Magic 2011: Power of Prophecy Review (Part 1 of 2)
As I recall it, my first ever Magic deck (going waaaay back, here) was a Blue/White hundred-card monstrosity, and from the beginning, though I’ve strayed away from the Combination (White in particular), I’ve had a soft spot for that flavour of deck.
The Blue/White offering for Magic 2011 is Power of Prophecy, and although we typically equate Control (or more recently, Tapout) with this spectrum of deck, Wizards tends to construct a precon that finds its sweet spot somewhere in the middle. In the past year we’re seen Worldwake’s Flyover, which used a lot of flyers in conjunction with Archon of Redemption for skies aggression and lifegain. Also in the mold was Rise’s Leveller’s Glory, which went for a more balanced White Weenie approach with some Blue support.
To see how Power of Prophecy ranked amongst its predecessors, I took it to battle against Jimi, who lined up behind the Rise of Vampirism deck.
On the play, Jimi opens her first three turns with a good mix of land, a Child of Night, and a Barony Vampire, looking to establish an aggressive board position. I take advantage of a turn 2 Augury Owl to Scry my deck, which dies blocking the Child of Night on turn 3, but does set up my next play of a Cloud Elemental.
My claim to the skies is strengthened with a turn 4 Azure Drake, temporarily neutralising the threat her 3/2 Vampire is posing (though it’s already bloodied me once).
Jimi appears to hit a bit of an impasse on the next turn, and she casts Diabolic Tutor to look for an answer. I swing in with the Drake/Elemental tag team, and pass. Unsurprisingly, the Captivating Vampire she Tutored hits the table next round, and just like that my Drake defender is outclassed.
I’ve got a Harbor Serpent in my hand, and could use the beefy body on the board, but by now I’d expect any Black/x deck to have some removal. Instead, I cast an Armored Cancrix, gambling that she will look to remove the roadblock and return to profitable aggression.
It works. I give silent thanks to the lobster taking a Doom Blade for the team, and drop the Serpent on turn 7. Our attacks have kept pace, though, as we’re tied at 8 life apiece. With the Drake and Elemental tapped from whittling down her life, I’m gambling now that she won’t attack unprofitably, but that’s what she does on turn 8, sending the Capitvating and Barony Vampires in. Killing one I’m down to 6 life, and Jimi ends the game with a 6-point Corrupt.
Her timing is perfect, I’d drawn a Sleep and was intending to use it to close the game out the next turn.
This game starts as before, with some land dropping out and me laying down a timely, turn 2 Augury Owl. I’ve long been a believer in the Sage Owl, and this one certainly qualifies as “new and improved.” No more stuffing crap to your bottom draws and having to eat through it in a couple turns; Scry lets you flush the bad draws to the bottom of your library.
Jimi’s turn 2 response is a Viscera Seer. The Owl goes into the red zone on turn 3, then I play a Scroll Thief, while Jimi changes the board with a Captivating Vampire. Turn 4 is a wash- the Azure Drake I lay out is welcome, but neutralised by her answering Giant Spider. My Cloud Elemental on turn 5 is matched by her Barony Vampire, and she Naturalizes my turn 6 Crystal Ball. Fun!
Still, I’m able to engage the Ball once on the way out, and it nets me a gem: Sleep. I cast it next turn and go all in, taking her from 17 to 11, then again the next turn down to 5. A bit underrated, Sleep can be a serious closer if you’ve even a moderate board position to work with. I add an Air Servant to my arsenal on turn 8, and Jimi’s lone Giant Spider isn’t enough to keep my flyers from coming in for victory.
I begin the final match advancing some merfolk: the Maritime Guard on turn 2, followed by the Scroll Thief. Jimi lands a Barony Vampire, but surprises on turn 4 with an unexpected (and unwelcome) Howling Banshee. We both lose 3 life (and I’ve already taken 3 from her Vampire), but more importantly she’s got a presence in the air she hasn’t had the past two matches. My turn 4 response is an Azure Drake, which does nothing but add to a stalemate.
I can only chuckle with sympathy as Jimi plays one of M11’s truly heartbreaking cards, Sorcerer’s Strongbox. I’ve won the flip on the first go many times with the card, but never when I truly needed it. I break the impasse, however, with an Air Servant, whose tapping ability will clear the Banshee out.
The next turn, Jimi once again lucks into playing the Captivating Vampire. My own foil premium, the Conundrum Sphinx, is in my grip, and while I’d enjoy taking him for a spin, I see a stronger victory condition in hand. Sleep once more breaks the red zone wide open, and my beaters flood in for full advantage. Jimi’s at 15 life, and I’m attacking with 8-power of creatures. Without any change to her board position she’s finished the next turn, and throws her lot in with the Sorcerer’s Strongbox.
She loses the flip. Then the game.
There was a lot to like in the performance of Power of Prophecy. While the Sphinx/Scry gimmick is a nice bonus, with a singleton Sphinx you’ll seldom take full advantage (hint: absent Scry, name your highest-used land). But then, it scarcely needed it. The beaters seem to be on a solid mana curve, as I didn’t have any problem getting them out as needed and at pace. And Scry may well turn out to be a momentarily underrated mechanic. When previewing the set, I thought it nice but not game-changing. My opinion has swung upwards, and with cards like the Crystal Ball and the Owl upgrade, chatter is already coming in from the Prereleases that Scry punches above its weight.
Can one expect comparable results from Power on a consistent basis, though? Join me next time as we deconstruct the deck and explore every card. Thanks as always for reading!