New Phyrexia: Artful Destruction Review (part 2 of 2)
The next in our shiny and new theme decks to test run, Artful Destruction is a tribally-themed construction with an Allies/Slivers-style twist. For the opposition, we have Jimi, who has selected the Phyrexian-mana-based deck Life for Death. Her deck promises speed in exchange for life… mine power in exchange for time. Which model will emerge victorious? Let’s find out…
On the play, Jimi leads with a Plains, which I duplicate. She gets out the first piece of her hardware with a turn-2 Golem’s Heart, while my first play comes a turn later with a Palladium Myr, putting her at 21 life in the process. A slow start, but things heat up on turn 4 when Jimi lands a Slash Panther (paying 2 life to cheat it out early with Phyrexian mana, but getting 1 of that refunded back from the Heart). She swings for 4, taking me to 16. I respond in turn with a Garruk’s Packleader, and the game is afoot!
Now turn 5, Jimi plays a second Slash Panther , again paying a life for the privilege, and attacks with both. Not wanting to lose my Packleader so soon, I take it full on the chin, cutting me in half to 8 life. Back to me, I attack with the Packleader for 4, then summon a Suture Priest and a Master Splicer. Jimi’s Golem’s Heart gives her a life for my Golem token, while both the Splicer and the Golem token give me +1 life each from the Priest. Adding to all the triggers flying about is the card I get to draw thanks to the Packleader responding to the creation of the 3/3 Golem token. By the end of the turn, it’s a 16-10 game, in Jimi’s favour.
Jimi Pacifies my Golem token on turn 6, then swings in with both Panthers. I chump one with the Suture Priest, taking 4 from the other. I then play a Stone Golem (again, +1 life for Jimi, +1 card for me), attacking for 4 with the Packleader. I follow with a Copper Myr, and Jimi ends at 14 life. Next turn, Jimi Gut Shots my Master Splicer, coming in for 8 again with the Panther pair. At 6 life against a Red-based deck, I can’t let myself get into burn range and am compelled to block both. I trade one out with my Stone Golem, and chump the other with my Copper Myr. Back to me, I summon a Sensor Splicer, putting another 3/3 Golem token onto the battlefield, giving Jimi life and drawing another card. I send the Packleader into the red zone again, dropping Jimi to 11.
Now turn 8, Jimi summons Kemba’s Skyguard (+2 life) and passes. I drop a Golem Artisan, and again trigger the life for Jimi/card for me cycle. Next turn, Jimi solves the Golem Artisan with a Solemn Offering. I respond to the Offering with a War Report, which seems almost broken in this deck (I gain 14 life from it). Jimi then swings in with the Skyguard, and just like that it’s back to being an 18-18 game. Jimi ends her turn, and I replace my lost Artisan with a Phyrexian Hulk. Being a Golem, this does the usual shenanigans (life, card), then attack for 3 with my Golem token. After summoning a Gold Myr, Jimi ends her turn only 1 life down from before (17).
Jimi keeps the pressure on with the unblockable Skyguard on turn 10, chipping away 2 more life from me (I’m at 16). Back to me, I summon a Precursor Golem. This gives Jimi 3 life, but also sees me draw three cards off of the MVP Packleader. Tragically, Jimi has a Lightning Bolt already in hand, and blasts one of my Golems. As before, I respond with a War Report, and this time gain a whopping 20 life before my Golems are obliterated. I lose the Precursor Golem and his two buddies, the one from the (now deceased) Master Splicer that was pacified, the one from my Sensor Splicer, and my Phyrexian Hulk takes a dire but non-fatal hit. I’m five-for-oned, but setting my life total to 36 at least offers some consolation. I then attack for 11 (swinging in with the Packleader, the Palladium Myr, and the Hulk), and Jimi trades her remaining Slash Panther for the Hulk. Thanks to that accursed Golem’s Heart, she ends on 14 life.
