Odyssey: One-Two Punch Review (Part 2 of 2)
With as much fun as Jimi and I had for Innistrad, Sam is eager to get back into the mix and ready to experience Odyssey. For her deck she’s selected the Blue/Green Trounce-O-Matic, while I’ll be taking the flashback-filled One-Two Punch into battle. Here are the notes from our match.
For our kickoff game for Odyssey, I have the privilege of being on the play, and I take the opportunity to trot out a Druid Lyrist. Sam plays an Island and passes, so next turn I swing in with the Lyrist for 1 after playing a Mountain. Back to Sam, she lands her own creature, a Werebear, and passes back.
Now turn 3, I’d be happy to trade the Lyrist for the Werebear, so I send it in again. Sam doesn’t take the bait, however, so she’s down to 19. I follow up with a Deep Reconnaissance for another Mountain, giving me two of each type of land. Sam for her part repays my Lyrist’s depredations with an attack of her own, sending in the Werebear for 1. She then plays a second Werebear and ends turn. Next turn I lay a Forest, attack in for 1 more with the Lyrist, and pass. Sensing vulnerability, Sam presses in with both Werebears, but it’s a trap! I cast the appropriately-named Elephant Ambush, giving me a 3/3 surprise blocker that chews up one of the trespassing Werebears. Still, the other slips past for 1, taking me to 18. Perhaps having had enough of surprises, Sam takes a Peek at my hand before ending her turn.
I add to my board strength on turn 5 with a Beast Attack, and use the leftover Mountain to pay for a Reckless Charge, giving my new 4/4 Beast token +3/+0 and haste. With Sam completely open, I send all three creatures at her for 11 damage, leaving her at 6. Back to her, she plays a Wild Mongrel. During my next turn’s upkeep, she Repels my 4/4 Beast into oblivion, since tokens can’t sit atop a library. Since I’ve lost the element of surprise when she saw my hand, I cast my other Elephant Ambush to replace the lost token, using flashback to replay the Reckless Charge and repeat last turn’s tactic. Sam blocks my hasted Elephant with her Wild Mongrel, pitching a Crashing Centaur from her hand to give the Mongrel +1/+1 and make the trade. That still leaves 4 damage on the table, and Sam finds herself at 2 life. Still, she manages to prop herself up somewhat when she casts Roar of the Wurm, giving her the table’s biggest token thus far. We’re now at something of a creature stalemate, as I don’t have enough bodies on the board to finish her off. Still, with a couple of Elephant Ambushes in the graveyard waiting to be flashed back once I get the mana, I know it should only be a matter of time.
My turn 7 is a blank, giving Sam a bit of breathing room. She Repels my 3/3 Elephant token, and in doing so hits threshold. As if to underline the point, she attacks with her now-4/4 Werebear, leaving me at 14 life. Knowing my deck has a few ways to deliver a single point of damage, I return fire with my Lyrist and Beast. Her 6/6 Wurm eats my Beast, but the Lyrist gets through to conk her on the noggin for 1. She’s now on the brink of death. Over to her, she plays a Cephalid Looter, then attacks in for 4 more with the Werebear. At 10 life, I cast Beast Attack at the end of her turn.
Now turn 9, I show her that two can play at the Wurm game, casting a Roar of the Wurm of my own. Here, and for the next seven turns Sam and I enter a Cold War-style arms race. All I need is to draw one of my burn spells that can target players, or get one creature ahead and attack. The brun doesn’t come, so it’s turn after turn of creatures, with Sam’s Cephalid Looter helping her find them. After my Wurm, she plays a Nimble Mongoose, then flashes back her own Roar. So I flash back mine. She adds a Metamorphic Wurm, I start flashing back for 3/3 Elephants. She adds another Wild Mongrel, I flash back the Beast Attack. A regenerating Krosan Avenger finally gives her the confidence to try attacking to whittle down my own troops, so she sends in the Metamorphic Wurm. I gang-block with a pair of 4/4 Beasts, and get the better end of the deal. With each of us losing a creature, it doesn’t change the calculus any, but when I finally draw a Sylvan Might it certainly does. I attack with everything, then put it on an evenly-blocked creature to trample for the win.
Sam opens with a Nimble Mongoose, which she attacks with on turns 2 and 3. At that point, she adds a Krosan Avenger and passes. I’ve been laying land, but my opening gambit is a Volcanic Spray on turn 3 to sweep the board, damaging Sam and I each for 1 in the process. Sam merely shrugs and begins anew with a turn-4 Nimble Mongoose. I miss my first land drop on turn 4, so I happily play a Deep Reconnaissance for a Forest and pass.
