Rise of the Eldrazi: Invading Spawn Review (Part 2 of 2)
After the poor experience with Leveler’s Glory, I was eager to see if perhaps Wizards did a better job representing Rise of the Eldrazi’s theme of Eldrazi Spawn. The deck upon analysis seemed strong but flawed, vulnerable to an early assault. It also seemed to lack the tools stall effectively, although its removal package was very solid. Still, there is no substitute for playtesting to grasp how a deck plays out, and with that in mind I challenged Sam to the customary three matches for a write-up. Sam grabbed the White-Green Totem Power, and prepared to do battle.
Sam and I both have chosen slower-paced decks and it’s obvious- both turn 1 and 2 pass without a play. Turn 3, Sam lays down a Sporecap Spider, while I match with a Lavafume Invoker. Turn 4 sees Sam adding a Prized Unicorn and Ornithopter, while I draw first blood by sending in the Invoker. I follow up with a Howling Banshee, one of my favourite preconstructed staples, and we’re off with a 15-17 game.
A second Sporecap Spider takes its place along the first on the following turn, and I’m not entirely displeased. Invading Spawn certainly has ways to kill in the red zone, but it also has enough tools to operate just fine in the late game. For my part, I swing in with the Banshee and Invoker. A Spider blocks the Banshee, but the Invoker is let through for 2. I summon a Bloodthrone Vampire and pass.
Turn 6 and Sam attempts her first aura, a Mammoth Umbra onto her Prized Unicorn- an unlucky selection as it draws the Lightning Bolt from my hand. Chagrined, Sam swings for two with her Spiders, and we’re tied up at 13 life. Over to me, I deploy an Emrakul’s Hatcher, adding three 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn tokens to the board. I then swing in with the Invoker, Banshee, and Vampire for another 5 damage, grinding away at Sam’s life total. Sam blocks the Vampire with her Ornithopter, but I chomp a Spawn to give the Vampire +2/+2 and ground it.
With Spawn now on the board, Sam makes a good play on turn 7 and puts my Vampire under Pacifism. I keep the pressure on, heading right back into the red zone with the Invoker and Banshee, nowjoined by the Hatcher as well. Sam blocks the Hatcher and Banshee with the pair of Spiders, but obviously did not count on me having the resources to pop the Lavafume Invoker’s activated ability. Now with +3/+0 to the entire team, both Spiders crumple underfoot and the Invoker hits for 5. Sam’s at 3 life with her back against the wall now.
Her next turn is a blank, but interestingly she does not scoop. I shrug, lay down a Magmaw and alpha strike with my beaters. Sam produces a Harmless Assault, but I’ve enough mana open to pop three of my critters to Magmaw and claim victory.
Sam surprises with an early play, a turn-1 Soul’s Attendant, and with me playless on my turn she swings in with it to score a hit on turn 2. Passing back to me, I put a stop to such shenanigans with an Ogre Sentry.
Sam’s turn 3 is a blank, but I have an option and lay down the Lavafume Invoker. A blank again for Sam on turn 4 as she untaps, draws, drops a land and passes, then I swing in with the Invoker for 2 before playing the Howling Banshee. Although she’d caught it for the Ogre, Sam’s missed her may-trigger on the Attendant for both the Invoker and Banshee, so we’re at 16 life each at the end of turn 4.
Struggling for a play, Sam lays down an Eland Umbra on the Soul’s Attendant on the next turn. I swing in with the Banshee and play Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief. This time, Sam remembers to gain a life, and is at 14.
Sam’s ready with the Pacifism on Drana, but a pity it’s not an Arrest– Drana’s still free to influence the battlefield and is a threat Sam has no answers for. She plays an Elvish Visionary for the extra card, and passes. I go in again with the Banshee, then follow up with Magmaw. Sam’s keeping up on gaining life now, and is again at 14. She goes up even more on turn 7 with a Pelakka Wurm taking her to 22, and all I have is an Emrakul’s Hatcher. It’s as solid a play as I have- if Drana’s going to slay the Wurm, she’s going to need all the mana she can muster.
