New Phyrexia: Feast of Flesh Review (Part 2 of 2)
Finally, our first games with the New Phyrexia decks are underway, and we’re all looking forward to seeing how they hold up on the field. In many ways, the decks of the third set in a block tend to be some of the most interesting ones, if only because the designers have a full three sets of cards (plus a Core Set) to pick from. Strategies that might not have been as sustainable in the first go-round now have the tools they need in the third. And frankly, we’re all pretty excited about New Phyrexia in a way we haven’t been with Scars or Besieged- it just looks like a fantastic set.
And so to break in our opening matchup, Sam joined me at the table with Ravaging Swarm, a Simic-style construction that combines infect and proliferate to deadly effect. Would she be able to poison her way to victory? Or would the abundant removal in Feast of Flesh give her critters fits? There’s only one way to find out, and here are the notes from the matchup.
Sam leads off with the vaunted one-drop infect creature, Glistener Elf, while I play a Swamp and pass. She attacks next turn (putting me at 1 poison counter, or PC), and again I can only lay a Swamp. The Glistener Elf comes in a second time on turn three (+1 PC), and then is followed up with a Rot Wolf. That’s enough to stir me from my waiting game, and the Wolf draws an immediate Go for the Throat. Back to me, I play a Shrine of Burning Rage and pass.
Now turn 4, Sam attacks with her Elf (giving me a third counter), then summons a second one. The Blisterstick Shaman in my hand begs to be played, and I indulge him. Not only does he snipe one of Sam’s Elves, but he also adds an additional counter to the Shrine. Back to Sam for turn 5, she attacks with the remaining Elf, and I accept the trade for the Shaman. She then summons a Cystbearer, and ends her turn. I play a Mountain and wait.
Turn 6 arrives, and Sam swings in with the Cystbearer. I look to remove it with Geth’s Verdict, but Sam’s ready with the counter (a Corrupted Resolve). The Cystbearer trundles in and drops a pair of poison counters on my shoe. I’m now half dead. Back to me, I land a Scoria Elemental, which I’m happy to have in a defensive role. Next turn, Sam continues to press her attacks, but I block the Cystbearer with my Elemental, trading them out. Back to me, I replace my losses with a Flameborn Viron and pass.
I get a brief respite as Sam’s turn 8 is a blank, then get my first damage in when I send the Viron into the red zone. With Sam down to 14 life, I follow up with a Caustic Hound and pass. Next turn Sam’s defensive woes continue as she summons a Blighted Agent. She uses it to chump the Viron next turn, but that still lets the Hound on through for 4. This leaves her at 10 life- like me, half dead.
Her turn-10 Plaguemaw Beast is nice, but several turns late to the party. With my Shrine of Burning Rage boasting eight counters, she has no way to survive my next attack and scoops.
This time it’s my turn to start early with the 1-drop, as I play a Furnace Scamp after Sam’s opening Forest. Still, she’s not far behind as she adds a Blighted Agent on turn 2. I send in the Scamp, and score first blood.
Next turn, Sam swings back with the Agent, giving me my first poison counter, then adds a Cystbearer. I have no profitable attack, so I content myself with summoning a Blistergrub and passing. back to Sam, she attacks with both beaters, taking me to 4 PC. I fire back with both of my own, and pop the Scamp on top of it for a total of 6 damage- a promising start!
Things take a slight detour for the worse on turn 5, though. Sam swings in with both the Agent and the Cystbearer, so I offer up the Blistergrub to fuel an Artillerize, figuring I’d vaporise the Cystbearer. Sam counters it with Fuel for the Cause, which not only counters my burn, but gives me another poison counter through its proliferate. The 2 life she lost through the Blistergrub is small consolation. Back to me, all I can do is play a Tormentor Exarch to kill off her Blighted Agent, and pass.
Sam attacks with the Cystbearer again on turn 6. With 8 poison counters, I’m on the ropes and am forced to chump with my Exarch. Back to me, I cling to life with a Morbid Plunder, returning both my Exarch and the Scamp. I have one Mountain left over, so I cast the Scamp to buy another turn.
Sam attacks on turn 7, killing my Scamp. She then follows up with a Glistener Elf. I recast the Tormentor Exarch, picking off the Elf and giving me another round of chumping.
Sam attacks on turn 8, killing the Exarch. I play an Entomber Exarch, returning the Scamp to hand and recasting it.
Sam attacks on turn 9, killing the Scamp. I draw a Geth’s Verdict, but heartbreakingly Sam counters it with Corrupted Resolve.
Sam attacks on turn 10, killing my remaining Exarch. She follws up by summoning a Core Prowler, and unless I can summon two creatures next turn, I’m done for. I draw, get nothing, and scoop.
Sam points out that things might have gone better for me if I’d gang-blocked with my Exarch and Scamp, killing off her Cystbearer. She’s probably right, but I was fixated on getting ahead in the creature count so I could then drop a Parasitic Implant on the Cystbearer, or getting one more land so I could bring out the Flameborn Viron. Alas, I die with both the Tower of Calamities and Ichor Explosion in my hand as well. Removal… but not the right kind.
