Magic 2014: Lightforce Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s the opening match of Magic 2014, and I’m once again joined by Sam looking to put my deck to the test. To do so, she’s enlisted the aid of Fire Surge, the Red/Blue counterburn deck with as many creatures as mine. Will that tempestuous combination take the day, or will my auras and lifegain prove the measure?
After being pulped in our pre-game friendly, I’m on the play for the opener. We trade land drops for a bit, then Sam pulls ahead with a turn-2 Dragon Hatchling. I continue to lay land, so she sends it in for 2 on the following turn to put me to 18.
Now turn 4, my first creature arrives in the form of a Pillarfield Ox. Undaunted, Sam plays a Mountain and hits for 3 in the air. Back to me, I’m forced to act, dispatching the Hatchling thanks to a Banisher Priest after attacking for 2 with the mighty Ox. Sam simply plays the Staff of the Flame Magus and passes.
Now turn 6, I gird my Priest with Trollhide, turning both beaters sideways for 6 to leave Sam at 12. Sam simply plays a Mountain, gaining a point of life from her Staff. Back to me, I keep the beats up for another 6, then follow up with a Serra Angel. Sadly for her, Sam’s next turn is a blank. I then alpha strike for lethal, but Sam flashes in a Nephalia Seakite to chump my Angel. It’s all for naught, however, as her lost damage output is made up for with a timely Fortify.
Sam opens with an Island while I play a Plains, using it to being out a Soulmender. She responds with the Dragon Hatchling, but my Soulmender safely attacks past it for the game’s first blood. I then follow with a Capashen Knight and end my turn.
Now turn 3, Sam counterattacks in the air for 2, while I return fire for the same amount- then go one more as I pump the Knight once. Down to 16, Sam adds a Goblin Shortcutter to her board, then chips off 2 more in the air. With the game now tied, I send in the Knight for 1, declining to pump it once it gets through. Instead, I follow with a Pillarfield Ox.
Now turn 5, Sam goes all in with the Hatchling, pumping it four times. I claw one back with the Soulmender at the end of her turn, but I’m still at 13. Back to me, I counterattack for 3 with my Ox and Knight to leave Sam at 12. I then use a Banisher Priest to sort out her Hatchling again, and end the turn. Back to Sam, she summons another Goblin Shortcutter, then attacks for 2 with her first one. Again, an end of turn activation of the Soulmender cuts the net damage in half. I then counterattack for another 3, adding a Dawnstrike Paladin to the board.
A turn-7 Shiv’s Embrace boosts a Shortcutter, but Sam opts to keep it at home. I gain a life, and end at 13. Back to me, I send in the Knight, whose pumpability means it can best either of Sam’s Shortcutters. I again decline the pump, letting me play a Pillarfield Ox. Although next turn sees Sam land a Shivan Dragon, it’s no impediment as I swing with every creature, again using Fortify to turn it into a lethal alpha strike.
Sam’s on the play and looking to avoid the sweep. We again trade opening land drops with no further action, but she then opens her account with a Goblin Shortcutter and I with a Capashen Knight. Next turn she then goes for a Phantom Warrior, while I simply augment my Knight with a Trollhide, turning it sideways for 3.
Now turn 4, Sam counterattacks for 4 to leave me at 16 before summoning a Regathan Firecat. Back to me, I simply add a Pillarfield Ox, holding the Knight back on defense. Sam simply kills it with a Flames of the Firebrand, catching me with insufficient mana to regenerate it. She then swings with the team for 8, but I take out her Shortcutter with the Ox. That leaves 6 coming through, and just like that I’m half dead. I replace my loss with a Dawnstrike Paladin.
The Paladin dies in turn with a Chandra’s Outrage, leaving Sam free to swing in for a further 6. Combined with the Outrage, that sees me fall to 6. A Pacifism sorts out the Warrior, while an Auramancer returns the Trollhide to hand. Back to Sam, though she again finds her Shivan Dragon- and that’s trouble. I topdeck a Serra Angel, but am a mana shy of being able to play it and the Trollhide in the same turn. I have to play her to survive, though, and do so.
Now turn 8, Sam swings with the Dragon for 5, and I chump with the Angel. She doubles down with a Dragon Hatchling, and after drawing nothing next turn I’m forced to concede.
Thoughts & Analysis
Magic 2014 is going to be an interesting set to review, given the total absence of this year’s returning mechanic. With not a single Sliver in any of the decks, they’re going to have to stand or fall on their own merits rather than with any flashy new mechanical element. How well a job they do of this remains to be seen, but Lightforce acquits itself reasonably well.
This is in large part to the two divergent subthemes present in the deck. Although neither is present in sufficient quantity to give the deck enough flavour to stand out, it ends up feeling a bit like a Duel Deck where things can really go off if they line up the right way, and be somewhat decent if they don’t.
This is a strategy we’ve seen before with Intro Pack decks, whereas Theme Decks tended to be dedicated to a more unified strategy. The only intersection between both tactics here- the auras and the lifegain- is in Divine Favor, and that’s only one card. If you’re looking at this deck through the eyes of a Theme Deck, it’s a bit of a letdown, but it does a fair job of giving you some taste of what White’s capable of and about. Considering the target demographic, that’s a credit to the purpose. This isn’t a deck you’ll want to race out to pick up as-is if you’re looking for more refined fare, but beginning and returning players could do a lot worse. Intro Packs have certainly come some way from feeling like a “bunch of cards” into more nuanced fare, even if it does remain somewhat introductory.
Hits: Deck can be tuned in one of two directions (auras or lifegain); decent removal suite; Fortify is a great addition even if the deck is a bit creature-light; Voracious Wurm has tremendous potential for blowouts and fun
Misses: Still too much land content, which sadly seems to be the new normal; creatures tend to be on the smaller side- even those with higher toughness
Overall Score: 4.10/5.00