Mercadian Masques: Deepwood Menace Review (Part 2 of 2)
As we prepare to take our leave of the world of Mercadia, we’ve one last battle to be fought. Joining me is Samantha, who will be piloting with Tidal Mastery. Can I end on a high note?
Sam’s on the play, and we swap land drops for our first two turns. My second-turn Vine Trellis is the first creature of the day, but next turn Sam finds a free Saprazzan Legate. Back to me, I summon Saber Ants, but Sam Counterspells them away.
Now turn 4, Sam then adds a Story Circle, choosing Green. She sends in the Legate for 1, then ends her turn. For my part, I resolve a Cinder Elemental. Back to Sam, she attacks in again for another point, then kills my Elemental with an Afterlife, giving me a 1/1 Spirit token. Once my turn rolls around, I attack in with the Spirit for 1 before adding a Horned Troll.
Sam continues the attack in the air on turn 6, then plays a Stinging Barrier. I attack for 3 with the Troll and Spirit, though Sam simply uses the Story Circle to prevent the Troll’s damage. Back to Sam, she takes the opportunity to ping off my Spirit with the Barrier, then drops me to 16 with the Legate. Back to me, I play another Horned Troll.
Now turn 8, Sam attacks in for 1 more in the air, then adds a Crossbow Infantry. I counterattack for 4 with both Trolls, and Sam takes the legs out from under my attack with a Thunderclap to kill one of them. The other gets Story Circled away, and at the end of turn she uses the Barrier to ping me down to 14. Our next two turns go by in a standoff, with Sam scratching away at my life total. By the time I break the silence with a turn-11 Deepwood Tantiv, I’m down to 8 life.
Sam’s turn-12 Puffer Extract forces my hand. I Thnderclap the Legate, then use a Tranquility to burn off the Story Circle- though not before Sam activates it twice as insurance. I swing for 6, and the Tantiv gets through to leave her at 16. Back to Sam, she plays another free Legate and passes. Unable to stop her in the air, I concede.
I open with a Kris Mage, while again Sam leads with a free Saprazzan Legate. While I manage land drops, my next few turns have no other play for me. Meanwhile, Sam begins her attacks, followed by a Crossbow Infantry, Story Circle (Green), and on turn 4 a Drake Hatchling (which I immediately Thunderclap). The turn following fiends her with a Puffer Extract, and that’s trouble.
On turn 6 I kill the Legate with a Lunge and Kris Mage combo, a terrible play but indicative of the dire straits I find myself in. Sam attacks with the Infantry for 1, pumping it +6/+6 with the Extract to leave me at 9. Next turn, I draw and pass, desperate to add a Forest to a board of four Mountains. Sam plays another Saprazzan Legate as well as a Cho-Arrim one, then replaces her dead Crossbow Infantry with a live one (which I immediately kill with the Kris Mage, throwing away yet another Mountain).
Sadly, I never recover. Though I land a turn-9 Deepwood Wolverine, Sam’s combination of Puffer Extract and Legate wins her the game again.
Sam and I swap opening land drops, after which I’m happy to deploy a Vine Trellis. Once again, Sam gets a free Saprazzan Legate, to which she adds an Overtaker.
The Overtaker doesn’t last long- a turn-3 Thunderclap sorts him out. All Sam can do is swing in for 1 in the air. Next turn, I tap out for a pair of Deepwood Drummers, while Sam upgrades her board position with Coastal Piracy. In comes the Legate, and now in addition to dealing a point of damage she’s also up a card.
Now turn 5, I attack in for 2 with my Drummers, then add a Deepwood Tantiv. Sam attacks with the Legate, then plays a Drake Hatchling and Crossbow Infantry. Back to me, I send the Tantiv in for 2 to leave Sam at 16, then bring out a Horned Troll. For Sam’s part, she ups the stakes with a 3-point attack in the air, leaving me at 14 life (and drawing two cards). She then adds War Tax– bad news for me.
Sam trigges the Tax for 1 on my turn-7 upkeep, but I’m still able to attack with the Tantiv for 2. I then play Shock Troops and pass. Sam keeps the pressure on in the sky, and I’m down to 11 and fading fast. Sam locks my board up with a 5-point War Tax during my upkeep, so all I do is draw and pass. Back to her, she keeps up the beats in the sky, then plays a Story Circle (Green). With so many cards in hand, she pitches one to get back down to seven and ends her turn.
A turn-9 Desert Twister sees off the Coastal Piracy, but I’m too far gone to be saved. She attacks next turn for 3 more, then drops the brutal Puffer Extract. With no outs, I concede to the sweep after the next draw.
Thoughts & Analysis
Most of the time, when you see the pairing of Red and Green in the preconstructed world that means there are a few core components you can reasonably expect to see. Large, relatively efficient creatures. Ramp to bring them out on an accelerated timeline. A burn suite to keep the ground lanes clear. Deepwood Menace takes a different tack. Sure you have some direct damage in the form of your Thunderclaps, Volcanic Wind, and Lunge, as well as a generous supplemental creature-based package with Shock Troops, Kris Mages, and Cinder Elementals. Ramp? That’s here, too, with the Vine Trellises. So where did the deck go so wrong?
Sadly and somewhat surprisingly, the fault has to lie with the creature selection. Deepwood Menace sought to forego size and instead win with a horde of lesser creatures. That in itself is no crime; indeed, there’s plenty of precedent for swarm decks in other colours, and no reason it couldn’t work here. The problem the deck runs into in the final analysis, though, is that while you’re indeed getting a ton of smaller creatures, the deck still curves out like a more traditional offering. Put another way, you’re getting your weenies, but for a midrange pricetag.
Deepwood Drummers are two-mana 1/1’s. That’s forgivable on a utility creature, but the problem is that they’re got plenty of company. Shock Troops, Saber Ants, and the Cinder Elemental are all four-mana 2/2’s. The Deepwood Tantiv seems positively gargantuan by comparison being a 2/4 for five mana. It seems a sad commentary on the deck that the card you’ll often most look forward to playing for sheer muscle mass is the Squallmonger– and it’s a gamble since your opponent can use its own ability against you to essentially burn you out if you’re not up on life. It’s a sad commentary that Squallmonger is what passes for good here, though in fairness a look through the offerings of the set don’t deliver too many better (nonrare) options. Still, a Hunted Wumpus, Silverglade Elemental, or Snorting Gahr would have been most welcome additions.
Overall, this deck was a disappointment, and I was acutely aware that I was losing out to a deck we’d trashed in its own write-up. Tidal Mastery is bad, and while I wouldn’t say that Deepwood Menace is worse (it isn’t), it certainly didn’t cover itself in glory here.
Hits: Burn and removal suite is respectable; rare card Battle Squadron is very sexy when regarded against a general field of mediocrity; high concentration of utility creatures gives you a large number of extra options, except…
Misses: …really what the deck wants is some efficient creatures to balance out the tricksters. There’s little of that here, and thus it struggles to maintain a solid threat presence
OVERALL SCORE: 3.25/5.00