Dark Ascension: Gleeful Flames Review (Part 2 of 2)
We couldn’t return to a plane like Innistrad and not expect to escape at least a little fighting, and with the release of two new Event Decks (numbers nine and ten overall) we’re well equipped for it! Jimi’s piloting Spiraling Doom, looking to push my mono-Red burn deck to its very limits. Will she manage to hold out for victory, or will she go down in a sea of flames, 5 damage at a time…
I’m on the play for our opener, leading with a Goblin Fireslinger off of a Mountain. Jimi drops a Forest, adding a Young Wolf. Next turn I cast Faithless Looting, looking to improve my hand a bit, and throw away a couple of extra Mountains- mission accomplished. I then add an Infiltration Lens and pass. Jimi sends in the Wolf for 1, then adds a Viridian Emissary. I ping her with the Fireslinger at the end of her turn, and we’re at 19 apiece.
Now turn 3, I play a Mountain and pass, giving Jimi the opportunity to come in for a 3-point attack to put me to 16. She then plays a second Viridian Emissary, and all I can manage to do is ping her with my Goblin for another point of damage. Next turn I drop an Inkmoth Nexus, then add a Goblin Gaveleer and Torch Fiend to the board. I end by equipping the Lens to the Gaveleer and it’s back to Jimi. For her part, she attacks with the Wolf and both Emissaries. I trade my Torch Fiend for her Emissary to reduce the incoming damage, going down to 13 as Jimi happily tutors up a Forest. She then adds a Phyrexian Rager (going down to 17 life and netting a card), takes a ping from the Goblin, and passes.
I send the Gaveleer into the red zone on turn 5, carving a 3-point chunk out of Jimi’s life total, and follow up by playing a Goblin Arsonist. Back to Jimi, she lands a Grim Backwoods before launching a 4-point counterattack with her Rager and remaining Emissary. I trade my Goblin Arsonist for her Rager (using its death-trigger ping to finish the job), but still let 2 through. She follows with a Perilous Myr, and before her turn is up I blast her for 6 more damage- 1 from the Fireslinger and another 5 from a Brimstone Volley to the face. She’s now at 7 life. Back to me, I play a second Infiltration Lens and immediately stick it onto the Gaveleer, who becomes a 5/1 trampler. I turn him sideways and watch him go, and Jimi pushes her Perilous Myr and Young Wolf in front of it. The Myr dies, and its parting shot picks off my Fireslinger (which pings her on the way out). The Wolf, on the other hand, comes back with a +1/+1 counter thanks to undying. Jimi still takes 3 damage from the spillover (going down to 4), and I greedily draw four cards. One of them is the deck’s final Infiltration Lens, so I go ahead and deploy it. Over to Jimi, she taps out to land a Myr Battlesphere after sending her Wolf and Emissary through the red zone to drop me to 3.
Now turn 7, I equip the third Lens to the Gaveleer and swing for 7. This forces Jimi to trade out with her Battlesphere, and when I draw six cards (two per Lens) a Goblin Grenade and Goblin Arsonist are amongst them. Playing both, I bring our opener to its fiery conclusion.
Jimi leads with the pesky Young Wolf, while I reply with a Goblin Gaveleer. Next turn she follows up her opening attack with a Viridian Emissary. For my part, it’s another Mountain and the Goblin Fireslinger. Jimi lands 3 more damage the following turn as she sends in both bodies, then follows up with a Wakedancer to press her advantage. I ping her, and we’re now at 19-16. Back to me, I play a Forge Devil to kill off the Wolf, getting it over with (this puts me down to 15 in the process). I then add a Torch Fiend and pass.
Now turn 4, Jimi attacks for 4 with the now-familiar Wolf/Emissary duo. I trade out my Fiend for her Wolf, taking 2 to go to 13 life. Once my turn rolls around, I simply play another Torch Fiend and pass. Jimi swings for another 4 the turn following, subbing in the Wakedancer for the now-fallen Wolf. In a repeat of the last attack, I simply offer up my Fiend for the trade and move my spindown die to 11. Jimi then adds another Viridian Emissary and ends her turn, but not before I ping her with the Goblin. My turn, sadly, is a blank.
Pressing her advantage, Jimi lays down a Mortarpod on turn 6, using it immediately to kill off my Gaveleer in an act of pure spite. She then equips the Mortarpod to her Viridian Emissary, and sends it in on the attack alongside its fellow. I trade off my hapless Forge Devil her her unequipped Emissary, and off she heads to find a Swamp. Over to me, I play a Curse of Stalked Prey, sending in my Fireslinger on the attack. This drops Jimi to 15, but more importantly it gives my last remaining creature a +1/+1 counter, rendering it relatively safe from the Mortarpod.
It is not, however, safe from a Skinrender, as Jimi proves on turn 7 before mounting a 2-point attack with the remaining Emissary. I look at my hand- a trio of Mountains and pair of Goblin Grenades- and know there’s nothing to save me. My turn’s a blank, she plays the Myr Battlesphere after a 5-point attack, and I concede.
