Hey there, I’m so glad so many people had a go at the puzzle, over 400 and counting as I write this!

We had lots of detailed suggestions on Reddit, The Source and in the comments section below, some more possible than others…. 😉

The original problem


What's the Play? Miracles vs Storm

  • Do nothing, they have tonnes of mana anyway, save the counters (63%, 267 Votes)
  • Counter the Ritual with Spell Snare, hope they don't have Infernal tutor in hand (27%, 115 Votes)
  • Force of Will the Ritual, pitching Snapcaster Mage (7%, 30 Votes)
  • Force of Will the Ritual, pitching Spell Snare (3%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 423

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The problem we posed had four possible answers, however, we can quite quickly dismiss two of these. Either option using Force of Will here would be a poor play. This is because Force is a much more versatile counterspell than Spell Snare. The two options for Snare in the opposing Storm deck are Cabal Ritual and Infernal Tutor whereas Force of Will can counter both of those cards AND every other one in the deck, although it is ineffective at countering those with Storm.

Next, we should think about how we have got to this situation. I described what had happened quite comprehensively in the turns leading up to this but had left out two details you could have picked up from the picture. The first was that our Sensei’s Divining Top was on top of our library because the opponent had tried to Abrupt Decay it. The second clue was perhaps too hard, but, in our opponent’s graveyard we can also see an Infernal tutor. This was noticed by many, and used as reasoning for what line to take, but it should also have been a clue as to what is in the opponents hand. There are only two duplicated cards on the Storm players side. Cabal Rituals and Underground Seas. It is therefore likely that the opponent Tutored for another Cabal Ritual. (Which they had in an earlier turn)

The maindeck Abrupt Decay is an indication that this Storm player is playing a more grindy version of the deck than usual. Quite possibly a Grinding Station version which is likely to run more that one maindeck Tendrils of Agony. Tutoring for an extra Cabal Ritual indicates that at that point our opponent thought they would need lots of mana to go off. This points us towards expensive buisness spells such as Past in Flames or Dark Petition. We can also work out that they have drawn the Lion’s Eye Diamond after they used the Infernal Tutor to find more mana. It would be an extremely odd play to use up one half of your combo while both parts are in hand. This adds weight to the theory that they had expensive spells in hand before the LED was drawn.

When we look at the board Storm is at 5. We can therefore work backwards to see what has happened. Our opponents turn has started with a Thoughtseize, taking our Force of Will. Next has come a Cabal Ritual, producing three mana. When this was not countered by our Spell Snare (which the opp knew about) they have cracked a fetchland to get threshold for another Cabal Ritual, putting five mana in pool, six total. A Lion’s Eye Diamond has been cast as well during this turn, although its exact timing is not particularly important. Finally the opponent casts the fifth spell, a third Cabal Ritual.

How this turn has progressed can also give us a couple of clues as to what are in the opponents hand. If they had had another discard spell it is likely they would have cast it before stringing Cabal Rituals together. This is because it could have taken our second Force of Will and it would have made threshold for the first Cabal Ritual. They are also likely to have cast a cantrip like Ponder or Brainstorm earlier in the turn. This would have gained threshold earlier and possibly found more discard to attack our hand with. Using the information from how they have played this turn and the indications from the Abrupt Decay and early use of Infernal Tutor we can make a few educated guesses about the two remaining cards in the Storm players hand.

  1. It is unlikely they have either discard or a cantrip
  2. It is unlikely that they have Dark Ritual as this would have been cast earlier to create threshold
  3. It is likely that they have one or two expensive cards in hand such as Past in Flames, Ad Nauseum, Tendrils of Agony, Empty the Warrens or Dark Petition

We also have these possibilities

  1. They could have a Land or Lotus Petal, although their mana heavy hand and use of Infernal Tutor earlier may make this unlikely. The land would also have to be an Island or a Fetchland as we can see they have their other lands on board.
  2. They have Infernal Tutor in hand, although the earlier use of it would have been better finding another discard spell if that was possible.

From here we should make a list of likely hands and whether we should counter this Cabal Ritual or not. We can also consider the hands where our choice makes no impact and dismiss these.


