turn.
I go for it. I play Yawgmoth’s Will: Kevin has two cards in hand. He Intuitions for three Force of Wills, pitching AK. It’s countered, and I lose a Gemstone. Kevin’s error in countering the Dark Ritual has come very close to costing him a game that I think I lost when he Duressed my Lotus. Now that he has no cards, how will this turn out?
Kevin: Draw, go.
I draw Bargain and play a Burning Wish for Regrowth. This is sad. What else can I do?
Kevin plays Mox Emerald and Mind Twists away my hand. Our hands are empty. Again.
I draw Tolarian Academy and play it.
Kevin: Draw, go.
I draw a Lion’s Eye Diamond. If he gets Duress, I know it’s going. I think that at this point, my one hope is that I get enough steam to Desire and win. It’s slim, but possible…So I decide to hold it.
Kevin: draw, go.
I draw Mox Pearl – and hold it. (See the previous turn.)
Kevin draws and plays Brainstorm, followed by an Accumulated Knowledge for two cards. Things are looking grim now.
I draw Lotus Petal, go. On my end step, Kevin plays AK for three. Ouch.
Kevin plays Duress, taking Petal. He then plays Intuition for two Deep Analysis and Library of Alexandria. And he Time Walks. He Mystical Tutors on his upkeep for Drain. He flashes back the Analysis.
At this point my only chance is to get Desire. I was so close to winning, but now this game sucks!
I draw Necropotence – which I can’t cast.
Kevin hard-casts one Deep Analysis and Duresses my Necro.
I draw and play Duress. Response: Brainstorm
He shows me his hand and I scoop. He has Tog, Wish, and Will.
I would like to point out that I almost won despite double-Force and a Duress for my opening hand. If I had played, I would have won for certain unless he had Forced my Lotus… And keep in mind that I thought I automatically lost given my opening hand. So I came back from the brink of defeat to a very near loss.
Recall my hand once more:
Steve’s opening hand:
It’s almost an unbeatable turn 1 win unless they counter the Lotus.
Kevin’s opening hand:
Force of Will
And so, by this game we have seen some patterns. First, he has gotten really lucky – always has Force of Will. Second, I have had steam going through Duresses and Force of Will simply on how fast this deck is. Perhaps the most important lesson from this game is that what allows Long to recover so quickly is that it draws the right proportion of mana to spells – and since all its mana produces so much, it can maximize the spells it does draw as quickly as possible. But why this game is illustrative is because I had severe mana problems, which allowed the game to stall long enough for my opponent to win, as I was unable to apply sufficient pressure to break through.
My opening hand:
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Wheel of Fortune
I get to play this time, so I’m happy.
This hand seems quite broken. In many ways, it’s a hand that is difficult to maximize. The LED really pressures me to use it early. It’s pretty obvious to play the Time Walk first – but after that, I am going to need to play Wheel, barring amazing topdecks.
I play the Mox and the Mine, then Time Walk. He responds with Force of Will, pitching Intuition.
It’s always a tricky play on the part of the Tog player. In trying to imagine the games from his point of view, I see that he must be thinking that if he doesn’t stop me here, I could untap and play two spells. The problem is that he has sacrificed a chance to answer real spells I might unleash in subsequent turns. I play Lion’s Eye Diamond and pass the turn.
Kevin doesn’t like me to get more turns… And I can’t blame him. In retrospect, it is obvious why is his doing this: He thinks I have Duress. Next turn, I could go, land, Duress, Wish, Will… Or something worse. I think he is afraid of me playing first, and that is the rationale behind the Force of Will. Although it is tough to say it was the correct play.
He thinks for a bit and then takes my Demonic Consultation. He continues with Mox Emerald, Underground Sea, and Demonic Tutor. He deliberates.
What would you get? He knows my hand and knows I will try to Wheel, so he gets Lotus and plays it. That way if I Wheel, he has Drain mana up and more. That’s a pretty nuts draw for Tog.
I draw my own Demonic Tutor and play it for Lotus. I Play Wheel, and in response sac LED for black.
