Duel Decks- Garruk vs Liliana: Liliana’s Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)
After the epic clash last round that saw Garruk himself directly intervene to save his deck from ignominious defeat, we weren’t quite sure what to expect this go ’round. There are only so many miracles in a deck at any given time, and the thought was that Garruk had burned all his. Nevertheless, Sam volunteered to pilot his deck, based as it was on her most accustomed archetype: Big Dumb Beats(tm). That left me behind Liliana, and here are our notes from the confrontation.
On the play, Sam lays her foundation early with Forests yielding a turn 2 Vine Trellis. Meanwhile, I’ve managed a turn 1 Deathgreeter and swung with it, following up with a turn 2 Drudge Skeletons. Turn 3, however, is when things begin to click as Sam plays a Wirewood Savage and enchants it with Rancor. I have an answer (Vicious Hunger) to clear a path through for another attack, and by the end of turn 3 it’s a 17-23 game.
Sam’s next play on turn 4 is an Albino Troll, which can be a nuisance. I have an answer for it, but a little patience will net me a bigger fish. I play a Wall of Bone and pass. As expected, Sam then attempts to Rancor the Troll, but I gladly pay 4 life to cast Snuff Out in response, sending both the Troll and Rancor to the dustbin (and gaining me 1 life from the Deathgreeter). Irked, Sam casts Nature’s Lore and passes. I swing back for 2 with the Skeletons and the Deathgreeter. Sam’s Trellis blocks one, the other gets through for a point.
Things go pear-shaped, however, on turn 6 when Sam’s Plated Slagwurm hits the table. All I can manage in response is a Genju of the Fens before passing, and to my horror Sam’s holding her second Rancor. The Slagwurm has just gone from a pest I can chump forever with my regenerators to a very short clock indeed. She swings for 10, I soak up half of that on my Wall and Skeletons, and am down to 15. Sam Harmonizes to refill her hand, and passes. My turn is a blank.
Sam closes for the kill on turn 8 when she adds an Elephant Guide to the Slagwurm and swings for 13. I soak up 5 again with my defenses, and am down to 7. She plays a Wirewood Savage and passes, I draw rubbish and scoop.
My hand is a bit dodgy, but the Bad Moon I find in it makes it worth keeping. Just. We both play land and pass for turn 1, then I play a turn 2 Vampire Bats while Sam matches with a Wild Mongrel. The Bad Moon hits on turn 3 as the Bats swing for 2. Sam swings back with the Mongrel, then casts Nature’s Lore.
I’ve drawn a Sign in Blood and use it turn 4 to get a refresh on the hand, then use my last two mana to send the Bats in for 3 more. Sam has the same idea, and after playing a Treetop Village she casts Harmonize. The game stands at 15-14.
Something about the Mongrel rubs me the wrong way, since he’d get a double bonus with my Bad Moon in play. I’ve got a Keening Banshee in hand, but fear Sam might just pitch a card to save the Mongrel. Although a forced discard is nice, after a Harmonize it’s somewhat less painful, so I decide to save the Banshee for a confirmable kill and force the Mongrel off the board with a Fleshbag Marauder. I keep my Bats, and send them in for 3 more.
Come turn 5, Sam lands her first fattie in the shape of a Blastoderm. I’ve few options to deal with it (having just used my Marauder), so it’s going to be something of a race from here on out. I send the Bats in unpumped (hitting for 1), then cast a Twisted Abomination. Against Green, I’m not too worried about tapping out to play it. Sam has an answer, though, with a Lignify next turn before swinging in with the Blastoderm. I’m now down to 9, though Sam at 11 is not much better.
Now turn 7, I swing for 3 more with the Bats, then play a topdecked Howling Banshee. This cuts it close (I’m at 6 life, Sam at 5), but it locks up the game. Sam swings with the Blastoderm and a Treetop Village, but I block both easily and stitch up the game in the air the turn following.
Time for the decider! Sam begins with a Forest, while I set down a Polluted Mire. Next turn Sam goes aggressive with a very unwelcome Albino Troll. All I have is Genju of the Fens on a Swamp. Things look to be over fast when Sam drops a Rancor on the Troll before sending it in, and just like that I’m at 15 life.
