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August 13, 2011

7th Edition: Infestation Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

Although we’ve enjoyed our trip back in time to 7th Edition, I can’t say that collectively we’re not looking forward to returning to stronger fare. There’s a certain innocent charm about these 7th Edition decks, but by the same token it’s also a bit like looking at Magic’s fossil record. They’re very simple creatures, devoid of much of the intricacy and splendour that characterises its more developed kin. White swarms, Black kills, Green stomps, Blue flies and counters… and now, unsurprisingly, Red burns.

Oh, and Goblins.

If the swarm of White’s Armada was a group of Soldiers and affiliated creature types that worked well together to defeat a common enemy, then Infestation is a chaotic, disorganised Goblin mob looking instead to just overrun your opponent’s position. Only two of the deck’s creatures care about the rest of your army, and there’s little unifying theme here outwith their creature type. They do a number of different things but, typical of most Goblins, they don’t always do them especially well, making playing the deck a fittingly unpredictable experience. Let’s begin, fittingly enough, with the creatures of the deck.

Growing a Sausage Tree

As might be expected, almost half of the deck consists of one- and two-drops, though Infestation does carry with it a couple of beefy bodies for smashing through the red zone later in the game. Here is the deck’s creature curve:

The one-drop slot is populated with a pair each of Raging Goblins and Goblin Digging Teams. Although not a world-beater by any stretch, the Raging Goblin is about as good a one-drop at its commonality as you’re going to find. The Digging Team, however, is a rather poor metagame call as only one of the other four decks in 7th Edition have Walls (Bomber). Essentially a vanilla 1/1 for one mana against any other deck, it’s a rather lamentable draw at most any point in the game.

Moving up to the two-drops we find a pair of Goblin Raiders and a Goblin Glider. While weak, the Glider at leaves gives Red a little evasive damage. The ‘can’t block’ drawback is also present on the Raider to compensate for the efficiency of a 2/2 for two mana, but it’s about what you’re likely to get here. Add one more mana, and you get a 2/2 that can block with haste thrown in as well- the Goblin Chariot. One of Infestation’s stronger cards, the pair provided helps make your 3-drop slot your first glimpse of real power, for it’s here as well that you’ll find the two cards that care about Goblins. The Goblin Matron helps you tutor for any one Goblin and place it into your hand. The first of your two rare cards- the mighty Goblin King– gives all of your Gobbos a much-needed kick in the pants for power as well as a fairly useless landwalk ability (all decks for 7th Edition are mono-coloured, so the only Mountains in the environment will likely be your own). It’s important to note that the King has been errata’d to have a Goblin creature type, so he is fetchable with the Matron.

The four-drop slot contains a pair of Goblin Gardeners and a Patagia Golem. The Golem is solid enough and gives you some reach in the air, and the mana cost of activating its ability every turn is unlikely to be problematic in a deck which as often as not will have long since emptied its hand by the late-game. The Gardeners are another card- like the Digging Team- which are better suited against other decks outwith the 7th Edition ones. The power of landkill has a high correlation with the fragility of your opponent’s manabase. Against a five-colour deck you’ll very often keep them off of a colour. Against two-and-three colour decks, you have a chance at doing the same if you can catch them either early enough or with an unlucky start. But against mono-colour decks, as all these precons for 7th Edition are, your chance of colour-hosing your opponent is nil. At best, you can set them back a land drop, which makes the card rather less powerful.

Finally, at the top of your curve you have a pair of finishers in the Fire Elemental and Trained Orgg. While it’s good that the deck has some muscle to lend you, it has to be noted that the Orgg in particular costs seven mana, and it’s hard to imagine this deck clinging on long enough to reliably deploy it. Mono-Red aggro is not an archetype noted for its staying power, and indeed the colour’s own philosophy asks you to sacrifice tomorrow’s possibility’s for today’s advantage, so while the Orgg may occasionally serve its purpose, you’re likely to experience more games where he’s just a virtual mulligan when revealed in your opening hand. A deck like this can scarcely afford that.

Nothing Survives

If there’s an upside to be found in Infestation, its in the gloriously consistent removal package the deck comes equipped with. Of the eight removal spells in the deck, each and every one of them are either burn or removal- glorious! No fiddling around with a silly creature aura or wonky sorcery, you have the tools you need to thin out your enemy’s defenses and ensure your beaters get through to do their job.

First up are a pair of Shocks. The poor sibling of the Lightning Bolt, their return in Magic 2012 will ring familiar here. One mana, two damage. Next are a pair of Spitting Earths, which have a relatively inexpensive cost but offer variable damage. This is the perfect example of a scaling spell, one that grows in power as the game goes on. Consequently, you’ll almost certainly be happy to see one at any point in the game, and the deck carries two.

If you need a chunk of damage quickly, you also have recourse to a Lightning Blast. Offering a fair chunk of damage, this will often help as a finisher on a wounded opponent, or a good way to remove threats that outclass your own creatures (particularly useful against the Blue Bomber or Green Way Wild decks, the two with the fattest back-end). Finally, there’s a miser’s copy of Blaze, an X-spell that gives you some dramatic range and reach. Like Lightning Blast, you’ll often have to make a calculation as to whether or not its better used to clear out a defender or saved to finish off your foe.

The final two cards are a pair of Pillages. Like the Goblin Gardeners, these lose a little being in a mono-coloured environment, and they lose a little more when you consider the artifact environment they are placed in. There are a total of three artifacts amongst all four of the other decks: a Rod of Ruin in Way Wild, and a Charcoal Diamond and Phyrexian Hulk in Decay (and it’s not hard to figure out which of those three you’ll be least excited about smashing).

Overall, it’s hard to fight the feeling that Infestation is a metagame whiff. Although like all of the decks it packs in some weaker choices, it seems to have more than its share of absolute duds. Are the two Walls in Bomber that much of a threat that the deck needed to devote two slots to an answer? And while the landkill is less of a whiff due to its numbers (you could potentially destroy four lands in as little as two turns, given the pefect setup), its still a bit of a handicap. On the upside, the strong burn package may be enough to compensate for some of the deck’s suboptimal construction. We’ll take the deck into battle and see how it performs!

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