Avacyn Restored: Solitary Fiends Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s our last clash with the Intro Packs of Avacyn Restored, and my Solitary Fiends and I are up against Jimi’s Slaughterhouse. Will the unorthdox strategy of my deck be enough to carry the day?
Jimi opens up the game with a Mountain, while I counter with an Island. Next turn she plays a Swamp and passes, while I nick Swiftfoot Boots off of my second land drop. Jimi pulls ahead with the game’s first creature, however, when she drops a Butcher Ghoul. Back to me, I summon an Alchemist’s Apprentice, equipping it with the Boots.
Now turn 4, Jimi swings for 1 with the Ghoul after deploying a Havengul Vampire, a block I’m happy to decline. Down to 19, I can only play another land and pass. Next turn, Jimi attacks for 3 with the Ghoul and Vampire. I block the Vampire with my Apprentice, sacrificing it to draw a card before damage is assigned (though it gives the Vampire a +1/+1 counter). She then adds to her army with an Evernight Shade. I counter with an Undead Executioner, again using extra mana to gird it with the boots.
Jimi presses her advantage on turn 6 with another attack, sending in the Ghoul and Shade. The Shade gets pumped twice, adding another 2 damage to the tally. Back to me, I thin things out a bit with an Into the Void, bouncing back the Vampire and Shade. Taking advantage of the gap in her defenses, I turn the Executioner sideways and score my first 2 points of damage. Jimi then resummons the Havengul Vampire, following it up by pushing her Ghoul through the red zone for another tick of damage. Down to 13, I content myself with a Triumph of Cruelty.
It’s now turn 8, and Jimi tightens the screws with a Harvester of Souls. In comes the trusty Ghoul for another point of damage, then she passes turn. For my part, I add a Corpse Traders and pass, then hit the Harvester and Vampire with a Frost Breath to lock them down. Jimi summons Maalfeld Twins, adding to an already lopsided board. All I can do is deploy another Undead Executioner, though the deck’s stalling suite comes through again as I Crippling Chill the Twins. Undaunted, she pulls out a Demonlord of Ashmouth, sacrificing the long-lived Butcher Ghoul. The sacrifice of the Ghoul not only returns it to play with a +1/+1 counter, it gives her Vampire one in addition to netting her a card off the Harvester. Low on options, I cast Essence Harvest for a 3-point life drain to draw us level at 15.
The Demonlord turns sideways for the first time on turn 11, shaving off a third of my life. She then follows with a Butcher Ghoul- and Barter in Blood. She sacrifices her Demonlord and the new Butcher Ghoul, sacrificing the other when the Demonlord returns to play. Meanwhile, her Vampire is gorging on +1/+1 counters, as I lose both my Executioners- with no tempting targets on the board for the -2/-2 effects. Though next turn I manage a Homicidal Seclusion, it doesn’t do a thing to improve my condition. Jimi finishes me off next turn, doing the last bit of damage through a Fling off the Maalfeld Twins.
With me on the play, the opening play of the game goes to Jimi with an opening-drop Goblin Arsonist, though I’m right behind with an Alchemist’s Apprentice. We trade swings, then I follow with a second Apprentice. By the end of turn 3, I’m at 19 with Jimi at 18, and going into turn 4 I’m now able to swing with both Apprentices. My joy, however, proves quite short-lived as Jimi brings out a turn-4 Demonlord of Ashmouth, offering up her Arsonist as blood sacrifice. The Arsonist’s death trigger pings me for 1, leaving us level at 17.
Now turn 5, to my tremendous relief I topdeck a Mist Raven, bouncing the Demonlord back to hand. I then send in both Apprentices for 2 more damage and pass. Back to Jimi, she next tries a Demonic Taskmaster. I then Peel from Reality, returning the Taskmaster and an Apprentice to hand. I replay my Apprentice and pass. Jimi likewise replays her Demonic Taskmaster.
To her evident frustration, I Peel again on turn 7, looking to bring back my Raven this time. Instead, Jimi simply Flings the Taskmaster at the Mist Raven, sending it plummeting from the sky. Although a setback, I still can attack in with my Apprentices, and Jimi’s down to 10. For her part, she tries to stick an Evernight Shade. Back to me, I send in the Apprentice tandem again. Jimi blocks one with the Shade, which I then pop for a card (an Island), but goes down to 9 from the other. Figuring that the board was turning and the remaining Apprentice had outlived its usefulness, I cash it in for a card as well. It’s an Undead Executioner, and I immediately play it. That’s when Jimi drops the hammer with another Barter in Blood. She sacrifices her Shade, which comes right back even stronger thanks to undying. Faced with the prospect of losing my Executioner and Creeper, I pop the Creeper to exile the Taskmaster from Jimi’s graveyard- just in case.
