What Would You Do? And Tamiyo, The Moon Sage

Put on your thinking cap because former Player of the Year Brad Nelson has a "What would you do?" intricate board state for you! Test your skills and get your brain ready to play successfully at SCG Open Series: Phoenix.

I love spoiler season! This is the best time to be a Magic player. We get to see the new cards, figure out the new synergies, and look at all of the new amazing art—none more powerful or beautiful than Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. Today I will be talking about how amazing this planeswalker truly is as well as where you want to be playing her, but for right now, put down whatever you’re doing because it’s pop quiz time.

Here’s the configuration of my deck.

Now, look at the following picture. What would you do?

It’s game 3, and I already know the card in my opponent’s hand is a basic Swamp from a Gitaxian Probe I cast earlier in the game.

I’ve spent a very long time thinking and discussing this specific board state, as it’s one of the most interesting I’ve come across in a while. Please take a couple minutes to think it out before scrolling down. What’s the best play here?











Did you work on it? If not, scroll right back up and get to work, buddy!

There are way too many lines to talk about each one, so I condensed the field down to the three best lines.

Line A

We cast Snapcaster Mage targeting Gather the Townsfolk and cast it. This gives us five Soldier tokens and a free land to cast the Surgical Extraction if we want to (I’ll just let you know now, we don’t want to cast Surgical Extraction; it’s basically a dead card—you can figure out why later). If our opponent doesn’t draw anything relevant, he will attack with all three of his guys, forcing us to chump block two of them. Vault of the Archangel will bring him up to eighteen life.

Next turn we are able to play Intangible Virtue and attack for eighteen, forcing him to at least block one of our guys. Post combat we cast Timely Reinforcements and hope that our opponent bricks on his draw step once again.

Line B

We cast Timely Reinforcements as well as Intangible Virtue in main phase one and swing for the fences. Our opponent is forced to block at least one of our guys and is not able to gain as much life when he attacks back.

Odds are that he will only block with one guy. Keeping two guys around gives him more top decks that will be devastating on this board state. Let’s say he takes six damage, untaps, and attacks with both of his guys. This means that he didn’t draw Revoke Existence or another Anthem effect since he would play either of those cards immediately.


 We can take the damage. This allows us to set up fateful hour once again with Snapcaster Mage and Gather the Townsfolk on the following turn.


We can trade off the board which leaves us with Snapcaster Mage in hand. Snapcaster Mage is a very flexible card to have in this situation. We can Timely Reinforcements if he plays more creatures, cast Gather the Townsfolk for only two guys if he activates Vault of the Archangel and passes, or hold for value if we draw something relevant. We are just guaranteed to have some action left.

Again, we have to hope our opponent mostly bricks on his draw steps.

Line C

We attack with the Human token hoping he blocks. This allows us to take two different lines this turn.


We Snapcaster Mage the Revoke Existence, killing his Intangible Virtue. This kills off one of his tokens and leaves the other two at the same size our tokens are. He then gets less value off of his Vault of the Archangel on the crack back. We trade with his tokens if he attacks, and we patiently wait to turn on our Timely Reinforcements while attacking him with Snapcaster Mage.


We cast Intangible Virtue and Timely Reinforcements. This also gets our guys to the same size as his and sets up the opportunity to attack him with multiple guys on the following turn.

If he does not block, we just follow up with all the plays in Line A. Nothing changes too much, since he will be at sixteen, and the Snapcaster Mage does not change any of the math.

All three lines give us the win if our opponent draws running lands. The problem is if he doesn’t. That’s where things get complicated…

Line A Possibilities

Line A gives our opponent the least amount of draw steps to draw relevant cards, but his next couple draw steps are more live. His first draw step can actually be anything but Midnight Haunting or land to force us to draw something.

Recall that our opponent has a Swamp in hand, which he can play on his turn. This lets him cast any two-cost spell and activate Vault to gain life. We have taken the line that gives us six 2/2 Humans, one 2/1 Snapcaster Mage, and two 2/2 fliers. We’re at five life, and he’s at nine.

Here are the situations given his next draw…

Oblivion Ring is an automatic win, since he removes one of our blockers.

Revoke Existence kills off our Honor of the Pure, leaving us with smaller guys and no way to attack for lethal.

Intangible Virtue or Honor of the Pure forces us to block two of his fliers, leaving us at one life with six 2/2s and a Snapcaster Mage on our side. We have to top deck Lingering Souls or Midnight Haunting, since he gets to gain twelve life instead of nine. This leaves him at 21 life with three 4/4s with which we can no longer one-for-one trade. We cannot draw Revoke Existence, since he does not have to block anymore and still gets to swing for nine with three 3/3s, leaving Timely Reinforcements unable to save us. If we draw Intangible Virtue, he only has to block one of our tokens and our Snapcaster Mage, leaving him at one life and able to again deal us lethal damage.

