Worldwake: Rapid Fire Review (Part 1 of 2)
Just as Shards of Alara introduced terms for three-colour blends into the game for decks composed of a colour and its two allied colours (ie- Black plus Blue and Red = ‘Grixis’), so too did Ravnica just a few years before. In Ravnica’s case, these were two-colour blends, and based on guilds in the set’s setting there was a term for every possible combination. Interestingly, of the ten guilded colour pairings, only Boros has truly survived into the modern-day common parlance. That’s not to say the others have faded to utter obscurity, but rather when we talk about the rise of Blue-Black in today’s Standard meta, we’re quite unlikely to hear the word “Dimir” used.
Now as then, Boros decks tend to maximise the strengths of both colours using cheap creatures backed up by a burn package. When the designers of the Worldwake Intro Decks sat down to sketch their landscape of what the set’s decks would look like, they decided it was time for another Boros construction. There had been one in Magic 2010 (We Are Legion), but you had to go a little further back to find the last few as two of Alara block’s three sets released three-colour decks (the last set- Alara Reborn- went back to a two-colour model, but without a Boros amongst them). Lorwyn block had given us Battle Blitz, while Time Spiral block had featured Endless March. The Red/White machine was certainly due for an update!
And thus, Rapid Fire was born. A relatively straightforward beats-n-burn deck with a mechanical twist, we’ll begin our review today with the deck’s bodies.
Quicken the Predator’s Blood
That twist is landfall, the much-heralded addition to Zendikar block which gives late-game land draws a whole new relevance. Nearly one-third of Rapid Fire’s nonland cards are equipped to take advantage of landfall, and several more are there to help it along. This mechanic provides something of a backbone around which the rest of the deck is built. Let’s have a look at the creature curve:
Nothing radical here- the deck stays relatively consistent all the way through. Far better, then, to break it down by role.
Rapid Fire packs in plenty of that! With few exceptions, however, the deck’s muscle is almost uniformly a combination of critters with 2-3 power and 2-3 toughness, which gives you some idea of the deck’s sweet spot. It wants an early, dominating board presence so as not to be outraced by the opposition. Still, it’s canny enough to give you some tools to get around the inevitable congestion in the red zone that happens as you enter the midgame.
One of its tools here is evasion. The Dragon Whelp and Kor Skyfisher both carry full-time flying, while the Geyser Glider and Fledgling Griffin rent it upon landfall. Although not true evasion in the classical sense, facing fellow Red mages your Kor Firewalker will often manage to walk in unopposed, and a 2/2 for two mana with a built-in Dragon’s Claw isn’t a bad deal even if you’re not.
Cross-table reach is provided in the form of a pair of Cosi’s Ravagers. Although their cost is steep (four for a 2/2), played early enough it’s like they come with a free Bolt to your opponent’s face… albeit one delivered in a steady drip rather than all at once.
There’s some raw muscle provided by the Goblin Roughrider and his noble steed, the Grotag Thrasher as well. The Thrasher has a particularly useful ability to vex defenders, and can also subtly influence less aggressively-minded players to play turtle a little more, giving you added time to develop.
Finally, the Steppe Lynx is the deck’s most conditional creature. A glorious sight on the opening draw (provided your grip also includes a Plains), it gets steadily worse the longer the game goes on. Incapable of damage on its own, it demands land drops to keep it viable. As the deck packs only one option for instand-speed landfall (Ruin Ghost), he’ll almost exclusively be either a beater or a chump blocker if things go pear-shaped.
Finally we come to the deck’s closer, the Mordant Dragon. “Mordie” suffers from the affliction a lot of his ilk do- diminishment by comparison. The game’s been around a long time, and there have been scads of dragons. Mordie may not be as sleek and sexy as some others, but he gets the job done well enough, is a great fit here and can provide an element of control in locking down a favourable board. The three Red mana in his casting cost is little hindrance- you’ll not want him early, but there’s just enough mana fixing available in the Pilgrim’s Eyes to give you some slight confidence. In tougher times, you can even use the Ruin Ghost as a one-shot mana filter. You don’t have to love Mordie, but in the world of precons as in Limited, he is a bomb.
