Duels of the Planeswalkers (2009): Scales of Fury Review (Part 2 of 2)
As December draws to a close and we prepare to enter the new year, we’ve got one more match with the original Duels of the Planeswalkers decks to see us off. Looking to put Sarkhan Vol’s Scales of Fury to the test is Sam, who at last has her hands around the mono-Green Teeth of the Predator.
I’m on the play for our opening tilt, and Sam and I both trade Forest drops. Next turn, I play a second one, then Rampant Growth to fetch up a Swamp. Sam goes right for the creatures with a Grizzly Bears, then passes.
Now turn 3, I go find a Mountain with a Civic Wayfinder. Sam attacks anyway, and I let it past for 2. She then plays a Wayfinder of her own, grabbing another Forest. Back to me, I send my Wayfinder in for 2, then summon a Sprouting Thrinax. This is enough to stall Sam’s offense, and she passes after drawing.
Now turn 5, I then Blightning Sam’s hand, forcing her to pitch a Forest and a Blanchwood Armor. After a 2-point swing from the Wayfinder, shes now down to 13. I then add a second Wayfinder, using it to grab another Mountain. Sam’s turn is another blank, so then it’s right back to me. I attack with both Wayfinders for 4 to put Sam at 9, then pass. Sam plays the last Forest she needs for a Craw Wurm, and drops it on the battlefield.
I keep the pressure on with another attack from the Wayfinders on turn 7. Sam lets one past, but sticks the Craw Wurm in front of the other. I then put the injured Wurm out of its misery with an Incinerate, and summon a replacement Wayfarer. Sam’s replacement is much less worrisome- a Wall of Wood. Back to me, I send in both Wayfinders for another 4. Sam swaps one for her own Wayfinder, blocking the other with her Wall. She then follows up with a Giant Spider.
Now turn 9, we’re in a bit of a standoff. Sam adds a Trained Armodon, then swings with it next turn. That puts me down to 15, after which she adds a Duskdale Wurm. Thankfully, I topdeck a third Mountain on turn 11, then drop a Violent Ultimatum. Just like that, Sam’s Spider, Wurm, and Armodon are crushed, leaving a clear path for my Wayfinder and Thrinax. Down to 2 life, Sam scoops after her next draw, her hand empty save for two Overruns and a Giant Growth.
Sam’s second-turn Grizzly Bears again breaks the seal as we go for the rematch. I use my turn to Rampant Growth, letting me hit the trifecta (one of each) on turn 2. Back to Sam, she attacks for 2 with the Bears, then plays a second Bears. That’s a little disappointing, since it means my Sprouting Thrinax isn’t quite the swift threat I’d hoped it might be.
Now turn 4, Sam sticks a third Grizzly Bears and passes, while I play a Civic Wayfinder for a Mountain before casting Dragon Fodder. Back to Sam, she topdecks a very welcome Rampant Growth. Stuck on two land, this lets her go and get a third. I’ve got the opposite problem- all my cards in hand are lands.
Sam adds a Trained Armodon on turn 6, while I draw and play a second Thrinax. Back to Sam, she attacks in with the Armodon, and I accept the trade for a Thrinax. Her creature dies, while mine just breaks apart into little 1/1-sized chunks. She replaces her loss with a Giant Spider. I play a Forest and pass.
Now turn 8, Sam plays a Civic Wayfinder to grab another Forest, while I play one of my own for another Mountain- my default option once I’ve got all my bases covered, just in case I find a Furnace Whelp. Next turn, Sam sticks Blanchwood Armor on her Wayfinder, turning it sideways for 8. I chump with a 1/1 Goblin token. I then add another Wayfinder (grabbing a Mountain), and I’m back to having only lands in hand.
With her creatures nice and built up, Sam’s just an Overrun away from victory. She casts it on turn 10.
Once again we swap opening Forests, after which I play a second while Sam finds her trusty Grizzly Bears. Next turn I add a Mountain, while Sam swings for 2 then follows with a Civic Wayfinder.
