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December 25, 2011

8

Planar Chaos: Unraveling Mind Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

It’s a little Christmas-day insanity as Sam and I go head to head at the card table. Can my madness-filled Unraveling Mind get the better of her Rituals of Rebirth, or am I just in a state of delusion?

Game One

Having lost our pre-game friendly I’m in the driver’s seat for our opener, leading with a Mindlash Sliver. Sam begins by suspending a Search for Tomorrow. This leaves me free to attack, so in goes the Sliver on turn 2. WIth no other play, I pass. Sam plays a Terramorphic Expanse, then cracks it for a Swamp.

Now turn 3, I attack again with the Sliver before adding to my forces with a Trespasser il-Vec, the perfect discard outlet for my madness cards. Back to Sam, her Search pops, giving her a Plains for the trifecta of her deck’s basic land types, then she deploys an Icatian Crier. Happy to continue the aggression, I discard a card to give the Trespasser shadow, allowing a 4-point unopposed attack. Of course, with the discarded card being a Muck Drubb, I’m able to play the madness cost and build my board state even further! Down to 15 life, Sam uses the Crier to get a pair of 1/1 Solider tokens at the expense of a Twisted Abomination, which heads for her graveyard. She then adds a Greenseeker and passes.

Unrelenting, I send in everything I’ve got against Sam, a 7-point attack. Sam blocks the Sliver and Trespasser with her 1/1 Soliders. The Sliver dies to the trade, but a timely Kor Dirge not only saves my Trespasser (letting it kill the Soldier unmolested), but I redirect that point to kill off the Crier as well. Not a bad bit of business, and Sam’s down to 12. All she can manage is a Fa’adiyah Seer. Next turn I pitch a Magus of the Arena to the Trespasser, leading the charge for 6. This cuts Sam in half, though with a chump blocker available she can anticipate lasting a little longer. That is, until I play a second Trespasser. She draws, then scoops.

Game Two

Sam begins our next clash with an Essence Warden, then gains 1 life when I answer with the Mindlash Sliver. Next turn I follow her Fa’adiyah Seer with an Undertaker. Then Sam plays another Fa’adiyah Seer, using the first one to fetch a Forest, then ends her turn at 24 life. With her getting her engine assembled I have little to risk from a trade, so I send in both my creatures to knock her back to 22 before passing.

Now turn 4, Sam triggers both Seers to reveal an Icatian Crier and Evolution Charm. She then plays Harmonize to refill her hand. I then drop Mirri the Cursed, sending her in alongside the others to carve in for 5 to put Sam down to 18. Next turn Sam suspends a Search for Tomorrow, then triggers the Seers. She nicks a Forest off of one of them (which gets played), but the other sees off a Harmonize. Over to me, I attack for another 5, then Browbeat. At 13 life, Sam opts to let me have the cards.

Browbeat

Sam looks to stabilise on turn 6 with Jedit Ojanen of Efrava, but it immediately draws an answering Lightning Axe in return (I pitch a Mountain for it). With Sam starting to circle the wagons, I send Mirri in alone, but then play the Magus of the Arena. At the end of the turn, Sam’s down to 12 and I’ve yet to be touched. Next turn Sam’s Search pops, yielding a Swamp. This lets her then drop a Phantasmagorian. I give some thought to countering it though discard, but instead decide that it’s a manageable threat and let it resolve. Sam then uses her Seers to turn over a Plains and Jedit’s Dragoons, the former of which she gets to keep. Over to me, I then pop my poor Mindlash SLiver, forcing each of us to discard. While Sam takes the opportunity to send off a Twisted Abomination- hers being a deck that doesn’t mind a bit of forced discard- I’m still able to get more value by using the opportunity to pitch a Big Game Hunter, playing it for a song and killing the Phantasmagorian. The Hunter gains Sam another life, but my following 8-point swing cuts her down to 6.

Jedit’s Dragoons give Sam a little breathing room when she Dread Returns them on turn 8, going up to 11. I send in the troops again for another 8 points’ worth of damage, but this time Sam contests the move. She gang-blocks the Magus of the Arena with her 2/5 Dragoons and trio of 1/1 weenies, then neutralises my answering Kor Dirge with a Rebuff the Wicked. Undaunted, I use the Undertaker to return the Magic to hand, pitching a useless Mountain. Not to be outdone, Sam then Dread Returns the Dragoons a second time, going up to 12. Back to me, I have Mirri carve out 3 life off of Sam, then replay the Magus of the Arena. I use my leftover mana to fetch back the Mindlash Sliver with the Undertaker (pitching a Swamp), then replaying it as well.

Sam plateaus on turn 10 with a Spike Feeder, then sits back and waits for the assault. She doesn’t have long to wait as I turn nearly everything sideways. Sam then uses the Evolution Charm to give her Dragoons flying, letting them block (and kill) poor Mirri. She chump-blocks the Magus with the Spike Feeder, then drains the Feeder of counters for another badly-needed dose of lifegain. When the dust settles, she’s only taken 3 damage from my creatures. Her next turn is a blank, however, which lets me swing in with another massive attack. Backed up by a Lightning Axe to the face, Sam’s luck has run out.

