Invasion: Heavy Duty Review (Part 2 of 2)
As we’ve seen, Heavy Duty is a focused Green/White combat deck with beats for days. Of course, no deck is without its weaknesses, as Jimi is eager to prove with the disruption-heavy Dismissal. While my deck pounds away at the body, Jimi’s stabs at the mind. In such a pairing, who prevails?
I’m on the play to lead things off, and hitting both land drops deploy a second-turn Llanowar Knight. Jimi’s right behind me, bringing out a Ravenous Rats. I pitch a Pincer Spider into the graveyard, and off we go. Next turn I swing with the Knight for the game’s first attack, hitting Jimi for 2. I follow with a Crimson Acolyte and pass. For her part, Jimi returns fire with the Rats before trotting out a Shivan Zombie, putting more protection from… on the board that we’ve ever seen this quickly.
Now turn 4, I attack again for 3 to put Jimi at 15, then add a Razorfoot Griffin. Jimi summons another Ravenous Rats (forcing me to discard a Forest) then attacks back for 2 with the Zombie. With momentum clearly on my side, I attack with the Knight and Griffin for 4, then tap out for a Charging Troll. Since I don’t have the mana up to regenerate it and I’m facing a deck with some burn, this is a bit of a probe. Having a freshly-drawn reserve Troll in hand, I feel I can afford the risk. Sure enough, it draws a Ghitu Fire to set up a 4-point counterattack, and I’m now down to 13 life.
When I topdeck an Armadillo Cloak, though, I put the “reserve Troll” line of play on ice and stick the Cloak onto my Llanowar Knight. The 7-point attack that follows leaves Jimi at 4 and bumps me to 17, and when Jimi fails to find an answer on her next draw she concedes the game.
Now her turn to kick things off, Jimi drops Swamps for turns 1 and 2, then leads with a Ravenous Rats. I reluctantly pitch an Ardent Soldier (I’d begun by mulling down to 6), then stick a second-turn Llanowar Knight. Jimi’s turn 3 is a blank outside of another Swamp, while I attack for 2 and follow up with a Benalish Trapper. Jimi’s in a bind, though, and it shows on turn four when she plays her fourth consecutive Swamp. Her turn is a blank. Back to me, I recreate the winning combo from the last game when the Armadillo Cloak comes down on the Llanowar Knight, setting up a 5-point attack with both bodies. This puts Jimi to 13, and thanks to the lifegain from the Cloak I’m up to 24.
Jimi’s manabase woes continue on turn 5, when she misses a land drop entirely. She does, however, deploy a Hate Weaver after attacking with the Rats. Back to me, I go in for 4 with the Knight, leaving her at 9. I then add a Noble Panther and pass. Jimi’s turn 6 is another blank, and it’s clear where this game is going. I grind in for another 7 damage with my Panther and Knight, then add a Capashen Unicorn.
Now turn 7, Jimi plays a Swamp and taps out to play Annihilate on my Panther. Drawing her card, she sighs and reveals it- a Mountain. Sometimes, that’s how the game can go. For my part, I can only look down at my three lands and feel that either something in my deck is working, or I dodged a bullet.
An Urborg Volcano on the far side of the table leads us off, then I answer with a Forest and a Llanowar Elite. My first instinct would normally be to hold the Elite back to maximise value for later once I could kick it, but experience thus far has shown me two things. First, Jimi’s deck seems vulnerable to early damage, and second, the games haven’t been going long enough for me to expect to reliably get to nine mana. Trotting him out now seems correct.
Jimi drops a Mountain on turn 2, then I add a Plains and a Benalish Trapper after a 1-point attack with the Elite. Back to Jimi, she adds a Vicious Kavu, and that dries up my early attack line. Using the Trapper to enable a 1-point attack onyl to take 4 in return seems like a bad idea, so I drop a land and pass.
Now turn 4, I use the Trapper to tap down Jimi’s Kavu early. She then adds a Hooded Kavu alongside it and passes. I tap out to play a Razorfoot Griffin, then end my turn. Jimi punishes me for it, picking off the Griffin with an Agonizing Demise (unkicked), then sending in both Kavu. I drop down to 14 life. Back to me, I attack with my weenies for 2 more damage to put Jimi at 17, then follow up with a Kavu Climber.
Thinking I’d trade my Kavu for hers, Jimi activates the intimidate ability of the Hooded Kavu to let it slip in for 2 more points of damage on turn 6, then drops a Ravenous Rats to pluck a Benalish Lancer from my hand. I counterattack with the Climber to put her at 14, then reinforce my defense with a Llanowar Knight. I still have the mana up to tap down her Hooded Kavu during her next turn, but she presses the assault with a surprise Halam Djinn. With a tie between the number of Red permanents and Green ones on the board, it’s only a 4/3, but it’s more than enough to compel me to shove my Llanowar Elite in front of it when Jimi turns it sideways. Their look of surprised horror is something I’ll have to live with, but it does save me from doing down to 8 life. Sadly for me, my turn 7 is a blank.
