Magic 2013: Depths of Power Review (Part 2 of 2)
And we’re off! The first playtest for the new slate of Magic 2013 decks is here, and it promoses to be quite the clash! I’m piloting the instant/sorcery-centric Depths of Power, looking to see if its synergies can be harnessed together to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Serving as opposition is Sam, running Wild Rush, a Green beaters deck with a splash of Black.
We open out Magic 2013 account with Sam on the play, leading with an Arbor Elf off a Forest. I play an Island and pass. Back to Sam, she then swings with the Elf for 1 after playing an Evolving Wilds, cracking it for a Swamp. I next play a Mountain, then tap out for an Augur of Bolas. The top three cards of my library are Divination and a pair of land, so Divination it is!
Next turn, Sam harnesses the power of the Arbor Elf to ramp out a Centaur Courser. Unfortunately, I miss my land drop and have eight cards in hand. This compels me to go ahead and pick off the Courser with a Searing Spear, content in the hope that I might find a way to get it back before long. Chagrined, Sam replaces it with a Deadly Recluse, while I again can’t find a land. This time I have to discard, so I pitch a Hydrosurge.
Now turn 5, Sam attacks again for 1 with the Recluse, then uses the Elf to power out a Vastwood Gorger. The upside to having played noting means I’m perfectly positioned to respond with an Essence Scatter, and so dodge a bullet. Finding a Mountain, I then play my Divination in the hopes of finding more. Next turn Sam’s Recluse nibbles in again, leaving me at 17. For my part, I summon a Wind Drake, but Sam one-up’s me by flashing in an end-of-turn Yeva, Nature’s Herald.
And she’s only getting started! A next-turn Essence Drain solves my Drake, putting Sam at 23 life to boot. Still struggling to find a land, I’ve got three cards in hand that have a double-Blue casting cost. My turn is a blank, so it’s right back to Sam. She then attacks for 5 with Yeva and the Recluse, then uses Rise from the Grave to bring back the Vastwood Gorger. I pick off the Recluse at the end of turn with a Searing Spear. It’s the least of my worries, but I’m just trying to stall for time now. Back to me, I topdeck a desperately-needed Island, letting me cast Sleep. Time bought!
Sam’s turn 9 sees nothing happen, so once it’s back to me I play a Kraken Hatchling and Elixir of Immortality. Next turn Sam plays a Ring of Kalonia, but when she goes to equip it it draws an immediate Smelt. Sam then attacks in with Yeva and the Gorger. I pop the Elixir, then chump the Wurm with my Hatchling. At the end of the turn, I’m holding on at 8 life. I then follow with a Talrand’s Invocation, putting a pair of much-needed Drakes into play.
Sam again swings with the pair on turn 11. I offer up the Augur to the massive Wurm, and trade my pair of Drakes for Yeva. Sam simply replaces her with a Centaur Courser, keeping the pressure up. I then add an Archaeomancer, returning the Talrand’s Invocation to hand. Back to Sam, she comes in with the Gorger and Centaur, relentless and pounding as a Green deck can be. I shove the expended Archaomancer in front of the Wurm, taking 3 from the Centaur. As expected, once my turn begins I simply replay Talrand’s Invocation for more chumps to stay alive with.
The Drakes don’t have long to live- each one chumps one of Sam’s attackers on turn 1, but they’re quickly replaced with a Scroll Thief and Wind Drake. Still, I can’t chump forever, and when Sam lands a Rancor for the Gorger, I don’t long stand.
I lead with a Island, while Sam again finds an opening Arbor Elf. Next turn I’m back with the Augur of Bolas, though, and this time it’s Switcheroo and a pair of lands. Sam plays a Forest, and ends her turn. Back to me, I fire in for 1 with the Augur, then play a second one, this time finding a Divination nestled between a land and a Scroll Thief. For her part, Sam once again gets ahold of Yeva, and with the Arbor Elf out she’s a turn-3 summons.
Now turn 4, I play a Mountain and pass. Sam turns Yeva sideways to begin the beats, but I chump with an Augur. Then, at end of turn, I Searing Spear her to finish the job. It’s a two-for-one, but I need to slow the pace of the game down. Next turn, I attack with the remaining Augur to reduce Sam to 18, then play Divination. Finding a Fog Bank, I go ahead and add it, too. For her part, Sam lands a Centaur Courser, then puts Rancor to it.
I drop an Island on turn 6, but have nothing more to show. Sam attacks for 5 with the Centaur, drawing an answering Searing Spear. Rancor returns to hand, but the Centaur is off to the graveyard. Back to me, I send in the Augur for another lone point of damage, then play an Archaeomancer (returning the Divination- the burn is tempting, but it’s land I’m after). Sam then turns a clever play by putting the Rancor on the Elf, then using Prey Upon to have the Elf kill off my Fog Bank. Dastardly!
A turn-8 Divination finds me an Island, which I add to my collection before sending my Wizards in to nick Sam for 2, leaving her at 15. Sam counterattacks for 3 with the Elf, but has no other play. I finally find the last Island I need on turn 9, rejoicing in the arrival of the Stormtide Leviathan. Sam answers with a now-useless Spiked Baloth.
The Leviathan thunders in for 8 on turn 10, cutting Sam in half. A Talrand’s Invocation at this point is just gravy. Sam draws, then scoops.
For the third game in a row, Sam manages to open with an Arbor Elf, but I’m much more comfortable behind my leading Kraken Hatchling. Sam then doubles down with a second Arbor Elf on turn 2. For my part, I play a Mountain, but then on a hunch decide to simply pass the turn rather than play anything.