Now turn 9, I topdeck another solid option in a Havengul Skaab, though Jimi one-ups me with a Butcher Ghoul which then gets offered up to the Demonlord of Ashmouth. An Into the Void bounces the Demonlord and Shade back to Jimi’s hand, letting me swing in with the Skaab. Jimi decides the damage isn’t worth it, and chump blocks with the Butcher Ghoul. For her part, Jimi replays the Shade, then uses it to pay for a Bone Splinters to kill off my Skaab. It’s the play that breaks my back.
My turn 11 is a sad blank, while Jimi swings in with the Shade for 6. The same thing happens on turn 12, and I scoop after my draw on turn 13, a Doom Blade still in hand.
Our final game of the evening, I’m keen to salvage a wn and give my deck something to be proud of itself for. In the first three turns, however, all I can manage is a Triumph of Cruelty. The prospects of triggering it seem bleak as Jimi’s on-board with a Butcher Ghoul and Soulcage Fiend. While my turn 4 is a blank, Jimi’s swinging in for 4 and following with an Evernight Shade. Far from being a leveler, this game seems to be going even worse than the last two.
Still, I manage to bounce the Shade with a turn-5 Mist Raven, but Jimi just replaces her loss with a Demonic Taskmaster after another 3-point swing with the Fiend. My next turn is another lamentable blank, but I gain some ground back as Jimi is forced to sacrifice her Butcher Ghoul to the Taskmaster at her upkeep. I then lock down the Taskmaster with a Crippling Chill. Jimi sends in the Soulcage Fiend for another attack, and I block with the Mist Raven. Thanks to the Fiend’s death spasms, each of us lose 3 life. I’m now at 9, while Jimi’s down to 17.
Now turn 7, I summon a Lone Revenant and pass. With the Taskmaster still demaning its terrible toll, Jimi offers up her Evernight Shade, though all it does is come back with a +1/+1 counter thanks to undying. Having had enough, she Flings the Taskmaster at me for 4, leaving me at 5 life. Back to me, my Triumph of Cruelty kicks in and forces Jimi to discard her Harvester of Souls. The game takes a dramatic pivot when I then follow with a Homicidal Seclusion. My boosted Revenant turns sideways for 7, smashing into Jimi and affecting a colossal 14-point swing in the life totals. I also get to keep one card of the top four of my library thank to the Revenant, and I select (and play) a Tormentor’s Trident. Back to Jimi, she lays down her Evernight Shade.
Now turn 9, Jimi pitches a Grave Exchange thanks to my Triumph. I then play a Marrow Bats, setting up a Peel from Reality to return the Bats and her Shade to hand. Again the Revenant goes forth, and the turn ends with me at 19 life and Jimi at 3. Victory is at hand! Well, at least until Jimi’s answering Grave Exchange kills off my Revenant and returns her Harvester to hand. Next turn I replay the Marrow Bats, equipping the Trident to them to make a 10/2 lifelinking threat in the sky. Sadly, Jimi solves this with a Barter in Blood.
That, in a nutshell, is how the rest of the game goes, though the lifelink from the Homicidal Seclusion drags things on a bit. I’m able to deploy massive single threats (like an 11/4 Renegade Demon, thanks to the Seclusion and Trident), but Jimi’s able to solve them with answers like Fling, gaining additional value through sacrificing cards like Maalfeld Twins. In the end, Jimi’s able to extract more value out of her deck than I am from mine, and she ends up killing me with an Evernight Shade.
Thoughts & Analysis
I wanted to like Solitary Fiends, I really did. It has a most unusual and intriguing premise- riding a single creature through to the finish line. Unfortunately, the deck just didn’t come together in the way it needed to to support an approach so riddled with vulnerabilities. To be fair, I was up against a deck which had access to some amount of removal in an environment that has tended to lack it, but so long as the “solitary fiend” could be managed effectively, the deck didn’t have much threat to deliver.
What did work about the deck was its stalling package, and at times it’s more than capable of winning on its day. When Jimi and I tested Bound By Strength, when everything lined up she was able to steamroll me in Game Three through the use of tap-down cards like Crippling Chill and Frost Breath and bounce cards like Peel from Reality and Into the Void. What the deck dearly needed was greater return for the self-crippling strategy of one-beater-at-a-time.
Hits: Superb stall and tempo suite gives you every opportunity to find the few strategy-specific options you have available
Misses: “Solo beater” strategy is novel in concept but poorly supported in execution- at least with exalted if they killed your lone attacker, you could just attack with something else for the attack bonus
OVERALL SCORE: 3.70/5.00