Dark Ascension: Spiraling Doom Review (Part 2 of 2)
Fresh from Gleeful Flames’ hiding in our last meetup, I’m back to put Spiraling Doom to the test. Joining me at the table is Jimi, who- given her affinity for mono-Red and Boros decks- is excited to give Flames a try. We sat down for a match of three games to pit the Dark Ascension Event Decks against one another, and here’s what resulted.
I’m on the play and lead with a Forest, while Jimi matches with a Mountain. Next turn I drop a second, tapping both to land a Strangleroot Geist. I send it in on the attack and pass. Jimi- missing her land drop- casts Faithless Looting and scores an Inkmoth Nexus. She flushes her Hellrider and Artillerize, plays an Infiltration Lens, and ends her turn.
Now turn 3, I attack for 2 more with the Geist before taking 2 of my own to bring out my Birthing Pod that much quicker. Back to Jimi, she plays a Goblin Arsonist, equipping the Lens to it. Next turn I attack for 2 more with the Geist to leave Jimi at 14. I then play a Viridian Emissary who is not long for this world- I immediately sacrifice it to the Birthing Pod (getting a free land) and upgrading it to a Phyrexian Rager. This gets me another free card, though it does cost me 1 life. For her part, Jimi plays a Forge Devil and uses it to ping my Geist, getting it over with. Thanks to undying, the Geist returns with a +1/+1 counter. She then attacks with her Arsonist and an animated Inkmoth Nexus, putting me at 16 life with 1 poison counter (PC).
The Geist and Rager counterattack on turn 5 for 5, and Jimi has little choice but to take it and go down to 9. I then play another Viridian Emissary, offering it up to the Pod to fetch a Viridian Corrupter to smash Jimi’s Infiltration Lens. Things get interesting on Jimi’s next turn when she lands the Curse of Stalked Prey after dropping a second Inkmoth Nexus. She animates the first one and sends it in, giving me my second poison counter and giving the Nexus one of the +1/+1 variety. Back to me, I attack with the Geist/Rager tandem, and this time Jimi is forced to react. She shoves the Arsonist in the path of the Geist, using its extra ping of damage to finish the job. She takes 2 from the Rager and is now holding steady at 7 life. For my next trick, I summon the Brutalizer Exarch, sending Jimi’s Inkmoth Nexus (the one with the counter) to the bottom of her library. Take that! With one mana open and at 16 life, I happily then pay 2 life to the Pod and whisk away the Exarch, replacing it with a shiny new Myr Battlesphere before passing. Jimi kills off the Rager with a Brimstone Volley, and that’s alls she’s got.
Now turn 7, I play another Strangleroot Geist and attack, sending it in alongside the Battlesphere. I tap down all four of my 1/1 Myr tokens to have the Battlesphere blast Jimi for 4 right off the bat. She chumps it with her Forge Devil, going down to 1 as the Geist gets past. I follow up with a Young Wolf and Viridian Emissary. Jimi follows by conceding.
Crisis! Wee Liam is awake and fussing, so Jimi excuses herself from the game. Happy to try her hand at the deck is Sam, who picks up right where Jimi left off.
Sam opens up with a Mountain but without a one-drop, less critical in Gleeful Flames as it regards creature damage as more or less gravy, preferring to use its burn suite to blast its opponent. Fortunately, I do have a one-drop, a Young Wolf. Next turn Sam plays her Forge Devil, killing my Wolf but bringing it back as a 2/2. Dropping a Strangleroot Geist right next to it, I send both creatures in to carve some life off of Sam’s spindown, leaving her at 15. Back to Sam, she adds a Haunted Fengraf, then deploys a Torch Fiend and Goblin Gaveleer. Holding my Wolf back, I attack with the Geist alone for 2 more, then add a Viridian Emissary.
Now turn 4, Sam play a second Forge Devil to snip my Geist (putting her at 10), which comes back as a 3/2 thanks to undying. Adding a second Torch Fiend, she’s managed a nice build-up of forces, but passes without attack. Figuring it’s time to clear some air, I turn all of my creatures sideways and trundle in for 7. Sam trades her Forge Devil for my Viridian Emissary (netting me a Swamp), then swaps my Geist for one of her Torch Fiends. Taking 2, she goes down to 2, while I play a replacement Viridian Emissary and pass.
Next turn Sam sends in her Gaveleer and Forge Devil. I block the Gaveleer with my Emissary (yet another land), but her Devil gets through to scratch me for 1. She then plays a replacement Gaveleer and passes. Back to me, I take out her threat to my Pods by using a Skinrender to kill off her Torch Fiend. I then attack for 2 with my Young Wolf and pass.
Now turn 6, Sam simply lays down another Gaveleer. It’s becoming clear that her strategy of blasting me with fat burn spells might work if she’s managed to draw many, but right now she’s just building up a bit of defense and stalling for time with trades. I attack for 5 with the Skinrender and Wolf, forcing her reserve Brimstone Volley to kill it. Seeing the writing on the wall, she double-blocks my Wolf with her Forge Devil and Gaveleer, two-for-one’ing herself but thinning out my board. Post-combat I hunt down my Birthing Pod with a Diabolic Tutor, play yet another Viridian Emissary, and pass.
