Duels of the Planeswalkers (2009) Expansion Pack 3: Root of the Firemind Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s our first match for the final expansion pack of the original Duels of the Planeswalkers, and Sam stands ready to put Niv-Mizzet to the ultimate test. Joining her at the table is Sorin Markov, as she’ll be piloting the mono-Black tribal Vampires deck Master of Shadows.
Sam opens her account with a Child of Night on turn two after dropping a couple of Swamps, while I find one each of a Mountain and Island after mulling to 6 cards in hand. Next turn she swings in for first blood with the Child, putting her up to 22 and me to 18 before following up with a Ruthless Cullblade. Still, I look to stabilise when I then summon my own first creature, a Gelectrode.
That’s a serious threat, but not one without answers as Sam snaps off a Disfigure to kill it on turn 4. She then attacks in for 4, following up with a Bloodrite Invoker. Back to me, I play a Bladetusk Boar, hoping to buy some time to develop. Next turn, she swarms on the attack undeterred. I trade out the Boar for the Child of Night, falling to 10 as Sam goes to 24. I then replace the Boar with another, and pass.
Now turn 6, Sam picks off the Boar with a Feast of Blood, paving the way for a 4-point swing. She then adds a second Bloodrite Invoker. Back to me, I draw nothing and with lethal on the board, I scoop.
I lead off with an Island in the second game, while Sam deploys a Pulse Tracker. Back to me, I play a second Island and pass, while Sam attacks in with the Tracker for 1 plus the point of bonus damage. She then adds a Blood Seeker before ending her turn.
Now turn 3, I draw a Mountain and play it, while Sam attacks again with the Pulse Tracker and Seeker before adding a Mindless Null. Down to 15, I then summon a Bladetusk Boar, losing a point of life from the Seeker. Sam sends in the Null on the attack and I let it pass, dropping to 12. She then adds a second Mindless Null, then ends the turn.
My turn 5 is a blank, sadly, without even a land to show for it. Sam swings for 4 behind both Nulls to put me at 8, then looks to add a second Blood Seeker. That one gets Canceled. She then opts for a Vampire Lacerator. Back to me, I gladly take the 1-point nick from the Seeker to bring out a Sky Ruin Drake. Over to Sam, she goes for gold with a Vampire Nocturnus. Thankfully, the top card revealed is a Swamp and she opts to stay put with the troops for a turn. That gives me all the opportunity I need to Blaze out the Nocturnus. Chagrined, Sam draws and passes.
Now turn 8, I summon a Kiln Fiend, going down to 6 life as we enter a period of detente. Sam summons a Vampire Nighthawk on turn 9, which I immediately Lightning Bolt. She brings out a turn-11 Child of Night, after which I Into the Roil a Mindless Null back to her hand, paying the kicker for a free card. She replays the Null alongside a Bloodrite Invoker on turn 12, and at the end of the turn I pitch off a couple of Burst Lightnings to kill off the Lacerator and Invoker.
Now turn 13, we continue the “draw-go” dynamic of the game. I Deprive a Ruthless Cullblade, pulling an Island back to hand. A turn-14 Butcher of Malakir draws a Cancel, after which I topdeck a replacement Cancel to stay comfortable on the board. Sam drops a Sanguine Bond on turn 15 and I let it resolve. The Cancel’s expended when Sam then tries to play a kicked Heartstabber Mosquito.
Now turn 17, I summon a Gelectrode, falling to 5 life. Seeing the writing on the wall, Sam attacks with the team after playing a Final Revels to give her creeps +2/+0, and I immediately fall to 4 from the Tracker. I block the Child of Night with the Kiln Fiend, using a Disorient to make the trade one-sided. The Sky Ruin Drake eats a Mindless Null, while the other one trades with the Boar. I chump the Blood Seeker with the Gelectrode, while letting the Pulse Tracker through for damage to leave me on death’s door at 2. Back to me, I summon a Mnemonic Wall, bringing back a Cancel. I then kill off the offending Pulse Tracker with a Burst Lightning, leaving Sam now creatureless. I then send in my Drake and Fiend for 6, dealing the first combat damage of the game. Back to Sam, she tries to snuff my Drake with another kicked Heartstabber Mosquito, but I simply Cancel it. It’s taken almost twenty turns, but I’ve finally stabilised!
