Archenemy: Trample Civilization Underfoot (Part 2 of 2)
Welcome back to our review of Trample Civilization Underfoot, the Green/White ‘demented druid’ deck which sees you taking on civilization itself! In Part 1 of the review, we felt that this deck was a strong one with some solid synergies, and today we put it through the paces to see how it held up. Sam confidently took her place behind Bring About the Undead Apocalypse, and as before wanting just to assess the decks themselves, duels were fought without recourse to the Scheme cards.
So does Trample live up to its potential? Let’s find out.
Both our decks (indeed, a commanility it seems shared by all the Archenemy decks) appear to look for slow starts to build a manabase before dropping their bombs, and this is only reinforced when my turn 2 play is a Leaf Gilder, Sam’s a Rakdos Signet.
Things heat up the next turn, though, when a pair of rares make themselves known. I drop a Forgotten Ancient, a relentless token-builder, while Sam plays the Cemetery Reaper, a Zombie Lord. We both look to be laying solid foundations, and it can go either way. My next play is a very interesting card, the Yavimaya Dryad.
As mentioned in Part 1, the Dryad gives you the luxury of choice. It fetches a Forest when it comes into play, but puts it under the control of “target player.” Since she also has Forestwalk, there’s a certain utility in forcing the Forest upon your opponent (though the drawback is equally obvious). I love cards like this, ones that can be referred to as “skill testers” because there’s a judgment call that has to be made when playing them. What’s the greater advantage? A 2/1 unblockable creature? An extra land? The answer depends on the game state at the moment, and as a third-turn play in a manahungry deck facing an oppoent with generous access to removal, the right play here is usually to take the free land drop, and I do. I then attack with my Forgotten Ancient (now a 2/5), and Sam unsurprisingly declines the block.
The Dryad’s free Forest helps me ramp into a turn 5 Krosan Tusker as the first natural fatty of the game hits the table, and I’m in for another 5 with the Ancient. Sam’s now down to 11. She has a solid rally, however, in the form of the Avatar of Discord. Gleefully eyeing the Shinen of Life’s Roar in my hand, I ready myself for the turn-6 kill.
I untap and Channel the Shinen of Life’s Roar, compelling her defense to focus only on the Dryad, and tap for the alpha strike. Sam’s ready for it, though, and Terminates the growing Ancient. With three blockers (the Avatar, the Dregscape Zombie, and the Reaper) lined up against her, the hapless Dryad explodes, but manages to take the Reaper down with her. When the dust and leaves settle, Sam’s standing at 3 life. I look down at my lands and sigh as I realise I just lost a chance to unhide the Elder under the Mosswort Bridge. Lesson learned.
In desperation, she casts another Sign in Blood, taking her to 1, and it seems to pay off when she draws into another Terminate. I play a Morph (Thelonite Hermit) and tee up again with everything. The Tusker meets the same fate as the Ancient, and the Gilder and Zombie trade. Sam draws even, but must concede the next turn when I unmorph the Hermit and play 4 1/1 Saprolings.
I’m faced with an interesting early decision in this game. A solid draw has given me a couple of options. A Wall of Roots on turn 2 would allow me to drop the Forgotten Ancient on turn 3, maximising his early potential. Alternately, an early Watchwolf might put even more early pressure on her in the form of a body, but would not let me play the Ancient until turn 4. After some thought, I go with the Wolf. Although the tension between casting spells and growing the Ancient is a nice dilemma to put her in, the Ancient enters play as a mere 0/3. The turn 2 Watchwolf will be beating her down from turn 3 until dead. Let her deck live too long, and ugly things start popping out of the graveyard.
Sam gets off to a solid start, though, with a turn 2 Rakdos Signet and turn 3 Sign in Blood and Rakdos Guildmage. I draw into a Spider Umbra and stick it on the Wolf for his first attack. I then play a Sakura-Tribe Elder, and pass turn.
Sam throws something horrible away on turn 4 with her Guildmage, and puts a Goblin token into play, turning both the token and the Guildmage sideways. I block/sac the Elder and take 2 damage, happily putting another land on the board. My turn 4 play is, as expected, the Forgotten Ancient.
Sam Signs in Blood next turn and passes, seeing her life dwindle to 8, and is dismayed when I manage to bring out a Hunting Moa and Wall of Roots, attacking for 8 with the bloating Ancient and Watchwolf. Sam pitches another card into the graveyard, using the Guildmage to give the Wolf -2/-2, then trades it with the Guildmage. Sam goes down to 4.
While she tries to bravely battle back, casting an Avatar of Discord and unearthing a Corpse Connoisseur that made its way into the grave earlier, the “Shinen for the Win” strategy gets me there this time.
