Guest Meddling: Devouring Skies (New Phyrexia)
So, here we are… the fires of war have been extinguished by the icy breath of death… all the battle cries that have planted the seed of hope into the hearts of those who charged forward have faded into a melancholic silence… all those artfully crafted weapons were exposed to decay just like the courage of those wielding them.
The plague of Phyrexia has come over Mirrodin- it has consumed another world leaving us speechless to a scenario that we explore in New Phyrexia. As corruption has spread, innovation has declined. Phyrexia’s tools for victory are fear, doubt, infiltration, and defiling what is good and noble. How do you fight an enemy that does not attack your house but your very heart? Not your home but your hope?
So, here we are- New Phyrexia- where the outcome of a conflict has manifested in a set of Magic cards.
Innovation? Imitation and defilation.
Brightness and glory? Darkness and the stench of evil.
Speaking in terms of cards, when looking for something actually new in the current set, you find Phyrexian mana along with support for a tribe of artificial creatures that once would not have been recognized as a tribe. Let’s not forget the return of coloured artifacts, too. For Wizards, the Intro Packs are not only a means of providing first decks to new players but also to give an idea of the mood the set conveys, a means to tell their story, a source of emotions to breed from. Let’s examine what they have to offer:
- Artful Destruction: Golems, a tribe of remotely controlled soldiers
- Devouring Skies: Defeat gravity with machines
- Feast of Flesh: Kill everything that’s in our way
- Life for Death: Bleed for speed
- Ravaging Swarm: Infection in perfection
Quite a nice pool to choose from for meddling, the pick is not an easy one. Which one has proven most and least effective respectively in the playtests? Which ones succeed, which ones fail in conveying the flavor and therefore need a litte spice? And which one is most appealing? Though Life for Death seems most tempting due to it’s innovative nature, I choose Devouring Skies. Having a certain preference for that specific color combination, seeing Black being forced to unfold a game plan that is actually White is more than awkward to me. Although it is the primary color for removal, it does not seem to be that much of an issue when the intention is to avoid combat. On the other hand, sneaking past defenses while keeping the opposition at bay is exactly how Blue would design a creature-heavy deck.
Let’s start with taking a look at the initial decklist:
2 Augury Owl
2 Blind Zealot
2 Brass Squire
1 Darkslick Drake
2 Dementia Bat
2 Impaler Shrike
1 Kiln Walker
2 Mortis Dogs
1 Necrogen Scudder
1 Neurok Invisimancer
1 Phyrexian Ingester
1 Silver Myr
2 Spire Monitor
What does that list imply, what does the deck want us to do? You’ll find the answer in the attached description: “creatures with flying, power-pumping Equipment, and just enough ways to keep your opponent off balance.” So, basically it’s enhancing evasive creatures with equipment. Very Phyrexian? Fancy, inventive? Definitely not. But it is a strategy that has it’s potential and it’s worth to be noticed that in contrary to the white/equip archetype this deck is elaborated in UB.
Let’s take a moment to see what the single cards contribute to the outline given:
Equipment/enchancement: Argentum Armor, Copper Carapace, Necropouncer, Sickleslicer, Viridian Claw, Warlord’s Axe
Removal: Doom Blade, Vapor Snag, Phyrexian Ingester
Evasive: Augury Owl, Blind Zealot, Darkslick Drake, Dementia Bat, Hovermy, Impaler Shrike, Neurok Invisimancer, Necrogen Scudder, Spire Monitor
Other (card quality, support): Brass Squire, Kiln Walker, Mortis Dogs, Silver Myr
Some creatures given pursue more than one goals, such as the Augury Owl (card quality) or the Blind Zealot (removal). As we see, the removal suite is rather light, this deck obviously is keen to get into the red zone.
Now where can this deck be taken to while sticking to the original strategy? As stated, I regard black a rather suboptimal choice. It smells like support here of which the necessity is not absolutely clear to me. So, even if it is hard to pass out on the famous Doom Blade, my build as presented in the following is a mono-Blue one:
In addition to Ertai’s Rules of Meddling (only using commons and uncommons from sets already represented in the stock deck list), I imposed another restraint on myself: I desired to build a deck out of the Scars’ uncommon/common card pool while neglecting the – nevertheless – present M11 specimen. So, the challenge was not only disclaiming Doom Blade but also Preordain and Augury Owl.
Here are the comments on the cards:
- Trespassing Souleater: reasonable cost, can become unblockable, that’s all we need
- Spined Thopter: a kind of equivalent to White’s Porcelain Soldier that adds an aggressive edge to Blue
- Impaler Shrike: A strong flier that compensates for it’s loss … nice!
- Gustskimmer: This mosquito completes our collection of beaters.
- Vedalken Certarch: As the magic number of three is within reach using equipment, this guy’s task is to stall the opponent.
- Brass Squire: Working around the equip cost and the “equip as a sorcery restraint” makes this guy a key player here.
- Phyrexian Ingester: Although not first choice, this clunky beater compensates it’s heavy cost with versatility.
- Argentum Armor: the rare equipment intended to keep
- Darksteel Axe: a not too expensive power boost for our evasive attackers
- Piston Sledge: another addition to the front number. With Brass Squire present, you can even cheat around the equipment cost
- Copper Carapace: Prevents from blocking? That’s actually not what we want to do anyway
- Gitaxian Probe: Despite the metal around, we are still in Blue- where knowledge is power. This spell is cheap, not too significant but able to provide a head start.
- Vapor Snag, Psychic Barrier: These two form our quasi-removal suite here. While Counterspells may be considered unfun, the Barrier will act as a true blue means for stalling.
In order to take a look at this deck from another perspective, let’s get a glimpse at the cards not included and the resaons for their rejection. As the presented deck is a mono-blue Scars-only one, I guess, comments on black and M11 cards respectively are not necessary.
- Darkslick Drake: This one was a hard choice, but aiming at keeping the curve low, the drake lost to Impaler Shrike.
- Hovermyr: This flyer was found not to be aggressive enough.
- Kiln Walker: ground-bound, defensive-minded
- Neurok Invisimancer: Though being evasive himself, if his etb-ability had an impact, something would be going wrong …
- Silver Myr: Due to a low curve, we will dare not having mana accelleration …
- Spire Monitor: … which is a reason for the Monitor to be left out.
- Necropouncer: Yes, this is metal on feet, but was replaced by it’s cheaper sibling Piston Sledge
- Sickleslicer: Although coming already with a wielder, the Copper Carapace seems more like a bargain. Apart from that, let’s not forget the Axe.
- Viridian Claw: Didn’t I mention, there’s just no intention, to get caught in a fight, so let’s drop it outright.
Let’s get armed, leave the ground below us, sneak past the defenses and demonstrate to our enemies that there are untouchable forces able to outwit them. Is this deck able to accomplish this ambitious goal or will our agents be dragged into dirty dogfights? I shall be looking forward to reading your opinions.
Wolfgang Brandner is a longtime Ertai’s Lament reader and contributor. Hailing from Austria, he can often be found adding his insight to the Whispers of the Muse features and boasts a collection of over 500 black-bordered Blood Pets. Only one of these details is untrue.