New Phyrexia: Devouring Skies Review (Part 2 of 2)
For today’s epic matchup, Jimi selected Feast of Flesh to challenge my Devouring Skies. Feast is one of the most removal-packed decks in recent memory, though as we saw in our playtest of the deck its selection is a bit erratic and conditional, applying a bit of an artificial choke on the deck’s power. Still, there was more than enough killpower to give the creature-focused Devouring Skies a run for its money. Here is the writeup from the customary trio of games we played.
It’s an inauspicious start for the both of us. Jimi mulls down to 6 cards, taking a small measure of comfort knowing she’s on the draw. Me, I keep my opening seven, although it contains only one land- an Island- though it has a promising early progression if I can just draw into land.
I begin with the Island, passing turn. Jimi drops a Mountain and trots out a Furnace Scamp. Those can be tricky, as they’re outclassed so quickly (it’s become my custom to generally pop them the first chance I get when playing them). Case in point: my turn 2 Hovermyr (after drawing a second Island) has rendered the Scamp obsolete. Jimi consoles herself with a Shrine of Burning Rage and ends her turn.
Now turn 3, fortune has favoured me with a third land- this time a Swamp- so I play and equip the Viridian Claw to the Hovermyr, swinging in for 2. Jimi’s turn is a blank. Next turn I swing in again for 2, then follow up with an Augury Owl (keeping the two lands and a Spire Monitor that I find atop my library). Jimi’s turn 4? Again, a blank. Pity.
I swing in with my flyers for 3 on turn 5, then add an Impaler Shrike. She’s now down to 13 life, and only her Shrine is seeing any development. Back to Jimi, she claims the hapless Owl with a Geth’s Verdict, and I take my first point of damage thus far. Next turn I fly in for 5 damage, adding a Dementia Bat before passing. Jimi manages to summon a Blistergrub, but has no other play.
I keep the aerial pressure on in the skies, sending my army into the red zone for 7, leaving her at 1 point of life. Despite the tempting choices the Bat and Shrike give me, I opt to keep them in play. Jimi has five cards in hand, and likely would not be crippled by the loss of a mere two. I have three cards in hand, and am still bottlenecked trying to get everything out. Better to keep the power leveraged against her life total than to gamble at this point. Turning it over to Jimi, she becomes a flurry of activity with her back to the wall. She Flings the Blistergrub, killing my Hovermyr and causing me to lose 2 life. She then Disentombs the Blistergrub, while I flash in the Spire Monitor at the end of her turn.
I still have the edge on creatures, but I’m surprised she hasn’t scooped. I draw my card… and promptly Vapor Snag her Furnace Scamp for the game.
Obviously smarting from the ridiculous way she died in the previous game, Jimi opens in the same manner with a turn-1 Furnace Scamp. I play a Copper Carapace. She then attacks with the Scamp, popping it for 3 more damage once it connects and leaving me at 16 life. She then follows with the Shrine of Burning Rage and passes. The feeling of deja vu all over again continues when my next play is the mighty Hovermyr.
Jimi’s turn 3 is a blank, though she does manage to hit her land drop. I continue reliving the first game when I play a Viridian Claw and equip it to the Hovermyr, attacking for 2. Next turn, Jimi hits her land drop, but passes again. I go all in on the Hovermyr, adding the Copper Carapace to it. Now a 4/4 flying first-striker than can’t block, it floats across the red zone and thumps her upside the head.
Jimi finally deploys a threat on turn 5 when she brings the Caustic Hound into play. This confirms that my only option now is to race, because I don’t have anything that can profitably defend. Back to me, the Hovermyr hits for 4 more (taking Jimi to 10 life), then I cast the Sickleslicer. Next turn the Hovermyr’s floating reign of terror comes crashing down as Jimi pops the Shrine to kill it, then attacks for 4 of her own with the Hound. I load up the Sickleslicer with the Claw and Carapace, and cut Jimi in half on the ground.
Things take an abrupt turn on turn 7, however, when Jimi Enslaves the Germ token holding up every piece of my equipment. She then swings for 4 with the Hound, and I’m now at 8 life. Things are looking grim. The Augury Owl I summon tells me that I’m going to have little help from my library, though I do leave the Vapor Snag on top. I then equip the Owl using the last of my mana, girding it with the Claw and Carapace combo. It’s a gamble as it prevents the Owl from chumping, but I’m playing to my out.
