Weatherlight: Gatecrasher Review (Part 2 of 2)
This is it- our final game for Project Mirage Block. At last, our top-to-bottom analysis of the MTGO-based Theme Decks of Mirage, Visions, and Weatherlight can conclude after two months, and it has been some adventure! From exploring the history of MTGO and the decision to release previously out-of-print sets in electronic format, to building a world in a “dark continent” setting, we’ve really enjoyed seeing where the journey has taken us. We hope you have as well.
To see things off, we’ve got the final matchup ready to go, and Sam has the honour of serving as the spoiler to the party. Wielding the mono-Red Fiery Fury, she’s ready to stop the beat of the jungle with my Red/Green stompy deck Gatecrasher.
Sam kicks things off with a Mountain, which I meet with a Forest. Next turn she drops a second Mountain, while I land two of them thanks to a Rampant Growth. First creature of the game goes to Sam, however, when she trots out a turn-3 Bloodrock Cyclops. I answer that with a Wall of Roots, then enchant it with Fire Whip for good measure.
Now turn 4, Sam plays a Mountain and attacks, as she is obliged to do. I block with the Wall, then untap for my turn to add a Redwood Treefolk to the board. From the other side of the table, I hear Sam’s Cyclops gulp. Sam has no answer for it, and so next turn when she attacks in my Treefolk kills the Cyclops, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory as Sam finishes off the Treefolk with a Spitting Earth. The turn ends with first blood drawn when I tap my Wall to ping Sam to 19. Back to me, I play Striped Bears, then enchant it with a Fire Whip before passing.
Sadly for Sam, her turn 6 is a blank (getting pinged at the end of it again), so I attack with my Bears to put her down to 16. I then Rampant Growth to find another Mountain and pass. Back to Sam, she draws and passes again. I ping her at the end of turn with the Wall of Roots, then attack with the Bears for another 2. Next I add to my lead with Arctic Wolves, drawing and immediately playing another Wall of Roots.
Back to Sam for turn 8, she lashes out with a Cone of Flame. She directs 3 damage to me, 2 to my Bears, and 1 onto the Wolves. I sacrifice the Bears’ Fire Whip in response to ping Sam for another point of damage, then watch as she sacrifices two Mountains to a Fireblast to finish the job on the Wolves. A well-played turn of events, but not enough to save poor Sam. I deploy a replacement Redwood Treefolk, then after it attacks on turn 9 for 3 I burn Sam out with a lethal Kaervek’s Torch.
This time Sam kicks things off early, opening with a Roc Hatchling. She follows with a turn-2 Mind Stone and then a turn-3 Bloodrock Cyclops, all before my first play of the game- a Dragon Mask. Sam attacks with the Cyclops on turn 4 to put me at 17, then I follow with a Stampeding Wildebeests. It will return itself to my hand at next upkeep since I have no other Green creatures in play to select from, but should solve the Cyclops before then.
The Roc Hatchling “hatches” on turn 5 and becomes a 3/3 flier, and Sam sends it across the red zone alongside the Cyclops. My Wildebeests kill the Cyclops as planned, but I go down to 14 from the Roc. She then adds a Wildfire Emissary and passes turn. Back to me, the Wildebeests come back to the fold, and in their place I play a Redwood Treefolk. My turn done, Sam fires back in with the Roc, then blasts me with an additional 3 with a Thunderbolt.
Although I manage to clear the board on turn 6 with a 4-point Savage Twister, the damage is done. Sam’s able to burn me for 4 with a Kaervek’s Torch of her own, then finish me off with a Fireblast.
It’s my turn to be on the play, and my opener is a turn-3 Llanowar Sentinel. In the meantime, Sam’s managed a Goblin Vandal and Mind Stone, and even swung in for a point of early damage. Even my Sentinel isn’t much help, as Sam next deploys a Talruum Minotaur and blows right past it. By the end of the turn, I’m now down to 16.
