Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012: Realm of Illusion Review (Part 2 of 2)
Sam’s back for more, and this time she’s packing Sorin Markov’s Blood Hunger deck. For my part, I’ll be piloting Realm of Illusion, looking to see how it holds up. Will I fall to bloody defeat, or will victory prove… illusionary?
I’m on the play for our opener, having been trounced in our pregame friendly. We swap land drops for a couple turns, and Sam’s turn-3 Vampire Aristocrat is the game’s first creature. I respond with a Blind Phantasm, but Sam easily trumps that with a Captivating Vampire. That pumps her Aristocrat, who swings in for an opening 3.
Now turn 5, I miss my second land drop and pass. Sam- having no such difficulties- attacks for 3 more. I block with my Phantasm, then Repulse the Captivating Vampire back to Sam’s hand. That weakens the Aristocrat, and it dies to the block. Sam then replays the Captivating Vampire, adding a Duskhunter Bat to go with it. Next turn, I play an Island and pass. Sam strikes with the Bat to leave me at 16, then is rewarded with a bloodthirsted Vampire Outcasts. At the end of her turn, I then Repulse the Captivating Vampire once more back to hand.
A turn-7 Krovikan Mist slightly improves my board position, but Sam comes right back when she kicks a Gatekeeper of Malakir. I sacrifice my Phantasm, then Sam attacks for 5. My next turn is a blank, and Sam comes in with everything for 7. Down to 4 life, I’m forced to Cancel a Vampire Nighthawk even though I’d been trying to hold it for the Captivating one. I buy some extra time when I Mind Control the Vampire Outcasts, but when Sam kills my Mist with an Urge to Feed then summons the Captivating Vampire, she’s got lethal on the board.
I drop an Island to kick things off, while Sam manages to find a Tormented Soul. My next turn is a blank outside the land play, and Sam begins the attacks with a 1-point swing. Next turn I find a Phantom Warrior– “two can play at that game,” I chuckle. Sam attacks for 1, but missing her land drop she simply passes.
Now turn 4, I swing with the Warrior for 2, then add a Blind Phantasm. Sam counterattacks with the Soul, letting her trigger bloodthirst for the Bloodrage Vampire. Going tit for tat, my Illusions strike back for 4 to drop Sam to 14, after which I add a Wall of Air to bolster my defensive prospects. Sam hangs back, attacking with only the Soul, but it’s enough to let her trigger bloodthirst on a second Bloodrage Vampire.
Now turn 6, I fire in for 4, then add an Air Elemental. Sam then drops her nuke- the Vampire Nocturnus– and the top card of her library is flipped to reveal a Tormented Soul. This lets her send in the team for a mighty 13, and I’m compelled to trade my Air Elemental for one of her Bloodthirst Vampires. That still leaves 7 incoming, and I fall to 9. Back to me, I attack for 2 more with the Warrior and pass. This time I catch a break, as Sam reveals a Swamp and her team loses their buff. She plays a Tormented Soul, and at the end of the turn I Repulse her Nocturnus.
My Phantom Warrior finally dies on turn 8 as I send it in to attack, drawing the wrath of an Urge to Feed. Sam then taps a Bloodrage Vampire for a +1/+1 counter. Back to Sam, she swings for 6 with the side, evidently fearful of losing her Nocturnus to countermagic. I gang-block the Bloodthirst, since with its +1/+1 counter it would eat my Wall. Sam opts to make the trade for the Wall, leaving my Phantasm unscathed. The Tormented Souls get through, however, and I’m down to 7. Sam then tries for a Sengir Vampire, but I Summoner’s Bane it for a bonus 2/2 Illusion token.
It’s now turn 9, and I have a chance to win the game outright. If I play an Illusion, my Krovikan Mist will be just large enough to score the lethal point of damage. Reaching for my library, I draw… an Island. It’s now gamble time. I have seven land on the board and a Mind Spring in hand, but do I Spring for 2 (leaving me three land to play whatever I draw), or Spring a little deeper- but with less land to play it?
I go into the tank, and decide I can only really afford to Spring for 2. I reach over, draw my cards- and find an Aether Figment for the win!
Sam leads with a Tormented Soul, while I follow with a Phantasmal Bear. She swings for 1, I swing for 2, and things escalate on turn 3 when she then adds a bloodthirsted Bloodrage Vampire. Down to 18, I swing with the Bear for 2 more, then follow with a second Bear. Sam counterattacks with the Soul for 1, but then passes without incident. I send in the Bears for a further 4 to leave her at 12, then bring out a Blind Phantasm.
Now turn 5, Sam attacks for 1 with the Soul, then summons a Sengir Vampire. Back to me, I Repulse the Sengir back to Sam’s hand, then attack for 6 with all three Illusions. Over to Sam, she attacks again with the Soul to put me at 15, then doubles down with a second Tormented Soul before replaying the Sengir. For my part, I simply Mind Control the Sengir Vampire- mostly to get it out of the way- then swing for 6 with the Illusions. Sam trades her Bloodrage Vampire for my Blind Phantasm, but falls to 2 life. Drawing nothing, she scoops.
Thoughts & Analysis
I have to give Realm of Illusion a few style points for putting an entirely different spin on Jace Beleren. The previous decks have focused more on staple Blue tropes like flying creatures, card drawing, and counters. That isn’t to say you don’t get those things here, as you do, but overall this deck has a very different feel to it thanks to the emphasis on tribal Illusions.
Sadly, that’s about the best that can be said for the deck. It’s reasonably well constructed, and it certainly felt like it could hold its own defensively. But overall it didn’t seem quite like it did enough with the theme to make it really shine. The absence of the Phantasmal Dragon, for instance, was particularly glaring, and it would have made a fine swap for the Air Elemental.
Although I enjoyed it overall, it did seem a bit shaky as well. It had the potential for some strong starts thanks to the Bears, and certainly its end-game strength was apparent, but it also felt like it could be outpaced in the midgame by strong aggressive pressure. Since mono-Blue often wants for removal, its lack of solid countermagic was telling. Fast, tempo-style Blue decks are happy with bounce effects like Repulse, as they often set the opponent far enough back that they can’t catch up to the pressure. As this deck was designed in a slower gear, the bounce was useful but the counters didn’t quite mesh.
Hits: Good to see the deck branch into a tribal theme for Blue that isn’t one of the more common ones; reasonable defensive setup; Time Warp a nice inclusion (though being honest I might have preferred a Sleep)
Misses: Deck is a bit of a damp squib, a bit underwhelming as a total package; lack of a Phantasmal Dragon a disappointment (I wouldn’t dare hope for a Lord of the Unreal)
OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00