Still, I’m not without recourse, as my own turn 3 Fleshbag Marauder shows. Although it doesn’t solve the Rancor problem, it certainly lets me breathe easier with a clear board. Back to Sam, she laughs and plays a second Albino Troll. I lay a Swamp and pass.
As expected, Sam Rancors up the Troll, but I hardcast Snuff Out and again solve both problems nicely, unable to resist pantomiming a baseball umpire as I do so. “You’rrrrre OUT!“
With the board state settled in my favour, I begin the task of whittling her down with the Genju, swinging in for 4 on turn 5. Sam trots out a Wirewood Savage turn 6, but I solve it with a Keening Banshee. Then Sam does something very interesting. She plays a Vine Trellis, then cycles her Krosan Tusker which allows her both to draw a card and fetch a land (which she plays). She now sits at six land and the Trellis, and she couldn’t have made it clearer to me that she’s holding the Plated Slagwurm if she’d licked the back of the card and stuck it to her forehead.
I have some interesting options open to me. I could Corrupt the Trellis, counting on her to either have that seventh land from the cycled Tusker or from the draw. This would ensure that there would be nothing in the way of my Fleshbag Marauder as it did its filthy business to her Slagwurm. Alternately, I could say “damn the torpedoes!” and go in full bore, using my Corrupt as the finisher. The former seems far more satisfying, but the latter more solid. I retain the Corrupt, and instead swing with the Genju and Banshee for 7. Sam’s now at 9.
Surprise! Sam plays a Forest and the Slagwurm on turn 8, then passes. I swing in with the Banshee for 2, then play a Drudge Skeletons I just drew. Sam explodes on turn 9, playing a Wild Mongrel and Serrated Arrows, using the latter to kill off my Skeletons and swing with the Wurm. This takes me to 7, but another swing with the Banshee followed by a 7-point Corrupt settles the matter.
Thoughts & Analysis
I’m not above admitting bias, and longtime readers will know that I personally tend to favour Black decks well above Green. So after that admission in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll go on to say that I had a lot more fun with Liliana than I did with Garruk. Although both Duel Decks are (as they tend to be) somewhat unfocused affairs, the simple truth is that what Liliana’s deck brings (weenie/utility critters, discard, removal) are the things you’d expect of Black. In essence, she delivers the goods.
Garruk not so much. Certainly a Green mage would expect efficient beaters, fatties, and combat tricks/creature augmentation, but as mentioned in our analysis of Garruk’s deck it seems somewhat lighter on the creature count than you might normally expect.
Still, I can’t deny that playing both sides of the deck allowed me to get a good feel for balance, and it seemed to be there. Although Liliana had fewer “solve or die” threats like the Plated Slagwurm, hers was in some ways the more consistent deck. With a generous amount of removal, you could usually count on being able to kill something, and with just enough evasive critters included you could even find a way to win when losing the ground war. Pound for pound Lili’s creatures are a bit more underwhelming than Garruk’s, but that’s rather as it should be.
From my understanding, this Duel Decks release wasn’t a huge seller, and the survey we have up seems to support that. Neither deck is a world-beater, but for a fun and relatively balanced package of two, you could do worse.
Pros: Removal, sweet removal!; decent air force a win condition all its own; solid balance vs Garruk
Cons: Only the Skeletal Vampire could claim anything like ‘bomb’ status; mana curve a little unbalanced towards the back-end without any Dark Rituals
FINAL GRADE: 4.25/5.00
Considering this is the one black duel deck without dark ritual, I think it did quite well. Though it does have a nice helping of removal compared to most pre-cons I’ve looked at.
When I look at these decks, I don’t see a wow factor for me. It falls kind of flat for me. Liliana’s seems more fun to me. Mono-G can be fun, but Garruk’s doesn’t look like it does it for me. That’s why I’ve passed on it.
I agree, without a dark ritual it performs well enough. I don’t know about anyone else, but that ghost-lit stalker rarely does anything except being a 1/1 critter. I never use its 7 mana ability and if i have 5 mana to spare, it means i’m already not doing a good job. That’s my experience in any case.
I think i’ll combine the Demon (from Divine vs Demonic) deck with Liliana’s and see what’s the result.