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November 12, 2010

1

Rise of the Eldrazi: Eldrazi Arisen Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Like an old Godzilla movie, our matchup today was to be a true battle of the gargantuan as Edlrazi Arisen wages war against Sam and the Red/Black Invading Spawn. As both decks are weak in the early game to ramp for late game might, neither one of us could expect to get a quick kill, leaving plenty of time and space for the worst each deck had to offer to be thrown at the other.

Sam and I sat down to battle, and here are the notes from our titanic clash.

Game One

Sam starts out on the play, and leads off with a Mountain, then a second Mountain. I manage an early Forest, then follow up with a Mountain of my own and a Runed Servitor to get some beats on the board.

Still nothing from Sam (other than land) on turn three, so I swing in with the Servitor and follow up with some early defense in the form of a Sporecap Spider. Sam’s hitting every land drop but still has no play, and after swinging in for 5 more on turn 4 I drop a second Sporecap Spider. Things are looking good on defense, though I’d welcome a little more teeth up front.

Then on turn 5, Sam’s deck starts in with an Emrakul’s Hatcher, adding 3 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn to the board. Although I’ve msised my turn 4 and 5 land drops, the Awakening Zone I cast next should recover some lost ground. Sam swings in on turn 6 with the Hatcher, I suspect a trap but block with a Spider anyway. No trap. Sam plays a Dragon Whelp, then passes.

Now into my third turn without a land, I pop an Eldrazi Spawn for the mana and play Ondu Giant, who fetches me a second Mountain. Passing back to Sam, she swings in with the Whelp and pumps it up to 5 power, taking me to 15. Not wanting to pitch a Spider for no gain, I let it pass through unmolested.

My hand’s a bit congested- one of the deck’s weaknesses- with a Conquering Manticore, Rapacious One and Akoum Boulderfoot, as well as an Ulamog’s Crusher. Turn 7’s a blank- I pass right back.

Next, Sam keeps the pressure on with a Howling Banshee, and we’re at 12-all. She then attacks with the Whelp, but noting she only has two Mountains open and can’t kill a Spider by pumping the Whelp I place one in harm’s path, taking no damage and keeping my Spider.

The Spawn from the Awakening Zone are a godsend, and I’m almost cursed with abundance. Do I play the Boulderfoot and snipe one of her Spawn tokens, or send a point to the face? Wait for her to get an Eldrazi and use the Manticore to get first blood with it? Work on ramp with the Rapacious One? Or save my Spawn and cash out for the Crusher? Figuring a turn’s delay won’t hurt, I play a freshly-drawn Nest Invader, add a Spawn token and pass.

Turn 9, and Sam’s on the warpath. She comes in hard with the Banshee and Whelp in the air. I block the Banshee but let the Whelp through. When she only pumps it once (doing 3 damage total), I know something’s up. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief hits the table next, and Sam passes to me.

Using the Manticore to steal Drana and swing in is tempting, but that would leave Drana up, and with Sam’s abundant mana that will be nasty almost immediately. I opt to Flame Slash her from the sky instead (cursing the lack of Mountains that would allow me to do both), then pass back.

My delay proves fatal, as Sam’s next play is a Fireball to the face for lethal- she has exactly enough.

Game Two

Another characteristically slow start sees the first play of the game on turn 3 with my Sporecap Spider, followed by a turn 4 Nest Invader. I’m hitting every drop this time, but then Sam is as well. Unfortunately for Sam, they’re all Swamps, and by turn 6 she’s taken unanswered swings from my critters and is having to actually discard from her hand.

On turn 7, I keep swinging in (Sam’s at 11 life now), and pop my Spawn to play Rapacious One, keen to ramp up even faster. Sam finally lands a Mountian, and drops an Emrakul’s Hatcher, giving her some additional mana and/or chump blockers, as needed. I follow up with a Conquering Manticore, borrowing her hatcher for the round, then swigning in with everything. Sam throws her Spawn in the path of my beaters, letting the Rapacious One through (a smart play as it’s the only one with Trample). She’s now at 6 life, and I use my new crop of Spawn to cast Hand of Emrakul before passing.

