7th Edition: Decay Review (Part 2 of 2)
So far despite the actual card not appearing in the mono-Black intro deck, we’ve heard quite a bit about this Western paladin whose theme and flavour suffuses his 40-card deck. After the hype, would the deck have what it takes to overpower its opponent and clinch victory? Would its mix of disruption and aggression prove the winning formula, or would it be spreading itself too thin against a more focused opponent? To find out, Jimi snapped up the mono-White Armada and looked to put me to the test. Here are the notes from this matchup of opposites.
Jimi begins with an opening-turn Eager Cadet, then passes. Looking down at the Crypt Rats in hand, I look to project an image of vulnerability in the hopes that Jimi will overcommit. I play a Swamp and pass. Next turn Jimi obliges with a Crossbow Infantry after attacking for 1, while I’m perfectly happy ramping with a Charcoal Diamond.
A turn-3 Spirit Link comes down on the Cadet before Jimi’s 2-point attack, and she follows up with a Samite Healer. Hoping to cripple her, I cut into her hand with a Mind Rot, forcing the discard of a Plains and another Eager Cadet. Next turn Jimi attacks for 3, taking me to 14 (and her to 22), then adds a Longbow Archer. It looks like now is the time to strike, so I deploy the Crypt Rats and pop them for 2. This wipes the entire board, essentially handing me a five-for-one. This should be crippling, and no doubt I’ve set Jimi back quite a ways, but unfortunately for me my beautiful opening hand lacked on more ingredient- a beater with which I could take advantage of the empty board state. Still, I’m not without a plan.
Jimi begins to rebuild the ruins of her army with a turn-5 Samite Healer. Back to me, I play a Gravedigger, returning the Rats to hand. I follow up with a Blood Pet and pass. Jimi’s turn 6 is a blank, and after a 2-point attack with my Gravedigger, I replay the Rats. Here Jimi enters a bit of a drought- forced to play from the top of her library, she’s coming up woefully short and playing nothing on turns 7 and 8. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to attack with the Gravedigger, then I add in some Drudge Skeletons to the mix. While the Samite Healer can safely block them and live (tapping to prevent the damage that would kill it after being declared a blocker), it should give me some proof against any ground-based threat Jimi can resolve.
Now turn 9, Jimi plays a Master Healer, but I have a Dark Banishing ready for it. I do nothing but attack on my turn, and she’s now at 12 life. Next turn her other rare touches down- a Glorious Anthem– and this effectively halts my Gravedigger-based attacking (the Samite Healer would kill it and live to tell the tale). Over to me, I cast Duress to see what Jimi’s been holding in hand. It’s a Healing Salve, and she casts it in response so as not to lose it without benefit. She’s now at 15 life.
Jimi lands a real creature on turn 11 with a Razorfoot Griffin, so it’s time to pop the Rats again. I do it for 3 points this time, killing off her Griffin but also losing my Gravedigger and Blood Pet. The Drudge Skeletons regenerate, and I return the Rats to hand once again with a new Gravedigger. Next turn Jimi starts from scratch again with a Heavy Ballista, but my Dakmor Lancer makes short work of it as it enters the battlefield. I attack for 3 with the Skeletons and the Gravedigger, then replay the Crypt Rats. All I need to do is get Jimi to less life than myself, and I can win off the Rats. As it stands, we’re tied at 9.
The problem is, Jimi knows it too, and she keeps herself above me with another Healing Salve to land her at 12. With no defenders, though, it’s not enough as I alpha strike her for 7, then pop the Rats for 5 for the win.
Turn 9 will see the first blank turn of this game as its early and middle rounds prove action-packed. Jimi leads with an Eager Cadet while I hit her hand with an opening Ostracize. My pickings are slim- a Longbow Archer and an Angelic Page– and it’s the Archer that heads to the scrapheap. Next turn Jimi plays the Page after a 1-point attack with the Cadet. I play a Foul Imp, losing 2 life in the process.
Now turn 3, Jimi plays that most hated of cards, Glorious Anthem. No single card she has upsets the balance of the two decks, and it’s painful to see it this early. She follows up with a 4-point attack. I trade the Imp for the Page, taking 2 damage down to 15. Thus far, all damage has been one-sided. Over to me, I play a Serpent Warrior for another chunk of damage, but at least it should clog up the ground game and buy me some time. Next turn Jimi plays Standing Troops and passes, while I bring out Greed.
A turn-5 Heavy Ballista helps bolster Jimi’s creature presence, while I have little to show but a lowly Bog Imp. Back to Jimi, she adds a Razorfoot Griffin and attacks for 2 with the Troops. I kill off the Heavy Ballista with a Dark Banishing at the end of her turn, then pay 2 more life and a for another card from Greed. Huzzah, another Dark Banishing! Jimi’s turn-7 attack with the Griffin and Infantry is blunted when I Banish the Griffin, but I still take 2 damage. I also trigger Greed again for one more card (netting Drudge Skeletons), leaving my life total at 6. Back to me, I trot out the Skeletons and pass.
It’s now turn 8, and Jimi attacks again with the Standing Troops, but I simply block them with the Skeletons. Again, 2 life and a net me another card- a Swamp. Once my main phase arrives, I Duress Jimi’s hand, but all it does is force her to burn her Healing Salve to go up to 23 life. On the upside, she’s now playing fully off the top of her library again. Next turn she draws and plays a Serra Advocate, and my turn is a blank.
