Rise of the Eldrazi: Leveler’s Scorn Review (Part 2 of 2)
At last, the final piece of the Rise of the Eldrazi puzzle is about to fall into place, with this review of the remaining intro pack deck Leveler’s Scorn. As you may recall, we began our set review with the underwhelming Leveler’s Glory, and so there’s a bit of poetry in our coming full circle here. Not only is the other Level Up deck ready to take its place on the field of battle, but as it happens Sam will be piloting Leveler’s Glory against it. Here are our notes from this head-to-head matchup of the leveling mechanic.
On the play, Sam drops an Island and passes. I meet her Island with one of my own, then turn it sideways to bring out a Skywatcher Adept. Back to Sam, she responds with an Alluring Siren, while I do a little sifting with a turn 2 See Beyond.
Turn 3 sees the first leveler, Sam’s Caravan Escort, which she promptly raises to L1. Not to be outdone, I trot out an Echo Mage, and end my turn. Turn 4, and Sam lands the first real threat- a Student of Warfare. She pumps the Student to L1, then having used up her White mana follows up by raising her Escort to L2. I raise my Echo Mage to L2, then brace for impact.
The blood starts to flow on turn 5. Sam ups her Student to L3, then sends it in to take me to 17 life. After playing Hedron-Field Purists, she passes turn. At last my poor Skywatcher Adept gets some love, as I raise him to L1 and send him in for 2. I then level the Mage to L3. Back to Sam, her next turn play is to clog the skylanes with a Snapping Drake after dropping me to 14 with another swing of her Student. I stabilise the board a bit with a timely Domestication, taking her Student from her.
Turn 7 arrives, and Sam again plays a flyer, this time the Makindi Griffin. Declawed, she has no attack and simply returns play to me. I take the opportunity to raise my Echo Mage to max level, L4, and now my planning starts to come together. Sam attacks me again on turn 8, sending in her flyers for 4 damage. I’m now at 10. At the end of her turn, I Unsummon her Hedron-Field Purists, using the Echo Mage to double-copy it taking the Griffin and Caravan Escort with it. With things a little thinned out in the red zone, I send in the Student and Adept once my turn arrives, and Sam finds herself at 13 life.
Now turn 9, Sam finds an answer to the Echo Mage in the form of a Narcolepsy, but I have an answer in the form of a Negate. She recasts the Purists, and at the end of her turn I use the Echo Mage to triple-cast a Last Kiss. Her neglected Siren and Drake head for the graveyard, while her Purists take two points of pointless damage. The lifegain is welcome, and I’m now at 16 life. Now on my turn proper, I send in the Student/Adept combo again, taking Sam down to 8. I level the Adept to L2, then pass.
Sam resummons the Makindi Griffin on turn 10, but has nothing else to do. I level the Adept to max level (L3), then swing in with it and the Student. Sam blocks the Adept with the Griffin, looking to trade, but I thwart that with a well-timed Fleeting Distraction. I double-copy with with the Echo Mage as well, allowing the draw of three cards from the cantrip effect (I target a couple of uninvolved critters for the extra -1/-0 effects).
Sam’s now at 5 life, but an Angel’s Mercy on turn 11 takes her back up to 12. Looking to close the game, I trot out a Sea Gate Oracle (keeping a Zombie Goliath from the extra draw) and Phantom Warrior after swinging in for 7 with the Student and Adept. Sam seeks to stabilise her board position next turn with a Soulbound Guardians and Caravan Escort, but my Echo Mage multiplies my Doom Blade, sweeping Sam’s board clear. My critters stroll in unopposed.
Back on the play, Sam gets an early Caravan Escort on turn 1, while I only manage an Island. She levels her Escort to L1, then sends it in for 2 points of damage the turn following. Again I play an Island and pass.
