Darksteel: Swarm & Slam Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s go time for the tokens deck as Swarm & Slam takes the field. Joining me at the table is Jimi, who is piloting Mind Swarm. Which deck will come out on top? We find out as we put Swarm & Slam to the test!
I open the game with a Plains, which Jimi matches with a Vault of Whispers. Next turn I’ve got a Forest, while Jimi finds a Slith Bloodletter off of a Swamp. My third turn comes and goes with just a land drop to show for it, while Jimi drops a second Vault, plays a Bonesplitter, equips it to the Slith and swings in for 3. In her eagerness, however, she’s left the Slith vulnerable, unable to regenerate itself, and when I Raise the Alarm she’s caught out. I make the trade with a Soldier token, and she passes the turn.
Now turn 4, I attack with the remaining Soldier for 1, then play a Wirefly Hive. Jimi next goes for an Emissary of Despair, equipping the Bonesplitter to it. Back to me, I attack for another point of damage with the Soldier to leave Jimi at 18. Jimi, meanwhile, adds a third Vault to the table, then attacks for 4 with the Emissary. I activate the Wirefly Hive, but fail the coin toss. The Emissary nails me for 4, then triggers added life loss for 1 more. Jimi then summons Chittering Rats, forcing me to put a card on top of my library from my hand. Not done, she then adds Grimclaw Bats before passing.
My turn 6 is a blank, so it’s right back over to Jimi. She equips the Bonesplitter to the Bats, then swings in for 5 with the Bats and Emissary. Again I gamble on the Hive, and this time it pays off with a 1/1 Wirefly. I use it to block the Emissary, and Jimi saves it with a Test of Faith to prevent the damage. My Wirefly dies, and the Emissary gets a pair of shiny +1/+1 tokens. Meanwhile, the Bats slam into me, and Jimi pumps them four times. At the end of the turn, I’m down to 8 while she’s at 14.
Next turn, I add a Tel-Jilad Outrider, a good card against her deck but helpless to stop the aerial assault. All I have are the Wireflies, and they are a gamble at best. Jimi keeps the pressure on in the sky, and I fall quickly thereafter.
On the play again, I begin with a Forest while Jimi finds a Swamp and Bonesplitter. Next turn I add a Gold Myr, while she brings back the Grimclaw Bats. A Tel-Jilad Outrider follows, but Jimi gets in for first blood when she equips the Bats with the Bonesplitter and hits for 3. She then adds a Leonin Scimitar and passes.
Now turn 4, I counterattack for 3 on the ground before adding a second Gold Myr. Jimi sticks the Scimitar onto the Bats alongside the Bonesplitter, turning them sideways for 4 more points of damage. She then summons a second Bats, and ends the turn. Back to me, I attack for another 3 with the Outrider, then summon the Tel-Jilad Archers to close the aerial gap. Jimi then hits my hand with Pulse of the Dross. I reveal a Tangle Golem, One Dozen Eyes, and Infested Roothold, and off goes the Golem. Because I have more cards in hand than she does, the Pulse returns to Jimi’s hand. She then attacks for 4 with the equipped Bats, pumping it twice when I decline the block. The turn ends with me at 7, her at 12.
The offending Bats get Arrested on turn 6, after which I swing in with the Outrider and Myr to draw the game level. As expected, Jimi moves her equipment to the remaining Bats, then attacks in for 4. I block with the Archers, forcing Jimi to pump the Bats once to keep them alive. The Archers head to the graveyard. Back to me, I swing in for another 5 to leave Jimi on death’s door. I then add a Spawning Pit and pass. Jimi adds more Chittering Rats and a Slith Bloodletter.
Now turn 8, I play One Dozen Eyes for a swarm of 1/1’s. At 1 life, Jimi’s all but checkmated, and scoops after her next draw.
Now turn 3, Jimi next plays a Grimclaw Bats, equipping the Scimitar. I deploy a Thunderstaff in repsonse. Jimi then enchants it with Relic Bane, then attacks in for 2 with the Bats (reduced by 1 from the Staff). Back to me, I counterattack with my Ghost to put her at 19, following up with a Tangle Golem.
After another 1-point attack on turn 5, Jimi brings out a Clockwork Vorrac. Back to me, I Arrest it, then hammer in for 6 with the Ghost and Golem duo. With Jimi at 13 life, I then deploy a Gold Myr and end my turn. For Jimi’s part, she solves my Golem with Murderous Spoils, then sends in the Bats. She plays a Bonesplitter and passes. I return fire rather lamely with just the Ghost. By the end of the turn, we’re in a dead heat at 13 life apiece.
Now turn 7, Jimi equips her Bats with the Bonesplitter, then attacks in for 4, pumping them four times. This slashes me down to 3, but leaves her only at 8. At the end of her turn, I then flash in a Tangle Spider, giving me a suprise attacker. Untapping, I go down to 1 life from the Relic Bane. I then send in the team- the Spider, the Ghost, and the Myr. Jimi’s wide open. That’s 5 damage- and when I trigger the Thunderstaff it’s 8- exactsies for the win!
Thoughts & Analysis
Over the course of the past two years, we’ve played some real stinker decks. To Wizards’ credit, there haven’t been many, and most tend to skulk at the periphery of memory. A few stand out, though, such as the dreadful Anthologies boxed set, and so when we try and quantify how poor this deck was, that’s the first thing we compare it to. Its saving grace is that it wasn’t as interminably boring as Anthologies, and that goes a long way. Make no mistake, this is a poor deck, but it did at least make for some entertainment.
So what made it so terrible? First, there really wasn’t a very good theme underlying this one. Some themes are stronger than others, but seldom have we seen one as flimsy and threadbare as this. One can be forgiven for thinking that Wizards ran out of ideas to draw from for Darksteel, and needed to put something together which the colours remaining. How else could you describe a deck based around a card that needs consistent creature deployment (Echoing Courage), then not give you the means to optimise it? In the entire deck, there is only one creature you get four copies of, and it’s a mana Myr. Everything else is mainly a two-of, which defeats the purpose of Echoing Courage in the first place. This deck screams for a higher consistency than usual to meet the theme; instead, we get a normal amount of consistency that ends up undermining the pivotal card. There’s simply little excuse not to be running a full playset of Raise the Alarms here. Instead, it seems like they just crammed everything in Green and White that generated token creatures, and hoped the pilot could figure something out on the fly.
Making matters worse, the deck is filled with questionable choices. Wirefly Hive is a dreadful mana sink, and has the same negative synergy with Echoing Courage. You’ve got a one in four chance of keeping a mere two Wireflies up in the air at the same time, and heaven forbid you actually try for three. Or howabout the Myr Matrix? One of the deck’s two rare slots devoted to pumping all of four Myr in the deck, with the ability to make more at a high retail price. Mirrodin and Darksteel had plenty of non-mana Myr if the deck wanted to use that as a subtheme, but this one runs all of five cards. Dreadful.
This deck certainly had some potential. The presence of cards with protection from artifacts and Viridian Shaman certainly could have cast it in the anti-artifact joker in the deck, much as how Relic Breaker was positioned in Scars of Mirrodin. But much like the Myr, this was a glimpse of a more entertaining possible reality, and little more. Give this one a miss.
Hits: Deck offers hints of a more entertaining what-might-have-been…
Misses: …but instead we get stuck with a poorly concepted, poorly executed hodgepodge crazyquilt of cards loosely wrapped around a single combat trick that demands a consistency the deck just doesn’t offer it
OVERALL SCORE: 2.00/5.00