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
Yeah, I still think it’s clunky. Everything is so expensive.
Not feeling constructive or is this a drive by posting on your way out the door?
I tend to agree, but the strategy has merit and the deck performed well in the face of a good deal of removal. The fact is that few decks deal well with waves of evasive critters and equipment affords great card economy to any creature based strategy. However, like most creature based strategies it should either ramp or play the curve, and this deck eschews the former and does poorly at the latter.
As for Argentum Armor, I would have rather seen Batterskull.
Problem is that there are too many bad cards where there should be good cards. Like Argentum Armor and Necropouncer and Warlord’s Axe. They’re all pretty much just worse than a Sickleslicer or Trusty Machete or probably even a Flayer Husk. Heck, I’d even prefer Unholy Strength, and that’s not even a good card. I can let Dementia Bat slide on account of the obvious-bad-card quota, but…
There are definitely some easy cards to cut, several of the more expensive equipment falling into this category. While the Brass Squire is great for in-combat shenanigans (and a 1/3 is decent for 3 mana), I would rather have more efficient equipment (Darksteel Axe over Warlord’s Axe) than have to rely on an easily undone combination. Again, this falls under WoTC precon design philosophy of leading the player to making better choices in deck building. Once a players Brass Squire gets nuked off the board for the fourth or fifth time, they’ll start looking at the equip costs of Copper Carapace, Warlord’s Axe and Argentum Armor and start looking for cheaper options. Or they may go the other way and add counter magic (or a 2 more Vapor Snags) to protect the Squire in favor of making their opponents play around instant speed equipment ploys.
I have this deck, and I must say that the Hovermyrs are very solid when combined with the equipment. I’ve won a surprising amount of games with this + Necropouncer.
On second though, do you know when the Breath of Fire meddling is coming out? It’s the only one from M11 that’s not been done.
Seems super consistent. I knew Argentum armor is a horrible rare that should not have been included since the deck can not accelerate into playing it quickly enough. Opponent can destroy the creature in response to the equip anyways unless you have a Brass Squire. Too situational=/
Keep up the great work. I enjoy reading the summaries=]
It is a pity that the chancellor appeared in the blackred deck, because the blue chancellor would’ve done very well in here, I think. Take a chunk out of your opponent’s deck or reuse one of your spells and get a big dude.
However, the big issue with the deck, in terms of rare choice, is that they had severely restricted their rare choice by theme, color and rares in other decks. So I think they probably did the best they could.
They might have done the best they could … for a strategy like this, evasive creatures with equipment.
… they could have taken an entirely different approach for UB. I do not think at all, that with one deck, namely the WR one, is enough for displaying all the potential Phyrexian Mana has to offer. Apart from that, these two colors were the ones most tied to the Mirrans. Building a Phyrexian Mana deck in UB would have felt much more Phyrexian for one and would have opened a wide space for unfolding evil plans …
But hey, what do they say about spilt milk? And too much conjunctive won’t make you happy 😉 So, have a nice week!
It seems like the problem with devoting just one deck to Phyrexian Mana is they felt like they had to exclude it everywhere else. Blue and Black definitely have some nice Phyrexian mana options.
For example, Vault Skirge would’ve been a perfect addition here. A 1/1 lifelink creature for 1+(P/B)? Heck yes. But it looks like they avoided it solely because of the Phyrexian mana in the cost.
(I actually added a couple of these little guys into my meddled Life for Death deck, and they haven’t yet failed to at least pay for themselves, life-wise. And think how great they could be with a bunch of equipment!)
Speaking of Meddling, these precons promise to be a blast to alter. I’ve already Meddled Life for Death and Artful Destruction to good effect. My brothe just go back into the game and these precons have him hooked.
I wanted… to see the invisimancer…and the zealot T T
Well, any of those would function the same way the hovermyr did. Stick some equipment onto them and let the carnage begin.
mmm… just realized that equipment’s what auras should be like: giving power to creatures without being two-for-oned all the time. As for living weapons, i think they’re pretty good and offer card advantage in the long run.
Interesting deck, but not UB, maybe WU, not UB at all
Augry Owl by far is my favorite card in this deck. Cheap, flies, and a great body for equipment. It also filters your deck.
Reminds me of Sage Owl, which was a staple back in the old days for my blue decks.
I loved ol’ Sagey as well. For any BLue deck he was an automatic 4-of consideration. He might or might not make it in, but he always got that initial look.
I played Sage Owl once, in one deck, cuz the deck had a bunch of ninjas in it and an evasive creature with a comes-into-play ability works well with ninjutsu. But Augury Owl is just leagues above Sage Owl. Scry is so much better than not-scry.