Odyssey: Liftoff Review (Part 2 of 2)
For our next exploration into Otaria- the world of Odyssey- I’ll be piloting the conditional ‘skies’ deck Liftoff. Beginning as a White weenie deck that powers into flying through threshold, I’ll be up against Sam. For her part, she’s opted for the flashback-filled One-Two Punch. Here are the notes from our engagement.
Sam leads off, and opens with a Druid Lyrist off of a Forest. I play a Plains and pass. Next turn she then casts Chatter of the Squirrel, giving her a 1/1 token after attacking in for 1. I play an Island into a Mystic Visionary. Back and forth we trade 2-point swings through the red zone until Sam looks to put a stop to things on turn 4 with an Engulfing Flames to snipe my Visionary. Alas for Sam, I’m holding a Syncopate with more open mana than she has, and the Visionary survives.
Now turn 5, Sam lands another Druid Lyrist after a 2-point attack which leaves me at 13 life. Sam is at 16. With the symmetry now tipped in her favour, I hold the Visionary back, play a Cephalid Broker, and pass. Next turn Sam plays another Chatter of the Squirrel. Back to me, I loot with the Broker, adding a Cephalid Scout at the cost of a couple of excess lands. I don’t play it, however, opting for a Millikin and another Mystic Visionary.
Sam flashes back the Chatter for another 1/1 Squirrel on turn 7, then attacks for 4 with her horde of 1/1’s. Not willing to risk my looter for a block, I let all four through and go down to 9. My turn, as it happens, is a blank. Sam then attacks in for 5- and this time I block. Each of my four creatures steps up to block, with one Squirrel getting through. A trade turns into a blowout when I show the Embolden, preventing all five of Sam’s damage and killing off three of her dorks. At the end of the turn, I pile on the pain by looting with the Broker and triggering the Millikin. The Aven Windreader and Cephalid Scout the Broker sees off to my graveyard trigger threshold. I return fire with my now-flying Visionaries for 4, dropping Sam to 12. I follow up with a Mystic Zealot and pass.
To her credit, Sam’s waged a fine battle, but there’s only so much you can do on two land. She’s now hit eight cards in hand, and must discard a Roar of the Wurm. At the end of turn I loot again, drawing- then discarding- a Plains and a Mystic Penitent. Back to me, I swing in for another 7 with my trio of Mystics, then pass. Sam draws nothing, and scoops.
This time, we each get to four land in four straight turns, which should be enough to mount a solid offensive. In those four turns, I’ve brought out a Mystic Visionary and deployed a Think Tank, while Sam has gotten the offense off early with a Chatter of the Squirrel and Deep Reconnaissance for a fifth land. Sam draws first blood on turn 4, while I fire back for 2 with the Visionary before adding the Cephalid Broker, and we’re off!
Sam knows that the double-loot is a surefire ticket to threshhold and wastes no time wasting my Broker with an Engulfing Flames (flashed back for the second point of damage). She attacks for 1 then passes. Back to me, I attack in for 2, taking Sam down to 16 life, then add a Puppeteer. Sam returns fire next turn with the Squirrel, leaving me at 17 life. I pitch a Plains thanks to Think Tank to get something better. I attack for another 2, then play a Cephalid Scout and Mystic Penitent.
Now turn 7, I tap down Sam’s Squirrel on her turn to open up her defense. I pitch another Plains to Think Tank, helping me keep a hand full of nonland options, and it pays off when I attack for 4 and Sam tries to sneak in an Elephant Ambush. I Syncopate it into exile, and she’s down to 10 life. Next turn she attacks with the Squirrel, then plays Roar of the Wurm for a 6/6 Wurm token. Back to me, I throw away a Mystic Visionary for the chance to draw something better, I fly in for 1 with the Cephalid Scout and pass.