From here we enter a sort of détente. My Golem army has been wiped out, and I have only the Packleader and Palladium Myr with any size remaining. Jimi has the 2/2 flying Skyguard, and she and I start trading attacks.
Turn 11: Jimi swings for 2, I swing back for 7 (adding a lowly Gold Myr to the mix), cutting her in half. I then play a Cultivate and pass.
Turn 12: Jimi attacks for 2 (taking me to 32), I swing back for 7. She plays an Act of Aggression, stealing my Packleader and using it to block my Palladium Myr. As a result, she only takes 1 damage, going down to 6.
Turn 13: She adds a Porcelain Legionnaire (+1 life), but does not attack. I play a Suture Priest, then attack for 4 with the Packleader. She takes the damage, but responds with a Whitesun’s Passage, ending the turn at 8 life.
Turn 14: The Packleader draws a Pacifism, slowing things down even further. My turn is a blank.
Turn 15: Jimi sends the Legionnaire into the red zone this time, holding the Skyguard back to keep my 1/1’s at bay. I play a Sensor Splicer and gain another Golem token. The score is now 9-28.
Turn 16: Like a cockroach, Jimi keeps crawling back from the brink. She now adds a Pristine Talisman to her board (+1 life), guaranteeing a bit of healing every turn. She immediately triggers it, well past the point of needing its mana. Now at 11 life, she attacks for 2 with the flyer, leaving the Legionnaire to hold off my Golem token. I play a Maul Splicer, adding two more Golems (and giving each of us 2 life in the process thanks to her Golem’s Heart and my Suture Priest).
Turn 17: Jimi doesn’t attack, but triggers the Talisman again. Hard to believe, but she’s already at 14 life. I attack with all three of my vigilant, trampling Golems, drawing blocks from both of Jimi’s creatures. The Golem that gets blocked by the first striking Legionnaire gets a Giant Growth, and at last Jimi’s back is broken. She draws a useless Rage Extractor, and scoops.
Jimi leads with a Cathedral Membrane, paying 2 life for the Phyrexian mana, then follows up next turn with the hated Golem’s Heart. My first play is a turn-2 Copper Myr, which I follow with a turn-3 Palladium version.
The Porcelain Legionnaire makes its appearance on turn 4, while I add a Suture Priest and till the fields with a Cultivate. Next turn, Jimi adds a second Golem’s Heart, then draws first blood with the Legionnaire, taking me to 17. I fight back with a Forced Worship for the Legionnaire, and a Sensor Splicer, able to do both thanks to my ramping Myr. It’s now 24-19 in Jimi’s favour, thanks to the lifegain I get from the Suture Priest.
Jimi’s turn 6 is a merciful blank, giving me some time to regroup. I play a Palladium Myr and a Vital Splicer, and am now firmly in control of the board state. Then Jimi plays a turn-7 Phyrexian Rebirth, sweeping the board and putting a 10/10 token on the board under her control. Since I’d tapped out, I don’t even have the mana up to return the Forced Worship to hand. There’s only one way this game is going, and it isn’t good. I play a Stone Golem from hand, and pass.
Jimi’s having none of it. The Golem draws a Pacifism, and the 10/10 creature kills me in two swings.
My turn-2 Gold Myr is the opening play of the game, while Jimi follows suit with an Immolating Souleater. Next turn I play a land and pass, and Jimi adds to her ground troops with a Porcelain Legionnaire. She attacks with the Souleater, and is taken aback when I accept the trade with my Myr.
I’m not worried about the Legionnaire- I have a Forced Worship for it on turn 4. Jimi then replies by summoning an Ogre Resister, and I tap out on turn 5 to return the Worship to hand and put it on the Ogre instead. But Jimi’s on a roll and won’t be denied- a Slash Panther touches down and streaks into the red zone alongside the Legionnaire. It’s now a 16-13 game.