Now turn 19, I attack with both for 3, leaving Sam at 11. She summons a Vampire Aristocrat. I then attack in the air with the Drake for 2, while Sam simply adds a Mindless Null. The stall continues until a turn-23 Sleep shuts down Sams board. My Drake and buffed-up Fiend hammer her for 6, and at 3 life she scoops after drawing nothing.
Sam leads off for our closer, and starts things rolling with a Pulse Tracker off a Swamp. She follows next turn with a 1-point attack, which hits for a second thanks to the Tracker’s combat trigger ability. Then she adds a Child of Night before passing, and when both slam into me the next turn I’m down to 14 life with Sam at 22. Meanwhile, I’ve simply been laying land while Sam’s actually missed her third drop.
Now turn 4, Sam again sends in the troops, but I Lightning Bolt the Child on her way in. Down to 12, I play a Mountain and pass. Sam attacks in with the Tracker for another 2, then adds a Blood Seeker. For my part, I summon my first creature, a Kiln Fiend, losing a life from the Seeker to end up at 9.
Still stuck on two lands, Sam then adds a Vampire Lacerator to the board on turn 6. At the end of her turn, I then Bolt the Lacerator straightaway. Over to me, I Burst Lightning the Seeker, then Into the Roil the Pulse Tracker, drawing a useless Shatter thanks to its kicker. The path through the red zone is wide open, and my Kiln Fiend has swollen to an impressive 7/2, dropping Sam to 15 at a stroke. She replaces her losses with a Mindless Null. I then Blaze her to the face for 6 to take her to 9, then carve off another 4 with the Kiln Fiend. It’s a gamble, since the Blaze might be better served in hand to answer a threat, but with her so short of mana it’s one I’m willing to take.
Now turn 8, Sam then summons a Vampire Aristocrat, while I add a Gelectrode. Next turn, she swings in for 4 with both creatures to take me to 5, then adds a Ruthless Cullblade while killing the Gelectrode with a Feast of Blood. Thwarted, I play an Island and end my turn.
Now turn 10, Sam attacks in for 6 with the team. I chump the Cullblade with my Fiend, going down to 1. A Pulse Tracker draws an immediate Cancel, after which Sam sticks another Lacerator. She then casts a perfectly useless Nighthaze, effectively cycling the card. Drawing nothing, I then concede.
Thoughts & Analysis
Sam expected me to be somewhat disheartened on the deck after going 1-for-2 with it, but it was in fact quite the opposite. “Losing,” I replied, “but feeling like you could win it… always to me feels very Red/Blue.” What I meant by that is that these decks often tend to feel very streaky, or “feast-or-famine” as we often say here. Some games will come and go where you have burn when you need a counter, or have a counter when you need burn, but even when pushed to the brink you’ve always got a chance to stabilise and turn from control to beatdown. We saw this in game 2, and while that game was unusually long the results aren’t entirely atypical from what the deck can deliver.
In short, I had a blast playing Root of the Firemind. It’s a fairly straightforward example of the type (neither Galvanoth and Talrand, Sky Summoner, both of which play in the same design space, were printed yet). What’s more, there is clearly a maturity to the deck that we hadn’t seen in some of the earlier releases of Duels of the Planeswalkers, a tighter focus that seems to hew more to its theme rather than giving the appearance of being a “generalist” deck. many of the game’s earliest decks had that sort of ‘introductory’ feel, and its certainly a welcome development. Some spoiled lists of the Duels 2014 lists appear to have reverted back to type, and it will be interesting to see when we head next into Duels 2011 territory whether or not that set did as well.
On the whole, this is a great deck if you like the spell-heavy model, and portends well for the decks ahead.
Hits: Great mix of spells and creatures favouring the latter, in contrast to most decks; very strong burn and counter suite
Misses: Synergy between instants/sorceries and creatures great with the Kiln Fiends and Mnemonic Wall, but otherwise fairly limited; deck can struggle against aggressive, creature-heavy decks
OVERALL SCORE: 4.30/5.00