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January 20, 2013

Duels of the Planeswalkers (2009) Expansion Pack 1: Mind of Void Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

 

With Gatecrash right around the corner, we’re looking at the three decks from the first Expansion Pack of Duels of the Planeswalkers. First up is our old friend Jace, who’s got a few new tricks in his arsenal. Opposing me is Sam, who is piloting Sarkhan Vol’s Cries of Rage deck. Steely contemplation versus primal ferocity? Let’s go!

Game One

Sam’s on the play for our opener, and we both use our first turn to establish land drops. Next turn Sam opens her account with a Bramblewood Paragon, while I simply play a second Island and pass.

Sam nicks first blood on turn 3 when she attacks with the Paragon, then she summons a Goblin Piker (which arrives with a bonus +1/+1 counter thanks to the Paragon). Back to me, I play an Island and pass. Sam then attacks in for 5, leaving me at 13. She then angles for an Elvish Warrior, but I Dream Fracture that. I then play another Island and pass.

A second Paragon touches down on turn 5, with the first one giving it a +1/+1 counter. Down to 8 and staring down the barrel at lethal damage, I scoop after my next draw turns up nothing. In my hand are two Kisses of the Amesha, a Mahamoti Djinn, Counterbore, Traumatize, and Islands- I just needed one more turn to begin stabilising.

Game Two

I hit an Island and Plains in my first two land drops, while Sam matches with a Forest and a Mountain. Unlike me, though, Sam’s got a turn-2 play in the form of a Rip-Clan Crasher. She sends it in straightaway, and I’m down to 18. Back to me, I play a Memory Erosion and pass. Sam attacks for 2 more from the Crasher, then mills herself for two after adding a Goblin Piker to the board.

Now turn 4, I miss my first land drop, my turn an unfortunate blank. Sam attacks for 4, then summons a Cloudcrown Oak (milling another two cards). Back to me, I draw and play an Island. Sam attacks for 7 with all three creatures. I Condemn her Oak to put her up to 24 life, then see her mill another couple of cards when she replaces her loss with a second Goblin Piker.

Memory Erosion

Memory Erosion

This time, though, I’m able to stabilise as I deploy a turn-6 Air Elemental. Undaunted, Sam swings in with all three of her beaters for 6. I block the Crasher with my Elemental to kill it, but still fall dangerously low on life to 4. Sam then uses a Jagged Lightning to finish off the Elemental, but it’s something of a risk as it requires two targets. Sam accepts the blood price for killing the Elemental, which sees off one of her own Goblin Pikers. Still, she’s got me on a two-turn clock. Back to me, I draw a card and pass. Sam attacks for 2 with the Piker to cut me in half, then summons an Axegrinder Giant (milling two).

Now turn 8, I steal the Giant with Persuasion, giving me a moment to catch my breath. If Sam had burn in hand, she’d have simply killed me instead of summoning the Giant, so unless she topdecks it I know I’m safe for the moment. Sam tries to force my hand with a Sangrite Surge on the Piker, and the extra lifegain she gets when I Condemn it is more insult than consolation. Now up to 28 life, she ends her turn. Back to me, I play Kiss of the Amesha. This critically takes me out of burn range, and helps refill my hand. I end my turn, and see Sam play an Oakgnarl Warrior as she mills another couple cards to join the ones lost from the Sangrite Surge. I’ve certainly been getting my money’s worth from that solitary Memory Erosion, but I haven’t found much to support it and one’s just not going to get the job done.

A turn-10 Persuasion steals away Sam’s Warrior to join her Giant on my side of the table. I then attack in for 6 with the Giant, finally putting up some damage as she falls to 22 life. Sam’s turn is a blank. Next turn I come in for 11 with both beaters, and Sam tries to get tricky with a Naturalize on the vigilant Oakgnarl Warrior. It’s a clever play, but I simply Counterbore the Naturalize. Off go a couple more cards. Down to 11 life, Sam’s clearly back-footed, playing a Rip-Can Crasher and passing.

I swing for another 11 on turn 12, and Sam chumps the non-trampling Giant with her 2/2. I then summon a Wall of Air to shore up my defense and pass. Sam draws… and scoops.

Game Three

Sam’s on the play again, and leads with a Forest. I play a Plains, turning it sideways to deploy a Dispeller’s Capsule (I couldn’t quite recall if her deck had one or two artifacts/enchantments, or none at all. Turns out it was the latter). Back to Sam, she scores big with a Bramblewood Paragon, while my next turn is a blank outwith the land drop.

Now turn 3, Sam attacks in for early damage with the Paragon- and is gutted to find me holding a Condemn to get rid of it. Back to me, I play a Memory Erosion. Sam immediately burns a Naturalize on it, milling two cards as she casts it. Our turn 4 is a blank, with her missing her second land drop while I continue hitting them.

