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June 17, 2013

Duels of the Planeswalkers (2012): Unquenchable Fire Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Chandra’s ready for action as her deck is up first for the playtest. Serving as opposition is Sam, who’s piloting the artifact-heavy Machinations. Can Tezzeret’s latest deck be the Firebrands undoing, or will his artifice burn alongside his ambitions?

Game One

Sam’s on the play for our opener, and cracks a Terramorphic Expanse for a Plains. I play- surprise- a Mountain. She then drops a Swamp, tapping both land to deploy a Steel Overseer. Back to me, a second Mountain and the Overseer gets Volcanic Hammered.

Now turn 3, Sam replaces her loss with an Alpha Myr, while I counter with a Prodigal Pyromancer. After scoring first blood with the Myrs, Sam then brings out a Snapsail Glider. For my part, I then add a Kiln Fiend to my board, then pick off her Myr with my Pyromancer.

Undaunted, Sam attacks in again for 2 on turn 5, but I’m pulling ahead. I attack for 1 with the Fiend, then summon a Fiery Hellhound. Having missed her last two land drops, Sam’s becoming desperate. Although knowing my Pyromancer will make short work of it, she plays a Pilgrim’s Eye to help grab a land. She then attacks for 2 behind the Glider, and sees the Eye indeed sniped by the Pyromancer at the end of her turn. For my part, I counterattack for 3 with my Fiend and Hellhound, then summon a Fire Servant.

That’s a big problem for Sam in this deck, so she immediately kills it with Go for the Throat before getting pinged at the end of her turn. Back to me, I then roast her directly with a Sizzle, pumping the Kiln Fiend and letting me swing in for 6. Sam trades her Glider for my Fiend, letting the Hellhound pass. I pump it twice with the last of my mana, and Sam ends the turn at 11 life. Next turn, she cracks another Terramorphic Expanse for land, but does nothing else and gets pinged at the end of her turn. With her wide open, I send in the Hellhound and dump all my mana into it, taking her to 3 life.

Sam desperately tries to buy time with a turn-9 Sleep, but I wrap things up with a Lava Axe.

Game Two

Sam this time opens with a Swamp, while I begin with a Goblin Arsonist. Back to her, she brings out a Tidehollow Strix. I attack for 1 with the Arsonist, then add a Kiln Fiend. Sam counterattacks for 2 in the air to pull ahead, but when I Volcanic Hammer the Strix from the sky, it lets me hammer into Sam for 5 thanks to the inflated Fiend.

Lava Axe

Lava Axe

Now turn 4, Sam plays a land and passes. Stuck on two land, I realise that time is not on my side, and send another Hammer Sam’s way. This again pumps the Fiend, and Sam’s rocked down to 6 life. Next turn, she looks to stabilise behind a Stone Golem. Back to me, I then Sizzle Sam down to 3, attacking with both creatures. She trades her Golem for the Fiend, taking 1 from the Arsonist to fall to 2.

Now turn 6, Sam’s turn is a blank- but mine isn’t. I attack for 1 more with the Arsonist, then burn her out with a 1-point Blaze.

Game Three

Sam again leads with a Terramorphic Expanse, using it to go find a Swamp. I deploy a Cinder Wall because, hey, it’s a one-drop, though I haven’t found much need for it in the match. Sam plays another land, I go ahead with a Kiln Fiend.

Now turn 3, Sam brings out a Snapsail Glider, while I hang back after adding a second Kiln Fiend. Next turn Sam draws and passes, though she has four land in all three colours. Back to me, I crush the Glider with Chandra’s Outrage, then send in both puffed-up Kiln Fiends. Though Sam kills one with a Go for the Throat, she still falls to 14 life by the end of the turn.

Sam’s woes continue on turn 5, as she again draws and passes. I go for it, Blazing Sam for 3 to the face, then following for 4 more with the Fiend to cut her in half. She summons a Steel Overseer next turn, but I Volcanic Hammer it out of the way before I Volcanic Hammer Sam herself. That gives the Fiend a +6/+0 bonus, which Sam can’t survive.

Thoughts & Analysis

Third time’s the charm? To say that would imply that both of Chandra’s previous offerings were letdowns, but in fact Chandra’s decks have consistently been of above-average quality, largely thanks to the high burn content. Unquenchable Fire doesn’t disappoint, but what makes this deck the most interesting thus far is the creature array, as the burn is largely unchanged from the last iteration.

Heat of Battle was a much more midrange-dependent offering. This isn’t bad, but it does lose some of the trademark aggression that is Red, and is left feeling not unlike a Green stompy deck. The two Cinder Walls aside, the deck’s early plays are very solid, and the Kiln Fiend is a most welcome addition.

The importance of the Kiln Fiend is difficult to overstate. There’s an obvious synergy between them and any deck that runs a lot of instants or sorceries, but the effect is even deeper than that. One of the drawbacks of the deck’s construction is the slow speed of many of its burn effects, like Volcanic Hammer. As we’ve noted, this is a concession to balance- the burn can’t be too good lest the deck run away from the its contemporaries. Kiln Fiends minimise that drawback. Since you’ll often be throwing fire to clear away defenders, this lets the Fiends hit even harder. It’s a subtle difference that is easy to overlook, but Kiln Fiend is the card that really pulls this deck together. A pity there’s not four!

As for negatives, there’s not a lot that jumps out. The Cinder Walls are miscast here, since the deck would prefer more aggression and less drag. The Ember Shots are dreadful, but again those are likely here for a similar balance reason.

Hits: Very strong burn package; great early-game positioning sets it apart from Chandra’s past Duels decks; Kiln Fiends tie the deck together; Fire Servant an excellent inclusion

Misses: A few off cards, mainly Cinder Wall and Ember Shot, but the deck is quite stable overall

OVERALL SCORE: 4.55/5.00

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