The hour grows long, and it’s beginning to take its toll on Sam despite the steaming mug of Dunkin Donuts coffee beside her. Having to mulligan to 6 doesn’t lend her any great enthusiasm either. I lead off again with the trusty Furnace Scamp, while she manages an Island and passes. Next turn I attack with the Scamp, while Sam returns with a Blighted Agent.
Now turn 3, I swing with the Scamp and then pop it for an additional 3. I’m finding that the Scamp likes to die early, because he does precious little sitting on the sidelines after the bigger critters start to hit the table. Back to Sam, she attacks with her Agent (+1 PC), then adds a second one to her board. I kill off one of them with a turn-4 Tormentor Exarch, but she follows up with a Blight Mamba after another Agent attack (I’m now at 2 PC).
I solve the Mamba with a turn-5 Parasitic Implant, but of course it’s on a bit of a fuse. I pass to Sam, and she attacks with both the Mamba and the Agent- what does she have to lose, right? This puts me up to 4 poison counters. Sam follows up with Inexorable Tide, then ends her turn. Back to me, the Implant goes off and Sam sacs her Mamba, while I put a 1/1 Myr token into play. I then play a Shrine of Burning Rage after attacking with my Tormentor Exarch, followed by an Entomber Exarch. With precious little of value in the graveyard, I instead try and Duress Sam’s hand with it. Alas, it’s a whiff- she’s holding a Viral Drake, Spinebiter, and Chained Throatseeker, nothing more. Back to Sam, she attacks with the Agent, then summons the Viral Drake (which triggers a proliferate thanks to her Tide). I’m now at 6 PC.
I add a Scoria Elemental on turn 7, then pass. Sam attacks with both of her creatures for 2 more poison counters, then triggers a proliferate from the Drake leaving me 1 counter away from death. Sadly for her, Sam’s miscalculated the damage I have on the table, and I’m able to alpha strike for lethal next turn, thanks to the Shrine. By rights the game was hers- she had merely to use the 4-toughness Drake for defense and ride the proliferate wave to victory, but she punted this one away. It happens.
Thoughts & Analysis
I was initially impressed with Feast of Flesh from the outset thanks to its abundant removal, but only upon playing it does its true evil genius begin to make itself apparent. The deck is filled with removal, yes- but its a motley menagerie that is largely unreliable and inconsistently conditional.
Go for the Throat: Wonderful inclusion, but doesn’t work on artifact creatures.
Fling: Costs you a creature
Whipflare: Can easily wipe your own board with this, and I’m not a fan of its negative synergy here. Usually with cards like this you try and skirt the symmetry- for instance, having most of your creatures be artifact creatures. This deck doesn’t do that.
Geth’s Verdict: Great price, instant speed… but it’s an Edict effect and you sometimes have to do a little bit of engineering to help it claim a prestige target
Tower of Calamities: The damage output is absurd, but so is the cost- eight mana for your first blast. This in a deck without a single ramping option? A terrible inclusion.
Parasitic Implant: Only the Tower is worse. For four mana, I want my target dead, not ticking along for another turn before popping. The 1/1 Myr is not very useful here, and the delay usually will mean that your opponent will send it in as a suicide attack.
Artillerize: Also costs you a creature
Enslave: A clever inclusion, but a pricey one
Ichor Explosion: A seven-mana boardsweeper
To be fair, the deck has optimised itself to profit from the killing of its own creatures. Aside from the ways to get your creatures back out of the scrapheap, Blistergrubs and Caustic Hounds cause life loss for your opponent when they die, and the Phyrexian Rager has already repalced itself in your hand when cast. But still, to make the most of those spells, you need to have creatures out that you can spare. It’s a ton of removal, but you’re going to have to get creative on the battlefield to maximise their potential. Otherwise, you’ll be little different than I was in Game Two, trying to rig up the right removal avenue and dying in the process.
I don’t hold this against Feast of Flesh– indeed, for an intro deck to have this much removal there has to be a catch- and a lack of simple consistency is it. In short, it’s a fair shade cleverer than in looks- pilots take note: you’re not running four Go for the Throats and four Doom Blades here.
The rest of the deck is fairly constructed. The creature selection is largely solid, with few missteps (mainly Scoria Elemental here). Chancellor of the Dross is as solid here as the Tower of Calamities is weak. And in some ways it really does have the feel of a theme deck rather than an intro pack.
Pros: A removal suite par excellence; superb rare in Chancellor of the Dross makes every opening hand feel like a scratch-off lottery ticket; solidly-designed balance between creatures that benefit you when they die, spells that benefit you when you kill your own critters, and ways to get them back from the graveyard
Cons: Tower of Calamities adds insult to injury for those already displeased that the decks have a rare slot taken up from a non-New Phyrexian card; wide diversity of removal means you can’t rely on it as much as you think
FINAL SCORE: 4.25/5.00