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June 11, 2013

Magic 2010: Firebomber Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

As we’ve seen in the previous Magic 2010 reviews, this was a set that changed a fundamental aspect of the game. The core set as it had existed for much of the game’s history had been remade, with new cards and functional reprints appearing for the first time. Mythic rarity and planeswalkers were introduced. Players were treated to a pre-release experience, heretofore reserved for new sets. Even the distribution of the set was touched, as new 6-card mini-boosters became available.

And in the largest change of its type since a decade earlier in Sixth Edition, the rules were given an overhaul as well.

A number of concepts that we take for granted in the game now came into being with Magic 2010. Some of these were flavourful, like renaiming the in-play zone the “battlefield,” and removal from the game as “exile.” Others were much more significant. Mana burn- damage taken each phase when you had unspent mana in your mana pool- was removed, and instead that extra mana would simply dissipate. This affected a range of cards, from forced-mana cards like Eladamri’s Vineyard to ones where the state of your lands matter like Citadel of Pain. Combat damage was removed from the stack, which meant an end to the shenanigans such as where a Mogg Fanatic could block a fellow 1/1 creature, be sacrificed to ping another, and wind up killing them both.

All in all, Magic 2010 was a watershed moment in Magic history, one that is perhaps overlooked when we see the familiar and repeated succession of core sets being released each year. Magic 2010 was more than just the “first new core set,” and it’s worthwhile to give the set its due. Success was by no means certain, but this was a calculated risk that paid off.

And on the subject of payoffs, we now turn to our final Magic 2010 deck, Firebomber.

Master of the Mountains

Firebomber Scorecard

As with Presence of Mind, we find here an opening creature that seems almost like a throw-in, a single quick play for an otherwise slower deck. Just as with the Zephyr Sprite, the Raging Goblin’s quality drops each turn it isn’t played, until it simply becomes a very unwelcome draw later in a game. The Sprite is a touch more useful, but the Goblin’s haste saves it from being completely forgettable. For the deck’s lone two-drop, we find the preconstructed staple, Goblin Piker

As we periodically highlight, the Piker is the perfect example of an “improve-me” card, the kind that new players are gently guided to replace. In this case, since Magic 2010 was in the same environment as Zendikar, the Goblin Shortcutter was the obvious upgrade path. In this deck, it’s a slightly underwhelming, fragile creature that stops being able to put up numbers once an opponent’s more-expendable 1/x arrives on-scene.

Next up are the three-drops, beginning with a Wall of Fire. The Wall is a curious choice, given the defensive nature of creatures with defender, but this is not an aggro-Red build so much as a hybrid of that and a counterburn one. This gives it more of a controlling strategy rather than a hell-bent-for-leather one, and in that context the Wall makes more sense. Then there’s the Fiery Hellhound, which is a 2/2 creature that comes equipped with Firebreathing. That’s a reasonable deal, and the Hellhound can do some serious damage if your opponent is slow to develop.

The control elements are enhanced by the repeatable damage cards, Goblin Artillery and Prodigal Pyromancer. The Pyromancer is the classic ‘pinger’ Wizard which hopped from Blue to Red in Planar Chaos. Planar Chaos was an interesting set, which featured many “alternate universe” cards that put iconic effects in other colours. Wrath of God, for instance, was retemplated Black for Damnation. That was a one-off, but in other cases this allowed Wizards to introduce a permanent shift. Although pingers like Prodigal Sorcerer and Mawcor had long been identified with Blue, Planar Chaos gave them the perfect opportunity to move to Red in the Pyromancer, and it’s been a staple ever since.

The Goblin Artillery is a reskin of Orcish Artillery, and don’t let the drawback fool you- this card is very strong. It completely eats most utility creatures, and can stem the incoming tide of damage by either picking off smaller creatures or helping your blockers ‘trade up’ with larger attackers. Get far enough ahead in life and it can even put your opponent on a ticking clock. It takes some experience to get used to the idea that your life total isn’t a precious commodity to be hoarded, but rather a resource to be spent like any other, and the Artillery is a great bridge card for that transition given how much it can do.