Champion of the Parish or Doomed Traveler allows him to use that as the chump blocker he needs, leaving him with all three tokens alive to kill us after we gain life with Timely Reinforcements.

Line A is just far too risky to be the correct choice since almost all of his cards are very live.

Line B Possibilities

Line B is the safest choice to make. Attacking for nine and forcing him to trade off one of his guys as well as still having Snapcaster Mage in hand gives us the most flexibility to continue interacting with our opponent.

Line B1 is actually a trap. This is a prime example of schizophrenic Magic. As we decide whether to block, we still don’t know what he has drawn. It could be Lingering Souls, Midnight Haunting, Hero of Bladehold, or Gather the Townsfolk; therefore, we do not know if he will use his Vault of the Archangel. His activating Vault of the Archangel is exactly what we want him to do, since that means he hasn’t drawn anything relevant.

The problem with this line is we are setting up a board state that we could have had last turn. More times than not, our opponent will block with only one creature and start his turn off by attacking with both 3/3s. We don’t have any information about what he has drawn except for the fact that it was not Revoke Existence or an Anthem effect. By taking this damage, we are just hoping he hasn’t drawn anything and that Snapcaster / Gather the Townsfolk will be good enough. If that is our hope, we should’ve just taken the risk of Line A and crossed our fingers. The only thing we do is trade off two guys and give him an extra draw step.

Line B2 is a much safer line. We block one of the 3/3s and go to eight life. We still have Snapcaster Mage in hand as well as Timely Reinforcements in the graveyard, and each player has a 3/3. This board lets the game continue, and both players can start drawing more cards. Having Snapcaster Mage in hand gives us a slight advantage as long as the card our opponent drew was not Lingering Souls.

The best part about this line of play is that we have already landed our Intangible Virtue. This helps us if our opponent did in fact draw Lingering Souls. If we also rip Lingering Souls, we can play it with flashback to still have a chance. Vault will gain him a bunch life, but at least we aren’t just dead.

Line C Possibilities

Line C is strictly better than line A. If he takes the damage, we just play out Line A, but we are giving our opponent the opportunity to misplay. We want our opponent to block, since that gives us the best possible line to take in this scenario.


The best part about this line is we gain board advantage while having Timely Reinforcements and Intangible Virtue in hand. The downside to this is if he draws Hero of Bladehold or Lingering Souls, which are both bad for us in this position.


C2 feels like a much more powerful line. We trade off two of our tokens for two of his when/if he attacks, and the board is three 3/3s against his one flying 3/3. We also have access to Snapcaster Mage in hand, which is extremely powerful in this board state. We can Revoke Existence if he just activates Vault of the Archangel or cast Timely Reinforcement if he plays more guys.

So the question now is whether we try to set up B2 or C2. B2 is the safest of all the plays and gives us the most outs if our opponent plays correctly, but C2 gives us the best chance of winning if our opponent makes a mistake.

As Shuhei would put it, "Both is ok."

It actually comes down to what your gut is telling you. B2 is the play that I would make if my opponent was playing tight so far in the match, and it’d be C2 otherwise. It comes down to whether you think your opponent will block or not. I think I’ll more often than not just take the B2 line, but I would not be afraid to take the more aggressive approach if I had a read on him screwing up.

With that out of the way, we can return to gushing over the new amazing planeswalker!

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage is everything I could dream of in the new set. You all know by now that I am a huge fan of Delver decks, and this card fits right in with the version I have been working on lately.

This is an updated version of a Gerry Thompson creation that I have recently fell in love with. The mana base is a bit shaky and needs some work, but everything else about this deck is just amazing. The best thing about this deck is that it is the best Snapcaster Deck I have ever played in Standard. You have access to powerful spells to flash back on all curves and turns.

When Snapcaster Mage is awesome, so is Delver of Secrets. This deck plays 24 maindeck instants and sorceries which makes it much easier to blind flip in the early turns of the game.

The best thing about this deck? Tamiyo, the Moon Sage fits perfectly into it!

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage is the most flexible planeswalker in a deck like this. There are so many lines that make her insane!

  • Intangible Virtue into token generators allows you to play her safely and use her to continue applying pressure.
  • Vapor Snag, Snapcaster Mage, and token generators can be used very aggressively to gain a huge tempo boost in the early turns to set up a turn where you get all of that lost card advantage back with her second ability.
  • Just like with Jace, Memory Adept, you often get into situations against control decks in which they are forced into tapping out in the midgame. This allows you to find a perfect spot to land this planeswalker and start ticking her up for her ultimate. Infinite Faeries? Try infinite Ponders!
  • Resolved Titans can be more easily ignored when this is in play. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage doesn’t care about pesky creature removal like Dungeon Geists does.

The list goes on and one. This card is just amazing!

I am super excited to get my hands on this card and start battling some Standard! I will see you guys next week with hopefully more awesome new cards to talk about. I love you, Wizards!

Brad Nelson