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October 26, 2011

3

Odyssey: Trounce-O-Matic Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Our final match for this visit to the land of Otaria, Sam and I are eager to put the final two decks to the test. I’m up with Trounce-O-Matic, the Green stompy deck with a tricky Blue twist. For Sam, she’s playing with fire by piloting the burn-heavy Pressure Cooker. Will her removal be enough to keep my beaters contained? Or will I hit threshold and power past whatever she manages to throw my way? Only one way to find out…

Game One

I’m on the play for our opener, and things for the both of us begin in earnest on turn 2 after we both lead with land drops. I play a Predict, naming ‘Forest’ and whiffing when instead I reveal a Krosan Avenger. Still, that’s two cards for my graveyard already, and I’m well underway. For her part, Sam deploys a Frightcrawler before passing. Next turn I play a Krosan Avenger while Sam swings in for 1 and follows up with a Barbarian Lunatic.

Now turn 4, I return fire with my Avenger for 3, then add a Cephalid Looter– one of the deck’s strongest utility creatures. It’s here that Sam makes a bit of an overreach when she counters with Braids, Cabal Minion. Each of us have two creatures (Braids will be Sam’s third), and we’ve four lands apiece. Braids is a great control mechanism when you’ve got a solid advantage on the board, but she’s not going to do a lot to help Sam here- and she’ll power me right into threshold, which is exactly what this deck wants. Back to me, I sacrifice the Krosan Avenger to Braids during my upkeep, then bring out a Metamorphic Wurm. Back to Sam, she sacrifices her Frightcrawler, then snipes off my Looter with an Engulfing Flames. Naturally, I loot in response, throwing an Island into my graveyard.

I send another Island after it on turn 6 when I pay Braids’ tax, then cast Careful Study. Both cards I draw from it- a Stone-Tongue Basilisk and Forest- go right into the graveyard, and just like that I’ve hit threshold. My Metamorphic Wurm becomes a 7/7 beater, and I swing with it to drop Sam to 10 life. I then play a Werebear, which is immediately a 4/4. Back to Sam, she sacrifices a Swamp, replaces it, and passes- clearly, she’s far the worse for playing Braids. I cripple her on turn 7 when I use the Werebear for mana rather than to attack, casting Overrun for the sole benefit of my Wurm. Sam chumps Braids to stay alive, but draws nothing next turn and scoops.

Game Two

Sam opens our second game with a Mountain, while I play a Diligent Farmhand off of a Forest. Next turn she lands a Frightcrawler, and we begin trading nicks from our critters. We both opt for utility on turn 3- Sam with a Shadowblood Egg, me with a Cephalid Looter- but when Sam plays a turn-4 Famished Ghoul, my attacks dry up. I play a Peek to get a read on her hand, which as expected boasts some burn- a Barbarian Lunatic, a Liquid Fire, and an Engulfing Flames. I draw a card off of Peek’s cantrip effect and pass.

Now turn 5, Sam moves to pick off the Looter with the Engulfing Flames, but I have the Sylvan Might to save it. Chagrined, she attacks for 4 with her creatures, taking me to 14 life. At the end of her turn I loot, gaining a Forest while disacrding a Roar of the Wurm. As they are cheaper to flashback than to cast, this gives me a chance to get a 6/6 Wurm next turn. Sam’s no fool, though- she then sacrifices her Famished Ghoul to exile the Roar and the Sylvan Might out of my graveyard. Back to me, I take advantage of the opening to send the Farmhand in for another attack, putting Sam at 17. I then engage the Looter and a Careful Study to try and improve my hand, but I get little other than graveyard fodder- a Krosan Avenger, Island, and Seton’s Desire pad my graveyard by the end of the turn.

Sam’s reduced to a 1-point attack on turn 6 thanks to the loss of her Ghoul, which she follows by summoning a Barbarian Lunatic. Over to me, I return fire with the Farmhand for 1, then loot-and-pitch a Crashing Centaur. Back to Sam, she attacks for 3 with the Frightcrawler and Lunatic, then pops her Shadowblood Egg for the replacement card, channelling the mana into a Liquid Fire targeting my Looter for 1 and myself for 4. This takes me to 6 life- not good- though I do have a backup plan. For a few turns I’ve been holding an Ivy Elemental, waiting to play it as a 6/6 to keep it out of range of Sam’s Liquid Fire. Now that she’s blown up my Cephalid, I’m free to play it. At the end of Sam’s turn, I pop the Farmhand for an extra land (hitting threshold), then play a Forest on my turn to tap out into a 7/7 Ivy Elemental.