Sam’s turn 7 is a blank, so I play a Strangleroot Geist and attack for 4 damage alongside the Emissary, leaving Sam at 4. Almost unnecessarily, I add the Birthing Pod and pass. Back to Sam, she taps out to pop the Haunted Fengraf, nabbing her Torch Fiend through random chance, then buckles down for the coming assault. I swing in for lethal, though she blocks the Geist with her last Gaveleer. It un-dies, allowing me to then get a free morbid trigger for my Wakedancer. At this point, it’s just rubbing it in, and Sam scoops.
Leading off our final match and hoping to give her deck a proper accounting of itself, Sam opens with an Inkmoth Nexus from which she lands an Infiltration Lens. For my part, it’s a Hex Parasite off a Forest. Next turn sees Sam swing with the Nexus for my first poison counter, while I fire back with the Parasite for 1 point of ‘conventional’ damage and follow with a Viridian Emissary.
Now turn 3, Sam hits in again with the Nexus to put me at 2 PC. Adding a Goblin Gaveleer, she passes. I attack for 2 with the Emissary and do the same. Back to Sam, she equips the Gaveleer with the Infiltration Lens, attacking for 3 points of conventional damage alongside the Nexus. Down to 17 (and at 3 PC), I counterattack for 3 with the Emissary and Parasite before summoning a Skinrender to kill off her Gaveleer.
Sam keeps the pressure up with the Nexus on turn 5, and I’m beginning to get a twinge of anxiety as I go up another poison counter. She then plays a Goblin Arsonist before popping it to feed a Goblin Grenade. She directs the 1 point of Arsonist damage to kill my hapless Hex Parasite, while the main blast leaves me smoldering at 12 life. Back to me, I attack with the Skinrender and Emissary, and just like that Sam’s dipped under 10 life. I follow up with a Birthing Pod, triggering it (paying 2 life) to tutor out an Acidic Slime at the expense of my Skinrender. On the upside, my Inkmoth Nexus problem is solved as well.
Now turn 6, Sam lamely trots out a Goblin Arsonist, with her one-drop creatures looking sillier and sillier as the game goes long. I kill it with a fresh Skinrender for good measure (she picks off my Emissary), then add a Strangleroot Geist before swinging in for another 7. Down to 2 life, Sam’s had enough- she concedes after the next draw.
Thoughts & Analysis
We’ve been reviewing preconstructed decks for over a year and a half here, and it’s safe to say we’ve played a ton of decks. As it happens, most decks tend to be creature-combat oriented, which is great for some but a little less appealing for others. That isn’t to say any of us are bored- far from, the steady supply of new cards, sets, and mechanics keep even the most basic archetype feeling different enough to be engaging and fun to explore.
That said, anything that comes along that shakes up the mould somewhat immediately gets our attention, and when it turns out to be strategically and tactically sound, it goes right to the head of the queue. Spiraling Doom is such a deck, largely thanks to the build-around-me approach towards Birthing Pod. It’s a new twist on the tutor/toolbox deck archetype, which itself isn’t one we see all that often in a precon. In short, this deck is an absolute blast to play, and well deserving of the high marks we’ll be bestowing upon it.
So that’s the fun part settled. Now for the other important (and not unrelated) question- how well does the deck work? When giving the initial list a once-over, there was some uncertainty about the strength of the undying creature package. We know they’re a force in Limited play, but was their inclusion here a solid tactical move, or just a bit of gimmickry to tie in the new set?
Having now played with the deck, we can say that the answer lies firmly in the former. In large part, the undying creatures could set the deck up for victory, even if the Pod wasn’t in play. Note the first playtest match against Gleeful Flames, where the Red deck was dominated without once ever seeing the Pod. And now for this, the mirror match, we have a couple of commanding victories and in only one was the Pod a real factor. In short, this is a deck that can stand on its own, though that isn’t to say we wouldn’t welcome another copy of Birthing Pod just to get more mileage out of the interactions.
Although I had little to remove other than weenies against Gleeful Flames, I didn’t feel like I was in a great deal of danger with regards to creature populations at nearly any point. What the deck lacks in Doom Blades, for one, is compensated for my the Skinrenders and Morkrut Banshee. And the deck has answers for nearly anything else you might face.
On a final note, this is also a deck that begs to be tinkered with- there is so much potential in its structure that it seems like a lot of fun to change around some of its interactions. This is an invitation we don’t often see in Event Decks, which may ask for some moderate improvements but seldom ones done for the fun of it. Instead, that’s the purview of any well-designed Intro Pack, and extra points to Spiraling Doom for capturing that essence here.
Hits: Strong creature component (thanks in large part to undying) gives the deck real backbone and muscle; sturdy combo, doesn’t fall apart when key card not drawn; solid removal package when you include the two-for-one potential of some of the creatures; invites customisation
Misses: Would have liked to have seen a third Birthing Pod
OVERALL SCORE: 4.90/5.00