Portal Second Age: Spellweaver Review (Part 2 of 2)
The Goblins of Caliman were the subject of the opening deck in our review of Portal Second Age, and they’re back now to serve as foil to the mono-Blue Spellweaver. Will they overrun the nation of the coast, or will Spellweaver sail to victory on the currents of the air?
I’m on the play for our opener, and lead with an Island. Sam drops a Mountain, a Raging Goblin, and comes in straightaway for 1. Back to me, I play a Talas Explorer, letting me peek at Sam’s hand (it’s full of cheap Goblins and a Blaze). Back to Sam, she attacks again with the Raging Goblin, then adds a Goblin Piker. I then add a card with a giant bullseye painted on its forehead, the Apprentice Sorcerer.
Sam doesn’t disappoint. After a 3-point attack, during which I trade my Explorer for her Piker, she Blazes the Sorcerer. Down to 17 life, I play a replacement Sorcerer. Unless she’s drawn something new, she doesn’t have the tools to deal with the next one. Sadly for me, she has: a Goblin Firestarter. She plays it, pops it, and pings out my second Sorcerer. After that, she attacks for 1 with the Raging Goblin, then plays a Goblin Matron to go fetch the Goblin General. This game is fully going her way.
The only hope I have of drawing even seems to be the turn-7 Talas Researcher. Back to Sam, she sends in the Cavalier and Raider for 5. I trade my Warrior for her Cavaliers, taking 2 from the other Goblin to go to 14. Back to me, I’m able to untap with my Researcher intact, and immediately draw an extra card from it. I then summon a Talas Air Ship and pass. Sam attacks with the Raiders for 2 more, then ends her turn.
Now turn 9, I draw another free card, then Time Ebb her General. Back to Sam, she attacks agin with the Raiders to put me down to 10, then resummons her General. This time, I’m ready with a Mystic Denial to counter it. Back to me, I play a Talas Scout and Talas Merchant after using the Researcher. Sam’s turn is a blank- not even a land drop.
On turn 11, I manage to find an Air Elemental, bringing it into play. Sam ignores it, Blazing me for 5 to cut me in half. Next turn I draw another Mystic Denial, and the free card off my Researcher is a Talas Explorer- nice little combo. I play the Explorer, then marvel at Sam’s hand- a Goblin War Strike, a Relentless Assault, and a Wildfire. Trouble ahead! Knowing it’s on borrowed time, I attack in with the Elemental for 4 to score my first damage against Sam. Back to her, she plays the War Strike to hit me for 3, then Wildfires. This I Mystic Denial.
Now turn 13, I refill my hand with a Touch of Brilliance, then attack for 4 with the Elemental before playing a Talas Merchant to shore up the back-end. At 12 life, Sam summons a Goblin Raider. I look to turn the corner next turn after dropping Sam to 8 as I play a second Air Elemental. On a one-turn clock, Sam’s deck delivers. She topdecks a Volcanic Hammer, and burns me out for the win.
On the play again, I replicate my previous game by laying land until hitting a turn-3 Apprentice Sorcerer, while Sam brings in a Raging Goblin followed by the Piker. This time instead of Blazing the Sorcerer on turn 3, she Volcanic Hammers it- but the effect is the same.
Now at 15 life on turn 4, I look to drag the game out a bit by casting Exhaustion, catching Sam completely tapped out. Her next turn- happily- is a complete blank. Mission accomplished. Back to me, I drop a turn-5 Air Elemental. For Sam, she summons a Raging Goblin, then turns everything sideways for 4. Down to 11, she then follows with a Goblin Piker and passes.
This time, it’s my turn for the blank on turn 6, after which Sam turns everything sideways for 6. I block a Piker with the Elemental, taking 4. She then looks to Volcanic Hammer the Elemental to finish it off, but I’m ready with the Mystic Denial to thwart her. Back to me, I add a Talas Scout. Sam is relentless, again coming in with everything for 4. I trade my Scout for her remaining Piker, then block a Raging Goblin with the Elemental. This time when she goes to follow up with the Hammer, I can’t stop her. My Elemental heads for the graveyard.
Now turn 8, I simply replace it with another Air Elemental, my only creature on the board. Sam summons Goblin Cavaliers and passes. Back to me, I then add a Talas Explorer, getting another look at Sam’s hand. She’s carrying a Blaze and a Wildfire, both of which are big trouble. Back to her, she attempts the Wildfire, and I have a difficult choice. Countering that leaves me open to being burned out with Blaze, but letting it through doesn’t do me much better. I decide to roll the dice and Mystic Denial it. It’s the wrong choice- Sam draws straight land for her next few turns, while all I find is a Talas Researcher. She’s able to tap out for the winning Blaze, and I can’t stop her.
