I like watching people play good Magic.
Don't let the following video deter you from watching live Magic though. For the most part, Todd Anderson and Ben Wienburg play pretty well, but everyone makes mistakes, including them. I had the pleasure of watching this game in real life and made most of these observations to a couple people around me, so don't be thinking this is some Monday morning quarterbacking.
Here's the match:
My advice for easy viewing is to open the video in another browser and follow along. Perhaps watch the first eight minutes yourself and see how much you can find on your own.
0:38: Todd draws Clifftop Retreat and is immediately punished.
Leading with Sulfur Falls is strictly better because Todd can always play Island on turn 2 if he wants and if he draws an enters the battlefield tapped land, he can play that after Pillaring something.
1:06: If he hadn't sequenced his lands incorrectly, Todd could have cast the Pillar he Augured into on Knight of Glory without his lands being awkward on future turns. He still could have played Sulfur Falls untapped though, but that would make his Hallowed Fountain and Clifftop Retreat bad on future turns.
Maybe he'd rather save Pillar for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but that seems unwise. If Ben had it, he probably would have cast it on turn 2 instead of the Knight. Mayor of Avabruck is a card that Ben could have though, so maybe Todd should save it for that reason.
1:36: Ben wisely chooses to play Borderland Ranger for his fourth land rather than play Knight of Glory to get in an extra point of damage. Without Cavern of Souls, Todd could untap into a counterspell, and Ben desperately needs that land for the Restoration Angel and Zealous Conscripts he's holding.
It also uses his mana better, so it might be the better play regardless.
2:05: Todd plays Sulfur Falls as his fourth land, arguably a better land than Clifftop Retreat at that point. As most blue mages will tell you, it's better to have multiple blue sources in play than not, as casting things like Thought Scour into Snapcaster Mage into Thought Scour is very important.
Still, depending on who I'm playing against, I like to switch it up. Players will instinctively play their best lands first, leaving the basics to play last. After all, what if you need the colored sources?
Playing Sulfur Falls might seem strictly better than playing Island, but Ben "knows" that if Todd had a Sulfur Falls, he'd play it over Island. By playing Island on turn 4, Todd would be attempting to tell Ben that he's light on lands, giving Ben more things to think about.
Then again, playing Clifftop Retreat might accomplish the same thing, especially since it would give Todd the option of playing double Azorius Charm. Even if there was no way Todd was casting double Azorius Charm, I would expect him to play out his lands in such a way that would allow him to if something impossible happened and he wanted to. Again, that's just how people play on instinct.
Could Ben infer anything from the fact that Todd very obviously drew Hallowed Fountain on turn 2 or 3? Maybe that Todd has another white source in hand already or kept a hand without white mana and therefore probably few white spells?
That's all kind of deep for a single land drop, but it just goes to show how every little decision can have an impact.
All that said, I don't like Todd's choice to play Sulfur Falls there.
2:09: Todd passes the turn without using his Pillar of Flame. He knows he's going to take some damage next turn if Ben ignores the fact that Todd has Restoration Angel in his deck. I'm sure Todd is used to playing against opponents that simply won't attack into open mana, but you have to keep in mind that Ben has his own Angels, so he's not really risking anything by attacking into open mana.
If Todd did want to use the Pillar, he probably should have, as bluffing Restoration Angel only matters if Ben doesn't have his own. Todd could get some information next turn though, assuming Ben attacks into open mana. That would mean that Ben likely has his own Angel, which could be useful.
2:12: Todd fiddles with his lands.
2:43: Todd fiddles with his lands some more and eventually takes it. If he had Restoration Angel here, he would almost 100% cast it. I'm not sure what you'd gain by waiting.
3:09: Todd is absent in thought. Perhaps this is because I know him, but it's pretty clear when he's thinking about the game and what's happening as opposed to when he's simply waiting for his opponent to finish his turn. This is the latter. He can't wait to draw his card.
3:13: Fake consideration from Todd. Blatantly fake.
3:39: Game face from Ben Wienburg. It's very clear he's in this game and has options to consider, which means he has plenty of action.
3:50: Todd draws a second Pillar, so he burns one on the Knight of Glory. He's still able to keep his four mana bluff alive.
4:00 Ben has played the lands he's fetched with Borderland Ranger, which disguises his hand a bit. Simple, but still important.
4:02: Todd fiddles with his lands again.
4:11: Ben sends with both Rangers, as he's in the same spot he was in before. If Todd casts Angel to block, he casts his own Angel for the save.
4:15: Todd, still absent in thought, goes to tap two lands, bluffing either Azorius Charm (a terrible play), Snapcaster Mage (another terrible play), or the beginning of a Restoration Angel (a play he would snap make and a play he would have made already unless he just drew it). If he actually had a Charm and wanted to cast it, he would tap the Island instead of the two white sources.
4:20: It's a clear "I have nothing and was just wasting both our time" moment.