The opponent has Past In Flames as one of their cards in hand

If we let the Cabal Ritual Resolve then the opponent has 9 black mana in pool, 1 red/blue, 1 black/green, 1 blue/green and a Lions’s Eye Diamond on the battlefield. This would allow them to cast PIF without using the LED, using the Volcanic Island and 3 of the pool mana. We could then counter the PIF with our Force of Will and exile the Snapcaster Mage leaving the Spell Snare in hand for the Infernal tutor in the graveyard. We then lose to the flashbacked Thoughtseize on our Snare. The other option after letting CR resolve would be to also let PIF resolve. Now we lose our Monastery Mentor to the Abrupt Decay in the graveyard and if the Ponder finds a second discard spell we lose. If Ponder does not find a second discard spell our opponent can pass the turn and hope to draw more discard before flashing back PIF. This does not seem like the best line to me.

If however we counter the Cabal Ritual they have 4 black mana in pool. They can cast PIF using the Volcanic and 3 from the pool. If we then counter with FOW they do not have enough mana to flashback the PIF and then cast one of their Cabal Rituals. During this line we would have created two monk tokens. If our SDT finds another spell we then win on our turn because of the prowess triggers.

If the opponent has two high CMC business spells in hand

If the opponent has PIF and Tendrils we need to counter this Cabal Ritual to survive. Storm would go to 6 and if they cast Tendrils at Storm 7 we survive. If they instead cast PIF after we have countered CR we can FOW it and they do not have the available black mana to cast Tendrils, they also can not flash back PIF using the LED and cast Tendrils as discussed above. However letting the CR resolve in this spot allows for the PIF and Tendrils to be lethal no matter what we counter after this point. Oddly for this point in the game constraining their mana is the correct play even though it seems they have lots.

This line also applies if they have both Dark Petition or Ad Nauseam and Infernal Tutor. It also applies to every combination of two high cmc business spells.

If the opponent has any of the other high CMC business spells in hand

Tendrils of Agony and nothing else – We can counter this Cabal Ritual, storm will be 6. Storm will then be 7 when Tendrils goes on the stack. We survive whatever.

We can also counter any one Dark Petition or Infernal Tutor with the FOW. We are likely to beat Empty the Warrens as we have Monastery Mentor, monk tokens and we will be creating more next turn with SDT.

It should also be noted that the Thoughtseize may well point to the Storm deck not playing Ad Nauseam because of the lifeloss. The usual discard spells are Duress and Cabal Therapy for this reason. This and the Abrupt Decay could mean a list that is very nonstandard.

The opponent has Infernal Tutor and either discard or a cantrip that finds discard in hand

With this combination of cards we lose if we counter the Cabal Ritual. The opponent needs to bait out one of our counterspells here of they can not go off this turn. As discussed above this seems less likely after considering the relative merits of using the cantrip earlier.

Losing to what is in hand no matter what we do

If they have discard and any of the non Infernal tutor business spells in hand then we are going to lose no matter what we do. However, as discussed earlier we think this is unlikely due to their playstyle. We can not play around it either so this option does not matter.

If the opponent has sandbagged a Land or Lotus Petal and has a PIF we lose as we can not constrain their mana no matter what we do.

The answer

At this point we have worked out what is likely to be in their hand and what actions we can take that will interact with our opponents hand.

The question then becomes, does the opponent have Infernal Tutor and another discard spell, or do they have Past in Flames and something relevant? Only you can decide which you think is the likelier option. However, it seems to me, that the likeliest combination of cards remaining in our opponents hand are some combination of high CMC business spells due to the information gleaned from the graveyard and how they have played their hand. If this is true then we should counter the Cabal Ritual.

Post your disagreements with this analysis in the comments below!

You can also watch what happened in this game here


I hope you all enjoyed the question posed and well done to Rodrigo Togores for getting the answer right in the comments. Who would have guessed winning a GP with Storm would mean you could work out this problem…… 😉


They had Past in Flames and Tendrils of Agony in hand. Francis did not counter here and he lost.

Tom Kellock
Tom has played Magic since Alara block. He became quickly enamoured with Legacy after being strangled by a Pox and 43 Lands deck in 2011 while piloting Affinity. This experience also started a love of Prison strategies in a manner typical of Stockholm Syndrome sufferers. He now only really plays Legacy, with Top8’s in Europe at BoM and here in the UK.
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