Sam keeps the momentum up with a turn 3 Student of Warfare, bringing her to L1 after notching me for 2 more with the Escort. I play a Sea Gate Oracle (netting a Wall of Bone to the hand). Back to Sam, a timely Venerated Teacher takes both her levelers to L3. She then levels the Student once more with mana, then sends in the lot. The Orcale blocks the Escort, and I take 3 more from the teacher. I’m now at 13 life, and Sam is as yet unblemished. My turn 4 play is the defensive-minded Wall of Bone, which hopefully should buy me a little more time to find an answer.
Turn 5 sees Sam attain max level on the Student (L7), then turn a nifty trick when she Unsummons my Wall of Bone. Facing down the double-striking Student as well as the Escort, I chump the former with my Oracle and let the Escort through. I replay my Wall, then pass.
Next turn, Sam brings the Caravan Escort up to max (L5), then sends in both levelers. I Unsummon her Student and block the Escort with the Wall, regenerating it. Sam recasts the Student, and passes. Having not missed a land drop yet, I trot out a turn-6 Sphinx of Magosi, seeing my fortunes improve. It’s not to be, alas, as Sam gifts my shiny new Sphinx with a Narcolepsy before bringing her Student to L4. This highlights a weakness in Leveler’s Glory in the lack of permanent removal, a weakness my deck doesn’t share. A Narcoleptic Sphinx is no joy, but at having a reusable card-drawing engine is some consolation. I turn the tables on Sam with a Domestication, again taking her Student.
Turn 8 sees Sam take to the skies with a Makindi Griffin, while I play a Phantom Warrior. Next turn Sam summons the Soulbound Guardians, sending in the Griffin to hit me for 2. Now down to 5 life, I activate the Sphinx at the end of Sam’s turn to draw a card. Nine turns in I finally damage Sam, sending the unblockable Phantom Warrior in for 2.
Turn 10 and Sam has victory in sight, attacking for 2 more with the Griffin. I throw out a Fleeting Distraction, for the card as much as anything, and am down to 4 life. And the end of Sam’s turn I double-activate the Sphinx for a couple more cards. Over to me, I play a fairly useless Telepathy before attacking again with the Warrior. Time is running out.
Again the Griffin flies in, taking me to 2 life. I double-activate the Sphinx again, finally hitting paydirt with a Doom Blade. I swing back with the Warrior, taking Sam to 14, and opt to play nothing from my hand so that I can continue to draw as many cards as possible. With 8 cards in hand, I pitch an Island to my graveyard and pass.
The Doom Blade does its grim business on turn 12 when Sam swings for lethal, and I activate the Sphinx two more times to keep my hand flooded. Back to me, I play a See Beyond before swinging in with the Warrior. This time it’s Sam with the Fleeting Distraction, and she’s now at 13 life. Counting lands, I’m free to play a Coral Merfolk and still keep enough mana open for drawing two more on Sam’s turn.
Indeed, that’s all that happens on Sam’s turn 13, as she blanks. I draw my two through the Sphinx, then cast the Echo Mage after swinging for 2 more once my turn begins. The Mage has been gold for me, and I take a break from drawing cards to level him up to max level (L3). Discarding another Island, I pass back to Sam. Sam goes for a turn 14 kill with a Sleep, but I have the Negate. She plays an Angel’s Mercy, and it’s now an 18-2 game.
For my part, my hand is now filled with options as you might well imagine. I play a Skywatcher Adept, followed by a Venerated Teacher. This takes the freshly-cast Adept to L2, the Mage to a redundant L5 and the stolen Student to L6 (just shy of breaking free of Domestication). My Phantom Warrior is working overtime, hitting Sam for two more.
Back to Sam for turn 15, she plays a Glory Seeker and passes. I cast a Last Kiss, tripling it through my Echo Mage to kill her Soulbound Guardians and heal myself for 6. I then swing in for 6 of my own with the Adept and Warrior tandem, taking Sam down to 10. Sam’s turn 16 is a blank, while I whittle her down for another 6.