Turn 8 sees Sam with a second Pacifism, this time for the Banshee. She comes in with the Wurm and I take the 7 damage, down to 9. At the end of her turn, I have just enough mana left over to have Drana drain her Elvish Visionary. Over to me, I swing in with the Hatcher, Magmaw and Invoker for 9. Sam’s reaped a ton of life off the Attendant (4 for the Hatcher and attendant Spawn alone), and is down to 17 now.
But with my mana open, I’m ready to snare the Wurm. As expected, Sam swings in with it and I block with the Ogre Sentry, to soften the blow. I take 4 damage from its Trample, but am able to engage Drana at end of turn to kill it. With one mana remaining, I use it to sac the useless Banshee to Magmaw and send it to Sam’s face. She’s now at 16.
After untapping, I send my ground forces back in, dropping Sam to 7. I then tap out and show the Fireball. She has no answer, and scoops.
Another turn-1 Soul’s Attendant greets Sam to start the game off, but while my hand is solid there’s nothing inexpensive in it whatsoever. Still, I’ve had a pretty good feel for the matchup thus far, and know I’m in little danger of being overrun early. After being attacked by the Attendant three times, I plug the hole with a turn 4 Ogre Sentry.
To be fair, Sam’s hardly off to a flying start herself. Turns 2-5 were blanks, with her just laying land. After I land Magmaw on my half of turn 5, she manages an Elvish Visionary on turn 6, and passes turn at 23 life. I gift her with another 4 when I play Emrakul’s Hatcher, but then send Magmaw in to square the deal. Sam finally stabilises a bit on turn 7 when she drops the pair of Sporecap Spiders. I respond to the first one by offering up a Spawn to Magmaw to snipe off her Soul’s Attendant. Back to me, I attack with Magmaw and the Hatcher, and she uses the Spiders to block them both. I then pop the remaining two Spawn and the Ogre Sentry to Magmaw to finish the job, and both Spiders head to the graveyard. Deja vu all over again!
This batters Sam, but she’s not through yet. She drops both a Spider and Boar Umbra onto her Elvish Visionary, then sends it in as a 5/5 taking me to 12. That hurts, but it hurts Sam even more when next turn I untap, Act of Treason her Visionary, send it in with my ground troops to pound her for 14, then sac it at to my Magmaw to hit her for one more. Since sacrificing is not destruction, the Umbras on it can’t trigger, and just like that her back is broken.
A desperation Angel’s Mercy gives her a glimmer of hope, but it’s snuffed out next turn when my army pounds across and is followed up once again by the Fireball.
Thoughts & Analysis
Although Invading Spawn took all three games quite handily, they frequently felt closer than they seemed. In large part this was due to the fact that Sam’s Totems could be painful if allowed to resolve, and although blessed with solid removal in the deck very little of it is instant speed. That said, to be fair the apparent slowness of Totem Power certainly didn’t help its cause, as once I hit the 5-mana mark the deck was virtually unstoppable. If my opponent couldn’t do the bulk of their legwork in the early and mid-game, they were at something of a disadvantage.
Still, options like Magmaw and Drana really smooth over the removal suite’s rough spots, and either one of them in play can really swing a match.
On the downside, earlier misgivings about the lopsidedness of the deck still apply. The deck is shockingly vulnerable to an early swarm strategy, and had Sam selected even the mediocre Leveler’s Glory deck the right start could have turned the tables right around. Spawn could probably benefit from a few more Doom Blades or even Ogre Sentries while it looked to get its legs under it.
On the whole, though, this deck did a far better job selling me on the fun of Rise of the Eldrazi than did Leveler’s Glory. It was a blast working through the deck’s intricacies and options with the Eldrazi Spawn, and the tension between popping them for mana and using them as creatures didn’t feel parasitic or limiting. There won’t be much fun in getting gang-rushed early and flailing to stabilise, but against slow decks Invading Spawn can deliver a real beating.
Hits: Does a great job conveying the flavour and themes of Rise of the Eldrazi; superb synergy between cards, even ones that didn’t directly interact with the Spawn (Act of Treason + sac outlets, for instance)
Misses: Mana curve too end-heavy, leading to bad draws and slow starts; very vulnerable in the early game
FINAL GRADE: 4.25/5.00