Time Spiral: Fun with Fungus Review (Part 2 of 2)
In our last piece, we discussed the care and feeding of Thallids- in addition to a review of their extensive pedigree. We found that the Thallids are like seeds- somewhat insignificant early, but when left unmolested to grow they can become quite sizable indeed! Today we’ll be reviewing the field notes we took while taking them into battle. Playing the part of the opposition is Jimi, who selected a similarly exponential deck- Sliver Evolution. Rather than time, Slivers grow with the addition of their fellows. With two decks having a tight connection to the theme of growth, we were looking forward to seeing the outcome. Here are our notes.
For our first game, Jimi’s Slivers are on the play and she opens with a Terramorphic Expanse. After I play a Forest and move to pass, she sacs the Expanse and fetches a Mountain from her library. This helps set up a turn-2 Sidewinder Sliver, the first creature on the day. Back to me, I drop a Swamp and play a Deathspore Thallid, a menacing threat against the removal-light Slivers.
Now turn 3, Jimi attacks for 1 then adds a Quilled Sliver, scoring first blood. Undaunted, I tap out for a Thallid Germinator and end my turn. Jimi’s deck explodes, adding a Gemhide Sliver for some hideous ramp, then attacking in again with the Sidewinder. The Sidewinder’s flanking ensures he’s permitted to slip through my defenses unblocked, as he’d even trade with my Germinator- no thanks. Down to 18, I reap the day’s first harvest. I play Sprout, adding a 1/1 Saproling to the board, then sacrifice it to the Deathspore to kill off the Gemhide before it causes any problems. I then attack for 2 with my Germinator, and we’re even at 18 by turn’s end.
A second Sidewinder Sliver hits the table on turn 5, and with both instances of flanking stacking for each Sliver, I’m going to have some difficulty in blocking assignments. Jimi attacks for 2 with the earlier Sidewinder and the Quilled, and I’m down to 16. Back to me, I create another Saproling by removing three spore counters from the Deathspore, then cast a Verdant Embrace on the Germinator. The Germinator- now 5/5- swings in, and Jimi declines to block. She’s down to 13. Next turn, I add a Saproling from the Embrace during Jimi’s upkeep, and the lock is slowly coming together. Jimi attacks for 3 with her Slivers, but I let them pass and again we’re tied. Back to me, I add another Saproling from the Embrace, then send in the Deathspore, the Germinator, and two of the Saprolings.
Things go on like this for another round before I have enough Saprolings made to wipe her side of the board. With Jimi utterly defenseless, the fungus rolls in like a tide and takes the game.
Jimi and I both lead with Forests, but I also add a Thallid on the first turn. Trouble for Jimi, though- she misses her second land drop, indicating a one-land keep… interesting! I waste little time with a turn-2 Deathspore Thallid, hoping I can get out in front fast enough and clamp the lock down again.
No land for Jimi on turn 3, so she now has to discard- a Venser’s Sliver hits the scrapheap. I attack for 2 with my Thallids, then add the Germinator again. At last Jimi draws a land, and she lays both a Plains and a Gemhide Sliver down. Alas, it’s taken her about one turn too many- I pop the first of my Saprolings, and then sac it to the Deathspore to kill off her Gemhide. I swing with the team, and Jimi’s down to 13, then follow it up with a second Deathspore. “Why are you playing a second,” asks Jimi, offhand. I fix her with a maniacal look and cackle, “because… they grow.“
Now turn 5, Jimi tries again with a Sidewinder Sliver, but once it’s back to me my Deathspore pops a Saproling and I use it to kill her Sliver- no creatures for j00! I play Fallen Ideal on the Germinator, and swing in again with the team for 5. Jimi tries desperately to stabilise, adding a pair of Quilled Slivers. I play a Wormwood Dryad, following it up with a main-phase Might of Old Krosa on the Germinator before sending it in to attack in the air. I sac one of my Deathspore to it (thanks to Fallen Ideal) and it’s enough for lethal.
I ask Jimi about her one-land keep, and she said it seemed like a gamble well worth taking. After reconstructing her opening hand, I have to say it’s hard to find fault with it: Forest, Quilled Sliver, Quilled Sliver, Two-Headed Sliver, Strength in Numbers, Sidewinder Sliver, and Gemhide Sliver. Had she manaed a second land on turns 2 or 3, it might have been an entirely different game.
A first-turn Thallid is a welcome start, after each of us open with a Forest. However, Jimi’s turn-2 Gemhide Sliver isn’t something I like to see. Fortunately, my answering play is a Deathspore Thallid, and we’re off to the races. My Thallid swings for 1 before I pass. When Jimi plays a second Gemhide on turn 3 (after counterattacking for 1) and my turn is a blank (except for land), well, now we have a game!
