Magic 2013: Wild Rush Review (Part 1 of 2)
For as long as there’s been a game, players have been attracted to swinging in with giant creatures, or “fatties” in the common parlance. For all one likes to have decks with scads of intricacy and shenanigans, for many there is a certain satisfaction at taking something massive and turning it sideways, putting the opponent under pressure to find a solution or die trying. Indeed, it was just this sort of enjoyment that led Wizards to create the Beatdown boxed set, back in 2000.
By the same token, “creature Magic” is something many others regard with disdain and derision. A common perception of the archetype is that it takes little in the way of playskill to pilot, and the fat on the board does most of the work. Today’s deck looks to change that perception, and build a hybrid of archetypes. In short, a deck with the muscle of Green, but with the trickiness of Blue.
It does this mainly through one card, Yeva, Nature’s Herald. By giving all of your creatures flash, you suddenly have a whole new level of tactics available at your disposal. Although as we’ll see the deck isn’t entirely optimized to take advantage of this fact, the option alone stands Wild Rush out amongst some of its predecessors, such as Magic 2012’s Entangling Webs and 2011’s Stampede of Beasts. In a certain sense, an Intro Pack deck isn’t doing its job if it doesn’t inspire you to look for ways to improve it, and this deck certainly offers a very intriguing premise.
An army at instant speed? Now that’s something you don’t see every day.
Best Not Blink
As you can see from the scorecard, Wild Rush has one of the most cost-heavy mana curves we’ve seen in some time, an incredible fourteen top-cost cards. This in itself is a sort of risk/reward strategy, diminishing early effectiveness in exchange for greater power in the mid- to late-game. It’s more than just a matter of when you’re able to play your cards- having so many expensive cards in the deck mean that you’re almost certainly guaranteed to see some in your opening draw. Thus, while your opponent may have strong lines of play from their initial grip, you’re effectively working with six or even five cards in hand.
To pull it off, you need to be able to accelerate your manabase, letting you play fatter creatures sooner and outpace your opponent. Towards that end, the deck leads with a trio of Arbor Elves, “mana dork” variant from Worldwake. Although the card’s wording, “untap target Forest,” allows for a deeper range of interactions than might first appear, for the purposes of Wild Rush it’s effectively the same as Llanowar Elves. Should we see the cycle of rare lands from Ravnica make a reappearance in the upcoming Return to Ravnica, the purpose of opting for the Arbor Elf over its more famous kin will be made plain.
From there we find a pair of Deadly Recluses in the two-drop slot. An introduction from Magic 2010, the Recluse has taken a couple of seasons on the bench but is back and ready to make an impact. It’s a superb defensive card, able to block almost anything your opponent sends your way, and can often bring a chilling effect to the table as your foe hesitates to send in their biggest beaters until they can find a way around the Spider. Remember too that Yeva, Nature’s Herald lets you cast your Green creatures with flash, making the Recluse almost the same as a kill spell when your opponent swings in.
This being Green, the creature colour, we can’t be surprised to find efficient beaters as we scale the cost ladder. In the three-drops, this brings us to a pair of Centaur Coursers, a vanilla three-mana 3/3. As simle as they look, these are solid at nearly any point in the game, particularly since so many of the Magic 2013 Intro Pack decks lean heavily on a population of smaller creatures. Also here are a couple of utility creatures. The Mwonvuli Beast Tracker calls back to a place first introduced back in Mirage block, the Mwonvuli Jungle. It was given an Ooze all its own, then was referenced again later in Tme Spiral with the Acid-Moss. Now we find a Human Scout from that area, letting us tutor up a creature nearly of our choice. It’s an intriguing effect, and a welcome introduction.
Finally, Yeva’s Forcemage is a 2/2 that brings along a power and toughness boost. Like the other cards associated with their respective legends (see: Krenko’s Command, Talrand’s Invocation, etc), this one is designed to work well with Yeva, for once flash is available the Forcemage becomes a combat trick rather than a simple sorery-speed creature augment. It’s disappointing, then, that the deck only carries a single copy. While you can’t rely on the legend being in play each game, the support cards are solid enough on their own, and in this case there are more than enough good targets available to you.
