Invasion: Dismissal Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s the opening match of Invasion, and Sam’s tucked in behind the Green/White combat deck Heavy Duty to test against Dismissal. Little did we know we were about to set an Ertai’s Lament record- and had we, we might have packed a lunch.
With the luxury of choice, I opt to be on the play and lead with an Island, which Sam matches with a Plains. Next turn I play a Dream Thrush, quickly matched by a Crimson Acolyte. Our turn 3 is spent laying land and trading blows- me in the air, Sam on the ground- and repeat the process for turn 4.
Things break out on turn 5 when I follow my feeble 1-point peck with a kicked Faerie Squadron. This grinds Sam’s return fire to a halt, and the next turn I send in both of my flyers in to put Sam at 13 life. Then, shoring up the home front, I deploy a kicked Vodalian Serpent. Sam plays a Plains and passes.
Now turn 7, I use the Dream Thrush to turn one of Sam’s Plains into an Island, which has a touch more than the usual bit of cruelty as Sam’s been stuck on Plains the entire game and is desperate for some manabase diversity. This allows my 6/6 Serpent to attack, and Sam chumps it with her Acolyte. Back to her, she plays an Angel of Mercy, but next turn I Repulse it back to her hand and crack in for 9 points of damage. At 1 life, the end is inevitable and Sam scoops.
Sam leads this time with a Forest, while I start off with a Sulfur Vent. Next turn sees her add a Benalish Trapper to land the game’s first creature, though I’m not far behind with an answering Dream Thrush. After attacking for 1 with the Trapper, Sam then adds an Obsidian Acolyte before passing. I drop a Salt Marsh, then add a Nightscape Apprentice to the board.
Not thinking I would risk the bird, Sam sends in both attackers on turn 4 and is surprised when I trade out the Thrush for her Acolyte. The Trapper nicks in for 1, though, and I’m down to 18. Over to me, I counterattack with the Apprentice, giving Sam her first point of damage. She fires back for another point on turn 5, then plays a Razorfoot Griffin. For my part, I play a kicked Probe. I draw two, then send an Island and a Swamp to the graveyard, while Sam is forced to pitch a Treefolk Healer and Benalish Lancer.
Now turn 6, Sam attacks for 3 with the Griffin and Trapper to leave me at 14, then adds a Charging Troll. Having hit my land drops, I’m able to counter with a kicked Vodalian Serpent. Things take an unwelcome turn on turn 7, however, when Sam adds an Armadillo Cloak to the Troll and attacks for 5 alongside the Griffin. I block with the Serpent, of course, but Sam’s canny enough not to waste an opportunity for some serious lifegain. I go down to 12 as the Griffin gets in, but Sam is now at 24. I plug the gap in my aerial defenses with a kicked Faerie Squadron and pass.
Sam taps down the Faerie on turn 8 with her Trapper, then attacks with both beaters again. Same outcome, putting Sam up to 29 and me half dead at 10. Things are looking rather bleak this time. I answer with a second kicked Faerie Squadron and pass. Back to Sam, she uses the Trapper this time to tap down my Serpent, leaving the way clear for her Troll even as the Griffin is held back. I let the Troll pass to leave me with 5 life; Sam goes up to 34. Adding injury to injury, she then Shackles my Serpent before ending her turn. As my turn begins, I cast Opt, sending the Duskwalker on top of my library to the bottom, then lucking into a Vodalian Zombie which I then play.
The Zombie’s protection from Green is very useful, though not at avoiding a lockdown from a Benalish Trapper on turn 10. Sam then casts another Shackles for the Zombie, and sends in the Troll. In desperation, I double-block with the Faerie Squadrons, sending one of them to the graveyard. Back to me, I then reinforce my meager troops with a Stalking Assassin and Tidal Visionary before passing. Sam sends in the Troll again on turn 11, and I chump it with the Nightscape Apprentice to leave me dangling by a 1-point thread. Sam is now at the virtually insurmountable 44 life. Still, I stubbornly refuse to die, playing another kicked Vodalian Serpent before passing.
Sam keeps up the lifegain pressure, attacking with the Troll on turn 12. Although blocked by the new Serpent, this leaves her at 49 life. Back to me, I add a Vodalian Hypnotist and Slinking Serpent. Next turn Sam attacks with the Troll again (54 life), while I manage to see off a Benalish Emissary from her hand with the Hypnotist. I then attack with the forestwalking Slinking Serpent, dropping Sam to 52 life. Much better.
Sam keeps the attacks up. On turn 14 she’s up to 57, and at the end of her turn I use the Assassin to tap her Trapper. Back to me, I then use the same Assassin to kill it, giving me a little more room to breathe. The Hypnotist compels Sam to discard another card, this time a Llanowar Elite. It would seem I’ve managed to stabilise, but for how much longer? On turn 15 I add the Tidal Visionary in on my block, suddenly anxious about a pump spell. The Visionary dies alongside the Serpent, and Sam goes to 60. That drops to 58 once I send in the unblockable Slinking Serpent, and the Hypnotist kills off a Kavu Chameleon from Sam’s hand. The land has dropped perfectly for me thus far, giving me enough to do some shenanigans without flooding me with a stream of it.
By now, though, Sam is having difficulty finishing off that last point of damage, and as I start to clamp down on the board I’m not at all concerned by her lifegain. Should I manage to pull off a softlock, she could be at a hundred life for all I care- which is why I’m not devoting resources to bringing the Assassin to bear against the Troll as it attacks, but nibbling around the edges instead. This does, however, portent a rather extended game.
On turn 16 Sam attacks up to 63 life then adds a Rooting Kavu which I tap with the Assassin at the end of her turn. I then use my turn to kill it off (letting Sam shuffle seven creatures back into her library), and attack for 2.