Sam keeps the pressure on with a turn-8 Pardic Firecat, attacking for 1 with the unblockable Frightcrawler. My turn 8 is a blank as I look to draw solutions. Back to Sam, she attacks in with the Firecat and her Frightcrawler. I block and kill the Firecat, and Repel the Frightcrawler. She adds a Halberdier and passes. My turn 9 is another blank as I’m running out of options. Sam seals victory on turn 10 when she attacks with her Barbarian Lunatic and Halberdier. I block and kill the Halberdier with my Elemental, but that leaves me at 3 life. Thanks to the dead Firecat, Sam’s Flame Burst delivers lethal.

Game Three

Back on the play for our final game, I deploy a first-turn Diligent Farmhand, while Sam lays down a Ravaged Highlands. Next turn I draw the game’s first blood with the Farmhand, while Sam plays a Cabal Pit and passes. At the end of her turn, I pop the Farmhand for an Island to give me access to Blue mana, and when it’s my turn again I cast Peek followed by a replacement Farmhand. The Peek is insightful- Sam’s holding a loaded hand with a couple more land, an Innocent Blood, a Pardic Firecat, Chainflinger, Dwarven Strike Force, and Flame Burst. Back to Sam, her turn 3 is a blank aside from hitting her land drop.

Now turn 4, I attack with the Farmhand to put Sam at 18, then cast Careful Study. This gets me a Sylvan Might at the cost of an Island and Seton’s Desire, a fine trade. Back to Sam, she adds a Bog Wreckage and passes. Next turn I attack again for 1, then add a Krosan Avenger. Continuing her impressive run of playing the deck’s nonbasic lands, Sam adds a second Cabal Pit, tapping out to play a Repentant Vampire (and damaging herself for 2 in the process thanks to the Pits).

Seeing an opportunity, I cast Overrun for my two creatures and swing in for 10. Sam opts to soak some of the damage with the Vampire to leave her at 8 life. Over to her, she then wipes my board with a Flame Burst on the Avenger (granting me threshold) and an Innocent Blood to get the pesky Farmhand. Back to me, I tap out to keep the pressure on with a 5/5 Ivy Elemental. For her part, Sam plays a Dwarven Strike Force in an attempt to trade for time.

The Dwarves take one for the team on turn 8 when I go in with the Elemental. Sam repalces them with a Pardic Firecat, but I stitch up the win when I end-of-turn Deluge to tap the ‘Cat, and send in the Ivy Elemental backed by a Sylvan Might for lethal.

Thoughts & Analysis

Trounce-O-Matic seemed to work on all levels. It consistently and reliably was able to manage threshold thanks to cards like Careful Study and the Cephalid Looter. I had no problems filling out my mana base thanks to the Diligent Farmhand and the looting, and that meant my larger threats could come on-line as expected. The Ivy Elemental was a real force in two games (though he came out too late to save me in Game Two), and that’s thanks in large part to being able to have steady land deployment to maximise value from the card. And the deck’s fairly steady mana curve meant that it seldom didn’t give you something to do.

The deck also hewed close to the tried-and-true formula of the Simic (Blue/Green) beaters deck: heavy ground troops backed up by Blue trickery. The Blue fill-the-graveyard minigame here was a fun added dimension to the deck, since it helped power up your Green beaters and gave the deck a good bit of synergy overall. So why do I still find myself feeling a bit underwhelmed by the deck?

In part, Trounce-O-Matic’s failings are Odyssey’s failings. The set’s impressions certainly aren’t helped by the fact that Innistrad has been touted somewhat as “Odyssey done right,” but it’s an apt assessment. The threshold mechanic has absolutely no flavour to it here whatsoever, it’s about as “Melvin” as it gets. Why does the Werebear get bigger based on how much stuff you’ve lost to the graveyard? In fairness, tying Innistrad’s Day/Night mechanic to how many spells a player has- or hasn’t- cast in a given turn isn’t perfect either, but it does succeed in giving the set a thematic feel, a sense of purpose to the cards and mechanics that Odyssey sorely lacks.

