Magic 2010: Death’s Minions Review (Part 2 of 2)
The power of the grave is mine to command as I field Death’s Minions in our playtest. Opposing me at the table is Sam, who’s piloting Presence of Mind. Can she dominate in the air, or with the grave be her resting place as well?
Sam’s on the play for our opener, and we trade land drops on our first turn. Sam then follows with a Swamp to match her Island, while I find the game’s first creature with Drudge Skeletons. Back to Sam, she then plays an Island and passes, so I get in first blood with the Skeletons before playing a Looming Shade.
Now turn 4, Sam drops a Snapping Drake, then passes. I send in the Shade, pumping it for 3 more after Sam declines to block. Down to 15, Sam attacks for another 3 with the Drake, then summons a second one. I again attack with the Shade, this time pumping for 4 more after adding another Swamp to my board.
Sam’s half-dead, but you wouldn’t know it. A turn 6 Mind Control wrests the Shade from my grasp, and the tide turns immediately. She swings in for 6 with the Drakes in the air, and I fall to 11. Though I counter with a Zombie Goliath, Sam’s answering Sleep lets her alpha strike for the win.
This time I’m on the play, and my second-turn Drudge Skeletons are the game’s first play. Next turn I attack in with it, then Mind Rot Sam’s hand. She casts off a Doom Blade and an Island, but comes right back with a Phantom Warrior.
My turn 4 is a lamentable blank, and Sam swings in with the Warrior before adding a Snapping Drake. I miss another land drop on turn 5, after which Sam keeps the pressure up with a 5-point swing. Then she adds a Zephyr Sprite and passes the turn.
I look to take some pressure off on turn 6 by Assassinating the Drake, but Sam simply Cancels my attempt. Back to her, she slams in for 6 with the trio, taking e to 7 life. This gets followed with the summons of a Coral Merfolk. Next turn I finally pick off the Drake with a Doom Blade, but the Warrior, Merfolk, and Sprite remain. She attacks with the evasive ones, and I’m down to 4.
I begin with a Swamp, while Sam launches a Zephyr Sprite off an Island. Next turn I’m back with the Drudge Skeletons, while Sam starts attacking with the Sprite.
Now turn 3, I counterattack with the Skeletons, then add a Warpath Ghoul. Sam sends in her Sprite, then seals off the ground passage with a Wall of Frost. Next turn, I attack into it anyway, as the Skeleton at least can shave off a nick. A Howling Banshee then arrives, and we’re level at 15 life apiece. Sam simply plays a Divination.
Now turn 5, my Ghoul stays tapped thanks to being blocked by the Wall. I attack for 3 with the Banshee, then Mind Rot Sam’s hand to see off an Essence Scatter and Island. Back to Sam, she slaps down a Telepathy, giving her a look at my hand. A Horned Turtle follows, after which she attacks in for 1 in the air. Next turn, I catch Sam with only two cards in hand and Mind Rot them away- an Air Elemental and Mind Control (dagger!). In swings the Banshee for 3, and Sam’s down to 9. Looks like I might avoid the sweep after all! Sam refills her hand with another Divination and ends her turn.
Now turn 7, my Banshee eats her Sprite when it comes in on the attack. I then follow with a Looming Shade. Sam Clones the Banshee, and we each fall another 3 life. With Sam at 6 life, I just can’t get through. I pass after drawing on turn 8, after which she summons a Phantom Warrior.
On turn 9, I topdeck a Nightmare and bring it out, but it’s not especially fearsome as a 3/3. Regardless, Sam simply Sleeps my side and swings for 6, leaving me on a one-turn clock. I move to stabilise with a Rise from the Grave, angling for Sam’s discarded Air Elemental, but that gets Negated. With no recourse left, I concede the game and the match.
Thoughts & Analysis
I didn’t rate Presence of Mind very highly, and to be so thoroughly put in place by the deck didn’t do much to give me a lot of faith in the deck. It seemed to follow a similar pattern as we’ve seen with these Magic 2010 decks, which is play some mediocre options in the middle while waiting to deploy your bomb. This time, though, I just wasn’t able to put enough past my opponent even when I did find it.
In fairness, Sleep backed by counters is a difficult entrenchment to play through, but the other problem was that my deck simply didn’t do enough against Sam’s. It says something when I felt that my most potent threat was Mind Rot, in a deck which had just a splash of discard. None of the creatures I played- outwith the aerial ones- really felt like they had a lot to contribute here- though I’d surely be saying something different against an aggro deck or Green stompy. It can’t be held too harshly against Death’s Minions that my opponent’s creatures weren’t all that impeded by my Drudge Skeletons (and my Wall of Bone sat un-cast in my hand).
I also made a mistake in play early on, when I had the option to continue pumping damage through my Looming Shade or to further develop my board. I was tempted by the damage the Shade offered, but can be a bit of a trap when the Shade is dealt with and you’ve got nothing to show for those turns except damage. I was immediately behind once this happened, and of course never recovered.
Instead, I’ll be most critical of the deck where it wanted to fence-sit. A deck where Swamps matter, but a splash of largely-unnecessary Green (though I was not unhappy to have Naturalize in a deck potentially facing a Mind Control). One of my two rares as a Zombie lord in a deck where many creatures aren’t Zombies. In the end, Death’s Minions is actually built on a solid if pedestrian foundation, and would have turned in better results against an opponent who couldn’t better exploit its vulnerabilities.
Misses: Both of the deck’s rares compromised by the rest of the deck’s composition; deck is fairly underwhelming altogether
OVERALL SCORE: 3.70/5.00