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August 20, 2010

1

Planechase: Metallic Dreams Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

To give Metallic Dreams a good run for its money and to see how the deck functions under pressure, Sam and I decided to put it through its paces against Zombie Empire, a nasty mono-Black Planechase deck. Much like Phyrexia vs The Coalition, it would be interesting to see how an essentially five-colour deck handled itself against a single-coloured one. Here are our game notes…

Game One

An all-Swamp intro starts us off, as Sam and I each drop one and pass. My second land is an Island, and I tap out to engage a Leaden Myr– a promising start!

Sam keeps pace, however, and gets out an early Phyrexian Ghoul. I play a Plains, an Iron Myr, and an Arcbound Slith before passing back. Sam has a ready answer, though, as an Undead Warchief comes down, and she pushes her now-buffed Ghoul into the red zone for 4 to draw first blood.

I go on the counter, sending in my Arcbound Slith. Perhaps fearing some trap to snare her Warchief, she lets it through (and lets it gain a counter in the process). I tap three for a Wizard Replica and pass.

Turn 5 comes, and Sam’s only action is to attack again for another 4. I attack again with my Slith (and add another counter), then play a Suntouched Myr as a 3/3. Turn 6 doesn’t go so well for her, as she watches her Corpse Harvester get countered by the Wizard Replica, and loses her Ghoul in a trade for the Suntouched Myr (or perhaps more optimistically, she engineered the removal of the pesky Replica and the Myr!) My turn sees me play an Ancient Den, swing in with the Arcbound Slith for 3, and Fabricate up a Darksteel Forge. Having hit every land drop thus far, the high casting cost of the Forge doesn’t seem so far away, and Sam knows it.

Turn 7 comes, and Sam has no play other than to draw and pass. I untap, drop down an Island, and tap into my Myr to get me the 9 mana I need for the Forge. Sam responds with a Cruel Revival, killing my Slith and returning her Corpse Harvester to hand. As the Slith is Modular, its counters at least don’t go to waste, and I lay the four of them on my Iron Myr. I pass to Sam to kick off turn 8.

As expected, the Corpse Harvester enters play, and Sam passes. I swing in for 5 with my newly-buffed Iron Myr, taking Sam down to 9 (I’m stil lat 12 after the early hits by the Ghoul), then ending by playing an Etched Oracle (as a 4/4).

Undaunted, Sam plays a Phyrexian Ghoul then gets sneaky with an Incremental Blight (which gets around the Indestructibility granted by the Forge). My Leaden Myr is given one -1/-1 counter and dies; my Iron Myr gets two and goes from a 5/5 to a 3/3; and my Etched Oracle- getting the three- goes from a 4/4 to a 1/1 (and puts his ‘draw three’ ability safely out of reach). Unhappily, I untap, draw and pass.

On her turn, Sam swings in with all three of her critters- the Ghoul, the Warchief and the Harvester. I play a quick Keep Watch to draw three cards, then assign my two blockers. Luckily, the Iron Myr is still big enough to kill her Warchief, but the Ghoul gets through and puts me to 8 life. Sam then lashes out with an Innocent Blood, which claims her Ghoul and my enfeebled Oracle. For my part, I play a Serum Tank, a Skeleton Shard and a Vault of Whispers, getting some early counters on the Tank, then pass.

It’s turn 11 now, but the end seems in sight if I can just start to fish back my critters from the scrapheap with the Shard. Sam draws and passes, I play an Arcbound Ravager, then fish the Arcbound Slith back from the ‘heap and play it. The Tank gets a couple more counters, and I pass. Having hardly missed a land drop, Sam sits before 10 Swamps, and mises a Profane Command. She has just enough land to hit me for 8 damage- in other words, lethal.

Game Two

On the play, I drop an Island and pass. Sam gets out an early critter in the form of a Festering Goblin. I play a second Island, then watch Sam play a Leechridden Swamp and swing in for 1. My hand is congested- my only mana sources are for Blue and I’ve some expensive cards in hand, so I am hoping for some Myr or other land to come take the pressure off.

Turn 3, no luck- I trot out a Seat of the Synod I’d hoped to save for other interactions later. I play a Serum Tank for lack of anything better, and pass. Sam swings in again, then summons a Shepherd of Rot. So far, both decks are underwhelming, and I’m chagrined as I miss my land drop on turn 4, dropping a vulnerable Wizard Replica (vulnerable as his counter-ability needs one Blue mana to activate, and I’m tapped out). For her part, Sam hits me with a Syphon Mind, and I pitch a near-useless Pentad Prism.

