Gatecrash: Orzhov Oppression Review (Part 2 of 2)
The next time we look at a Gatecrash precon, it’s going to be an Event Deck- our review series of the Intro Pack decks draws to a close with our playtest of the much-anticipated Orzhov Oppression. We were much impressed with the execution of the bleeder strategy from the original block. Will the updated version equally impress? To find out, Sam sat down with Simic Synthesis.
Sam’s on the play for our lead-off game, and we trade land drops for the first two turns. A Basilica Screecher opens my account on that second turn, while Sam’s still developing with a Forest on turn 3. I trigger my first extort of the day off of a Silvercoat Lion, then attack in with the Screecher for 1.
Sam begins the stabilisation process with a turn-4 Crowned Ceratok. I play Basilica Guards, extorting off the Bat, then attack for another to leave Sam at 16 and me at 22. Next turn, Sam fills her hand up with an Urban Evolution, playing two Islands on the turn. I add a Plains but have no other play, instead content to nick in with the Bat for 1.
Now turn 6, Sam plays a Simic Keyrune and passes- it’s been a poor start for her. I add a Syndicate Enforcer, extorting twice off the Screecher and Guards. I then attack for 1 more in the air, and at the end of my turn Sam flashes in a Shambleshark. It’s now a 12-24 game. Back to Sam, she then adds an Adaptive Snapjaw, evolving her Shambleshark into a 3/2. She passes, after which I summon a Kingpin’s Pet. This lets me extort three more times, a painful swing of 6 life. I then attack with the Bat for another point, and Sam’s down to 8.
A turn-8 Encrust solves the Pet, but Sam’s got little else, clearly hoping to try and evolve the Snapjaw before sending it at me. I play a Knight of Obligation, extorting three more times. I’m now at 30 life, well ahead of Sam who’s circling the drain on 4 after my Bat flaps across the red zone. Next turn, though, Sam nearly checkmates me. A Sleep shuts down my defenses, letting Sam animate her Keyrune and send everything against me unopposed. At a stroke I’m cut fully in half, down to 15, and facing a very surprise upset. Sam adds another Keyrune for insurance and passes the turn.
Fortunately, the upset is not to be. With Sam nearly dead, all I need to do is play a Basilica Screecher. Though it might not stop enough incoming damage to save me, it doesn’t need to. I extort off of it four times, defeating Sam.
Again we swap land drops for the first two turns, and again I open the game with a second-turn Basilica Screecher. This time, though, Sam’s got an early play in the form of a Shambleshark, which she flashes in on the end of my turn.
Then, on turn 3, she evolves it when she summons a Crocanura. She turns the Shambleshark sideways, and first blood is hers as I go down to 17. With the air lane sufficiently clogged, all I can do is use the Screecher to extort off my Vizkopa Guildmage and end the turn. Back to Sam, she attacks for 3 more before adding a Keyrune to the board. I summon a Kingpin’s Pet, extorting once. At the end of the turn, I’m at 16, with Sam at 18. Extort is keeping it close.
A turn-5 Adaptive Snapjaw, however, threatens to let Sam run away with it. Both her other creatures evolve, gaining +1/+1 counters. She plays it safe by holding the Crocanura back, knowing the air is her greatest vulnerability in the red zone against me. The Shambleshark, however, happily carves in for 4 to leave me at 12. Back to me, I shut down the Snapjaw with One Thousand Lashes and end my turn. Next turn, Sam loses 1 life off the bleeder enchantment, but happily evolves her side with a Leyline Phantom. She attacks with the Shambleshark for 5, leaving me at 8. I claw back 2 of those points when I double-extort off of a Basilica Screecher, but I’m in serious trouble.
Now turn 7, Sam swings for 10 with her Shambleshark and Phantom. I chump the former with a Screecher, and the Phantom returns to Sam’s hand. With me at 5 life, she then opts to try her luck at Unexpected Results, but all she gets is a Forest. Still, the spell returns to her hand for another go later. As for me, I stick a Dying Wish on my doomed Guildmage, extorting twice off of it. Back to Sam, she resummons the Phantom for another round of evolves, then attacks for 6 with the Shambleshark. I shove the Guildmage in front of it, plugging my ears so I don’t have to listen to his undignified dying screams. The aura on him triggers with his passing, and by the end of the turn I’m actually ahead by a point with Sam down to 8 life. Over to me, I summon a Knight of Obligation, extorting two more times to go up to 11. With Sam at 6, it’s a race to the finish.
