Dragon’s Maze: Orzhov Power Review (Part 2 of 2)
Next in our sights if the deck of the Church of Deals, the Orzhov Syndicate! Dragon’s Maze is back with another take on the extort mechanic, and we’re keen to see how it measures up both against its competition as well as its hallowed lineage. To give it a worthy sparring partner, Sam’s back piloting Azorius Authority. Which will prevail, the law or the contract?
Now turn 3, I summon a second Screecher, paying an extra mana to trigger extort on the first. After sending it in to attack, Sam’s down to 18 life with me at 21. For her part, she plays a Cluestone and ends her turn. Back to me, I gird a Screecher with Gift of Orzhova, extorting again. In go the Bats, and Sam falls to 14 even as I increase my lead to 24. Finally, she plugs the defensive gap with a Jelenn Sphinx.
Now turn 5, I attack in for 3 in the air. Sam blocks the larger Bat with the Sphinx, taking only 1 from the other. After another extort from playing Basilica Guards, I end the turn at 27 life. Back to Sam, she adds an Azorius Guildgate and an Ascended Lawmage. I then bring out a Dark Revenant, extorting once to leave Sam at 11. I attack in with my larger Basilica Screecher, for which Sam offers her Lawmage in trade. This brings me up to 30 life. Over to Sam, she plays a Stealer of Secrets and another Cluestone.
Sadly for Sam, she hasn’t really managed to attain board parity, while my deck is right in its element. A turn-7 attack for 3 with my Screecher and Revenant sees Sam fall to 10 after the block, but Sam then manages to detain my Basilica Guards with an Azorius Arrester to allow her Stealer of Secrets to slip past unobstructed. This drops me to 28 but, more, importantly, puts her up a card as she digs for answers. She then plays a second Stealer and ends her turn. Next turn, I kill off the Sphinx with an Assassin’s Strike, forcing the discard of a Righteous Charge. With the air lanes clear, my 3-point swing drops Sam to 7. She counterattacks with both Stealers, seeing one through. A Lyev Decree then detains my air force before she ends with a Silvercoat Lion.
Now turn 9, I simply play a Steeple Roc, extorting once. With lethal on the board, Sam goes for broke and alpha strikes. I block both Stealers, one with the Guards and the other with the Roc (killing it), taking 4 damage. It’s a defiant gesture and nothing more- Sam concedes at its conclusion.
Sam and I exchange land drops for our first two turns, with mine being a pair of Guildgates and Sam’s Islands. A third successive Island allows her to field a Wind Drake, while I bring out a Tithe Drinker after finding a Swamp.
Now turn 4, Sam swings in for first blood, filling the gap in her defenses with a Haazda Snare Squad. Back to me, I then play Ubul Sar Gatekeepers, triggering a free Disfigure thanks to my two Gates in play. I use it to kill off the Drake, ending the turn. Back to Sam, she rashly attacks past my Drinker, using the Squad’s ability to tap down the Gatekeepers. That’s fine, but it leaves her open to a 4-point counterattack, and a 2-point heal thanks to the Drinker’s lifelink. I’m back to 19, she’s down to 16. I then play a Cluestone, extorting once.
A turn-6 Azorius Cluestone is the extent of what Sam’s able to manage, after which I respond by popping my own Cluestone for a card. I then play a Bane Alley Blackguard, extorting again. Back to Sam, she plays a second Snare Squad and passes, while my turn is a blank save for a land drop. Sam’s next turn follows suit, after which I draw and play a Steeple Roc, extoring once off it.
Now turn 9, Sam uses a Lyev Decree to detain my Roc and Drinker, stalling for time. I play my ninth consecutive land drop and pass. All but spent, Sam drops an Island and passes. I swing for 3 with the Roc to put her to 10, ending my turn. Sam pops her Cluestone for acard, but comes up empty. Once my turn rolls around, I play and pop a Cluestone of my own for the card, extorting once. I then send in the troops. Sam blocks the Drinker and Gatekeepers with her Snare Squads, but I turn it into a blowout when I fuse Profit // Loss. This pumps my side +1/+1, lowers hers by an equal amount, and has her on the verge of defeat. She next plays Lavinia of the Tenth, but realises she can’t stop enough damage and scoops.
