Innistrad: Repel the Dark Review (Part 2 of 2)
Our next match its the Humans of Repel the Dark against the very Vampires we just left behind! Innistrad is full of perils for mankind, of which the Vampires are but one. Still, if Sam has her way, she’ll leave Repel the Dark an empty husk, drained of all life. Do the Humans have what it takes to stand up to this diabolic predation? Here are our game notes as we look to find out.
Sam’s on the play today for our opening match, and she leads off with a Mountain. She passes, and I call and raise her with a Plains into a Silver-Inlaid Dagger. Still, the honour of first creature goes to her as she lays down a turn-2 Bloodcrazed Neonate, though I’m not far behind with my Avacynian Priest.
Now turn 3, Sam attacks in with the Neonate for 2, and I opt to let it pass. Going down to 18 life isn’t too worrisome, though a growing Neonate is a bit more of a concern. It gets a +1/+1 counter, then Sam plays a Blood Seeker. Back to me, resolve an Elite Vanguard and pass, but not before losing 1 life from the Seeker. Next turn I use my Priest to tap down Sam’s Neonate, so all she does is play a Falkenrath Noble. Stuck on two land, though, I have to tap out to play my answering Unruly Mob, and that means the Neonate will be coming. I take my point of life loss from the Seeker and pass.
Sam swings as required on turn 5, but she adds the Noble to the assault. I take the trade for the Veteran, and the resulting two deaths means that thanks to the Noble, Sam gains 2 life while I lose 2. In addition to combat damage, this has Sam at 22 life, with me down to 12. Still, the death of my Vanguard is not in vain, as it grants me a +1/+1 counter on the Mob. Not yet done, Sam then summons a Sengir Vampire and ends her turn. Sadly, my turn is a blank and I pass without playing anything. Once Sam’s next turn begins in earnest, I use the Priest to tap her Sengir Vampire. Sam then adds a Mask of Avacyn to her board, equips it to the Noble, then attacks in for 3. I’m now down to 9 life, and still haven’t found a third land. My turn is again a blank.
Now turn 7, Sam attacks for 3 with the Noble after I lock down the Sengir. She then plays a Markov Patrician. At last I draw a third land- and first Forest- but by now it’s too late. I play a Hamlet Captain– going down to 5 life- but I can’t answer Sam’s threats and soon die.
Now I’m on the play, and we both lay land for turn 1. I then bring out the Hamlet Captain, while Sam adds a Bloodcrazed Neonate. Next turn I swing for 2 with the Captain, then follow up with a Benalish Veteran. Sam counterattacks and I let the Neonate through. She follows up with the Blood Seeker and ends her turn.
Now turn 4 and at 18 life apiece, I swing for 6 with the Captain and Veteran. Sam opts to take it, going down to 12. I then follow with a Jade Mage, losing 1 life thanks to the Blood Seeker. Back to Sam, she attacks in with the Neonate, but with my strong board presence (and her horrid removal) I’m happy to race. It comes through and biffs me for 3, and I’m down to 14. She adds a second +1/+1 counter to the Neonate, summons a Vampire Interloper, and passes.
I swing in for 9 the turn following, attacking with everything I have. Sam finally offers up the Seeker to chump the Veteran, so she only takes 5. I play a Slayer of the Wicked I’ve been holding onto from my opening grip to pick off her Neonate, and that’s all but game. Sam attacks for 2 with the Interloper, since he can’t block anyway, and she has nothing else to do but scoop.
While Sam leads with a Swamp and passes, I finally hit one of my one-drops, the Selfless Cathar. Sam leads off herself with a turn-2 Vampire Interloper, which my Cathar walks past on the attack to score first blood. I follow with an Unruly Mob.
A turn-3 Markov Patrician expands Sam’s board presence, and she attacks for 2 in the sky with the Interloper. In return, I send the Cathar back in to attack for 1, holding the Mob back for defense. Sam takes it, and we’re now tied at 18. I then play the Elder Cathar and end my turn. Sam sends both beaters in next turn for 5, and I trade out my Elder Cathar for her Markov Patrician, putting both +1/+1 counters on my Unruly Mob. Still, the Patrician’s lifelink sees Sam crest 20 again, while I’m at 16 life. Back to me, I swing with my Mob for 4, then arm the troops with a Silver-Inlaid Dagger and Butcher’s Cleaver, though I lack the mana this early to equip either.
Sam sends the Interloper in on turn 5 for 2, while I counter by equipping the Cleaver to the Mob and sending him hurtling headlong into the red zone alongside the Selfless Cathar for 7. The 6 damage from the Mob puts me back at 20 life thanks to the lifelink of the Cleaver, and Sam’s now down to 10. I play an Avacyn’s Pilgrim and pass. Next turn Sam manages to burn out the Mob with a Fireball after attacking with the Interloper. Not to be stopped, I equip the Selfless Cathar with both artifacts before attacking, and the 7 damage he pounds in with leaves Sam at 3 life and puts me at 25.
By turn 7, Sam knos the jig is up. She hits me with one of the dreadful removal cards she has, Tribute to Hunger, and I happily sacrifice my Pilgrim. The 1 life she gains isn’t enough to keep her alive next turn, and she concedes.
Thoughts & Analysis
If you’re a fan of tribal play, this has been a great time to be intro preconstructed decks. In the past few sets, Wizards has certainly retread some old territory and offered it up as new- I’m looking at you, Vampires- but we’ve also had some very diverse and unusual tribal offerings. Scars of Mirrodin brought us Myr of Mirrodin, which was then followed up with the Golem-centric Artful Destruction. Now Innistrad brings us an ingenous novelty- a Human tribal construction!
Novelty, though, will only get you so far. The real question is, how does the deck play? The good news there is that Repel the Dark is a lot of fun, and it works well. Myr of Mirrodin was a bit clunky, relying on mana dorks to ramp into larger beaters while keying off of metalcraft and the Myrsmith. Artful Destruction, on the other hand, was much slower to build up, but looked to steamroll you on the back-end once enough Splicers and Golems were in play. Repel the Dark lies somewhere in between the two. It has a strong weenie/swarm component to overwhelm your opponent early, but the synergies within the deck help construct for you an end-game win path as well, though growth cards like Unruly Mob and card advantage with Mentor of the Meek. Indeed, the Mentor inhabits the same design space as the Puresteel Paladin, which set up a similar engine in the recent Event Deck War of Attrition.
If there’s a weakness here, it is one not dissimilar from Carnival of Blood. Here’s a ton of creature cards and some nifty tricks, but if you want pinpoint removal, well, best of luck to ye. Like Carnival, Repel asks you to do most of your work in the red zone, and could be easily improved with the improvement of its removal suite. Smite the monstrous is good for your top-end threats, but sometimes all you need to do is get ride of that 2-power first striker to open up a lane to attack through, or to remove a ‘defensive threat’ like a Fortress Crab. In that sense, both decks are found wanting.
Still, the synergies present in Repel the Dark certainly exceed the token ones in Carnival of Blood, and make for a fun- and aggressive- White/Green experience.
Hits: Great tribal synergies between cards; tendency for weenie deck to run out of options offset somewhat by abundant equipment and Mentor of the Meek
Misses: Removal package lacking in potency; some cards (like Benalish Veteran and Unruly Mob) only begin to become worthwhile under certain conditions, giving the deck some vulnerability when those aren’t met
OVERALL SCORE: 4.20/5.00