Now turn 9, Sam attacks for 15 with her Shambleshark, Phantom, and Crocanura, looking to put me down while she still can. I chump with the Screecher alone, knowing I’m taking a risk but unable to sacrifice any more of my extort options. The Crocanura and Phantom slam into me for 9, leaving me at 2, and at the end of the turn Sam flashes in Merfolk of the Depths. Luck is with me, though, as I draw a Gift of Orzhova. I play it onto my Knight of Obligation, extorting twice to put Sam at 3. With her wide open in the air, the Knight then turns sideways for the win. A close one!
Sam begins the final match with a Forest, while I land a Tormented Soul off of a Swamp. Next turn she brings out another Forest, passing the turn, while I attack in for 1 after a land drop of my own.
Sam’s first play of the game is a turn-3 Drakewing Krasis, and as far as plays go that’s a fairly solid one. I attack again with the Soul, then play an Orzhov Keyrune. Back to Sam, she then plays a Crocanura after attacking for 3 in the air. Then she adds a Kraken Hatchling, evolving the Crocanura. I attack again with the Soul for 1, summoning a Syndicate Enforcer.
Now turn 5, Sam attacks with her Krasis and Crocanura for 5, dropping me to 12. I counterrattack with the Soul, then shore up my defense with Basilica Guards, extorting for 1 to put Sam at 15. Next turn, Sam attacks for 3 with the Krasis in the air, and I’m down to 10 life. The Crocanura evolves again when she follows up with an Adaptive Snapjaw. Back to me, I exile the Snapjaw with an Angelic Edict, extorting twice. After an attack with the Soul, Sam and I are level at 12.
Now turn 7, Sam attacks for 6 with the Crocanura and Krasis. The problem when you don’t bluff enough, though, is that you make it fairly obvious when you’re not. Having kept the Crocanura at home once my Guards touched down, Sam now decides to commit it on the attack. Smelling a trap, I let it pass. When Sam flashes in Merfolk of the Depths, evolving the Crocanura to a 4/6, my caution proves true. Still, that’s a lot of damage to take on the chin, and I end the turn at 5 life. Back to me, I counterattack with the Tormented Soul, then extort twice when I summon more Basilica Guards. Sam’s now down to 9, with me at 7- another close game.
Not close enough, sadly. Sam’s next-turn Sapphire Drake lets her Crocanura take to the air alongside the Krasis, and I can do nothing to stop it.
Thoughts & Analysis
When starting out to review a set, Jimi or Sam typically pick whatever deck they feel like playing against the deck of the moment. In the beginning, the choices are fairly wide-open subject to a few minor guidelines, as we try to avoid ‘bounce matches’ where the same two decks play one another twice, and each deck gets one turn as feature and one turn as opposition. It also means that towards the end, the choices start to become predetermined. Sam had no choice but to pilot Simic against the Orzhov (they were the last one left), and it turned out to be a very fortuitous development. As it happened, this was a very illustrative matchup.
Despite the obvious surface differences in both mechanics and strategy, these were both decks that really wanted to hit their stride early and curve out along the deck’s natural trajectory. Put another way, this means playing a creature every turn that advances the deck’s aims above and beyond just being another body. We’ve seen this sort of effect before, most recently with our look at Duel Decks: Izzet vs Golgari’s Golgari deck, and then we likened the experience to hitting “zip strips” playing the classic NES racing game RC Pro Am. Miss the strips and you’ll still drive along just fine, but hit them and you’d surge ahead.
In that sense, the Orzhov vs Simic battle boiled down to who could hit more of their targets in turn, and sadly for the Simic their deck just wasn’t tuned to do that as effectively. Part of this is down to simplicity- whereas the Orzhov are plotted along a single axis (mana cost), the Simic’s mechanic is plotted along two (mana cost and power/toughness). Both decks had the opportunity to pull ahead, but the Simic had more opportunities to fail. That’s not a clean bill of health for the Orzhov, as we saw Boros Battalion run the rule over them earlier in our reviews.
