Scars of Mirrodin: Relic Breaker Review (Part 2 of 2)
If there’s one unwritten rule for our reviews that’s developed over time at Ertai’s Lament, it’s that just as each deck is reviewed just once, so it will be in opposition just once. This left poor Sam in the unenviable position of having to square off against Relic Breaker (the most stridently anti-artifact deck in Scars) while piloting Metalcraft (the most artifact-dependant deck in Scars). I console her by fibbing slightly, telling her that each deck is designed to ‘hold its own’ against the others in the same set. This is something that one tends to believe in principle until one is using the mono-White Kor Armory against Rise of the Vampires and a Malakir Bloodwitch hits the table, but it’s good enough for now. Sam gamely starts to shuffle, and we’re off to the races.
On the play, Sam drops a Mountain and a Memnite to get things moving, then passes to me. I also have a turn-1 play, a Panic Spellbomb, after playing a land of my own. Back to Sam, she draws first blood with the Memnite, then follows up with an Embersmith. Although my deck isn’t weenie-heavy, there are a few 1-toughness creatures who’d rather not come down under fire. I play one of these- an Iron Myr– and pass back.
Turn 3, Sam drops a Sylvok Lifestaff, and equips it to her Memnite before swinging in with both beaters, taking me down to 15 life. I cast a Vulshok Heartstoker, pumping my Myr up for the turn and swinging back for 3. Sam looks to keep the pressure on, and swings in with everything the following turn. It’s a risky play, and one that costs her the Embersmith as I gladly trade it for the Heartstoker, taking 2 damage. Sam then plays a Golem’s Heart and passes.
I play a Sylvok Replica, giving Sam back the life she lost when I went in with my Iron Myr thanks to her Golem’s Heart. Back to her, she continues dropping equipment with an Accorder’s Shield (+1 life) and passes. I swing back in with the Sylvok Replica, then trot out the Molder Beast.
Turn 6 sees Sam continue with the artifacts, this time deployign an Echo Circlet (+1 life), but still not in any position to be aggressive. It’s worth noting that turn 2 was the last time Sam had a land drop, and she’s actually managing to hold her own a bit here with only two lands. Back to me, I trigger my Panic Spellbomb (with card draw) to keep her Memnite from blocking, allowing me to run in for 7. Sam’s down to 11 life, but gets one back when I play a second Sylvok Replica before passing.
Turn 7 sees the Memnite strap on the Accorder’s Shield after topdecking a third land, but Sam has no other play. I attack with both Sylvok Replicas and the Molder Beast. Sam chumps to the Beast, but I make her pay with a 4-point Untamed Might on an unblocked Replica. By the time the dust clears, Sam is at 5 life with no defender.
She remedies this the turn following with a Riddlesmith, then Galvanic Blasts my Molder Beast after passing over to me. I go in with my Iron Myr and two Replicas. Sam trades the Riddlesmith for the Myr, taking her to three. The Fireball from my hand finishes the job.
Another early build-up sees Sam with a Silver Myr on turn 2, and a turn 3 Trinket Mage fetching her a Memnite. Meanwhile, I’ve managed a Panic Spellbomb, Iron Myr, and Sylvok Replica in the same three turns, and things are looking relatively even.
Eager to cash it in with a somewhat land-heavy hand, I pop off the Spellbomb to get my Myr and Replica past her Glider for 2, tying us up at 18-all. The card I draw is a gem- a Flameborn Hellion which perfectly matches the one already in my hand. I couldn’t have picked a better time to be a little mana-flooded, as both will arrive right on time.
Sam turns Metalcraft back on with a turn 5 Golem Foundry, swings in for 5 and drops an Iron Myr. With a Myr of my own pitching in, I squeeze out the Hellion which leads the charge for 6 damage. Sam seems happy to stabilise after I end my turn, laying down the Argent Sphinx after bashing in for 5 more. It’s an aggressive matchup, and I’m now at 8 life with Sam at 12.