Now turn 7, I engage the Puppeteer to neutralise Sam’s Wurm, but let her Squirrel through for 1. She then flashes back the Roar to make a second 6/6 token, adds a Nantuko Mentor, and ends her turn. Over to me, Think Tank lets me flush a Seafloor Debris for something else, and I hit threshold. I attack in the skies for 5 with my instant air force, cutting Sam down to 4. Sam then goes for broke, sending in everything for 13 damage. I let them through, and when Sam uses the Mentor to double up a Wurm for a shot at the win, I simply Second Thoughts it. I go down to 8, then swing for lethal next turn.
Once more on the play, Sam leads with a Druid Lyrist, then follows it up with an attack on turn 2 for 1. I manage a Millikin to get things started on turn 2. Next turn, Sam attacks for another point of damage, then uses Deep Reconnaisance to ramp with a Mountain. I tap the Millikin (milling a Mystic Crusader), then play the Blessed Orator.
Now turn 4, Sam flashes back the Deep Reconnaissance to round out her burgeoning manabase. Back to me, I attack for 1 with the Orator, then play a Cephalid Retainer. I self-mill a Plains with the Millikin and pass. Sam’s next turn is a blank, while I mill with my Millikin (milling another Millikin- say that five times fast) before adding a Hallowed Healer.
Sam casts then flashes a Chatter of the Squirrel for a pair of 1/1’s on turn 6, then ends her turn. I mill off an Island, swing for 3 with the Orator and Retainer, deploy a Mystic Visionary and pass. Sam fires back for 3, sending in her Squirrels and Lyrist. I block the Lyrist with the Visionary to kill it, taking 2 in the process (down to 13). Looking to regain even footing, Sam then plays a Volcanic Spray, then flashes it back to try and clear the board. This backfires when I use Embolden to save the lives of my critters, while hers circle the drain. It’s a backbreaking play, and Sam never recovers. Next turn I go in for 5, holding back only the Healer and Millikin, then mill myself with the Millikin and play a Mystic Zealot.
With little to do on turn 8, Sam hits me with a Scorching Missile, then flashes it back for 3 more damage. I prevent 2 with the Healer, but go down to 11. Next turn I mill off a Blessed Orator with the Millikin which lands me my seventh card in the graveyard. My air force powers up thanks to threshold, then leads my army on a massive 9-point swing. With Sam already down to 9 life, that’s game.
Thoughts & Analysis
Some things in Magic are harder than they seem. When Scars of Mirrodin came out, a number of folks thought that landing only three artifacts for metalcraft would be a snap, only to find it was a bit trickier to manage than it appeared. Much the same could be said of trying to keep your hand empty for hellbent, or for event-based triggers like morbid and bloodthirst. These conditions frequently do happen in a game of Magic, but they’re not always ready when you’d expect them to be.
Threshold is another mechanic that belongs squarely on the list. It didn’t seem all that difficult to fill up my graveyard, until I actually tried it. In all three games, I was able to hit it- but only at the very end of each. That’s probably not a coincidence, given how Liftoff rewards you for attaining it. Still, some of the fun of the deck was the challenge of trying to hit it as quickly as possible. While the deck gives you enough tools to do so, they can be a mixed blessing. Think Tank was a very solid milling and card quality engine, but as often as not I preferred to keep what it revealed for me, making it in large part an enchantment that did next to nothing!
Part of Liftoff’s novelty is that it’s a skies deck that feels like a White Weenie deck. Overall, it’s a fun deck to play, but not quite as engaging as One-Two Punch. Threshold certainly makes you feel like the graveyard matters, but it’s a case of diminishing returns. Simply put, threshold is probably one of the game’s less-exciting mechanics, and Liftoff couldn’t shake a somewhat pedestrian feeling which became more pronounced with each game.
Hits: Solid support for its central mechanic, threshold, through looters and other discard effects; deck pulls off novel trick of blending two distinct strategies, White weenie and skies; reward for hitting threshold is commensurate with difficulty
Misses: Threshold just isn’t all that exciting- it’s fun to try and hit, but it doesn’t maintain a longer-term interest
OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00