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January 12, 2013

Morningtide: Battalion Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

We’re halfway through our review of Morningtide, and our results are a mixed bag. How will Battalion measure up? To find out, I challenged Sam to a duel, and she’s playing the Red/Green Warrior’s Code. Will her rowdy and undisciplined troops overrun my Kithkin and Soldiers, or will our superior discipline pave the way for victory?

Game One

Sam’s on the play for our opening tilt, and leads with a Forest while I follow with a Plains. Next turn, she adds a Brighthearth Banneret. I manage a Veteran’s Armaments. A turn-3 Cloudcrown Oak doubles Sam’s creature count, and she sends the Banneret in for first blood. I find a beater of my own with the Preeminent Captainequipping the Armaments to him.

Now turn 4, Sam adds some gear of her own, the Obsidian Battle-Axe. She then plays a Bramblewood Paragonequipping the Axe. Unwilling to risk it- even for a Captain- Sam sends in the lonely Oak for 3 to leave me at 16. Back to me, I play a Vivid Creek, then attack with the Captain. This lets me put an Inkfathom Divers into play attacking alongside the Captain, hammering Sam for 7. The Divers also let me look at the top four cards of my library, and it’s a bad sight- all four are lands. I play a now less-sexy Kithkin Zephyrnaut, and end my turn.

Next turn, Sam summons a Changeling Berserkerchampioning her Banneret. She turns it and her Paragon sideways, dealing out nine damage of her own. With me at 7 life, she passes the turn. Unsurprisingly, my kinship whiffs on the Zephyrnaut (all that land), but I send everything in on the attack. Sam blocks my Divers with her Oak, but everything else gets through for 10. It’s a gamble, leaving myself wide open, but with an Ego Erasure in hand it’s one worth taking. Sam’s counterattack is deadly, but the Erasure takes just enough edge off the blade to leave me at 1 life. Sam them adds an Ambassador Oak with an Elf token, and ends the turn. That gives her enough of a defense to prevent being overrun, so I scoop after the draw.

Game Two

Leading on the play this time, I begin with a Mothdust Changeling, then follow with a Kinsbaile Skirmisher the very next turn. After granting the +1/+1 bonus to the Changeling, I then tap the Skirmisher to give my Changeling flying for a lark. Attacking in with the Changeling, I score first blood for 2. For Sam’s part, she then finds a Bramblewood Paragon.

Fencer Clique

Fencer Clique

Now turn 3, I attack in again for 2 with the Changeling and Skirmisher, knowing Sam won’t have any interest in a trade. I then add the Preeminent Captain and pass. Sam plays the Brighthearth Banneret (with a +1/+1 counter), and passes back. Although I miss my first land drop on turn 4, I still manage to play the Veteran’s Armaments, then attack in with my Captain and Skirmisher. The Captain’s ability triggers, letting me add the Sentinels of Glen Elendraequipping them with the Armaments and upping my threat level considerably. Sam trades her Banneret with my Skirmisher, but takes the remaining 7 to fall to 9. Back to her, she summons an Ambassador Oak, adding the 1/1 Elf token alongside it (which gets a +1/+1 counter of its own from the Paragon).

Now turn 5, I attack for 3 with the Sentinels, which Sam lets through. I then add a Kithkin Zephyrnaut before ending turn. Back to Sam, she summons a Cloudcrown Oak and does the same. I whiff on the kinship look next turn, so I tap the Zephyrnauts to give my Changeling flying. This lets me attack in with both it and the Sentinels. Sam blocks them with her Oak, snapping off a Kindled Fury for the kill. The Changeling gets in for 1, and she’s left at 5 life. I then equip the Armaments to the Captain, and add a Cenn’s Tactician. Back to Sam, she then summons a Changeling Berserker, championing the Elf token. Thanks to a +1/+1 counter on the Berserker, it turns sideways for 6 and drops me to 14.

I drop a Vivid Meadow to open turn 7, after missing the kinship. I then play a Wanderer’s Twig, cracking it to fetch up an Island. Back to Sam, she next plays another Changeling Berserker (championing her Ambassador Oak), attacking for 12 with both Berserkers. I block one with my now-4/4 Captain, trading it out (it brings back nothing, since it was the one that championed the Elf token), but take 6 off the other. At the end of her turn, I use the Tactician to give the Zephyrnaut a +1/+1 counter.

