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August 13, 2012

Urza’s Saga: Sleeper Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

After the previous lackluster playtest, Tombstone is something of a persona non grata in the house. Just as we take note of the strongest of decks, so do we of the opposite of the species, since every deck in essence gets a “home and away.” Sam bites the bullet and slides Tombstone out of its box, ready to do battle against the mono-White Sleeper. 

Game One

Sam’s on the play with the opener, with a rousing battle cry of “alright, let’s get this over with.” She plays a tapped Drifting Meadow, and I do the same. Next she plays a Swamp, which I match with a Plains, tapping both to produce a Songstitcher and Opal Caryatid.

Now turn 3, Sam plays another Swamp, but has nothing else. I attack in with the Songstitcher for 1, then add a Sanctum Custodian. Back to Sam, she misses her first land drop and passes the turn without incident. For my part, I attack with both bodies for 2 then bring out a third, the Angelic Page.

Sam does nothing on turn 5, compelling her to discard a card. When that card is an Abyssal Horror, I have a feeling for what’s coming next. I attack for 2, pumping up one with the Page to put Sam down to 14. I then cycle a Disciple of Grace hoping for a land drop, but come up empty. Back to Sam, she casts Exhume. This lets me get back the Disciple I just cycled, but also sees Sam’s Horror sent to the battlefield, forcing me to discard two cards. I pitch a Plains and an Endoskeleton. Sam then looks to curb any aerial shenanigans with a Despondency on the Page before passing. For my part, I play a Brilliant Halo on the Disciple, then swing in for 4 with an extra dose from the Page. Sam’s down to 9 life.

Sam’s turn 7 Pendrell Drake finally wakes up my Opal Caryatid, giving me a 2/2 Soldier. At the end of her turn, I cycle a Disciple of Law to get something more useful. Now my turn proper, I attack with the Disciple of Grace and the Caryatid/Soldier. Sam’s in a bind, since she can’t profitably block. Between the Page and the Custodian, she can’t even gang block to remove the Soldier. She lets them in, going down to 4. I then lay down the Opal Titan and pass. Sam’s next turn is a blank, so once my turn rolls back around I try and remove the Drake from the equation with a Pacifism. Alas, Sam’s ready with a Power Sink to counter it and tap me out. It doesn’t buy her much time- my attack forces her to chump with both, and she scoops the turn after.

Game Two

Again we open with dueling Drifting Meadows, then Sam plays an Island which I match with another Plains. This lets me begin with an Opal Caryatid. Next turn Sam Catalogs, seeing her pitch a Sandbar Serpent into the graveyard, while I deploy a Pegasus Charger.

Opal Caryatid

Now turn 4, Sam activates my Caryatid with a Pendrell Drake. Back to me, I dish out a Brilliant Halo to each of my two creatures, letting me swing in for 6. Back to Sam, she reanimates the Sandbar Serpent with a Diabolic Servitude, attacking in for 2 with the Drake. I pile on the auras, putting a Serra’s Embrace on the Caryatid/Soldier, hammering Sam for 8. She’s now down to 6 life.

Her next turn is a blank, though she does manage another land. Back to me, I cycle a Drifting Meadows to pull a Plains, then play it. I next swing in for another 8 with the team, but Sam then Disenchants the Serra’s Embrace. The Caryatd/Soldier, now grounded, is snapped up by Sam’s two creatures in a gang-block which lets me at least kill off the Drake. The Halo comes back to hand, then I summon a Pegasus Charger and pass.

Now turn 7, Sam Confiscates my enchanted Charger and passes. I then add the Brilliant Halo to the one I still control, then play an Endoskeleton. I swing with the Charger, and the Endoskeleton lets mine survive while Sam’s dies- though to be fair at 3 life she had no other choice. Next turn, Sam clings to life with a Diabolic Servitude, returning the Pendrell Drake to play. She cycles a Remote Isle, then counterattacks in for 3 with the Serpent since all my threats are in the air. Of course, when I Pacify her Drake, that sets up an alpha strike for the win.