Another interesting comparison is the notion of compartmentalisation, so central to the modern Intro Pack but certainly less enforced here. This refers to the notion that mechanics tend to be rigidly segregated between decks. The flashback deck has the flashback spells, the morbid deck gets all the morbid cards, and none of the other three have any. In Zendikar, you didn’t see random landfall creatures popping up as singleton inclusions in non-landfall decks, and you certainly didn’t have a couple random infect creatures thrown into non-infect-focused decks.

What about Odyssey? Well, the flashback-focused deck, One-Two Punch, obviously has flashback spells in spades. But so does the Black/Red Pressure Cooker. And not to be left out, both Liftoff and Trounce-O-Matic get a taste as well. Right, then, howabout threshold? Well, Liftoff certainly packs that mechanic in, as its central to its theme of taking wing in the mid-to-late game as a finishing tactic. Trounce-O-Matic has plenty as well. This one gives One-Two Punch the miss, but there’s certainly some in Pressure Cooker. And if all this reads like a muddle, well, that’s about how it feels. When you spread your set’s mechanics across all of your theme decks, then the biggest differentiator becomes the differentiator of last resort: colour. And if you’ve been playing the game long enough, that begins to feel a little less relevant. As in, “I’ve played loads of Green decks… what makes this one different?”

There’s always a tension we experience when looking to assign a rating to a deck. Do we judge the deck on its merits alone as part of the set and era it hails from, or do we look at the “bigger picture,” which means comparing it to decks that might have been released later on in the game’s history. In truth, we probably do a little of both. In the full span of Magic’s history, I wouldn’t give Odyssey’s decks much more than a “C” equivalent. They’re fairly pedestrian, relatively devoid of flavour, and mechanically blurred. But instead if you say, “here’s Odyssey’s card pool, what can be made out of it?”, you get a bit of a different perspective. These decks work for what they are capable of doing, and they’re far from unfun.

The Intro Decks have been quite rightly roasted in the court of public opinion on occasion, with Zendikar and Worldwake where we’d consider design’s lowest point before things started to get better. Similarly, we’ve often help up the “Theme Deck” as a model to aspire to, because so many of them take chances by going into territory where Intro Pack decks fear to tread (read: complexity). But it would be remiss not to champion modern design’s strengths as well, and those are on particular display when assessing Odyssey immediately after Innistrad.

Hits: Solid mana curve supported by looting and land fetching lends the deck consistent playability; Blue cards have a solid synergy with the Green ones here and strongly support the deck’s theme- this is a very comfortable pairing

Misses: Removal suite very weak, meaning you’ll be restricted to killing things in the red zone and have little answer to pesky utility creatures; reliance on threshold creatures will keep you weak in the early-to-midgame until you get seven cards in the graveyard and they ‘beef up’

OVERALL SCORE: 3.90/5.00

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Read more from Odyssey, Odyssey Block
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oct 26 2011

    I wouldn’t say Sam’s overreaching when she plays Braids. Remember, she only has to keep Braids around as long as it hurts you more than it hurts her. As soon as she wants to keep her stuff, she just sacrifices Braids to her own ability. Even in the worst case, Braids can be a 1-for-1 edict (much like Fleshbag Marauder)–you sac something, I sac Braids.

    Reply
    • Oct 26 2011

      I see your point, and you’re right about being able to dispose of her. But two things. First, playing Braids as a one-off is almost always poor value. Using it this way, you’re most often in the late game find her little more than 2BB: Your opponent sacrifices a land. Bad. Secondly, there’s the cost of the missed opportunity to play her when she’s more relevant. We managed to have her come up in Pressure Cooker’s review, and she was a beating. Like Wraths or anything else, there’s an art/science to when to play them, and I don’t think this was optimal for Sam.

      Reply
  2. Oct 27 2011

    As always, I am a major proponent of the setting, feeling, environment, and atmosphere of any game. When comparing Innistrad and Odyssey there is a huge difference in the substance. Just holding a card from Innistrad, I was immediately drawn into the life and essence of the world they had (re)created. I find no such feelings evoked with Odyssey. In addition, I am a fan of RPG’s and love the story and the acting as much as I do any battle or dungeon crawl. I guess that’s why I’ll play cards in a deck that I love for their flavor when they might be better off being left out. I agree with Ertai on this one.

    Reply

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