Now turn 4, I’m falling behind. I play a yet another Forest and pass the turn. Sam summons more Grizzly Bears, then plays a Rampant Growth. I play a Rampant Growth of my own next turn, but it’s almost certainly too late for the Furnace Whelps in my hand to be anything other than stall tactics. That’s all but confirmed when she swings for 6 to put me down to 8, then adds a Spined Wurm.
A turn 6 Furnace Whelp is all I’m able to muster. Sam comes in with the pack as expected, and I chump the Worm to go down to 2. She follows with a Craw Wurm. After drawing nothing, I bow to the inevitable. It’s hard to imagine the deck playing worse than this.
Thoughts & Analysis
While later Duels of the Planeswalker decks would include cards like Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds to help sort out mana fixing, these early decks had no such luxuries. Like the other multicolour decks we’ve looked at- Ears of the Elves and Claws of Vengeance- the manabase of Scales of Fury is heavily reliant upon its Civic Wayfinders and Rampant Growths. These cards are very useful for letting the deck fix its manabase and let the deck take full advantage of being able to draw upon creatures and effects from a range of colours, but it also is not without cost.
A turn spent Rampant Growthing is only at its most useful if it puts you a turn ahead of your opponent, letting you cheat out a four-drop on turn 3, for instance. Otherwise, you’ve just used a card to add another land, which means it’s more or less the equivalent of a land. As for the Civic Wayfinder, that’s a three-mana 2/2. Again, useful if you need to find a particular land, but by overpaying for the body it also sets you back in terms of creature development.
Put another way, you might consider cards like Sprouting Thrinax powerful- and they are- but they represent perhaps a bit more than one card’s worth of work and investment, and that balances things out somewhat. As an additional consequence, you run the risk of the deck underperforming if you don’t manage to fix your manabase. By the time I died in the last game, I had a two more Furnace Whelps in hand, and had only at last found that final Mountain to bring them on-line… too late, as it happened.
Overall, aside from these normal problems that any deck in a similar position might face, the deck seemed a bit lost and unfocused. When I found my board flooded with 1/1 tokens both Goblin and Saproling, I was desperate for some outlet to put them to good purpose. An Overrun, an Overrun, my kingdom for an Overrun! Even a devour beastie like a humble, common Thorn-Thrash Viashino would have done nicely, even with the usual inherent weaknesses of the devour itself. Instead, you get a deck that has a fondness for 1/1 tokens, and…really not much at all to do with them aside from throwing them into the red zone. Opportunity missed!
On the other hand, being able to generate token swarms can certainly thicken up the red zone while you get out your evasive closer, but even the mighty Sarkhan Vol himself can’t summon up a single Dragon to give the deck that final, lethal edge. Instead, this must be a deck from Vol’s apprenticing years, since the closest we get are the quarted of Furnace Whelps. The Whelps aren’t bad, but they’re not given a lot of space to grow considering there are only six Mountains in the deck. When I played the Violent Ultimatum in the first game, I also noted that like the other Ultimatums, the spell requires three mana of its primary colour (in this case, ). By then, I imagine the logic goes, you should have had little problem getting three of your Mountains, but although it won me the first game it was a very close race, only ending when at last I naturally drew that third Mountain. It’s hard to escape the feeling that this is an imbalanced Jund, with Green forcibly magnified to accommodate a colour fixing scheme necessitated by the lack of Terramorphic Expanses.
Overall I had higher hopes for the Jund-coloured offering, and left feeling rather disappointed. It’s nicely focused and consistent in some of its card selections, but other card choices let the deck down.
Hits: Violent Ultimatum is the kind of massive, game-changing swing bomb that’s a lot of fun to see as a one-of in these decks; deck is very good at congesting the ground game thanks to efficient token-making options; many of the deck’s options offer very welcome additional card advantage, either actual or virtual; solid removal package
Misses: Deck feels like it was pulled in a Green direction to accommodate the resources necessary to ensure a three-colour deck could work here, and other aspects of the deck came up a little short as a consequence; disappointing absence of a massive closer; deck good at making tokens but less good at finding them gainful employment
OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00