7th Edition: Decay Review (Part 1 of 2)
In our last review we introduced the concept of the four Paladins that infuse the 7th Edition Core Set with something not-quite-a-storyline, but not-quite, well… not, either. Call it an ‘open-ended story,’ a loose interconnection of otherwise unrelated cards. Although both ‘good’ Paladins are in White, naturally enough, their imprint was barely felt at all in Armada– they’re in the flavour text of one card (Spirit Link) and featured in another (Glorious Anthem). Perhaps its simple humility that compels them to take a back seat to their soliders and healers, but whatever it is the Western Paladin has little interest in it. Indeed, you’ll find him gracing both art and flavour text of a good deal more of the contents of the mono-Black deck, Decay.
Although Black typically fancies aggressive, all-in strategies much as Red does, Decay takes an altogether different approach: aggro-control. Rather than frontload the deck with cheap spells and effects, Decay gives you the luxury of time, recognising that the day can more readily be won on the backs of stouter creatures, so long as it can buy the time for you to deploy them. Once you’re able to drop a threat, continue to use the deck’s removal and disruption to keep the red zone clear and your beater unimpeded, and victory shall follow.
In Nightmares Breeding
A look at the deck’s mana curve shows that the deck is built for steady deployment:
In the one-drop slot, we have a pair of Blood Pets. These are solid inclusions for what this deck is trying to do, as they can be ‘cashed in’ later in the game when 1/1’s have become obsolete and help you ramp into one of your bombs to take command of the game. From there you have a pair of evasive fliers in a Bog Imp and Foul Imp to help with some early damage, and a pair of Drudge Skeletons to slow things down on the ground. A Skeleton left to defend against your enemy’s best (non-trampling) attacker can often buy you several turns’ worth of time.
Things only continue to improve up the ladder as you have a trio of very useful creatures for your three-drops. The Serpent Warrior is the least impressive of the three, but she does offer a solid body as early as turn 2 (if you pop a Blood Pet for it). The Looming Shade like all Shades is very greedy with your mana, but as this is a mono-coloured deck you’ll find that you won’t have much difficulty giving it some size. Finally, the Crypt Rats are a Pestilence-on-a-stick, and can be used to wipe out an entire board if you find yourself falling too far behind. Because they damage each player as well as all creatures, the Rats can even finish off a wounded foe if you happen to be ahead of them in life.
A pair of Gravediggers lead off the four-drops, versatile recursion which can help get back a particularly prized creature. Meanwhile, the Abyssal Specter is a must-solve creature if your opponent wishes to have anything resembling a hand after a few turns. The Specter is a cornerstone of the disruptive strategy that Decay looks to implement, hoping to rid your enemy of their best weapons before they even hit the battlefield.
At the very top of the curve are a trio of finishers. The Dakmor Lancer is an automatic two-for-one when he enters the battlefield, and a solid 3/3 body is never unwelcome. For an even beefier threat you have the Phyrexian Hulk, which weighs in at an impressive 5/4. Finally, there’s a Fallen Angel, whose abilities make her a threat to end games outright. If she can get through and you have enough creatures on board, you’ll often be able to go all-in and sac your board, delivering lethal damage in one shot.
The Darkest of Hearts
The noncreature support for Decay is admirably focused in purpose. You have, first and foremost, a very impressive removal suite consisting of two Dark Banishings, a Befoul, and- best of all- a Corrupt. The latter is a very solid inclusion because- like the Crypt Rats- it gives you some reach across the board regardless of what your opponent is up to. Next you have some discard, coming in three flavours: Duress, Ostracize, and Mind Rot. The objective here is a simple one- hit your opponent’s hand and board state aggressively to disrupt their plans, then use the time you’ve bought to drop some of your more potent offensive weapons. Protect that asset by removing obstacles in its path and let it pound on your opponent until you’ve won.
To help in this objective, the deck also includes Greed, its second rare after the Fallen Angel. Greed lets you trade a touch of mana and some life to draw a card- the perfect way to keep your hand (and options) full. Remember, your deck is looking to establish control of the board state- the more time you allow your enemy to deploy plans of their own, the more you risk losing control of the board. Aggressively using Greed will often end up saving you life as it acts as an engine to get the cards you need when you most need them, and to keep your enemy at bay. Finally, as if recognising its ambition in cramming in the more expensive options, Decay tosses in a Charcoal Diamond for an extra bit of ramp.
That’s it for Decay, the heavily disruptive Black deck featuring the Western Paladin. Will the deck live up to his epxectations? Come back in two days and we’ll find out!