Duel Decks- Izzet vs Golgari: Golgari’s Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s our last go with the latest Duel Decks release, and thus far the Izzet are leading the day. Can I turn around the Golgari’s fortunes? I’m joined at the table by Sam, in what turns out to be a surprisingly swift affair.
Our opening game, and Sam and I both spend our first two turns playing land and passing, with her kicking things off. Then on turn 3 she finds one of the more thorny creatures in her deck, the Gelectrode. Back to me, I play a Shambling Shell- an easy target for her pinger but one whose dredge 3 calls out, “dare ya!”
Now turn 4, she adds a Goblin Electromancer, then plays an Izzet Boilerworks, bouncing a Mountain back to hand. I go in with the Shell, and after a moment’s deliberations Sam goes ahead and triggers the kill with the Gelectrode. Next turn first blood is hers as she attacks with the Electromancer, then doubles down on the Gelectrode with a Quicksilver Dagger. Back to me, I summon a Dreg Mangler, attacking with it immediately. Sam neatly solves it pairing the Gelectrode and a Magma Spray, timing it so that the Gelectrode untaps and she gets to ping me directly and go up a card.
Another 2 points is shaved off my life total on turn 6 with the Electromancer, then Sam taps out to deploy Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. Niv’s round just long enough to draw a few breaths, though, as a Stingerfling Spider makes quick work of him. At the end of my turn, Sam pings me with the Gelectrode and goes up another card. Next turn, she tries for a Djinn Illuminatus to replace the lost Dragon. I play Death to get back a Shambling Shell, then toss out a Life from the Loam. I don’t have any lands in the graveyard, but stashing a dredge card there makes perfect sense to me. I get pinged again at the end of the turn, and I’m now at 10 life.
Sam plays a Kiln Fiend to greet turn 8, pings me with the Gelectrode for the free card, then attacks in with the Illuminatus. I block with my Spider, but naturally she has a finisher in hand- this time, Pyromatics. She blasts the Spider for 3, killing it around the possibility of me popping the Shell to save it, then for good measure uses the Gelectrode to kill off the Shell, too. Back to me, I play an Eternal Witness to get Life // Death back to hand, then use Death to return the Spider to kill the Illuminatus. It’s a Pyrrhic victory- it’s Sam’s game to lose and we both know it. A Street Spasm blows the Spider away, the Witness gets pinged, and I get crushed.
I’m off to a fine start with an opening-turn Elves of Deep Shadow, which gets in for 1 next turn before I add a Putrid Leech. Sam’s turn-2 Kiln Fiend is her first play, but it stands by helplessly as the Leech charges in for 4 the next turn. I then add a Korozda Guildmage before passing. For Sam’s part, she simply adds a Wee Dragonauts and passes.
Now turn 4, I attack in with the Leech again, once more pumping it for the extra damage to put Sam down to 11. I then follow with a Ravenous Rats, prying an Izzet Chronarch from Sam’s hand. She counterattacks with the Dragonauts for 1, then summons a Shrewd Hatchling.
Next turn, I again go in with the Leech for 4, then deploy a Golgari Rotwurm. Sam lands an Isochron Scepter with a Fire // Ice attached, though, which is bad news. She kills off the Guildmage straightaway, which removes a -1/-1 counter from the Hatchling. This lets her attack for 3 with the Dragonauts, and I’m now at 9. Back to me, I play Life, turning my lands into 1/1 creatures, then turn everything I own sideways outwith a single Swamp, just in case I need to pop something to the Rotwurm. Sam blocks the Rotwurm by chumping with her Kiln Fiend, and the Hatchling blocks the Leech (a fine block as it makes me pay life to prevent the trade). Still, it breaks Sam’s back. Down to 3 with no relief in sight, she scoops after her next draw.
Sam’s on the play with a Mountain while again I find my early Elves of Deep Shadow. The nightmare begins next turn, however, when Sam plays the Isochron Scepter- again imprinting Fire // Ice. I drop a Tranquil Thicket, and send my now-doomed Evles in to nick Sam for 1.
Now turn 3, Sam then adds Wee Dragonauts, while I play a Swamp and pass. Next turn Sam Fires the Elves with the other point coming my way, then sends in the Dragonauts for 3. As for me, it’s another Swamp.
Between Fire and the Dragonauts, I’m down to 11 next turn, with little I can do about it. The final nail in the coffin arrives in the form of a Kiln Fiend. My turn-5 Boneyard Wurm is a 1/1, but isn’t expected to survive. It doesn’t. Battered to 3 life on turn 6, Sam completes the utter rout when I scoop after my draw.
Thoughts & Analysis
In the end, we weren’t quite as impressed by the Golgari deck as we had hoped. My love of intricate, sacrifice-themed strategies is well-established, but it never quite seemed to reach the potential it offered when we took the deck apart and had a look at it. Nevertheless, our second round of play revealed some interesting dimensions to the pair.
First, aside from Game Two, the same trend we noted the first time was present in this round every time. Namely, the decks seemed to hit a critical mass early, with one or the other getting out ahead fast enough to outpace its rival, with the winner taking very little damage overall. Sam finished both her wins at 20. Although it’s cheating to an extent, it’s worth noting that the bulk of the damage I took in the game I won was self-inflicted, a result of Putrid Leech activations.
This is put into sharpest constrast with the outcomes of our last two games. I steamrolled Sam with “Golgari Aggro,” while she then turned around and completely dismantled me with the Izzet version. Given that these decks are built for heavy replayability, seeing these various outcomes was a rather enjoyable experience for us, insofar that you can enjoy games where the outcome is all but assured. Although the other games had more give or take, one does have to wonder to what degree were our experiences typical. We were expecting some struggle between incremental advantages given the synergistic tactics each deck employed, but what we seemed to find instead were “zip strips” a la RC Pro Am (or a million other car-racing games).
Overall, though, this is a very strong release, and a worthy issue for the Duel Decks line. Both decks were a ton of fun to play, and were very different experiences. Contrary to expectation, we’re putting this one behind the Izzet deck- but not by much.
Hits: Super tactical/strategic integration, with a number of overlapping lines of play that furthered the deck’s overall game plan; deviously intricate sac engine/graveyard theme provides a good challenge to its pilot; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is a one-card beating in a box
Misses: A slight case of “too-much-itis” can hinder the deck when you happen to draw the wrong parts of the engine; ability to impact the Izzet’s board felt a little constrained, particularly after the Izzet experience
OVERALL SCORE: 4.45/5.00