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December 11, 2012

3

Duels of the Planeswalkers (2009): Thoughts of the Wind Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

It’s time to put the most expensive planeswalker to the test- or, really, the deck based upon him. Joining me at the table is Sam, who has grabbed the copy of the Naya-themed Claws of Vengeance. Can Jace think his way out of this latest bind?

Game One

Sam opens up with a Mountain, then I follow with an Island. Next turn she drops a Forest, letting her Rampant Growth up a Plains for the trifecta. I play a second Island and pass.

Now turn 3, things get grim when Sam then taps out for a Woolly Thoctar– a serious threat this early in the game. I play a Wall of Spears, but it’s barely a roadblock. Sam Naturalizes it anyway, then swings for 5 for the game’s first strike. Back to me, all I can do is summon a Snapping Drake and pass.

Another 5-point swing on turn 5 puts me halfway to dead, after which Sam deploys the Knight of the Skyward Eye. Luckily, unlike Sam I’ve hit all my drops, so I’m able to use Persuasion to make Sam’s Thoctar see reason and switch loyalties. Back to Sam, she’s compelled to Pacify her traitorous beastie, then she attacks with the Knight for 2. I summon an Air Elemental and pass.

Now turn 7, Sam Pacifies the Elemental as well. She attacks in for 2 with the Knight, and I angle to block with the Drake since Sam doesn’t have enough mana to pump it. Instead, Sam just Incinerates the Drake. With things definitely not going my way, I use my turn on a Tidings to refill my hand. Next turn, Sam’s Knight comes in for the full weight of its power, putting me down to 3 life. At the end of the turn, I Boomerang the Thoctar’s Pacifism back to Sam’s hand, freeing up the creature to use. Back to me, I summon a Phantom Warrior and pass.

Now turn 9 and the board in a stalemate, Sam uses her turn to summon a Farhaven Elf, tutoring up a Plains. Over to me, I attack in for 2 with the unblockable Warrior, then summon a second one. Seeing the writing on the wall, Sam sends in her Knight with open mana, so I block with the rented Thoctar. Sam pumps the Knight for the trade, and the board is a little less crowded. She then summons a Venerable Monk, going back up to 17 life. For my part, I summon a Cloud Elemental.

Another Venerable Monk touches down on turn 11, and Sam goes up to 19. She then gets carved back to 17 from the Cloud Elemental I send in on the attack, since it can’t help me on defense. Over to Sam, she goes for the throat with a Rip-Clan Crasher, hoping to ambush me with a creature rush. Instead, I simply Cancel it. She then tries to stick a Pacifism on one of my Phantom Warriors, but that gets Negated. Thus thwarted, she passes the turn. I attack again behind the Elemental for 2, then Boomerang my Air Elemental back to hand. Thus free of the Pacifism, I happily replay it and end the turn.

Now turn 13, Sam summons a Tundra Wolves and passes, while I simply attack for another 2 with the Cloud Elemental to leave Sam at 13 life. Next turn, Sam topdecks victory when she finds a Blaze, pointing it directly at me for lethal damage. Sadly for her, I’m holding another Cancel. I follow up with another Cloud Elemental swing for 2 to put her down to 11, and pass.

On turn 15, Sam then looks to break the deadlock with a Sangrite Surge on her Tundra Wolves, turning the team sideways for an all-out attack. My Air Elemental blocks and kills a Monk, while her Elf is eaten by a Phantom Warrior. Sadly, I have to offer up the other Warrior to chump her buffed-up Wolves, and that leaves one Monk to get through. I’m now at 1 life. Still, I remain upright, and continue as before, swinging in with the Cloud Elemental, then adding a Cloud Sprite. Depleted, Sam adds another Tundra Wolves, but we both know her cause is lost. Back to me, I send in everything for a lethal alpha strike.

Snapping Drake

Snapping Drake

Game Two

Sam opens the game with Tundra Wolves, then sends them in on the attack after a Rampant Growth finds her a Mountain to match her Plains and Forest. On turn 3, she attacks again, then adds a Farhaven Elf (tutoring up a Plains). By turn 4, she’s in good shape as she plops down a Bull Cerodon and slams me for 7. Then she attacks in for another 7, adding to her side with a Venerable Monk to go up to 22 life while I’m down to 4.

If you’re wondering what Thoughts of the Wind has been up to, the answer is: not much. After missing my third land drop, I draw nothing useful and end up having to discard a couple Tidings from hand. Indeed, my first play of the game is a Deluge to buy me a turn after finally finding a third Island. Unsurprisingly, it’s my only play of the game as I’m completely overrun, scooping on turn 6.

Game Three

It’s my turn to be on the play, and I open with a Cloud Sprite which Sam matches with Tundra Wolves. Back to me, I swing in with the Sprite for a point of damage. Sam returns the favour on the ground, then Rampant Growths to round out her manabase.

