Mercadian Masques: Tidal Mastery Review (Part 2 of 2)
Today we head to the ocean city of Saprazzo, home to many of Mercadia’s Merfolk. The Tidal Mastery deck looks to establish control on the battlefield, then grind out a victory. Will the song of victory be in the air, or will Jimi drown it out with a Rebel’s Call?
Jimi’s on the play for our opener, and leads with a Ramosian Sergeant while I simply play an Island and pass. Next turn she attacks in with it for first blood, then doubles down with another copy. Back to me, I drop a Plains of my own, then summon a Cloud Sprite before ending the turn.
Now turn 3, Jimi uses one of her Sergeants to call up a Lieutenant, attacking with the other for another point of damage. I counterattack in the air for 1 of my own, then add a Cho-Arrim Legate. This clogs up the red zone nicely for the moment, and Jimi’s next turn sees her simply work her way up the Rebels chain, finding a Ramosian Captain off the Lieutenant. I draw us level with the Sprite, then add a Drake Hatchling.
Now turn 5, Jimi adds a Ramosian Commander, the object of a recruitment pitch from the Captain. Back to me, I attack for 2 more with my creatures to put Jimi to 16, then add a Saprazzan Legate. Jimi responds next turn by closing down the air lanes with a Ramosian Sky Marshal, courtesy of the Commander. I play a Puffer Extract and pass.
The Extract draws an immediate Disenchant on turn 7, after which Jimi swings in with everything except for one Sergeant. I block her pair of 1/1’s, after which Jimi snaps off a Ramosian Rally. All told, I’m hammered for 10 life, after which Jimi adds a Ballista Squad. Back to me, I add a Diplomatic Escort and Devout Witness. Jimi then attacks in with just the Sky Marshal for 3, leaving me at 5. She next summons a Thermal Glider, then adds a Steadfast Guard through the talents of her Sergeant. I simply play an Alabaster Wall and pass.
Now turn 9, Jimi sends her Steadfast Guard, Sky Marshal, Captain, and Glider for 9. I chump the Sky Marshal with my Sprite, trade my Witness for her Guard, and block the Captain with my Wall. I try and eat her Glider with my Saprazzan Legate, but the Ballista Squad has something to say about that, blasting the Legate from the skies. My ambitions go with it. I cruelly “topdeck” a Kyren Archive, playing it for the hell of it. Jimi turns every able body sideways, taking the game.
I begin the game with a Plains, as does Jimi. Of course, she adds a Ramosian Sergeant behind it, getting off to another quick start. Back to me, I play an Island and a Darting Merfolk. Jimi plays another Plains, then sends her Sergeant in for a point of damage. I let it pass, happily to stabilise even more next turn with an Alabaster Wall after attacking for 1 with the Merfolk. Jimi drops a Fountain of Cho and a Steadfast Guard, then ends her turn.
Now turn 4, I play the Kyren Archive and pass. Jimi activates the Fountain to add a counter on it, then digs up a a Ramosian Lieutenant using her Sergeant. Next turn I stick a card face-down under the archive, as I’ll do for some turns following, and summon a Ballista Squad. Back to Jimi, she uses her Lieutenant to find a Captain, adds a second counter to her Fountain, and ends her turn.
Now turn 6, I summon a Saprazzan Legate and pass. Jimi hardcasts a Jhovall Rider from her hand. Back to me, I then lay down a Noble Purpose, one of the deck’s more useful enchantments. I then attack for 1 with my Legate in the air, leaving Jimi at 18 and restoring me to 20. For her part, Jimi sticks a Cho-Manno’s Blessing on the Rider, giving it protection from White. That lets her swing in for 3 past the Wall, though the Wall does tap to prevent one of the damage. Jimi next uses her Sergeant to call up a Lieutenant, then passes back.
I continue my aerial attack on turn 8 with the Legate, mainly to keep the life swing going with the Noble Purpose. I then add another Alabaster Wall, while Jimi adds a fourth counter to her Fountain at the end of my turn. Back to her, she attacks for 3 more with the Rider, which I again reduce through the Wall. With us tied at 17 life, she then tries to play a Devout Witness, but I immediately Counterspell it away. Finally, she uses her Captain to grab a Commander, and passes the turn. I counterattack with the Legate, but have nothing else to do. Jimi then summons a Ramosian Captain, then Arrests my Ballista Squad. With both Alabaster Walls in play, Jimi’s 3-point Rider attack is reduced to 1, and I’m down to 17 life.