I draw Mind’s Desire, Mox Diamond, Dark Ritual, Mystical tutor, Burning Wish, LED, and Lotus Petal. Something very interesting has happened here: If I had sacked for Blue, I would clearly win with a huge Desire. If the Mox was a Chromatic Sphere, I’d be able to Desire. But the countervailing point is that I have drawn one land this whole game. In my opening eight, there was one land – so surely my next seven will have at least one land, right?
Wrong. So my Diamond is suboptimal here, despite, on balancing, winning me far more games than it costs me.
This sucks. My Mystical gets me nothing, and I lack the blue to play Desire. My only chance is to Wish into Will. I play Petal and try and Wish. He sacs the Lotus, plays Ancestral Recall, and then Drains my Wish. I burn for two.
By the way, for the players who put Desire in the sideboard – take note! I definitely would not have been able to Desire from the board, as the Wish would have been countered. Additionally, it is precisely against control decks that Desire is so strong; against most other decks, you can just goldfish.
Kevin uses a Drain mana to play a Deep Analysis. He plays a Mox Sapphire and Duresses my ritual. He brainstorms and plays a Flooded Strand.
My Gemstone is at one counter. I draw a Wish and play it, sacking LED in the vain hopes of finally getting a broken Yawgmoth’s Will to resolve. I lose my land and my hand. He Force of Wills, pitching Wish. I scoop.
Kevin’s hand that game:
Force of Will
(He topdecked the Undergound Sea – otherwise, he would had to have Tutored for a land.)
We need a Break – we have been playing for two and a half hours, and we’ve only had five games! (Four of which I’ve shown here.)
So those pre-board games were incredible. We had everything. We had”I win” hands ruined by Duress, multiple Force of Wills everywhere, and lots of brokenness. All in all, I think this illustrates how close this matchup is, and how luck-dependent it is. If he had not always drawn Force of Will, I could have relied on just winning one of those games outright instead of all my planning. Nevertheless, my extreme effort gave me a 3-2 with him getting the nuts.
I think it also illustrates how you have to plan for Force of Will, and be pleasantly surprised if they don’t have it. We can’t go with the”balls to the wall, pray they don’t have Force of Will” theory, because it will cost you games you might have otherwise won.
If my commentary doesn’t get this across, be aware how incredibly stressful an experience it was for me to play against Tog. This matchup is about basic Magic fundamentals. The Long.dec player has to play perfectly, maximize his chances, keep the whole deck in mind, and consider the possible threats of the Tog player. But on a deeper level, you can see that it is about controlling the speed of the game.
And here is a point that is perhaps the most important of all: The Long.dec player may want to slow down the game to its advantage or speed it up depending on what it has. Simultaneously, you want to get the Tog player in a position where they have to be the one making difficult decisions. If that happens, you are controlling the tempo of the game and that creates a much greater chance of error on the part of the Tog player, since they are working with imperfect information.
And so the four principles that I have pointed out are:
1) Blitz by control
2) Overpower it
3) Maximize all your threats
4) Control the tempo of the game
These principles are not independent. They overlap and influence each other as the preceding games illustrate.
Long v. Tog – Post Sideboarding.
Kevin sides out: One AK, two Deep Analysis, and one Tog. He sides in two Pernicious Deeds, and two Red Elemental Blasts.
I side out Tinker, Tendrils, and Time Walk for three Xantid Swarms.
(The correct sideboarding plan is – 1 Mox Diamond, – 1 Time Walk, – 1 Tendrils, – 1 Brainstorm, + 4 Swarms… But at the time, I only had three Swarms in my Sideboard.)
Long goes first.
My opening hand:
Lion’s Eye Diamond
I have a”Force of Will or no?” hand in the sense that if the Wish is Forced and I don’t draw something good off of Sphere, I could be in bad shape.
I am playing first. I have a couple decisions to make that aren’t exactly obvious. There is a lot going on here, so I’ll try and take a look at it them all.
My goal is to play Wish for either Tinker or Diminishing Returns. Getting a draw off of Sphere would be good to maximize my card pool. If I lead with an artifact, it may telegraph that I don’t have lands. When Long gets a hand with a Lotus or Moxen to start itself off, you really want the Lotus or the Mox to resolve because sometimes you’ll have no land.