Sam’s woes continue on turn 5, as she discards a Jagged Lightning. I draw and pass. Next turn Sam throws away a perfectly good Oakgnarl Warrior, stuck as she is on two lands. I draw and pass once more.

Sam topdecks an Elvish Warrior on turn 7, and this she can play. I draw another card, then end my turn. Back to Sam, she finally finds a Mountain, using it to summon a Rip-Clan Crasher. I simply Dream Fracture it, with each of us drawing a card. She attacks with the Warrior and ends her turn. Back to me, I play another Memory Erosion.

Now turn 9, Sam attacks for 2 more with the Warrior, then adds a Cloudcrown Oak (milling two). I raise her an Air Elemental. She then mills two more cards from her library to play a Mudbutton Torchrunner, then I drop the hammer with a Traumatize. In a stroke, nineteen cards are dumped from library to graveyard, and it certainly has gotten her attention.

She sends in the Torchrunner for 1 on turn 11, knowing I won’t block it. This puts me down to 15, after which she doubles down with another Elvish Warrior and Goblin Piker (milling four). Back to me, I play a second Dispeller’s Capsule and pass. Sam then attacks in for 7 with her Warriors, Piker, and Torchrunner. I block one Warrior with my Elemental, and Sam tries to pump it with a Giant Growth. Instead, I Counterbore it to prevail, but not hitting any additional copies in hand or library. Sam then summons another Cloudcrown Oak to replace her loss, and ends her turn. Down to 10 life, I steal the Oak with Persuasion.

Now turn 13, Sam summons a Rip-Clan Crasher which can immediately attack, and does alongside the rest of her creatures. Her library is looking mighty thin, and she knows time is working against her now. I block her remaining Oak with my Elemental, and an Elvish Warrior with my stolen Oak. It helps, but I’m still down to 5 life- dangerous ground. I draw a card, and end my turn. Back to Sam, she ten tries to destroy my Persuasion with a Naturalize, but I Dream Fracture it. Sam now has all of two cards left in her library, and it’s looking like checkmate. She attacks for 5, but the only thing that gets through is the Torchrunner. Down to 4 life, I play an Air Elemental and pass the turn. Sam draws her second-to-last card, and knows she’s done.

Thoughts & Analysis

If I had to orchestrate an outcome to a playtest, I could not have done better than this. The first game revealed the deck’s biggest flaw- its overreliance on expensive cards and gaping vulnerability in its front-end. Forget Walls of Air, the one card I most found myself wishing for as I was completely overrun in the opener was Kraken Hatchlings, which would be perfectly positioned here. Of course, Zendikar’s Hatchlings would have been a brand-new card on 21 October 2009, when the Expansion Pack 1 released, and likely would never have entered consideration themselves- but any cheap blockers would have sufficed. Walls of Denial, anyone?

Counterbore

Counterbore

For the second match, I was able to beat Sam’s life total down through the use of my closers and steal spells, and victory in the decider came exclusively through the deck’s mill strategy. If you wanted the full-spectrum experience, this was it. It certainly showcases the deck’s strengths and weakness in a way that simply discussing the deck never could.

The particular deck consistency gives Mind of Void something of a glass cannon approach- if you can live long enough, you can do some very powerful things. This is certainly helped by the presence of so many rare cards, far more than any Duels of the Planeswalker deck to date. Of course, these decks weren’t designed with a quota in mind so much as a particular strategy, and on their own some of these rares are hardly terrifying (as we saw with the miser’s copy of Memory Erosion in Jace’s Thoughts of the Wind deck). If you want to make a competitive mill deck, you’re going to need some rares.

As a glass cannon, though, it is brutally vulnerable early on to being overrun by any aggressively-minded strategy before it can even begin to set up. I played exactly one spell in the first game- a Dream Fracture. I’d like to say these sorts of inglorious defeats are a rare occurrence, but given how the deck absolutely surrenders the early game it most assuredly isn’t. Perhaps that is the price the deck must pay in the name of balance for being so strongly themed.

Credit must go to the designers for making so unique an entry in the burgeoning pantheon of Duels decks. They could have simply given us an “alternate Jace” version of Teeth of the Wind, but this deck really flexed the creative muscle to show an entirely different side to Blue, complete with a unique winning strategy. A superb sophomore effort.

Hits: Milling strategy very solidly presented; removal and counter package well put-together for the needs of the deck; great job showcasing both Blue permission/control and milling

Misses: Leaves the front door wide open, and is easy prey for aggressive strategies

OVERALL SCORE: 4.25/5.00

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