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July 11, 2010


Magic 2011: Blades of Victory Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Welcome back to our kickoff review of the Magic 2011 Intro Packs! For those unaware, Wizards heeded the outcry from the community and has reinstated the 60-card deck Intro Pack, complete with booster, rather than the somewhat short-lived 41-card model. This means, of course, that you will be seeing your premium foil rare a bit less often (as well as any other singletons), but that by adding duplicate cards the overall consistency of the deck should remain about the same (for example, the Breath of Fire deck packs in three Lightning Bolts… chances are, you can rely upon drawing at least one in a game).

To start us off, we took a look at Blades of Victory, a White Weenie deck with a twist of Black thrown in for removal. Despite a few misgivings in card selection, it had a solid look about it, and to test it out I went up against the Sam-piloted Stampede of Beasts deck. How did it do?

Game One

On the play, I make my first mistake of the game not shipping my hand, instead keeping one with perhaps one Land too many to start off with. Sam gets out early with a turn 2 Sylvan Ranger, which replaces itself in her hand with a land. My turn 3 Palace Guard looms large to hold back this colossal 1/1 threat, and even the Sacred Wolf she answers with is no match for the mighty 1/4.

Although seemingly mana-flooded (I would not miss a land drop for the entire 10-turn game), I am able to get a potent body out on turn 5 with a Serra Angel. While Sam used turn 4 to Cultivate, on 5 she drops a Llanowar Elves and Prized Unicorn. The Elves are mana ramp- nothing I can really do about that- but the Unicorn troubles me. With the dismal situation with my hand after all these land draws, I know I need to protect what little I manage to get out. The Angel’s demise is but a Giant Growth away, as she can do nothing to avoid blocking that Unicorn, so on turn 6 I swallow hard and Pacify it. The Angel draws first blood for 4, and we’re off.

Sam’s turn 6 gets a little more robust- another Llanowar Elves, paired this time with a Garruk’s Packleader. Next turn I Mind Rot her (she throws away a Runeclaw Bear and, somewhat concerningly, a Giant Spider), leaving two cards in hand. One of them is a Protean Hydra, which she elects to play as a 7/7. I sense danger starting to mount.

I attack with the Angel a third time on turn 8 (Sam’s now down to 8), but Sam topdecks a Chandra’s Outrage and burns it out of the sky. She swings in with the Hydra and Packleader, and I chump with the Palace Guard, taking some Trample damage in the process.

I draw my card on turn 9, sigh, and pass the turn. Siezing the opportunity, Sam drops Overwhelming Stampede and comes in for the alpha strike.

A quick aside on the hideousness of that card. Although for simplicity’s sake I write that we ‘roll’ to see who gets to choose to play or draw first, we actually already have it predetermined before the first game. When starting a playtest session, we play a warm-up game (we call it a ‘friendly’) which doesn’t get recorded (and for which we do, in fact, roll). Loser then gets the luxury of choice for the first of three ‘official’ games.

In our friendly game prior to this one, Sam had a Duskdale Wurm in play, along with a few other gadabouts and hangers-on. Although it looked like I might be able to pull the game off, Sam sealed the deal by Giant Growthing her 7/7 Wurm, then casting the Stampede. As my ragtag army looked downfield and saw 90-power’s worth of beating enter the red zone (all of her creatures gained +10/+10 and Trample), I can only imagine they soiled themselves as the cause was lost between a thunderous trampling of hooves and claws. The card is a monster, be warned.

This time, I cackle in triumph- I had just drawn a Safe Passage, and narrowly avoid a second hideous beating. But it’s a token victory, for having no answer to her next strike I can only concede.

Game Two

The next match immediately looks more promising, as I open with an Infantry Veteran then drop another Palace Guard on turn 3. Sam plays a turn 2 Runeclaw Bear, and we begin trading attacks (using the Veteran to pump up the Guard means that Sam cannot profitably trade, and she realises this). Turn 4 sees Sam with another Prized Unicorn, and a Spined Wurm on the turn following.

I have answers in my hand, though, in the form of a Doom Blade and a Pacifism. In a move that would come to haunt me, I drop the slower of the two on the Wurm to neutralise it, saving the Blade for later. We’re still whittling each other down, but when her Unicorn and Bear are joined by a Giant Spider on turn 6, I call and end to ground operations and play a timely turn 7 Serra Angel.

