Duels of the Planeswalkers: Hands of Flame (Part 1 of 2)
Okay, true confession time. The snarky reviewer in me was almost hoping that this deck, Chandra Nalaar’s Hands of Flame inspired by the Duels of the Planeswalkers game, would be as much a bomb as the Jace deck, so that I could say the best part of it was the Bogardan Hellkite I opened in the M10 pack included in the box.
Alas, although one Hellkite richer, it was not to be. As it turned out, Hands was quite a different experience. My opponent for the runthrough was Sam, who was piloting the soon-to-be-reviewed Nissa Revane Ears of the Elves deck. We settled in this afternoon for the usual three games.
Sam was off to a good start dropping the Elvish Eulogist and Gaea’s Herald on her first couple of turns. I could only respond with a Bloodmark Mentor, but he quickly proved to be quite an investment when on turn 4 I dropped a Lightning Elemental. Often at 4/1 just a kill spell in a creature form, with the first strike granted by the Mentor he was suddenly a force. I followed up with a Cinder Pyromancer on turn 3, where all she had to show was a Wurm’s Tooth.
Sam’s Immaculate Magistrate and Elvish Champion dropped in turns 5-6 weren’t enough to save her as I struck again and again with the Elemental, taking her to 7. The Pyromancer was the hero of the day as I cast Incinerate, pinged her, Shock, and pinged her again for the game.
As we’ll see in the forthcoming deck analysis post, Hands of Flame is a bit lacking in the opening game and this was no exception. Fortunately, Sam had no better luck and the first turn went by with us each dropping land. She played a Wurm’s Tooth on turn 2, I matched with a Goblin Piker. Goblin Sky Raider joined the fight the next turn, while Sam had no play until turn 5’s Immaculate Magistrate (which fell prey to an Incinerate). Meanwhile Hands is smashing face with the Goblins and a Hill Giant friend, while Bloodmark Mentor looks on.
This time, though, she’s able to snuff out the Mentor so he might trouble her no more, but the tide of red is too great to staunch when a Lightning Elemental is added and all she’s managed are Elven Riders. A quick Shock seals the deal.
Once again, no openers but land, but a turn 2 Piker is deja vu all over again. Her first play comes with turn 3’s Greenweaver Druid, while I drop a second Piker. Any resemblance to the two games previous ends here, however, as the middle ground quickly becomes thickened up with creatures. Lys Alana Huntmaster, Talara’s Battalion and an elf token bolster her position considerably on turn 4, and my only response is to Blaze the Huntmaster.
An Earth Elemental reveals itself on turn 5, and shortly after Sam responds with an Elvish Visionary and Moonglove Winnower. Next turn brings me a Lightning Elemental, the last creature I’ll summon until turn 11. Meanwhile she’s bringing out a Gaea’s Herald, Elven Riders, an Elvish Warrior, and Elvish Visionary.
All in all, I’m far more satisfied with Hands of Flame than I was with Thoughts of the Wind. Although it suffers from the same build design, as we’ll see, this type of deck just seems to work better in Red, where you have a burn suite rather than countermagic and can more directly take charge of the battlefield with generally suboptimal forces in your favour.
Join me next time when I look under the hood of Hands of Flame, to see what works… and what doesnt. Thanks for reading!