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The Stack in Action

1.20.05   Over the past few weeks, we've gone over a lot about the stack.  We've also covered priority quite a bit.  And I must that I was happy with the response that I got from the combat step review article last week.  It lets me know that I got an article out there to the public that was useful.  I like writing for fun.  And of course I enjoy fun and interesting articles.  Everyone once in a while though, it's nice to know that something I've written is useful.

But, with all that knowledge, where does that leave us?  Well, you can go any direction you want with it.  After all, knowledge is power.  And over the past few weeks, you've hopefully become a very powerful person.  Don't go getting power hungry yet though.  Are you sure that you can apply all of these newly acquired skills in the appropriate situations?

You know as well as I do that your answer isn't relevant.  It was obviously a hypothetical question.  Besides, I couldn't just trust your answer.  I have to test you.  Yeah, I said the four letter word that a lot of you hate.  Good news is that it's a short test.  Unfortunately, it's all essay questions.  Anyway, let's get moving.

This situation actually occurred at a recent Friday Night Magic event.  It was a matchup of Tooth and Nail against Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo.

Your opponent has 10 lands in play.  All of them are untapped.  He has on the table two Oblivion Stones and one Darksteel Colossus.  One of the Oblivion Stones has a fate counter on it.  You are also aware that he has a Naturalize in hand due to earlier game situations.

You have six artifact lands in play, one Krark-Clan Ironworks, and a Sensei's Divining Top.  You have already looked at your top three cards, and you have ordered them as Myr Incubator, Blasting Station, and Sensei's Diving Top.  In hand, you already have one Sensei's Divining Top.  For issues of the Ironworks, be aware that you have about 36 artifacts left in the deck.

The cards involved:

It's your turn.  Your opponent is at 11.  You are at eight.  You need to find a way to win or set up a win next turn.  Additional Knowledge that has been gained here is that your opponent only has two Oblivion Stones.  

What is the best possible play?

Well, that depends.  Start by making the safe play.  Use the Sensei's Diving Top to get the extra card off of your deck.  This way if you use a Myr Incubator, you will still have all the relevant cards that you need in hand.  

Then, there are two different ways that this can play out.  Go ahead and cast Myr Incubator. If your opponent uses one of his Oblivion Stones, you then just sacrifice a bunch of lands to the Ironworks.  That will generate all the mana you need to play your Blasting Station and play and activate a Myr Incubator.  So, your stack could potentially look like:

Lands Sacrificing to Ironworks (seven separate activations)
Oblivion Stone Activation
My Incubator

Then you can play a Blasting Station.  If your opponent decides to blow up the second Oblivion Stone before the Blasting Station resolves, you will then have enough mana to play the second Incubator and then get enough creatures to block all the damage from the Darksteel Colossus and be able to attack in return for the win the next turn.

Now, in a different scenario, you can play a Myr Incubator and your opponent may not activate an Oblivion Stone yet.  You then cast Blasting Station.  If you cast the Blasting Station, your opponent can activate his Oblivion Stone without the fate counter.  Then you would be forced to sacrifice your lands to the Krark-Clan Ironworks, because it would be going away.  You can then activate a Myr Incubator.  Then your opponent may choose to activate the second Oblivion Stone.  So, your stack at one point would look like:

Oblivion Stone activation #2
Myr Incubator activation
Oblivion Stone Activation #1
Blasting Station

In this scenario, the Oblivion Stone #2 would resolve.  This would destroy all permanents on the board.  At this point, with both Oblivion Stones blown up, you can safely retrieve as many creatures as you like and be able to win from there just like in scenario one.

Now, the secret is that there really is no correct answer here.  It's more about just being aware of the stack and what you are capable of.  Ultimately, what should happen is that you should have enough creatures to block the Darksteel Colossus and then attack for the win.  Nothing should be left on the table after the Oblivion Stones explode but the Colossus, lands, and the token creatures.

There are two interesting fun facts though.  If you are playing the Ironworks deck, you need to be careful in the above scenarios to keep yourself from getting wrapped up in using the Blasting Station to win, because you won't even need it to win.  But also, the best play the Tooth and Nail player could make in hindsight would be to activate an Oblivion Stone during the Ironworks player's upkeep.  This takes away a lot of the Ironworks player's options.

This is just one of the many ways that you can utilize the stack in a real life situation.  Combo decks really need to be aware of the stack and how it works.  When they have a lot of activated effects or instant speed spells, they can get out of a lot of tight spots.  

Obviously there are a lot of simpler situations.  Most of the time, the stack comes into play during combat situations.  I would recommend that you slow down and look at all the potential options the next time you look at playing an instant speed spell or ability.  If you are getting close to the end of the game and you have a choice of things to do, take a long look at the board.  Think about what your opponent can do.  Then fill the stack to your benefit and go for it.

Until next time,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
PowrDragn at Pojo dot com

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