Now turn 3, I swing in again for 1 and pass, having a feeling about whats coming next. I’m not disappointed- Sam taps out for a Woolly Thoctar. Thankfully, I’ve hit my drops and am holding a Cancel. Sam attacks with the Wolves, then passes. Back to me, I deploy a Memory Erosion. After continuing the stream of attacks, I end my turn. Sam plays anther Rampant Growth, milling a couple of lands off the top of her library before going hunting for a third land drop off the Growth. She attacks back with the Wolves  drawing us level at 17, then summons a second Wolves (this time milling off a Bull Cerodon and Sangrite Surge).

After nicking Sam for another point of damage with the Sprite, I summon a Snapping Drake. Back to Sam, she brings out a much-needed Farhaven Elf to get a Plains (milling a Mountain and Venerable Monk). She then adds a Grizzly Bears, and loses a Rampant Growth and Venerable Monk for her troubles. Back to me, I attack for 4 in the air, then refill my hand with Tidings. For Sam’s part, she sends in her troops for 5, and again we’re level at 12.

Now turn 7, I send in the Sprite and Drake for another 4 points of damage. After playing a Wall of Spears, I end my turn. Undeterred, Sam Naturalizes the Wall, which thanks to the Memory Erosion sees off a Blaze and a Forest (the Blaze being particularly painful for Sam). She then looks to neutralise my Snapping Drake with a Pacifism, but I Negate it. She tries again with another Pacifism, and I Unsummon it in response. In the end, she’s down two cards (and milled four), but has bought herself a bit of time. I replay the Drake after attacking with the Sprite to put her at 7 life. Sam retaliates with the Bears, and I’m down to 5.

Now turn 9, I resume the aerial beatings to reduce her to 3, then deploy another Wall of Spears. Back to Sam, she summons a Rip-Clan Crasher to try to pull ahead in this race, but when she attacks in with the side I simply Boomerang it back to her hand. The Wall of Spears eats her Bears, though I’m still rocked for 3. But it’s Sam’s last gasp as I claim victory in the air next turn

Thoughts & Analysis

This playtest did a great job showing off the best and the worst that this deck has to offer. At its finest, you have a Skies shell with a dash of tempo and permission. At its worst, however, you have a deck that gets lost in its own durdling, unable to land or field a capable threat or even mount a defense. This being Magic, of course, what you get isn’t always within your control.

Memory Erosion

Memory Erosion

Overall, despite the performances today the card mix seems to favour the latter over the former. This is due in part to the relatively creature-light component on offer here. Indeed, only Liliana Vess has a smaller army at her disposal. This isn’t inherently bad- there are many decks out there that run few beaters, instead choosing to develop and advance their board state through noncreature means. This becomes a bit tetchy here, though, since many of your cards don’t really advance your development. A Cancel, for instance, simply denies your opponent the development of theirs. That’s not a knock on countermagic- it certainly has its role in the game, and ideally it buys you time to get your plans in motion.

That reactive nature is a bit at odds at the proactive stance the deck asks you to take. “High-fliers” like the Cloud Sprite and Cloud Elemental hinder your ability to mount a solid defense, something a reactive deck must consider. Those are usually going to be attack-only creatures, so if you’re under threat and those are the only bodies you’re drawing, you’re going to have to try and outrace your opponent rather than contain their offence.

In that regard, Thoughts of the Wind is just a little too unfocused- or perhaps it’s fairer to say it’s focused along a couple of divergent paths. It does each reasonably well, but only if the cards you’re playing into continue to support the path you’re on. The only truly dissonant note here is Memory Erosion. We identified this as a weak link in our initial review, and obligingly I managed to deploy it on turn 4 of our last game. Getting it early was a great opportunity to see what it could do, but in the end it simply milled Sam for a dozen cards. This did absolutely nothing to slow her down, and nothing to advance my board.

Hits: Solid focus on evasive creatures makes the deck’s core offense difficult to deal with; decent mix of tempo plays and counters

Misses: Deck tries to do a bit much- more expensive cards like Boomerang and Cancel require a measure more commitment; like most reactive decks, risks being too reactive and falling behind;  Memory Erosion bafflingly out of place (especially for a rare)

OVERALL SCORE: 3.90/5.00

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Varo
    Dec 11 2012

    Nice matches, specially the first. While it isn’t the best deck, the aerial route is a though one to beat. Maybe a more tempo-oriented version of this deck would be more consistent and fast.

    Reply
  2. Icehawk7
    Dec 12 2012

    I’ll give this deck this: it made a good basis for my MUC deck. The Elf one is the best though, imo.

    Reply
  3. Dec 18 2012

    Game 1! Wow. And Tundra Wolves! Another blast from the past. Man, the holidays make me nostalgic.
    Game 2! Naya seems unstoppable!
    Game 3. Memory Erosion is actually a rough card to deal with in the pre-con arena. I wonder what kind of a impact it had in Draft/Limited. And what happened to linking to original art for the Grizzly Bears?!

    Reply

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