Now turn 10, I throw a sixth card under the Archive to lead things off, then play Customs Depot. I send in the Legate to nick a point of damage, gaining a point of life from Noble Purpose. At the end of my turn Jimi adds another storage counter to her Fountain, then next turn fetches up a Ramosian Sky Marshal off her Commander. Again she attacks with the Rider alone, likely being too conservative on offense, and I’m able to mitigate most of that away with my defenses. At the end of her turn, I Afterlife the Sky Marshal. Next turn, I add another card to the Archive, then attack for 1 with the Legate in the air. Jimi then decides it’s time to go all in. She turns every able body sideways, an impressive 14 points of damage in all. I block with the Walls, tapping them for damage prevention duties in the process. I block another onrushing threat with my Darting Merfolk, returning it to hand. By the time damage is ready to be dealt, I’ve reduced my incoming tally from 14 to a much more manageable 6. Jimi then summons a Nightwind Glider and Ballista Squad, and at the end of her turn I crack the Archive to refill my hand.
A turn 12 War Tax goes a long way in keeping Jimi’s swarm threat low. Back to her, I then activate the Tax for 3, so all Jimi does is play Cho-Manno, Revolutionary and pass as we enter a long and protracted stalemate phase of the game. My next turn is a blank, letting me Tax for 5 on Jimi’s upkeep. With her creatures small and my defenses formidable, there’s just little point to attacking until some advantage can be gained. Jimi plays a Pious Warrior, and at the end of her turn I Disenchant the Arrest on my Ballista Squad. I then double down with the stall through a next-turn Story Circle, choosing White. Jimi simply adds a second storage counter to her Fountain, then when the turn swings to her in earnest she adds a Ramosian Captain. I Tax her for 5, she pays it for her Rider and attacks for 3. I could block, but 1 damage seems a fine hedge against a trick that could kill one of my Walls and so I let it pass, preventing 2 of that damage with said Walls. That sees me at 12 life, with Jimi at 14.
Now turn 15, I resummon my Darting Merfolk, and this lets me loot off of the Customs Depot. I keep a Crossbow Infantry, pitching an Island. Back to Jimi, I Tax her for 5 to keep her troops at bay. She uses Rebels to tutor up a pair of Thermal Gliders, adding a fourth storage counter to the Fountain. Next turn I bring out the Crossbow Infantry, looting again off the Depot. This time, I score an Overtaker, pitching away a Puffer Extract I’m in little position to use. Taxing Jimi for 5 again, all she does in return is Rebel up a Ramosian Sergeant and Jhovall Rider.
Turn 17 arrives, with little sign of a break for either player. I get another looting off the Depot when I summon a Crossbow Infantry, but find nothing useful. Jimi continues to mass an army, adding a Ramosian Commander and Ballista Squad. At the end of her turn, I recall the Darting Merfolk to hand to set up another loot. Once my turn rolls around I recast it, but to no real benefit. Jimi adds her seventh storage counter to the Fountain of Cho. Back to her, I Tax for 6 to stay safe, while she simply uses Rebels to find a Nightwind Glider and Task Force. At the end of her turn, I again recall my Darter.
Now turn 19 (kudos to you if you’re still with us), I resummon the Merfolk to trigger a loot off the Depot, looking for anything to help give me the advantage. I don’t have the mana to do much, though, since I have to devote so much of it to holding off Jimi’s attack. Jimi spends her turn building up some more, seeing in a Charm Peddler, Pious Rebel, and Task Force. Again I recall the Darter at the end of the turn. Next turn I resummon it, then go ahead and add the Overtaker in an attempt to break the stall. Taxed for 5, Jimi still manages to add another Charm Peddler, then Arrests my poor Overtaker. She then recruits the very last Rebel in her deck, a Steadfast Guard. At the end of her turn, though, I Disenchant the Arrest and recall the Merfolk. The game has long since passed being fun, but we’re determined to see it through.
On turn 21 I then bring out a Stinging Barrier, then use the Overtaker to steal Jimi’s Jhovall Rider, smashing her with it for 3. Back to Jimi, she sets up a gamebreaker by Disenchanting my War Tax, then Afterlifing my Overtaker. And with that, the game is won. Next turn, free from the burdens of paying the Tax, she attacks with everything for 43 damage. It’s not spite that drives her to tack on 26 more with a Ramosian Rally, but rather a desire to get lethal damage through my Story Circle. It works.
