Anthologies: Red/Black Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)
Delighted at putting the prospect playing Anthologies behind us, Sam and I cracked open the deck boxes for the last time and brought the decks to battle. The disappointments of the Green/White deck were not far outclassed by those in the Red/Black, but I was mollified, at least, at the prospect of playing burn. Jimi had had little luck in drawing it when she helmed the deck, and I had hopes that my luck would be the better.
The early game is entirely mine as I drop down a Goblin Balloon Brigade, Mogg Raider and Uthden Troll on turns 1-3, while Sam can only lay land and watch. Finally, she draws into an Infantry Veteran on turn 4, and plays her first creature of the game. After attacking, I play a Black Knight. Having no defense has let my forces run wild, and by end of turn Sam’s at 13 life.
Still, Sam seems to find her footing after playing the Veteran, and follows it up with an Erhnam Djinn. That stops my offense cold, and all I can manage is to ‘inflate the toad’ and send in the Brigade for 1.
To start off turn 6, Sam declares the Brigade to be the lucky recipients of the Djinn’s Forestwalk bestowal, which wouldn’t change for the rest of the game. She swings in with the Djinn (I block and Regenerate my Troll), then plays Samite Healer before passing. For my part, I push my Black Knight and Brigade into the red zone, taking Sam to 9.
Sam keeps her momentum going with a turn 7 Order of the White Shield. I swing in for 1 with the Balloon Brigade, and sure enough Sam momentarily forgets she has the Healer in play and I get away with one. It’s now 8-20. I follow it up with a 4-point Goblin Offensive, giving me a quartet of 1/1’s to the field.
Sam next deploys a Youthful Knight, and the red zone is starting to look a bit crowded. I draw into a Nevinyrral’s Disk and play it immediately, seeing the battle plan unfold straightaway. Passing back to Sam, she overcommits with a Serra Angel, a risky gambit with the Disk in play.
Next turn, I set my strike in motion, swinging in with the Goblin Balloon Brigade. I use the Mogg Raider to sac all my Goblins to the Brigade, nailing Sam for 7 points damage (6 after she triggers the Healer), and she’s down to 2. I pop the Disk, Regenerate the Troll, and play Cuombajj Witches. Sam draws… and scoops.
Another slow start for Sam, who again doesn’t manage a Creature until turn 4 (a Woolly Spider). By then I’ve played a Knight of Stromgald and Goblin Hero, and am again off to an early lead. On turn 4 I drop Feast of the Unicorn onto my Knight (could there be a fouler act?), and pass turn. The score is 18-20.
Sam squeezes out a turn 5 Scavenger Folk, then passes. I swing in hard with the Knight, pumping it once for 7 damage, following up with Mogg Flunkies. Back-footed, Sam casts Pegasus Stampede with Buyback, and puts a 1/1 pony token into play. I swing in again with the Knight, and take the scalp of the Scavenger Folk as Sam shoves them in front of her to take the hit. The Flunkies get through, though, and she’s at 8 life.
A turn 7 Freewind Falcon offers her little hope of respite, but eager to go down swinging Sam pushes the Pegasus into the red zone, nicking me for 1. By this point, though, I’ve got a grip full of burn, and decide to go that route rather than watch Sam chump-block me turn after turn. A turn 7 Pyrotechnics and turn 8 Fireball to the face may not be the fanciest play, but it works.
Undaunted, Sam comes back for the last game with better prospects in a turn 3 Spectral Bears. I’d gotten a Black Knight out on turn 2, so the Bears are on-line and ready to go. Figuring I’m already committed, I play a turn 3 Strip Mine and whisk away her only Forest before playing Knight of Stromgald. An off-chance but a lucky one, as the Forest will never be replaced for the rest of the game.
First blood is drawn on turn 4 as Sam swings with the Bears taking me to 17. I respond with an attack for 4, then cast Goblin Recruiter and go fishing in my library. I end up rigging my next four draws to be Mogg Flunkies, Mogg Fanatic, Goblin King, and Goblin Mutant, figuring I could set up my board before dropping the Lord, then swinging in hard.
Sam swings in again on turn 5, then plays an Icatian Javelineer. I return fire for 5, taking the game to 11-14 with me marginally ahead. The following turn sees Sam relentless with the Bear, but I get it back after she Swords to Plowshares my Flunkies. Then a Pegasus Stampede (no buyback) precedes her end of turn and she passes.
The Goblins keep coming, of course, and I crap out a Mogg Fanatic and Goblin Balloon Brigade. I take Sam down to 6 with my two Knights, pumping the Knight of Stromgald once with my open Black mana.
Backed into a corner, Sam drops an Armageddon next turn.
Her timing is fortuitious, as I draw my now-uncastable Goblin King, followed by my now-uncastable Goblin Mutant. Sam’s retrenched, and finally the Earl Grey kicks in and a candle flickers to life above my head. I send in both Knights, forcing Sam to block the Knight of Stromgald with her Bears. I sac the Mogg Fanatic to do 1 damage to the Bears, then activate the Knight’s First Strike, letting it safely slay the Bears. Sam’s down to 4 life, and with her only creatures in White she has no play remaining.
Although my initial thoughts were that this deck was marginally worse than its Green/White counterpart, upon further exploration I’m concluding that it is slightly better. With a great deal of both decks’ efficacy hinging on the Protection critters (they were a factor in each game), it occurred to me that the Red/Black deck had the advantage there. While all prot-critters could safely block and be unblockable to Creatures of its protected colour, that left only spells as a way to spot-remove these nuisances. My Knights were protected against White, which means Sam only had recourse to Green to directly eliminate them, which of course Green is woeful at.
Meanwhile, Sam’s prot-Black Knights were easy prey to all of Red’s burn. Being immune to all Sam’s removal let my Knights run amok, and they ended up doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.
That said, this still is not a very good deck, though I feel that its flaws are the same as the Green/White deck’s, which were covered in its own the playtest and final analysis. They certainly apply here.
Comments from readers in the previous Anthologies piece charitably tended to feel that this was “early Wizards” work and might be better viewed through that lens. I’d be readily inclined to agree were it not for the fact that Anthologies was released in 1999, and if you look at 1997’s Tempest preconstructeds (the very first precon decks tied to expansions) Anthologies absolutely withers by comparison. Perhaps less growing pains, then, than a forgivable (if somewhat miserable) misstep.
As before, unless you’re a meticulous collector of the game, you’re better off giving this one a miss unless you luck into finding it at about $10. And even then, I remain unconvinced that you’re not better served getting something else.
Hits: Hymn to Tourach is one of the game’s all-time best discard spells; decent Tribal synergy with the Goblins
Misses: As with the Green/White deck, almost everything else; terrible card selection; patently unfun to play
FINAL GRADE: 1.05/5.00