Onslaught: Bait & Switch Review (Part 2 of 2)
This is it, our final visit to the world of Onslaught- at least until we return at some point in the future to look at Legions. I’ve got one of the more unique and intriguing Theme Deck’s we’ve seen in awhile, Bait & Switch, while Sam hopes to dash my hopes with the Beasts of Devastation. Will subtlety and synergy take the day, or will brute force see me off?
Sam begins our clash with an Elvish Pioneer, letting her drop a Mountain into play. I play a Barren Moor. Next turn she comes in for 1 with the Pioneer and passes, while I open my account with a Mistform Stalker.
Now turn 3, Sam pulls ahead with a Wirewood Elf, attacking in again with the Pioneer for 1. I slam the door shut with a Mistform Wall, however, and end my turn. Back to Sam, she plays a Cryptic Gateway, giving the promise of worse things to come. I add a Mistform Dreamer and Imagecrafter, and end the turn.
Now turn 5, a Snapping Thragg is added to Sam’s board, while I pump the Stalker and turn it sideways alongside the Dreamer for a total of 5 damage. This is a promising line of play, but one that’s abruptly halted when Sam deploys the Venomspout Brackus. With her tapped out, I’m able to get in one last 5-point swing with my Stalker and Dreamer.
Sam’s turn 7 is a tragic blank, while I cycle a Lonely Sandbar. Alas, I draw an Island, and play it without fanfare. I then add another Mistform Wall. At the end of the turn, Sam takes advantage of her gateway to bring in a Towering Baloth, tapping the Brackus and Thragg to do it. Not good. The Baloth slams in for 7 next turn, putting me down to 11. Back to me, I draw a Swat and cycle it, drawing a Swamp.
Again the Baloth comes in on turn 9, forcing me to chump with the Imagecrafter. I replace it with a Mistform Dreamer, but it’s too little, too late. Sam sends it in again, and I chump with the other Imagecrafter. At the end of turn, she taps two Beasts again to bring in a Krosan Groundshaker, then sends all four of her Beasts in for 21. She gives them trample where needed, and using my blockers I’m just able to cling to life- until she adds in a Primal Boost. The Beasts carry the day.
On the play, I open with an Imagecrafter, while Sam plays a Forgotten Cave. Next turn, I send in the Wizard for a 1-point peck before adding a Mistform Stalker. Sam plays a Forest and passes. Sensing opportunity for some early damage, I then commit both creatures to battle, dropping Sam to 17. Finally, she lands a creature in the form of a Wirewood Savage. Having missed my land drop, I snap off a Trickery Charm at the end of Sam’s turn, sticking a Swamp and Island to the top for my next two draws.
Now turn 4, I draw my Swamp and use it to help power out a Mistform Dreamer. For her part, Sam adds a Snarling Undorak, letting her draw a card off the Savage. I pump up my Stalker next turn, sending it in as part of a 5-point attack to leave Sam at 12, and again I sense the possibility of a quick aerial victory. Sam drops a Barkhide Mauler (going up another card), then attacks for 3 with the Undorak to drop me to 17.
Now turn 6, I pump the Stalker again and carve in for 5 in the sky. Sam’s down to 7, but not without recourse as she counterattacks for 9 with all three of her creatures. Next turn, she turns the corner on the race when she Solar Blasts my Stalker in response to my pumping it, stalling me for a turn. I still hit her with the Dreamer for 2 to put her at 5, but at the end of the turn she uses Chain of Plasma to kill my Dreamer. I pitch away a Mistform Mutant which I’m not near able to pay form letting me blast her Undorak. Back to Sam, she cycles a Tranquil Thicket, then sends in the Mauler and Savage for 6. I chump the Mauler with my Imagecrafter, going down to 6. She then plays another Wirewood Savage and passes.
I try desperately to stabilise on turn 8 with a Mistform Wall, but it’s not to be. Sam plays another Snarling Undorak to go up another pair of cards, then attacks in for 8. I chump the Mauler, but it’s the end of the line for me. Drawing nothing, I concede next turn.