Sam Corpsehatches the Hand, then pops four Spawn to bring out a Hand of her own. It’s impressive, but it’s not enough. I Flame Slash her Hatcher, and send everything in. Sam just doesn’t have enough blockers.

Game Three

A bit of an earlier game this time, as we both drop land on turn 1 but have turn 2 plays. Sam starts with a Bloodthrone Vampire, while I bring out a Nest Invader with a Spawn token. Turn 3 and Sam’s back with a Gloomhunter, while I’m ramping with a Growth Spasm.

First blood is Sam’s as she sends over the Gloomhunter on turn 4, but I’m still building up. A Kozilek’s Predator not only gives me a 3/3 body, but brings my Spawn count to four. Nex turn, Sam swings back in with the Gloomhunter, taking me to 16, then follows up with an Ogre Sentry.

So far, we’ve both had some success finding answers to one another’s titans, but it was only a matter of time before someone was caught empty-handed. I play a turn 5 Ondu Giant, then pop four Spawn to bring out the Hand of Emrakul. Back to Sam to start turn 6, she swings in with the bat for 2 more, then… nothing. She has no answer, and this early in the game that’s virtually a death sentence. Each permanent sacrificed to Annihilate is sorely needed to deal with the problem itself, and a solution will only get further and further away (as compared to later in the game, when you typically have a few permanents to spare).

I send in the Hand, leading the charge of the Predator and Giant, and Sam sacs her Ogre Sentry to Annihilate- land is just too precious to pitch. The Vampire takes one for the team and hurls itself in front of the charging Eldrazi, and Sam takes only 5 on the turn. She’s now at 15. I add to my forces with a Goblin Piker and Runed Servitor, and pass.

Sam drops a Swamp, then plays a Pawn of Ulamog. That’s all she’s got. I cast the Conquering Manticore to steal the Pawn, and rage in with my troops for 13 damage. Sam very reluctantly offers up a Mountain to Annihilate, and that’s more or less her death knell. At 2 life, there’s no card in the deck that can save her now. She draws a land, and scoops.

Thoughts & Analysis

Despite some fun match-ups, I’m still not at all sold on the ‘business model’ of Eldrazi Arisen, which is essentially a clone of Invading Spawn but with a slightly more robust early game defense. Both decks throw away the early and transition-to-midgame by the wayside in their excitement to get you to the endgame and their brand of “Battlecruiser Magic.” And because of that, they are very prone to falling so far behind that they can’t hope to catch up. Imagine ramping like a fiend to get out an Eldrazi, just to have it Corpsehatched. These aren’t the mythic rare legendary Eldrazi, which have built-in protections to justify their insane casting costs, but close enough.

That said, I love “Battlecruiser Magic,” and Rise of the Eldrazi on that basis was a very successful set. These decks simply abdicated their responsibility to shepherd you in good shape into the game space where you could begin dropping your bombs. More Ogre Sentries, more Sporecap Spiders, more removal in general and now you’re talking. But the pantry here is mostly bare.

This was a fun match-up because both decks operate on the same wavelength. Neither one was capable of really blowing out the other, so we didn’t feel threatened early and could develop as we drew. While fun, it’s a bit misleading, and needs to be taken in context. The fast, aggressive precon deck of Rise- Leveler’s Glory- is a steaming pile of mediocrity, and no true gauge of what a fast deck is capable of. Want to see what a turn-3 kill feels like? Go challenge your mate who plays a tier-1 RDW deck. Not a fair comparison, of course, but the principle is obvious.

Moving on to the positives, though, this deck was a step up from its partner, Invading Spawn. Green really is a ramper’s paradise, and cards like Ondu Giant and Growth Spasm really helped here. There was a sense when Rise was released that despite Black’s inclusion as a Spawn-colour, it really didn’t pack the same punch as Red and Green. If these precons are any judge, I’d have to agree. It’s a ton of fun watching an Eldrazi hit the table, and this deck is your best bet for it.

Hits: Viable late-game strategy to bring an Eldrazi to the table; some ramp options to accelerate the process above and beyond “more Eldrazi Spawn”; defensive improvement over Invading Spawn

Misses: Still whiffs on the early game- defenses almost nonexistent; mediocre removal package

FINAL SCORE: 4.2/5.0

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