My hunch pays off on turn 3, allowing me to Essence Scatter a Garruk’s Packleader. I then follow up with a Divination after dropping an Island to help refill the hand. Next turn sees Sam summon a Primal Huntbeast alongside a third Arbor Elf, then play and crack an Evolving Wilds to go hunt down a Swamp. My turn is another blank- no hunches involved- but I do find another land.
Now turn 5, Sam swings with everything for 6. I block the Huntbeast with the Hatchling, taking 3. Next she adds a Deadly Recluse before passing. All I manage is an Elixir of Immortality. Back to Sam, she swings for 7 and again I blunt the largest of it with the Hatchling to go down to 13. I then follow on with an Augur of Bolas, grabbing me a Switcheroo.
I go down to 10 on turn 7 when Sam again comes in with the next wave of creature assault, killing one of the Elves with my Augur. She then looks to replace it with a Centaur Courser, but I seize the opportunity to Rewind it. I then stabilise my defensive position with a Harbor Serpent. That slows things down quite a bit- Sam’s next-turn attack is simply for 1 with the Deadly Recluse to put me at 9. With the Spider out of the way, I counterattack for 5 with the Serpent, having just played my fifth Island. I then shore up the defenses with a Wind Drake and Augur of Bolas, the latter happily finding me a Talrand’s Invocation.
Sam kills the Wind Drake on turn 9 with a Prey Upon, pitting it against her Huntbeast, but that’s all she’s got. Next turn, I replace the one lost Drake with a pair from the Invocation. Sam’s next turn is a blank as she regroups, so I send in both Drakes to lower her life to 11.
Now turn 11, Sam looks to trim the board down with a Predatory Rampage, sending in the side. I chump her Huntbeast with the Hatchling, and kill an Elf with my Harbor Serpent. My Augurs step in front of her other Elf and the Recluse, while I take a moment to pop my Elixir. At the end of it, I’ve weathered the storm and sit at 14 life. Going in sideways for 9, I finish off the overextended Sam with a Searing Spear.
Thoughts & Analysis
After the complexity nightmare that was our trip to Lorwyn, this match felt like a sweet breath of fresh air after running out of a burning building. The critical fringe might well deride the game for moving in a “dumbed down” direction from time to time- and I’m not saying that position is universally without merit- but if there’s one thing we love about the modern-day Core Sets, it’s hitting the right balance between purity and intricacy. Seeing the underwhelming mechanical content of Lorwyn also has made us appreciate the elegance of a set full of evergreen mechanics as well as one returning one.
That isn’t to say we’re looking to make a direct comparison from one set to another- each deck should be weighed on its own merits and how it relates to the set and Magic overall. But as the Ertai’s Lament crew vaults from one set to the next in our never-ending journey through Magic’s multiverse, a strange and curious phenomena becomes evident. In short, the more experienced we become, the more like inexperienced players at times we feel. Put another way- the rapid pace with which we have to acclimate to a new mechanical environment, test it, and leave it gives us a deeper appreciation for the simpler, more straightforward design of a Core Set deck.
What’s intriguing about Magic 2013 is that players of all experience levels are having a more positive response to these decks than any we’ve seen in recent memory. There’s always going to be a hostile element, who thinks any deck not packed with 36 rares and mythics for $9.99 is getting ‘ripped off’ by Wizards, but even the notoriously critical forums at MTG Salvation seem to have had a more positive reception for these decks than for others previous. It remains to be seen the degree to which this relative optimism is justified, but we’re excited to find out.
Today’s match was certainly a good omen. Sam and I had an absolute blast playing our decks against one another. The preferences for Sam and I are about as different as can be, but both of us found a deck that caters to our playstyle within the same set- a nice accomplishment. The Green-loving Sam got ramp and beaters, delighting in some of the newer tricks that Green has been picking up (such as fight). Meanwhile, I get a deck which doesn’t rely exclusively on creature combat, and instead offers a welcome level of depth of play.
On the whole, Depths of Power did a fine job living up to its promise. I was able to find a good number of instants and sorceries, and had few problems casting them. I was reliably able to generate card advantage and dig deeper into my deck, and the level of board stall felt about right. I was certainly rewarded for lasting long enough to summon either my Leviathan or Harbor Serpent, and as they should those closers had an immediate impact on the board. Although Sam was able to deal with some of my aerial threats (as she should), it still felt like I was able to field a formidable aerial presence as well.
If I have a nit to pick, it’s that the deck didn’t quite feel like it cared about instants and sorceries enough. Sure the Archaeomancer does, as she relies on you having played a few already to get maximal value, and Talrand, Sky Summoner relies on them as well. Sure the Mindclaw Shaman and Augur of Bolas touch on them, but it felt like there needed to be a little more payoff to make the deck really shine. Something along the lines of a Kiln Fiend would be a perfect fit, rewarding you for setting up several casts in a turn. Furthermore, I could see what the Elixir of Immortality was trying to do, but that would likely be my first cut in tuning up the deck. In addition to having negative synergy with the Archaeomancer, it would be more to the deck’s advantage to include ways to pull its cards back rather than hoping to draw into them again.
But this is a minor quibble, and certainly any Intro Deck that inspires you to give thought on how to improve it is doing its job. For those looking for a way in to Magic 2013, this is one deck we’d recommend without qualification.
Hits: Deck does a superb job of staying on-theme with “instants and sorceries matter”; Augur of Bolas is a superb card, and was an MVP contender of the match; deck gives a welcome “introduction to combo” that will help newer players establish connections between cards, such as the Stormtide Leviathan turning on the Harbor Serpent
Misses: Would have liked to have seen just a bit more payoff for working with instants and sorceries, but this is admittedly a bit of a quibble
OVERALL SCORE: 4.60/5.00