Now turn 4, I counterattack with my Sentinel for 2, then add a Stampeding Wildebeests. Sam crushes it with a Spitting Earth, hammers back in for 4 then adds a Bloodrock Cyclops. Back to me, I tap out for Striped Bears and pass. Sam drops a Lava Hounds (taking 4 damage in the process), then turns her army sideways. I gang-block with the Sentinel and Bears to kill off the Hounds, but still see my life total get cut in half. With the extra point of toughness on the Sentinel, Sam can only pick one creature to trade out with and she chooses the Sentinel.
At 6 life, I desperately need to stablise, and find a turn-6 Wall of Roots. Back to Sam, she attacks in again with her Cyclops and Minotaur, but the Minotaur never makes it. Tapping two mana for an Incinerate, I solve one threat as the other bounces harmlessly off my Wall. She plays a second Mind Stone and passes. Back to me, I then add an Arctic Wolves after sending the Bears in on the attack to put Sam at 12. For Sam’s part, with her mana base firmly developed she simply pops both Mind Stones for extra cards, looking for something to use. She’s compelled to attack with the Cyclops, and I crush it with the Wolves.
Now turn 8, the tables have been turned and I swing in on Sam for 6 with my Wolves and Bears. I then use the Wall of Roots to add a to my mana pool, tapping out to summon the Redwood Treefolk. Sam’s turn- sadly for her- is a blank. Next turn I swing with everything for 9. Sam chumps the Wolves, but goes down to 1 life. Drawing nothing, she then concedes. Quite a comeback!
Thoughts & Analysis
We were hoping for a solid deck to close out Project Mirage Block with, and Gatecrasher did not disappoint. With a solid amount of ramp and board-stall, I had little difficulty bringing my more robust creatures on-line. This was the fatal flaw we saw in Visions’ Savage Stompdown, the block’s other Red/Green stompy deck. There’s often the tempation with such decks to skimp on the mana ramping, and that’s as fatal to such a deck’s plans as any Dark Banishing could be. Here, between the trio of Rampant Growths and Walls of Roots, I had enough at my disposal that I never felt constrained by the deck’s rather plump mana curve.
Indeed, the Walls of Roots might well be the deck’s secret weapon. It’s not often that we find ourselves advocating for the inclusion of defender creatures, but because it serves double-duty as a source of mana in addition to buying you time, the card is pitch-perfect here. There are two broad ways to get the mana you need- either wait for it to appear, or create it through ramp. Thanks to this 0/5 wall, both lines of play naturally develop since blunting your opponent’s offense buys you added time to draw more land.
Once your mana base is sorted out, you should seldom be at a loss for something to do with it. It’s fashionable in developmental circles to talk disparagingly of “all-downside” mechanics, and certainly on the face of it cumulative upkeep doesn’t have a lot of feel-good associated with it. Who wants to pay more and more mana to keep a card around, until finally you run out and it goes away? That said, saddling a card with the mechanic allows you to bring out creatures much sooner than you otherwise might have been able to. In this day and age with creature power creep being what it is, a card like Arctic Wolves on its own- a 4/5 for five mana that cantrips- might not raise a lot of eyebrows. Indeed, Avacyn Restored now appears to be offering a 7/7 for only six mana, an unheard-of deal earlier in the game’s history. Witness too the contrast between the Viashino Sandstalker and Archwing Dragon. But we play the cards we’re given, and in this environment getting to play some of the larger beaters available is well worth a few upkeep payments.
Overall, there’s a fun factor present in Gatecrasher we don’t always see in the Red/Green pairing, which can tend to be somewhat straightforward and red zone-focused. It’s a fine deck to see us off.
Hits: Wall of Roots wears two hats, and wears them perfectly here; cumulative upkeep beaters well-positioned in the deck to start bringing the wood after you get your board situated; ample mana ramping helps ensure you don’t get stuck with them in your hand most of the time; solid burn package
OVERALL SCORE: 4.20/5.00