Game Three

The final clash goes much the way of the earlier ones at first, with me finding a turn-2 Opal Gargoyle and Sam looking to set up a good hand with a next-turn Catalog (throwing away an Island). Things take a new twist, however, when I next play a Dragon Blood.

Now turn 4, Sam again wakes the sleeping enchantment with a Pendrell Drake. For my part, I swing for 2 with the Gargoyle my enchantment gave birth to, which Sam declines to block thanks to the Dragon Blood and three open mana. I then play another Opal Gargoyle and pass. Next turn, Sam plays an Island but has nothing else, as I cycle a Disciple of Grace at the end of her turn. Then, during my upkeep, she goes ahead and cycles a Sandbar Serpent. I attack in for another 2, and this time Sam takes the block to commit me to three mana. Pumped by the Blood, my Gargoyle prevails and Sam’s Drake heads for the graveyard. Sam then cycles a Polluted Mire to see the turn out.

Not content to watch my shenanigans from afar, Sam Confiscates my Dragon Blood on turn 6, since as is so often the case with White Weenie, there’s a lack of any single standout creature. I swing in for 3 with the Gargoyle to put her at 15, then play a Voice of Grace. Next turn Sam returns her Drake to play with Diabolic Servitude. I play a replacement Dragon Blood, much to Sam’s chagrin, then Pacify her Drake. This lets me swing in for 5, but Sam Disenchants the Pacifism to restore her blocking option, killing my Voice of Grace. Still, the Gargoyle gets in for 3.

Now turn 8, Sam returns the Sandbar Serpent to play with another Diabolic Servitude. She attacks for 2 with the Drake, then uses the Dragon Blood to give it a +1/+1 counter to put me to 17. I simply fire back for 3 of my own- she’s now at 9- then play a Monk Idealist to return the Pacifism to hand. Next turn Sam cycles a Drifting Meadow, then fires in for 6 with both beaters. I Humble her Serpent, blocking it with the Monk to kill it. It’s exiled from the game, and the controlling Servitude goes back to Sam’s hand. She pumps the Drake with another dose of Dragon Blood, and I’m now at 13 life. Back to me, I use the Pacifism to solve the Drake, then attack in with the Gargoyle as I pump it with my own Dragon Blood. Sam’s now at 5 life.

Sam’s turn 10 is a worrying blank, but she’s got nothing. I cycle a Drifting Meadow for a Plains, then alpha strike for the win.

Thoughts & Analysis

So often in our reviews we see the same archetypes over and over, and it makes us really appreciate those decks that go out on a limb to try and do something a different way. Sleeper falls very firmly in that category, since this was a take on White Weenie quite different from most anything else. Ordinarily, White Weenie is a horde of White creatures, some combat tricks and removal, and a few pieces of equipment. With the inclusion of sleeper enchantments, while stylistically much the same this deck played out in a very different way.

Monk Realist

For one thing, simply playing sleepers can have a small chilling effect on your opponent. If they’re not ready to face a horde of creatures, they may delay playing one of their own. This isn’t always a positive- a control deck with just a few fat closers will be delighted at the extra time afforded it- but can help level out a stumbling start and give you a few draws to formulate a plan of attack. The deck also had a very stable and consistent mana curve, with 22 lands feeling about right for it to function optimally. This too allows for slightly looser keeps, since you’re at reduced risk of being mana screwed with so many inexpensive cards in the deck.

Taken as a straightforward White Weenie deck, it functioned well on this level too. White Weenie- particularly decks of an earlier vintage- particularly enjoy complicating blocking assignments. As we saw in game one, just having cards like the Angelic Page and Sanctum Custodian made it impossible for Sam to profitably block, and thus let me get in for more damagae than I otherwise might. Indeed, in both modes- a standard White Weenie deck as well as a break from the norm- Sleeper did exceptionally well. This is a standout inclusion in the set, and recommend it highly.

Hits: Superb twist on the standard WW archetype; great mana curve and base allows for strong starts and looser keeps; deck is ton of fun to play- sleepers feel like minelaying for your opponent

Misses: Sleeper enchantments can let your opponent dictate the pace and course of the game; bad draws can give you too little teeth if your opponent plays around your sleepers

OVERALL SCORE: 4.60/5.00

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