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July 12, 2011

10

Magic 2012: Mystical Might Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

Having just left the highly aggressive Blood and Fire, a Red/Black bloodthirst-centric construction that used its mechanic to keep ahead of the curve, we now turn to what would seem to be about as opposite on the spectrum as you might get- the Blue/White Mystical Might. Those expecting a soft control deck based on the colours alone, however, might be in for a few surprises. What we have here instead is a creature-minded deck that is an amalgam of three different themes: skies, Soldiers, and Illusions. The question in assessing the deck, then, is this: how well do these three work together? Are there natural synergies, or are they working at cross-purposes. The former will give us an efficiently aggressive 60 card construction. The latter, however, will yield a deck with little sense of itself, with each tactic being advanced at the expense of another.

The poster-child for this latter build is the Phyrexian deck from Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs The Coalition, where you had several different lines of strategy that had little interaction with one another, and each card you drew from one line was one less card you had to advance another. This wasn’t reflective of poor design- instead, it acted as a necessary check to prevent a mono-Black deck from running roughshod over its five-colour opponent, and provided a balanced play experience. That said, there’s a wide gulk between an intro pack and a Duel Deck, so let’s begin our review of Mystical Might with its most concentrated asset- its creatures.

The Dream Does Not End

Fully 2/3 of the deck’s non-land cards are creatures, and its here it does all of its work- as we’ll see, the remaining cards are mainly support for your beaters. Here is the deck’s creature curve, to give us an idea of how this deck looks to unfold:

A small early-game presence gives the deck some flexibility and the ability to respond to early threats, but the bulk of the deck’s forces are to be found in the mid-game range, that thick clump of creatures in the three- and four-drop range. Like a deconstruction of a song, let’s take each element out and look at what it’s trying to tell us, then put the pieces back together and see how they mesh.

Illusions: The Illusions clock in at the one-, two-, and four-drop slots, and there are six cards in this category. All of the deck’s one-drops are Phantasmal Bears, which pull a double duty. They can get you an extremely aggressive start against a slower deck, or buy you valuable time against a faster one. At the upper end of the curve are a pair of Phantasmal Dragons, being exactly what you’d expect- 5/5 flyers, at the bargain price of four mana. These are your closers, win conditions which must be answered in short order.

Although like all of the modern Illusions they come with a hefty drawback of dying when targeted, this is eliminated by the introduction of the Lord of the Unreal, one of the deck’s two rares. The Lord not only buffs your Illusions, but he also gives them hexproof, the new term for what used to be called “troll shroud.” This prevents your opponent from picking off easy kills with targeted effects. Overall, the Illusion theme brings aggression and versatility, but one a sort of high-risk, high-reward flavour.

Soldiers: We see a number of elements here that are often a component of White Weenie preconstructed decks. If the Illusions are this deck’s flesh- vital but easily damaged- then the Solider component gives it some muscle. A pair of Benalish Veterans provide a creature that’s somewhere in the middle of efficiency for White, a colour charactierised by efficient, cheap creatures. The Veteran seems to be right on the curve, too expensive to be a good 2/2, but too cheap to be a 3/3 in White. The rather elegant answer is to make him both, but conditional on his action. He can stand around all day as a 2/2 guard, but he goes up a grade on the attack. This makes him a solid option for aggressively-minded play.

The Arbalest Elite riffs off of the same intersection of flavour and mechanic shown in Scars of Mirrodin’s Heavy Arbalest. The range of the weapon is toned down- heavy pings like this aren’t in character for White unless they’re directed at a creature already involved in combat. It’s also rather pricey- three mana and the loss of the creature for the next turn, so use carefully and make every shot count. Although not technically a Soldier, the Siege Mastodon might be granted ‘fellow traveler’ status for it’s often found in their company. There’s nothing flashy about the Mastodon, but its high toughness makes it a creature that many decks will have some difficulty in dealing with.

So overall, what does this element bring us? it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The Veterans are aggressive beaters that are diminished on defense, but the Siege Mastodon is equally useful on both sides of the red zone. The Arbalest Elite is overpriced for a 2/3, and while its ability is useful its designed to not be used all that often. As such, it’s probably a bad deal.