My fortunes change, though, beginning on turn 5. I’m able to deploy a Master of Etherium after laying down an Ancient Den, who enters play as a 5/5. The best Sam comes up with is Rotting Rats (I toss my Suntouched Myr, Sam her Withered Wretch). I return fire on turn 6, swining in with the Master and the Replica for 7, then get a bargain price through Affinity for a Qumulox (paying 3 instead of 8). In desperation Sam lays down a Grave Pact, but with two of my beaters having evasion it’s hardly a deterrent. After swinging in for another 7 (this time leaving the Master at home and using the Qumulox), Sam scoops after drawing no answer.

Game Three

The tie-breaker begins, and the first round flashes by on land drops, though we don’t have long to wait for threats. Sam plays a turn-2 Dregscape Zombie, and I reply with a Leaden Myr. The next turn Sam swings in for damage. My Myr is there for the utility and stays at home, but I do manage an Arcbound Crusher.

After casting a Festering Goblin, a turn-4 Syphon Mind has me pitching my Keep Watch, but if I thought my hand was clogged in game two I should have counted my blessings: Darksteel Forge in my opening grip, then drawing into Bosh, Iron Golem– two of the deck’s most expensive cards (and early option-limiters). Thankfully I’m not as hamstrung by mana, and my Crusher grows quickly with the timely help of a Serum Tank and Vault of Whispers. Seeing the opening, I swing in with both the Crusher and the Myr for 4. We’re dead even at 16.

Sam plays a turn 5 Phyrexian Ghoul, then passes. I drop a Skeleton Shard, add a counter to the Crusher and swing in for another 4, taking Sam to 12. Sam returns the favour with the Ghoul, eating the Goblin for a last-second pump (and sniping my Leaden Myr when the Goblin hits the graveyard).

Not sitting still, Sam deploys another threat- the Corpse Harvester- on turn 6, swinging in to even us up with her Ghoul and Zombie. I cast the Door to Nothingness for no reason other than to add a counter to the Crusher, not having had a land drop in the last two turns.

Turn 7 arrives, and Sam plays a Gravedigger, returning her Festering Goblin to hand and then casting it. She attacks with her Ghoul and Zombie duo. The Ghoul gets in for 2, but I block the Zombie with my Crusher. Waste not, want not- Sam sacs the Zombie instead to the Corpse Harvester, allowing her to tutor for a Swamp and Nefashu. For my part, I play a Lodestone Myr (adding a counter to the Crusher) and swing for 6. Sam gang-blocks with the Goblin and the Gravedigger to reduce the Trample damage, and is down to 9.

Turn 8 sees a surge from Sam, with Nefashu and- thanks to a Dark Ritual– a 7/7 Soulless One as well. I play an Arsenal Thresher (revealing the Forge and Bosh in my hand for 2 +1/+1 counters) and swing in with my 7/7 Crusher. Sam has little option but to buy time, and takes the trade for the Soulless One. Still, unlike the Zombie my Crusher is Modular, and its counters are dumped unceremoniously on my Lodestone Myr. The play breaks Sam’s back. Although she tries in vain to battle back with an Incremental Blight next turn, she just has no answer to the Lodestone Myr and scoops.

Final Analysis

The first thing I noticed with delight is how well-balanced these two decks were against one another. Both of them follow a similar trajectory (smaller critters leading to bigger, more synergistic ones), and the matches were very different and unpredictable, which makes for a lot of fun.

Metallic Dreams is a very solid deck in its own right. A number of times throughout the three matches I found myself looking at different options in my hand, different avenues I could choose to lead my deck down. In game two, for instance, my Master of Etherium would no doubt be heartened to know that I was preapring to deploy the Nuisance Engine in my hand (which would crank out 0/1 Pest tokens… which the Master would buff to 1/2’s… which in turn would buff the Master). Sam’s Grave Pact forced me to abandon a ground-based strategy and ride the Qumulox to victory, but it was comforting knowing I had the flexibility in reserve.

The synergies of the deck may well be its strongest feature. So often cards I had in play were buffing or bolstering other cards I’d already cast- this sort of strategy makes the deck ever more incrementally efficient and can give it a real edge. It also gets high marks for novelty- for one who was not around for Mirrodin Block, having an almost fully artifact deck was a joy to play (I’d have to go back to Antiquities to remember a time I played in an environment so saturated with Artifacts).

For those who haven’t had the opportunity to visit Mirrodin- and with Scars of Mirrodin coming up around the bend- this deck comes highly recommended.

Pros: Superb deck synergy; multiple paths to victory; solidly varied gameplay from one game to the next; good card selection

Cons: Lots of triggers and ‘things to remember’ can be a nuisance for the unfocused or forgetful mage; virtually nonexistent removal means you’ll be doing most of your killing in the often-unpredictable red zone

FINAL GRADE: 4.75/5.0

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