Magic 2014: Bestial Strength Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since we took over Moonlite Comics, but we took a break from work to playtest Bestial Strength. Sam grabbed the Blue/White Psychic Labyrinth, we grabbed a table in the gaming area, and off we went! Here are the notes from the matchup.
Sam’s on the play for our opener, and we trade land drops to kick things off. She then plays an Island and passes, while I find the game’s first creature with a Deadly Recluse. Sam’s right behind next turn, though, as she summons a Scroll Thief. Then it’s my turn to play a land and pass, leaving us about even.
Now turn 4, Sam adds a Water Servant to the board, but I Doom Blade it at the end of her turn to buy some time. Back to me, I play Into the Wilds and pass. Sam then summons a Master of Diversion and ends her turn. I hit a Forest off my enchantment and place it onto the battlefield, then Mind Rot Sam’s hand. She pitches a Glimpse the Future and an Island.
Now turn 6, Sam attacks in for 3 with the Thief and Master, tapping my Recluse. As I fall to 17, Sam goes up a card, then summons Jace’s Mindseeker. She hits only one instant or sorcery in the five cards revealed, but it’s a Doom Blade- paydirt! Off goes the Recluse, and Sam ends her turn. Back to me, I replace my loss with a Kalonian Tusker and Woodborn Behemoth. Next turn, Sam simply plays a Divination before attacking for 4 in the air with the Mindseeker. Down to 13, I score another free Forest from the Into the Wilds, giving me eight. That turns the Woodborn Behemoth into an 8/8 trampler, and I hammer in with it. Sam takes it full on the chin, then watches me add an Accursed Spirit and Rumbling Baloth to empty my hand.
Sam’s able to stall for time on turn 8 with a Frost Breath, locking down my two best creatures. She then attacks for 6 with the Mindseeker and Master of Diversion, tapping my Tusker. That cuts me to 7, after which she follows on with a Warden of Evos Isle. I can’t stop that much incoming damage, nor can I race, so after my next draw I concede.
Our third turn is spent in standoff, adding more land but not otherwise engaging. I then go big with a Rumbling Baloth, while Sam then finds a Rod of Ruin. I hammer in for first blood on turn 5 with the Baloth, but Sam then sticks a Claustrophobia on it to take it out of commission.
My turn 6 is a blank, while Sam then summons a Stonehorn Chanter. I Mind Rot her down to one card in hand, peeling away a Solemn Offering and Show of Valor. Then when she attacks with the Chanter, I flash in a Briarpack Alpha, giving its +2/+2 bonus to itself to make it a 5/5 and block the Chanter. The Chanter perishes, but so does the injured Alpha- picked off by the Rod of Ruin. Sam then replaces her loss with a Scroll Thief.
Now turn 8, I draw and pass. Sam swings in for 1 in the air with the Drake, and I draw and pass again. Back to Sam, she then attacks with both her Drake and the Thief. I block the latter with my Deadly Recluse, and when Sam goes to finish it off with the Rod I Giant Growth it to keep it upright.
Sadly, my turn 10 is another blank as I look for something useful to play. Sam adds another Scroll Thief. I then topdeck a Rootwalla and play it, but Sam one-ups me by sticking Illusionary Armor on the Thief. Sam then uses Frost Breath to clear a path, and comes in for the full measure of 6. Next turn, though, I draw Garruk’s Horde and summon it, revealing a Briarpack Alpha as the top card of my library. Sam sits back at home, sending in only the Drake to peck me for 1.
A turn-12 assault led by the Horde hammers in for 9, and Sam blocks the Rootwalla with the enchanted Thief. I then flash in the Alpha to help pump the Rootwalla while pumping it by its own ability, ensuring neither dies. Only at the end do I realise that I could have just used my Vial of Poison to kill the Thief, something that went unnoticed by the pair of us. I belatedly trigger it, killing the Thief as Sam takes 7 from the Horde. Drawing nothing, Sam then concedes.
My turn-2 Kalonian Tusker is the game’s first non-land play, and as Sam uses a next-turn Divination to dig into her deck, I begin the stream of beats. 3 off the Tusker on turn 3 is followed immediately by a second Tusker, and when Sam comes back with a Master of Diversion I simply attack through for 6. One Into the Wilds later, my turn comes to an end.
Now turn 5, Sam counterattacks with the Master, then adds a Scroll Thief. I then slam in for 6 more. Sam looks to block one with her Thief, using a Show of Valor to get the upper hand. I turn the tables with a Briarpack Alpha, and she’s sent to 8.
Next turn, Sam attacks for 3 with both creatures to put me at 15, tapping the Alpha with the Master and getting a free card in the bargain. She then adds a Messenger Drake and passes. Over to me, I hit a Forest off the enchantment, and catch Sam out. She’s left only one defender back and me with lethal on the board. I Doom Blade the Drake, and take the match.
Thoughts & Analysis
It’s not often I found myself saying this, but playing Bestial Strength I began to feel like this was a deck that actually wanted less removal. Blasphemy, right? But it’s hard to argue against the logic when you’re squeezing out 3/3 beaters on turn 2 while your opponent has to make do with 1-power special-ability creatures like the Seacoast Drake and Scroll Thief. I didn’t often care about removing her threats, as I was too busy going over the top of them.
One of the Green monsters I least liked facing when it was prevalent was the Leatherback Baloth. A massive-sized sledgehammer that could come down on turn 2, it was difficult to burn out- you really just needed a kill spell. Although the creatures of this deck don’t carry quite that level of power, the ability to overwhelm is certainly there- and it can do it entirely with Forests. Let removal be the other guy’s problem, and this is a deck capable of great things in the red zone.
Of course, we must judge the deck we have, not the one we want, and by that yardstick Bestial Strength holds up fairly well. I was consistently able to land a string of threats, and the Black cards here played a very useful supporting role. Although we disparaged the lack of ramping in a deck filled with fat, the higher land content definitely felt useful here- the first time we’ve felt that way about it. That higher content certainly made Into the Wilds more useful, and it was a fun inclusion- if a bit expensive for what it does. On the whole, though, this is a well-constructed deck and one worth picking up.
Hits: Loads of fat, and capable of very strong starts; higher land content actually feels useful here, as it increases the consistency with which you can land the deck’s larger creatures
Misses: As with past core set offerings, the deck feels like a primary colour with a tacked-on “splash” of a second that doesn’t really feel central to the deck (Reign of Vampirism was one of the worst offenders for this).
OVERALL SCORE: 4.35/5.00