Our impression of the guild’s first deck, Code of the Orzhov, was something of a mixed bag. We wholeheartedly approved of the ‘bleeder’ strategy the guild promoted, as it’s one of the least-common deck archetypes to have featured in a precon in large part to just how specialised it is. Less enjoyable was a rather inconsistent sacrifice subtheme which diluted some of the efficacy of the deck. Orzhov Oppression is everything Code of the Orzhov wanted to be and more, and the deck gets full marks for execution. Extort is a superb mechanic, simple in its conception, fitting and flavourful for the guild, and surprisingly fun to play. Not everyone is going to enjoy this style of play, and certainly there’s room for improvement (particularly with removal), but Orzhov Oppression was a lot of fun.
Hits: Extort is a great mechanic here, and well-supported by card choices and strategic alignment; in a set whose decks have been marked by inconsistent quality at the rare slots, both cards here are excellent choices
Misses: Deck’s mana curve a little too high to get the most from the extort mechanic; removal- as has been so often the case- is inconsistent and conditional
OVERALL SCORE: 4.55/5.00
I suspect that second game was very thrilling towards the end! Some close games and i dont think simic came off too badly although it definately needs tuning.
With extort i’m guessing you have to pay one mana for each extort, not one mana for every extort you have down?
One Mana for each extort, that’s right.
Nice matches! Both decks performed to their best, but the Orzhov have a better deck overall. I really like the mechanic they have given to this guild in its newest iteration, it feels powerful enough, but forces you to use your cards well (at least until topdeck mode) to balance between tempo and bleeding.
I’ve found Orzhov splash Borors or Orzhov splash Dimir the strongest in limited.
Orzhov/Boros lets you stay agressive while extorting. It’s a lot easier to race when you get life back from extort. Also, since both guilds have low cost creatures, it’s a lot easier to extort.
Orzhov/Dimir lets you land cipher spells effectively since both guilds have so much evasion. You can also extort every time a cipher lands allowing for even more damage.
Off a Dimir splash, Mortus Strider is the extort deck’s best friend.
The closeness of the matches is what makes reading and playing fun. No one likes to get steamrolled(though it happens). to that end reading about the orzhov deck in action makes me want to reevaluate the extort keyword. It’s too bad the Simic deck is the weakest of the bunch as Evolve could really shine if the creature curve was different. Looking forward to the meddling of both!
Not a particular fan of B/W, but this looks like a nice deck, could be tweaked to be very effective for cheap I think. But it does need more removal.
Too bad you didn’t see any Treasury Thrull action. Having that rare drag the High Priest of Penance out of the graveyard over and over locks down the battlefield and gives you lots of extorting goodness. Lost to this combo a couple times myself.
I’m very glad the Orzhov got a nice mechanic this time around (Haunt was pretty meh). I’m excited to see how well Extort plays in both 1v1 and in multiplayer.
I think Orzhov is looking to be pretty good.
Just as was assumed for Orzhov, playing lots of spells and extorting your way to the end is more important than actual combat. This is where white weenies and cheap black removal really complement this deck!
Yay! Glad to see The Orzhov deck is still rated pretty good! All you debts belong us!
I’m glad Orzhov got just a little bit of redemption in their own review after their atrocoius performance against boros. The boros battalion deck reminds of the recently reviewed going rogue and how much it wins against its siblings. The balance between these two decks is excellent, it almost seemed like a duel deck expirience, plus points for that. Balancing the guilds perfectly is an incredible challenge, but getting that balance translated to the intro packs should be much easier since there are more variables that can be controlled. Extort proves to be very fun and an incredible spike mechanic that Johny can probably appreciate. Basilica schreecher and Basilica guards are the key players in extort. The orzhov player needs to value the extort creatures very highly and try to get them into play as soon as possible, which was the case in this writeup. As I said before, this is not a deck that is easy to manipulate because of the complex decisions made when deciding to extort or not, and what spells to play each turn.
