Tempest: The Swarm Review (Part 2 of 2)
In our final visit to the plane of Rath (for now), we take The Swarm up against the searing heat of Flames of Rath. Can it overpower its high-priced competition, or will it be reduced to a heap of ash?
Having lost our pre-game friendly in a most decisive manner, I opt to be on the play to lead things off. I begin with a Forest, while Sam drops a Squee’s Toy off of a Mountain. Next turn she matches my second Forest with a Fireslinger, which can be a bit of nuisance for The Swarm with its mana dorks and lack of creature kill.
Now turn 3, I drop a Vec Townships to enable the summoning of a Rootwalla and pass. This time it’s Sam’s turn for a blank as she draws, plays a Mountain, and passes right back. She forgoes pinging me at the end of my turn, since this pinger hurts both of us and she’s unsure how the game is going to unfold. Next turn I attack for 2 with the Rootwalla and she takes it. I decline the pump, saving my mana to deploy a Trained Armodon in the wake of the attack. Sam adds a Flowstone Giant to stay even.
Using the Township for White mana, I Pacify her Giant and swing in with both the Rootwalla and Armodon. When she declines a block, I pump the Rootwalla to a 4/4, carving a large slice of life out of Sam. Down to 11, she’s able to solve the Armodon with a Rolling Thunder, but still has to face down the Rootwalla. Next turn I attack for 2 more, and again decline pumping it to let me follow with a Pincher Beetles. Back to Sam, she solves the Rootwalla with a buyback Searing Touch following by a kiss from the Fireslinger. This puts her at 8 life, but solves another of her problems.
A play a second Vec Township on turn 7, then attack for 3 with the Beetles. I then use a Township for White mana to facilitate a Ranger en-Vec before passing. I’ve an Overrun in hand, but thanks to the doesn’t-untap-for-a-turn drawback of the Township, I’ll need to draw a land to cast it next turn. Sam draws, plays a Mountain, and passes. Fortune finds me as I draw a Forest, using it to cast Overrun. In go the Beetles and Ranger, and even picking off the Ranger the same way she did the Rootwalla still leaves lethal on the board.
Sam’s on the play this time, and her second-turn Fireslinger is the game’s first casting. I match it, however, with a Master Decoy, but get trumped when she summons a second Fireslinger on turn 3. My doomed Decoy nicks in for 1 on the attack, and I follow up with a Trained Armodon.
Now turn 4, Sam adds a Mogg Fanatic– bad news. When I send in both beaters to attack next turn, she pops the Fanatic to finish off my Armodon after double-pinging it with the Fireslingers. Though she ends up at 16 life, she’s effectively traded a one-drop for a three-drop. Chagrined, I replace them with Pincher Beetles, whose shroud is a blessing. Sam’s next turn is a blank, and when I attack with both creatures she tries to ping off the Decoy. Luckily for him, I’ve got an Anoint ready and buy it back to boot, saving the Decoy. Sam still takes the self-inflicted wound, and drops to 10 life.
On the whole Sam’s done well enough for someone stuck on two land, and finally she catches a break on turn 6 with a third Mountain. Still, her hand is congested with expensive cards- a drawback of her deck’s design- and this Mountain is just a stepping stone towards her destination. Back to me, I attack for another 4 damage to put her to 6, then add a second Pincher Beetles. Next turn Sam solves the Decoy with a Kindle, then resets the board when she assigns both Fireslingers to be blockers for my onrushing Pincher Beetles. I play Aluren on a creatureless board, and pass.
Sam’s turn 8 is a blank, but right before she ends her turn I flash in an instant army- a Trained Armodon, Rootwalla, and Muscle Sliver– all for free thanks to my enchantment. Sam concedes on the spot.
On the play once more, Sam begins with an opening-turn Mogg Fanatic, which has free reign for a turn until I manage a Muscle Sliver. Her turn 3 is a blank aside from a land drop, while I attack for 2 with my Sliver. Things open up on turn 4 when Sam adds a Lightning Elemental, swinging in with it alongside the Goblin for 5 damage. Down to 14, I lamely counterattack for 2 with the Sliver, then Pacify the Elemental.
Now turn 5, Sam attacks for 1 with the Mogg before having a go at a Wild Wurm. Her turn to be lucky, she nails the flip and gets to keep it on the first go. All I can do is summon a Soltari Trooper, which is immediately outclassed by her turn-6 Soltari Guerrillas– after the requisite 5-point attack, of course. I’m down to 8 life; Sam has double that. My turn is another blank I can ill-afford.
When the Wurm and Guerrillas come through the red zone for 8, I mount a final, desperate defense. I block the Guerrillas with my Trooper, using Anoint with buyback to keep them up. Sam catches me out, though, when she sacrifices her Fanatic in response to kill the Trooper, fizzling my Anoint and sending it to the graveyard along with the Trooper, joining the Muscle Sliver there after it chumps the Wurm. Although I’m able to stall some with a Rootwalla, Sam’s turn-8 Furnace of Rath puts the game away.
Thoughts & Analysis
Given its massive creature content in relation to the other Tempest theme decks, as well as its natural aod progressive mana curve, it’s safe to say that The Swarm is the set’s most consistent offering. Flames of Rath has a brutal burn package, but is hamstrung by too many expensive cards that it has no hope of playing early on. The Slivers is only as good as how many of its paltry sixteen Sliver creatures you manage to get into play, while like Deep Freeze it’s solid countermagic suite is conditionally effective based upon what you’re up against. Although vulnerable in its lack of permanent spot removal, The Swarm still can flood the board with creatures, giving a counter-control player fits as it’s able to resolve more threats than the control deck has counters. And as we saw in Game Two, with Aluren in play it can be almost impossible to stop once it has momentum on its side.
Like all decks it has its weaknesses, of course. As we’ve mentioned previously, the traditional enemy of massive creature attacks- board sweepers- are few and far between in the precon realm, though Flames of Rath’s Magmasaur comes close enough for discomfort. The main difficulty you’ll find with The Swarm is a shortage of ways to interact with your opponent in a meaningful way outside the red zone. If that Mindwhip Sliver is making you nervous, or the Knight of Dawn is giving you fits, there really isn’t anything you can do about it if your opponent won’t commit them to the attack. Your removal suite of three Pacifisms is just fine when its a combatant you want dispatched, but utility creatures have little to fear from The Swarm. At least, that is, until your opponent is forced to use them as chump blockers.
That means that The Swarm is heavily reliant upon board superiority and momentum, and it can tend to falter if you’re unable to establish that fairly quickly. You don’t have a lot of ways to deal with evasive creatures, be they those with flying or those with shadow, so your best defense truly is a good offense. Failing that, you might find the deck has few answers if your opponent manages to congest the red zone.
Overall, it’s a fun deck, and having goofball cards like Aluren and Recycle add heavily to its replayability. It’s fairly unsubtle as far as decks go, which is either good or bad depending upon the player, but if you like to set up a march of steady beats through the red zone, The Swarm is this set’s deck of choice.
Hits: Good mana curve that enables early, aggressive play; mana-sink creatures like Master Decoy and Rootwalla boost efficiency by giving your mana somewhere to go after your hand has been depleted; superb rare selection
Misses: Limited in what it’s able to interact with; has few answers for noncombatant creatures
OVERALL SCORE: 4.20/5.00