Skies: The bones of the deck, this is the most consistent of the three elements being looked at. It begins early with a pair of Stormfront Pegasi, like the Siege Mastodon also a frequent inclusion in Soldier builds. There’s a trio of Skywinder Drakes, aggressively asymmetrical in power, with a blocking restriction that makes it quite clear what they’re intended for. A pair of Aven Fleetwings offer 2/2 bodies that are difficult to be brought down by your opponent outside of creature combat or non-targeting mass removal, while the deck is given a pair of solid closers in the Serra Angel and Sphinx of Uthuun. The Sphinx is expensive- he’ll only be useful in longer games when you’ve managed to get to seven mana- so defensive cards that prolong the game up the odds of seeing the Sphinx in play. For so steep a price, the Sphinx gives you more than just a monstrous beater, but also card advantage in its free Fact or Fiction when it enters the battlefield. If nothing else, being able to pluck the best card out of your next five should ameliorate the sting somewhat of having paid seven mana only to see the creature lost to an Oblivion Ring or Doom Blade.

Outside of these three archetypes you have a few other supporting characters. A trio of Coral Merfolk will give you a similar deal as the Phantasmal Bears will- a few early points of damage against a slow-to-start foe, or some buy-time defenders in the back. The versatile Æther Adept can remove your opponent’s best creature from defense or rescue one of yours from a Pacifism, or simply buy time by forcing your opponent to recast their most expensive critter. Finally, a pair of Rusted Sentinels are rather unimpressive bodies that ill-fit the deck. You have other options for high-toughness bodies, and they bring little to the table to offset their drawback and cost.

Putting all these elements together gives us the goal of the deck. Overall, Mystical Might would seem that it’s a midrange stall deck that looks to congest the red zone with grounded creatures so that it can win in the air. It has the threat of some early damage from its Bears and Merfolk, but mainly they’ll provide defensive utility once your enemy has stabilised their board. Look to keep your enemy at bay with them, and don’t worry about some incidental damage along the way. Once this deck gets around four land or so on-line, the damage is going to start coming as the air force takes over offensive operations. In that sense, the Illusion theme is a bit of a useful flavour, if gimmicky, and while the Lord of the Unreal might seem a bit of a stretch (after all, he only impacts five other cards, doing very little on his own), it might help to review the other options for a Blue rare in the deck. There really are only two others that make any sense here- Phantasmal Image and Redirect (the latter perfect for saving a Phantasmal Dragon, for instance). The Djinn of Wishes– a fat, flying body with a touch of card advantage- also seems a natural fit, until you realise that it was the foil premium rare for Magic 2010’s Presence of Mind. A callback to Shards of Alara’s Flameblast Dragon is one thing, but the Djinn would likely seem like an absence of imagination and diversity, and not without reason.

Next, let’s move on to the noncreature support, to see what the deck offers to protect its beaters and get you through.

Sky Waiting to be Claimed

The remaining 1/3 of the deck are just as simply classified as the bulk of the deck above. The two things you’d expect to find in a Blue/White deck- removal and countermagic- are reasonably represented here. For the removal package, you have a pair of Unsummons and pair of Oblivion Rings. The latter is superb removal, dealing with any nonland permanent your opponent might deploy. It should be noted that the reputation the Ring has acquired comes from Standard play, and is one of the rare spells you’ll find which aren’t quite as effective in preconstructed as they are in standard. The reason for this is simple- no planswalkers. Still, this isn’t something you’ll remotely notice, and they’re a very strong inclusion here. The only shame is that there are only two of them, making Mystical Might fairly removal-poor. On the upside, there’s also a Mind Control, which itself can steal the occasional game virtually on its own.

