Mirrodin Besieged: Battle Cries (Part 2 of 2)
One of the things we really get to enjoy about our playtesting is being able to experience a deck from both sides of the table. When I played Doom Inevitable, I didn’t feel a lot of power underneath it. There was potential, but from the pilot’s perspective it felt rather fragile and constantly threatened. Tonight I played against it instead, with Jimi as my opponent and me steering Battle Cries, and it couldn’t have felt more different. Doom Inevitable was… well, annoying. Hard to get through on after the first 10 points of damage, nettlesome with the -1/-1 counters which my creatures were particularly vulnerable, and requiring me to really have to scheme to orchestrate a win. After our three games were over, I thanked Jimi for the match. “It wasn’t fun,” I said with a grin, “but it was satisfying.”
Here are the notes from the match, and perhaps you’ll see what I mean.
On the play, I’m off to a solid start with a first-turn Plains into an Ardent Recruit. Jimi responds with a Horrifying Revelation, forcing me to pitch a Plains from my hand and mill a hapless Signal Pest into my graveyard. Still, the aggression is in my corner as next turn I go in for 1 with the Recruit before summoning an Accorder Paladin. A-ha, early battle cry, and I’m already imagining the damage I’m about to inflict.
Not quite. Jimi drops a turn 2 Contagion Clasp, and my dreams die with the Paladin.
Still, I manage to keep squeaking in for 1 with the Recruit for a couple turns, adding a Peace Strider on turn 4 before Jimi finally lands a defender (an Oculus). On turn 5, the Recruit stays at home and the Strider takes over, and by the time I pass the turn Jimi is at 14 life. She loses 1 more when she summons a Phyrexian Rager, but she does net a card for her troubles.
Now turn 6, and I take her to 10 with another swipe from the Strider. Jimi sends in the Rager (taking me to 21), then plays an Armored Cancrix. My turn 7’s a blank, but having survived through the midgame the momentum begins to turn in favour of the Phyrexians. Jimi plays a Trigon of Corruption and engages it to kill the Ardent Recruit immediately. Back to me for turn 8, I play a Siege Mastodon and Leonin Relic-Warder to exile the miserable Trigon, but my attack has stalled. Jimi untaps, then kills the Leonin with a Spread the Sickness, winning back her Trigon with refreshed counter complement to boot. She attacks with the Oculus, and I kill it with the Strider out of spite. Jimi repalces it with a Fume Spitter.
I play a second Peace Strider on turn 9, and at least have the luxury of a high life total (24). But I can feel a soft lock starting to close down on the board as Jimi has enough mana to trigger both the Trigon (to place a -1/-1 counter on one of my creatures) as well as the Contagion Clasp (to add a second counter and refresh the expended counter on the Trigon). I send both Striders into the red zone. Jimi blocks with the Fume Spitter, then sacs it to layer another counter on my poor Mastodon. Next turn the Mastodon dies to its counters, and Jimi adds an Oculus.
Again I send in my Striders on turn 11, and the gamble pays off. Jimi chumps one with the Oculus for the free card, but lets the second one through. This takes her to four. I then close the game out with a Master’s Call, adding two more artifacts to my board and activating metalcraft before sealing her fate with a Galvanic Blast for lethal.
After Jimi lays a Swamp, I manage a Plains and an Origin Spellbomb. Jimi summons an Oculus next turn, while I take another stab at an early Accorder Paladin. Now turn 3, the attacks begin- Jimi sends in with Oculus hoping it gets smeared, but I’d be a fool to take that trade. She then gets her free card anyway with Phyrexian Rager, while I play a Whispersilk Cloak.
The Paladin is in the crosshairs of Jimi’s turn 4 Trigon of Corruption, but she can’t activate it after playing it this early in the game. Jimi swings with both bodies for 3, and passes. I rush to equip the Cloak to it the moment I can to keep it beyond reach of the Trigon, and swing in for 3 of my own.
Now turn 5, Jimi gets ahead on damage by playing a Pierce Strider, taking me to 10. Knowing he’s Trigon bait but needing something for defense, I summon a Silvercoat Lion after swinging with the Paladin, then pass. Jimi threatens with the Strider/Oculus duo next turn, and I pop the Spellbomb to give myself a 1/1 chump token, but mainly just to get a card. I’m needing one more land for the turn-6 Victory’s Herald, and I get it, drawing a Plains. Jimi plays a second Oculus and is done. Once it’s back to me, I swing for 3 more with the Cloaked Paladin, dropping Jimi to 10 (I’m at 9), then I tap out for the angel. Jimi drops a -1/-1 counter on the angel at the end of my turn as a welcome present.
Now turn 7, Jimi finds something better and finishes it off with a Doom Blade. She then swings with the team for 7 (the Rager, the Strider, and the pair of Oculuses…Oculi?), but I take the trade of the Lion for the Rager and only eat 5. Relentlessly grinding in with the Paladin, I drop Jimi to 7 then play an Accorder Paladin and Myrsmith. Either are easy prey for Jimi’s Trigon, but I figure they might serve as a useful distraction and mana soak. She nails the Myrsmith right away, but has to wait until it’s her turn again to clam the second Paladin.
