Battle for Zendikar: Eldrazi Assault Review (Part 2 of 2)
Welcome back to Ertai’s Lament’s coverage of Battle for Zendikar’s Intro Packs.
Before my two-year hiatus, we had a pretty regular routine here at the Lament. Part 1 was a deck review, followed by Part 2’s playtest and final score. Although we’re keeping the same structure, the schedule this time around won’t be quite so regular.
With my stepdaughter (and primary co-playtester) Sam having grown up and left the roost, I’m now having to look outside the house for opposition. While this isn’t an impediment, it does mean that I’ll be doing multiple playtests in a session. So what you’ll see here is a few Part 1’s in a row, followed up by the corresponding Part 2’s.
So on that note, let’s give a hearty Lament welcome to Phil. Phil’s a friend of mine I know through our shared passion for Louisville City FC, and we also share an enjoyment of Magic. We sat down in the pub yesterday to test some decks, and here’s how Eldrazi Assault shook out against Phil’s Call of Blood.
Phil opens the match with a Plains, which I Match with a Swamp. Next turn a Swamp of his own lets him trot out a Stone Haven Medic. Thanks to a Mountain, I keep pace with a Culling Drone, and we’re off to the races.
Phil lands a Drana’s Emissary on turn three. I’ve a couple of options in hand, but opt to go for the Molten Nursery. Playing a combo piece that doesn’t do anything on its own isn’t especially exciting, but my hope is that it sets up the rest of the game in my favor.
I would not be disappointed.
Now back to Phil for turn 4, we swap a life point thanks to the Emissary’s upkeep ability. After cracking an Evolving Wilds for a Plans, he goes for the quick attack behind a Tandem Tactics, and when the turn ends he’s well ahead, 23-14. I counterattack with my Drone for 2, ingesting the top card of his library. I then bring out a Nettle Drone, pinging Phil for one more point of damage from the Nursery.
The Emissary greets me once more for turn 5, after which Phil summons a Serene Steward. Another Tandem Tactics helps him slam home some more damage, dropping me to 8 life and lifting him back to 23. But with my combo pieces in place, I begin to stage a comeback.
First, I use the Nettle Drone to ping the Emissary for 1 damage. Casting Touch of the Void to kill the Medic, that lets me also finish off the Emissary thanks to the Nursery as well as untap the Nettle Drone (though I neglect to use him). Back to Phil, he swings in with the Steward for 2, and I take the trade with my Culling Drone. He replaces his loss with a Courier Griffin, going up 2 more life.
I begin my turn by pinging the Griffin with the Nettle Drone, then summoning a Sludge Crawler. This lets me finish off the Griffin with damage from both my Nursery and the resetting Nettle Drone. I then summon a Vile Aggregate, sending the Nursery ping Phil’s way to leave him at 21.
Now turn 7, Phil replaces his lost Griffin with another, going up 2, then passes. Momentum on my side, I ping the Griffin with the Nettle Drone before playing a Mind Raker. This not only finishes off the Griffin with the Nettle Drone/Nursery tandem, but the card I ingested earlier allows me to force Phil to discard one of his two cards in hand, a Felidar Sovereign. I then turn the Aggregate and Crawler sideways for 5.
Next turn Phil plays a Nirkana Assassin and passes. I ping Phil himself, then exile the Assassin with Touch of the Void. By the time the pings and my attack phase have played out, I’ve shaved a further 10 points of life from Phil. He summons another Drana’s Emissary, but it can only delay the inevitable. I answer it with Complete Disregard, and swing for the win.
Phil opts to be on the draw, so I lead with Looming Spires and pass, as he drops a Mortuary Mire to do the same. Next turn I springboard a Forerunner of Slaughter off of a Swamp, while Phil plays a Plains.
Now turn 3, I’m again fortunate to have found an early Molten Nursery, after swinging for 2 with the Forerunner. Phil deploys a Kitesail Scout, but it’s wiped away when I follow up with a second Molten Nursery before attacking in with the Forerunner once more. He replaces his loss with a Drana’s Emissary, but with both my Nurseries on the board I’m in good position.
A turn-5 Vile Aggregate does the trick, triggering both Nurseries to kill the Emissary as I apply steady pressure against Phil’s life total with the Forerunner. Phil tries to stabilize with a Courier Griffin and passes.
Next turn, I summon a Kozilek’s Sentinel, using the triggers from the Nurseries to damage the Griffin. A Swarm Surge then triggers both again, killing the Griffin and sending extra damage at Phil. I send in the team, and secure a second victory.
Thoughts & Analysis
Typically when you see Red “bonus damage” enchantments in an Intro Pack, they really are little more than “bonus damage.” This typically comes down to two factors: the cost of the initial enchantment, and the frequency with which it will fire off. Worldwake’s Brute Force had a Rumbling Aftershocks, an enchantment that cost five mana and only triggered when you kicked something. By the time you’d typically get around to casting it, it generally wouldn’t do much for you in the game- not to mention the prospect of paying five mana for something that just sits there and does nothing when played.
Life for Death from New Phyrexia had a pair of Rage Extractors. With about half the deck consisting of Phyrexian mana cards, you’d see it fire off more frequently than the Aftershocks, but even still it suffered from a high mana cost. Eldritch Onslaught’s Burning Vengeances from Dark Ascension brought the model’s cost down to three, though again we had a fairly limited trigger condition.
Which brings us to Molten Nursery. Although it’s dealing less damage, it’s easy to cast at three mana and, more crucially, it triggers all the time. Everything in the deck is colorless, which means you’re tacking on extra damage with every cast. Whether in tandem with a Nettle Drone, a second Nursery or even on its own, this deck has the ability to pack a serious punch. These are less “bonus damage” sources so much as a primary strategic option, and it makes Eldrazi Assault quite strong.
On the downside, you’ll have games where none of these pieces fall into place, but even then the deck has a solid backbone of creatures that curve out well to give you plenty of force in the red zone. Vile Aggregate rewards you well for having a healthy population, and Barrage Tyrant is a closer that never even has to enter enemy territory.
Hits: Superb combo-type deck that isn’t a glass cannon; loads of fun firing off a combo that “works” as frequently as this one does; good creature options; doesn’t go ‘feast and famine’ with the combo pieces but instead has multiple ways to win; showcases ingest and processing well
Misses: High land count, but that’s de rigeur for Intro Packs these days
OVERALL SCORE: 4.85
Nettle Drone is one of the top commons in BFZ, so I’m not surprised that the deck full of Drones overperformed. (I don’t suppose now would be the time to mention that it only hits players, not creatures…?)
Our second No-Prize already, I think I’m going to need to invest in some of those “RTFC” sleeves. Thanks for the catch! DOn’t know if would have changed much in the matches, given the momentum the deck had, but still an embarrassing oversight.
I assume Phil was playing the Call the Blood intro deck? You didn’t actually say.
I love the perspective on card value and deck design you bring – it’s a really unique voice amid an internet mostly full of much more Spike-y analysis and commentary.
Thanks, I really appreciate that! There’s so many ways to cover this amazing game, I’ve always enjoyed this little niche. I updated the article to reflect the deck name.