Turn 4 sees the first truly offensive-minded Sliver touch down in the form of a Bonesplitter. This pumps Jimi’s Gemhides to 3/1’s, and when she swings in with both I toss off a Feebleness to take one down. The other hits in for damage. Back to me, I produce my first Saproling token off of the turn-1 Thallid, then add a Herd Gnarr. Next turn, Jimi further grows her talent pool with the addition of a Watcher Sliver, pumping the toughness of all her Slivers. I respond by sacrificing my newly-grown Saproling to the Deathspore Thallid, picking off her other Gemhide before it has a chance to grow. Still, this leaves her with the now-4/4 Bonesplitter, and Jimi sics him on me for another 4, leaving me at 12. Again, my turn is an agonising blank.
Another big attack greets me on turn 6, with both Jimi’s Slivers on the warpath (and each an effective 4/4). I’ve been holding a Sudden Death and decide to kill off the Watcher Sliver. Jimi instinctively reaches for a Forest before catching herself, obviously realising that the split second ability of the card ensures that she can’t save her Sliver, but the tell is noticed. The Watcher heads for the showers, though with me down to 6 life it has nothing to feel ashamed of. Back to me, I make another Saproling token (this one from my Deathspore Thallid, for those keeping score at home) then summon a Wormwood Dryad. This pumps my Herd Gnarr up to a 6/6, and at that size I’d be silly not to engage him. He lumbers through the red zone and drops Jimi to 13 life.
By turn 7, however, Jimi’s resolved to fight fungus with fungus, and thus the Fungus Sliver makes its appearance. Back to me, I play a Thallid Germinator, then attack for 4 with the Gnarr. Jimi’s down to 9 life. Jimi adds another Sidewinder Sliver next turn before attacking with her Bonesplitter and Fungus Slivers. My hands are tied, and I have to offer up both my Dryad (who dies to the flanking before she can deal any damage) and Germinator to block. The Germinator would have the chance to trade out for the Bonesplitter if it weren’t for the flanking, so I pop two Saprolings to the Deathspore to kill it. Out comes the Strength in Numbers to save the Sliver, though, and my efforts are wasted. I’ve lost two creatures, but fortunately haven’t taken on more damage.
The tide turns, though, when I play a Sporesower Thallid. A 4/4 on its own, it’s got enough of a body to hold down the fort. Attacks with a Saproling in play are now unprofitable for Jimi (as I can weaken her 4-power beater and deny her the trade), so it buys me a turn- Jimi’s turn 9 is a blank. Back to me, I round the corner when I enchant the Sporesower- which already gives my Saproling factory a major boost- with a Verdant Embrace. Now the creature’s just bonkers- a 7/7 Fungus that craps out a Saproling every player’s turn. This sets me up for the win when I’m able to generate enough Saprolings to again wipe Jimi’s side, then swing in with one major alpha strike let by an enormous Herd Gnarr!
Thoughts & Analysis
Thallids are probably not the first thing that come to mind when you think of Magic’s fun Tribal themes, but Fun with Fungus has certainly delivered on showing the potential and promise of the fungal hordes. There’s something undeniably enjoyable about growing your own army, and I say that as a player who’s not normally very fond of Green and/or creature-centric strategies. When I played against it, it certainly felt like the march was relentless and unstoppable. From the pilot’s perspective, though, there’s a good balance at work. Saprolings are precious resources, and don’t grow quite as fast as they may seem- though once you get a few Thallids on board growing, they start to pile up.
Forget the rares, which are nice (when you get them)… the real star of the deck is the Deathspore Thallid. Every other Saproling-fueled ability pales in comparison, useful though they are. The ability to establish a virtual soft lock on your opponent gives this fundamentally aggressive-seeming deck an element of control, and makes for a great variety in gameplay. It does tend to give your removal ability a sort of feast-or-famine aspect, though, because some games with an early Deathspore you’ll do as I did and wipe your opponent’s army off the map. Fail to draw one, though, and your paltry removal suite is going to give you difficulties.
Overall this is an excellent addition to the set’s precon selection, and an inspired choice of theme. I found while playing wondering what other good cards might be out there for it… and how I could sneak in some proliferate effects or perhaps even a Paradox Haze, Doubling Season or what have you. It’s the mark of a great deck to inspire you to build your own vision of it.
Hits: Great tribal-based deck with lots of synergies; Deathspore Thallids are brutal, reusable removal that can wreck an enemy’s board; deck’s rares (Thelon of Havenwood, Verdant Embrace) top-notch inclusions that align perfectly with the deck
Misses: Outside of the Deathspores, the removal suite is uninspiring; some non-Fungus inclusions are disappointing (see: Wormwood Dryad)
FINAL SCORE: 4.60/5.00