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October 9, 2010


Scars of Mirrodin: Deadspread Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

Doing for Proliferate what Phyrexian Poison did for Infect is our next Scars of Mirrodin deck up for review: Deadspread. The most Creature-light deck of the five, it packs in -1/-1 counters and effects to take advantage of the new mechanic.

A keyword as conditional as this one is consigned to be somewhat feast-or-famine. A Thrummingbird with no counters to spread is a 1/1 Flyer for two mana, which isn’t all that frightening. Likewise, a Steady Progress is a dead draw until you have something on the board to work with. That presents a very noticeable tension- “use it now” for limited effect versus “use it later” for potentially greater. Any strategy based around a mid-to-late game occurrence (the appearance of counters worth Proliferating) demands two things: first, an answer to the early game (ramp, removal, stalling tactics, sweepers, what have you). Secondly, a patient pilot. Let’s see what Deadspread brings to the table.

Unite the Flesh

To begin, let’s look at the deck’s rather deceptive mana curve:

‘Deceptive,’ because although seemingly packed with creatures at the front-end, many of the creatures are really alternate effects attached to a body for added versatility.

The pair of Fume Spitters are simply -1/-1 counter delivery systems, while the four Myr (two Silver, two Leaden) are a bit of mana ramp. Finally, the pair of Thrummingbirds are simply alternate ways to Proliferate, which is otherwise quite expensive in this deck.

What does that leave? Two Maritime Guard– hardly reassuring.

The lonely pair of three-drops don’t make matters much better, but they do help. The Moriok Reaver is no steal for his mana cost, but you may find that his asymmetrical power helps as much on defense as offense. You’ll win few games on his back, but he’s another body to put between you and your opponent while you construct your Proliferation machine.

The good news is, if you’ve made it this far you’re halfway there, as things dramatically improve at the higher casting costs. A Skinrender is tremendously versatile here- it can kill on its way in or severely weaken an opponent’s beater, the latter of which providing a crack for Proliferate to grow. The Darkslick Drake is a nice, fat body in the air- a great defender as well as a moderate threat- and its card replacement is added gravy.

At the top-end of the curve, you’ve got twin Sky-Eel Schools which give you a free “loot” upon entry, a somewhat misplaced Harbor Serpent and the premium rare, Carnifex Demon. The Serpent actually has some upside here in the fact that at worst it’s a 5/5 defender, but the hope is that by the time you’ve made it to six mana you’ve got more effective plays than that. Only in the longest (or ‘luckiest’) of games will the Serpent be an offensive beater for you- his attack restriction is best mitigated in a mono-colour deck (which this obviously is not).

The deck’s apex predator- Carnifex Demon- is a house: a 6/6 Flyer for six mana after a nifty little trick that throws the door open wide for your Proliferate to take over. Although you stand to lose here as well, like any other golobal-impact card the trick is to play it when the hammer comes down disproportionately on your foe. Proliferate helps ensure that even if played at dead-evens, you’ll come out ahead… a nice touch, and great selection at Rare.

Of course, a paltry pair of Thrummingbirds are hardly enough to get this engine moving- let’s move now to the noncreature selection.

A Threat Few Yet Understand

The noncreature cards of Deadspread can be widely divided into three different categories: counters, proliferators, and everything else.

The deck gives you a number of options to start the march of counters. A pair of Instill Infections get the job done at a rather steep cost (four mana), but at least cantrip themselves when cast. A singleton Trigon of Corruption is a repeatable source of those critical counters, and itself benefits from Proliferate as well. Lastly, two Contagion Clasps and a Contagion Engine are all-in-one packages, capable of getting coutners out and spreading them, with the Engine being particularly efficient at it.

Aside from the Contagion cards and Thrummingbirds, there are a couple other ways to ‘spread the good news.’ Steady Progress is the least painful- three mana for a dose, and you even get a card out of the deal. The Throne of Geth also gets the job done, but you have to sacrifice an Artifact in the process. Since the only Artifact Creatures in this mana-hungry deck are the Myr, they’re not the best candidates for the Throne. Most of your other Artifacts would be hard to lose as well once you’ve gone through the trouble of getting them out, so there’s no easy answers for this card. Use it as a “break glass in case of emergencies” resource, but in truth the deck would probably have either been better served without it, or with a way to make Artifact Creature tokens.

Otherwise, you’ll be paying four mana a pop for Proliferating, making it a rather costly prospect.

