Mirage: Burning Sky Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s our final match-up for Mirage, and we’re eager to end on a high note after what has felt at times like a slog through mediocrity. Although we’ve enjoyed our introduction to Jamuraa, and the decks have had some truly unique origin stories, the quality has been a little more difficult to spot. With Burning Sky being one of the set’s more interesting offerings, we’re hoping it doesn’t disappoint. Playing the part of the opposition is Sam, who’s opted for the mono-Black Night Terrors. Will her Night Stalkers rule the day, or will she fall to the elemental fury of fire and air?
Sam and I lead off with land (her having mulled to six cards), and next turn she kicks things off with a Skulking Ghost. We continue to build our manabases, with her swinging in for first blood next turn. Only then do I have an answering threat- a Teferi’s Drake.
Now turn 4, Sam takes the opportunity to add a Charcoal Diamond and another attack, while my Drake phases out. My deck doesn’t miss a beat, though, as it replaces the Drake with a Talruum Minotaur. The Minotaur turns sideways immediately, dropping Sam to 17. Back to her, she attacks again with her Ghost, leaving me at 14, then plays a Gravebane Zombie. When my Drake phases back in, it leads a 6-point counterattack that puts Sam at 11, after I Boomerang the Zombie to clear it out of the way. I then close with an Azimaet Drake.
The Gravebane Zombie comes right back down on turn 6, but Sam is forced to keep the Ghost at home thanks to my second Drake. My Teferi’s phases out again, so my attack is a smaller one- only 4 points. Sam accepts the trade of the Zombie for the Minotaur, and her Zombie goes right back atop her library. With nothing blocking the Azimaet Drake, I go ahead and pump its power once for an extra point of damage. I then add a Wildfire Emissary and pass.
Now turn 7, Sam can do nothing but replay the Gravebane Zombie. My Teferi’s Drake is back, and I send it in with the Emissary and Azimaet. Sam blocks the Teferi’s with her Ghost for the trade, then chumps the Zombie to my Emissary. Aaaand back atop the library goes the Zombie. It’s a great recycling trick when you need a body, but when you need another kind of answer it can be hard to work around. Still, from where I’m sitting that’s Sam’s problem to deal with. With Sam at 8 life, I look to close things out with a Mist Dragon.
Next turn Sam replays the Zombie and braces for impact. My flyers slip right over her defenses, impacting her for 6. Down to 2 life and with nothing drawn, she scoops.
Our second tilt begins much the same as the first. Sam lands a turn-2 Skulking Ghost, with me not finding an response until my turn-3 Teferi’s Drake. One major difference- Sam’s turn-3 Breathstealer. When she attacks with both on turn 3, I decide to offer up the inconsistent Drake in trade and solve the problem early. That still leaves the Breathstealer, and Sam pumps it once to put me down to 15 life. Still, I have another familiar face in hand- the Talruum Minotaur- and I summon and attack with him in return.
Now turn 5, I take another 3 damage off the Breathstealer, then watch Sam add a Feral Shadow to now have 2/3 of the Spirit of the Night combo out. I counterattack for 3 with the Minotaur, then bolster my backline with a Goblin Scouts. Back to Sam, she swings in with both Night Stalkers, I gang-block the Breathstealer with both of my Goblin tokens, taking 2 off the one in the air. Sam then picks off my Minotaur with a Drain Life, killing it and restoring her to 17 life. With her defenses open, I send in the remaining Goblin for 1 point of damage, then add a Flame Elemental before passing.
Sam’s turn-7 attack with the Feral Shadow leaves me at 8, and she closes the gap in her defense by adding a very inconvenient Wall of Corpses alongside a second Feral Shadow. All I can do is play a Teferei’s Drake. Next turn she attacks with both Shadows, and I trade my Drake out for one of them. That still leaves 2 unblocked, though, and when she follows by adding a Fetid Horror she leaves me little choice but to pop my Elemental to kill it. Once my turn arrives, I replace my loss with the Wildfire Emissary, but realise I’m slowly circling the drain. When she deploys a turn-9 Ravenous Vampire, it’s done and dusted. She kills me on turn 10.
Sam and I trade land drops until turn 3, when I add in a Dream Cache to help my draw quality. For her part, Sam goes right for the creatures with a Restless Dead. Next turn I land the trusty Wildfire Emissary, while she summons her equally dependable Feral Shadow. And so we’re off!
