Magic 2013: Sweet Revenge Review (Part 2 of 2)
This is it, our final game for Magic 2013- the next time we touch these decks will likely be in the Preconstruced Championships next Autumn. We found the two Event Decks to be great fits and foils for one another… would the same hold true with the decks having changed hands?
I’m on the play, having suffered overwhelming defeat in our opening friendly. I begin slowly, playing some early land drops until a turn-3 Armored Skaab touches down, sending three land and a Geistflame into the graveyard. For her part, Sam’s opened with a Llanowar Elves, enabling a second-turn Mwonvuli Beast Tracker to fetch an Acidic Slime. The turn following she goes big with a Roaring Primadox.
This forces my hand, compelling me to bring out my first sweeper with a Rolling Temblor on turn 4. This kills Sam’s smaller fry, and turns the Primadox’s ability back against itself. Next turn with nothing left to return to hand, Sam is forced to bring back the Primadox. After playing a Razorverge Thicket, she looks to refill her hand with a Lead the Stampede. It’s right on-par with a return of three creatures, bringing a Stingerfling Spider, another Primadox, and a Fiend Hunter into her hand, though the Primadox gets discarded at end of turn to bring her hand size down to spec. Next turn I play a Mountain and pass, while Sam adds an Attended Knight and 1/1 Soldier token to the board. I play a Forbidden Alchemy at the end of her turn, keeping a Fettergeist and pitching some lands and a Faithless Looting.
Now turn 6, I lead by drawing a card with a Think Twice, then playing the Desolate Lighthouse it brought me. I then flash back a Faithless Looting, hitting my first Burning Vengeance while flushing my hand of a pair of Desperate Ravings. Sam answers with a Fiend Hunter, exiling my Skaab and letting her Knight and Soldier hit me for the game’s first damage. Next turn, I play the Burning Vengeance and pass. Sam summons a Roaring Primadox after attacking for 4 with the side.
Down to 13 life, I sweep the board a second time with a Slagstorm, leaving only the Primadox behind. As an added bonus, killing Sam’s Fiend Hunter returns my Armored Skaab to play, milling four more cards from the top of my library (a Burning Vengeance, Fettergeist, Armored Skaab, and Faithless Looting). Again with no other creatures to return Sam is forced to return the Primadox to hand. She follows up with a Llanowar Elves, then another Lead the Stampede. This time, it nets a Geist-Honored Monk, Arbor Elf, and another Llanowar Elves. Once more above full, Sam pitches the Arbor Elf and Primadox to get to seven cards.
Now turn 9, I play a Forbidden Alchemy, getting another Burning Vengeance while seeing off a Faithless Looting, Fettergeist, and Island. I play the Burning Vengeance and pass, having now put two into play. Back to Sam, she plays an Elvish Visionary and another Primadox, setting up a nifty combo. Back to me, I start the turn with a Sulfur Falls, then flash back the Rolling Temblor I played on turn 4. This kills Sam’s Elvish Visionary and damages the Primadox. I then send 2 points from one Burning Vengeance to finish it off, the the 2 from the other to Sam’s face. With the path now celar, I turn my Skaab sideways and nick Sam for another point of damage. I then cast a Faithless Looting, throwing away a pair of lands. For her part, Sam plays a Llanowar Elves, then picks off one of my Vengeances with the Acidic Slime.
Its now turn 11, and I flash back a Forbidden Alchemy, keeping a Slagstorm and discarding a couple of Pillars of Flame and a Mountain. Looking for a creature to stick, Sam finds a Sunblast Angel with a Green Sun’s Zenith. Back to me, I Slagstorm then flash back Think Twice, letting me kill the Angel. I attack again for 1 with the Skaab to put Sam at 16, but nervously glance at my library which is about 3/4ths depleted now. Sam then goes big with a Geist-Honored Monk and Blade Splicer.
I flash back a Geistflame on turn 13 to kill the Blade Splicer, putting the other 2 on the Golem token. I then flash back a Faithless Looting to finish it off. Sam recovers, though, with an Arbor Elf and Attended Knight, letting her swing for 8 with the 6/6 Monk and her Spirit pals. This drops me to 5 life, and on dangerous ground.
Next turn, I flash back a Faithless Looting to kill her Knight, getting rid of a couple of lands. I then pick off a 1/1 Spirit with a Silent Departure, killing it. Undaunted, Sam replies with an Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Stingerfling Spider, then attacks for 5 with the Monk. I chump with my Skaab and Sam passes the turn.
Now turn 15, I double up on creatures with a Fettergeist and Firewing Phoenix. Sam plays another Attended Knight, then attacks for 7 with the Monk. I gang block with my two creatures for a three-way trade. Next turn, I Geistflame Sam’s Pilgrim to kill it, then flash back the Giestflame to kill her Arbor Elf and Attended Knight. I then play a Think Twice, pulling another Burning Vengeance. Back to Sam, she attacks in for 4 to leave me at 1, then ends the game with a Thragtusk. It’s a card I have no answer for, and I scoop at my next turn.
Again on the play, I transform an opening Evolving Wilds into a Swamp, while Sam plays an Avacyn’s Pilgrim off a Razorverge Thicket. Determined to stymie Sam’s growth I immediately pick off the Pilgrim with a Pillar of Flame, and am satisfied to see Sam’s next turn a blank aside from a land drop.
Now turn 3, I land an early Burning Vengeance. Sam’s turn 3 is another blank, though again she hits her land drop. I miss mine on the following turn, but still am able to deploy a Fettergeist. For her part, Sam staves off some early damage with a Stonehorn Dignitary.
