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February 11, 2012


Dark Ascension: Grave Power Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

With more behind us than ahead, we’re eager to savour every bit of Dark Ascension that we can. For today’s bout, we’ll be putting Grave Power through its paces. A deck with considerable potential, how will it do when required to perform? To test that out, I’ve enlisted Sam who’s selected Relentless Dead to pilot. Here we go!

Game One

Sam has the honour of leading off the opening game after mulling to 6 cards, and we both spend our first turn playing land. Next turn she summons a Walking Corpse, while I answer with a Dawntreader Elk. Sam then follows with a Diregraf Captain, swinging for 3 with her newly-buffed Corpse. Back to me, I also land a key card for my deck, the Armored Skaab. I get a bit of luck, milling off two creatures, a Gnaw to the Bone, and a land.

Now turn 4, Sam hangs back and spends her turn bulking up her troops. First she adds a Black Cat, then follows with another Walking Corpse. I’m not worried, though, as I drop a second Armored Skaab to thicken up the red zone. Not so lucky this time, I only mill off one creature. Back to Sam, she swings for 8 with her Corpses and Cat. I block the former with my Skaab wall, taking 2 from the Cat. She then adds a Cellar Door and passes, though at the end of her turn I pop the Elk for an Island. With five creatures in my ‘yard, I then bring out the Splinterfright. If the appearance of a 5/5 creature wasn’t bad enough, I go ahead and double down by enchanting it with Wreath of Geists. Sam’s suddenly facing an 8/8 trampler, and doesn’t have a lot she can do about it.

With few attractive options, Sam resigns herself to trying out the Cellar Door on turn 6. It doesn’t net her a creature, but the Reap the Seagraf it reveals is almost as good- or at least it would be with one more land. Back to me, I mill two thanks to the Splinterfright, then let Sam behold the face of her doom with a Chasm Drake. Back to Sam, she whiffs again on the Cellar Door. Once it’s my turn, I mill another two cards (land), then follow with a Tracker’s Instincts. That hits, pitching a Brindle Boar into the graveyard, so my Splinterfright is now a 12/12. For good measure, I flash it back and am rewarded with another creature, making the Splinterfright even bigger. In goes the Drake, carrying the Splinterfright over with it, and just like that Sam’s down to 5 from 20.

Naturally, she scoops the next turn after drawing nothing. For curiosity’s sake, I do a quick check of my graveyard and find I have some 20 cards in it. Beautiful!

Game Two

A better star for Sam sees her open with a Diregraf Ghoul, which she follows with a Screeching Skaab and 2-point attack. I follow with a Deranged Assistant, and we’re both off to a solid enough start.

Still, Sam’s ahead in the creature race, and she swings for another 4 on turn 3 to put me to 14. I miss my turn-3 land drop, but am grateful for the Assistant as it lets me bring out an Armored Skaab and see off my first two creatures into the graveyard from the mill. At the end of my turn, Sam casts Forbidden Alchemy to help set up her next. Back to her, she adds the Diregraf Captain, attacking for 6 with her Zombies. I block one with my Skaab, going down to 11 from the Ghoul. For my part, I trigger the Assistant to play a second Armored Skaab, and now find myself with four creatures in my graveyard.

Wreath of Geists

Now turn 5, Sam swings for another 6. I block both with my Skaabs, then Sam brings down a Farbog Boneflinger. She tanks for a moment, deliberating which creature to kill, and opts to pick off my Deranged Assistant. With me stuck on three land, it’s not a bad idea, though it does add another body to the compost heap. Still, the momentum is all hers. Over to me, I luck out and topdeck a Forest, letting me trot out a Moon Heron. Next turn Sam attacks for 9, and I’m again grateful for my Skaabs. Still, one Zombie gets in to gnaw on me for 3, and I’m now at 11 life. She adds an Abattoir Ghoul and ends her turn. I get my first attack of the game off with the Heron, then play a 5/5 Boneyard Wurm. As before, I then follow with a Wreath of Geists to make it a 10/10, again turning the game around on a dime. Not quite finished, I end with a Tracker’s Instincts and pull a Chasm Drake. No bonus points awarded for seeing where this one is going.

Sam hangs back on turn 7, summoning a Headless Skaab by exiling a Rotting Fensnake that’s found its way into her yard. I attack for 3 more with the Bird, then bring out the Drake. Back to Sam, she plays a Cellar Door, but the cause is lost. She can’t do anything to stop me in the sky, so I swing for lethal in the air withe the Drake/Wurm tandem finishing the job alongside the Heron.