Sam’s response is devastating. She casts Fling, and opts to sacrifice the Pacified Wurm, smoking the Angel. The Doom Blade in my hand is small consolation (and indeed, is shortly burned to kill her thrun 8 Yavimaya Wurm). It was a backbreaking play, and having passed midgame and into endgame with no appreciable threat, Sam’s able to get there with a couple profitable attacks and closes with a perfectly-timed Lava Axe.

Game Three

Third time looks to be the charm, as I ship my first hand having learned the lessons of the first two games (although now as bad as the first game, I certainly drew into more land than I would have liked in the second). My gambit is rewarded with a delicious grip, including the deck’s actual “combo” of Ajani’s Pridemate and Mantra. What luck!

The Pridemate comes down on the second turn, followed by the Mantra. Sam, seeing the link, breaks it with Back to Nature before I’m able to gain any life, but I’m still carrying a ton of momentum. While Sam still hasn’t played a critter by turn 4, I drop down a White Knight and the War Priest of Thune. By now I’ve figured out that Sam’s deck has little to no enchantments in it, so no need to hang on to the Priest as I have before.

Things seem to be going my way, and moreso on turn turn 5 when I come in with the Knight, the Priest, and the Soldier (sounds like a joke, eh?). Her freshly-summoned Giant Spider opts to block my first-striker, a fatal mistake when I respond with Mighty Leap. Sam’s down to 12 life.

Sam replaces the Giant Spider on her next turn, and I cast Stabbing Pain to take it out of commission. It’s early to say, but I have a good feeling about that card- it’s a surprising amount of versatility packed into a 1-drop (pinger/pest kill spell, combat trick, and blocker removal, all in one). The Spider can only watch as my three amigos rush by to cut Sam in half to 6. I then drop a Warlord’s Axe and pass turn.

Sam casts Act of Treason on the Pridemate to get in for token damage (I’m down to 18), but she’s running out of tricks. I equip the Axe to my Knight, go all in, and that’s the end of the Spider. Sam’s down to 2. A last-ditch Awakener Druid gives Sam two blockers, but at 2 life she’d need one more to survive the round. She doesn’t get it.

Lessons Learned

I had some fun playing Blades, but learned a lot at the same time. I don’t typically pilot Weenie/Swarm decks (my preferred model is Grixis Control, despite its current weaknesses in Standard), and while a four-land hand is typically just fine in my personal deck, it’s nearly a death sentence in Weenie/Swarm. You just run out of gas too quickly, and are playing from the topdeck way too early.

Add on top of that the natural inefficiency of Blades of Victory. Cards like Safe Passage, Mind Rot, Mighty Leap, and most assuredly the dreadful Palace Guard (who would be soooo much better as a 2/3), all dilute the threat density of the deck. I steamrolled Sam in the third game because Blades performed exactly as it is intended to- an early swarm of attackers supported by some spells to get them through. Too many combat tricks, too much fat over meat, and you’re going to have a higher occurrence rate of suboptimal draws.

This means when piloting Blades, your most important play of the game might be the one you make before the game even starts- mulligan aggressively! A strong grip of six will trump a mediocre one of seven almost every time (and given the strength of the third game, I might even have been able to get there with an opening hand of 5). An opening hand of two land- drawing into a third one by turn 3- is probably the best start this deck can make.

In Summation

If this is what’s in store for M11, I’m sold already. Sure it isn’t the best White Weenie deck you’ll ever see- it has it’s usual share of filler- but it’s not meant to be balanced against Standard, but rather the other four Intro Packs. These decks are showcases, not world-beaters, and Blades of Victory is an excellent place to start if you have designs of tuning a solid White Weenie deck of your own. Add into that a very nice rare selection (Angelic Arbiter, Vengeful Archon), and this deck is an easy buy. While M10 was widely heralded as a groundbreaking core set and helped revitalise the game in its time, its theme decks were- let’s face it- somewhat lacklustre. M11 might well be the real deal.