The four-drops on offer begin with the most pedestrian of the lot, a Canyon Minotaur. This basic 3/3 vanilla creature won’t win any awards for style, but it’s a solid enough body in a deck that’s not overwhelmed with big creatures. The Lightning Elemental hits harder, but is absolutely brittle on the back-end. In a more aggressive strategy, these might simply be on-curve options that force your opponent to let your smaller guys through when they go to block, but here the idea is as much that you can catch your opponent by surprise when setting your attack strategy. Certainly you’ll be happy to deploy it on-curve as opportunity presents, but properly-timed it can be a nice ambush card. Finally, the Dragon Whelp is a card whose pedigree goes as far back as Alpha, and was even an inclusion in the first ever From the Vault set, From the Vault: Dragons.

Fireball

Fireball

The last two cards are your largest, and one of them is indisputably a finisher. The Berserkers of Blood Ridge is a 4/4 with a drawback, as it must attack each turn if able. There’s an interesting history surrounding the 4/4 creature for 4 manaRed Mana. In Alpha, these stats were considered balanced enough to offer a bonus along with them, as with the Two-Headed Giant of Foriys. In fairness, though, the Giant was rare, not common. In Portal Second Age, the Obsidian Giant had no such bonus, but as a vanilla creature this let its commonality fall to uncommon. It wasn’t until much later in Future Sight that we found the Fomori Nomad– no drawbacks, no abilities, just a 4/4 for an easy-to-cast five mana at common.

Environments shift and change, however, and what is a fit in one may not be for another. And so we found with Magic 2010 that the Nomad was too strong. Instead, the model was appended with a drawback- the necessity to attack each turn if able. Although it would remain in Magic 2011 the very next year, Magic 2012 would replace it with the Bonebreaker Giant, a reskin of the Fomori Nomad. In the expert-level sets, we’ve seen more-intricate versions in cards like Kuldotha Ringleader and Night Revelers. Thus, Berserkers of Blood Ridge are about as bad a deal as 4 manaRed Mana has ever gotten you in the history of the game, but ultimately it’s up to the environment to determine whether or not the card is worth inclusion.

The real closer here, though, is the Shivan Dragon. The Dragon had been in every core set up to this point bar one, when it was omitted from Sixth Edition. As a massive bomb that can hit like a truck on the following turn, this is a must-answer threat that will put your opponent under heavy pressure the moment it hits the table.

The Ways of the Mountains

Of the eleven noncreature support cards in Firebomber, eight of them are burn spells- with two of them being sweepers. This gives the deck one of the greatest concentrations of removal ever seen in preconstructed Magic. Often when we’ve seen decks with a lot of removal, there’s a balancing factor in that many of the cards are conditional. expensive, or harder to use. The deck frequenly invoked as an example is New Phyrexia’s Feast of Flesh, which had all sorts of wonky burn/kill cards like Shrine of Burning Rage, Tower of Calamities,  and Parasitic Implant.

This deck is as simple and lethal as it gets. Two Lightning Bolts. Two Seismic Strikes. A Fireball. Board-sweepers like Earthquake and Pyroclasm. And finally, a big dose of direct damage to an opponent’s face in Lava Axe. The deck might not have wowed us with its creature selection, which seemed a little pedestrian, but the burn suite is extraordinary here.

Rounding out the deck are a trio of Blue spells, as each deck draws three cards from its secondary colour. Blue offers us a limited counter in Negate, a Divination for card draw, and a Sleep. Sleep is a superb finishing enabler, though it’s high Blue commitment will occasionally trip you up. What makes Sleep so great is its versatility, and the extra use it can let you get out of your outclassed, early-game plays. That Goblin Piker might have been sitting on the sidelines on an extended water break, but suddenly it becomes relevant as you throw it into the game once again. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that pound for pound, Sleep will end up doing more heavy lifting for you than even the Shivan Dragon.

As with all of the Magic 2010 deck,s you get a copy of Terramorphic Expanse to round things out. We’ll put this last deck through its paces and come back with a final verdict. See you in two days!

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Read more from Core Sets, Magic 2010

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