Darksteel: Master Blaster Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s our last visit to the world of Mirrodin for awhile, as we’re concluding with Darksteel and likely won’t be back until Fifth Dawn. It’s been a fun return, and we’re ending on a high with a look at Master Blaster. To try and thwart me, Jimi’s grabbed the modular-filled Transference. Which deck will come out on top?
Jimi kicks things off with a Seat of the Synod, tapping it straightaway to deploy an Arcbound Worker. I play a Darksteel Citadel and pass. Next turn sees Jimi open the account with a 1-point attack, then follow with a Spincrusher. For my part, it’s a Mountain and an Iron Myr.
Now turn 3, Jimi attacks past with the Worker to leave me at 18. I then squeeze a Vulshok War Boar onto the board, a surprise 5/5 though not one without consequence as I sacrifice my Darksteel Citadel. Back to Jimi, she then summons a Neurok Familiar, but whiffs on the free card when it turns out to be an Echoing Truth. She attacks in again with the Worker and I lethally block it with the Boar. Thanks to modular, it gifts the Spincrusher with a +1/+1 counter after it passes. She ends her turn, then I deploy a Talon of Pain. I turn the War Boar sideways and Jimi gets slammed for 5. She drops to 15, and I place the first counter on the Talon.
Now turn 5, Jimi then brings out an Arcbound Hybrid. She swings in for 3 with the Familiar and Hybrid, dropping me to 15. Then she adds another Arcbound Worker and passes. Over to me, I trigger the Talon of Pain to kill off the Arcbound Worker, removing a chump-blocker from the War Boar’s path. Though it gifts a +1/+1 counter to the Spincrusher, it’s not robust enough to be available for defense and Jimi goes down to 10. I then play a Steel Wall and Darksteel Brute, ending the turn. Jimi sends in the Familiar over the top for 1, then brings out an Ur-Golem’s Eye. That gets immediately tapped to help fund a Neurok Transmuter, and she ends her turn. I simply send in the War Boar undaunted, compelling Jimi to chump it with the Hybrid. Though that kills one of her defenders, modular also sees a pair of +1/+1 counters added to the Spincrusher, which is now a 4/6. I summon a Hematite Golem and pass.
A turn-7 Reshape transforms the Ur-Golem’s Eye into an Arcbound Bruiser, after which Jimi pecks in with the Familiar for 1. Down to 13, I swing with the Boar for another 5, and this time Jimi chumps with the Transmuter. I then add a Duskworker and end the turn. Back to Jimi, her turn 8 is a lamentable blank. Still, she’s managed at last to stabilise, and I refrain from attacking lest I contnue to build up a massive Spincrusher loaded with +1/+1 tokens. Instead, I play a second Vulshok War Boar (sacrificing a Darksteel Brute) and end the turn.
Now turn 9, Jimi swings in for 1 with the Familiar to drop me to 12. I play an Oxidda Golem, which costs half-price thanks to its affinity for Mountains. Going tit-for-tat, Jimi adds an Arcbound Fiend, attacking in again with the Familiar. I add another Oxidda Golem (this time for two mana, after another Mountain was played), then summon a Krark-Clan Stoker.
Jimi moves a +1/+1 counter from the Spincrusher to the Arcbound Fiend to kick off turn 11, then plays a Skullclamp. She equips it to her Familiar after getting in one more attack, weighing that she needs cards more than the ability to keep me on a 10-turn clock. She draws two cards, summons an Arcbound Stinger, then equips the Stinger with the Skullclamp for even more card-drawing fun. Meanwhile, the Stinger’s +1/+1 counter gets added to the Fiend’s growing packet of them. She then ends with a flourish, playing a free Spire Golem before passing. Back to me, I turn everything sideways, pushing my army into the red zone. Eight different creatures thunder across the table, and Jimi blocks the biggest four. The remaining ones carve 8 points off her life total, leaving her at 2. Victory is just one Talon of Pain activation away…
Jimi opens up the rematch with an Arcbound Worker off an Island, while I play a Great Furnace. Next turn she attacks for 1, then summons a Neurok Familiar (hitting a free Cobalt Golem). I add a second Furnace, then ramp up with an Iron Myr. Back to Jimi, she then attacks for 2 with her creeps before summoning another Arcbound Worker, while I again go in for the early Operation: Vulshok War Boar, sacrificing a Great Furnace.
Now turn 4, Jimi adds a Skullclamp to the board, then equips it to the Worker. It dies, she draws two cards, and then offers its counter to the other Worker. I hammer in for 5 to drop Jimi to 15, then bring out a Goblin Replica. Back to Jimi, she attacks for 3 with the Worker and Familiar, and I’m now down to 14. She brings out an Arcbound Crusher, then passes. Over to me, I counterattack for 7 with the Boar and Repilica, cutting her down to 8. I then add a Hematite Golem and Steel Wall before ending the turn.
Jimi adds another Skullclamp on turn 6, then summons a Cobalt Golem. The Crusher gets a pair of +1/+1 counters, and she passes. I send in the War Boar and Golem for 6, and Jimi blocks both. Her Cobalt Golem blocks my Hematite one, and she chumps the Boar with the remaining Worker, shifting two counters over to the Crusher thanks to modular. I then play a Steel Wall and pass. Next turn Jimi summons an Arcbound Bruiser (giving another +1/+1 counter to the now-6/6 Crusher). She then brings out a Neurok Familiar, immediately Skullclamping it for more cards. My turn, sadly, is a blank.
