Odyssey: One-Two Punch Review (Part 1 of 2)
All good stories- like all good things- must come to an end. It is trite but true, and this was the situation facing Wizards for their 2001 release. Weatherlight, which came out in June of 1997, had ushered in the first long-standing story arc in the history of the game. “The Weatherlight Saga,” as it would be known, continued in one way or another for the next four expansions. The real story kicked off in 1997’s Tempest block, continued in 1999’s Mercadian Masques block, then wound its way through the following year’s Invasion block. The small break in the middle- 1998’s Urza’s Saga- was set as a sort of prequel or backstory to the whole affair. All told, the Saga spanned thirteen different releases of the game.
It was time, concluded Wizards, for something new.
Enter 2001’s Odyssey. Set a hundred years in the future and on a new continent, this gave Wizards the chance to begin with a clean slate. Tweaking the customary colour associations, they made the set’s hero Red and the villain Blue (Kamahl and Laquatus, respectively). Most of the ‘traditional’ Magic creature races were absent, and new or traditionally underrepresented ones were explored. Finally, giving it some mechanical identity the set was centered around the graveyard. This was an arbitrary call- the flavour of the set was dressed up around it, and there was no real unifying connection between the themes and the mechanics. It was indeed this disconnect that would lead Mark Rosewater and others inside Wizards to want to revisit the graveyard in a more thematic way, giving rise to the current Innistrad set. Odyssey, then, is Innistrad’s big brother.
The graveyard in Odyssey represented a mini-game of sorts, a push and pull tension between two of the set’s core mechanics. One of these is flashback, which has been reintroduced in Innistrad. This ability simply lets you replay a spell from the grave for its flashback cost, which you can do once before having to exile the card. The other mechanic in the set is threshold, which gives certain cards extra power if you happen to have seven or more cards in your graveyard. Thus, the tension- you want a full graveyard for threshold, but each time you take advantage of flashback you’re shrinking your graveyard by one.
Fortunately, players of One-Two Punch don’t have to worry about the first half of that equation, for it contains no cards with threshold. Instead, the deck is packed full of flashback effects, to a much higher degree than its Innistrad equivalent, Eldritch Onslaught. Eldritch Onslaught gave you a fair number of flashback cards, and used a self-milling mechanic to get them into your graveyard. One-Two Punch, being Red/Green, relies upon no such trickery. Rather, the thinking goes, if almost every spell you cast has flashback, you’ll have plenty of options available in your graveyard through the normal course of the game.
When in Doubt, Stomp
A look at the creatures of One-Two Punch is quite deceptive, for it doesn’t seem on first pass to contain all that many. Here’s a look at the deck’s creature curve:
Beginning with the lonely pair of one-drops, we have twin Druid Lyrists, 1/1’s that give you some targeted enchantment removal. The Nantuko Mentor– one of the deck’s rares- is a reusable power booster, while a pair of forestwalking Leaf Dancers round out the three-drops. From there we have a Krosan Archer, a 2/3 with reach that can pump its toughness at the cost of Green mana and a card- the latter far more palatable when having the prospect of flashing back whatever you discard. As we’ll see, in some cases the flashback cost is less than the casting cost, so this can even be to your advantage.
At the top of the curve we have a Gorilla Titan, a 4/4 trampler who becomes an 8/8 if your graveyard is empty. There’s also a Rabid Elephant, a 3/4 body which becomes bigger with every creature blocking it- including the first. As a whole, its a fairly underwhelming collection of beaters for a Red/Green deck, but that’s where the trick of the deck becomes apparent. There are another ten spells which put a token creature into play, and they all have flashback.
A trio of Chatter of the Squirrels give you 1/1 Squirrel tokens, while three Elephant Ambushes grant you- surprise- 3/3 Elephants. In both cases here you see a slight uptick in the flashback cost over the original casting cost. Not so with Beast Attack, a five-mana spell that gives you a 4/4 Beast. Both the casting cost and the flashback cost here are the same. Finally, at the very top of the curve we have a pair of Roars of the Wurm. These give you 6/6 Wurm tokens, and can be flashed back for nearly half the casting cost- just the thing to throw out to a Krosan Archer early. Another thing to note- the Beasts and Elephants can be summoned at instant speed- perfect for setting up a surprise ambush when your opponeint, thinking the coast is clear, decides to swing in.
Reach Out and Torch Someone
The rest of the noncreature spells in the deck are about what you’d expect from a Red/Green stompy construction. You have a the usual combat tricks in the shape of twin Sylvan Mights, as well as a Fog variant in Moment’s Peace and a surprise regeneration in Refresh. Reckless Charge grants a solid +3/+0 power boost in addition to haste, but can only be cast at sorcery speed.
Next we have the burn, and plenty of it. Scorching Missile is a smaller version of Lava Axe that hits for less but can be flashed back (although for an almost prohibitive cost). The deck carries two of these. There’s also a Shock variant in Firebolt as well as a pair of Engulfing Flames. These- quite comparable to Geistflame– are limited to creatures only, but carry the anti-regeneration clause occasionally found on Red burn spells like Incinerate. Finally, flashbacking miniature versions of Hurricane and Earthquake make an appearance here as Howling Gale and Volcanic Spray.
Rounding out the deck are several miscellaneous spells. Deep Reconnaissance is a flashbacking version of Rampant Growth, and to help accelerate your manabase the deck offers you a pair of them. Earth Rift is a Stone Rain variant, destroying any target land. Finally, Seize the Day– the deck’s other rare- is a bit like Relentless Assault except it only lets you untap a single creature. Still, it can steal a game for you if you have something particularly large and brutish on the table.
As you can see, a lot of the flashback spells here are simply tuned versions of other, more iconic spells. That gives One-Two Punch a certain welcome whiff of familiarity, as once you get past the flashback shenanigans it becomes clear that this is very much a textbook Red/Green deck. We’ll take it into the field next and see how it performs, see you in two days’ time!