Once it’s back to her, she comes in again with the team. Perhaps trying to conserve mana for something else, she doesn’t kill off my blocking Paladin until after I’ve declared it as a blocker on the Strider. Taking 2, I am down to 7. She plays a Bonehoard (as a 4/4) and passes, but her inability to finish me off gives me the game. I go in for 3 more with the Paladin, then finish her off with a Concussive Bolt.
Jimi begins with a Swamp, while I have a Mountain alongside a Memnite. Next turn, Jimi gets on the board with a Myr Sire, while I have a Myr of my own with the Iron one. While her next turn is a blank (albeit one with a land drop), I trot out the trusty Whispersilk Cloak once more.
Now turn 4, Jimi leads with a Pierce Strider and rings me up for 3. I deploy a Siege Mastodon to keep her Strider at bay. Alas, next turn finds her with a Contagion Clasp, and the counters begin their work on my elephant. I topdeck a Leonin Relic-Warder, though, and opt to use it to get the Clasp out of the way. I then equip the Cloak to the Mastodon and swing for 2.
Turn 6 sees a furious sequence of events. Jimi drops a Skinrender to kill the Relic-Warder, and it resolves. With the Leonin gone, the Contagion Clasp is free to return to the battlefield, and it does so with a fresh -1/-1 counter. Jimi opts to put this on the Iron Myr. This would drop me out of metalcraft, so I respond to her perfidy with a Galvanic Blast to slay the Skinrender! She then attacks with the Strider and Myr Sire for 4. Over to me, all I can do is swing for 3 and play a Memnite.
Back to Jimi, she lands a turn 7 Psychosis Crawler, and my troubles have begun in earnest. With me open, she swings for 4 and takes me to 9. I counterattack for 3 with the weakened Mastodon and Memnite, then pass. The Crawler pings me for 1 on Jimi’s draw, then she goes for the kill with a full attack. I chump the Crawler with my Memnite, and Jimi follows up by proliferating with the Clasp to further damage my Mastodon. Taking 3, I’m now down to 5. At the end of her turn, I tap out for a 2-point White Sun’s Zenith, giving me a pair of last-ditch-effort bodies on the battlefield. Now my turn proper, I attack with the Mastodon, Memnite, and a 2/2 Cat for 4, leaving Jimi at 7. To my horror, I realise that in doing my projections of damage I neglected to account for the Cralwer’s ping, and have left myself open. I can only hope that Jimi doesn’t come in with everything, for that’s the game right there. I play a Viridian Claw and equip it to my defending 2/2 Cat token.
Jimi goes deep in the tank, but in the end fears overcommitting against potential burn. Having already lost 1 life to the Crawler on her draw, I take 1 more when she attacks with the Crawler and Myr Sire, leaving the Strider back on defense. When she passes, it’s game. I have metalcraft up, and enough land to play the Concussive Bolt. My ragtag army gets in for exactly lethal.
Thoughts & Analysis
It’s no sin to admit that with a teething baby, Jimi’s mind wasn’t 100% focused on these games, though she gave it an extraordinary effort. Put another way, Battle Cries went 3-0 on the night, but really should have been 0-3. At the end of each game there was some misplay made that allowed me to sieze victory from defeat, typically not using her artifacts most effectively or letting herself fall into burn range when she could have chumped to stay out of it. These things happen, not a concern. What is a concern is how Battle Cries underperformed for all three games.
I was particularly disappointed in the Accorder Paladin. The community’s abuzz with excitement that an new-and-mporved Blade of the Sixth Pride is back, but for all the extra power I would sorely have preferred it be a 2/2 over a 3/1. Instead, I got an aggressive card that could be locked down by so much as a single Oculus on the other side of the board.
Creature stall was particularly frustrating because of the relative lack of removal in the deck. The primary purpose of removal in aggro decks isn’t to kill your opponent’s threats, but rather to clear lanes through the red zone so that you can kill your opponent before they deploy their threats. Battle Cries had very little capability to do that, and so many times the deck felt stymied or contained.
The deck on a macro level is well-designed. The hybrid of battle cry and metalcraft mechanics works, and I enjoyed the usual shenanigans trying to get my artifact count up. When I was able to use it, battle cry was a fun mechanic, but it just wasn’t allowed to show what it could do here. The deck seems a bit bloated, but a Boros aggro strategy typically requires a far more focused approach. Unlike a midrange or control deck, aggro decks don’t count on having some luxury of time to draw what it needs. It runs on a very lean trajectory, and if it fails to draw into its tools to sustain early momentum, it floats dead in the water.
What Battle Cries would need is a tigher creature selection and more aggressive burn suite. As it is, it doesn’t have it.
