Magic 2011: Power of Prophecy Review (Part 2 of 2)
Welcome back! When last we left, the Blue/White M11 preconstructed deck was showing that, indeed, there really was some power behind its prophecy, and in this session we’ll be taking a look at exactly how it’s accomplishing that.
Generally speaking, when one thinks of “Blue/White,” it brings to mind slow, control-based strategies. As with the Tapout model in Standard at present that’s not always the case, and Power of Prophecy takes the latter approach- mainly through filling the skies with a swarm of evasive beaters. Indeed, it follows to the letter the seeming M11 precon formula, which has surprisingly little deviation over the five decks:
15 noncreature spells
16 primary colour land
9 support colour land
Naturally, there is a lot of room for individuality within each deck, and its relative strength or weakness is contingent upon how well the cards selected fill the role they’ve been slotted for. Let’s begin with the beaters.
One of the strengths of the deck is its consistency- it boasts one of the most stable mana curves of any yet reviewed:
What does this mean? Mainly, that you shouldn’t experience creatures bottlenecking in your hand all that often, provided you have a reasonable amount of land plays throughout the game. More than once I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how smooth a ride the deck can be.
That being said, not every card is a winner, but they’ve all a role to play, and most seem to be adequate for the task. Utility critters take up the 2-drop spot, featuring a pair of Augury Owls for deck manipulation, a Blinding Mage, and a pair of Maritime Guards. The Guards aren’t proper utility at first blush, but you can be sure that the main job of an early 1/3 critter is to buy you time and blunt any early rush the enemy puts up.
There’s more utility where that came from at the 3-drop spot: a pair of bouncers in the form of Aether Adepts gain some tempo in the early game, and can be useful throughout. A Wall of Frost is another speedbump, and the Scroll Thief is there for card advantage. But here we also begin to see our beaters: a pair of Cloud Elementals herald what’s to come.
Conundrum Sphinx– the foil premium rare- is in good company at the four-drop spot. While the offensive power of the Azure Drake is a bit underwhelming, his toughness does recommend him as either an attacking option or able defender. Add in a pair of versatile Water Servants, capable of turning into a 6/1 when some muscle is needed, and up to a 0/7 on defense, and you have reasonable answers to most combat situations.
One key thing to look for in a card is versatility- it’s why the Charm spells are so popular, and why I rate even spells like Stabbing Pain higher than they might first appear. The more things you can do with a particular card, the more valuable that card becomes. Being versatile doesn’t make a card great on its own- if it lets you choose from three different crap effects, it’s still a crap card. But it does make a card more valuable in its position, and Water Servant easily fits this bill.
As for the Sphinx, in Power of Prophecy it’s probably best to look at him as what he’ll be most of the time: an ultra-efficient beater. With few Scry options in the deck (two Owls, two Foresees, and a singleton Crystal Ball), chances are you’ll be naming “Island” every time it attacks, and occasionally getting lucky- just as your opponent will after they catch on.
Also offering some versatility is Water Servant’s equally indentured cousin, Air Servant. On its own it’s a 4/3 flyer for five mana, which isn’t dreadful, but it also packs a very keen dose of utility in its semi-Twiddle ability. Note too that it does not require the Servant to tap and thus can be used multiple times in a turn, and should the skies clog up you still have a way to get through for damage.
Armored Cancrix is nothing sexy, but is included in the deck to act as a wall with teeth. Not a very good card, I have not yet had an opportunity to be delighted when I drew it. The last two critters, though, are anything but mundane.
As a singleton 6-drop, the Harbor Serpent will be coming out neither early nor often, but you shouldn’t find its limitation to be too much of an impediment by the time you’re looking to play it. The deck’s other rare- a Stormtide Leviathan– is a must-deal-with card for your opponent. Not only is it an ultra-efficient beater (8/8 for 8 is right on the all-singing, all-dancing curve), but it also boasts none of the drawbacks that usually torpedo big Blue beaters (remember this guy?).
As with all the decks, noncreature spells take a solid backseat to the critters, acting more as secondary support. Although not the most glorious lineup of cards, Power of Prohpecy’s beaters acquit themselves quite well when taken as a unit, with a solid curve and good versatility. How do the other spells stand up?
Get Thee Behind Me
Sadly, with a few breakout exceptions, overall the complement is underwhelming. The removal suite is almost nonexistent- one copy each of Condemn and Pacifism means that your creatures will be doing most of the talking for you. It offers a couple of mediocre combat tricks (Mighty Leap and Safe Passage, though the former has a dose of added versatility with the evasiveness it temporarily grants). Two Negates and a Solemn Offering offer some utility, and a Mind Control can be a very swingy two-for-one.
The aforementioned Foresees and a pair of Jace’s Ingenuity, while not inexpensive, give you some much-needed library manipulation and card drawing, and can be the difference in close games (as an aside, for an outstanding article on the mothership about the design and synergy of the Planeswalker’s spells, see this one). But the consistent all-star of the deck for me was Sleep, and the deck offers two.
At four mana, you’ll want to be holding onto one of these for a special occasion, but it can be a gamewinner if timed correctly. Optimally, you’ll want to cast it when the sum of all the power of all your creatures, except your largest one (unless it’s evasive), equals half the life total of your opponent. In other words, assume they’ll be able to cast a chump blocker on their next turn and at least have something to defend with. Cast in this way, you should be able to get in for lethal the turn after you play it.
Of course, games seldom run as planned, and it also makes a fine play to give yourself some breathing room to establish board position for a turn (at 4 mana, you probably won’t be casting too much else that turn).
I’m not all that excited about the noncreature spell complement with Power of Prohpecy, but as many times as I’ve played it it usually does just fine with its well-balanced creature lineup. When assessing the board and planning your tactics, you can’t count on drawing into removal, so plan accordingly. That aside, the beaters are for the most part fun and effective, and even if you can’t optimise Conundrum Sphinx, the guessing game can still be good for a laugh (in one game my opponent- on the verge of dying the following turn- flipped over the Fireball that would have given him the game). Like Blades of Victory, the deck is a noteable improvement over last year’s offerings, and well worth picking up.
FINAL GRADE: 4.5/5.0