On turn 17, she’s up to 66 life from the Troll’s relentless attacking, then plays a Kavu Chameleon. I Repulse the Troll, relieved to see the Armadillo Cloak slip off into the graveyard. I attack in with my forestwalking Serpent for 2, then force the discard of an Angel of Mercy with the Hypnotist.
Sam summons a Llanowar Knight on turn 18, then goes to resummon the Troll. I Prohibit it. I attack for 2, then add a Dream Thrush and Hate Weaver. Sam ends the turn at her plateau of 62 life, and I have my work cut out for me.
On turn 19, she summons a Rampant Elephant. I tap and then kill it. Turn 20 is a blank for the both of us, though we play some land.
Turn 21 sees me tap her Griffin at the end of her turn, then kill it on mine. With Sam down to one card in hand, my Hypnotist has done her job well. Though this time Sam pitches a Forest, I have two parts of my control mechanism in place. Sam can’t keep cards in hand thanks to the Hypnotist- she either plays it or loses it. And if it’s a creature, it’s susceptible to removal with the Stalking Assassin. As an added measure of security, I have a Disrupt in hand in case it’s an instant or sorcery. It won’t do much, but it’s better than nothing. I have enough robust bodies on the board to repel an attack, and indeed decide to hold the Slinking Serpent back on the defense, where its 3 toughness may come in handy. As it happens, the last component has fallen into place- a finisher. Sam has no answer for an aerial threat on board, so the Thrush is the perfect emissary to deliver my cheerful tidings. Of course at 62 life this would take forever, but fortunately I also have the Hate Weaver to speed things up a bit. And those Shackles of Sam’s on my Vodalian Zombie and first Vodalian Serpent? All but worthless, since I still have another flyer in play as well as the evasive Slinking Serpent. I have just enough on the board to keep pace with her removal.
That said, it’s slow going, and some rather dry reading. Instead, we’ll suffice it to say that eventually, Dismissal gets there after it establishes near total control of the board. Sam can’t keep a creature alive unless I permit it, can’t keep a card in hand unless I allow it, and can’t profitably attack with what she has. It’s the kind of situation that a Green/White combat deck can struggle against, and bit by bit the Hate Weaver pumps a single attacker for extra damage.
I win on turn 32- the longest game ever for Ertai’s Lament.
But oh how the pendulum can swing…
Sam leads with an Elfhame Palace while I start off with an Island. Next turn she lands a Llanowar Knight, the follows it up the turn after with an Obsidian Acolyte. By the time turn 4 rolls around, she’s added a Rampant Elephant and reduced me to 15 life. Stuck on Islands and needing more land, I Probe without the kicker and still see no Swamp. I pitch a Cursed Flesh and Dream Thrush.
Now turn 5, Sam cuts me to 10 with a 5-point attack from the Knight, Acolyte, and Elephant. She then adds a Llanowar Elite (unkicked) and Crimson Acolyte. Finally, I’m able to bring out something in the way of defense after drawing a Swamp- a kicked Faerie Squadron. Next turn Sam adds a Kavu Climber while I play an Urborg Drake.
Back to Sam for turn 7, she spells doom for the Drake with a kicked Pincer Spider. Back to me, I lose the Drake as it’s compelled to attack each round, and draw little consolation from forcing Sam to discard a Razorfoot Griffin with a Ravenous Rats. Next turn, she uses the Rampant Elephant to Lure both my blockers to face it, letting her alpha strike with the rest of her army.
Thoughts & Analysis
There’s always this optimistic feeling we have that each block’s preconstructed decks should get better overall with each successive set. After all, the thought goes, you have more cards to draw from, so you can build better decks or flesh out more interesting themes. It’s not always the case, but in fairness we should confess that we weren’t expecting much from Invasion. When we reviewed its first expansion Planeshift about a year ago, we found a bit of a mixed bag. The gating-themed deck Comeback got a strong score (4.60) thanks to its delightful synergy between cards and novel exploitation of its signature theme, but things dropped off rather precipitously from there. The five-colour Domain landed a respectable 4.25, but the remaining decks were graded with a 3.25 and abysmal 2.95. We could be forgiven, then, for bestowing upon Invasion the soft bigotry of low expectation.
Although we must certainly reserve judgment with only one deck fully reviewed, if the initial results are anything to go by we’re in for a fun one! Control-style decks tend to take a back seat to their more aggressive bretheren in preconstructed Magic, and in that regard Dismissal was a breath of fresh air (and not for nothing Sam had a glowing opinion of Heavy Duty). Although you can see the different elements in an analysis of a deck, there’s tremendous value and experience to be drawn by actually playing it. Seeing the ways that it could slowly start to put the boot on the neck of its opponent, as it did in Game Two, really gave the deck credence. So long as you can avoid dying early, Dismissal has a lot to offer.
Rereading the deck’s insert now offers this hilarious gem:
Don’t expect to win quickly with this deck, but do expect to win.
Glossing itself a “thinking person’s deck,” it certainly lives up to the promise as it requires a certain amount of patience and control. But its pilot is well-rewarded. There are a number of different control and combo-ish elements here that make for a variety of gameplay decision trees- note we never saw Seer’s Vision or the Phyrexian Infiltrator here, for example. It will be interesting to see how this deck does when we next see it, playing the role of opposition to another of Invasion’s offerings.
Hits: Great control elements with heavy emphasis on disruption; solid consistency and focus on its theme, with a number of different ways to force discard
Misses: Defensive creature pool isn’t quite enough to reliably stall aggressive decks, leading to quick folds
OVERALL SCORE: 4.55/5.00