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February 14, 2011

24

Mirrodin Besieged: Path of Blight Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

As we begin our final review of Mirrodin Besieged, we have the table farily well set for the ongoing conflict. On the one hand, we have the Mirrans fighting for their very existence using every tool at their disposal. Be it through battle cry and metalcraft (Battle Cries), or heavy-hitting magic (Mirromancy), the line in the sand has clearly been drawn. Staring back from the other side are the Phyrexians, who have brought living weapons and proliferation to bear (Doom Inevitable). But of course, no accounting of the Phyrexians would be comlete without their signature mechanic for the set: infect.

Infect has proven to be quite a volatile addition to Magic’s keyword litany, as it tends to be somewhat polarising in a love-it-or-hate-it kind of way. Some revel in the flavour and the novel challenge of poisoning their opponents to death, a win condition far more feasible now than at any point in the game’s past. Others, however, see it as format-warping, particularly in those with altered life totals such as Commander and Two-Headed Giant. Let’s not even get started on the flap surrounding the Blightsteel Colossus! But like it or not, it’s here to stay, and Path of Blight proudly marches underneath its banner.

If there’s a subtheme to be had in the deck, it’s the seeping corruption that is Phyrexia. Infect was exclusively Black and Green for Scars of Mirrodin, but now having festered right under the noses of the Mirrans, it’s crept into everything. The idea of a Selesnyan-coloured infect deck would have been mindblowing just a few months ago, but here we see the evolution of the block. Gone is the overcosted weenie swarm, and here is something that has… adapted.

 

Sever the Tongues

Because we have yet to see many chances to lay poison counters on your opponent outside of creatures, Path of Blight is by necessity a creature-heavy set in the traditional model. Much like its predecessor, Phyrexian Poison, it boasts a curve that tends to come alive in the midgame:

As before, every creature here is keyworded with infect, but you have a far greater variety now. In the 2-drop slot you have a pair each of the accelerating Plague Myr as well as the attacker’s nightmare, Blight Mamba. The mana myrs are particularly welcome here, as the deck is somewhat bloated in the midsection. The snakes should be a joyous sight in most any opening hand. To be certain, they are not without their drawbacks- the expensive regeneration can tie up your mana, but it can buy you some vital time to develop. Infect strategies previously involved getting in as quickly as you could before your critters were heavily outclassed (since non-infect creatures are more efficient for their cost), but when your top-of-curve beaters are the Phyrexian Hydra and Phyrexian Juggernaut, well, you can afford yourself the luxury of a little time.

The fun really begins in the 3-drop section. There’s nothing all that interesting about the Phyrexian Digester, a simple 2/1 infect vector, and you get two of them here. They look even worse when stood beside the pair of Rot Wolves the deck comes equipped with. The Wolf promises some occasional and opportunistic card advantage, which is highly useful in most any deck, without compromising its size for cost. As we’ll see, the deck packs a number of combat tricks as well, meaning it won’t always be up to your enemy as to whether or not you get a card. Rounding out the slot is a pair of Priests of Norn, another superb defensive card whose vigilance lets it threaten a posion counter every combat. Finally, there’s a dose of removal tied to the Viridian Corrupter, the “compleated” version of the old Shaman, but have a care- its destroy clause is not a ‘may,’ meaning you must destroy an artifact if there is one on the table when you cast it. Your deck packs a number of them itself, so make sure your enemy has one out or this card could turn to grief.

The Plague Stinger gets a bigger cousin in the Tine Shrike as we enter the 4-drops- twice the threat, but half as fast. Four mana is painful to pay for a 2/1 even with infect, but its evasion will cement you the occasional game even if its 1-toughness makes it as fragile as rice paper. Luckily, everything else in this slot ranges from somewhat tougher to substantially tougher. The Core Prowler’s proliferate-on-death ability nicely compensates for having to pay that much for a 2/2, and the same can be said of the Corpse Cur. You get one of each here, so alas, no setting up a recursive loop with two Curs that you could in Phyrexian Poison. Still, you also get a Blightwidow in the deal, which is aggressively costed if you compare it to its antecedent, the Giant Spider. Lastly, a pair of Tangle Anglers provide stout defensive-minded bodies while still being able to set up a withering alpha strike once you go all in.

Our closers are the aforementioned Phyrexian Hydra and Juggernaut. The Hydra is a gamble against any deck with burn, but a 7/7 infect creature is a deal-with-or-die. The Juggernauts, too, can quickly end games it not solved right away. These are expensive, but having a strong body on an infect vector that doesn’t go away at the end of the turn (as Putrefax did) more than makes up for it.