Sam and I both trade cycling lands on the opener as I deploy a Barren Moor and her a Tranquil Thicket. Next turn I play a Boneknitter, while she plays a Mountain and passes.
Now turn 3, I attack in with the Zombie, then morph a second Boneknitter for a bit more offensive punch. Sam plays a Forest, but has nothing else. I then attack in for 3, summoning a Mistform Dreamer and Imagecrafter before passing turn. Back to Sam, she then kills my morph with a Chain of Plasma, but has nothing else to do.
I send the Dreamer and Boneknitter in for 3 on turn 5, then add a Fallen Cleric. Sam finally lands something of consequence with an answering Barkhide Mauler. Returning to me, I fire in for 6 with the Cleric and Dreamer tandem, with the Imagecrafter standing by to turn any would-be blocker into a Cleric. Down to 7 life and falling behind, Sam counters for 4 with the Mauler then ramps with an Explosive Vegetation for a pair of Mountains.
Now turn 7, I attack with everything for lethal. Sam Chains of Plasma my Fallen Cleric to kill it, but I respond by making my Dreamer a Wizard then using Ixidor’s Will to counter the Chain and break the sweep.
Thoughts & Analysis
At its core, a game of Magic can be a quite simple affair. Pack in some vanilla creatures, sprinkle in some burn and on you go. In light of that, we are always particularly appreciative when we encounter a deck, however effective, that tries to put a spin on this basic element. Bait & Switch is certainly such a deck.
Throughout Onslaught, we haven’t been especially impressed with the quality and calibre of the preconstructed offerings. Though there were hints of excitement, particularly with Celestial Assault’s Gustcloak mechanic, the decks haven’t especially distinguished themselves from the great mass of Magic’s Theme Decks. Although Bait & Switch is about par for the course in terms of effectiveness, it does at least manage to win a few style points for trying the usual in an unusual way.
In effect, Bait & Switch takes the role of the Joker in the deck, ot the Wild card in Uno, sharing the stage with representatives from other major tribes in the set. Although the selection isn’t the sexiest, barring perhaps the Cabal Slaver, it’s perfectly serviceable- though we certainly feel that the failure to include the Tribal Golem as one of the deck’s two rares was an opportunity missed. On the whole, though, the creature-type shenanigans of the deck work, and it’s a lot of fun to play given the level of intricacy and synergy found in the other cards.
It was also interesting to note that the deck, while generally somewhat slow and ponderous, is capable of rapid aggression. In both of the first two games, I was able to go ‘all-in’ with an aerial strategy. Though Sam was able to break that line of play both times (once with a game-changing card like the Venomspout Backus, the other by outracing through a Chain of Plasma), it’s certainly valid and viable. The skies presence in the deck is not to be overlooked, even as it’s overshadowed by the Mistform theme.
For negatives, it’s squarely in the ‘feast or famine’ camp of decks that work really well when you manage to find the right pieces, but can struggle just as often when you don’t. There will be times you get to steal your opponent’s side with Peer Pressure, or wipe them out with Endemic Plague. There will be just as many times when Mistform Walls and Imagecrafters are about as good as it gets, where you have one piece of the puzzle (creature-type malleability) without the other (cards that actually care what your creatures’ types are). Other times, you’ll be staring at the Feeding Frenzy in your hand wishing you had enough mana to both cast it as well as convert your Mistforms into Zombies so that it actually does something.
One the whole, though, thanks to its creative design this deck is the pick of the litter for us. It can certainly use some improvement, but you could do worse right out of the box and it does a fine job of reinforcing the “creature types matter” theme of this, Magic’s first true tribal set.
Hits: Great major theme with flexible creature types/Mistforms and cards that care about creature types; aggressive evasive options can steal games early if left unanswered
Misses: Deck has a tendency both to be ‘feast and famine’ and risk drawing the wrogn elements of the core combinations
OVERALL SCORE: 4.25/5.00