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January 13, 2011

16

Worldwake: Flyover Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

Every deck wants to tell you something. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people look through a stack of cards and don’t seem to pick up on what it’s trying to do. To be fair, it’s not always easy to see, but there are certain broad-based themes that can go a long way towards helping you grasp the concept behind a deck, and in today’s feature we’re going to do something of a meta-review. Not just a straightforward Ertai’s Lament review, but a breakdown of what we’re looking for, and how we arrive at the conclusions we do.

The subject of today’s deconstruction is Flyover, a Blue/White assemblage from Worldwake. Away we go!

Step One: Read the blurb

This isn’t the most useful step, but it’s a good place to start. The hyperbole Wizards sticks on the back of its intro deck boxes is no great literature, but it admirably tries to get you worked up and excited for opening the box and exploring the contents within. Sometimes it’s just plain bad, but marketing is marketing and all things do not appeal to all people. At the very least, you can get a broad-brush idea of what sort of deck you’re looking at.

The “Flyover” deck puts you in command of a squadron of flying creatures. Halt your opponents’ ground assaults and let loose a reign of terror from the air!

Now, let’s examine the relevant bits. What are the components of this deck that are so critical, they made it to the back of the box?

The “Flyover” deck puts you in command of a squadron of flying creatures. Halt your opponents’ ground assaults and let loose a reign of terror from the air!

Bang. Skies + Removal and/or Defenders, got it.

Step Two: Sort the Deck

When breaking down any deck, this is invariably our next step. Take the deck, and sort it into three piles: land, creatures, and noncreatures. Put any nonbasic lands on top of the lands pile. These are typically splash-ins that add more variety than strategy, and we’ll come back to them at the end to see how they fit in.

Next, further sort the creature and noncreature piles by mana cost. Anything that costs 0 can go in with the 1-drops, gather anything that costs five or more mana into its own pile, and X-spells get a pile of their own as well. Try and keep multiple copies of the same spell together. Once you’re done, it should look something like this:

This is typically the point where we’ll compile the mana curves for the deck. Let’s go ahead and place them here now:

 

  

Step Three: Explore the Creatures

The vast majority of preconstructed decks use the red zone as their primary win condition, which makes the creature base a natural place to start. Noncreature spells typically act in support of this condition, though the few decks that tinker with this cookie-cutter strategy are some of the most fun to play. Increasingly over time, it does seem like this foruma is becoming doctrine, which is perhaps a piece for another time.

So what does Flyover’s creatures tell us? Let’s start to peel the onion.

First off, the Silvercoat Lion sticks out like a sore thumb. A 2/2 for two mana is on-curve, but he doesn’t actually do much of anything. The fact that he’s on the tip of the spear in terms of cost for your curve gives you the clue: he’s an early stall piece, there as much to congest the red zone and prolong your life as anything else. Looking at the early cards, are there any other that fit this sort of role?

If you said “Gomazoa,” congratulations! Your instincts have paid off. If you had a deck full of Islands and Gomazoas, you’d never win a single match (even decking your opponent would not really be possible, givin the Gomazoa’s unique ability). Of course, given that there are ten other creatures in the deck, that means that 2/12 = 16.67%… in other words, this is a “splash” or “token” defense, not one you can really rely upon.

Because of the unique ability of the jellyfish, he’s useful at any point in the game. The same could hardly be said of the Lion, which makes him more of a liability than an asset. Making a mental note of that fact, we move on to the rest.

Our attention goes back to the 2-drops and the Stormfront Pegasus, but as we sweep the rows we observe that almost every other creature in the deck has either flying, multikicker, or both. Sometimes a deck’s creatures lack a unifying theme, in which case the deck’s curve itself becomes the theme (you’ll see this with Sligh/RDW variants, for example, which care most about their place on the curve). In other decks which have a “superstructure,” we’ll consider both the curve itself as well as the theme.

Pulling out the flyers, we count six of them: 50% of the deck’s beaters. That suggests a fairly major theme. The Stormfront Pegasus is weak, but he’s an early option and against a deck with little aerial defense he’ll more than pay for himself. Moving along the curve, the pair of Apex Hawks present an interesting case. Unkicked, they’re a 2/2 flyer for three mana, which means you’re getting 0.67 (or two divided by three) points of power for every mana spent. Not the worst deal ever in White including evasion, but let’s say you kick them once: a 3/3 flyer for five mana. Now you’re getting 0.6 points of power per mana. Kick them again and that goes to 0.57, again and it’s 0.55.

Put another way, once you start kicking the Hawks, they’re immediately (and increasingly) less efficient. By no means is this a case against ever kicking them. Instead, it suggests something which might be counterinuitive to us: the Apex Hawks are not “wasted” if we cast them unkicked! Indeed, with two copies in the deck, it makes a case for casting one early rather than holding out for more mana. Notice, too, that the exact same yardstick applies to the Enclave Elite. Good to know!

