Scars of Mirrodin: Deadspread Review (Part 1 of 2)
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 Blade– one). 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!