A turn-5 Darkslick Shores comes into play tapped, but I am still able to cast Forbidden Alchemy, throwing of note a Firewing Phoenix and another Alchemy into the graveyard. Again Sam plays a land and passes. Next turn I attack for 3 with the Fettergeist, then play Faithless Looting. This gets me another Burning Vengeance, but sees me pitch a Desperate Ravings and Faithless Looting. And a good thing, too- Sam’s answering Brutalizer Exarch buries my existing Vengeance at the bottom of my library. She then attacks for 1 with the Dignitary, and I’m down to 19.
Now turn 7, I simply replace the missing Burning Vengeance with the new one and pass. Back to Sam, she plays a Lead the Stampede and turns up with an Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Borderland Ranger, and Llanowar Elves- not exactly the haul of the decade. She then makes up for it by summoning a Glimmerpoint Stag to flicker the Exarch, sending my Burning Vengeance to join the first one at the bottom of the library. Next turn I have no real play, but do find an Evolving Wilds from the top of my deck. The Mountain it gets me is nice, but also much more critically lets me shuffle my deck to move those two Burning Vengeances off the bottom! For her part, Sam deploys an Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Llanowar Elves, and Borderland Ranger to grab an extra Forest.
I kill off Sam’s Exarch on turn 9 with a combination of Geistflame and Pillar of Flame, then pass. Sam answers with a Sunblast Angel and Roaring Primadox. Next turn I flash back a Faithless Looting, finding me two Burning Vengeances at the expense of a Geistflame and Skaab. I play one of them and pass. Over to Sam, she returns the Stag to hand, then attacks in for 8 with the Primadox and Angel to put me to 11.
I stick the second Burning Vengeance on turn 11, then flash back a Faithless Looting to kill her Primadox. This sees me pitch a pair of Think Twices to the graveyard. Over to Sam, she answers with an Attended Knight and a 4-point attack from the Angel. At 7 life, I finally find a sweeper in a Slagstorm and play it. Sam’s brutally punished, losing her Ranger, Knight, Soldier token, Llanowar Elves, and Pilgrim. I then flash back Think Twice to polish off the Angel and Dignitary, and attack for 3 against a clean board. Stunned and saddened, Sam does nothing for her turn.
On turn lucky-number-13, I play another Burning Vengeance, then flash back a Think Twice. This puts me up a card but, more importantly, it puts Sam down 6 life. I then attack for another 3 with my Fettergeist, leaving Sam at 5. Unable to find an answer, Sam scoops.
A turn-2 Think Twice is the game’s first play, after Sam and I spend our openings laying land. She then adds a turn-3 Borderland Ranger to grab a Forest, while I stick a Fettergeist. Next turn, Sam adds a Stonehorn Dignitary, while I cast a Faithless Looting to sift some cards. I grab another Fettergeist, but pitch a Desperate Ravings and Geistflame. I then go into the tank for a moment, and decide to try a gamble by playing a second Fettergiest. Each will force me to pay for the other, but I wager if Sam can’t solve 6 power in the air in four turns I’ve got the game taken. Can the deck pivot and go for an aggro posture?
Now turn 5, Sam plays another Borderland Ranger and a Llanowar Elves, and all looks good as I swing in for 6 to put her at 14 after paying two mana to keep the pair up. I then play a Think Twice for another card, and burn out a Ranger with a Pillar of Flame to keep the race in my favour. Things go pear-shaped, however, when Sam finds her Sunblast Angel, wiping both of my Fettergeists out. She then attacks in for 4 and passes. Back to me, I play a Burning Vengeance and a replacement Fettergeist, then end my turn.
Sam sweeps the enchantment to the bottom of my library with a Brutalizer Exarch, then attacks for another 4. Alas, my turn is a blank aside for a Mountain. Net turn Sam kills the Fettergeist with a Stingerfling Spider as fortune goes entirely her way, attacking for 10 to put me at 2. An Attended Knight follows, and I flash back a Desperate Ravings just to try and find a sweeper. I don’t, and I scoop up my cards.
Thoughts & Analysis
It’s always a lot of fun when I get to be behind the wheel of a deck I found brutally terrifying, and see how much different it is when you’ve got it all laid out in front of you. In our last playtest, where I piloted Repeat Performance, it seemed like doom was always just a sweeper away. I was always having to ration my troop deployment, balancing the need to put pressure on my opponent with the need to be able to swiftly recover from a sweep. It made for an unusually tense game, an atmosphere we tend to find with Event Decks, and was in turns both frustrating or delightful- often both!
What seemed like a monolithic juggernaut of near-impervious mass destruction that required tight playskill and a bit of luck to overcome, however, gave quite a different impression on the other side. Although the deck’s bread and butter is in its use and abuse of Burning Vengeance, the real teeth of the deck often were its sweepers. By keeping the creature population artificially low, Sweet Revenge was able to force Repeat Performance to keep the brakes on, so that any mass deployment was at its own peril.
Whereas Sam almost always seemed to have a sweeper, though, I felt like I couldn’t draw them for love or money. As a result, I felt constantly overwhelmed by a troop buildup on the other side of the table, and it frequently seemed that I was in dire need of answers I just couldn’t find. This moves it from the “unstoppable juggernaut” class to more of a “feast or famine” deck, one that is brutal when it has its best cards but then can struggle pitifully without them. It certainly could use some tightening up, beginning with more Slagstorms.
What perhaps most surprised me about the deck is that it didn’t seem as fun as I was expecting it to be. Although the anticipation was high- it had all the signs of being a deck in the style I most enjoy- the payoff was something of a damp squib. By the end simply digging to find your money cards just wasn’t as engaging as it looked from across the table.
Hits: Feast and famine-style build that is very hard to defeat once it finds its tools
Misses: Lives and dies on its ability to clear the table, and in its stock incarnation could be better equipped to do so
OVERALL SCORE: 4.50/5.00