Ertai’s Lament: Ground Pounder Review (Part 2 of 2)
With reviews of both of Beatdown’s decks behind us, it’s time to put them to the test! Today I take the role of the Red/Green Ground Pounder, with Jimi volunteering to pilot the Blue/Black Aerodoom.
I’m on the play, and lead with a Forest which Jimi matches with a Polluted Mire. Next turn, I Rampant Growth for a Forest after playing a Mountain, and am well on my way. Jimi simply plays an Island and passes.
Now turn 3, I tap out to play a Lowland Giant, but Jimi kills it off with a Diabolic Edict. My next creature- Crashing Boars– sticks, though this time she’s able to come back with a threat of her own in the Fog Elemental.
A turn-5 Fireball roasts her defender, clearing the way for my Boars to hammer in for 4, but they’re then themselves neutralised by a Gaseous Form. I try again on turn 6, playing a Segmented Wurm, while Jimi then adds a Snapping Drake.
Now turn 7, I score another hit on Jimi with the Wurm, taking her down to 11 life. For her part, she shores up her defenses with a Feral Shadow. I draw a Smoldering Crater, but having hit every land drop thus far I cycle it away for another card. I then attack in with the Wurm. Jimi- looking to keep the board deadlocked in a creatureless stall- gang-blocks with the Elemental and Shadow. Undaunted, I replace the loss with a Yavimaya Wurm. Again Jimi stays right in the game, playing a Sengir Vampire before passing.
I blast the Vampire out of the sky with a Sonic Burst on turn 9, discarding a Forest “at random” to leave myself with an empty hand. Turning the Wurm sideways, I slam Jimi again for another walloping, and she’s down to 5 life. For her part, Jimi plays a Clockwork Avian. When I attack in with the Wurm again the next turn, she trades with it and sees her life go down to 3, thanks to the Wurm’s trample. I don’t love having no creatures on the board and nothing in hand, but all I need to do is draw some burn and that’s the game won. Back to Jimi, she plays Coercion on the one card I’ve put into my hand, but is disappointed to find it’s a Mountain.
My turn 11 is a blank, while Jimi rigs her draw with a Diabolic Vision. My turn 12 is the same as my last, so Jimi steps into the vacuum with a Killer Whale. She follows that up with a turn-13 Blizzard Elemental after getting in her first damage on me with the Whale, but I finally draw something playable on turn 14. The bad news is, it’s a lowly Kird Ape. Jimi simply attacks overtop with her Blizzard Elemental, taking me to 12.
I topdeck the win I’ve been looking for on turn 15 when I draw a Thunderbolt– only to see it fizzle thanks to Jimi’s clutch Counterspell. Back to Jimi, she ignores my Ape entirely and throws a Drain Life to my face for 3, then swings with the Elemental for a further 5. The tables have well and truly turned, with Jimi at 6 and me at 4. I topdeck another turn thanks to a Woolly Spider, but in the end I fall beneath Jimi’s come-from-behind assault in the sky.
This time, the Kird Ape arrives prompt and on-time, being my opening play. Next turn I drop the requisite Forest, and it’s Ape-power on the attack for 2. After I smash in with it again on turn 3, Jimi decides that she’s had enough, picking it off with a Diabolic Edict to prevent the damage. It’s a fair play- in a deck with more removal you might save the Edict to ensure the death of a higher-value target, but here the Ape would likely stay alive as long as I wanted it to (and be an “Edict shield”), so all the better to prevent some early damage with it. Still, Jimi manages to shore up her defenses with an answering Fog Elemental.
Now turn 4, I respond with my Erhnam Djinn, though the creature bidding war continues apace with her answering Snapping Drake. Back to me, I give the Drake forestwalk during my upkeep to satisfy the Djinn, but pass my turn without incident. Jimi’s turn is similarly a blank.
On turn 6, after giving her Drake forestwalk a second time, I turn the Djinn sideways. As hoped, Jimi gangs up with her Drake and Elemental, again happy to trade dudes for control of the battlefield. This time, however, it backfires. A Thunderbolt in response blasts the Elemental, leaving only the Drake as the sole, doomed blocker. After playing a Remote Isle, all Jimi can manage is a Diabolic Vision. My next-turn attack leaves Jimi at 14, after which I escalate the arms race with a Yavimaya Wurm. Back to Jimi, she plays a Killer Whale after bringing out her Svyelunite Temple.
It does her little good. I Fireball the Whale on turn 8, setting up a 10-point attack. Down to 4 life, Jimi stabilises with an Air Elemental, then uses a Dark Ritual to squeeze out a Terror to kill the Wurm. Back to me, I give her Elemental forestewalk, then play a Balduvian Horde (llosing Crashing Boars in the process). Jimi’s responding Vigilant Drake helps, but isn’t enough. When I attack in with both beaters on turn 10, she’s forced to chump the pair to stay alive. Down to no creatures, she scoops after her next draw.
This time it’s Jimi on the play, though after she drops a Swamp she passes. Again I strike lucky with a Kird Ape, and next turn a Forest to pump it alongside Llanowar Elves. The Ape swings on turns 3 and 4 unopposed, after which I go big with a Balduvian Horde (losing a Forest). No dummy, Jimi immediately Terrors it.
Now turn 5, Jimi then lands a Cloud Elemental. It’s a solid body, but unfortunately for her isn’t available for defensive duty against my ground pounders. I swing in for 3 with the Ape and Elves, then add a Viashino Warrior. Jimi attacks in the sky for 2, then passes. Back to me, I attack with the Warrior and Ape for 6 to leave Jimi at 5 life. I then add a Lowland Giant and end my turn.
Thoughts & Analysis
Given how little we rated the Anthologies boxed set as well as Deckmasters: Garfield vs Finkel, we didn’t expect a whole lot of fun to come out of Beatdown. Although we’ll reserve judgment until we switch decks and go again, this match was a ton of fun to play. As a personal preference, it takes a special Red/Green deck to make me really enjoy playing it, and Ground Pounder fit the bill.
Looking at what made the deck such an engaging experience, I’d have to give a good deal of credit to the microcosm Wizards looked to create here. I’d be less confident putting Ground Pounder up against another precon deck, but in this removal-light, fatty-heavy Beatdown stage the deck not only works, but provides some fun along the way. Maybe the designers are right, maybe in the heart of every Magic player resides a tiny wee Timmy. I know that I tend to prefer decks as creatureless as possible, but even I couldn’t resist a cackle of glee as I turned a 5/5 sideways.
Counting the friendly, Jimi and I split two games apiece, and particularly given her spectacular comeback in our opener the decks do appear to be fairly evenly balanced. I certainly had no shortage of beaters to play throughout, and even in the first game where I eventually ran out of steam I can hardly fault the deck. It gave me ten good turns- you can hardly expect more than that. Even the spartan removal suite seemed fine, given the context of the deck. You had enough to make some quality value plays, but not enough to blunt every threat your opponent manages to play. Overall, this was a great premium product from the earlier days of Magic.
Hits: Good balance as both decks tend to blossom at around the same time; small number of good early plays offer some advantage to Ground Pounder and let you try and race out in front early; solid stream of beaters; burn suite appropriate for aims of the gameplay experience
Misses: Like any fatty-centric deck, more vulnerable than most to mana screw- games can be sealed based on who manages to pull ahead in the manabase race
OVERALL SCORE: 4.40/5.00