I decide to play the Mox Jet. I then play the Dark Ritual. Kevin plays Force of Will, pitching Drain.
I didn’t expect that. If I had played the land and the Mana Crypt or even the Lion’s Eye Diamond first, would that make him more or less likely to Force of Will my Ritual? Do I want him to Force of Will it or not? Those are two difficult questions that are not easy to answer.
Addressing the first one, I think there are two things he has to be concerned about: Mind’s Desire and Duress. Ritual certainly helps me cast Duress, and possibly Mind’s Desire considering I could have a land and a number of artifact mana, including the three Chromatic Spheres. I feel free to do what I want now. I think he made a risky play.
I go Mana Crypt, LED, Gemstone Mine. I play Chromatic Sphere off of the Mana Crypt. I have one colorless floating. I use that and tap the Mine to play Burning Wish. I fetch out Tinker and Tinker away Sphere. Kevin plays Force of Will, pitching B-Storm.
Absolutely ridiculous – double Force of Will. This explains probably why he was so likely to Force of Will the Dark Ritual. Control players reading this analysis can draw their own conclusions about the validity of his actions. It is a difficult situation, no matter how you slice it.
I have no hand and he has three cards in his. He plays a land.
I draw a land and hold it.
He draws Duress and Duresses me, seeing a land. He plays a land.
I draw a Xantid Swarm and play it, and the land. It resolves. If he hadn’t Force of Willed my Dark Ritual, he could have stopped the Swarm.
He draws a land.
I Brainstorm and see Burning Wish, City of Brass, and Mana Vault. I attack with Swarm and play Wish for Yawgmoth’s Will. I win because of Swarm. I get back everything from my graveyard and go nuts.
A very interesting game because he had two Force of Wills and Duress – but I still won because he had nothing else but land. However, it is a great example of how a game is decided by an opening hand – but ironically, not mine. It was his hand that controlled the game. He had answers, but not much else… And the possible over-use of his answers caused him to lose some search he had like Brainstorm. The fact is that we can sit here and say that Force of Willing the Dark Ritual was error, but only with certainty after the fact. I could have double-Duressed and played Bargain, for all he knew. Recall my hand with merely the Lotus to fuel Rituals. Cutting me off early caused him to win.
However, this also illustrates a great aspect of Long. The deck is so fast that countering an early mana source may completely stop me – or it could be a mistake, as I think it was in this game. The point is that the Tog player has to make difficult decisions, which may or may not be correct. So you have shifted the burden to the Tog player to play well – and they are working with imperfect knowledge. If the Long player just always makes an assumption that the Tog player has a Force of Will in the opening hand, then you will be playing perfectly or at least logically from that assumption.
For reference, Kevin’s opening hand:
Force of Will
Force of Will
I really don’t see how a hand could possibly get better than that. The problem for him is that the Duress is dead after he casts double Force of Will because my hand was empty. I think he had just Force of Willed my Wish, then he could have Duressed and Brainstormed on his turn.
My opening hand:
Kevin goes first. He drops a Tropical Island and a Mox Pearl, and taps them to Merchant Scroll for Force of Will. He then passes the turn.
I draw Sol Ring – exactly what I wanted. Now I have enough mana to play both Jar and Burning Wish. This is a bombtastic hand. I play the Mox Diamond pitching Gemstone Mine, Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, Mana Vault, Sol Ring, Memory Jar. My Jar is Forced. I sac the Petal and use the last mana floating to play Burning Wish… But I have Yawgmoth’s Will in hand. I pass the turn.
Kevin plays a land. Me, I drew a Brainstorm. I play Yawgmoth’s Will. He plays a Brainstorm and Force of Wills. Damn. If my Will had resolved, I would have gotten my discarded Gemstone and gone off.
Kevin: Draw, go.
I Duress him. He has two AKs, so rather than let him get three cards over two turns, I Duress one away and he casts the other on my end step for two cards.
At this point, I am done. We topdeck for a bit but his position only gets stronger and I lose. I fail to draw enough spells to push through his counter wall, and once my Yawgmoth’s Will was countered, it’s sitting in my graveyard instead of my sideboard where it wants to be.