4:36: Ben taps two mana, starts to put a card on the table, then thinks better of it, and takes it back. Unlike Todd, it's very clear he has something but chooses not to play it, further indicating Restoration Angel.
5:19: Confusingly, Ben doesn't cast Restoration at the end of turn, which is the beginning of the end for him. If he's playing around a counterspell, he's doing a poor job of it. End of turn Angel would allow him to likely resolve Zealous Conscripts on his turn and clear the way for an attack for eight, leaving Todd at four.
The waiting game does not favor the man without Sphinx's Revelation. At this point, Ben should know Todd has no Angel in hand. It's possible he has a counterspell, but it's just as possible he has a Revelation. Replaying the same turn, getting in two damage, and then allowing Todd to cast Revelation for three is not what Ben wants to be doing here.
5:42: Ben draws a Mayor of Avabruck and casts it, either baiting out the counterspell or allowing a large attack while keeping Angel mana open in case of any shenanigans.
5:55: Todd separates his Counterflux mana for the Mayor, continuing his bush-league tactics.
6:17: Todd is wisely keeping his Augur of Bolas around in case he draws a Restoration Angel off his Revelation. If he draws a counterspell instead, he can Pillar the Mayor and counter Ben's Angel, allowing Augur to continually defend against Borderland Ranger beats.
6:47: Ben takes a few moments to consider casting his Angel while Todd is tapped out. One second, he was playing around counterspells; the next second, he's not. This next turn might get ugly...
7:04: Todd's motions are dramatically faster.
7:05: Ben refuses to play Angel, even though it could save his Mayor. The commentators are confused to the point where they think Ben doesn't have an Angel and they saw something else in his hand.
7:56: Ben fires off an end of turn Restoration Angel. Very odd.
Todd gets to fix his slight mistapping by casting Rewind. Heh.
8:48: A rampaging Borderland Ranger gets Azorius Charmed, which is a fantastic play. Todd wants to cast his second Sphinx's Revelation on the next turn and doesn't want to take three damage and then two damage.
10:20: Todd kinda looks like a jerk arguing over this Champion of the Parish trigger. It did look like the Champion trigger was an afterthought from Ben, and it did look like he put that land into play. The judge disagrees.
10:45: I would have just cast Revelation instead of Charming here. Stop nickel and diming him and put him away, Todd! Draw some cards and play a big turn where you kill his guys or lock out a few of his draw steps.
11:34: Definitely like playing the Steam Vents untapped in order to Revelation for an extra card. Todd is in firm control, so it might seem like there's no real point in attacking. However, if Ben has Zealous Conscripts, it's not like the Angel is blocking anyway. If he doesn't, then the Augurs can hold back Ben's team.
Todd actually has to kill Ben in a reasonable time frame, lest he risk losing to Gavony Township.
12:09: By waiting to cast the Sphinx's Revelation, Todd gave Ben enough time to build the board presence that he chose not to build earlier. Now Todd feels like he has to Counterflux a Zealous Conscripts, even though it isn't lethal.
12:44: Gavony Township off the top puts Todd in a precarious spot. Sure wish we had a bunch of extra cards in our hand already!
13:19: It's situations like this why I play a Supreme Verdict maindeck. You can draw a bunch of cards, but if those cards don't beat their board, what's the point? Todd finds it here, and the game is locked up.
13:50: Todd alphas with some Augurs before casting Supreme Verdict. C'mon man, you think he's really gonna take it?
14:56: After Auguring his single Runechanter's Pike to the bottom, Todd decides to Scour himself rather than Ben because he knows where his Pike is. I'm not sure if that's correct or not because he's a ways off of drawing that Pike but could very easily draw a couple Angels and kill Ben.
Then he mills two Angels.
17:50: Todd speeds up his play dramatically and looks far more confident.
One last note:
20:20: Todd clearly sides in seven or eight cards, which is pretty loose. At least shuffle in the eight cards first and then take eight out so Ben doesn't know for sure. When the other dude has access to your sideboard but doesn't know how you'll use it, you probably don't want to tell him exactly how many you're bringing in.
Todd won game 1 very convincingly despite some minor hiccups. I thought the matchup was heavily in his favor to begin with, but he ended up losing 3-2. To cap it off, game 5 was likely lost on the back of two misplays on Todd's part.
That's a helluva way to get knocked out of a tournament, but it was still a good run by both Todd and Ben.
This style of article is reminiscent of Richard Feldman's article by the same name, so I'd like to take a moment and give him a shout out. While possibly dry and boring, there is a ton of information to be gleaned from these types of articles. If you're evaluating your own play or just trying to pick up on Todd Anderson's tells, these videos are a great resource to have.
I hope this has been a learning experience for you all. Good luck out there, but don't get frustrated or nervous because of the cameras. Yes, there are probably people out there picking apart your every move, but it doesn't matter. What's in the past cannot be changed, so don't bother.
Also, several wise people have told me, "There's no such thing as bad publicity."
@G3RRYT on Twitter