Game Three

Once again, Sam manages to lead off with an Essence Warden, all but guaranteeing her a little extra life in the course of the game, while I play the Mindlash Sliver. We swap Terramophic Expanses on turn 2, a turn which sees Sam add a second Warden. Aside from the land, my turn is a blank.

Now turn 3, Sam goes up another 2 life when she plays a Fa’adiyah Seer, then she turns her Wardens sideways to put me down to 18. I then counterattack for 1 with my Sliver, then pop it to force the discard. Sam’s Swamp is no great loss, but the Gorgon Recluse I land off of the play is the real concern even as she goes up to 25 life. Next turn she goes fishing with the Seer, revealing a Dread Return. A bit of luck on my side sees me play Mirri the Cursed for a second straight game, and she leads the Gorgon in for a 5-point attack to leave her at 22.

Jedit’s Dragoons end up in Sam’s graveyard on turn 5 when she goes fishing again with the Seer, while I attack for another 5 then play a second Gorgon Recluse, this time hardcasting for full cost. That puts Sam up a couple life, but all but seals the win for me. Sam comes up with nothing more threatening than another Harmonize while I add a Muck Drubb and begin to smash away, wrapping things up with a Disintegrate to the face.

Thoughts & Analysis

Nightshade Assassin

Although not the sexiest or most exciting mechanic ever minted, the madness-centric Unraveling Mind is a solidly-constructed preconstructed deck. Like many such decks, it follows the “generally weak/conditionally strong” model, and it’s fun to see all the different ways that Wizards can come up with using this very archetypical approach. In recent times, this would include metalcraft and even morbid, but as you can see it’s hardly a new observation. A good example of this might be the card Call to the Netherworld, in comparison with Disentomb. On its own, Call is just a shade less powerful than Disentomb for the same  cost, as it is more limited in its targets (Black creature cards versus any creature card). Naturally, the upside here is that under certain conditions, it can be much stronger as you get to play it for free.

Altogether, Unraveling Mind does a very good job of supporting its signature mechanic. You have a solid and functional suite of cards which allow you to force yourself to discard with relative ease, and give you great incentive for doing so. There’s also plenty of madness cards to maximise the chances for you to use and abuse the mechanic here, so you’ll seldom have difficulty taking advantage of the cost savings and surprise tactics it can afford you. Although in the games above I tended to assume the role of the beatdown, going in hard and aggressive, the deck just as easily could have set me up with some surprise blockers had I been back-footed or followed a slower trajectory.

That said, don’t be fooled- madness is not the end, it’s merely part of the means. Not for nothing both of the deck’s rares (Mirri and the Magus) have absolutely no interest in it, so it’s also critical to look at how the deck considers the endgame. The good news here is that you’re not absolutely crippled if you can’t get your madness engine moving, and the hardcast cost of most spells not named Dark Withering are still within the realm of the reasonable. There are enough fat beaters in the deck to give you some solid finishing, and the singleton Disintegrate can really give you some lethal reach, as we saw in Game Three.

For all its charms, Unraveling Mind is still going to be very subjective individual to individual. We found it fun but not memorably so; others might find abusing madness to be delightful while others still will stifle a yawn and reach for the next deck to try out. The same can be said of nearly any deck, but we tend to find this a bit more pronounced in decks focused around mechanics that by themselves don’t seem to do a whole lot.

Hits: Madness mechanic is well supported here, with plenty of keyworded cards and ways to take advantage of them; deck has a lot of nifty little interactions between them (such as setting up a recursive loop with two madness creatures and an Undertaker)

Misses: Rare cards are strong, but disconnected from the theme of the deck; madness mechanic’s novelty wears off quickly, and isn’t the most flavourful or exciting

OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Prophylaxis
    Dec 25 2011

    Made a mistake with the Lightning Axe to the face..?

    Reply
    • ErtaisLament
      Dec 25 2011

      Ya, snip that line “to the face” there. Blame it on holiday fatigue! Was the Disintegrate to the face in the third… Well spotted!

      Reply
  2. outhouseinferno
    Dec 25 2011

    That score just doesn’t seem so right for this deck, which had a very strong showing today. I think that the new, multifaceted version of deck grading you talked about somewhere could be due soon…

    Reply
    • Dec 29 2011

      It’s in development! Personally, I’m no fan of the numeric grading system, and may end up adopting something more like “Common-Uncommon-Rare-Mythic” as well as the additional graded details. Still a lot to work out.

      Reply
  3. Diennea
    Dec 25 2011

    I really like this deck, it was really easy to build around it something more competitive.

    Reply
  4. tenthtechpriest
    Dec 26 2011

    Don’t remember much about this precon beyond running into it a few times, though it seems fairly solid. I remember madness having a lot of synergy with hellbent back in the Ravnica/Time Spiral standard; instant speed discard-powered abilities into madness casting with hellbent effect buffs to top it all off.

    Bleh, I’ll be verbose when endless march comes up, I probably drank a bit more ‘holiday cheer’ then I should’ve.

    Reply
  5. Szadek
    Dec 26 2011

    This is probably one of the few decks that One With Nothing might help out. Maybe. I do like the mechanic of Madness, though.

    Reply

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