Kevin’s opening hand that game:
Force of Will.
You can see that he Scrolled for a second Force of Will.
My opening hand:
I play first.
This hand is pretty solid. If you think that playing the Ancestral first is correct; you are wrong, but there are options. I could Duress and then pass the turn. I decide to go for the Necro, and I think that Necro is the correct play. If it resolves, I win. If it doesn’t, I have Ancestral next turn with Academy and Duress to protect it if need be.
The Ritual gets Forced. What the hell? Dammit. I sense that Kevin has a theme.
Oh well. Play Pearl. I am just not sure if that is the correct with this deck. He could have just waited for Force of Will my Necropotence. He must really be scared of Duress. Now I have Duress, Ancestral, and Necropotence. Nevertheless, it doesn’t look pretty for him.
Kevin: Polluted Delta, Go.
Steve: Tap Gemstone, (which I topdecked) Duress, take REB, see Wish and lands. Academy, tap for U, Ancestral, go. My ancestral was very strong as it included Mana and a Mind’s Desire. I am setting up next turn for a turn three win. On my end step he fetches out Underground Sea.
Kevin: Polluted Delta, go.
Steve: I play Mox Emerald, City of Brass, LED (spell #2). I Tap Emerald to play Swarm (spell #3). I Tap Academy for UUU, Pearl, City of Brass, Gemstone … Desire for four. Pull up: City of Brass, Yawgmoth’s BARGAIN!!!, Mana Vault, Xantid Swarm…. Okay: Play Swarm (spell #5), Vault (spell #6), Bargain (spell #7), sac LED for BBB (discard Necro,”oh well!”). Starting at nineteen…
Draw 8 cards, one at a time: Chromatic Sphere, Windfall, Gemstone, City of Brass, Jar, Gemstone, LED, Wish. Tap Vault… 3BBB, cast Sphere (spell #8), LED (Spell #9), sac Sphere for R (draw Twister). RBBB1. Duress (take Wish, no more spells). I then Wish up Tendrils for the”W.”
My hand was really busted that game. I had any combination of lethal threats. Even Mana Drain wouldn’t have stopped my Desire and I still had Necropotence in hand. This was just another example of overpowering the control player.
My opening hand:
God, I love these hands. They are so broken, but so vulnerable. Against Sligh, it’s the turn 1 win. Against decks with Force of Will, I have 40% chance of losing (which is the probability of them having Force of Will). My options are many: I could play Lotus, Consult for Ritual, Ritual, (BBBB floating), Sphere, break it for Blue drawing a card, and then Windfall, sacking LED. The other option is to just Lotus, Windfall and sac LED. I think I do the latter, but the former would have been better because I get more options with the card I could draw off of the Sphere. Can anyone else think of something else I could have done? I’ll mention something in a minute.
Well, to make a long story short. Kev had Force of Will. I lose. We could play it out, but with no land in play it seems silly.
Top three cards of my library were LED, Wish, and Sol Ring. If I had Consulted first, I would have won – we went through it: Consult for a Gemstone, Brainstorm then and I get Dark Ritual, Duress, and LED. I then play Duress, then Ritual, then I get to Windfall with double LED. And I win. I definitely should have done that. It makes the most sense – if I want to have any game, I need mana. However, there was no way to foresee that such a play would have been correct.
Nevertheless, it illustrates the axiom: there are many good plays, but Only One Correct Play. These decks are very difficult to play correctly – and we both did an admirable job. I will also note that I was extremely fatigued at this point. I do not recommend playing Long if you expect to play against control all day, as it is a very stressful experience that requires perfect concentration. While you might see eight games here, we spent nearly five hours playing them.
Library of Alexandria
Force of Will
I would like to note that Kevin had a Force of Will in every hand during those test games. Despite that, we split our games. I have already belabored the important points, but before we move onto the next matchup, I’d like to make one more: The key to success on the part of the control deck is not just having answers. It’s also being able to back up those answers with draw and hand optimization quickly enough to keep up. Hope you enjoyed this analysis.