Onslaught: Devastation Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s the first game in our review series for Onslaught, and Jimi joins me at the table for the opening clash. In my corner are the Elves and Beasts of Devastation. In hers? The Black and White Clerics of Ivory Doom. Only one of our two decks will live up to its name this evening- which shall it be?
Jimi’s on the play for our first Onslaught match, and opens her account with a Swamp. I play a Forest. Next turn she drops a Starlit Sanctum then taps out for a Headhunter. I both ramp my manabase and shore up my defensive vulnerability with a Wirewood Elf.
Now turn 3, Jimi begins with a Barren Moor. She then Smothers the Elf, letting the Headhunter swing in unopposed. Forced to discard, I throw away a Forest. Back to me, I play a morphed Towering Baloth and end. Next turn, down comes the Cabal Archon as Jimi begins amassing her Clerics. My turn, sadly, is a blank.
Now turn 5, Jimi uses a Death Pulse to kill my morph and again lets her Headhunter connect alongside the Archon for 3. I pitch a Krosan Groundshaker, then begin my own turn. A Forest is drawn, a Forest is played, and I’m able to summon a Barkhide Mauler. Back to Jimi, she again has the answer- a Pacifism– and in come the Clerics. I’m now down to 13 life, and have to discard a Chain of Plasma. Some luck finally goes my way, though, as I topdeck my first Mountain on my next draw, letting me tap out and play the last card in my hand- a Shaleskin Bruiser.
This stymies Jimi a bit, and and she takes a moment to regroup on turn 7, adding a Daru Healer and passing. I draw a Forest, but keep it in hand as I pass without play. Jimi then cycles a freshly-drawn Barren Moor and plays a Foothill Guide. Again I draw a Forest and pass, unable to find anything useful.
A second Foothill Guide touches down on turn 9, after which I land a Tephraderm. It’s academic, however, as Jimi simply uses an Akroma’s Blessing to give her forces protection from Red, swings with everything unopposed, and pops them to the Archon to seal the victory.
I’m on the play for our next bout, and open with a Tranquil Thicket. Jimi and I then trade land drops until she breaks the streak with a second-turn Foothill Guide. Back to me, I counter with a morphed Venomspout Brackus. Jimi adds a Cabal Archon, and we’re off to the races!
A second morph joins the first as I stick a face-down, turn-4 Towering Baloth, while Jimi answers with a Doubtless One. I score first blood next turn when I send the morphed Brackus into the red zone, daring Jimi to block it. She doesn’t, so I’m forced to leave it hidden and try to kill the Doubtless One another way. I then target it with an Erratic Explosion, and hit paydirt on the very first flip as I reveal a Wirewood Savage. Jimi’s Sigil of the New Dawn arrives a turn too late.
Now turn 6, I attack with the morphed Brackus for 2 more, flipping it after she declines to block to reveal the 5/5 majesty beneath and leave her at 13. Back to Jimi, she then plays a morph of her own before passing. I send the Brackus back into the red zone to do its grim business, bashing Jimi down to 8. I then follow up with a Wirewood Savage and Wirewood Elf. Jimi simply plays a Foothill Guide and Doubtless One, then passes.
Now turn 8, I begin with a Tranquil Thicket, then another Brackus attack. Jimi chumps with her Foothill Guide, after which I add a Charging Slateback to the field and giving me a card off of the Savage. Jimi simply plays another Cabal Archon and ends her turn. Next turn, I attack in with the Slateback, the Brackus, and the morphed Baloth. The Brackus gets gang-blocked with the Doubtless One and a Cabal Archon, with Jimi using the Sigil of the New Dawn to return the Doubtless One to hand. Although I have a pump spell in hand, I opt to let the Brackus go so that I can flip over the Towering Baloth after it gets through, even as Jimi chumps the Slateback with her Foothill Guide. When the dust clears, between the massive damage she took and the Doubtless One’s lifegain, she finds herself holding on at 4 life. She then untaps, plays a Starlit Sanctum and the Doubtless One, and ends her turn.
Jimi leads with an opening-turn Foothill Guide, after which she lands a Battlefield Medic after drawing first blood. The turn following, she attacks with both to put me at 17, then cycles a Barren Moor. Only then do I finally play something other than land- a morphed Snarling Undorak.
Now turn 4, Jimi plays a morph of her own, then cycles a Secluded Steppe. I hit the ramping overdrive with an Explosive Vegetation and pass. Back to Jimi, she attacks me with her morphed creature, and I pay a steep price for letting it pass as she flips it to reveal a Cabal Executioner. That compels me to sacrifice a creature, and off goes my Undorak. I’m able to replace it with a Tephradon, then end my turn.
A turn-6 Daunting Defender adds its support to Jimi’s Clerical buildup, but she sits pat. I attack with the Tephradon for 4, then reinforce with a Shaleskin Bruiser. Next turn Jimi goes large with a Doubtless One and passes, while I come back with a Barkhide Mauler and Wirewood Elf.
A second Battlefield Medic on turn 8 is a cause for concern, as alongside the first one and the Daunting Defender I’m in some trouble. Back to me, I swing for 18 with my trio of Beasts, the Bruiser getting a double bonus for the two Beasts attacking alongside it. It certainly looks impressive, but doesn’t get me far. The Bruiser gets blocked by the Doubtless One, which easily absorbs the hit with a Battlefield Medic blanking a large chunk of the damage and the Defender reducing it passively by 1. Though she takes the outher 8 damage, the lifegain from the Doubtless One mitigates all but 2 of that to leave her quite happily at 14. I Solar Blast the untapped and summoning-sick Medic, but I know ultimately it’s a futile gesture.
Jimi proves the right of this as she uses an Akroma’s Blessing to give her troops protection from Green, skirting the Wirewood Elf I’ve left back on chump detail. I plummet to 3 life as Jimi goes up to 20. Drawing nothing, I scoop.
Thoughts & Analysis
Getting right down to it, I was not especially impressed with Devastation. Although I have no doubt that ramp-to-fatties can be an effective strategy when employed effectively, the sad truth has been that in my experience few decks seem to manage this well. I saw nothing in Devastation that caused me to reconsider this assessment. The Elf ramping suite is fairly spartan and didn’t show up enough to help me at hardly any point in the game.
In addition, Explosive Vegetation is less effective than it initially appears. Sure the double-fetch is nice, but generally speaking the best ramp is the ramp that gets you outsize fatties earlier than you would normally would be able to play them. A great example of this comes from Worldwake, where an opening Arbor Elf could enable a turn-2 Leatherback Baloth. Expolsive Vegetation didn’t give you the feeling of being able to get a leg up on your opponent since it typically came down on turn 4, but instead simply as a way to simply play your absurdly expensive creatures.
With the ramping suite deemed unimpressive, we next judge its faculty for removal. Here, too, it sadly falls short, and too often I had little in hand to manage affairs on the other side of the table. What burn I had was somewhat mixed in quality, but I’d have enjoyed greater quality- as well as some Shocks, the exclusion of which is somewhat baffling.
The deck can come together and work- there’s just too much fat to fail 100% of the time. Sadly, it’s a bit of a slow and laborious process to get there, and never really feels worth the effort.
Hits: If you enjoy sending expensive creatures hurtling across the table at your opponent, this is the Onslaught deck for you
Misses: Massively bloated mana curve can clutter your hand up with uncastable cards; ramp suite is a bit underwhelming, with poor early options (Elvish Pioneers) and mediocre late ones (Explosive Vegetation); disappointing burn package
OVERALL SCORE: 3.50/5.00