Jimi swings with both the Eager Cadet and the Standing Troops on turn 10. The Skeletons soak up some of it, but I have to use the Bog Imp to chump the Troops. Then she rolls out a Crossbow Infantry. Capitalising on Jimi’s holding back on the Serra Advocate, I crush it with a 9-point Corrupt, putting me up to 13 life. I’m hardly out of the weeds yet, but it’s bought me the luxury of a little more time. Next turn Jimi brings out the Longbow Archer, then attacks in for 4 more damage. I block the Troops with the Skeletons, but take 2 from the Cadet. Eager for answers, I trigger Greed twice, leaving me at 7 life. My haul isn’t very exciting- another Swamp and a Charcoal Diamond. Still, it got me closer to the Phyrexian Hulk I draw on my draw step, and I deploy both it and the Diamond. Unsurprisingly, the attacks stop.
For a turn, anyway. Jimi draws a Pacifism on turn 13 and neutralises my Hulk, then swings for 7 with everything. The Longbow Archer is blocked by the Drudge Skeletons, the Cadet trades with my Serpent Warrior (aided by a ping from the Crossbow Infantry), but the Troops get in for 2. Desperate, I play a Gravedigger to return the Serpent Warrior to hand, then recast her. This leaves me clinging to life at 2, unable to Greed any more cards. Our hands are both wiped, and we’re playing whatever we draw. The game enters a long and uninteresting stretch here, marked by only a few interesting plays. A turn-14 Dakmor Lancer blasts the Longbow Archer. Two turns later, I bait Jimi by sending in the Dakmor Lancer to attack, only to see it die from the Crossbow Infantry and Standing Troops. Fine with me, I return it with a Gravedigger, then recast it to kill the Troops. This lets me swing in for 6 next turn- my first strike of the game- but Jimi draws and replays the Troops and we’re right back where we started.
It’s a stalemate, and we’re each looking for that breakthrough card. Jimi gets it on turn 21, a Serra’s Embrace, and it gives her the game. I had eight cards left in my library.
I’m on the play without a one-drop, but Jimi manages another Eager Cadet opening. Next turn I have an answer in the form of Drudge Skeletons, though, and after the last game they’re a relief to see. Jimi swings for 1 while she can (no mana to regenerate the Skeletons), then adds a Knight Errant. The third turn sees me play Serpent Warriors, putting my life to 16. And once again… Glorious Anthem. Jimi swings for 3 with the Knight, and I accept the trade for the Serpent Warrior, I trade I come out very disadvantaged on.
Now turn 4, my turn is a blank, but Jimi manages a Serra Advocate. I waste no time in blowing a Dark Banishing on the pesky thing. My turn is another blank, but Jimi deploys Standing Troops, then enchants them with Spirit Link. That’s fine with me- my turn-6 Dakmor Lancer crushes the Troops and their Spirit Link in a glorious three-for-one. Jimi replaces it with a Longbow Archer.
Now turn 7, I attack with the Dakmor Lancer and Jimi again takes the bait, killing it with her Archer. It’s no bluff- I recall it to hand with a Gravedigger and pass. Over to Jimi, she attacks with the Archer and Cadet. The Archer bumps against the Skeletons, while I trade out the Gravedigger for the Cadet. With Jimi’s deck filled with power pumps and damage prevention, trades are as reliable a way as any to keep her threats at a minimum. Next turn sees me add an Abyssal Specter, and now it’s Jimi’s turn to have a blank.
A turn-9 Dakmor Lancer picks off the Archer, then I attack for 3 with the Specter and Skeletons. Jimi avoids the discard effect by preventing the damage with a Healing Salve. Back to Jimi, she lands an aerial defender with the Razorfoot Griffin, a 3/3 thanks to the Anthem. This forces my hand, and I use the Corrupt I’ve been saving to kill it, leaving me at 24 life. I swing in with the troops for 7 and pass. The onus is now on Jimi to draw an answer, and every round the Specter’s peeling a card out of her hand. Sadly for her, she draws nothing, and dies a few short turns later.
Thoughts & Analysis
As with Armada, this deck is far from the best precon you’ll ever play, but it was a fun exercise in Black and had some amusing synergies, such as the Gravedigger and Dakmor Lancer or Crypt Rats combos I managed to pull off. On the other hand, it was a bit of a nuisance having Greed as one of my two rares, yet having creatures that similarly cost me life such as the Foul Imp and the Serpent Warrior. It would be one thing if these were highly useful utility creatures, but a 2/2 flyer and a 3/3 with no abilities? No thanks. With a single Corrupt, gaining life back to spend was unreliable at best.
Like Armada, the deck had a tendency to run out of steam, as we saw in game two, and the creatures generally weren’t robust enough to make the mid-to-late-game transition anything but dicey. Still, for those seeking nostalgia or perhaps just a very basic encounter with Magic, the deck is worth a visit.
Hits: A few clever synergies gives combo options with graveyard recursion; removal package is decent
Misses: Creatures generally lack the punch to carry through longer games; negative synergy with excessive life loss effects and few ways to gain any back
OVERALL SCORE: 3.65/5.00