Now turn 8, Jimi plays a Blistergrub, then follows up with a Tormentor Exarch, killing off her own Blistergrub. The 2 life I lose leaves me with 5, and she swings in for 6 with the Sickleslicer and Caustic Hound. I console myself that had I survived the round, I had her the next- with 5 power on the Owl plus a Vapor Snag coming. But a well-played finish with a flourish from Jimi repays my mockery in the last game.
My opening is fairly pedestrian- a lonely Island- but Jimi opens strong with a Despise, knocking the Brass Squire out of my hand. Next turn I play- guess what- a Hovermyr, while Jimi follows up with- wait for it- a Shrine of Endless Rage. We’re shuffling these decks, promise!
Of course, that sounds a bit suspect when my next play on turn 3 is the predictable Viridian Claw, and I swing in for 2 with the equipped Hovermyr. Jimi’s turn 3 is a lamentable blank, while next turn I attack for 2 more and add a Kiln Walker. Again, a blank turn for Jimi (though she did at least hit both land drops).
Now turn 5, I send both the Myr and the Walker into the red zone for 5, then follow up with an Augury Owl (keeping a Doom Blade despite not yet having landed a Swamp, and shipping a pair of suboptimal critters to the bottom of my library). Back to Jimi, she pops her Shrine to kill my Walker, but I whisk it away with a Vapor Snag (losing 1 life in the process). Next turn I attack for 3 after Jimi hits me with a Geth’s Verdict- once again, the Augury Owl takes it for the team. It’s a 9-18 game. I recast the Kiln Walker and pass. Next turn, Jimi enchants the hated Walker with a Parasitic Implant and passes.
I attack for the full 5 on turn 7, then add to my forces with a Darkslick Drake. Over to Jimi, the Implant pops, killing the Walker and leaving her with a useless 1/1 Myr token. Well, not entirely useless- it fuels an Artillerize which kills off my Drake. next turn, I attack for 2 with the Hovermyr, then summon a Dementia Bat. At that point, Jimi’s run out of tricks, and scoops.
Thoughts & Analysis
Being candid, this deck was one of the ones I was least enthused for when I started looking over the set. A skies deck was nothing new, and after so much equipment (from Mirrodin to Scars of Mirrodin to Mirrodin Besieged), it didn’t really hold all that much new for me, living or otherwise.
Despite the uncanny predictability- Hovermyr to Viridian Claw on turn 3 in all three games- this deck actually was a surprising amount of fun to play. Having so many creatures dedicated to the skies theme of the deck meant that I didn’t have to fiddle around with critters that loitered about on the ground adding little to my overall war effort, and there was a solid number of them.
To be certain, there were some drawbacks to the deck. I died in game two with the Phyrexian Ingester in my hand, which- at seven mana (and groundbound, no less) just doesn’t seem to quite fit the deck’s theme. I might have liked a touch more removal, though the Vapor Snags were very solid here. Alas, the Doom Blade availed me little, though no fault of its own. I never saw the Argentum Armor, though without the Brass Squire it wouldn’t have been the most attractive choice. Each of the three well-balanced games we played ended on turn 8, and that’s a fairly mana-hungry piece of gear. To be fair, though, there really isn’t another rare card that could fit the bill- your closest bet would be Chancellor of the Spires, which at least has the virtue of flying.
Although we all like our big, flashy rares, it might be worth considering that if your foil premium rare costs seven mana, it might be a little hard to justify the other one costing six. Just a thought.
Overall, I was delighted with the quantity of equipment I saw. As mentioned in the first part of this review, previous equipment-based theme decks skimped a bit on the gear but packed in critters whose quality was contingent upon it. It’s a rather poor formula, all told, but not one that Devouring Skies supports. Here we get solid creatures that can stand on their own two
feet wings, who are improved naturally by a lot of equipment floating about. It’s a much more fun model when your critters aren’t standing about waiting for that first elusive piece of gear to show up so that they can actually be good.
Hits: Superb quantity of equipment means you’ll be seeing some most games; deck’s critters don’t suffer unduly without it
Misses: Light removal package; both of the deck’s rares are somewhat disappointing here for the reasons mentioned above
FINAL SCORE: 4.25/5.00