Hoping to avoid the sweep, I trade land drops with Sam for the first turn, then summon a Talas Scout the next. She plays a Goblin Piker. Next turn, I get in first blood in the air with the Scout, then follow on with a Talas Merchant. Sam simply smashes it with the Volcanic Hammer, and the Apprentice Sorcerer in my hand lets out a giggle of delight. When I replace the Merchant with another and Sam Hammers that one, too, the giggle becomes a cackle. Although Sam’s been burning them out to get in for real damage with the Piker and an added Raging Goblin, it gives me a window of opportunity to get my pinger out and keep him upright.
On turn 5 and at 15 life, I go for it, summoning the Apprentice Sorcerer. Back to Sam, she attacks for 3 with the Piker and Raging Goblin, then- heartbreakingly- crushes the Sorcerer with a third Hammer. Then to add insult to injury, she summons another Piker and passes. With my good options done, I know I need to stall for time with the deck before I get overrun by Sam. I Time Ebb her Piker on turn 6. Sam attacks in for 1 with her Raging Goblin, then attempts to resummon the Piker. I False Summoning it instead. “Things are that bad for you, eh?” asks Sam. I ignore the question, but it’s fairly plain.
Now turn 7, I draw another Time Ebb to replace the one I just used- as it happens, the only other card in my hand is another False Summoning. I do nothing, and end my turn. Sam attacks for 1 with the Goblin to put me down to 12, then passes back. My next turn is a blank, but so is hers outwith the Goblin attack.
Now turn 9, I draw and pass. Sam plays her seventh land, then Wildfires the board after an attack with the Goblin, hoping to cripple me. With only two land remaining in play (she has three), she might well succeed. Again needing to stall, I play Exhaustion to buy me a turn. It works- Sam draws and passes.
It’s now our eleventh turn in the game, and this one’s going long in a desperate game of cat-and-mouse. I have absolutely nothing but stalling options, and desperately need to resolve a threat or at least some defense. Sam’s quite happy to rebuild from three land in her aggressively-costed deck, but hasn’t found much in the way of creatures. That’s not very reassuring. I draw and pass. Sam summons Goblin Cavaliers, and I burn the False Summoning to stop her. Our twelfth turn is draws and land drops.
Now turn 13, I refill my hand with a Touch of Brilliance, tapping out to do so. Sam brings out a Goblin Glider. Next turn I Time Ebb her Glider, again just looking to stall out. She redraws and replays it.
On turn 15, I finally get to see what I’m up against when I summon a Talas Explorer. Sam’s holding a Blaze as her last card in hand. Emboldened, I then play a Talas Merchant to help fortify my defenses. Back to Sam, she attacks with the Glider, and I trade out with the Explorer. Next turn, I counterattack for 1 with the Merchant to put Sam at 17, then add a Talas Air Ship. Sam looks to start closing the game out, Blazing me for 4 to leave me at 6.
Now turn 17, I send in the Merchant and Air Ship for 4, then pass. Sam summons another Goblin Glider, then Goblin War Strikes me for 1. I’m firmly in the beatdown chair, and keep the blows raining it. Sam looks to kill me with a 4-point Blaze after a 1-point Goblin attack, but I’m ready with a Mystic Denial. It’s the play that secures the game, as Sam has nothing left in hand. I attack for 4 to put her at 5, add an Air Elemental, then see her scoop next turn when she draws nothing.
Thoughts & Analysis
The decks of Portal Second Age seem to be lining up into two categories. The first category is decks that look and feel like basic versions of normal preconstructed decks, which don’t seem all that hampered by the fact that they’re drawing from an introductory set’s card pool. The other group is comprised of decks that most certainly do, ones that feel like basic, depowered versions of their Expert-level counterparts. Although not nearly as emphatically so as with The Nightstalkers, we’re fairly comfortable putting Spellweaver in the former camp.
To be sure, there’s some rather simplistic elements present here. Outside of flying, many of the deck’s creatures don’t manage to do a whole lot, though the aerial element keeps them from having the rather stale feeling many vanilla creatures tend to. The deck also is susceptible to durdling, as I found in the third game. Although I ended up winning, it took me awhile to assemble anything that could have significant impact on the board. Still, it did what it needed to do, which was make the game go long. This was particularly effective against the Red aggro deck, but probably would have been less useful against, say, Nature’s Assault, which is quite happy to play out the clock and start dropping a chain of fat.
The overall concept of the deck, as supported by its noncreature spells, did work well on the whole. Having access to countermagic was fun in a primarily sorcery-filled environment (although the counters here are technically sorceries, they are so in name only). The card draw was decent, even if you had to pay four mana for it. The pingers were dreadful, but you don’t see much of those in Blue nowadays anyway, but it had enough tempo options to keep things interesting. On the whole, we’d put this one second behind The Nightstalkers.
Hits: Solid aerial package gives the deck more bang for its buck; good countermagic suite, especially effective in the land that instants forgot
Misses: Deck has a definite threat gap- you can draw a lot of cards that don’t appreciably advance your board
OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00