Next up we have the four-drops, Voyager Drake and Lightkeeper of Emeria, both solid options. The Drake gives us the opportunity to close out a close game if our opponent is vulnerable in the skies, and the one Blue mana in his casting cost means we should have more than enough resources most games to take advantage of his offer. The Lightkeeper is similarly-costed, but puts the finish line further away for your opponent. We’re ordinarily rather disdainful of lifegain, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with having an extra mana sink on an already decent body.

Finally, we come to our premium rare, the Archon of Redemption. While the clever lifegain is nice, it’s of dubious tactical merit. The defense of lifegain often goes, “sure you’ll come close to dying while you assemble your board, but then you lifegain it back along with a strong board presence!” It’s hard to shake the feeling that the deck would be better invested in a Serra Angel. The Archon is weaker on the front end, and I’d rather a vigilant body to protect me than an inconsistent trickle of lifegain to salve any wounds.

That does it for the flyers and multikickers, but what about our last three creatures- the two Kor Cartographers and a Surrakar Banisher? The Cartographers are generally poor overall- a four-mana bear is nothing to get excited over, free land or no. By the time you have the mana in place to play it, you’re usually not very concerned about aggressive ramping. That said, Flyover places a higher utility on late-game land than most decks, given its many multikicker mana sinks- this makes the Cartographer only slightly less bad.

And the Surrakar Banisher? Five mana for a 3/3 body with a conditional Unsummon attached? Thanks, but no thanks- a second Voyager Drake would be much more consistently good here.

Step Four: Analyse the Supporting Cast

As mentioned above, the typical formula for precons has increasingly placed emphasis upon the creatures, so we take a straightforward approach here: how do the noncreature selections support them? We tend to worry less about the mana curve for these cards on their own, and more about how they contribute to the overall makeup of the deck itself.

Naturally, our first stop almost without exceptions is removal, and here the deck has some interesting options. The most straightforward of these is Iona’s Judgment, which tops the charts at five mana. Notice how the removal gets more and more restrictive the cheaper it gets. Then you have a Divine Verdict, which is conditional- the critter you want gone must be a participant in battle. A version of this effect is included in the lone Righteousness (also conditional) as well, which while technically a combat trick might as well be removal. Lastly you have a Pacifism (removable) and an Unsummon (temporary).

Would the deck be better off with four Journeys to Nowhere? Leagues. But Flyover is trying to tell you that you more or less need to go it alone and endure for awhile, play a bit cautiously on the ground, and then when your forces are ready you may have a tool to get rid of the biggest impediment to your victory.

To help in this aim, there are a few more tools available to you. A pair of Guardian Zendikons help hold the line- and with 6-toughness, they’ll be holding it quite awhile. An Everflowing Chalice gives you some ramp at most any stage in the game. Sleep– a spell we’ve always been fond of- gives you a window to close out games, though it’s a little less effective here considering so many of your creatures already have evasion.

Finally, we have a mediocre combat trick (Veteran’s Reflexes) and another of your deck’s closers, Marshal’s Anthem. Rezzing your biggest bruiser out of the graveyard for one more dance, and buffing all your critters at the same time is a very powerful effect.

So what can we conclude here? From the looks of things, the support for the deck’s creatures is on the solid side, though somewhat short of stellar. The removal is unformly uneven, though it’s there and that counts for something. There aren’t any dreadful choices, outside of the somewhat weak Veteran’s Reflexes (which you can use as ersatz removal, so it’s not a total wash).

Here, too, is where we often will take one more look at any nonbasic lands. Terramorphic Expanses are nice mana fixing, but unremarkable. The miser’s Dread Statuary isn’t a bad touch, either, even if it is a bit pricey to activate. It’s intersting to note that the deck packs in three more noncreature creatures, so its effective critter count is higher than it at first appears.

Step Five: Conclusion

Although it’s not hard to make a few snap judgments about this deck overall, we usually will make a few broad observations here before concluding the review. We’ve all had times where a deck that looked good actually had its seams exposed in actual play, and just as certainly the reverse is possible as well. We’ll reserve final judgment until after we’d played a few games with it, but here are the thoughts that we’ll have in mind as we prepare to pilot Flyover:

> Weak in the early game, the deck is optimised for the long game, and should begin to ‘come alive’ midway through.

> Multikicker creatures offer flexibility and scaleability, but at the expense of efficiency. Don’t hold onto them for so long for the ‘ultimate payoff’ that by the time you play them, they’re already outclassed.

> Removal is there, but limited. Try and use it to clear our aerial defenses to give your flyers room to work

> You have some ways to thicken up the red zone, with the Silvercoat Lion, Gomazoa, and Guardian Zendikons. Don’t be afraid to take some early damage as you build up your forces.

> Your noncreature support is inconsistent. You can safely rely on getting some removal, though it’s impossible to say what form it will take. The rest of the noncreature support have wildly different effects. Plan with what you have, but play to your outs

And that’s it! We hope you’ve enjoyed this “meta” approach to a review today, and perhaps even learned a thing or two about how we break down and analyse the various decks we’ve explored here on Lament. Join us again in two days’ time when we take Flyover for a test flight and see how it holds up!