With one game apiece it’s down to the final to decide the match. I’m on the play, and have to mulligan down to 6 cards before keeping a one-lander, not as bad here as in other decks (plus with a Faithless Looting, I’ve got some prospect of hitting my drops anyway). I lead with my Mountain and a Goblin Fireslinger, while Jimi has nothing but a Forest. Next turn I attack with the Goblin for fun before casting the Faithless Looting, but I come up empty-handed for land. I pitch a Torch Fiend and Artillerize. Back to Jimi, she plays a Mortarpod, then immediately uses it to kill the Fireslinger.
Now turn 3, I play a Goblin Gaveleer and pass, while Jimi’s turn is a blank save for her land drop. Back to me, I finally draw a Mountain and play it, allowing me to both deploy and equip an Infiltration Lens to my Gaveleer before swinging with it. Jimi takes 3, going down to 16. Back to her, she trots out a Solemn Simulacrum and grabs a much-needed Swamp with it.
I attack again with my Gaveleer on turn 5, and Jimi finds herself at 13 life. I then add a Goblin Arsonist and pass. Jimi gets her first attack off with the ‘Sad Robot,’ then follows up with a Young Wolf. Equipping the Mortarpod to the Wolf, she ends her turn ready for the next. Back to me, I attack in with the Gaveleer again, but Jimi snuffs it out with a Doom Blade. I play another Faithless Looting and come up with nothing, so I equip the now-vacant Lens to my remaining Gaveleer and call it good. Knowing what’s coming, Jimi waits for her main phase to pop the Young Wolf to the Mortarpod, letting her snipe my Gaveleer. Not only does the Wolf return as a 2/2, but this lets her follow with a Wakedancer with its morbid triggered to give her a 2/2 Zombie token as well. She attacks for 2 with the Simulacrum, equips the Mortarpod on the 2/2 Zombie, and ends turn.
Getting desperate, I hit my fourth land drop on turn 7 and tap out to play a Hellrider. I then send it and my other creature- the Goblin Arsonist- in on the attack. She blocks the Arsonist with her 2/3 Zombie token (I send that straight at Jimi), but when the dust clears she’s down to 7 life. For her part, she mounts a massive assault in retaliation. The Wakedancer, Simulacrum, Zombie, and Wolf all tear through the red zone and my life total in succession, cutting me in half to 8 life. She adds a Stingerfling Spider and passes. I equip the Infiltration Lens to the Hellrider, hoping to draw an out when she blocks it, but Jimi simply Doom Blades it instead. I blast her for 5 with a Brimstone Volley to leave her at 2, and begin picking up my cards.
Thoughts & Analysis
If I’m guilty of anything with Gleeful Flames, it’s probably of overconfidence. It seemed to me that a super-consistent mono-Red deck should be able to blast out 20 damage in fairly short order, between its swarm of early creatures and massive damage spells. As we found over the course of four games (three recorded and the friendly), the reality is a bit less flashy. Winning one and losing three, the deck just couldn’t reliably do the things it needed to do to win, and since it is predicated upon an all-or-nothing, feast-or-famine strategy, if it can’t get its engine running it’s dead in the water.
Truly, Gleeful Flames is representative of what you might call a “glass cannon.” With the right draw there are few decks you couldn’t steal a victory from, but the odds of winning drop dramatically the further away you get from the perfect opener. Even the game I won with the deck took eight turns to accomplish its mission. And it was thwarted by a Birthing Pod engine deck that never once even managed to find its Birthing Pod.
It’s hard to argue that the list is perfect, though it’s about as consistent as you can get for what it’s looking to do. Still, some of the rare selections are a bit curious. The Curse of Stalked Prey is fine, except for the fact that with your creatures so puny it won’t take much to stop them. They almost feel like they’re in the deck to act as chump blockers rather than cards epxected to actually mount any damage, so the Curse is probably a few shades too optimistic. The Inkmoth Nexuses are also a bit odd. If you manage to win a poison counter win (outwith the aforementioned Curse) something’s gone horribly wrong with the game, so it’s not entirely clear what they’re there for unless its some sort of hedge against a board-sweep. With another three of its rares parked in the sideboard, the deck becomes a bit of a curious choice for an Event Deck. That said, there are players who don’t mind taking their lumps if it means that they get to shine brightly every now and again, and this deck is right in their bailiwick. For everyone else, we’d recommend giving it a pass.
To be fair, there’s always recourse to the sideboard, even if it is site practice to not use them (instead preferring to test the ‘stock 60’). Even with the Arc Trails and Gut Shots boarded in, with Spiraling Doom so full of value cards that happily die (see: Veridian Emissary, Young Wolf, Solemn Simulacrum), it’s hard to make a case that this would have availed me much.
Hits: Tremendous consistency with its cards, with loads for four-ofs; capable of ridiculously fast starts (though you need a very good draw to pull them off)
Misses: Its ambition well exceeds its capability of actually pulling off the strategy; can easily run out of gas, and very quickly
OVERALL SCORE: 3.75/5.00