Final Grade: 4.5/5.0

Read more from Magic 2011
15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ben (Twitter: Panahinuva)
    Jul 11 2010

    When my friend and I played, I fielding Power of Prophecy and he fielding this deck, I felt that it was a very good deck. In game one he was able to curve out and keep my forces under control until he could drop Judge Dredd, then followed it up with the Vengeful Archon. Even my playing of the Stormtide Leviathan didn’t help, since if I attacked with it the Archon would just throw the damage back in my face. Needless to say, I lost. Game two my friend kept a subobtimal hand, got mana screwed and I won. Not very telling. But the first game does indicate a conclusion very similar to yours. I look forward to the Power of Prophecy review, since that’s the deck I’m intimately familiar with.

  2. Jul 11 2010

    M11 is going to be interesting. I haven’t been able to check out the full release list for the set yet, but it looks good from what I’ve seen so far.

  3. Matt
    Jul 16 2010

    You bring up a good point on mulligans. With the right hand, you can gain clear advantage over an opponent. I’m excited to see what else M11 has in store.

  4. Fred
    Jul 30 2010

    I’m new to magic and i’am planning to buy a m11 deck. What’s the best in this edition? Thanks!

    • Jul 30 2010

      Hi Fred! I’d recommend this one, Blades of Victory. While you wouldn’t go wrong with any of them, Blades offers a fun and relatively consistent gameplay experience, and lends itself well to tinkering should you decide later that you’d like to customise your deck.

      • Fred
        Aug 1 2010

        Thanks for answering my noob question. The deck seems to work very often. My friend bought the “Reign of Vampirism” deck and i’m used to win almost all times.

        • Aug 1 2010

          You got it! Unlike Blades, Reign is rather combo-specific. While you’re in for some trouble if he manages to get five Vampires into play, you should have enough tools to keep him in check!

          • Fred
            Aug 1 2010

            Yup. Usually when he picks up the %#%$# “Captivating Vampire” or a control using the “Condemn” spell or i have big troubles with the combo.

  5. kolagol
    Sep 8 2010

    The combo pridemate + mantra is actually pretty sweet – ive drafted it yesterday at the crap draft we do from commons/uncommons and it was really powerful and dominant.

    • Sep 8 2010

      Oh, if you can get both pieces into play, it’s hideous! The disappointing thing about Blades is that it only gives you a touch of each piece, so you’re not going to get it working very often. On their own, both pieces are rather dull: a slow drip of life, and a “Bear” that triggers off of only two other cards in the deck (Mantra, and Condemn if you happen to use it on your own critter).

      In an upcoming Ertai’s Meddling feature, we’ll be rebuilding the deck to take full advantage of that synergy.

      Thanks for the comments!

  6. Hireling
    Sep 30 2010

    I can’t wait to see the meddled version of this. I did some tweaking myself, but I’m not satisfied with it as a mono white deck (my version). Right now I’m leaning towards a stripe of blue to counter any big spells that could sweep away my horde.

  7. Helmuth
    Jan 11 2011

    Found this website 3 days ago, and just read all the m11 review.
    Even used the meddling you used to change my girlfriends power of prophecy which made it much stronger and fun to play with.
    I’m really looking forward to the meddled version of the blades of victory, since its the one I am using, and I’m expectin a delivery of 8 booster packs and 200 random commons, and I would really use the advice in how to modify and optimize this deck, since I am quite new at magic.
    Love your website and your reviews.

    • Jan 11 2011

      Greetings and welcome, Helmuth! Glad to hear you’ve found success with the Meddling series, those have fast become one of our most popular features. We started it towards the end of M11, which is why we didn’t complete the set (Scars hit), but we’ve every intention of going back. Looking forward to hearing how your deck is doing!

      • Helmuth
        Jan 20 2011

        Well, my cards arrived, didn’t get anything really spetacular in white cards, but enough to make some changes.
        This is what I did with it :

        24 Plains

        1 Angelic Arbiter
        2 Cloud Crusader
        3 Elite Vanguard
        2 Infantry Veteran
        3 Wild Griffin
        2 Stormfront Pegasus
        3 Serra Angel
        2 Vengeful Archon
        1 White Knight

        19 creatures

        1 Whispersilk Cloak
        4 Armored Ascension
        2 Solemn Offering
        2 Excommunicate
        2 Condemn
        2 Inspired Charge
        2 Pacifism
        2 Holy Strength

        17 other spells

        It’s not an expensive deck, since it’s rated at $12.10, and that price fits how casually I play magic.
        I’m not worried about getting into tournaments, just having fun playing with friends, so my goal is just making this deck work better.
        Any suggestions?


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