Sam’s turn-3 Stealer of Secrets is the game’s first play after land drops, and Sam’s got the early board all to herself. She attacks for 2 on turn 4, drawing a free card and summoning a Wind Drake. This lets her swing for 4 on turn 5, but unwilling to fall that far behind I kill off the Stealker with Fatal Fumes. She replaces her loss with a Jelenn Sphinx and ends her turn. For me, things promise to get quite interesting indeed as I summon my Crypt Ghast, and with every drop but one a Swamp, I’ve got a ton of mana at my disposal.
Now turn 6, Sam detains my Ghast with an Azorius Arrester, hammering in for 4 to drop me to 12. Over to me, I summon a Steeple Roc, using the extra mana for an extort. Back to Sam, she plays a Wind Drake and passes, while I then slam down Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts– with enough mana remaining to get in a cheeky extort!
Sam drops a turn-8 Ascended Lawmage, but she’s going to need a lot more than that. I drop a Basilica Screecher, triggering an extort from the Ghast, then summon a Dark Revenant getting in two extorts. After a 4-point attack with Teysa, Sam’s down to 11 with me at 17- quite a reversal! Back to Sam, she buys time with a Lyev Decree, detaining the Roc and Teysa. I simply play a Bane Alley Blackguard, allowing another couple of extorts.
Now turn 10, Sam’s in deep trouble. She plays a Sunspire Gatekeeper, but doesn’t have a Gate in play let alone two. I summon a Tithe Drinker, then swing for 7 with Teysa and the Roc. Sam blocks the Roc with the Sphinx, after which I again fuse Profit // Loss to turn the tide of battle. Extorting the fused spell twice leaves Sam at 2, with me at 21, though Sam does manage to solve Teysa with an Avenging Arrow.
Defeated, Sam plays a turn-11 Stealer of Secrets to give her another block option. I use an Assassin’s Strike to kill off her Wind Drake, choosing simply to extort off it for the win.
Thoughts & Analysis
Dragon’s Maze seems to be running contrary to expectation. Past experience has frequently shown us that the deeper in a block a deck appears, the deeper into a particular theme or mechanic it is able to go. Put another way, when there are more cards to support a given direction for a deck, the further it can go. It stands to reason, then, that you would see even more extorting in Dragon’s Maze than you did in Gatecrash. However, just like we saw with Rakdos Revely, the guild’s signature mechanic seems to take a back seat to a rather straightforward midrange shell. Rakdos, at least, had a certain parity of representation for unleash, even if the Dragon’s Maze version was quite a bit slower and therefore took much less advantage. For the Orzhov, there was a marked decrease in extort, down from eleven to seven.
This is curious. A slower environment is one perfectly suited to the Orzhov, who are happy to congest the red zone with cheap, high-toughness creatures like the Bane Alley Blackguard and Basilica Guards while whittling away at their opponent’s life total with evasive creatures and extort. It’s not that Orzhov Power is a bad deck, or one that misrepresents the Orzhov… it’s just that it feels a bit plainer than Orzhov Oppression, thanks to the toning-down of the mechanic.
Still, even mediocrity can’t take the glimmer off the Orzhov, who have one of Ravnica’s most intriguing mechanics. While the deck’s removal suite is weaker than Orzhov Oppression’s, I seldom had much difficulty against Sam in establishing control of the game. Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts almost felt unfair in the removal-light environment, though as we saw Sam did find an answer. And the Crypt Ghast was another very good inclusion. Although the Dragn’s Maze decks have tended to have better rares that their predecessors, the Treasury Thrull and High Priest of Penance are both also fairly solid, though the Thrull might be the weakest of the four between the two decks since simple ground attacks are least suited to the guild.
Overall, though, there’s a lean streak of muscle under all the fat the deck presents. This feels like a springboard more than a finished result, which, given the primary purpose of Intro Packs, isn’t such a bad thing. Still, s a standalone deck it had little to set it apart from its somewhat lackluster peers.
Hits: Supeb rare selection in Teysa and the Crypt Ghast; solid build that plays to the Orzhov’s strengths with a dependable air force
Misses: Toned-down employment of the guild’s signature extort mechanic takes some of the fun out of the deck; more expensive cards makes it more difficult to effectively use the extort it does have; weaker removal suite than the previous Orzhov deck; oversaturated manabase (standard for this set’s decks)
OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00