Yeva herself clocks in at the four-drop slot, and she’s quite potent alone. Four mana for a 4/4 is a fine deal for a creature, let alone one with flash. The ability to give all of your Green creatures the same immediacy makes Yeva a fantastic deal for cost. Whether it be to play surprise defenders to rebuff your opponent’s attacks, or simply to flash in creatures at the end of your opponent’s turn to surprise them, she’s the one card the deck most pivots on.
Accompanying here here are a Primal Huntbeast and pair of Spiked Baloths. The Huntbeast is another 3/3 body, one that comes with hexproof attached to blunt your opponent’s removal. This is somewhat useful, though given the relatively modest state of removal in these precon decks it’s not the superlative protection it can be in the Standard environment. Unless you can stick it with Rancor or the Ring of Kalonia, it’s probably not the most tempting removal target anyway. The Baloths are not dissimilar, being 4/2’s with trample. Their lower toughness makes them a bit more fragile in combat, but the higher power makes them something of a force.
The rest of the deck’s beaters truly live up to the name, coming in at five mana and above. A pair of Garruk’s Packleaders lead the way, turning a baker’s dozen of your creatures into cantrips when one is in play. The Acidic Slime may be small in size, but it can bring a big effect when it enters the battlefield, and its deathtouch ensures that the body it leaves behind is relevant. Another new card, the Sentinel Spider, is another value-packed body, and a further defense against threats in the air (one of Greens traditional weaknesses).
As you’d expect, the fattest beaters on offer are from the Wurm family. A pair of Vastwood Gorgers- with art reminiscent of AVP: Requiem- offer impressively-sized closers, though for one more mana the Duskdale Wurm is not only larger, but offers trample as well.
A Warning to Others
The noncreature support package here is fairly robust, particularly in the area of removal. As we’ve seen with other decks, killing off your opponent’s creatures can be a fairly convoluted affair- the days of Lightning Bolt and Doom Blade have passed. Consider the deck’s two answers to any creature, Public Execution. Sure it kills outright, and blunts your opponent’s offensive power in the process- but it still costs six mana. Not much cheaper are your pair of Essence Drains, and while they give you a nice refund of life they are nevertheless somewhat limited in what they’re able to kill.
If you’re looking to kill things on the cheap, your options are much more limited. A Crippling Blight can pick off an X/1 creature, but while its killpower is somewhat limited it has some additional utility in that its effects are relatively permanent and it stops the creature from blocking. Prey Upon is similarly conditional, but since your creatures will almost assuredly outweigh your opponent’s, you should have little difficulty putting it to good use. Finally, a singleton Naturalize is includedfor an extra dose of artifact or enchantment removal.
The rest of the cards are a general mish-mash of miscellaneous effects. Rise from the Grave can fetch a fallen creature for you, giving one of your closers a second lease on life or nabbing something even better from an opponent’s graveyard. A pair of Ranger’s Paths offer high-volume ramping, to help you pay for the deck’s expensive options that much quicker. Ring of Kalonia and the much-hyped returning Rancor give you some creature enhancements, while Fungal Sprouting can offer a horde of 1/1 Saproling tokens. The deck doesn’t take much notice of these, though if you happen to follow up next turn with a Predatory Rampage, you may be able to close your opponent right out.
Although not quite as lethal as the Overrun it replaces, it has the added ability to be useful earlier in the game. Typically Overruns are saved until the end, for one large lethal strike to claim the win. Predatory Rampage may not have the sheer damage output Overrun did thanks to the absence of trample, but it can certainly help to thin out your opponent’s creature count if caught unawares.
Wild Rush runs an extra land to help ensure you don’t get shorted of casting your biggest spells by an inability to find one, and like the other decks carries an Evolving Wilds for a dollop of fixing. On the whole, the mana curve is still a worrying concern, and will be the thing we most look at when we take the deck into playtesting. We’ll be back in two days to deliver a final verdict.