For countermagic you have a pair of Cancels and a Negate. The deck also carries a pair of Elixirs of Immortality, which not only lets you gain a hefty chunk of life, but also give you a second shot at the cards in your graveyard. You can be a touch more liberal with your Unsummons and counters with an Elixir out, given that it will up your chances of drawing another once you crack it. Still, we’d have vastly preferred a pair of Pacifisms in their place. Finally, the deck carries with it a Levitation, a card last seen in Magic 2010 then took a year off. For precons, you’d normally expect Sleep to be in this slot instead, but Sleep sadly didn’t make the cut for Magic 2012. Still, Levitation is a passable replacement, and does offer some added versatility to your creatures against an opponent who is vulnerable to them. Given the already substantial number of flying creatures in the deck, this is not quite as effective here as it might be in other decks, but like Mind Control it can occasionally deliver a win all on its own.

Overall, outwith the Illusionary twist, Mystic Might has a rather bland and generic feel to it, the same sort of core concept that gets an occasional new paint job in decks such as M11’s Power of Prophecy, Worldwake’s Flyover, and even Alara Reborn’s Legion Aloft. While the Phantasmal Bears and Dragons might give it a dash of novelty, the experienced precon player will find little new under the sun here. Still, we’ll give it a playtest and report back with the results.

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Varo
    Jul 12 2011

    Gotta love the new illussions, and getting its lord as rare. I’m probably getting a playset of every illussion card there.

    As for the deck, nice support spells for blue and white, but apart from the rares and the illusions, i don’t think creatures are good enough.

    Reply
  2. Hireling
    Jul 12 2011

    I think a tribal Illusion deck with a counter suite would make for a very nasty aggro/control deck. Counters would serve a dual purpose here–controlling your opponent and helping your illusions dodge spells. If you want an even more nasty non-budget version throw in a few Spellskite for an even more layered defense. Four Lord of Illusions and four Spellskite would make your deck immune to all but sweepers which you should be able to easily counter.

    Reply
    • troacctid
      Jul 14 2011

      Spellskite isn’t going to work like you want it to work.

      Reply
      • Jul 14 2011

        What Tro is hinting at here is that once you’ve cast the spell- regardless of whether or not it resolves- you’ve targeted the Illusion and it dies. Redirect it, counter it, what have you, the damage is done. This is why you can’t play, say, a Pacifism, if there are no creatures on the board. A spell needs a legal target to be cast, and that’s what kills the Illusion. We missed this too at first until we dug a little deeper on it.

        C’mon Tro, you’re one of our rules advisers in residence, don’t be so cryptic! 😀

        Reply
        • troacctid
          Jul 14 2011

          One of my opponents at the prerelease tried to Mana Leak my Combust targeting his Phantasmal Bear. Yup, couple reasons why that doesn’t work, haha.

          Illusions die by their own triggered ability whether or not the spell that targets them resolves. In fact, the spell targeting them will usually be countered for lack of legal targets once you sacrifice the illusion–so, for example, if you’re targeting Phantasmal Dragon, you won’t lose life from Dark Favor or gain life from Divine Favor, Arbalest Elite will untap as normal, you won’t deal 2 damage with Chandra’s Outrage or gain 2 life from Sorin’s Thirst, you won’t flip a coin for Goblin Bangchuckers, and you can’t search your library with Arachnus Spinner. (I used Arachnus Spinner to break at least one illusion at the prerelease even though I didn’t have any Arachnus Webs in my pool. Relevant!)

          Another useful interaction is with Fireball. Normally, if you divide damage with a spell like Forked Bolt, you have to announce how you’re dividing it as part of casting the spell, but Fireball’s damage is divided automatically by the effect itself when it resolves. This means you can, for example, cast Fireball with X=3 targeting a Phantasmal Dragon and a Griffin Sentinel, and both of them will die.

          Reply
  3. Hireling
    Jul 12 2011

    *make that “Four Lord of the Unreal”

    Reply
  4. web8970
    Jul 14 2011

    Lord of the Unreal …

    My Krovikan Mists will be soooo happy!

    Reply
  5. Rob
    Jul 16 2011

    Illusion tribal + 2 copies of o ring. I think those 4 drop dragons are pretty scary with the lord down.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Magic 2012: Entangling Webs Review (Part 2 of 2) « Ertai's Lament
  2. Magic 2012: Grab for Power Review (Part 1 of 2) « Ertai's Lament

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