Hits: Good pairing of block’s mechanics in battle cry and metalcraft
Misses: Deck has too much fat leading to unsustainable draws; lackluster burn suite
FINAL SCORE: 3.90/5.00
Now I’m curious to try battle cry out in my boros deck or even my soldier deck. See how it preforms.
This deck is prime for a meddling. Could really use it to show off the dynamic. Battle cry is an interesting mechanic. Just needs a deck primed to use it. Elf deck with battle cry. Boros with battle cry. Really seems like someone you’d want to use in a winnie deck.
Another good option is white weenie. Load it down with enough creatures that you flat out don’t care how much removal they have. An advantage of the battle cry mechanic is that you don’t have to worry about each individual creature. In fact, I’d love to take a crack at a mono-white rebuild of this deck following the rules of Ertai’s Meddling:
20 x Plains
4 x Memnite
4 x Signal Pest
4 x Ardent Recruit
2 x Glint Hawk
2 x Gold Myr
4 x Accorder Paladin
3 x Auriok Edgewright
1 x Victory’s Herald
4 x Arrest
4 x Pacifism
4 x Master’s Call
3 x Whispersilk Cloak
1 x White Sun’s Zenith
So many low-cost creatures ensures that the deck will be very busy, and even mass removal won’t hurt too badly. I added more metalcraft and artifact manipulation because the deck can use it. As far as the Battle Cry mechanic goes, Whispersilk Cloak + Accorder Paladin is your new best friend. Auriok Edgewright + Metalcraft + Battle Cry = 6 possible points of damage out of a 2-drop.
Try something like that and lemme know what you think.
I think Ertai just tried to lessen his critique of Jimi by blaming it on the baby! Oh boy…
What Liam can’t read won’t hurt him. 😉
Blocking the Oculus in game 1 was a misplay. You had over 20 life; there was no need to give Doom Inevitable a free card.
I maintain that this deck would get a lot of mileage out of combat tricks like Thunder Strike. You’re attacking every turn with high-power, low-toughness creatures that the opponent is incentivized to block; the presence of combat tricks, even just as a bluff, alters the math significantly for that course of action. I guess more Galvanic Blasts wouldn’t hurt either.
😀 Obviously! That’s why I made sure to mention I did it out of spite. We all have those moments, I should think… Single-target combat tricks aren’t a bad idea, though they do leave you vulnerable to being two-for-one’d. I almost wonder how some of White’s mass-buffers might fare here…
Honestly, I think combat tricks are too slow for Battle Cry. The mechanic itself is a built-in combat trick, after all, that benefits from a more blatantly creature-focused build, as the more bodies you have coming after the opponent, the more damage it does. Of course, battle cry creatures are prime removal targets themselves, so there’s a balance there.
A built-in combat trick … however, one that the opponent sees coming. On the other hand, you can always run into a Giant Growth and in that case it is an asset to have a proper burn spell at hand …
The element of surprise still is something that adds unpredictability to combat, thus adding excitement.
Some a posterori credit for the Doom Inevitable deck 🙂
Am I seeing this right, that “lack of removal options” has become some kind of recurrent theme in your reviews or is forcing creature combat an official WotC policy for Precons?
My understanding of combat has to do with how it has changed from the days of older Magic. The game is now so fast-paced and aggressive and there are so many creatures that a younger audience will find interesting that combat is now almost a necessity. Even if you don’t play with creatures, you need a way to either remove them, counter them, take control of them or prevent them from attacking. I believe that is why there is always an emphasis on removal. If I don’t feel like playing removal for the sake of removal, I’ll play a burn deck which lets me choose between burning a creature (i.e. “remove”) and burning my opponent. That’s my take on it, anyways!
Over time, theme decks have gone from precon decks aimed at the casual player to “bridgegap” ones for the new and returning audience. There’s a bit of a gulf between the two, and in there the answer lies.
Intro decks have been very formulaic in their attempt to illustrate the fundamentals of the game. You usually have 24-ish land, 24-ish creatures, and 12-ish “support” spells. I call them “support” because a high proportion of them directly apply to or contribute to combat and threat resolution. It’s not uncommon to find a clutch of removal, combat tricks and creature auras taking up the bulk of the slots here. It’s a necessarily simple form of the game. I cast my creature. You cast yours. We throw them at each other, cast some fast effects, and rawr!”
So my emphasis really comes from two places- first, as you say it’s a de facto acceptance that creature combat is the emphasised attribute of the modern game in intro packs, and also from having a stripe of competitive player in me for limited and constructed.
Precons seem to occupy an intriguing middle ground between those two formats, and being able to manage the board is vital. The days of the Winter Orb and Portcullis are probably largely behind us, so removal it is!
I’m thinking of utilizing Battle Cry for my mono-black infect deck. I’ll have to see if it’s worth putting in 4 Signal Pest, if it means 4 few infect creatures or pumps in my deck.