Welcome our Embrace

As you’d expect from Green/White, Path of Blight packs in a fair number of noncreature combat tricks to support its agents. The set’s twist on Giant Growth gives only a meager +1/+1 bonus, but more importantly also grants trample. No longer can the cowards hide behind chump-blocking Myr! Safe Passage isn’t a great card under almost any circumstances, but does give the tantalising hope that you can blow out your opponent’s creatures either on the attack or defense. To be fair, given the permanent nature of infect damage, the card is better suited here than in most, although it’s been pointed out that it seems a bit of a flavour stretch. Also included from Magic 2011 is Mighty Leap, another trick which benefits from being used on an infect beater morese than a conventional one.

Straddling the line between combat trickery and outright removal are the pair of Choking Fumes. It stops short of being a full kill because it only applies to attacking creatures, so that obnoxious Myrsmith your opponent’s using to crank out defenders is unlikely to be affected. It can, however, rather dramatically change the tide of battle when used at the right moment.

For full removal, the deck carries a few different options. A Pistus Strike flat-out kills a flyer, one of Green’s increasing specialties, and offers a poison counter to boot. For pest control you have two Trigons of Infestation, and for very flexible (albeit temporary) removal of a problem the deck packs twin Banishment Decrees as well.

The final trio of cards fall under ‘miscellany.’ There’s a pair of Hunters’ Feasts, quite dreadful by almost any yardstick. If lifegain is generally bad, sorcery-speed lifegain is far worse. There won’t be too many times when you’ll want to tie up four mana for 6 life, and this will usually be a most unwelcome draw. Not only does lifegain do little to advance your victory, but it’s a complete dead draw when you happen to be winning the game.

Finally, there’s the Decimator Web, the deck’s non-premium rare. The web does exactly as advertised, moving you 10% closer to a victory of some kind when triggered. Your opponent loses 10% of their starting life, tacks on a poison counter, and mills six cards from their library. The first and third abilities are pretty useless here- as a poison deck, your opponent’s life total will not deviate from 20, and without any reanimation spells at your disposal you could care less what happens to be in your opponent’s graveyard (aside from the fact that the game should be well over before you actually deck their library anyway). So why is it here? Good question. It can be argued that having a “ranged” posion counter option is useful, and no doubt there are times that it might be. But the fact that you have to pay eight mana to get your first poison counter means that the Web will be a miss more often than a hit. There were certainly better cards than this for the slot.

So there you have it, Infect 2.0. The deck trades a little bit of its lethality by opting for White over Black, but overall picks up a great deal more stamina than Phyrexian Poison. Games that pass the midgame are far less likely to make you feel like your window of opportunity is inexorably closing, and you should be able to hold your own against all but the most front-loaded aggro decks. There are some weak cards here, to be certain- it’s an intro deck after all- but perhaps moreso than most these will stand out and beg for replacement very quickly. Join us next time when we take the deck into battle, and see if we can’t end the set with a win for Phyrexia!

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24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hireling
    Feb 14 2011

    I really like the idea of WG infect, but there are a lot of dead draws in this precon, as you’ve already stated. I would lean heavily on White’s ability to remove enemy blockers via Journey to Nowhere, Arrest and even Pacifism.

    Reply
  2. web8970
    Feb 14 2011

    As this site is becoming the casual precon-headquarters, here’s an interesting article on ManaNation: http://www.mananation.com/under-preconstruction-precon-recon/

    As for the theme deck presented here: White, Green, -1/-1 counters … why does this remind me of Shadowmoor’s Overkill?

    While the Hydra has potential to be the star – much like Galvanoth is in his home deck – the Decimator Web really seems like someone in the design department didn’t want to have it go unnoticed. Of course, it is a beautifully designed card, but … I guess I’d rather have a foil version of it carefully sleeved up on my desk than shuffled in for battle.

    Reply
    • Feb 14 2011

      Good link- I’ve really enjoyed Brad’s taking on of the precons, and have even thrown some traffic to support him by putting up a link on the front page here to a couple past ones. I think you’re right about the Web. It’s such a poor fit, but a very elegant card.

      Reply
  3. Hireling
    Feb 14 2011

    Something else just struck me. I know that Safe Passage doesn’t fit thematically (unless the Priests of Norn have some truck with angels), but WOW is it a nasty card when paired with infect. “Oh, you want to trade with my infect creatures? Too bad they’ve all survived and all of your creatures are dead or weakened.” Very dirty.

    It’s also a great defensive measure against decks that try to trade damage with you or blow you out in one turn.

    Reply
    • Feb 14 2011

      I have to admit, ordinarily I’d trash the card (and frequently have!), but there’s just enough to the interaction to make me reserve judgment here. The “false hope” of cards like this is that you’ll be able to kill a bunch of their creatures in a combat. It’s almost like scratch-off lottery tickets- the reality is you seldom win, but there’s such a thrill in winning that you keep playing.

      Most times the card is rubbish, as you need to kill a minimum of two creatures to gain card advantage. But because infect has a permanent impact even if no creatures are killed outright makes me at least willing to give it a try before slagging it.

      Reply
  4. troacctid
    Feb 15 2011

    Disappointing rares in this one. Decimator Web is total jank–much worse than Contagion Clasp, which is an uncommon–and the Hydra is, well, a little better I guess, but very underwhelming.