Now turn 8, after missing kinship I summon a Reveillark and pass. Sam attacks in with the Berserker, and I chump with my Zephyrnaut to soak up some damage, with the remaining 3 spilling over thanks to trample. She then follows up with an Incremental Growth, adding a +1/+1 counter to her Berserker, two of them to her Cloudcrown Oak, and the full three to the Bramblewood Paragon. It’s curious timing, and Sam seems to have missed the synergy between the Growth and Paragon. It proves to be a fatal oversight. I Disperse her Cloudcrown Oak, clearing an air lane for my fliers. The Reveillark and Mothdust Changeling streak past for lethal.

Game Three

Sam leads with a Forest, while I follow with a Plains into a Cenn’s Tactician. Next turn, Sam opens her account with a Brighthearth Banneret and passes, while I plunk down the Veteran’s Armaments. Sam continues with an Elvish Warrior, while I miss my first land drop and pass without play after drawing.

Now turn 4, Sam ambushes me with an early Changeling Berserker, championing her Warrior. She attacks for 5, dropping me to an early 15. At the end of turn, I activate my Tactician to give it a +1/+1 counter. For my part, my turn is a lamentable blank. Next turn, Sam attacks in for 5 with her Berserker. I block with Cenn’s Tactician, activating her ability to add one more +1/+1 counter to force the trade. This eliminates a clear nuisance for Sam, and while she loses the Berserker she does at least get the Warrior back. She then plays a replacement Berserker, sending the Warrior back on vacation. Then to me, I draw and with no land drop or play must discard from my hand to get down to seven. Off goes a Fencer Clique, and my turn ends.

Now turn 6, Sam swings in for 6 with her troops, cutting me down to 9. She then plays Recross the Paths for a Forest, losing the clash. This at least lets me send a non-land card to the bottom of my library, hoping against hope to topdeck a land. I do- an Island. I’m then able to Oblivion Ring away her Berserker, returning the disoriented Elvish Warrior to play. Next turn, Sam attacks for 3 with the Warrior and Banneret, then adds an Axegrinder Giant. I play a Kinsbaile Skirmisher (equipping it with the Armaments) and pass.

A 6-point attack on turn 8 compels me to chump my newly-acquired Skirmisher, after which she adds an Ambassador Oak. It’s all gone pear-shaped for me now. Though I’m able to play a Kithkin Zephyrnaut, Sam has victory in her sights. I save her the bother and concede.

Thoughts & Anaysis

Coming off  the disappointing Shamanism, it was nice to play a deck with a relatively cheap suite of cards that I was able to reliably hit- aside, of course, from that third game where I simply didn’t have enough land and never recovered (it can happen). The deck’s curve is nicely front-loaded for the environment, and I had little problem being able to establish an early board presence. Whether it be a Mothdust Changeling for some aerial options or a Cenn’s Tactician for counters, the deck does well to give itself a solid foundation upon which the rest of the match can be built.

Ego Erasure

Ego Erasure

Although this gives the deck no small amount of consistency, it also presents the prospect of simply running out of gas, something I felt happened in both the first and second games. This is a problem decks on the chaper end often have- you reliably deploy a stream of cards quickly, but then they begin to be outclassed by what your opponent is up to and you don’t have enough in the bag to keep ahead. Although I was delighted to find my Preeminent Captain, Sam was just as happy to keep turning up Changeling Berserkers, and by that point there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. My evasive suite was either too small (the aforementioned Changeling  or conditional (the Zephyrnaut), and the deck was just unable to race. I may have won the second game, but even that win seems a bit suspect considering Sam’s possible misplay of the Incremental Growth. Remedy that, and you’ve got a sweep by Warrior’s Code.

It also didn’t help that the removal package was so tepid. Creature removal is critical in any aggressive-minded deck, because it allows you to keep the red zone manageable. Your opponent will often be looking to stabilise, either with blocking options or simply better creatures, and removal can keep that trimmed down and give your cheaper beaters room to do their work. Battalion had few such remedies, just a pair of Oblivion Rings, a rather cumbersome Weight of Conscience, and a Disperse. It needed just a little bit more. Evasive closers like Reveillark and Fencer Clique help, but the deck just seems a bit too hollow in the middle. Not nearly as exciting as Going Rogue, not quite as vulnerable as Shamanism, this one’s somewhere in the middle.

Hits: Deck has some very strong cards that can provide a real swing in the game, from Veteran’s Armaments to Preeminent Captain; reinforce mechanic is a good (if underrepresented) fit for the deck

Misses: Poor removal suite; creatures a bit too conditional to mount consistent and sustained early pressure, and can falter in the midgame for wont of size

OVERALL SCORE: 4.10.5.00

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Read more from Lorwyn Block, Morningtide

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