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February 23, 2012

Mirage: Night Terrors Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Today Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar’s deck design gets put to the test as I pilot Night Terrors on the field of battle. Opposing me is Sam, who has chosen the Griffin-filled Jungle Jam. Will the Night Stalkers have their way, or will this be a battle decided up in the clouds?

Game One

With me leading off, Sam and I spend our first turn dropping land- me with a Swamp (surprise) and Sam with a Mountain Valley. Next turn I’m able to play a Charcoal Diamond and pass. Sam pops her Valley for a Mountain, then uses it to help summon Quirion Elves (naming White).

Now turn 3, I bring out the Fetid Horror a turn early thanks to the Diamond and end my turn, while Sam sadly responds with a Gibbering Hyenas. Whoops! Next turn I swing in with the Shade, pumping it five times to leave Sam at 14. For her part, Sam counterattacks for 4 of her own with the Elves and Hyenas, then adds an Ekundu Griffin.

Undaunted, I push the Horror into combat on turn 5, and Sam opts to block with the Griffin. I pump the Horror just enough to kill the Griffin and live to tell about it, leaving me enough mana open to trot out an Urborg Panther. Back to Sam, she attacks for 3 more with her Hyenas. Next she adds a Mtenda Griffin, then for the heck of it uses Rampant Growth to snare another Forest. Next turn I send in both the Horror and the Panther, neither of which Sam opts to block. Dumping my mana into the Horror, I carve another 9 life off of her total. Sam needs answers, and soon. She gets one on her turn, Pacifying my Horror after firing back with the Hyena/Griffin tandem to leave me at 8 life. She then plays an Ekundu Griffin and ends her turn.

My earlier momentum now blunted, I play a turn-7 Ravenous Vampire and pass. Sam next uses her Mtenda Griffin’s special ability to return her fallen Ekundu Griffin back from the graveyard, then resummons it. She follows that with a Benevolent Unicorn and passes after the obligatory Hyena attack puts me to 5. Back to me, I feed the now-useless Fetid Horror to my Vampire, making it a 4/4. I send it across the red zone along with the Urborg Panther. As expected, Sam gang-blocks it with her first-striking Ekundu Griffins, but triumph turns to tragedy as I blast one with a Dark Banishing and watch the other crumple beneath my Vampire. Almost as an afterthought, the Panther gets chumped by the Unicorn. Wanting to keep my Vampire happy I trot out a second Panther and pass. With little else to do and both of us tied at 5 life, Sam attacks with her Hyena. I offer a Panther as trade, and both go off to the graveyard. She then plays a follow-up Mtenda Griffin and Gibbering Hyena.

Now turn 9, the game heads towards its conclusion. I sacrifice my remaining Panther to keep the Vampire happy, then attack in for 5 with it. Sam is forced to chump her last Griffin, leaving only her Hyena. Needing one more creature to prop the Vampire up, I play a Feral Shadow and pass. Sam scoops.

Game Two

Sam’s on the play this time, and she opens with a Grasslands. Next turn she pops it for a Forest, drops a Plains, then Rampant Growths for a Mountain to hit her manabase trifecta. For my part, it’s two Swamps in a row followed by a Charcoal Diamond- the same strong start as the first game. Next turn Sam plays another Plains and passes, while I drop a Phyrexian Vault after a Swamp.

Now turn 4, Sam brings out the game’s first creature with an Ekundu Griffin. For my part, I jump ahead in the creature count with a Feral Shadow and Wall of Corpses. Back to Sam, she then kicks off the attacks by sending in the Griffin for 2, then adds a Sawback Manticore. All I can do is counterattack with the Shadow for 2 and pass.

Looking to avoid the Wall of Corpses, Sam pays to give the Manticore flying and sends it in for 4 alongside the Griffin, leaving me at 14. I attack for 2 more with my Shadow, then summon the Urborg Panther. If there’s a small weak spot in the “sacrifice three Night Stalkers and summon the Spirit of the Night” strategy, it’s that it doesn’t do you any good at all to have the Spirit in your hand, as is the case here. Back to Sam, she adds an Armor of Thorns to her Ekundu Griffin, then sends in the pair of flying beaters to carve out a chunk of 6 life, putting me down to 8. I was hoping to hold it as a finishing move, but the aura’d Griffin foces my hand- I calmly tap out and Drain Life it to death, going back up to 12 in the process. A 4-point attack from my Night Stalkers puts Sam’s life level with mine.

Dark Banishing

Now turn 8, Sam gives her Manticore the usual evasion to soar across for 2 more points of damage. She then tries to rebuild her troops with a Jolrael’s Centaur. My two-creature counterattack lands to drop Sam to 8, and I then recruit a Restless Dead and Blighted Shaman to my noble cause. Undeterred, Sam sends in the Centaur and Manticore next turn, and I chump the Centaur with the Wall- it’s served its purpose, and it’s not looking like it’s going to get to destroy anything. Looking to close out the game, I counterattack with all four of my creatures, leaving Sam within striking distance at 2 life.