Now turn 8, I again tap down her Hooded Kavu. Jimi then empties my hand with a timely Hypnotic Cloud. I cast my unkicked Explosive Growth onto my Kavu Climber, but can’t save my Thicket Elemental or Obsidian Acolyte. Still, I catch a break when I topdeck a timely Armadillo Cloak, casting it onto the Kavu Climber for a very effective defense. Back to Jimi, I tap down the Hooded Kavu, then watch in dismay as Jimi responds by Annihilating the Climber to clear the path for her Djinn. Down to 8 life, my turn 9 is another blank.
I keep the Hooded Kavu on lockdown on turn 10, then Jimi plays a Ravenous Rats to once again empty my hand- this time, a Pincer Spider. The Rats, though, have the side benefit of making Black the most common colour amongst permanents on the board, so Jimi’s Djinn reverts to its full-flavoured form. It’s attack drops me to 2, and at that point I’m more or less out of options.
Thoughts & Analysis
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That seems to be the thought process for us as we delve deeper into Invasion’s theme decks. For awhile now, we’ve been of the opinion that protection abilities are the least-fun creature abilities in preconstructed Magic. Given that precon Magic has as much in common with Limited as it does with Constructed play, you have to make due with what you’re given, and that can make protection a real feast-and-famine proposition. Against any other colour, you end up paying a little more for a little less, making your deck less efficient. But against an opponent playing a deck of that colour, they’re absolutely stellar and difficult to answer- sometimes perhaps a little too good. While we’re all for winning, protection creatures can really hobble an opponent and take some of the fun interplay out of the game- and thats’ speaking from both sides of the equation.
Invasion, however, was the “colour matters” block as you’ll recall, and protection seems to be a larger part of that set identity. Look at Game One- within the first three turns we saw creatures immune to Black, Red, and White hit the table. Given our feelings about the ability, you might expect that that took a lot of the joy out of the game, but interestingly it was the opposite. This wasn’t the “swingy bomb” that our opponent lucked into which tilted the game on its axis- this was an ability in solid supply and evenly distributed- and that made it part of each deck’s strategy. Not for nothing you’ll note that these decks have threat diversity when it comes to removal with representatives of both colours, so protection becomes a hurdle, not a barrier. Invasion’s decks get a few bonus points for making that ability fun to play- and to play around.
Overall, I had a good impression about Heavy Duty. It has a solid spectrum of creatures with some real nuisance cards in Charging Troll and Armadillo Cloak (which, as you may remember, was a frustrating combination Sam assembled against me when testing Dismissal). It’s also aggressive enough to keep the pressure on, which is exactly what you’d want from a Green/White combat deck. Although I was outplayed in Game Three, you’ll note that the first two games were relatively quick affairs (over on turns 6 and 7, respectively), and once the damage started to roll in on Jimi with a head of steam behind it, the end was not long in coming.
If there’s a weakness in the deck, it’s in the areas of consistency and removal. Although you have some answers to creature-based threats like the Benalish Trapper, you have very little targetable reach across the board to your enemy’s side of the table. Shackles are very solid, and unlike spells like Pacifism they can answer most utility creatures (the ones that need to tap to use their ability, at least). But you only get two, though this is offset somewhat by their reusability. The problem, then, isn’t one of how effective the card is, but rather one of frequency of draw. For the most part, you’re going to have to rely on taking the role of beatdown to sculpt your opponent’s play experience and force them on the back-foot.
Consistency, too, is something of a concern, though as mentioned before the deck is actually in the upper half Invasion’s decks. Still, with a large number of singletons, you’re going to see a fairly wide diversity of games and outcomes, and won’t be able to reliably depend on seeing any particular card in a given game outwith your Forests and Plains. On the upside, like protection this too is an attribute of the set, so you can at least take some solace in knowing that things are little different for your opponent.
Overall, a fun beatdown deck that works well to get its point across.
Hits: Although a touch expensive on the back-end, a good mana curve that gives you plenty of options throughout the game on most anything except the one-drop slot; loads of utility and kicker creatures give you plenty of options to both maximise your mana efficiency as well as adapt your game on the ground
Misses: Lack of removal means you’ll do most of your threatening in the red zone, and enemy utility creatures will be hard to answer
OVERALL SCORE: 4.05/5.00