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July 22, 2011

4

Magic 2012: Grab for Power Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Thus far we’ve been fairly impressed with the Magic 2012 Intro Pack decks overall, and Grab for Power certainly seems to be one of the most interesting of them all. Being that most rare breed- an intro deck combo archetype- we’ve been very keen to see how easily the trio of artifacts that power the deck are assembled. Would the deck stand a reasonable chance at bringing them together? Would it be somewhere between a snipe hunt and quest for the Hoyl Grail? And just as importantly- how would the deck fare in the absence of its combo? To answer these questions and more, I squared off with Jimi who opted to play Entangling Webs. Let’s see how the deck did.

Game One

After an opening spent laying land, Jimi uses turn 2 to ramp ahead with a Rampant Growth, fetching a Mountain. For my part, I land the game’s first creature, a Merfolk Looter, putting me in strong position to assemble my combo. While Jimi continues to develop her manabase next turn, I use the Looter (gaining Ponder, losing Swamp), then play a Crown of Empires and the Ponder (seeing a Devouring Swarm, Child of Night, and a Swamp, all of which I flush away in a reshuffle).

Now turn 4, that manabase work pays off for Jimi with a Stampeding Rhino. I use the Looter (gaining Child of Night, then pitching it), then accept the inevitability of the Rhino hitting me for four and play a Divination (gaining a second Crown and a Drifting Shade). Next turn, Jimi attacks as expected, then follows up with a Greatsword and Llanowar Elves. Back to me, I start as before with the Looter (gaining Swamp, losing Child of Night) and gladly play the land. I’m not manahosed, having missed only one drop thus far, but the deck can be a little greedy. Leaving mana up to tap the Rhino, I pass.

Jimi smartly diversifies her threats on turn 6 by equipping the Greatsword to the Elves and swinging in with both beaters. I tap down the Rhino with the Crown, but still wind up taking 4. Jimi adds injury to injury with a 4-card Hunter’s Insight before ending her turn. My Looter finds me an Island, and figuring I need the Island right now more than a redundant artifact I don’t have the mana for, I pitch the second Crown of Empires taking up space in my hand. I then play the Reassembling Skeleton I’d drawn and end turn.

Jimi teaches me a valuable lesson about backups the very next turn when she smashes my existing Crown with an Acidic Slime. I trigger it in response to tap the Rhino, but beyond that it’s finished, and my chances of assembling thew trio have dramatically fallen. Jimi then tops off her turn with a Crimson Mage. My Looter turns up an Island this time, which I pitch, but I do improve my position a bit with a Warpath Ghoul and Devouring Swarm. Next turn, though, Jimi adds a Garruk’s Horde which gains haste from her Crimson Mage. Smashing in with her Horde, Rhino, and Slime, I trade the Swarm for the Slime and end up at 1 life. My next turn fails to find an answer, and Jimi finishes me off with a flourish and a Fireball.

Game Two

As if chiding me for the last game, I find a Buried Ruin in my hand and lead off with it. Jimi plays a Forest. Next turn I lead off with an Azure Mage, while Jimi plays a Runeclaw Bear which looks even more mediocre by comparison. Turn 3 sees me drop the first piece of the trifecta, the Scepter of Empires. Jimi simply attacks for 2. I ping her at the end of her turn for 1 with the Scepter, which I’ll continue to do as long as I can.

We trade 2-point blows on turn 4, but the difference is my 2-point blow also enables me to draw a card, which I do at the end of Jimi’s turn on turn 4 after she lands a Garruk’s Companion. Turn 5 sees me break out with a Warpath Ghoul and Reassmbling Skeleton. Jimi keeps her bear in reserve, but attacks with the Companion. I trade it out for the Ghoul, taking 1 point of runoff damage from the trample. Adding in the end-of-turn ping, Jimi and I are both at 15 life at the end of turn 5.

Now turn 6, I draw a card off my Azure Mage looking for a land drop and get it (an Island), though I have no other play. Jimi attacks for 2 with the Bear, then adds a Giant Spider. I take a gamble the next turn and drop a Brink of Disaster on her only Mountain. Naturally, Jimi draws a Mountain and play it- curses! She then attacks with the Spider and Bear. I use the Skeleton to chump the Bear and take 2, reassembling the Skeleton at the end of her turn (and, of course, pinging her with the Scepter).

Although I’d love to get my hands on the Throne of Empires here, I use a turn-8 Diabolic Tutor to fetch the Rune-Scarred Demon, knowing I can use the Demon to snare the Throne. I follow up with a Merfolk Looter and pass. Jimi repeats her last round, killing my Skeleton and hitting me for 2. I’m now at 9 life, with Jimi at 12. I reaseemble the Skeleton at the end of her turn again, allowing it to untap and be available next turn. Of course, that’s when the Rune-Scarred Demon touches down (fetching the Throne). I pass to Jimi, who draws a card and passes herself, not willing to attack into the Demon.

Jimi surprises me on turn 10 when I attack with the Demon after deploying the Throne of Empires- I’d expected a chump-block, but it seems she has other ideas and puts herself down to 5 life. Her patience seems to pay off when she trots out a Stingerfling Spider, killing the Demon after just one attack. Still, that low on life she’s on a very short timer with my Scepter. After the Spider lands, she sends in her brutes for 4, 2 of which I block again with the Skeleton. With a Fireball floating around her deck, I’m a little anxious at 7 life. Still, I hit the trifecta on turn 11 when I play the Crown of Empires thanks to the Merfolk Looter (at the end of Jimi’s last turn after drawing from the Azure Mage). I then use it to commandeer her Stingerfling. Defenseless, Jimi has no answer to my 3-point attack with the Merfolk and Azure Mage, and the Scepter finishes her off.

