Onslaught: Ivory Doom Review (Part 2 of 2)
We’re back to Onslaught, and ready to go with the second half of the set’s review. I’ve sleeved up Ivory Doom, a White/Black tribal Cleric deck (and the object of our most recent giveaway), while Jimi’s ready with Celestial Assault. Clerics against Gustcloaks…who will have the edge?
I’m on the play with six cards in hand thanks to a lousy opening draw, and begin with a Barren Moor while Jimi opens with a Plains. Next turn, we exchange lands drops again, while a turn-3 Starlit Sanctum allows me to morph a Daru Healer that I couldn’t otherwise play due to a lack of White mana. With no such problems, Jimi deploys a Gustcloak Harrier.
Now turn 4, I attack in for 2, then morph a Foothill Guide. Jimi counters for 2 with the Harrier, then taps out for a Daru Cavalier, fetching a replacement copy from her library. Back to me, I simply play a Disciple of Malice and end turn. Jimi attacks again for 2 in the air, then summons a Screaming Seahawk. Again she gets to go into her library for a replacement copy, and she ends her turn.
I finally find a source of White mana on turn 6 with a Secluded Steppe, though I’m already well behind. Jimi presses for 4 with her fliers, leaving me at 12. She then plays her second Cavalier. Back to me, I draw a Barren Moor. With no shortage of Black mana, I cycle it away immediately, and draw… a Swamp. Jimi keeps the air assault up for another 4, but now I can at least unmorph my Healer to take a little of the edge off. She then summons an Ascending Aven and passes.
Now turn 8, I unmorph my Foothill Guide to give me another on-field Cleric, then pick off her Ascending Aven with a Profane Prayers to go back up to 12. In return, Jimi Essence Fractures my Disciple and healer back to hand, coming in with the side for 8. I chump with my Guide to save a little life, but Jimi makes up for the lost ground by Piety Charming one of the fliers. Down to my final draw, I find nothing and concede.
I open- oh irony- with a Secluded Steppe this time around to kick off our second game, and Jimi follows with a Plains. Again we trade land drops on turn 2, but Jimi finds a play in the form of a Gustcloak Runner.
In what is to be a fateful play, I cast Astral Slide on turn 3. With no defense, Jimi’s Runner nicks in for first blood but otherwise she has no other options. Next turn I play a Plains and pass, while she attacks in again before summoning a Gustcloak Sentinel.
Now turn 5, I find my first Cleric, a Disciple of Malice, whose protection from White gives me some edge against Jimi. When she swings in with both creatures on the attack, I’m able to absorb the Sentinel with my Disciple and take only 1 from the Runner. Next turn, I bring out the Gangrenous Goliath, a relative powerhouse in the environment. Jimi’s turn is a happy blank.
Cycling a Disciple of Grace on turn 7, I flicker Jimi’s Sentinel out of the way thanks to the Astral Slide, then thunder in with my Goliath for 4 to take a momentary lead. Back to Jimi, she attacks with both Gustcloaks, and again I block the Sentinel with the Disciple and take 1 from the Runner, evening us up at 16. She plays an Ascending Aven and passes turn. Back to me, I turn the Goliath sideways to keep the pressure up. Jimi blocks with her Sentinel, then casts Piety Charm to pump it up for the kill. I respond by cycling a Barren Moor, flickering the Sentinel away to fizzle her spell and save my Goliath. I then summon a Doubtless One and pass. Jimi swings with the Aven in the air for 3 to put me to 13, then summons a Gustcloak Skirmisher.
Now turn 9, I Swat the Skirmisher before attacking for 4 more with the Goliath. Jimi takes the damage, and goes down to 12. Over to her, she swings in with the team. I block the Sentinel with my Disciple as usual, and put the fledgling Doubtless One (a 2/2) in front of the onrushing Runner. Hoping for a surprise kill, Jimi then Inspirits the Runner to give it lethal damage, but I save my Doubtless One with an Akroma’s Blessing I’d been holding onto. I go down to 10 from the Aven, though- little I can do to stop that. Next turn I hammer in with the Goliath to put Jimi to 8 and pass. Jimi sends in the side again, and this time there are no tricks. It ends with two untapped Gustcloaks, and me down 3 life to end at 7.
Now turn 11, I summon a Disciple of Grace to help grow my Doubtless One, and send it in on the attack alongside the Goliath for 7. Jimi casts an Akroma’s Blessing of her own, giving her side protection from Black. This lets her stymie the Goliath with her Runner, then try and sort out the Doubtless One with a Unified Strike. I respond by cycling a Barren Moor, letting me flicker the creature out of harm’s way. Jimi’s counterattack nets another 3-point life loss, and I’m now at 4.