Game Three

Hoping to avoid the sweep, Sam again begins well with a Diregraf Ghoul. Next turn she attacks for 2 before adding a Black Cat, and the turn following she’s swinging for 3, finishing with a Screeching Skaab. Down to 15 life, I shore up my defense with an Armored Skaab, milling off three land and an aura- a whiff.

Now turn 4, Sam attacks for another 5 damage. I make a silly misplay here and use the Skaab to block her Ghoul rather than her own Skaab (which would kill it), presumably trained to think of them as having +1/+1 even without the Captain in play. She follows with a Reap the Seagraf and ends her turn. Back to me, I bring out a Tower Geist. My top two cards are an Æther Adept and a Grim Flowering, and painful as it is I pitch the creature to the graveyard. Back to Sam, she now goes all in for 7, swinging with everything. I trade my Geist for her 2/2 Zombie token off the Seagraf, wanting to feed my own graveyard without helping her fill hers. I catch myself this time and kill the Screeching Skaab with my Armored model, and go down to 9 life. Back to me, I then bulk up my forces with a Brindle Boar and 2/2 Boneyard Wurm.

Sam swings on turn 6 with her Ghoul and Cat, as if daring me to kill the latter. I block the Cat with my Skaab to kill it, then push the Wurm in front of her Ghoul. Popping the Boar, I go up to 13 life and make my Wurm a 3/3 to kill the Ghoul, too, a seeming miscalculation on Sam’s part. The random discard from the Cat pulls a Grim Flowering from my hand- no great loss- and Sam follows up by flashing back the Reap the Seagraf. Once my turn opens up, I play another Tower Geist (keeping a Splinterfright), and go in on my first attack with the 3/3 Wurm.


A turn-7 Headless Skaab gives Sam a defender, tapped though it may be at present. I push the Wurm and Geist into the red zone to take advantage of Sam’s vulnerability, and she drops to 12 life. Although I’d have optimally cast it before my attack, I follow up with Tracker’s Instincts and hit paydirt. Two creatures head to my graveyard (bringing the total up to 5), and I rip the Ghoultree. I opt to deploy the Splinterfright first, and then pass turn. Back to Sam, she plays a Forbidden Alchemy and laughs- she’d later tell me she drew four land from it and kept an Island. Trying to stall for time, she puts a Dead Weight on the Splinterfright and passes. For my part, the Splinterfright mills a pair of land off the top of my library to start off my turn, then I attack with the Geist for 2 and bring out the Ghoultree and an Executioner’s Hood.

Now turn 9, Sam knows the jig is up when the best thing she can play is a Cellar Door. At 10 life and without an answer for the Ghoultree (who will be unblockable once I equip the Hood to it), Sam scoops to complete the sweep.

Thoughts & Analysis

Although we try and avoid hyperbole when assessing the decks, it would be unfair to credit Grave Power with anything less than recognition for being one of the best Intro Pack decks we’ve ever seen- and certainly near the top of the Theme Decks as well. This is the rarest of precons- one that treats each card slot as something not to be squandered, has a cohesive theme and the strategy to get there, and throws its full weight behind it to support it. And it does it all through the use of two colours that generally don’t work very well together, Green and Blue.

To be fair to Sam, Grave Power has a solid advantage over ground-based creature decks, given its ability to stall the board quite effectively with its Armored Skaabs. Still, it not only accomplished that objective, but consistently was able to end the game quite quickly when one of its graveyard-linked beaters (Boneyard Wurm, Splinterfright, Ghoultree) was deployed. Early opinions on the Ghoultree tended to be dismissive on a power basis (though it was exciting as flavour), but the card is no joke. Unless you’re facing graveyard hate, you shouldn’t have much difficulty landing it for a bargain cost. Not only that, but the deck was effective at delivering damage. It only took about a half-dozen swings across three games to bring the Zombies to their rotting knees.

Although some cards aren’t as strong as others (Grim Flowering springs immediately to mind), there’s a surprising lack of filler here compared to many Intro Packs. The graveyard minigame really helps break up the monotony of combat as well. Pound for pound, Grave Power delivers.

