I love a good “What’s the Play” situation. Given the popularity of my Opt Vs Consider piece, it seems like there’s a market for shorter, hard hitting content. As these situations come up, I’m going to happily lean into them.
While I was streaming, someone sent me this Tweet.
Here’s the hand in question:
There were a range of responses, which is what makes this type of decision interesting. Bryan and I even had a lengthy discussion about it on stream. It was one of those scenarios where I could default to making a decision based on format and archetype knowledge and forcing the discussion meant I had to explain my reasoning. That gave me a great understanding of the situation and would help me evaluate it in the future, so having those kinds of discussions are invaluable.
Right away, we can eliminate the possibility of casting Consider on Turn 1. Casting Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Mishra’s Bauble gives you the same amount of selection while also developing your board position, which is what Izzet Murktide wants to be doing.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether you should cast Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer or Dragon’s Rage Channeler on Turn 1.
If you’re worried about missing land drops, you could even play Mishra’s Bauble alongside Ragavan. Giving up equity from DRC isn’t a big deal if you determine that Ragavan is the correct play. In general, I’d prefer to play Ragavan before DRC, especially on the play. However, in any game of Magic, our decision making needs to be fluid. Heuristics are only useful to a point and we’re certainly in a unique situation.
In this case, the thing we need most isn’t to try and connect with Ragavan, it’s ensuring we make at least our second land drop. Granted, if Ragavan is connecting, it’s just as good as hitting your land drop, but I think we all know how unreliable leaning on that can be.
Izzet Murktide wins because it’s very good at getting ahead of its opponents and then it stays ahead with cheap interaction and countermagic. However, it severely lacks comeback mechanisms, so ensuring you are ahead is important. It’s also worth noting that it’s not important that you are very far ahead, just that you are. If you can’t use your mana effectively, cards like Counterspell, Archmage’s Charm, DRC, and even Murktide Regent become worse.
Should you lead on Ragavan and Mishra’s Bauble, lose your Ragavan, and not make your second land drop, that’s the worst case scenario. It’s unlikely you can even afford to cast DRC at that point.
If you play DRC before Ragavan, you’ll see five cards by Turn 2 instead of four (assuming you cast Consider if you don’t see a land immediately). It’s possible that even if your opponent could kill Ragavan, they might not kill DRC in order to kill a dashed Ragavan. It’s unlikely, but possible. If that happens, you’ll see another extra card if you have to cast Consider on Turn 2.
One of the main arguments to playing Ragavan first is because the upside is massive and seeing four cards isn’t that much worse than seeing five. I’m sympathetic, but when it comes down to your likelihood of winning or losing, I’m going to want to see that extra card. The difference between seeing that fourth or fifth card is roughly 7% chance of success, which pushes the number closer to 87%. Certainly, the odds of connecting with Ragavan are higher than 7%.
There has to be a downside to introducing a variable you can’t control (how well your opponent’s deck is set up to deal with Ragavan) compared to the percentage points you get from seeing an additional card, but I don’t know the term for it. Overall, I’ll take the 87% chance compared to 80% with backdoor Ragavan connection outs. We don’t actually know how relevant Ragavan is against our opponent, but we can take a very solid, very healthy 7% boost from DRC.
The last consideration is whether your opponent mulliganning makes them more or less likely to be able to remove Ragavan. You could argue that keeping a hand weak to Ragavan is a death sentence in today’s Modern format, but I don’t buy it. On the play and in the dark, I’m less likely to keep a reactive card on a mulligan, such as a Lightning Bolt or Unholy Heat. That changes on the draw. However, I don’t know if everyone operates that way, plus it’s always going to depend on the texture of their hand.
Overall, you can’t make an informed decision on what the contents of their hand are more or less likely to be. Does Modern contain more decks with answers to Ragavan than not? Sure, but your opponent could also be an Amulet Titan player mulliganning a non-functional hand.
There are two large reasons for me wanting to take the DRC line.
1) Your hand is good, you’re on the play, and your opponent is down a card. Several things are already in your favor, which makes me less likely to take a riskier line outside of your control and hope it works out.
2) Although Ragavan is incredibly powerful if it connects on Turn 2, it’s not a requisite for winning, nor does Ragavan necessarily get worse as the game progresses.
Due to the former, I’d much rather ensure I hit my land drops and am able to continue to play the game. The latter just hammers it home.
The main takeaway is this:
Your best Turn 1 play in a vacuum isn’t always what you should cast on Turn 1. Consider how your deck wins and what it needs to do in order to get there. This is a close situation where I wouldn’t fault either choice. The important part is that you show your work for how you come to that conclusion.
Finally, don’t cast Consider in your upkeep. Like, ever.
Throughout his tenure in Magic: The Gathering, Gerry has worn many hats. Tournament grinder, content producer, professional player, game designer, teacher, and broadcaster are part of the ways he’s made MTG part of his life. Rather than flying to a tournament each weekend, Gerry enjoys his time trying to help the next generation of Magic players hone their skills and be positive members of the community.