Thanks to a missed land drop on turn 3, my first play of the game is a turn-5 Drake Hatchling. Meanwhile, Jimi’s brought out a pair of Ramosian Sergeants, and attempted a Captain (which I Counterspell). On turn 4, she uses the Sergeant to grab a Captain, while attacking where she can for some early damage.
By the time that Drake rolls around, I’m down to 17 life, and she meets it with a Ramosian Captain in turn. Next turn, I attack for 1 with the Drake, then add a second one. Jimi plays a Fountain of Cho, then uses the Commander to grab a Captain.
My turn 7 is a blank, missing even the land drop. Jimi grabs a Ramosian Sergeant and plays a Devout Witness. An Alabaster Wall touches down on turn 8, while Jimi adds storage counters to her Fountain. Having learned her lesson about giving me time to entrench, Jimi attacks with the side. I block the Witness with the Wall, and both Sergeants with my Hatchlings, but Jimi’s got the Ramosian Rally. That drops me to 7 life. It’s the aggressive play Jimi needs to get ahead of my deck, and it works. She plays a Steadfast Guard and passes, but I’ve got nothing to add. When she Arrests my Alabaster Wall, it’s all I can do to block absorb the incoming damage with my blockers. Down to 1 life and with no answers, I scoop after my next draw in a mercifully short last game.
Thoughts & Analysis
It’s not too often that playing a game of Magic makes me give up the will to live, but our second game was certainly one of those times. It wasn’t that Jimi and I were dredging our decks looking for very narrow outs that would give us the advantage that caused so much dismay. It was that I had very little hope, and I knew it. There was no fat, evasive closer that might save the day, no elusive win condition I simply didn’t draw. This was a grinder’s game, winning by fingertips, and there’s not much more on offer in this deck.
To be fair, the deck does one thing very well, which is create a bogged-down game state. Although I was at times overrun by the rapidly-proliferating Rebels, I still was able to hold my own (and even win in our pre-match friendly). That said, once the deck stabilisied… there just wasn’t enough weapons at its disposal to finish the deal. The deck was all stall, no closers, and as such was one of the most unpleasant constructions I’ve played to date.
Last November in the Champions League, Celtic defeated Barcelona in a night of historic proportions. Celtic, champions of the wee Scottish Premier League, defeating arguably the best side in the world. As expected, Barca absolutely dominated possession, and Celtic did well to make the most of the very few opportunities they had. For most of the game, they defended. And defended. And defended. The next day, amongst the chorus of cheers for Celtic’s mighty deed were the grouses and sour grapes that inevitably follow an upset. Celtic, they said, played “anti-football.” As defined by Wikipedia:
“Anti-football” is a lethargic passing style of football that relies only on passing and an extremely defensive, aggressive physical, robust style of play of football where one team deploys their whole team, except the striker, behind the ball. In doing so, they try their best to stop the opposition from scoring, rather than trying to win the game themselves. It is also used to criticize the playing style of teams who have no intention to play properly and prevent the game from moving on with actions such as (but not limited to): shooting the ball forward without trying to reach any players, intentionally diving and stopping the play during several minutes or shooting the ball away when a free-kick is awarded, to win time (usually penalized with a yellow card if too flagrant).
While Rebel’s Call is surely no Barcelona, Tidal Mastery is just as surely the anti-football of Magic. It stops the opponent from doing what they want to, but it’s plan breaks down from there. Just as in football, there’s a fine line between defensiveness and “anti-football,” and that’s fair here as well. Control decks do what Tidal Mastery does; the difference is they have a well-defined path to victory. Tidal Mastery, on the other hand, has one of the least-defined victory conditions of any deck we’ve played. This is a fine deck for historical purposes, but I’d keep this as far away as I could from anyone who had a less dedicated enjoyment of the game for fear it might put them off Magic forever.
Hits: Deck is very strong at locking down the board state and stymieing an opponent’s aggressive plans…
Misses: …but that’s where its effectiveness ends. A game plan of grinding out an opponent on the back of a Stinging Barrier isn’t very fun to play.
OVERALL SCORE: 2.50/5.00