My second Hellion comes on-line next, and I swing hard for 11. Sam’s Iron Myr chumps one Hellion, but she’s still cut in half by the other attackers. Back to her, she plays a turn 7 Island and passes. I untap, and prepare to swing in again after playing a Viridian Revel. I go in with both Hellions, and Sam has answers. She blocks one with the Sphinx, then activates its Metalcraft ‘phasing’ ability to avoid the trade. To the other, she offers up her early Trinket Mage, who explodes in a shower of gore. Still, Sam’s avoided taking any damage this round and continues to hold on.
She again has no play on turn 8, and at the end of her turn I sac the Sylvok Replica to snipe her Snapsail Glider. Sam can only delay the inevitable with her Sphinx, and she quickly falls.
Although Sam has no first-turn play, I trot out the trusty Panic Spellbomb once again, though it’s even as she gets a turn 2 critter (the Riddlesmith) and I have no play after a Forest. Sam’s build-up gets more impressive from there, with a turn 3 Iron Myr and turn 4 Silver Myr, looting from the Riddlesmith each time. She’s also getting in some early beats, and by turn 4 I’m at 15 life.
Metalcraft comes on-line for Sam on turn 5 with a Chrome Steed, but my turn 5 Arc Trail snipes both her Riddlesmith and Silver Myr, turning it back off. I swing in again for 5, and Sam is now at 10 life.
Turn 6 sees Sam play a Rusted Relic, which trips Metalcraft back on. Her buffed Chrome Steed wheels back, and now it’s a neck-and-neck 10-11 game. For my part, I play a Sylvok Replica and pass.
Sam takes advantage of Metalcraft when she casts the Blade-Tribe Berserkers, and I err in my timing with the Sylvok Replica sacrifice (in response to their casting would have blunted the Berserkers). Still, by killing her Chrome Steed, Metalcraft turns back off, like two kids fighting over a lightswitch. I’d considered destroying her Rusted Relic, but felt the Steed was the better play. Sure the Relic can come back with another artifact, but for now it’s inert. Sam swings hard with the Berserkers, and I offer up my Heartstoker as a sacrifice.
Not without recourse, I fire back with a Flameborn Hellion, forcing Sam to give up her Myr as a chump blocker. Now turn 8, Sam deploys a Snapsail Glider, but plays it safe and holds off on an attack. I cast Asceticism, having enough mana left to regenerate my Hellion if needed. I swing in with them, and Sam chumps with the Berserkers. No regen needed.
Sam continues bringing out defenders with a turn 9 Chrome Steed before passing, but I switch off Metalcraft once again by Fireballing her Glider. It’s a risk, but I feel I have enough on the board to carry the day without needing direct damage. Her now-smaller Steed dies to the Flameborn Hellion.
Turn 10, a hapless Sam can only play a Sylvok Lifestaff and pass. I swing for 8 with the Hellion and Vulshok Replica, then sac the Replica for lethal.
Thoughts & Analysis
Although in three games I was fortunate not to have dreadful opening hands (the worst being game two, where I kept a Hellion, Iron Myr, Panic Spellbomb and four land), the danger there is very real. With a very back-heavy distribution of casting cost, Relic Breaker takes a lot of risks. Again, be prepared to mulligan more often than with the other decks- it will win you games.
Performance-wise, the deck is solidly effective at doing what it is designed to do. Metalcraft is graced with a ton of artifacts, but Relic Breaker kept things rather firmly under control. At no point in these games did I feel like things were moving too far beyond my ability to suppress. That said, I can only wonder how it might have performed against, say, Phyrexian Poison, where artifacts are far less common and conventional creatures are the main avenue of threat. Relic Breaker might well be the deck most dependant upon the Scars of Mirrodin environment, and therefore the one that would suffer the most facing decks outside of it.
Hits: Devastating artifact control; good synergy between cards
Misses: Suboptimal creature removal; potentially crippling back-end mana curve; effectiveness heavily conditional on what opponent is playing
FINAL GRADE: 3.75/5.00