Planechase 2012: Savage Auras Review (Part 2 of 2)
Between our on-site poll and feedback from Twitter, the results were overwhelming- playtest the decks with their Planes! This was something we didn’t do in our reviews of the initial release, choosing instead to focus on the 60-card decks that came in the box rather than the Planechase experience itself. Inspired by your feedback, we decided to go one step further and take a page from the Commander playbook, playing a three-way game!
The house rules are the same now as then, that we attack left and defend right to take some of the discretionary politics out of it (after all, if my opponents team up to kill me early, my experience of the deck for the purposes of assessing it suffers). Joining me at the table is Sam, with the Jund-centric Primordial Hunger deck which takes advantage of the devour mechanic. Sitting to my right is Jimi, who’s taken on Chaos Reigns, a five-colour construction that plays with cascade.
We each keep a hand we like to open the game, and when we’re all ready- Jimi first, then me followed by Sam- the first Plane is revealed. Jimi flips the top card from her planar deck over, and we’re off to Truga Jungle. With each of our lands producing any colour mana, it should make for a cracking start!
All three of us play Forests and pass for the opening turn. Back ’round to Jimi for the next, she plays a See Beyond while I summon my Kor Spiritdancer. Both Jimi and I are fine with this Plane, but Sam hopes for more. After she drops a Nest Invader (putting a 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn Token into play beside it), she uses her free roll of the planar die but comes up blank.
Now turn 3, things start to kick off when Jimi taps out for a Shardless Agent. The 2/2 body cascades into an Arc Trail, which Jimi uses to kill Sam’s Invader and Spawn token. The Invader is nowhere near the creature that my Spiritdancer promises to be, but given the rules of the table the Spiritdancer is Sams problem, not Jimi’s. Over to me, I next enchant my Spiritdancer with a Spirit Mantle. Not only does this pump her up to 3/5 size, but nets me a free card to boot. I turn her sideways to smack Sam for 3, then decide to try for a change of scenery. I planeswalk on the first roll, turning over Kessig. Kessig’s perpetual Moonmist effect means that the game will see all three of us sit and develop our board unless it’s overturned, and I rather am hoping it will. All Sam is able to manage is a Gruul Turf, though she also comes up lucky on the planar die. Away we go from Kessig, and we land in the Orochi Colony, where our creatures can help ramp the board with every successful swing.
Back to Jimi for the game’s fourth turn, she first swings in with the Shardless Agent for 2. This lets her go and find another Island, and she then deploys a Guard Gomazoa. Her last open mana gives her up to two rolls of the planar die, and she rolls a useless Chaos on the first one (target creature is unblockable). The Colony is interesting in the synergy between the static planar ability and the Chaos one, but by the same token the chance of simply planeswalking away instead makes trying to combo off the Colony a somewhat unattractive proposition altogether. The reroll is a blank, and she passes to me. My next play is to slap a Rancor on the Spiritdancer, making her now a mighty 7/7 (and putting me up another card). I send her into the red zone, and just like that Sam’s half-dead at 10 life. Thanks to the Colony, I get a land out of the deal as well, and I tutor up a Forest. I then play a Fractured Powerstone, and after three blank rolls of the die I pass turn. Sam simply plays a Mudbutton Torchrunner and passes.
Now turn 5, Jimi attacks in with the Agent for another 2 to put me at 16. She then plays Sunken Hope, an appropriately-named card, before blanking on a pair of die rolls. Over to me, the Spiritdancer is returned to my hand thanks to the Hope, but while I lose the Spirit Mantle the Rancor returns to my hand. This might hurt my chances at finishing off Sam, but it also is a three-mana combo that will net me a card each turn (replay the Spiritdancer, enchant her with Rancor, then next turn return her to hand at my upkeep). Instead of replaying her this time, however, I pivot tactics and cast Sigil of the Empty Throne. Though it costs me a turn, now every use of the “Kor/Rancor combo” will also put me up a 4/4 Angel. A couple of blank die rolls later, it’s back to Sam. All Sam manages is to summon a Mitotic Slime after returning the Torchrunner to hand.
Things come full circle on turn 6 as Jimi now gets a taste of her own Sunken Hope medicine, but I’m not the only one able to turn it into card advantage Jimi returns the Shardless Agent, then takes her free roll of the planar die. One Planeswalker symbol later, we’ve departed from Sam’s Orochi Colony, and arrived at the Windriddle Palaces. Seeing nothing appealing on the tops of any library, Jimi then resummons the Agent and cascades into an Armillary Sphere before adding an Illusory Angel. She then tries for one more roll of the die, landing Chaos. After we all mill ourselves for one, it’s over to me. Predictably, I replay the Spiridancer/Rancor combo to go up a card and 4/4 Angel, then follow up with a Predatory Urge for another of each. I blank another pair of rolls and pass. Sam returns the Slime to hand, then replaces it with a Dragonlair Spider. After taking her free roll of the die (a blank), she ends her turn.