Now turn 5, Sam attacks in again for 1 with the Mongoose, for I’ve yet to find a creature. I note that she’s only played one Island alongside her Forests, so I use the opportunity to Earth Rift it away. Although she’s cut off from Blue now, it doesn’t do anything to shore up my defenses, so again the Mongoose comes in next turn, leaving me at 15 life. Sam adds a Twigwalker and passes. Still missing land drops, I flashback the Deep Reconnaissance for another Forest.
The tempo of damage increases on turn 7 as Sam strikes for 3 this time, thanks to the newly-added Walker. Back to me, I hit Sam directly for 4 with a Scorching Missile, then flash the Volcanic Spray back to snipe that pesky Mongoose, getting around its shroud. Next turn Sam attacks for only 2, but then adds a Wild Mongrel. My turn 8 is a blank, so Sam sends in both beaters next turn for 4. Although I try in vain to kill the Mongrel off with an Engulfing Flames (with its flashback) or at least make her pay a card to keep it up, it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Sam pitches a card to keep the Mongrel alive, but then looks at her hand, looks at my life total… and a lightbulb goes on. She throws the rest of her hand into the graveyard, making the Mongrel an 8/8. Alongside the ‘Walker, that’s lethal.
Another slow start for me, for though I hit my land drops I have no play in the first three turns. Sam, meanwhile, leads off with a Careful Study to improve her hand (and fill her graveyard), Peeks at mine the next turn, and lands a Werebear on turn 3- not a bad beginning! That said, I immediately pick off the Werebear with Engulfing Flames, so we’re not far from where we started.
My turn 4 is a blank, as is Sam’s, though I flash in an Elephant Ambush at the end of her turn. That gives me a turn-5 attacker, and I send it in to draw first blood. Back to Sam, she plays a Metamorphic Wurm, though without threshold up it’s far less impressive. At the end of Sam’s turn I flash in a Beast Attack.
Undeterred by the Wurm and happy to trade, I push both tokens across into the red zone on turn 6, smashing Sam for 7 to leave her at 10. I then add a Rabid Elephant and pass. Back to Sam, she plays a Predict, declaring her prediction that she’d see a Forest atop her library. Alas, no- it’s another Predict! She draws just the one card. Next turn I flash back the Beast Attack, then cast Reckless Charge on it to make it a 7/4 with haste. Although Sam offers up her Wurm to block the Beast, I still have 10 damage coming through. She scoops.
Thoughts and Analysis
Green/Red beats decks tend to be amongst the most generic in all of Magic. Each turn tends to be spent playing successively larger beatsticks, along with a few pump spells and burn to clear a path to your enemy and- if needed- burn out your enemy for the win. This isn’t to say that the strategy isn’t fun, or isn’t effective, for its enduring legacy seems to indicate otherwise. Once certainly doesn’t hear as much about Blue/Green beats decks, for instance, though they do exist. Zendikar tried it with Unstable Terrain, then liked it so much it tried it again with for Worldwake with Mysterious Realms, and there’s even a cut of that cloth here in Odyssey we’ll be reviewing later. But Red/Green is the standard, and One-Two Punch succeeds at giving the rather pedestrian archetype a radical makeover.
Odyssey is intriguing given some of its inherent contradictions. It is a graveyard-based set of mechanics in a world which has precious little to do with the graveyard- indeed, Black here is more about the fighting pits of Otaria than the usual villainy and necromancy. In One-Two Punch, we have a beats deck that has far more spells than creatures, though of course many of these put creature tokens into play, be they 1/1 Squirrels, 3/3 Elephants, 4/4 Beasts, or even 6/6 Wurms. Because of the abundance of these and other flashback spells, One-Two Punch has a higher level of intricacy than your normal beats deck, and in that sense it carries some crossover appeal. Even the more combat-averse still can enjoy tackling the tactical nuances of when to flash back which spell, and letting you play most of your cards twice can quickly expand your options each turn beyond the ones afforded you in your hand. Call it the ‘thinking-person’s beatdown deck.’
If the deck has some weaknesses, its main one is that it can be a bit slow to get started. Many of the spells tend to either be expensive or expensive for the flashback effect. Consider the humble Firebolt. One mana for a sorcery-speed shock is already a bit pricey, and you won’t be getting that back until your fifth land drop. But as evidenced in the match above, once the deck starts going it can acquire a very difficult-to-stop momentum.
Hits: Flashback mechanic infuses beater deck with an unusual level of variety and intricacy; flashback is a lot of fun to play; deck is laden with beatsticks
Misses: Heavy combat focus not the strategy of choice for everyone- you’ll still be doing most of the work in the red zone
OVERALL SCORE: 4.25/5.00