Mirrodin Besieged: Doom Inevitable Review (Part 1 of 2)
One of the primary functions of intro decks is to serve as a showcase for the themes and mechanics of their respective set. They work best when they’re not only fun to play, well-balanced, and reasonably competitive, but also when they give you a good idea of what the set is about. In today’s Standard environment, Wizards has experienced mixed success. Zendikar’s decks were a severe disappointment. When development could summarise the set in three words, “Maps, Traps, and Chaps” (better known as Quests, Traps, and Allies), yet the slate of intro decks virtually ignored all but the latter, there’s a puzzling disconnect between the decks and their set.
Worldwake’s decks were solid enough, although the Quest and Trap deck never materialised, but things took an odd turn in Rise of the Eldrazi. Almost as if they were overcompensating, Wizards built and entire deck around the Totem Armor mechanic, a device which probably wasn’t significant enough to warrant its own standalone deck. To make things worse, Totem Power was very underwhelming, presenting a motley collection of uninspired creatures to stick your Totem Armors on. Although every mechanic deserves its turn on the catwalk, perhaps not every one deserves its own show.
This over-eagerness to spotlight everything carried over into Scars of Mirrodin. Although in many ways the intro decks here were a cut above their predecessors and a return to a higher level of quality, the runt of the litter was indisputably Deadspread. While there’s little argument that proliferate is a fun and innovative mechanic, with just one set containing it it seemed that the deck was simply sixty cards of aspiration bound together by hope- there just weren’t enough strong proliferate cards in the environment yet to justify the deck and sustain success.
And so it comes as a pleasing discovery that Wizards has once more moved in the right direction with one of the two Phyrexian decks, Doom Inevitable. Featuring a name that could only have been inspired by science fiction of the golden age- and with art on its premium rare to match- the deck at least thematically is a clear advance. Deadspread’s weakness was that proliferate effects aren’t cheap, typically coming in at around four mana or through some alternate cost (typically involving the sacrifice of a permanent). With a deck that put all of its eggs in one basket, this left it frighteningly vulnerable both in the early and transition game. A deck that reliant upon proliferate might work, but not under the restrictions imposed upon an intro deck. As we’ll see, proliferate in Doom Inevitable has assumed its optimal role- as a strong supporting mechanic rather than a leading one.
We see further evidence of this ‘lesson learned’ with the living weapon mechanic introduced in this set. Fortunately spared a deck in which living weapon was given center stage, it instead also takes on a supplemental aspect, and paired with the proliferate options makes for a much more rounded deck. That’s great thematically, but how does the deck actually look? To find out, let’s begin with the creatures and see how this deck does its dirty work.
Add More Brains
If there’s a unifying theme to Doom Inevitable, it’s in incremental card advantage. Living weapons are a great example of this- equipment which enters the battlefield able to attack, and if it’s killed in battle can still be put onto another creature (being Shattered is a different story). But it hardly ends there. Here is the deck’s creature curve:
Just over 70% of the deck’s creatures provides some sort of incremental advantage, either when cast or when killed. This is most obvious in the trio of Oculuses and pair of Phyrexian Ragers, who enable the drawing of an additional card while still providing a serviceable body on the battlefield. A pair of Myr Sires replace themselves when killed, giving you two creatures (sequentially) for the price of one, not unlike Conflux’s Tukatongue Thallid (albeit not as cheaply). The Skinrender is a virtual two-for-one, or a severe weakening of a larger creature, while the twin Fume Spitters permanently weaken a creature when they check out. In an environment where 1 toughness is not uncommon, that can be removal all on its own. Finally, the Vedalken Anatomist can provide vulgar card economy should he stick around long enough to kill off a few creatures.
As mentioned above, the living weapons also give incremental advantage by giving value even when they’ve been dealt with, and the deck packs five of them in. The Flayer Husk is a wee one-drop and gives a very modest bonus. The Skinwing offers evasion to another of your beaters while starting life as a 2/2 flyer for four mana (which is about what you’d expect to pay for a flyer without a drawback in light Black anyway). The equip cost is brutal, but such is the price of versatility. The Strandwalker is essentially a Giant Spider, while the Bonehoard– the decks nonpremium rare- offers a Lhurgoyf-type body for the same converted mana cost.
Beyond that you have a couple of vanilla creatures (Barony Vampire and Armored Cancrix), a Caustic Hound and Pierce Striders for some extra life loss, and the Psychosis Crawler. The Crawler is one of those cards with inherent tension baked in- to make it stronger you need to hoard cards, but hoarding cards can put you behind in board position. Cards with this style of ability are usually too gimmicky to be a real threat, because no-one is going to get excited about a five-mana 2/2. Still, the Crawler looks to offset this swinginess with a nicely stable ability- a ping on your opponent every time you draw a card. With eight cards in the deck that let you draw additional cards, there’s a moderate synergy there that should be good for a couple extra points a game when it hits the table.
All in all it’s a solid collection of creatures with few outright misses. The M11 vanilla creatures are something of a flavour misfit here, and seem to be tossed in rather ham-fistedly, but the rest of the deck seems fairly solid. Still, much of the Doom Inevitable’s success will ride on the noncreature support, and we’ll take a look there next.
The Finesse of Butchers
Here the deck falters a step in its relative consistency. Whereas the bulk of the creatures coalesced around the theme of incremental advantage, the noncreature support seems rather disjointed. For one, the removal suite is paltry- singles of Doom Blade and Spread the Sickness– though this is somewhat supplemented by your creature-based removal (Vedalken Anatomist, Skinrender, and Fume Spitter). On the upside, the deck also splendidly offers a Mind Control.
All is not lost, however, as there are also a few other ways present here to get those vital -1/-1 counters rolling. Twin Contagion Clasps and Trigons of Corruption kick the party off, and there’s even a Steady Progress for an easy proliferate. The lot is rounded out with graveyard retrieval (Disentomb), discard (Horrifying Revelation), card drawing (two Vivisections), and the superb Steel Sabotage.
All in all, you have a rather solidly constructed creature core that suffers from inconsistent noncreature support, but appears capable of getting the job done. You don’t have a lot of heavy beaters here- most creatures have a power and toughness optimised for the early-to-midgame, so if the game goes long you’ll want to look to your more controllish options like proliferate and the -1/-1 counters to keep your opponent quiet. If all else fails hoarding cards to pump the Psychosis Crawler is viable, but deeply situational- you’re usually going to be better off hitting that six mana and moving your Skinwing onto an actual body for some evasive beats. Its weakness is in its heavy concentration of four-drops. Without any kind of ramp you’ll have to get there the old-fashioned way, one land at a time, and you can easily find your hand a little congested. Not that the Psychosis Crawler would complain…
The deck looks fun and engaging, but of course we’ll want to give it a run through its paces before rendering final judgment. Join us again in two days’ time and we’ll report on how it performed and give it its score. See you then!