Magic 2010: Nature’s Fury Review (Part 1 of 2)
By almost any yardstick, 2,600,000 is a pretty big number. Two days ago, jewelry thieves hit the Cannes film festival and made off with a necklace valued at 2.6 million dollars. Two months ago, eSports body Major League Gaming shattered previous viewership figures by pulling in 2.6 million spectators for a weekend of televised Starcraft II. Fans of golf might not be surprised that last month’s Master’s in Augusta racked up 2.6 million mentions on social media. Those of a more political bent might be concerned that according to a just-released study from USC, 2.6 million human beings in the state of California are undocumented- a full nine percent of its workforce. By almost any yardstick, then, it’s a huge number.
When might it be a small one?
In August of 1993, Magic: the Gathering completed its journey from idea to actuality. Its creator, Richard Garfield, had initially come to Wizards of the Coast pitching a board game, RoboRally, which was knocked back for being too expensive to publish. CEO Richard Adkinson challenged Garfield to make a small, easily-portable game that could be played during ‘downtime’ at conventions. The result, of course, was Magic: the Gathering. Knowing they had a hit on their hands, Adkinson backed Magic to the hilt, and their small company was able to deliver the first edition of the game. Being a small company, though, they were only able to print 2.6 million cards for the set that would become known as “Limited Edition Alpha.”
As we know, Magic was an immediate and runaway success. This helped springboard a second printing, Beta, which had triple the print run. Although Wizards had faith in its product, it could not have imagined at that time that they had indeed captured lightning in a bottle, as the game’s popularity took off. By December of that year, they had commissioned a third printing, Unlimited. As a nod to the collectors, this third set- with a print run of 35 million- was released with a white border instead of black. Then came the expansions, first the Garfield-designed Arabian Nights in December followed in March of 1994 by Antiquities. Whatever they could print, they could sell.
In April of 1994, what could be called the first-ever “core set” was released with Revised Edition hit the shelves. Although Alpha could hold the title of progenitor of the core set, Revised was the first time you had a reprint set that added and subtracted cards from its print run based on previously-released expansions. Some of the more problematic cards from Alpha were dropped, with ‘staple’ cards from Arabian Nights and Antiquities taking their place. With an estimated print run of 500 million cards, it was to set a standard that would be held to for most of Magic’s history, until everything changed in July of 2009.
Magic 2010 had arrived.
We pause our story here, and begin our look at the decks of the first truly progressive core set today with Nature’s Fury. Like all of the M10 Intro Packs, it took a mono-coloured build and added just a splash of a secondary colour, in this case Green with a touch of White.
Stronger and Meaner
Nature’s Fury plots a fairly straightforward path through the mana curve, with about the same representation at each slot until the top of the mana curve, when it packs in some rather substantial finishers. To get there, though, it’s going to need a little help, as the biggest of these- the premium rare Kalonian Behemoth– costs all of seven mana.
Fortunately, this is Green we’re talking about, and a pair of Llanowar Elves at the opener should surprise very few. A staple classic of the game since the beginning, the Elves can help the deck more steadily develop its manabase. Oftentimes you’ll also see these as an accelerant- think a turn-2 Leatherback Baloth– but in this deck there are few out-and-out threats that can wreack severe damage if ramped out into play on turns 3 or 4. Now if you manage to find both…
From there we find another staple with the Runeclaw Bear. A solid, workhorse two-mana 2/2, the Bears are on-curve for their cost and give you a decent body. The Elvish Visionary here is another accelerant card- there aren’t a lot of uses for a simple 1/1 creature, but by letting you draw a card when it enters the battlefield you’re essentially cycling and getting a free 1/1. This gets you to your other cards more quickly, raising your chances of finding both land and your bombs. It doesn’t have a profound effect- it’s a singleton after all- but in a 41-card deck especially things have a way of appearing more often than you think.
Manabase development gets another shot in the arm with a pair of Borderland Rangers, as we move up a rung to the three-drops. These are no stronger than the Bears as a creature, but their power comes from the fact that they also let you go fetch a basic land card. That helps you hit your land drops, but also fixes your manabase for you if you haven’t managed to find any White yet. It’s not widely used- a mere three cards- but your ability to employ removal hinges on how quickly you can find Plains. They’re not considered ramp since they don’t put you ahead on mana (the land goes to your hand), but they’re good in environments where you want to consistently get to your more expensive offerings- which led to their reprinting in the ANgel-heavy Avacyn Restored.