The rest of the cards run the gamut. Your removal here is a joke (one Doom Bladeone). Twisted Image is a combat trick that we’d have gladly flushed for a second Doom Blade. Culling Dais wants us to imagine that after struggling to get to the midgame and have our engine in play, we’ll have enough creatures lying about (in the deck with the least creatures, mind!) that we can spare one per turn for card drawing. Necrogen Censer isn’t very sexy, but it’s a very solid way for us to do damage to our opponent without having to traverse the red zone, and it synergizes especially well with Proliferate (not really playable otherwise, honestly). Lastly, the Trigon of Thought provides us with much more palatable card drawing, though it’s a bit expensive to deploy.

Here is the final mana curve:

For those of you following along with the decklist, you’ll notice one card has been left out from consideration. This was deliberate.

When we first obtained the precons, we cracked them open and had a few friendlies with them. Having avoided reading the decklists ahead of time, it was grand fun drawing each card and seeing something new. Until on my fourth or fifth draw, when I drew this card. I can’t precisely remember, but I believe my reaction at discovering its inclusion in the deck was something similar to this.

As stated in the beginning of the column, this deck seems very feast-or-famine. If you can get some -1/-1 counters out and if you can get out some Proliferation cards and if you can survive long enough to do both with a very threadbare defense and virtually nonexistent removal suite, then you will probably get the deck’s engine running and pull ahead. It may be one if too many. Join us in two days’ time when we find out the hard way if Deadspread has what it takes!

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. web8970
    Oct 10 2010

    Since having seen the decklists, the Deadspread seemed the most interesting deck to me as it’s focus is on the proliferate mechanic. Other than the straightforward threatening Infect, this one goes a more sneaky way – which is exactly UB’s style. What’s more – and therefore crucial for me as an MTG-casual purist – proliferate deals with counters, a central element in Magic’s history and demands being used with other sets as well.

    Apart from the inferior Strongbox (who ever designed this card?) the deck has a strong card draw subtheme which can never be a downside.

    The generous distribution of -1/-1 counters delivers a strong message to the opponent: See how fragile your creatures are. Controlling, manipulating, all that with an evil glee is exactly what UB does. However, the temptation of power tends to distract from the real goal: counting from 20 to 0.

    Concerning card choices, the Serpent is a nice threat once it hits the board, but what ever does it contribute to the deck’s flavor? The same goes with the Maritime Guards. Although stressing defense, I would rather go with a pair of Necropedes. Not only are they doing a good job in discouraging attacks, but also they spread counters and increment the number of artifacts. As for the Reaver … apart from having a vanilla creature’s smell of a stopgap, SoM has some more interesting cards – not necessarily creatures – to offer. At the cc3-slot the Golem Foundry would be much better suited in this deck than in the Metalcraft one. With a decent amount of proliferating present, you’d be in a position to stampo out tokens on an industrial basis …

    However, as we are in casual here, my personal limits are not set with the Standard format but rather with how much I’m willing to invest in my hobby … Therefore I’m tempted to take the journey straight to Shadowmoor. What would be wrong in adding a few Scars in order to obtain a little seed in counters? Why not enlist Oona’s Gatwarden for defense and Sickle Ripper for offense? And in terms of effectiveness, Skinrender has a hard time competing with Soul Snuffers …

    So much for my few cents on the deck, as always having fun playing and being creative with what we are given, is the reasong we are doing all this here 🙂

    • web8970
      Oct 10 2010

      Supplemental: Just ad Alara’s Puppet Conjurer or Mirrodin’s Nuisance Engine and you’ll be more than happy with the Throne and the Dais 😉

    • Oct 10 2010

      Sadly, I was away from the game when Lorwyn block and all its associated goodies were out, and as yet haven’t managed to score all the precons from it. It would be neat to see, though, there seems like such promise for Proliferate even outside of poison counters. I’ll definitely look up the cards you mentioned here!

      Golem Foundry I was not impressed with, though- its limitations became apparent in the playtest for Metalcraft, which will be up soon. As for the Strongbox, well… we have Doug Beyer to blame:

    • Aidan
      Dec 30 2010

      I immediately thought back to shadowmoor when I saw this deck. It needs Necroskitter!

  2. Hireling
    Oct 10 2010

    I picked up Deadspread last week and have played 5 games with it so far (against other precons). It has a great kernel of a theme, but it really needs some meddling to truly showcase the strength of Proliferate. I agree that something like Golem Foundry would be a fun and effective addition to Deadspread. I would start by stripping most of the creatures out and replacing them. I’d rather see 2-3 Darkslick Drakes and 3-4 Skinrenders form the core of the decks blockers and beaters. A pair of Necrogen Scudders would be a solid replacement for the Moriok Reavers and the Maritime Guard could be swapped out to bring the number of Thrummingbirds to 4. Although I think the deck has plenty of better ways to proliferate. I’m still digging through my meager collection of SoM and M11 to try and mold this deck into something more fun and reliable. Despite its shortcomings, I’m definitely hooked on Proliferate after my few games with Deadspread.


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