Hits: Top-notch tactical support for the deck’s twin strategies of filling and abusing the graveyard; both of the deck’s rares are very solid and- in this context- generally quite affordable; superb consistency; high level of fun with the graveyard-fill objective taking the focus off of just turn after turn of combat; air force gives the deck a baseline win condition should the heavy beaters not materialise

Misses: A few suboptimal cards included like Grim Flowering and Æther Adept (the Adept is solid, but a bit out of place here); deck highly reliant upon the graveyard, and anything that could empty the ‘yard can steal victory from this deck

OVERALL SCORE: 4.80/5.00

29 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bradley B
    Feb 11 2012

    I just got this deck the other day. I haven’t really had much of a chance to test it. However your review gives me hope that I made the right choice I have 2 more slinterfrights and 2 kessig cargebreakers I would like to add them to this deck without taking away its effectiveness and naturally I proably should max out the boneyard wurms.

  2. Feb 11 2012

    This is a great intro deck. G/U self-mill has become a valid strategy in Standard, and this provides you with a nice template to build from. A good start would be mixing this deck with Innistrad’s ‘Deathfed’ to add some mana ramping, more big stompers and some counterspells.

    Also, maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it funny that DKA’s biggest anti-GY card (‘Grafdigger’s Cage’) doesn’t really hurt this deck, even though it ‘interacts’ with the GY?

    • Feb 13 2012

      There’s been such an outcry over the Cage, and it’s entered the environment in actual play with more of a whimper than a bang. I remember when one pro was banging on about how the Blightsteel Colossus “robbed his innocence” and was going to ruin the game… and then it never saw play. Hype is a funny thing, but you make a great point. Plunder the dead in peace!

      • Jun 25 2013

        Late to the party I know, but Blightsteel sees a lot of play in Vintage.

  3. Zack
    Feb 11 2012

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that Aether Adept is out of place in this deck – though that’s what I initially thought too. Instinct says to use its ability to bounce one of your opponent’s creatures, which can be useful to free up the red zone for a Boneyard Wurm or Ghoultree, true enough. But my preferred use of the Adept is to bounce my own Armored Skaab or Tower Geist, then re-summon it to re-use their milling ability. More often than not, that’s a better use of it.

    Anyways, I love this deck, if only because Splinterfright is one of the coolest looking Innistrad cards IMO. The entire deck works well together, and is still extremely fun to play. Nice review!

    • Feb 13 2012

      That’s a good case for the card, though I personally prefer things that are a little more reliable (like another Geist, which replaces itself anyway). Still, given that versatility, a case can definitely be made for it. Great comment!

  4. Feb 11 2012

    Great performance by the deck. Seems like an accurate portrayal of its abilities. After reading this review I encouraged a friend who is just getting into Magic to read the article and try and build a deck close to it. It looks like a deck that is both interesting to play with (ie milling aspect) but effective on at least a casually competitive level.

  5. Excel
    Feb 12 2012

    This deck certainly sounds like fun! I’m debating whether to make a self-mill deck, or wait for Spiraling doom to make a pod deck instead. Or perhaps mix the two? Pod would allow tutoring out graveyard beaters while saccing something, would that work out? I’ll be looking forward to reading your impressions, in any case.

    Also, after having played both this and Deathfed which do you think would be the better starting point? One would assume the event deck to be more consistent, but Grave Power does seem really good for an intro…

    • Feb 13 2012

      Believe it or not, I’d say go for the Intro Pack. The Event Deck is solid enough, but I had a lot more fun with this one. The Pod deck is one I’m interested to see… you raise a good point about the interactions, though I wonder what works better in the end- graveyard shenanigans, or undying?

  6. Feb 12 2012

    I bought this deck Friday and bought about ten cards to man it up a little bit. It really is quite the solid deck. I didn’t change the monsters up that much, though I dumped much of the blue monster set and some of the more expensive cards, and added a blue flying enchantment theme. I also added some lumberknots and a vorapede for some added whomping. All I had to do was get a couple of my creatures flying (Ghoultree is awesome) and I was wailing on the dark sacrifice build I faced. Ghoultree may actually replace my Tree of Redemption as my favorite tree card.

    This is already my favorite intro pack and I wanna thank you guys for reviewing these decks. I especially love how well the themes are coming together in Dark Ascension and appreciate your analysis of them.

  7. Nerethos
    Feb 13 2012

    I’m looking forward to the Whispers of the Muse and Ertai’s Meddling version of this deck.

