When trying to figure out a play in such a complex scenario, there are a few important shortcuts you can use. One is to rule out entire lines of play, and in this case, I believe that you should give up on trying to beat a burn spell. If Gerry has or draws a Stoke the Flames or Lightning Strike, then you lose. Trying to beat those particular cards only makes it more likely you lose to almost everything else, so I think that any line of play trying to do so should be discarded immediately. You are going to have to go to 1 to win this game, and that’s OK. Trying to set up a situation where you block Phoenix with Mantis Rider and Stoke your own Rider is just not realistic.
The second thing to try and figure out is what Gerry could be holding. You can rule out burn spells, because you are already resigned to losing to them, so you should consider other options. Land is a possibility, as there isn’t a huge reason for Gerry to have played an untapped land (though he would have played a Temple or Monastery). He could also have a counterspell (either Negate or Ojutai’s Command), and potentially a Dig Through Time, though it’s more likely that he would have cast that last turn. I would lean toward not really fearing Gerry’s hand, just because of how far behind you are. The worse your position is, the more assumptions you have to make about things going your way, because there’s a limit of what you can play around that goes down the more you are losing.
Now that we have our assumptions in line, let’s start breaking down the play. Again, in a spot this complex, separating it into chunks can help process things. Some complex plays aren’t broken down so easily, and you have to make all the decisions at once, but this one has a few distinct parts that we can cross off our list before moving to the next one.
Let’s start by looking at Narset. Given that you have two good spells in hand, you should be using Narset’s -2 ability. Setting up rebound essentially adds a bunch of mana and a card your side, which is much stronger than using the +1, and the ultimate isn’t likely to be relevant this game. Given, that step 1 is knowing that you are going to -2 Narset (though not necessarily the first action, this is going to be part of the overall play).
Given your current hand and mana situation, you can cast Stoke the Flames plus either Dig or Brimaz, though you can’t cast Brimaz + Dig unless a card goes to your graveyard. Note that casting Dig will deal 1 damage to you off Shivan Reef. That’s mostly relevant because it means you then have to chump the Phoenix, though you still aren’t worrying about Stoke the Flames. Casting two cards this turn seems essential, and because I’m sure that you want to use Narset’s -2, you will cast your spell on your turn.
Casting Dig with rebound is obviously very appealing, but I wouldn’t start there. You can actually race Gerry if he doesn’t have anything, and the way to do that is plan on casting Brimaz and then rebounding a Stoke the Flames at his face. You fall to 1 from the Phoenix and win on your next turn if he doesn’t have anything.
My Initial Play
Cast Brimaz, attack with both creatures, -2 ,Stoke the Flames targeting Gerry, with the goal of taking another Phoenix hit and winning the race.
I say initial play because this is a game of Magic, and sometimes the opponent does something. Inconsiderate, but it happens.
In this case, when you cast Brimaz, Gerry uses the last card in his hand: Ojutai’s Command.
Brimaz gets countered and Soulfire Grand Master returns to play, leading to a new decision tree. Now, racing becomes much less realistic since you don’t have a Brimaz and he has a lifelink 2/2, so Dig becomes the plan again.
My Final Play
Because you wisely tapped Mountain, Plains, Temple of Triumph to cast Brimaz, you can -2 Narset and tap your last two lands to cast double Dig Through Time (after getting a hit in with the Mantis). That lets you find two good spells, after which you chump both creatures and untap and Dig again. Hopefully the double-Dig is enough to get something going, ideally a Soulfire Grand Master of your own. That would let you gain enough life off burn spells to avoid dying to the Phoenix.
Another other option once the Brimaz gets countered would be to -2 Narset and use Stoke on the Grand Master, which means that the Phoenix hits you to 1. At that point you can’t cast Dig Through Time off Shivan Reef, and you would need to topdeck something very good to have a chance. You could also just +1 Narset and pass the turn, planning to block the Phoenix with Rider and maybe Stoke the Grand Master then. That doesn’t advance your position at all, and you still end up with Dig in hand and a need to cast it. Getting the double Dig is just much more powerful than these options, so that would be my play.
This was a complicated play, and I thought it was very interesting to walk through. There were a lot of unknown variables, and the play I wanted to make even got interrupted in the middle, but in the end it didn’t look bad for our hero (who is Josh, in this case).
As for the actual game: Josh attacked before casting anything, Gerry cast Command to draw and put Grandmaster into play, and Josh was forced to Stoke it. Josh then used Narset’s -2, realized he couldn’t cast Dig, and passed the turn.
Gerry hit Josh down to 1 but hadn’t drawn anything. Josh then drew basic Island, one of the two sources that could cast Dig, and was able to dig into both Soulfire Grandmaster and Stoke the Flames (with Dig getting rebounded the following turn). That amazing series of topdecks did win Josh the game, though it may have been easier had he done the play he described above.
I’m always on the lookout for awesome play scenarios, so please send me yours! Screenshots are the best, but written descriptions work too, as long as all the relevant info is included. My email is [email protected], and I’ll be back this Thursday with another scenario.