It’s time to figure out what the play is, and as I tend to do, I picked a scenario with a lot of options and without one overwhelmingly clear answer. Like I’ve said before, I like mixing it up in that regard, but this type of situation is my favorite. I feel like you learn way more about how to play Magic when you look at a lot of viable options and choose one of many, because why each option is good is the important takeaway. Situations with a clear winner or a forced play are good too, because you do need to spot those plays, but ones without a deterministic answer teach you more in the long run. Most of Magic is made up of these kinds of plays, and being able to make decisions for good reasons is what you need to do more often than spotting the win.
Here’s the scenario, from game 2 of a Splinter Twin mirror in Modern:
(Click to enlarge.)
Post-Board Deck List
1) Cast Teferi in response.
Bear in mind that you can’t let Exarch resolve and cast Teferi at the end of the opponent’s turn, as a couple people suggested. The opponent is going to tap one of your lands, so you won’t have 5 mana. If you cast Teferi in response to Exarch, the opponent can’t counter it, but could untap and cast Twin, in which case you lose. That’s not as insane as that sounds, because some players board out 1-2 Twins in the mirror, and if you stick a Teferi, you could run away with the game. Rending Volley does make this play worse as well, though Rending Volley is likely to get you at some point this game. Your hand is good enough that I don’t think you need to risk losing to just Twin, and wouldn’t make this play.
2) Snapcaster + Remand the Exarch.
You can Snap Remand right now, in which case you lose to Snare or Dispel plus a Splinter Twin, though you lose to either of those cards plus Twin and a land regardless. The main reason I don’t like this play is that your opponent can just Exarch at the end of your next turn, which costs them so little because it’s an instant. Additionally, it gives your opponent an opportunity to slam Keranos or Jace, both of which would be annoying. I would not make this play.
3) Do nothing.
You let Exarch resolve and tap one of your lands (probably Lighthouse). You then keep up Snap Remand if the opponent goes for Twin or Keranos/Jace, and do nothing if they cast nothing on their turn. This lets the game continue with no changes minus the opponent having a 1/4 in play, which is fine. You can potentially go for Jace on your next turn, because Jace +1 does protect you from the combo. The biggest disadvantage here is that your hand is very expensive, and you just wasted 5 mana if your opponent doesn’t play anything. This does lose to the least number of cards, since it requires the opponent to have land + Twin + 1-mana counter to kill you.
4) Lightning Bolt + Snapcaster + Lightning Bolt on Spellskite.
If you cast this in response to Exarch, you lose to Twin while also being worse off than just putting a Teferi into play. Killing Spellskite isn’t very productive, because you use the lone Bolt that it’s stopping, meaning you didn’t get anywhere. On the other hand, this is a valid line of play at the end of the opponent’s turn, assuming you do nothing in response to Exarch and they do nothing on their turn. You really want to use your mana for something.
5) Play the previous turns differently.
This isn’t a current option, but one of the things that came out of discussing this play on Twitter with noted Twin aficianados Sam Pardee and Andrew “BK” “not Brian Kibler” Baeckstrom was that you should likely have been just playing Jace the previous couple of turns. These guys favor being proactive in the mirror, and I tend to agree. Again, that doesn’t change this current scenario, but it’s worth looking at for future improvement.
— Sam Pardee (@Smdster) December 16, 2015
Do nothing in response to Exarch. If the opponent goes for Twin, Jace, or Keranos on their turn, Snap Remand. If the opponent does nothing, try to kill Spellskite with Snap + Bolt. On your next turn, try to play Jace, and if it resolves, use the +1 so you don’t die to Twin. This loses to land + Twin + 1-mana counter, but no line can beat that. It also loses to the opponent passing and then Remanding your Jace, but they are likely to Remand the second Bolt on the Spellskite if they have a Remand.
This play makes your opponent have the most cards in order to kill you, and uses 4 mana on their turn no matter what. Your hand is very expensive, so you need to use your mana, and this has the added benefit of being the safest line of play. You take a risk by playing Jace on your next turn, but with a hand of Jace, Jace, Keranos, and no countermagic there’s really no alternative.
There are many potential answers here, and I’m curious what other people would go with.