I look to slow down the board with a Stone Golem on turn 6, but Jimi Pacifies it and lances into me for another 7. Next turn I finally land a Splicer/Golem tag-team in the form of a Master Splicer. Jimi untaps, draws, and plays a second Slash Panther. In come the shock troops, forcing me to block to stay alive. The Golem token kills the Legionnaire, but the Splicer steps in front of a Slash Panther and promptly explodes. We both completely miss the fact that the 4/4 Golem- a 3/3 after the Splicer dies carrying 3 points of damage- should have died too. It’s never pleasant to catch later, but misplay happens and this is a playtesting environment, not a competitive one (“Judge!”).
My turn 8 is a blank (a Forest). Jimi attacks with the Panthers, and I toss off a quick War Report for 9 life. Then I smash one of the Panthers with a Glissa’s Scorn, and trade the other for my should-be-dead-already 3/3 Golem. Back to me, I play a Suture Priest followed by a Golem Artisan. Jimi’s turn is a blank.
Now turn 10, I swing in with the Artisan, pumping him three times. Jimi’s getting hit for 6, but a Whitesun’s Passage takes most of the sting away. She’s now at 14 life, with me at 12. OVer to her, she plays a Kemba’s Skyguard, getting another small bump of life (although losing half of it to the Suture Priest). Next turn I swing for 4 with the Artisan, leaving mana open to follow up with a Garruk’s Packleader. It’s 11-13, a close one. Jimi untaps and lays down a Rage Extractor, which could be trouble.
Alas, she never plays another card, and my Artisan/Packleader combo grinds away a couple more turns until the game is won (though the Packleader doesn’t make it to the victory parade, as the Ogre Resister finally gets called on for chumping duties).
Thoughts & Analysis
The Golems have finally (and somewhat unexpectedly) had their day in the sun. Even before Scars of Mirrodin launched, the Myr had had a pretty good run. Nevertheless, they were richly rewarded with an intro deck of their very own, imaginatively titled Myr of Mirrodin. Given their narrow concentration over a comparatively small number of sets, the Myr have stood out as a collective entity in a way their larger, plodding brethren never have, but to date there have been eighty Golems printed in the game (and that’s only the creatures themselves) versus a ‘mere’ thirty-five Myr.
For those looking for a tribally cohesive deck, Artful Destruction doesn’t disappoint. Playing the deck it’s quite clear what horse you’re backing to win, and most of the cards in the deck play into that theme quite well. Of course, it’s not enough just to have flavour- a deck needs to have a certain amount of solid gameplay as well. Here, too, the results were quite welcome.
In short, while not as fast as Slivers or Allies decks, once Artful Destruction gets up to four land drops or so, it feels every bit as focused and synergistic. If there’s a weakness in the strategy, it’s one shared by all its permutations- with each card played boosting the others already in play, its very tempting to overcommit and risk a blowout. This is what happened to me in the first game, when Jimi’s Lightning Bolt wiped out my Golem Army thanks to the novel ability of the Precursor Golem. In hindsight it’s easy to call this a tactical misstep, but the nature of the card dictates that it will always be a gamble. The question the card begs is this: will nine power’s worth of creatures close down the game before your opponent can draw their answer? And will throttling your aggression cede the advantage to your opponent by givign them more time and draws? More often than not, you’ll likely emerge the victor in this scenario by playing aggressively, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the receiving end of unpleasant surprises such as the Bolt or Act of Aggression. Naturally, your mileage may vary.
Incidentally, it bears mention that War Report can be absolutely filthy in this precon environment.
All in all this is a very fun and engaging deck, and a worthy testament to the power of the Golem.
Hits: Great tribal flavour; synergistic Splicer cards make the deck a lot of fun to play and give good variety to your army (although some are clearly better than others); improved integration of Core Set cards
Misses: Deck can take some time to get going, and offers little early defense; deplorable removal suite
FINAL SCORE: 4.20/5.00