New Phyrexia: Ravaging Swarm Review (Part 2 of 2)
Finally, we’ve arrived at the final game for New Phyrexia. We’ve seen a Phyrexian mana-based deck, a tribal Golem deck, a removal deck, and a skies/equipment deck all represent the block, at last it’s time for the infect/proliferate. Ever bold, Jimi selects the tribal deck- Artful Destruction– to serve as opposition, and after a few shuffles and a die roll, we’re off!
I’m on the play (longtime readers might recall that this means I lost the “warmup/friendly” match we always play at the start but never record), and I have the turn-1 Forest/Glistener Elf package come on-line. Jimi plays a Plains and passes. I swing in next with the Elf, and give Jimi her first poison counter (PC). Alas, with no two-drops in hand, my turn ends there. Back to Jimi, she now starts her ramp engine with a Gold Myr.
Now turn 3, I attack again with the Elf, and Jimi declines the trade. I then follow up with a Mycosynth Fiend, already a fine deal as a 3/3 for three mana. Jimi follows up with a Palladium Myr. If she hits her next land drop she’ll be able to cast anything in the deck now, so I’m a bit wary. The Glistener Elf is now outclassed by the Palladium Myr, so I keep him at home and attack with the 4/4 Fiend. Jimi declines to block, so I snap off a quick Steady Progress to add a poison counter to Jimi and make the Fiend a 5/5, taking her to 15 life. Passing to Jimi, she brings her first Golem in with a Sensor Splicer, giving it vigilance.
Although the Golem isn’t the most appetizing target, I’m going for speed and aggression here and steal her Golem with a Corrupted Conscience. I then attack for 5 with the Mycosynth Fiend, taking her to 10 life. Could I really manage a conventional victory with the infect deck? Over to Jimi, she plays a Suture Priest, then follows it up with a second Gold Myr (giving her +1 life). The Priest wouldn’t normally warrant much attention from me, but the Phyrexian Swarmlord in my hand makes me regard it very carefully. I want to keep the pressure on, but it would be just my luck if my own Swarlord’s spawning ends up killing me because of the Priest.
It’s turn 6, and I attack with both the 3/3 infected Golem as well as the Mycosynth Fiend. Eager to avoid either kind of damage and with a plentiful manabase, Jimi offers up both Gold Myr as sacrifices, taking no damage. I decide to risk the Swarmlord, and play it before passing. We’re both now on a fairly tight clock. Back to Jimi, she replaces her losses with a Copper Myr and Palladium Myr, netting 2 more life in the process (now at 13). She ends her turn, and during my upkeep I put a trio of 1/1 infect Insects into play, taking me to 16 life (I lost 1 life from the Swarmlord itself, thanks to the Priest). Looking to reduce her gang-blocking options, I blow a Defensive Stance on a Palladium Myr, then attack with my Swarmlord, Golem, and Fiend. Jimi chumps the Golem with her Defensive Stance’d Palladium Myr, but lets 5 conventional and 4 infect damage through. She’s now at 8 life, with 7 poison counters. Fortunately for me, her next turn is a blank.
Now turn 8, I place another seven 1/1 Insects into play, losing another 7 life- down to 8! Luckily, I have enough on the board to swing in for lethal with an all-in alpha strike.
After the nailbiting finish of the first game, the second seems somewhat anticlimactic. Jimi gets stuck on two land, and I sandbag some of my noncritical cards to play after I drop the Inexorable Tide I find in my opening grip. Indeed, the first three turns are nothing but land drops (with Jimi missing her third), and Jimi’s fourth turn is remarkable only in that she is compelled to discard from her hand (she pitches a War Report). I manage my first creature of the game- a Cystbearer– on turn 3, then attack for first blood next turn before adding a Viral Drake.
Jimi catchs a small break on turn 5 when she draws and plays a Copper Myr, but the noose is tightening. I attack for three (taking her to 5 PC), then drop an Inexorable Tide. Next turn Jimi hits a land drop, which opens up a Cultivate, but it’s already too late. I attack with the Cystbearer and Drake (she chumps the Cystbearer with the Myr), taking her to 6PC. I then play a Wall of Tanglecord, proliferating another poison counter for Jimi, and a Core Prowler doing it again. She ends the turn with 8 poison counters.