Back to Jimi for turn 7, she returns her Shardless Agent to hand. Then espying a Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree languishing atop my library, Jimi takes the opportunity to play it thanks to our current Plane. Knowing that Sam’s attentions will be on me rather than her at the moment, she blazes ahead heedless of the 1/1 Insect tokens her spells are creating through the Dragonlair Spider. She first plays a Fractured Powerstone, then follows with a Deny Reality to return my Spiritdancer to hand. The Deny Reality then cascades into an Ondu Giant, giving Jimi a land and Sam another 1/1 Insect. She yields the turn, and I then have to return a 4/4 Angel token “to hand,” destroying it. I then replay the Kor/Rancor combo for a free card and replacement Angel, adding a Mammoth Umbra for even more. I roll the planar die twice, getting nothing better than a Chaos. Sam, for her part, returns a 1/1 Insect token to kick things off, with five remaining. She then offers four of them up to devour, enabling her to play Thromok the Insatiable as 16/16. Suddenly, Sam’s a player again. She rolls a pair of Chaoses, and ends turn.
Now turn 8, Jimi returns her Guard Gomazoa to hand. She recasts the Gomazoa, then replays the Shardless Agent to net a free See Beyond. Back to me, I “return” a 4/4 Angel token, then gird my Kor with a Pollenbright Wings. In our increasingly complicated board state, this yields me another 4/4 Angel and a card, and Sam gets a 1/1 Insect. I then go for the throat, attacking with my 11/11 Kor and a pair of Angels in the sky. Sam chumps the Kor with her Spider, taking 8 from the Angels and going down to 2. I then play a Lumberknot and pass, rolling two banks on the planar die on the way out. Over to Sam, she returns a 1/1 Insect, then plays the Mudbutton Torchrunner followed by a Thorn-Thrash Viashino, devouring a trio of Insects to make it an 8/8. Finally, a planar die roll changes the scenery as we are transported to Stensia.
Jimi returns the Guard Gomazoa to hand on turn 9, then next dispatches my Sigil of the Empty Throne with a Brutalizer Exarch, sending it to the bottom of my library. The Shardless Agent is replayed, cascading into an Armillary Sphere even as the first sits unused. Jimi then gives the planar die a toss, and we’re on the move! Sam tucks away Stensia, just as Jimi flips over Time Distortion. It’s our first Phenomenon, and the turn order at the table is reversed. Jimi flips the next card, and voila! It’s the deck’s other Phenomenon, Mutual Epiphany. This one has each of us draw four cards before we are whisked away once more, ending up in Trail of the Mage-Rings. Jimi passes, and now it’s over to Sam.
Although Sam’s done little more than bide time most of this game, her deck has no shortage of teeth. After returning a 1/1 Insect, she casts Mark of Mutiny on Jimi’s Illusory Angel, giving it a +1/+1 counter. With a 16/16 Hellion, 8/8 Viashino, 5/5 Angel, and leftover 1/1 Insect ready for the attack, Sam’s Overrun crushes Jimi in one fell stroke. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she then Flings Thromok at me for 19- 3 more than is needed for lethal. Just like that, the game is won, and Primordial Hunger has taken the game in one decisive stroke.
Thoughts & Analysis
Nobody loves losing, but if I had to be honest I was pretty happy that Sam took the opener. Not because she’s Sam, but because for the first few turns it seemed to me that I was going to steamroller her with the Kor Spiritdancer. It was nice to see answers to the threat, even if the main one came from Jimi. But hey, that’s all part of multiplayer!
It did, however, confirm my suspicions that Planechase 2012 plays as a removal-light environment, though in fairness there’s something to be said about the durability of Rancor as well. At no time did the deck struggle to find auras; indeed, I almost felt as if I had too many auras and not enough creatures. Had my one creature not been giving me such tremendous return on auras, I might have felt as if I’d have liked a few more offensive targets.
Overall, Savage Auras delivered what it promised. The overreliance upon impacting the game in the red zone was a bit underwhelming, and the deck could have used a few more arrows in the quiver against its opponent’s beaters. Still, it was able to craft a single, substantial threat that was difficult for Sam to deal with, and were it not for the timely interefence Jimi offered to roadblock my ascent, I’d have had at least one scalp under my belt by the end of the game. For all that, though, the “creatures + auras” mechanic is probably the least exciting of the four decks, which get fun toys like cascade, devour, and ninjutsu.
The other aspect of the deck- the Planes- added a vital dash of fun and unpredictability. Here too I was a bit concerned that a planar effect might over-tilt the table in one player’s favour, but they did seem to be fairly balanced from what we saw. Indeed, at least one of them (Grand Ossuary) seemed better suited for Sam’s deck than Jimi’s! We’re looking forward to the next few playtests to get a better look, but overall this was a blast to play and left us wishing we’d done the playtest reviews for the first series of decks this way.
Hits: Great synergy between cards- the auras strategy is very well-supported
Misses: Lack of removal; mechanically, the least interesting of the four decks as it’s more theme-based
OVERALL SCORE: 4.20/5.00