Game Three

Our final match gets off to a slow start, with my turn-3 Child of Night being the first non-land play of any kind on the board. Jimi’s turn 4 is a blank, while I attack for 2 and play a Divination. Jimi moves into a higher gear on turn 5 with a Stingerfling Spider, while I lay down a Zombie Goliath.

Another Stingerfling joins the first on turn 6, while I continue digging with another Divination. Next turn, Jimi adds a Crimson Mage, then swings with both Spiders. I block one with the Zombie, taking 2 from the other and going back down to 20. Having hit every land drop thus far, I then play the Rune-Scarred Demon after attacking for 4 with the Goliath, putting Jimi at 14. I understand looking to get some damage on the board, but it seems not holding a Stingerfling back was a tactical misstep. The Demon nets me the Crown, as the Throne is safely in hand.

Jimi’s turn 8 is a lamentable blank, while I take advantage and attack for 10. Jimi blocks both Demon and Zombie with her Spiders, losing one in the process. I follow up with a Crown of Empires and Reassembling Skeleton, and pass turn. Next turn, Jimi picks off the Crown with an Acidic Slime, so I respond by tapping down her Spider. She uses the Crimson Mage to put haste on the Slime and attacks with it for 2. I counter with a 12-point swingback with the Child, Demon, and Zombie. Jimi trades the Crimson Mage for the Child of Night, leaving her at 4 life. I play another Zombie Goliath and pass.

A turn-10 Llanowar Elves isn’t the solution Jimi needs, but she holds back her forces for more chump fodder. I simply Doom Blade the Spider and finish her off with the Demon.

Thoughts & Analysis

 Here’s a pro tip for a successful game design formula. If you want to make a really enjoyable product, take something fun that players already are doing, and give them more of it. Radical, right? Behold the secret to Grab for Power’s success, which is more than enough to carry the deck. Players like drawing cards, and I’m no different. When I starting blowing through my library thanks to the Merfolk Looter, Azure Mage, and the pair of Tutors (Diabolic and Rune-Scarred Demon), it was a blast. Indeed, knowing I was searching for my artifacts gave a focus to the whole thing (I’m not just looking for good cards, I’m looking for my combo engine) made it all the moreso.

I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the deck when I looked over the list, seeing the fun in it but fearing it perhaps a few shades too gimmicky. First the bad news: it is too gimmicky. But the good news is that the fun more than makes up for it. To be sure, Grab for Power follows the ‘feast-or-famine’ archetype where you win big when you get your ‘trifecta’ up (all three artfacts), and do rather less well when you don’t. But it’s probably fair to say that it’s also a bit more nuanced than that. The deck can do passably well when you don’t get them up, and you’re bound to enjoy playing it along the way thanks to all the library shenanigans.

Here’s another noteworthy bit- like every deck we’ve reviewed from Magic 2012 before it, Grab for Power begs to be tinkered with. I don’t think we’ve reviewed a set to date that so consistently led us down the path of wanting to build upon it. Blood and Fire unlocked the keys to bloodthirst, while Mystical Might and Entangling Webs gave us the skeletal framework of tribal decks build around two recently-developing tribes (in the case of Spiders, that’s recently-developing as in, ‘oh look, we got a lord’). The obvious question Grab asks is this: add in more copies of the requisite artifact troika, and what happens then?

The downside of the deck is its relative reliance on its artifacts during a time where there’s more and better artifact hate than ever thanks to Scars of Mirrodin block. It’s a bit of an all-in strategy, and the creatures it offers to defend itself aren’t exactly bursting with power (see: Warpath Ghoul). Could the deck do better withmore robust defenses like Calcite Snappers and Walls? Would enchantments that slow down creature aggression such as Dissipation Field work? There are a number of avenues to contemplate. We’ve said it before- decks that invite you to brew from them are always the better decks. Grab for Power might surprise you.

Hits: Heavy card-drawing options makes this deck a blast to play; extra layer of anticipation and excitement added by the ‘quest’ to assemble a trio of artifacts; serviceable removal suite with a trio of Doom Blades leading it

Misses: Some underwhelming creature options and a bit more vanilla than the usual; deck very vulnerable to artifact hate and has a less-defined ‘Plan B’

OVERALL SCORE: 4.45/5.00

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Varo
    Jul 22 2011

    Not bad, not bad at all… Even it could be a fairly good deck with minor modifications.

    I have to say, i’m impressed to see that it held its ground against Jimi’s stompy.

    Reply
  2. Jim
    Jul 23 2011

    I think the deck has an interesting theme and it makes for a really fun game. I remain curious as to how it would have fared against a deck like Blood and Fire.

    I’m currently tinkering with it. I’m considering including a few Liliana’s Caress to support the ability of the Bell Tower Sphinx to create additional offensive options.

    Reply
    • Jered
      Jul 24 2011

      Doesn’t Liliana’s Caress only support discard? I believe Belltower Sphinx is mill-oriented..

      However, I do think that this deck has its good points to be sure. The weakness to artifact hate will have to be looked into, I suppose.

      Reply
      • Jim
        Jul 30 2011

        You’re right. Back to the drawing board.
        Yeah I’ve had the Throne of Empires scrapped when it was the last artifact I needed to create the trio.

        Reply

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