    Hunter’s Feast is kind of funny in that you could make your opponent gain life too and it wouldn’t matter.

    Reply
  5. Hireling
    Feb 15 2011

    troacctid’s comment about life gain vs poison just made me think of a question. Are there any powerful cards with the downside of giving your opponent life? It seems like those would be perfect in infect decks.

    Reply
    • Feb 15 2011

      Fiery Justice, Armistice, Grove of the Burnwillows, Wall of Shards are a few that have such an ability… Dunno if I’d call them all “powerful cards,” though the Grove becomes a Taiga…

      Reply
      • web8970
        Feb 15 2011

        What a cool idea … now I finally know what to do with my Wall of Shards. (The obvious combo was with Rain of Gore.)

        I’d like to add Last Breath to the mix as well as Pulse of the Fields as the opponent is then likely to have more life.

        With white tapping into infect this could become a fun archetype for casual … yeah!

        Reply
        • troacctid
          Feb 15 2011

          Rain of Gore would be a bombo. It only works on spells and abilities that gain life for their controllers.

          Reply
        • Stric9 (aka Steve)
          Feb 15 2011

          If you did a G/W Infect deck with some older cards you could throw in some Kavu Predators and give them infect. Then your opposing planeswalker would really think his life was useless.

          Reply
    • Aaro
      Feb 15 2011

      Good call! Swords to Plowshares comes to mind, but that’s older…

      I love finding ways to turn the downside of a card into an upside! It’s like the designers are just begging you to do it.

      Best part is, giving an opponent life in an ironic way like this is just sort of comically evil.

      Reply
    • troacctid
      Feb 15 2011

      You’re looking for Invigorate, I think.

      Reply
      • Feb 15 2011

        This. Couldn’t recall the name, but it absolutely fits the bill.

        Reply
  6. Morn
    Feb 15 2011

    I get why they had to do green/white infect here: showing off the fact that white has a Phyrexian mechanic is a something that, from an intro pack standpoint, just had to be done. Having said that, I think it might have been better served to go black/white instead. Things like Phyrexian Crusader and Black Sun’s Zenith would have been perfectly acceptable rares for such a deck, though choosing a premium rare would have been far more difficult. Crusader just isn’t exciting enough for the kind of player that a premium rare is supposed to attract, and the Vatmother’s drawback would make selling the deck more difficult to a new player. Having said that, though, I think they could have pulled off the flavor of “infected White” much better with Black as the second color. The “enemy color” thing is just more striking than a friendly one.

    Reply
  7. web8970
    Feb 16 2011

    I’m really getting curious in which way they are going to tweak the infect/poinson theme in the Action set.

    It’s MaRo’s Law that poison counters can’t be removed, but having white infect cards, there could be another way of trading them, similar to what the Vatmother does, using them as a drawback.

    I could imagine a card that increments the number of poison counters as a lose condition …
    Or some completely weird Magus of the Mirror like effect that exchanges the number of poison counters with another player.
    Or an instant that grants protection from poison until end of turn …
    Perhaps some kind of permanent reading “Take X poison counters: Destroy target creature with power less or eqaual to X”
    A twist on Donate: “Target player takes control of a creature you control. He or she gets poison counters equal to the creature’s converted mana cost.”

    *dreaming*

    Reply
  8. Icehawk
    Feb 16 2011

    Anyone like the Event Deck deck lists? Got some nice stuff in there. Neither is my cup of tea, but I like this Event Deck thing. They really do look like decent decks to me. I hope they keep it going for future sets, especially the ones that have quite a few cards I want.

    Reply
    • Stric-9
      Feb 16 2011

      Where did you find the deck lists? I haven’t been able to find them anywhere.

      Reply
      • Icehawk
        Feb 16 2011

        The Mothership:
        http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/arcana/648

        Posted today. If the prices don’t skyrocket, I may pick one or both up as a sealed deck for giggles.

        Reply
        • Feb 16 2011

          The lists were leaked a couple weeks ago on ManaNation, I put up an article here linking to it, but nice to have them officially confirmed.

          For what it’s worth, we’ll be giving them the full Lament treatment right after we’re done with Elves vs Goblins!

          Reply
          • web8970
            Feb 16 2011

            Looking forward … as usual.

            However, given the deck lists, you might as well treat the Goblins’ Duel Deck along with the Mirran Event Deck. The list smells more like our little elf-haters than it shimmers like the defenders of Mirrodin 😦

            However, the Phyrexian Version reads like a Deadspread 3.0. And this time they did it right!

            Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. New Phyrexia: Ravaging Swarm Review (Part 1 of 2) « Ertai's Lament
  2. 2010-11 Precon Championships: Tinsman Division (Part 1 of 2) « Ertai's Lament
  3. Betrayers of Kamigawa: Spiritcraft Review (Part 1 of 2) | Ertai's Lament

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