The Panther draws a Pacifism on turn 10, while the pesky Shaman gets hit with an Afterlife, replacing it with a 1/1 flying Spirit token. Sam attacks in again for 4, cutting me in half. I use the Vault to trade my useless Panther for a card, and get lucky hitting a Swamp. Next turn I play it, and pass turn uneventfully. Next turn Sam goes in with the Centaur and Manticore. I block the Manticore with my Spirit, casting Soulshriek to give it +3/+0 and forcing the trade. Sam plays an Unyaro Griffin and another Jolrael’s Centaur, and is in a commanding position. I can either stall for time, or play to my outs here, and I choose the latter. Rolling the dice at the end of Sam’s turn, I first play Bone Harvest, putting zero creature cards on top of my library (but getting to draw an extra one during my upkeep). Then I use the Phyrexian Vault to sacrifice the Feral Shadow, leaving myself all but defenseless next turn. I need a Swamp… and I hit it off the Vault. Once my turn arrives, I drop that last Swamp then hardcast the Spirit of the Night. Since it has haste, it attacks immediately, and with trample Sam can’t stop it from destroying her.

Game Three

Having won the friendly but lost where it counts, Sam looks to avoid the sweep and opens with a Mountain Valley. Next turn she pops it for a Mountain, adding a Forest alongside it. I’ve dropped two Swamps in a row, and luck into having the Charcoal Diamond once again.

Now turn 3, Sam begins the creature buildup with a Jolrael’s Centaur, while I counter with a Feral Shadow. Back to Sam, she attacks in for 2 for the game’s first blood, then adds a Gibbering Hyenas. I send the Shadow in on the attack, following up with a Breathstealer and another Charcoal Diamond.

Sam’s beaters do their work well, reducing me to 13 life on turn 5. She follows up with a Nettletooth Djinn. Over to me, I send in both of my Night Stalkers to attack. Sam blocks the Breathstealer with the Djinn, going down to 16 life. I follow combat with a Kaervek’s Hex, finishing off her wounded Djinn and nearly wiping the board in the process- all that’s left is the Feral Shadow. Not wanting it to be lonely, I plop down a Skulking Ghost alongside it and end my turn.

It’s now turn 6, and Sam looks to rebuild her demolished army beginning with a Mtenda Griffin. I attack with both of my air units, and Sam looks to buy some time by trading her Griffin for my Shadow. She goes down to 14, and I follow up with the Wall of Corpses. Back to her, she plays a pair of Quirion Elves (naming White and Red), then ends her turn. I simply attack for 2 more with my Ghost.

Feral Shadow

Now turn 8, Sam lands a Foratog but has nothing else. I keep the pressure on with the Ghost to leave her at 10 life, then add a Dread Specter. Next turn Sam solves the Specter with a Pacifism, then attacks in for 3 with the Foratog and Elves. I block the Foratog with the Wall, going down to 11. Back to me, I send in the Ghost for 2 more, then Stupor Sam’s hand. She loses a Disenchant at random, then chooses and discards a Foratog to leave one card in hand.

Once her turn comes up, she again attacks for 3 on turn 10, and again I shave off a point by blocking with the Wall. Back t me, I attack with the Ghost for 2 to leave her at 6, then deliver the coup de grace with a massive Drain Life.

Thoughts & Analysis

Like Ride Like the Wind, Night Terrors has a somewhat repetitious three-drop slot. For the first deck we reviewed, that meant a ton of flank-Knights, each almost identical to the last. For this deck, at least, we had what felt to be a little more variety, and the addition of the “Spirit of the Night sweepstakes” gave this deck an added dimension of playability.

Mono-coloured decks, however limited they may be by putting all of their eggs in one basket, have the virtue of being less susceptible to mana screw than most any other. That gives their pilots a good deal of confidence going into the match that things will unfold as they should, and thanks to the inclusion of the trio of Charcoal Diamonds, that was certainly the case here. The only card that will be impossible to cast most games is the Spirit, and while brutally expensive to do so there at least is another way to summon it. We’ve written before how minigames within decks add an extra level of enjoyment as you try and “complete the quest,” and while I never managed to land all three Night Stalkers in a game it was still a blast to see them appear.

Overall the deck has just enough variety in gameplay to make it not feel like a generic combat deck, which it in essence is, and the Drain Life in particular was most welcome. Having that extra bit of reach- be it this spell here or a Fireball in a Red-based deck- makes all the difference as it can bypass a clogged-up red zone altogether. Given the rather light removal package we find in Night Terrors, red zones will eventually get clogged as often as not.

That removal suite is probably the deck’s biggest handicap, though to be fair if you look at the Black instants and sorceries available in Mirage there  wasn’t a ton to work with. And therein lies the downside of a mono-coloured deck, particularly one in the first set of the block. Had we Visions and Weatherlight to pull from (helloooooo Nekrataal!), it would be a very different story. The good news is, we’ll get out chance- Weatherlight’s Dead and Alive is precisely that.

So in short, a solid effort from deck designer Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar as an aggro deck with a nifty little trick, though nothing extraordinary in the scope of things.

Hits: Solid mana curve gives you a wide range of options each turn; Spirit of the Night minigame with the Night Stalkers gives an added leve lof interactivity to the deck

Misses: Removal suite nothing exciting; devoting nine creature slots to the underwhelming Night Stalker mini-tribe would be a bit much outwith their ability to summon the Spirit

OVERALL SCORE: 4.10/5.00

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