Beatdown: Aerodoom Review (Part 1 of 2)
Fresh from our look at the Red/Green Ground Pounder, today we move on to the other half of the Beatdown equation, Aerodoom. It is the opposite of Ground Pounder in nearly every way save one: it, too, brings the plain with a ton of fat creatures.
Unlike its nemesis, however, Aerodoom centers on fielding its threats in the sky, meaning that pound for pound its creatures are a little less robust than Ground Pounder’s. All the same, they’re every bit as much the threat thanks to the difficulties Ground Pounder will have in stopping them. With only a few ways to deal with fliers, both decks essentially are engaged in an arms race with each other rather than a delicate game of parry-riposte.
Awake and Awing
In keeping with its more reactive nature, Aerodoom doesn’t play any one-drops that allow it to get out in front early. Rather, it’s idea of swift action is a second-turn Skittering Skirge, the deck’s first flier and only two-drop. Still, the deck shows its intentions early as we enter the three-drops. Pulling from Mirage block alone, we find Mirage’s Feral Shadow, Visions’ Cloud Elemental, and Weatherlight’s Fog Elemental.Rounding out the pack are a pair of undercosted ground troops, the Skittering Horror and Tar Pit Warrior. While both are vulnerable in different ways- the Warrior echoes the Illusion tribe in modern-day Magic, while the Horror echoes the Skirge in preventing further creatures from being added to the board- both give you a solid body on the ground for a cheaper cost.
The four-drops are thinner still. The Wayward Soul and Snapping Drake add to the deck’s aerial presence, while Gravedigger lets you pull a fallen creature back from the graveyard.So far, we have the makings of a midrange skies deck, but Aerodoom’s remaining dozen creatures are all waiting in the 5+ converted mana cost class, true to form. The deck in that regard is little different from Ground Pounders, offering a few small, early plays as a build-up to a real clash of titans.
As before, we see a small contingent of the landlocked. The Hollow Dogs are 3/3’s that gain a power boost on the attack, while the Giant Crab is a 3/3 with an activateable shroud. Neither are world-beaters, though they should be able to blunt some of the incoming damage you’ll be taking from your opponent. As it happens, the largest creature in the deck is also found here: Leviathan. A reprint from The Dark, the Leviathan is a massive 10/10 trampling closer, though not one that comes without cost. By the time it’s landed its first points or damage you’ll already be down four Islands, so it must be used with care. Finally, there’s a Killer Whale from Exodus. The Killer Whale straddles the evasion line in the deck, being a 3/5 normally but able to gain flying for .
The rest of the deck is comprised of expensive, massive fliers, without a lot of depth or subtlety- hey, what did you expect from a set called Beatdown? The Vigilant Drake and Fallen Angel are a pair of 3/3’s with a twist. The Angel has the ability to eat other creatures to get bigger, while the Vigilant Drake can live up to its name for three mana. For 4/4’s, we have the classic Air Elemental, one of the game’s all-time standard creatures. The Elemental has seen an extraordinary number of reprints and “versions” of itself tailored to specific sets, and has been seen as recently as Magic 2010.
Another iconic 4/4 flier is the Sengir Vampire. Like Ground Pounder’s Erhnam Djinn, the Vampire here is given the premium treatment of foiling and a black border. Indeed, in the product’s very packaging we find both of these creatures battling it out in a murky swamp scene. It’s inclusion here poses an intriguing conundrum, as the Vampire’s only real prospect for getting bigger is to have it held back on defense. Ground Pounder packs few fliers, and a Shivan Dragon will walk away from the encounter victorious. The last 4/4 here actually is a 0/4 as printed, but enters play with a quartet of +1/+0 counters. Like any such clockwork creature, the Avian must be periodically recharged for optimal performance. As an interesting aside, the ability word flying was accidentally left off this printing of the card.
Things start moving into even larger territory with the Cloud Djinn. Another reprint from Weatherlight, this Djinn is a 5/4 with a blocking restriction helping offset its cost. You also get a Blizzard Elemental (a rare card from Urza’s Destiny) and a final icon in thhe Mahamoti Djinn. A good example of power creep, this simple 5/6 beater was Blue’s force majeure in his day.