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. mart
    Jan 13 2011

    jay: this was a great article. I’ve needed someone to break it down for me like that for a long time. thanks for doing it.

    Reply
    • Jan 13 2011

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Wasn’t sure how it was going to go over, as it added quite a bit of length over our normal reviews.

      Reply
  2. troacctid
    Jan 13 2011

    I like the design of Flyover. It’s a control deck designed for a long game. That’s why so many of its spells are defensively-oriented. The Archon is less aggressive than a Serra Angel, but he can make it difficult or impossible for an aggressive deck to push damage through your blockers even if they have evasion.

    The multikicker flyers are small, but because they can scale, they’re not dead draws later on. They also provide an opportunity for skilled players to gain an advantage by evaluating their position in the matchup–if you have a strong defensive position, you can afford to hold your Apex Hawks until it can be a 4/4. Or maybe you know your opponent’s only flyers are 2/3 Cloud Elementals, so you hold them to cast as a 3/3 to dominate the air. You also need to know when not to trade off your early creatures, since you can rely on being able to gum up the board and gain life later while making better use of the early Stormfront Pegasus to grind down the enemy. And you have a lot of bluffing potential thanks to Righteousness, Divine Verdict, Unsummon, and Veteran’s Reflexes–they provide plenty of opportunities to trap and outsmart a weaker opponent, but if you play incorrectly, it’s easy to misuse these tools.

    The Silvercoat Lion and Surrakar Banisher provide the obigatory fixer-upper cards to help nudge newbies towards deckbuilding skills by providing obvious cards to take out for something cooler.

    I’d like to see more card draw in this deck. Survival Cache or Seer’s Sundial would be good options from the same block. Oh, and Wall of Omens would fit perfectly with what the deck wants to do–an early blocker that cantrips to help hit your land drops is exactly what this deck wants.

    Reply
    • Jan 13 2011

      Why Tro, I do believe this much be a cherished deck for you! I remember when Flyover was bounced out of the Precon Championships because of mana problems, you lamented it then as well. Dead on about the Wall of Omens, by the way- it’s a hand-in-glove fit here.

      Reply
      • troacctid
        Jan 14 2011

        Oh, I’ve never played it. XD

        Reply
      • Icehawk
        Jan 14 2011

        I’ve never liked Wall of Omens. I’m not a wall guy I guess. Even though I do use Wall of Frost in my blue controlish deck.

        I much prefer something that can block and attack or do more. Sure, Omens draw you a card in a white deck, but once you put in some blue, you might as well let blue be your card draw. Use that creature slot for something with teeth on the lower end of the mana spectrum.

        Reply
        • Jan 17 2011

          Like most cards it has its strengths and weaknesses, but consider its strengths against mono-Black Vamps or Red Deck Wins, two archetypes that are utterly dependant upon blazing speed to turn your more expensive cards in hand into dead draws. As a player of the RDW deck, I can attest that having to blow removal to destroy a WoO can be very painful, as we’re reliant upon most every card doing what it needs to do early. You block my Goblin Guide and I Bolt the Wall to finish it off, you’re up +1 card (the cantrip), I’m down -1 card (the Bolt, which I’d much rather have saved), and blew a whole turn’s attack, when every bit of damage counts. Against the right opponent, the Wall does have teeth of a sort, just not the kind you’ll see reflected in it’s power/toughness.

          Reply
      • web8970
        Jan 16 2011

        Speaking of WU-Flyer decks … which one of the recently covered precons would you pick if you had to choose?
        * M11’s Power of Prophecy
        * Azorious
        * Flyover

        Reply
        • Jan 17 2011

          Good question! For general play, it would have to be Azorius Ascendent. It’s got an impressive amount of stall, much of which is available early, and Forecast is a fairly fun mechanic, especially when you’re drawing a free card or two every turn. Power of Prophecy would take second, and Flyover third. What would your pick order be?

          Reply
          • Jan 17 2011

            i play a “meddled” azorius ascendant deck called “Isperia Controls the World” from an old ben bleiweiss BoaB column… sick stuff. check it out if you have the pieces.

            Power of Prophecy meddled is still one of the most fun to play IMO though.

            Reply
          • web8970
            Jan 18 2011

            I guess I’d pick the same order. For once, Azorious is a well-rounded deck that has a plan and the right means to execute it. Plus the idea of calling defenders to battle via the Gargoyle is great. What’s more, it is part of one of my all-time-favourite blocks, Ravnica.

            I’d pick PoP second, although the Leviathan is somewhat uncastable. However, the deck features the Crystal Ball which is an artifact as blue as can be 🙂

            Reply
  3. Alluring Pyromancer
    Jan 13 2011

    Great breakdown, and wonderful explanation of just how to do so! Love this article! It helps to know the purpose a card serves in the deck before deciding whether you love or hate that card. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays!

    Reply
  4. web8970
    Jan 16 2011

    A Meta-Review, a cookbook on how to evaluate casual decks … nice twist and a clear evolution in writing style carried by passion for the game.

    Variatio delectat.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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