Archenemy: Scorch the World with Dragonfire (Part 1 of 2)
Eager to play the part of dragon-mad Sarkhan Vol, I suited up behind the Archenemy Scorch the World with Dragonfire deck and challenged Sam to the customary three matches. Given the choice of weapons, she chose to play one close to her preferred means of play- Green/White, the Trample Civilization Underfoot deck.
I was excited at the prospect- the last deck I playtested was the Trample deck, and while I admired its efficiencies, I didn’t find it very entertaining. Seeing how it managed in her capable hands would be helpful to gain additional perspective. After a roll of the dice, Sam would be on the play.
As is typical with the Archenemy deck suite, we get off to a slow start for the first couple turns, first with basics (her Plains, my Mountain) then getting a little fancier (her Mosswort Bridge, my Kazandu Refuge). Sam opens turn 3 with a Watchwolf, and the game is on.
The Watchwolf’s first attack is thwarted by a Branching Bolt– with a handful of burn, I’m not afraid to set the tone early. Turn 5 sees reinforcements arrive as Sam plays a Wickerbough Elder, and I respond with a Chameleon Colossus enchanted with Dragon Breath, going right in for the attack. Sam’s down to 16, I’m at 21.
Sam then plays Primal Command, opting to gain 7 life and tutor a critter from the deck. She clears off the Dragon Breath with the Elder, and attacks for 4. This leaves me free to bring in the Colossus for another 8 the following turn, after having nothing to play from hand. It’s now 15-17, slight edge to me.
Turn 7, and Sam’s busy with another critter- this time a Feral Hydra who greets the world as a 5/5. Again I keep it close, Fireballing the Hydra on my next turn. Our two beaters in play keep passing each other midfield, carving off life four at a time.
Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer appears the turn following, and now I am in trouble. His added power triggers Sam’s Mosswort Bridge hideaway, and she reveals another Forest. Normally laughable, but Molimo welcomes the addition. The turn after that adds another legend- Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, which I hit with Chandra’s Outrage immediately. The two damage to Sam brings us even at 9-all, and my turn 9 play is simple Fires of Yavimaya.
Sam proves hard to kill, however, when she casts Heroes’ Reunion on turn 9 alongside a Hunting Moa, which adds its counter to the Elder. I cast a Dragon Whelp, but am dismayed when she responds with a Pale Recluse.
Sam begins to give away the game here, though, with a pair of ill-advised attacks when she miscounts the land I have in play not once, but twice, and my Chameleon Colossus eats both her Wickerbough Elder and Molimo (though in fairness, I had to sac my Fires of Yavimaya to keep the Colossus alive on the latter one). In return, her Recluse opts to trade with my counterattacking Dragon Whelp. By lucky turn 13, it’s an 8-6 game with a mire in the middle.
Sam falls prey to some nasty sweepers in the next few turns, keeping her side of the board relatively clean. Volcanic Fallout sends the Moa and a fresh Leaf Gilder to the dustbin. I set up for the kill shortly after when I Breath of Darigaaz for one, killing her lone blocker (a Sakura-Tribe Elder which she wisely sacs) to clear a path for the mighty Colossus. Alas, its luck has run out as she shows a Path to Exile.
The standoff continues for a few more turns, a far longer than usual game, but eventually I mise an evasive critter (a Furnace Whelp) and see the job done.
The next two games prove to be a study in contrasts, and a possible clue to the streakiness of the Scorch deck. They’re also much quicker affairs.
Sam again is off to a solid start with the creatuers. Her first five turns see her fairly well-stocked, with a Selesnya Guildmage, a Shinen of Life’s Roar, a Wickerbough Elder (which will turn out to be the play of the game), and a Fertilid seeing play.
Having seen no real dragons last game, I’m flush with them now, keeping a hand that had two and drawing far more quickly than I would have cared for into two more. But by turn 5 I’ve only managed a Gruul Signet and Furnace Whelp. Sam’s turn 4 Wickerbough Elder tragically smashes my Signet, though, and I see my dreams of dragon mastery slipping away.
I manage a second Signet on turn 5, but the damage is done, I’m too far back to catch up as Sam adds a Nantuko Monastery and Pale Recluse to the board. I get some chumpers out- a Fierce Empath and Taurean Mauler– but when Sam alpha strikes on turn 8, I just don’t have enough bodies. All in all, a very disappointing outcome.
Our final match shows me a bit of a dilemma in my opening draw. I open with two dragons, a Dragonspeaker Shaman, a Seething Song and a pair of Mountains in hand. I like what I see, but having only two lands make it an uncertain prospect. Red being the colour of chaos, however, I decide to roll the dice, and am well rewarded by drawing into land two my next three turns.
Like clockwork, the Shaman hits the table on turn 3 (after a turn 2 Dragon Fodder I picked up), and the Flameblast Dragon takes its rightful and majestic place at the head of my Goblin army. Sam’s luck has run out- by now all she’s managed is a lowly Sakura-Tribe Elder, and I’m considering the game more or less done.
But Sam is playing a deck that refuses to die. She Oblivion Rings the Flameblast on turn 5. Fogs on turn 6. Plummets the Hellkite Charger on turn 7. And grasps a bit more life with Heroes’ Reunion on turn 8. Eventually, Ryusei’s persistence pays off, though, and however valiant a defense, Sam falls to the inevitable, scooping on turn 8.
That third game in particular is worth a second look. It speaks both well and ill of the Trample deck that it was able to stubbornly cling to life against three dragons, particularly since two of them were eliminated by the time Sam fell.
New players in particular are often drawn to cards like Heroes’ Reunion and Fog. And playing in circumstances like the game above would tend to reinforce their justifications of such choices. Of course they’re good cards, the reasoning might follow, they bought me two whole turns against your dragon army!
The problem is, they’re quite right to say so, and having such ‘safety net’ cards can be a welcome comfort while learning an unfamiliar game.
It often takes experience, though, to show that like a comforting child’s blanket or favourite stuffed animal, there comes a time to leave them behind. Experience is what compels us to ask, well, what did we do with those two extra turns? And what problems did we solve?
Hanging on for hanging on’s sake accomplishes very little. Rather than buying another turn in hopes of drawing a solution… why not just draw the solution instead? Imagine if that Fog and Reunion were replaced by a pair of Plummets. Not only would you have bought yourself another couple rounds, you might even have turned the game around and won it. In Sam’s case, though, all it let her do was… draw another card.
It takes time to get that experience (I kept a tight grip on my own particular comfort-food, Stream of Life, for quite awhile when I started playing), and new or inexperienced players should always be encouraged. Sometimes just a probing question or two are all that’s needed to start them thinking. Wouldn’t you rather have drawn another Plummet?
That said, this matchup spoke very well to Trample Civilization Underfoot. It may have disappointed in the third match, but in both of the first two it was cranking out the beats with ruthless precision.
That’s all for now. Scorch was a fun ride to play, but did appear a bit inconsistent at times. Join me in two days when I dissect the deck, and see how it’s put together!