Tempest: Flames of Rath Review (Part 2 of 2)
Our first playtest of the lot and I’m up against Sam with The Slivers. I know from reviewing that there are only sixteen Slivers in her deck- can I draw enough burn to show them the door?
I’m on the play for our first tilt, and begin with a Mountain. Sam lands the day’s first beater, a Metallic Sliver. Any optimism of the moment proves fleeting as next turn I deploy a Fireslinger, while Sam consoles herself at getting in one good attack with the Sliver to put me to 19 life.
Now turn 3, my turn is a blank while Sam Dream Caches, putting the cards on top of her library. She goes in on the attack with the Sliver for a second time, so I just kill it with the Fireslinger and take 1 in the process. Back to me, all the air goes out of the room when I tap out for Furnace of Rath. With the land up to regenerate it, Sam simply plays a Clot Sliver and passes.
My turn-5 Flowstone Giant is met with a Power Sink, but that leaves her Clot Sliver vulnerable and my Fireslinger takes full advantage. Thanks to the Furnace, I’m taking 2 damage instead of 1, and end at 16. For her part, Sam plays another Clot Sliver. My next turn is another blank, and Sam deploys an Essence Bottle after attacking in for 2 with her Clot Sliver.
Now turn 7, I go ahead and send in the Fireslinger for a 2-point attack, since Sam has no defenders in play. Feeling herself safe, that lets Sam go ahead and put an elixir counter on the Essence Bottle, so I respond with a Searing Touch (with buyback) to snipe her exposed Clot Sliver. That elixir counter is small consolation. Feeling desperate, she replaces it with a Mnemonic Sliver which I look to kill with the Fireslinger- she sacs it in response to draw a replacement card. Still, she gets some small satisfaction out of the 2 damage my pinger inflicts upon me. Next turn I attack again for 2, then follow it with an 8-point Rolling Thunder, putting her at 8. Her turn is a blank, though she’s flush enough to main-phase an elixir counter on the Essence Bottle.
On turn 9, I attack for 2 more with the Fireslinger, leaving Sam at 6. Her turn is another blank, and at the end of it I look to start closing her account. I Kindle her for 2 (doubling to 4), but she has a Dismiss to counter it. This sets up a second (and lethal) Kindle which I play immediately after, but that gets Counterspelled. It’s the next-turn 10-point Rolling Thunder that finally does her in, elixir counters and all.
Sam’s turn-2 Winged Sliver is the game’s first play, followed the turn after by a Mnemonic one after a 1-point attack. This draws an answering Kindle to kill the card-drawing one at the end of her turn, and we’re off and running. I play a Mogg Fanatic and pass.
Now turn 4, Sam swings for 1 with her Winged Sliver, then plays another one. I send in the Fanatic which puts Sam to 19, then chance a Wild Wurm. Fortune is with me and I win the coin flip, so I’ve suddenly got a 5/4 beatstick on the board. Since it doesn’t fly, it watches Sam’s two Slivers fly in for 2 damage, then kindly dies to her Dark Banishing. Back to me, I drop Sam to 18 with the Fanatic, then play a second Fanatic and a Fireslinger.
The Fireslinger causes no end of misery for Sam’s weenie-filled deck, so she taps out to play Extinction naming ‘Wizards,’ and off it goes. She then attacks for 2 more, and I’m left at 14. The game pivots, though, when I resolve a 3-point Rolling Thunder to kill both Slivers and nick her for a point. I then send in both Goblins, and now Sam’s at 15 life. Her next turn, sadly for her, is a blank, while I play a Flowstone Salamander after another 2-point attack.
Sam has another blank turn on turn 8, so I send in the troops for 5. The Salamander draws a second Dark Banishing, but it gets repalced by a Firefly. Back to Sam, she Dream Caches, putting the two cards back atop her library, then plays a Mindwhip Sliver. Undaunted, I press the attack with the Goblins and Firefly. Sam blocks one of the Goblins with the Sliver, but I opt not to pump up the Firefly. That puts her down to 11, but it allows me to finish off the Mindwhip with a buyback Searing Touch. Sam manages to string together a couple more uneventful turns but doesn’t find anything meaningful in the deck in time to stop the Firefly from killing her.