We also find the first real offensive threat here in the Awakener Druid. It’s not the Druid your opponent has to worry about, though, so much as the 4/5 Treefolk that he animates from amongst your Forests. This does put your manabase development at risk, but if you can play an early mana dork, you can bash in for 4 as early as turn 3. Although cards like the Druid and Elf call out for flicker effects that would let you abuse their enters-the-battlefield triggers, you have no such resources here- they’re strictly one-shot.
On to the four-drops, there’s another stock card in the Giant Spider. Winner of the Core Set Survivor back in 2011, the Spider is your only real defense against flying creatures outwith your supporting removal suite. It’s not a particularly robust attacker for four mana, though its high toughness does make it a bit difficult to squash. You also get a Prized Unicorn, another 2/2 body. As with some of the other cards we’ve seen, it’s not the body that’s relevant so much as the ability- in this case, a free Lure. That makes the Unicorn something of a closer-enabler, drawing off your opponent’s defenders to leave them vulnerable to an alpha strike. With no way to get haste, though, your opponent will have at least one turn to prepare.
All of these smaller creatures might have some of the veteran players amongst us quoting that classic Wendy’s commercial of the 80’s, saying “where’s the beef?” Rest assured, the top of the mana curve has the fat you’d expect to find in Green, starting with a Stampeding Rhino. This surprisingly-strong five-drop comes with trample, making it a natural target for the deck’s Might of Oaks or Oakenform. Bramble Creeper hits harder as a 5/3, but is a humble Wall of Wood on defense. The Creeper’s ability is a bit curious, with an obvious question being raised of “why isn’t it just a 5/3?” Magic can be a game of tremendous sublety, though, and the Creeper has some nifty interaction with cards like Goblin Tunneler. Still, here it’s just a creature that reaches its full potential on the attack, which is where this deck wants to be anyway.
Finally, at the very peak of the curve we find the deck’s two biggest beaters, the Enormous Baloth and Kalonian Behemoth. Each cost seven mana, though the Behemoth has a higher Green component (irrelevant here). Either of these should move the game towards its end once it hits the table, and the Behemoth has the benefit of the now-defunct shroud ability, letting it laugh in the face of removal.
Speaking of removal, there’s a modest but useful complement of it here in Nature’s Fury courtesy of White. First up is the bread-and-butter spell Pacifism. This not only takes an attacker out of the game, but also can be helpful in removing an obstacle from the path of your onrushing army. In a red-zone-centric deck like this one, keeping the lanes clear is essential. A Divine Verdict will flat-out destroy a creature, with the caveat that it must be either attacking you or defending from one of your attacks- a classic White restriction. Finally, there’s a single copy of Harm’s Way. This one’s a bit trickier to use, but used correctly (and at an opportune time), you can two-for-one your opponent with it in creature combat.
Rounding out the suite is a dose of artifact/enchantment removal with a Naturalize, and the ‘fixed’ version of Hurricane in Windstorm. Flying creatures have long been a weakness of Green, with the only consistent solution being to just pile on offensive pressure to take advantage of the cost/size disparity between evasive bodies and non-evasive ones.
Next up are the combat tricks, another staple in this deck archetype. A pair of Giant Growths are de rigeur, but the deck’s other rare- a Might of Oaks- is the deck’s real powerhouse here. Although much more expensive than Giant Growth, it can turn any of your creatures into a game-winning threat against an opponent reduced to around half life. Indeed, even the deck’s more humble specimens like the Elves can inflict glorious damage if left unchecked, giving the deck an element of suspense whenever you have four mana up. Finally, you get an Overrun, another timeless Green classic. Originally printed in Tempest, this turns every one of your creatures into a bloated, trampling enormity, and can win games outright.
Finally, a pair of singleton effects appear in the form of Oakenform and Nature’s Spiral. The former is a simpe aura that gives one of your creatures a permanent Giant Growth. Nature’s Spiral, meanwhile, is a touch of graveyard recursion that lets you get a permanent back from graveyard to hand- just the thing to bring back a beater that’s fallen in combat for an encore performance.
Outwith the single Terramorphic Expanse, there’s little left to the deck aside from basic lands. We’ll put the deck to the test and see how it performs- see you in two days time when we return to render a final verdict!