    I hope we can see those soon, as your review of the deck pretty much sold me on its abilities.

    • Feb 13 2012

      We’d run a Muse if it was submitted, but we’re unlikely to see a Meddling on this one soon, if only because it’s the strongest of the lot, and therefore the one least in need of a makeover. Glad you liked the reviews, this one might be one of my top 5 favourite precons of all time.

      • Nerethos
        Feb 13 2012

        I went out an bought this on a whim with a buddy of mine.

        I’ve only played two games but I was blown away by how much fun it is. Its been done before, sure, but .. It -feels- so different from any previous incarnation. I’m not sure why. Although there’s certainly room to improve (like the snapping drakes remakes and the vanilla 5/5s) it still feels like you’re playing a deck.

      • Laurent
        May 12 2012

        Funny stuff, it’s actually reading your article about this Intro pack that pushed me into creating my Peasant Magic (5 Uncos, no rares) in Innistrad Block : it uses the same idea as Grave Power (filling the graveyard and abusing of it next), and the win conditions are 2 Ossuary Wurms and 3 Spider Spawning (well, using the graveyard…). So, thanks a lot in giving me the idea(s) : I have a lot of fun playing my new version of the deck, and it works damn well 🙂

      • Robin
        Sep 21 2012

        I would love to see your list of top ten or 20 all time theme decks or intro decks. how about it?

  8. Ross Jackson
    Feb 15 2012

    Bought this today, and absolutely smashed a red burn deck and my brother’s zombie horde deck, so I’m really happy with it. Also, pulled my first mythic in the included booster pack (why did it have to be Archangel’s Light?!) and a Wolfbitten Captive which made it even better. Definitely worth the money!

  9. Ian B
    Feb 18 2012

    Thanks for this great review! What cards would you recommend I add/remove from this deck? Thanks again, bye.

  10. Ryan
    Feb 19 2012

    Just bought this last night. Way more fun than I thought any intro pack could be. Thank you so much for the review. I would have overlooked this deck entirely without it!

    The Hollowhenge Scavengers need to be removed for more GY enabled beaters (I find myself very, very easily having more than 5 critters in the GY). Another Splinterfright and Ghoultree, I think. Maybe not the most optimal, but theme is important!

    I have generally liked Mulch, but i am wondering if Forbidden Alchemy might provide a bit more flexibility in this deck. Ramp is nice, but does not seem quite as useful as a. filling your graveyard with dudes and b. making sure you land a GY enabled threat.

    Any thoughts on Noxious Revival for a bit more redundancy and recurrence? I think I am going to try it out, by replacing the Grim Flowerings. I wonder if the tempo effect might be a trap. Thoughts?

    These are my immediate thoughts. Obviously the Moon Herons and probably the Aether Adept and Alluring Siren and Brindle Boar need to be removed. Some amount of good ol’ Merfolk Looters will end up taking their place. Looting and chump blocking are two things that I would love to do with this deck. I could see good reasons to keep the Aether Adept in place, though. Maybe more Deranged Assistants? Maybe another value flyer?

    Anyway, just some initial thoughts/ramblings.

  11. Mar 16 2012

    Reviews can be deceiving. For example, they also rated Tezzeret badly, and my friend consistently whupped my Elspeth deck with it. With a decent amount of removal and a bit of luck, even a person playing for the first time can destroy this deck. Also, thraben herectic pretty much takes this deck apart.

  12. escwagner
    Apr 1 2012

    Can you suggest any cards that can improve this deck? The only ones I cards I think that could be useful are Khessig Cagebreakers, Feed the Pack and more Splinterfrights and Boneyard Wurms. Perhaps Nulltread Gargantuan (to add some blunt power) and Grazing Kelpie (in case Splinterfright or Boneyard Wurm had been sent to the cemetery), but nothing more comes to my mind. Any ideas?

  13. Marlin Keim
    Oct 4 2013

    My first magic deck and I am satisfied. I have destroyed skilled and more veteran players in one attack and they have a hard time believing it is a starter.

  14. lucas
    Feb 10 2014

    It’s safe to say this deck is awesome 🙂
    i bought this deck and replaced cards i thought weren’t great and put different ones in, including Corpsejack Menace. My question to you is-is Corpsejack Menace a good card to put in the deck?

    Ive just been stuck on whether or not it is a good addition and a little advice would be cool

    thanks and great review! I look forward to reading your future posts


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