Although you wouldn’t know it from the scoreboard, the last two games have been something of a struggle for my mana base. Because the deck is so heavily Green, it’s not necessarily crippled by difficulties drawing into White. In the first game, I played my first Plains on the last turn of the game. In Game 2, I came across only one, fortunately in my opening hand. This problem would be much more disabling in the game to come.
More utility land openers, when her Barren Moor is met with my Khalni Garden + freebie Plant token. Sam fishes for more options in turn 2 with Sign in Blood, and I drop another Forest. My opening draw looked solid if a little slow, and I was delighted to open with a Path to Exile in hand, figuring a Plains could come along as the game progressed.
Sam plays the lowly Festering Goblin turn 5, then trips the Syphon-Mage to lifesteal, and I watch in horror as the Avatar of Woe hits the graveyard from her hand. Although I’ve played little, I’m not without options. The Feral Hydra in my hand has been there from the start, but since at time of casting each +1/+1 counter costs one mana, and after casting costs three, I’ve been trying to strike a balance on the best time to cast him. With her Mage and Horror already at work on my life total and the Avatar festering in the grave, I make the call and play a turn 5 4/4 Hydra.
Sam’s pressure is relentless, however, and when she drops Zombify on turn 6 I hear the clock ticking. The good news is that I have yet to miss a land drop. The bad? Not a one of them is a source of White mana.
My Hydra is no impediment to the Avatar, who is able to waltz right past my defenders and cut my life total in half. Contrary to some belief, Green actually does have a strategic response to evasive creatures (Flyers, Forestwalkers, Unblockables, etc). Novice Green mages will frequently worry so much about them (particularly the flyers) that they can fill a decent chunk of their mainboard with answers (Windstorm, Wind Shear, Leaf Arrow, and now M11’s Plummet, for example)- answers which tend to become dead draws when the much-feared flyers aren’t being played against them.
The strategic response for Green, naturally, is pressure. Put enough of it on, and either the ‘Evasives’ won’t kill you before you kill their controller, or they’ll hold them back as blockers and/or chumps. That’s not to say that Flyer-hosers don’t have their place (Plummet in particular is being welcomed for its anti-Baneslayer capabilities), but individual cards are tactical. Playstyle is strategic. It’s important to recognise the difference.
Sadly for me, although I know what’s needed here, I just can’t quite get there. Pathing the Avatar would buy me enough time to wrest momentum from Sam and turn the tables, but the White mana never arrives. I concede after one more draw. The next two cards? Plains. Of course.
Full disclosure time: I’m not exactly thrilled by Green (it’s my least-liked colour), but I’ll do my best to rate this fairly.
Trample is something of a ‘Plain Jane’ deck. It’s a solid and reliable choice, but not all that sexy. Bring About the Undead Apocalypse had that sexiness built in- cheating out absolute beasts which took the head off your opponent when they resolved. Assemble the Doomsday Machine appealed to one’s sense of cleverness with its many moving parts and interlocking artifacts (although, in fairness, it was hit or miss). Archenemy’s Green/White offering gets the job done, but doesn’t gain many points for style. Although I like the versatility of the paths to victory (Big Dumb Beats ™ and/or Token Swarm), and the cards do work well together, it had a few weaknesses as well.
Onesuch was the land. In Part 1 of the review, I held up as a virtue the tremendous diversity of land in the deck for those looking to buy and integrate the cards into other projects. In actual play, they felt just a shade too clever. There were too many times I pulled out nonbasic land and just wished it was a Plains. Being fair, however, there was certainly some unluck in that- there are a number of ways to tutor up land in the deck, so I wouldn’t give Trample too black a mark on its account.
Although I won’t factor it into my rating of the deck on its own, I should mention here that I took on three friends the other night as the Archenemy, Schemes and all, and this deck was brutal. With Schemes that let you landhunt, others that dump token creatures on your side of the board, the Smash n Swarm was fully online. And unlike with Undead Apocalypse, I didn’t experience any Scheme “misses” where the effect fails to go off (for example, a Scheme that lets you pull from the opposing players’ graveyards is only useful when they actually have a graveyard, so it’s essentially a dead draw early in the game).
In the final analysis, this deck should make Green mages quite happy. The splash of White supports a solid removal suite, and the creature selection is nicely varied and interact well with one another. There are a couple “appear in other precon” type creatures (Krosan Tusker, Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer), but should appeal to those who like their rage against the corrupt, decadent and nature-despoiling world to come on the end of a very, very large stick indeed.
Or a whole bunch of small sticks.
FINAL GRADE: 3.9/5.0