Rounding out the deck are the utility critters, or “enablers,” which help push your landfall theme along. We’ve already mentioned the Pilgrim’s Eyes which, despite being little more than mosquitoes as far as beaters go, do help ramp you up and give you an extra landfall drop. We’re less excited about the Kor Cartographer– Plains or no Plains, paying four mana for a 2/2 can be even less exciting here than it was for the Cosi’s Ravager. The Ruin Ghost, however, is where the deck becomes nasty.
Of all the cards in the deck, this is the only one you have which can provide a guaranteed landfall every turn after he comes into play. Bear in mind as well that two of the deck’s lands are Teetering Peaks, which means you can recur not only landfall but also a nice power bonus every turn. A pity, though, that the deck failed to include any of Worldwake’s Sejiri Steppe– although less nakedly aggressive than the Peaks, it would have added a welcome level of intricacy to the deck if you had the ability to flicker into protection for one of your critters. Even a Smoldering Spires might have added some nuance to the deck- indeed, the only odd-man-out would have been a Kabira Crossroads, whose lifegain has minimal impact- but failing to capitalise on the options available with a Ruin Ghost goes down as one of the deck’s missed opportunities.
Finally, Rapid Fire packs in a pinger for offensive utility, a singleton Prodigal Pyromancer. That this wasn’t a Cunning Sparkmage goes down as another of the deck’s missed opportunities, for despite the 0-power, the Sparkmage is clearly a superior card with the same cost and rarity level- and from the marquee set! A real shame, though the Zendikar-block preconstructed decks have been our poster child for overdilution with Core Set cards for some time.
I’ll Bring the Heat
Judged from a constructed-deck standard, the noncreature support Rapid Fire brings is poor, but by modern preconstructed standards is actually better than many. Indeed, the burn package actually includes one of the deck’s two Rares, and it’s a nasty one: Chain Reaction. This card can singlehandedly turn a game around (as we saw in Game Three of the Mysterious Realms playtest review), and is a great fit here. It won’t always be the right option, but those games where it’s not are ones you’ll likely be winning already. It may be that at times you’ll have to cast a creature or two of your own to ‘sacrifice’ to it, but sometimes that’s preferable to getting your head done in by an 87/ Goliath Sphinx.
Rounding out the package are a pair of superb Searing Blazes and a singleton Magma Rift– the Rift’s added cost of sacrificing a land should typically be painless in a deck with options to grab extra land. A good rule of thumb when assessing card density in one of the 41-card decks is to multiply the volume by 1.5 to get an idea of the equivalent content in a 60-card deck. For Rapid Fire, that means it has a 6-card burn suite- not stellar, but reliable enough that you can count on seeing one in any given game. As always, use wisely!
The final three are a mixed bag. You have an Act of Treason (sadly, still Uncommon at this time) for extra damage and blocker removal. An Armored Ascension is a powerful aura that can singlehandedly turn one of your critters into a closer, though as always not without the inherent risk of card disadvantage. Finally, there’s a multi-tool Narrow Escape, which can save one of your creatures from a dreadful fate (death in combat, Domesticate, removal, etc.). In a pinch, you can always use it for a landfall drop as well, if you’ve not yet played a land already. it’s not a great card, but it has some utility here. Personally, we’d much rather another burn spell.
Once the noncreature support is factored in, here’s how the deck overall looks like:
Overall, the deck comes together quite nicely with regards to its landfall utility and support. The fact that the bulk of the creatures are on the weaker side (with varying mana costs) is the biggest cause for concern. No matter how useful a utility critter can be, you tend to lose board presence when you’re paying four mana for a 2/2. This is the problem that did Mysterious Realms in, and while less prevalent here it bears some watching.
Join us next time when we take it for a test drive and see how it performs in the field!