I summon a turn-12 Foothill Guide, again a useless option but one that helps the Doubtless One grow. This lets me turn both of my 4/4’s sideways for 8, forcing Jimi to gang-block the Doubtless One with her Gustcloaks. She goes down to 4 from the Goliath, while I reset to 8 from the Doubtless One’s lifegain. Jimi then topdecks a solution at last, sticking Sandskin on my Goliath.
Now turn 13, I go for the win with an all-out attack. Having drawn a Disciple of Malice, I keep it in hand as a backup flicker if needed. It’s not. Jimi goes down to 1, draws nothing, and scoops.
My turn-3 Daru Healer is the first non-land play after we both take the early time to develop our manabases, and Jimi gollows straightaway with a next-turn Ascending Aven, which I match with a Disciple of Malice. First blood goes to Jimi on turn 5 when she swings in with the Bird Soldier, and I prevent 1 with my Healer. Back to me, I counterattack with the Disciple, then bring out the Gangrenous Goliath.
Now turn 6, Jimi again attacks for 3, 1 of which I prevent to go down to 16. Back to me, I go in for 5 with the Goliath and Disciple after playing a Sigil of the New Dawn– though 4 of this is prevented with a Sunfire Balm. I end with a Battlefield Medic and pass. Next turn Jimi sends in the Aven, leaving me at 14. I hammer back with my Disciple and Goliath team to put her at 13, then add a Doubtless One.
Now turn 8, Jimi attempts to claw her way back into the game with a Gustcloak Skirkmisher, though it’s evident she’s been drawing virtually nothing but land. In comes the Aven, tap goes the Healer, and I’m left at 12. Back to me, I add the Doubtless One to the red zone along with the usual suspects for 10. Jumi blocks the Doubtless One with her Skirmisher, then tries to pump it with a Piety Charm. I respond with a Death Pulse, killing it before the Charm even lands. I then follow with another Disciple of Malice and pass.
Jimi buys some time on turn 9, with an Essence Fracture for my One and Goliath. The Aven attacks, and I’m at 10. Back to me, I counterattack with my Disciples of Malice and the Medic to leave her at 5, then replay the Doubtless One. With no way to stop the damage, she scoops after the last draw, ending a very frustrating game.
Thoughts & Analysis
If the secondary market price is any indication, the magic community either loves its Cleric decks, loves its Black and White decks, or both. Given our recent experience with the Orzhov ‘bleeder’ deck, Code of the Orzhov, we were very interested in seeing what Onslaught’s take would be.
As it turns out, creature-based tribal perhaps wasn’t quite as rich and deep as other such options, but the deck overall worked. Though the number of Clerics that cared about other Clerics was limited, you had little difficulty in assembling a critical mass of them and the deck could do some fun things as a result. Best of all, if you didn’t hit your synergy cards, the deck could still function just fine- this wasn’t a ‘feast or famine’ deck which gave you an all-or-nothing proposition.
Part of this came from an added layer of depth that we missed the first time around:
[Astral Slide] is optimally used to get more mileage out of enters-the-battlefield creatures, but alas here there are none. Instead, you can use it to clear out one of your opponent’s creatures so they’re down a blocker when you attack, or prevent their best beater from attacking with a timely cycle. Overall, though, the card is a bit of a miss here given its limited application.
To be fair, what happened in Game Two was about as best-case-scenario as you can get for the card, but it showed some real promise as a subtheme. I was able to thwart removal, save creatures, and could even flicker one of Jimi’s if she tried to put an aura on it. As a one-of, you won’t reliably find it every game, but the deck is so packed with cycling that you’ll usually have some use for it if drawn early enough. And again we see a deck structure that doesn’t struggle if you don’t land its core components, since the cycling cards do just fine on their own for helping you speed through your deck.
On the downside, the deck does have a tendency to feel creaky and ponderous at times, and a number of Clerics have little application beyond their creature type. Still, this was a fun one to play, even if it will be more remembered as an Astral Slide showcase instead of a Cleric one.
Hits: Good Clerical synergy between a number of solid cards; Astral Slide subtheme was a blast to play; subtheme well-supported by quantity of cycling cards; both the main as well as subtheme can stand up even when the best cards aren’t drawn
Misses: Removal suite is poor- you’d expect more from these colours; a number of Clerics aren’t all that useful except for being Clerics
OVERALL SCORE: 4.20/5.00