Nwo turn 7, she tries to stabilise with a Precursor Golem, but it’s checkmate several ways. I opt to finish her off with a Contagion Clasp to proliferate again, and then to score that last, fatal poison counter off of proliferation with a- wait for it- Defensive Stance. Oh, the indignity!
Another slower-starting game, Jimi’s first play comes on turn 3 with a Palladium Myr (thankfully for her, no manabase problems this time). For my part, I drop a Rot Wolf and pass. Next turn she brings out the Vital Splicer, whose gift of regeneration is sorely matched against my infect beaters. Alas, I have nothing in hand I can play, so I drop an Island and pass.
Artful Destruction is firing on the right cylinders now as Jimi adds a Master Splicer on turn 5, then attacking in for 4 with her previous Golem. I play a second Island, then trot out Inexorable Tide. I have plenty of proliferation effects, but the window to get that first critical poison counter on her seems to have passed. I have a Spinebiter in hand, but will need to grit it out until I can deploy it.
Now turn 6, Jimi attacks in for 8 with both her Golems. I chump one with the Rot Wolf, shrinking it with -1/-1 counters, but it’s far from my play of choice. Jimi goes for the aggressive play by Giant Growthing the one that got through, and like that I’m at 9 life. I look forlornly at the Wall of Tanglecord in my hand and lament the decision to hold onto it for a cheap proliferate off of the Tide- I didn’t anticipate Jimi’s deck taking off so quickly and my complacency is costing me. Jimi follows up her attack with a Stone Golem, then passes. I kill off her Master Splicer with a Leeching Bite (throwing the useless bonus at one of her creatures), then bring in the Wall. On the upside, my proliferation has killed off her damaged Golem, so that’s one less beater to worry about.
Next turn, Jimi swings in for 7 with her Golems. I block the Stone Golem with the Wall, taking 3 from the other. Now down to 6 life, I watch with dismay as Jimi next adds a Phyrexian Hulk. My turn-7 Chained Throatseeker is a fine addition, but it’s not enough. Jimi turns everything sideways and has just enough for the kill no matter how I block.
Thoughts & Analysis
As I’d expected, Ravaging Swarm is a lot of fun to play, although for whatever reason it wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped. The creature selection is very strong, though the noncreature support is a bit inconsistent and weak. Boasting misses such as Trigon of Infestation, Corrupted Resolve, Fuel for the Cause, and- above all- Defensive Stance, it seems to suggest the need for a weak support package to offset the rather strong creature suite.
Speaking of creatures, there was some concern as to whether or not the focus of the deck might be diluted overmuch by the inclusion of a pair of Mycosynth Fiends, given that they don’t themselves have infect. If the first game is anything to speak of, these concerns are misplaced- the card is strong, and by itself threatened to steal a game from its infected brethren.
The biggest weakness here is likely to be the deck’s inability to consistently deliver that critical first poison counter, for without it the proliferation engine is but a shell of its glorious self. This shouldn’t happen often- a trio each of Glistener Elves and Blighted Agents should see to that- along with the Spinebiter on the back-end, but it is certainly more than capable of whiffing (see: game three). Fair enough, every deck has its weaknesses, but it’s a bit difficult (outside of Inexorable Tide or, to a lesser degree, the Viral Drake) to steadily proliferate your away to a win. Still, the mechanisms are there.
Ravaging Swarm was a lot of fun to play, and the best of the three infect decks from the block. Infect and proliferate go together like chocolate and peanut butter, and while there are some kinks to be worked out (it’s an intro deck after all), it’s a very solid effort!
Hits: Infect finds its natural mate in proliferate (“you compleat me”); very strong creature package; multiple copies of key cards keep the deck focused on its theme
Misses: Removal suite poor, even for Green/Blue (in an aggressive, creature-based decks bounce tends to be preferable than countermagic); noncreature support weak overall
FINAL SCORE: 4.60/5.00