Now turn 8, Jimi goes big with a Rust Elemental, giving another +1/+1 counter to the Crusher. She then equips the Cobalt Golem with a Skullclamp, then activates its ability to give it flying. It swings in for 3, taking me to 10. Back to me, I summon an Oxidda Golem and pass. Next turn Jimi sacrifices the free Skullclamp to the Rust Elemental, then brings out an Arcbound Reclaimer. That adds another counter to the Crusher, after which she removes one from the Reclaimer to stick the Skullclamp atop her library. She attacks in with the Elemental and flying Golem for 7, and I’m compelled to pop my Goblin Replica to kill the Elemental, reducing the incoming damage to 3. Over to me, I bring out a Krark-Clan Stoker and Duskworker, then pass back.
Now turn 10, Jimi summons an Arcbound Lancer, tapping out. This means she can’t give her Cobalt Golem evasion, so she simply ends the turn without attack. I play a Pyrite Spellbomb and pass right back. Next turn she plays the reclaimed Skullclamp, making the Crusher now a 10/10. She sticks the second Skullclamp on the Golem to join the first one, then gives it flying. It swings in for 4, dropping me to 3. Sadly, my turn is another blank.
I’m on the ropes and Jimi knows it. She then attacks in again on turn 12 with the flying Cobalt Golem, forcing me to kill it off with the Spellbomb and let her draw four cards. She then plays an Arcbound Worker, ‘clamping it straightaway for more cards. Meanwhile, the pile of counters on the Crusher grows and grows. Over to me, I summon a Gemini Engine, but it’s late to the party. Next turn Jimi double-‘clamps the Crusher, making it a 15/11. A Reshape turns her Bruiser into an Arcbound Worker, which then gets ‘clamped again. By the time she’s done with her shenanigans, she’s swinging in with a 20/16 Arcbound Crusher. Against such a force I have no hope of victory.
Jimi mulligans to five cards for our final clash, and neither of us have much in the way of early plays. Our dueling land drops are interrupted only by my second-turn Pyrite Spellbomb and turn-4 Darksteel Brute, which she answers with an Arcbound Crusher.
Now turn 5, I offer up the Brute to fuel a Vulshok War Boar, my go-to early play. For her part, Jimi plays a Juggernaut and a Skullclamp, adding two more +1/+1 counters to the Crusher. Back to me, I then blast the Juggernaut with an Electrostatic Bolt, then Bolt the Crusher for good measure. I send in the Boar for 5, and end my turn. Jimi summons a replacement in the form of an Arcbound Bruiser, then equips the Skullclamp to it.
Now turn 7, I bring out a Talon of Pain, then hammer Jimi again with the Boar for another 5. Her turn is a blank. When I swing in again on turn 8, she is compelled to offer up the Bruiser, again seeing modular go squandered. I then play an Oxidda Golem before ending my turn. I’d actually thought to burn Jimi out if she took the hit, thus I’d held off on casting the Golem prior to combat. For her part, Jimi summons an Arcbound Hybrid and a Neurok Familiar, moving to equip the Hybrid with the Skullclamp. I pop the Spellbomb to kill it in response, looking to deny her more cards. Thwarted, Jimi then plays an Arcbound Worker and passes.
I swing for 8 on turn 9, and Jimi chumps the Boar with her Worker going down to 7. I follow up with a Gemini Engine. Jimi answers with an Arcbound Fiend, but next turn a surprise Oxidda Golem gives me the burst I need to alpha strike for the win.
Thoughts & Analysis
As it happens, this was a surprisingly difficult matchup, all things considered. While my deck is packed with burn, Jimi’s modular ability gave her tremendous resilience to it, not unlike Innistrad’s undying mechanic. Sure you can kill my creatures, it says, but you’re not getting one-for-one value. Fortunately as we noted in our review, Transference really wants the mechanic to be more present in the deck, so the gaps where it wasn’t present gave me some way in to tamp down her deck’s threats. Other times, as in the third game, I had to get clever with timing, removing the Juggernaut first then killing the Arcbound critter.
One of the fun things about an artifact-based set is how mixable it is. The heavy burn was a blast to play here, but the deck’s creatures otherwise where a fairly underwhelming lot. The War Boar was a strong option, but too often was contained by Jimi’s resilient creatures. One wonders what fun might come out of a fusion of both decks, modular creatures backed up by a wealth of burn. Alas, such mosings are beyond the scope of the article, but having so many colourless cards does give you the luxury of such exploration.
As for Master Blaster itself, it was a fairly mixed bag. When the burn flowed it could dominate the midfield, but overall I tended to find I just had too build up the creatures and overwhelm- not especially exciting. I’d have enjoyed a bit more of a rush on the front-end and a more aggressive strategy overall. Even Jimi noted how much the deck seemed to go flat in the midgame. Still, as a tour of the direct damage spells in the Mirrodin environment, you’ll find little better.
Hits: Fantastic burn suite, reasonably consistent with its output with some variety mixed in; Vulshok War Boar is delightfully aggressive
Misses: Deck’s creature suite fairly tepid and underwhelming; deck tends to stall out a bit in the midgame
OVERALL SCORE: 3.95/5.00