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May 23, 2011


New Phyrexia: Ravaging Swarm Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

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!

Game One

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.

Game Two

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!

Game Three

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

Read more from New Phyrexia, Scars Block
20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fillip
    May 24 2011

    Wow. New Phyrexia was a very positively reviwed set for precons. Also, mashing up two copies of this precon makes for a very potent deck!

  2. web8970
    May 24 2011

    Seems I haven’t been too far off the truth when claiming that the Tide adds late-game value to useless spells as seen with Defensive Stance.

    Somehow, your report reads like the deck has troubles deciding which way to win, either with poison or the conventional way. Nevertheless, it makes me want to sit down at the table and sing A.Cooper’s “Poison” at my opponent 🙂

    Is there any chance, we’ll be seeing a Scars-block-only championship in order to evaluate the true value of those fantastic decks (and the majority of them are!) in a more open environment?

    • Rob
      May 24 2011

      that’s a great idea. We just closed out a precon only tournament and here was the end result:

      Myr of Mirrodin
      Artful Destruction
      Mirromancy (me)
      Path of Blight
      Life for Death (how?)
      Ravaging Swarm (holy crap!)

      The myr deck proved to be the most well balanced, and didn’t have any crap filler for the most part. The golem deck was brutal!!! I beat it using burn on the splicers and bounce on the tokens though.

      • May 26 2011

        I can’t begin to express my jealousy at a structured precon tournament. Did you have to buy them onsite, or bring your own?

        • Rob
          May 28 2011

          Everyone basically went out and bought their own deck of their choice. The rules were simple: deck had to be stock, and from SOM-MBS-NPH.

          It was an absolute blast, even though I came in 3rd. It was a narrow, one turn loss to myr of mirrodin thanks to a topdecked arrest. I piloted mirromancy, I bought that deck on your review, and I LOVE IT! My GF (who pilots path of blight) calls it “that deck I hate to play against because of all the annoying spells”

    • May 26 2011

      Alice Cooper’s pop-metal anthem? Holy Maloney, Wolfgang, you’re dating yourself here!

      …And me too, for that matter. 😀

    • May 26 2011

      Oh, and a Block-only championship is probably unlikely, given that it would probably cannibalise the annual one we’re looking forward to later in the year! Only so many games we can play, alas, alas…

  3. Rob
    May 24 2011

    Ah, the review I was waiting for! I actually just got this deck, I pieced it together via trading.

    It was very disappointing in early playtesting, but I’m hoping it’s due to bad draws.

    I’m sure in game 2 if artful destruction got a good hand, it would have gone differently. I’ve actually played against the golem deck in stock form, and it’s brutal once it ramps.

    Out of the whole block, I’m sticking to Mirromancy as my favorite precon.

    • Varo
      May 24 2011

      It seems you had very bad luck, only one match with a glistener elf on the opening hand and no blighted agents at all.

      Anyway, this deck should be very powerful as long as you include some pump and bounce spells.

      Nice mix between infect and proliferate, and three copies of the low-costed creatures make it solid enough for a precon. Myr of Mirrodin and Phyrexian poison as my favs of the set.

      • May 26 2011

        Bang- you nailed it. Some extra pump and bounce would go a long way. I’m actually really looking forward to the pump-filled Rot from Within Event Deck right around the corner!

  4. Stric9
    May 24 2011

    I’ve been putting the decks together and playing them against my tourney legal decks where they don’t do very well. Of coure, these are precons with limited rares and mythics totally absent. Overall, I’d say NPH precons are some of the better made products in this environment ever. With a little bit of tweaking, they’re very fun to play. My favorite one so far is Life For Death. It is so entertaining to play with. Also, for those of you who are just getting into Magic or are looking to gain a more competitive edge and haven’t perhaps read Ertai’s article on Quiet Speculation, you may want to consider picking up the Event Decks. They look to be quite powerful at a very affordable cost. Just don’t overpay for them.

    • Rob
      May 25 2011

      yeah I can see where these decks fall way short of being tourney worthy.

      I find the fun in playing these against my friends constructed decks is the challenge in not only trying to win, but in figuring out creative uses for the junk cards in the deck.

      For example, banishment decree is awful removal, but I used it on my own hydra that was arrested to get it back into play. Now that takes creativity!

  5. Koga305
    May 24 2011

    Hm. I guess its really weak support cards balanced out the strong creature aggro. Makes since, after all Green and Blue are the worst at dealing with creatures.

    An Eartai’s Trickery mashing up the three Infect decks would be really cool!

    • May 26 2011

      That would be an interesting undertaking, given the colour distribution. Might be worth picking up the pad and pencil and kicking it about!

      • Prophylaxis
        May 28 2011

        Thumbs up x3. Maybe a 5-color infect deck – I’ve tried.

  6. Ben
    May 25 2011

    Hah, the poison is fun to see at work here. And the pressure format of the deck certainly seems to work.

    Also, I second the trickery of the three infect decks. That would certainly be interesting.

    • web8970
      May 26 2011

      That would ba a challenge. You would certainly use green as your main color. But what for support, what to splash? U provides proliferate to multiplicate the counters, whereas B adds the nastiness needed (looking at Hand of the Praetors).

      And what about a mono-green version with artifact support (ie Corpse Cur and Contagion clasp)?

      So many deck to build, so little time to play … *sigh* 😉

  7. Aaro
    May 26 2011

    Fifteen comments in, and I can’t believe no one else found “you compleat me” to be utterly hilarious and worthy of a mention.

    I’m sitting here imagining Doctor Evil’s face plastered on a Swarmlord, lovingly cradling an insect token. XD

    And yes, the deck is a blast. 🙂

  8. Limbonic_Art
    Dec 4 2012

    This deck was very interesting from its initial build, but sadly I have never been able to pilot it myself. A long time ago, back when New Phyrexia has been released just a couple of months before, my friend and I got 2 intro decks he got this one and I got Devouring Skies. We played them a couple of times and the match ups seemed balanced, more dependent on actual draws and luck than the construction of the decks themselves since the skill level was nearly the same. Whenever devouring skies won it was by its flying creatures and useful equipment. However, Ravaging Swarm had strong options in the blighted agents, glistener elfs, and viral drakes all being some of the most relevant threats, especially at the beginning. Near the end the Chained Throatseekers, Spinebiter, and the Swarmlord were all must-deal with threats. If I remember correctly, I think I won at least one of the matches we played, maybe since Devouring skies is slightly stronger. Now I have acquired all of the New Phyrexia intro packs so we may be able to do more matches with my friend in the next few weeks when I am able to see him. We both live far and can only see each other during the summer or christmas months, so that is the reason we play so little magic over the course of the year.


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