One more thing, due to the large amount of land in these intro packs, Orzhov will hit land drops pretty frequently and be able to extort much more often than in other limited formats (2 extorts off an angelic edict not that late in the game in the writeup). For simic the extra land causes more problems since no extra value is gained off them, other than hitting the first few land drops in a more likely manner, so that was also a factor against them in this matchup and as an overall deck.
Very exciting matches to read about. Especially game 2. I’m glad the Orzhov performed so well as they did. Also, good call to make them face Simic. Otherwise, they might have been run over again. The extort mechanic worked much more efficiently than I had thought. I especially like the lifegain-aspect of the bleeder tactic – it just keeps you ahead of your opponent, and it worked fantastically!
Sad that simic didn’t hold up to well but orzhov seemed to do what it was meant to. Some great close games at the end!
I am so glad I found your site. I came to read about Orzhov and read a dozen other articles on precons and love the Meddling section. I like that when you write you use enough context that someone new or newly-back can understand what you’re telling them. Most mtg bloggers speak in code that takes longer to learn than this game!
I can’t wait until you meddle Orzhov. I have been tweaking my Orzhov intro deck with just what I found in a few boosters for our guild league. The deck kicks butt in league and does pretty well in standard too. The main thing I did was drop almost all creatures without extort except the high priest (b/c he’s awesome) and dutiful thrull (b/c I need the 1-drop). I also lucked into a Thrull parasite and when I can get 4 in there I will. Love starting the extort engine on turn 1.
I also splashed blue for Psychic Strike, Last Thoughts and Hands of Binding. I got rid of the most expensive cards to save my mana for extorting but still have plenty of removal. Also, I found that cipher works great on the Bats or Kingpin’s Pet. Can’t wait to see how you do it.
This was one of me favourite guilds the first time Ravnica came around I’m curious to see how extort fares in constructed. Thanks as always for a great batch of reviews, as always they’re fun and informative. I have to make sure that I don’t go out and blow my budget now….lol
Close matches are the best, in my opinion, as long as they don’t get too drawn out. Thanks for a great series of reviews – I wasn’t even aware of Magic when the original Ravinica came pit, and I didn’t expect to be buying many cards this time around – but you definitely caught my interest. Guild mechanics are cool, when they work, and it seems like Gatecrash is mostly successful in this regard. Orzhov has got a quality deck here.
Nice review! I guess I didn’t have to be quite so worried about this deck!
Continuing the post from the Simic Synthesis deck. I am doing a project about making intro packs into theme decks. There are key diffrences, such as theme decks aren´t afraid to put complex strategies, use 4 of´s in the common slot, and 3 of an uncommon that is integral to the deck. They also use reasonable land counts, as well as not use vanilla creatures and core set filler to merely fill out the deck. The goal of these changes is to make the decks much more flavourful, give them a slight boost in power (though not too much), correct (somewhat) any power level and balance issues that may be present between decks, and give more instances of a keyword mechanic when necessary.
These are diffrent from meddlings because they have to adhere to the “theme deck rules”, such as keeping a certain number of uncommons in the deck (12 to 13 uncommons), and not adding 4 of´s in an “uncontrollable” manner(not all theme decks have them, and they are usually only of 1 card that is very important to the deck).
Cuts: (9 cards total)
-1 Rain of Blades(unc)
-1 Orzhov Keyrune(unc)
-2 Dying Wish(unc)
-2 Silvercoat Lion (com)
-1 Guardian Lions (com)
-1 Zombie Goliath (com)
-1 Swamp (com)
Adds: (9 cards total)
+1 Vizkopa Guildmage(unc)
+1 Knight of Obligation (unc)
+1 Thrull Parasite (UNC)
+1 Vizkopa Confessor(unc)
+2 Syndic of Tithes (comm)
+1 Executioner´s Swing (com)
+1 Basilica Guards(com)
+1 Kingpin’s Pet (com)
Overall we have accomplished the following:
Substitute vanilla and french vanilla creatures for cards with flavor from the set.
Substituted a keyrune for a guildmage
Added 7 cards with the extort mechanic at diffrent points in the mana curve, but mostly early
Reduced the overall curve and made the land count accomodate this (25 lands total vs 26)
Any tests with these new lists are welcome.