Sam leads off with an Island while I follow suit with a Mountain- no one-drop for the either of us. Next turn, though, we’re right back at it with a Winged Sliver followed by a Fireslinger. Next turn Sam draws first blood with her doomed Sliver, then Dream Caches. I draw and pass my turn.
The Winged Sliver’s been living on borrowed time and Sam knows it, and it’s no surprise when she turns it sideways that it’s headed right for the graveyard, though I still take my 1 point of damage. Sam then replaces it with a Mnemonic Sliver and passes. Back to me, I simply Lightning Blast it. unwilling to let Sam have that much card advantage and unwilling to risk countermagic by playing it later.
Now turn 5, Sam picks off the Fireslinger with a Dark Banishing (I ping her for 1 in response), then ends her turn after laying down a Rootwater Depths. I go to replace my pinger with another, but Sam has just enough mana up to Counterspell it. Turn is is a blank for the both of us, though we do manage to play more land.
Sam attempts a turn-7 Metallic Sliver, but it gets picked off with a buyback Searing Touch. I have no play, and next turn neither does she. We then have some dueling buyback on turn 8 as I Searing Touch her at the end of her turn, while she plays Whispers of the Muse at the end of mine. I also play a useless Maze of Shadows.
On turn 9 Sam baits out a Winged Sliver, while I reply with a Flowstone Giant. At the end of my turn she kills the Giant with a Dark Banishing, then manages to counter my expected Searing Touch with a Power Sink. Trap sprung. Next turn the much-relieved Sliver is sent in for 1 to leave me at 16. My turn is a blank, and Sam Whispers again.
On turn 11 Sam then brings out a Fevered Convulsions and an Essence Bottle, though I manage to resolve a Disenchant to kill off the potentially debilitating Convulsions. I follow that with a Mogg Fanatic while Sam puts a counter on her Bottle at the end of my turn. We trade 1-point attacks on turn 12, with Sam taking full advantage of her abundant mana supply to keep playing Whispers of the Muse each turn. She plays a turn-13 Mindwhip Sliver, while I play a second Mogg Fanatic. She plays a Clot Sliver, I Kindle the Mindwhip one.
On turn 15 Sam finally has enough mana in play to both cast Whispers as well as add an elixir counter to the Essence Bottle in one go, and by then I know the game is lost. I simply can’t compete with her drawing two cards a turn to my one, and having potentially massive chunk of life. I get whittled down in small bites, but playing off the top of my library the best I can do is a Squee’s Toy. I finally (and mercifully) scoop on turn 19.
Thoughts & Analysis
If there’s a problem with Flames of Rath, it’s that most of its good cards congest around the top of the mana curve. A good Red aggro deck like Red Deck Wins looks to maximise its chances of winning by making sure that as much of its mana as possible is used each turn. While buyback is a fantastic value in this regard, having almost half (8/18) of your creatures cost four mana means that you miss the opportunity to build up some early momentum. Red stompy seems good in theory- use your burn to keep the lanes clear for your massive beaters to drive through- but one of the strengths of Green stompy is that you get access to ramp cards which get your fatties out that much quicker. Flames of Rath has no such advantage. Instead, you’re left to bide time until you can start squeezing them out, and by that time your opponent might well have established themselves.
On the upside, there’s some great consistency with the cards you have to work with. Getting four Kindles, a trio of Lightning Blasts and pair of Rolling Thunders is a great foundation- you’re free to have a high level of confidence that you’ll be seeing a good amount of burn every game, as I did in the above match. There are a few misses like Blood Frenzy or Tahngarth’s Rage, but the canny player will note that both of these can actually serve as ersatz removal under the right conditions. Squee’s Toy also would be one of the first one’s to bin if you were looking to improve the deck.
Overall, it’s a fun look at Red stompy, but the deck’s mana curve problems prevent it from being a top-class deck. It’s just as subject to the Red player’s pitfalls as any other, as I experienced in our pre-game friendly as well as in Game One. In both cases I more or less ran out of gas- the difference in Game One was that Furnace of Rath was able to maximise my damage output. I might well have lost that game without it.
Misses: Dreadful congestion at the four-drop and no ramp can make for some frustrating gameplay experiences as well as compromise opening hand quality
OVERALL SCORE: 3.90/5.00