Innistrad: Carnival of Blood Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s our leadoff game for Innistrad, and we couldn’t be more excited. After the lot of us feeling somewhat less than enthusiastic by the end of Scars Block, the release of a set as flavourful as Innistrad has the house buzzing. Today I’m piloting the Vampire deck, Carnival of Blood, and Jimi has her pick of the litter to pit against me. She opts to go for the Spirit tribal deck, Spectral Legions. We shuffle them up, deal out seven, and kick things off! Here are our notes from this first match.
A poor start for Jimi who mulls down to six, but being on the draw instead of on the play mitigates the disadvantage somewhat. For my part, I open with a Swamp leading into a turn-2 Blood Seeker, and follow that up with a turn-3 Night Terrors. It’s the Night Terrors that steals this game for me. Jimi’s hand has a pair of Spectral Riders and Moon Herons, as well as a Lantern Spirit. Judging the Riders no threat as Jimi’s still stuck on one Plains, I opt to remove her three-drop before she has a chance to play it. As it turns out, it was the one card she needed to stall me while she built up her manabase.
With it gone the Vampires run amok and Jimi is helpless to watch. A turn-4 Rakish Heir promises free counters for everyone, and the turn-5 Falkenrath Noble adds more muscle to the team. Next turn’s Mask of Avacyn gives the Noble a boost, and Jimi scoops on turn 6 after finally drawing a second Plains without ever having cast a thing. Although she had enough Islands, the Vampires grew too quickly to contain.
The second match is little better than the first. I build up early with a Child of Night, Markov Patrician, and Blood Seeker, while Jimi’s first play is to Rebuke the Patrician on the attack. By the end of turn 5- after replacing my hapless Patrician with a Falkenrath Noble- I’m at 30 life with Jimi at 9.
Now turn 6, Jimi finally lands a creature in the form of a Spectral Rider. In the last game she was mana screwed; in this one, it’s the opposite problem, but the colours still aren’t breaking her way. Over to me, I attack for 4 with the Child and Noble, and Jimi trades out the Rider for the Child. Meanwhile, I’ve been hosed on land as well- I still haven’t a single Mountain- so I use my Diabolic Tutor to go fetch one up.
Now turn 7, Jimi plays a Chapel Geist but it’s all for naught. Using my brand-new Mountain, I close out the game with a Fireball.
Aftr a pair of underwhelming matches, we’re hopeful that this time the Spirits will get it together. It opens well on turn 2 when Jimi plays a Doomed Traveler, while I answer with a Vampire Interloper. Next turn Jimi hits her land drops and deploys a Spectral Rider after swinging in with the Traveler. I return fire for 2 with the Interloper, then follow up with a Bloodcrazed Neonate.
Now turn 4, Jimi attacks with the Rider for 2 to take me down to 17 life, then adds a Moon Heron to her field. I attack with both Vampires, and when Jimi looks to block the Neonate with her Traveler I contest the move with a Tribute to Hunger. She opts to sacrifice her Traveler, so while she gets a new 1/1 Spirit token I still get to keep the Neonate. Next turn, at 16 life, Jimi counterattacks aggressively for 5 with the Heron and Rider. Back to me, I play a Falkenrath Noble before attacking, to wring some residual value out of the Neonate should Jimi accept the trade for a Spirit. She does, and both die while the Interloper gets through. When the dust settles, Jimi’s down to 12 life, and I’m up to 14.
Jimi sends the Rider in for 2 more damage on turn 6, holding the Heron back in defense. She then plays a Chapel Geist and passes. Her defense solidly in place, I add a Blood Seeker and Child of Night, then pass. Next turn she cuts me down again with the unblockable Rider, and I’m now at 10 life. Over to me, I add the Rakish Heir, then press the advantage by swinging in with my Interloper, Noble, and Child of Night. As expected, I lose one of them- the Noble- to her 2/3 Chapel Geist, but the loss of my Child of Night to a surprise Rebuke comes as a blow. Still, the Interloper receives a +1/+1 counter courtesy of the Heir.
Things take a turn for the worse on turn 8 when Jimi enchants the Spectral Rider with Curiosity before swinging in with it. She draws a card, then immediately plays it- Spirit Mantle on her Heron. My turn is a blank as attacking is suicidal behind the Heron. Back to Jimi, she pounts in with the Heron and Rider for 6, dropping me to 4 life. At the ned of her turn, though, I’ve a surprise of my own- Tribute to Hunger. This puts Jimi in a bit of a dilemma, as her weakest (read: unenchanted) creature is the only one back to defend. In the end, she does pop the Chapel Geist, granting me a 3-life rebate.
Still, with only an Interloper, a Blood Seeker, and the Rakish Heir I’m looking to come up one turn short… until I topdeck a Vampiric Fury. I swing with the team, and the Fury gets me there.
Thoughts & Analysis
In the pregame friendly we played before settling in to the business of our playtest matches, Jimi was able to put a serious dent in my offense with a single card: Voiceless Spirit. It’s 2-power and first strike were a lethal combination, and the time it bought her gave her plenty of time to set up with the Geist-Honored Monk and a few other creatures to set up a commanding win. In the third game above, Jimi was able to nearly take over the game with a pair of creature auras, and had she not gambled to grab victory, she might well have won it.
In both cases, all Carnival could do was sit back and watch it happen. While the aggressive buildup of Vampires is fun to play, the lack of real spot removal is paralysing and the greatest weakness of the deck. Even with the lifegain aspect, Tribute to Hunger is a terrible card here. Edicts have their uses- getting around hexproof creatures most notably- but they draw strength from being part of a removal suite… not the removal suite. Combat attrition and kill spells can winnow out your opponent’s herd, then the edict effect starts to resemble pinpoint removal. Against a field of, say, 1/1 Spirit tokens? Saprolings? Weenie/swarm decks? Dreadful.
Carnival of Blood is a good place to start to build a Vampire deck in Innistrad, but there’s a lot of fat to trim and a decided lack of muscle. Drawing upon Black and Red you shouldn’t have any problem strengthening it, but as a stock list it comes up fairly short.
Hits: Solid tribal synergy and interactions between cards lets the deck punch above its weight at times; good mix of evasion and reach gives the deck some ability to avoid a congested red zone
Misses: Dreadful removal package puts you at the mercy of your opponent’s plays
OVERALL SCORE: 3.90/5.00