Turn 17, Sam neutralises the Adept with a timely Narcolepsy, but a second triple-Last Kiss on her Caravan Escort gives my ground forces enough room for a lethal alpha strike.
This time it’s my turn for a solid start, playing a turn 1 Skywatcher Adept while Sam only managed a Plains before passing. Still, her trusty Caravan Escort is deployed on turn 2, while I reply with a Hada Spy Patrol after swinging in for 1.
Turn 3, Sam levels the Escort to L1, then swings in with it for 2. I fire back by leveling my Spy Patrol to L1 then sending both critters in. It’s now 16-18.
Sam attacks again on turn 4 for 2, then plays a Makindi Griffin. I play a Sea Gate Oracle after attacking in with the Spy Patrol for 2 more. Thus far, Sam’s dropped nothing but Plains, but this works in her favour when on turn 5 she’s able to drop a Student of Warfare and raise it to L4 after swinging back in for 2 with the Escort. My answering Phantasmal Abomination seems answer enough, however, while I whittle her down with the Patrol. By the end of turn 5, it’s a 12-14 game.
Sam wastes no time in maxing out her Student on turn 6 (L7), but doesn’t bother with an attack as a trade with my Wall is one I’d gladly take. I play another wall- the Wall of Bone- and pass after hitting for 2 more. Not to be outdone with the Defenders, Sam plays a turn 7 Soulbound Guardians. Changing tack, I level the Patrol up to L2 and send it in, taking Sam to 8 life. Next turn Sam brings the Caravan Escort up to L5, then attacks with the Makindi Griffin. I blow a Fleeting Distraction, and am sitting at 13 life. Back to me, I hit my seventh land drop, which allows me to play the Sphinx of Magosi and still keep a Swamp open for the Wall of Bone’s regeneration if needed.
Sam gets down a turn 9 Snapping Drake before passing, and next turn I get to enjoy swinging in hard with the Sphinx in addition to the Patrol. Sam attempts a gang-block of the Sphinx with her Guardians and the Drake, but a timely Doom Blade puts paid to that notion. Her Drake follows her Guardians to the graveyard when damage is dealt.
Sam draws an Unsummon on turn 10 and hits the Sphinx with it (I pump the Sphinx twice in response fior the free cards), but he’s done his job. I Unsummon her Makindi Griffin, level up my Adepts and send them in for lethal with the Patrol on turn 10.
Thoughts & Analysis
I’m not taken with the deck- there’s plenty of room for improvement- but the contrast with Leveler’s Glory couldn’t be starker. In addition to the improved removal mentioned ealrier (which is huge), the deck admittedly fun to play. The Echo Mage was unexpected gold, but again this had much to do with Sam’s anemic removal suite. He should never have been permitted to live that long, and would not against any deck with kill options. Sam’s only chance at snuffing him was with the missed opportunity the Alluring Siren afforded her for a very brief window, and a Siren pulling into a defender is a very poor substitute for actual targeted removal. Don’t be fooled- the strong showing here has as much to do with the calibre of opposition as it did to any strength of the deck.
This deck also seemed to have a better collection of levelers than its counterpart overall. Sam’s White critters seemed to demand a lot of attention, and often it seemed like she was being pulled in different directions. For whatever reason, this deck felt quite different- whatever leveler I happened to play early set a direction for the deck, and the strategy ended up being rather more flexible.
In short, then, if you’re looking for the Level Up experience, Leveler’s Scorn is by far the superior choice.
Hits: Serviceable removal package; Solid rares showcase both set’s mechanic and growing strength of Blue creatures
Misses: Overcongestion at the three-drop slot as well as 3-cost Level Up for some levelers reveals apparent lack of planning; some underwhelming card choices- that Fleeting Distraction can be tripled by a fully-leveled Echo Mage doesn’t make up for the card’s shortcomings
Final Score: 3.75/5.00