Now turn 5, I add a Suq’Ata Firewalker and pass. Sam attacks in for 2 with the Shadow in the air, then deploys the Gravebane Zombie. Back to me, I send in the Emissary to exploit Sam’s inability to regenerate the Dead and draw us even at 18 life. She counterattacks with the Feral Shadow, Gravebane Zombie, and Dead. My Firewalker makes quick work of the Shadow, though I go down to 14. She then attempts a Dread Specter, but I Power Sink it. This not only counters her spell, but it taps what little land she has left to ensure that her Restless Dead will be vulnerable to my pinger.
I engage the Firewalker on turn 7, finishing off the vulnerable Dead. After a 2-point attack from my Emissary, I summon a Teferi’s Drake and a Dream Fighter. Back to Sam, she apparently overlooks the magical powers of my Dream Fighter, turning her Gravebane Zombie sideways. Both phase out, giving her a gentle lesson in the quiet power of the Fighter. She mollifies herself by playing a Breathstealer and Charcoal Diamond. Back to me, I lose my Teferi’s Drake for a turn, but manage another attack with the Emissary. Before passing, I summon a trio of Goblins with Goblin Scouts. Back to Sam, she tries to take out the Dream Fighter with a Dark Banishing, but I Boomerang it back to safety.
By turn 9, it’s obvious that this game is going against Sam. With Teferi’s Drake back in action I swing for 7 and pump the Emissary once it’s through. When the dust settles Sam’s at 6 life, as even the Goblins are a nuisance when backed up by my pinger. I replay my Dream Fighter and pass, and that’s enough for Sam. She scoops after drawing, unable to answer my overwhelming threats.
Thoughts & Analysis
Of the four Mirage decks, Burning Sky tended to feel the most like a modern Theme Deck. It had a solid enough premise- “fire and air,” and backed those up with their selection of creatures. Throughout the reviews of the set, Mirage’s decks have felt somewhat improvisational. Spoiled perhaps by later decks which tend to coalesce around more cohesive themes, we’ve seen a Red/White deck that’s almost boring in its cookie-cutter monotony (three-drop flank-Knights) in Ride Like the Wind, a somewhat forced “tribal Griffin” deck in Jungle Jam, and the “Spirit of the Night combo” in Night Terrors. None of them quite feel like the finished product that Burning Sky does, though its not entirely clear why that is.
To be sure, the cards here tend to hold tightly to their theme, but that can be said of the other decks as well. Perhaps what sets Burning Sky apart is its theme. “Air and fire” is immediately graspable, and is something we’ve often seen in any number of Red/Blue decks. But the Night Stalkers of Night Terrors, for instance, are a tribe in name only. There’s nothing that seems to connect the Feral Shadow, the Breathstealer, and the Urborg Panther, and no sense of what any of these three oddities have to do with the Spirit of the Night. This may be a Vorthos complaint, but it’s a complaint all the same. That’s not to say they’re unconnected- if you add the casting cost of each Night Stalker together, then do the same for their power and toughness, voila! Spirit of the Night (which was originally called the Spirit of the Nightstalkers, but there wasn’t enough room on the card). But they don’t feel linked in any way, and the connection isn’t obvious.
Divorced of that and from a purely mechanical standpoint, the deck has a solid mana curve that may be somewhat bloated in the area of four-drops, but as we’ve seen the Mirage environment isn’t particularly fast. Each of the decks with the modest exception of Night Terrors has tended to be a bit plump on the back-end, and even Night Terrors is slow enough that it can’t run the table in the opening turns before the other three have had a chance to get established. And while the removal suite is a bit wanting, that can also be said for the other three.
In some ways, the precons of a block’s first set are the most interesting, if only because it’s novel to see what can be done with the smallest available card pool. Unlike the modern Intro Pack, we don’t have recourse here to fill out some areas of need with Core Set cards. It will be interesting as we transition into Visions territory to see what options blossomed in the eyes of the decks’ designers. As it stands here, we’ve now completed Mirage.
Hits: Solid mana curve allows for steady creature deployment; weak burn slightly offset by recourse to countermagic; feels a bit more polished than the other Mirage decks; Mystical Tutor! (hey, she was in From the Vault: Exiled)
Misses: Inferior removal package, especially for Red
OVERALL SCORE: 4.15/5.00