Whispers of Lost Wizards
Although the remocal suite of Aerodoom is in some ways more lethal, as a Terror will kill any of Ground Pounder’s creatures but Ground Pounder’s burn suite must pay attention to the target creature’s toughness. Of course, the upside of burn is that it often can be directed at an opponent’s life total, a versatility kill spells generally don’t possess.
Here, you get a very sparing dose of killpower. Against your Red/Green opponent, Terror is as good as it gets. Sadly, it goes a bit down from there. A Death Stroke not only requires two Black mana, but it’s a sorcery and limited in its targets. Diabolic Edict has the same cost as Terror, but is miles apart in terms of targetability. In short, compared to Terror, everything else comes up wanting. Note that we say this not in a vacuum, but rather measured against your opposition. Death Stroke can kill Black creatures, which Terror can’t, while Edict effects are great for getting around shroud or hexproof effects, but Ground Pounder carries little and less of these.
Blue offers some “removal” in the form of a Gaseous Form, which can neuter an opposing beatstick at the cost of giving your opponent in impenetrable blocker (or one of your own if you need one in a pinch). Of course, with most of your creatures in the air, that usually will present little obstacle. Finally, you get some Black “burn” in a Drain Life. Alas, in a two-colour deck Drain Life is a bit more limited in its range, but still can give you much-needed reach across the table.
In addition to its rather limited removal package, Aerodoom gets the faintest whiff of countermagic. On the upside, it’s two of Blue’s better counters: Counterspell and Power Sink. Counterspell is the classic card of its type, and as it is considered “too good” by today’s standards is unlikely to ever be reprinted in any meaningful way. Cancel is now the staple counter, and to negate an opponent’s spell for two mana you typically need to either narrow your scope (see: Essence Scatter, Negate) or satisfy certain conditions (see: Second Guess, Stoic Rebuttal). Power Sink’s upside is that it taps your opponent’s lands if they cannot pay the tax. Unlike, say, a Mana Leak, they can’y just let the spell be countered and move on to cast another. Both will have their uses here.
The last package of noncreature support comes in the form of card drawing. With a tepid removal suite and piddling counter package, the good news at least is that you can find those spells more readily by burning through your library, which is what these spells are designed to do. Blue gives us the classic Brainstorm, letting you keep up to three new cards at the exchange of putting two old ones back atop your library. Impulse, on the other hand, still puts you up a card, but you then put the other three on the bottom of your library. Tolarian Winds from Urza’s Saga lets you flush your hand and redraw.
Adding Black to the mix produces some useful results. Diabolic Vision, from Ice Age, gives you a bit of the best from both. You get the best card from the next five, and can stagger the next four draws as needed. Finally, Bone Harvest is lumped in here as it cantrips and replaces itself, but its primary objective is to fetch you any creature or creatures you need out of your graveyard at the expense of one draw per.
The last of Aerodoom’s tricks are Coercion and Dark Ritual. Singleton Rituals are typically bad news. They’re amazing when drawn early, but go downhill from there. In a deck like Aerodoom, with its bloated and swollen mana curve, however, the Ritual is welcome most anytime. The same can be said for Coercion as well, and for much the same reason. Ground Pounder is every bit as costly as Aerodoom, and you can be all but assured of plucking something nasty out of your opponent’s hand whenever cast.
Like Ground Pounder, Aerodoom plucks a quartet of nonbasic lands from Fallen Empires and Urza’s Saga. Ebon Stronghold and Svyelunite Temple can help you wring out that one last mana you need to bring one of your bombs on-line, while Polluted Mire and Remote Isle can be cycled for a replacement card as needed. Interestingly, we’ve only recently seen another preconstructed product that included both the Stronghold and Mire: Premium Deck Series: Graveborn.
Now that we’ve had a look at both decks, it’s time to take them into the field for testing. Next up, we return to Ground Pounder to see how it fares against its airborne nemesis!