Duel Decks- Zendikar vs Eldrazi: Zendikar Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)
We’re back to the plane of Zendikar, but taking a step back just for a moment from the Oath of the Gatewatch reviews. Today we return with the Duel Decks: Zendikar vs Eldrazi, and have our first playtest. Joining me at the table to champion the Eldrazi is Phil.
Phil begins on the play, dropping an Akoum Refuge and passing. For my part, I match with a Stirring Wildwood. Back to Phil, he plays a second Refuge, ending his turn. I break the nonbasic volley by playing a Forest, and cast Khalni Heart Expedition.
Now turn 3, Phil adds a Swamp, tapping out for an early and worrisome Vampire Nighthawk. I play a Plains, then add a Veteran Warleader. Next turn, Phil kills the Warleader with a Forked Bolt (pinging me for the other point of damage), swings in for 2 with the Nighthawk, then summons a Runed Servitor. It’s now 24-17, in Phil’s favor. I deploy a Graypelt Hunter.
Phil continues his momentum with an Emrakul’s Hatcher on turn 5, giving him a trio of Eldrazi Spawn tokens. He swings in for 2 more with the Nighthawk, going up another 2 thanks to lifelink. Over to me, I summon a Grazing Gladehart before playing a Turntimber Grove, triggering the landfall on the Gladehart and giving a temporary +1/+1 boost to the Hunter. I turn it sideways to go on the attack, and Phil chumps with the Servitor to allow each of us to draw a card. I finish my turn out by popping the Expedition for extra lands- and a nice chunk of life from the Gladehart.
Now turn 6, Phil summons a Cadaver Imp, recalling the Runed Servitor to hand. A Smother then kills off my Gladehart, and Phil hammers in for 5 with his Nighthawk and Hatcher to drop me to 16. Back to me, I deploy a Wildheart Invoker, then follow with a Stonework Puma (giving a +1/+1 counter to the Hunter). I send in the Hunter for 4, taking Phil to 22, then pass. Next turn, Phil plays a Bloodthrone Vampire and recasts the Runed Servitor. He sends in the Nighthawk and Imp in the air, and I’m down to 14. Over to me, I summon a Kabira Vindicator.
Now turn 8, Phil slams in for 5 more with the Nighthawk, Imp, and Servitor. I animate my Stirring Wildwood and trade it for his Nighthawk, killing the Servitor with my Vindicator. Any breathing room I might have gained, though is snuffed out when Phil replaces his losses with a Butcher of Malakir. I counterattack with the Hunter for 4, and Phil responds by sacrificing two Spawn to the Bloodthrone Vampire. This not only pumps it up, but triggers the Grave Pact effect of the Butcher to claim my Vindicator and Puma. I use the Wildheart Invoker to pump the Hunter, but Phil simply chumps with the Vampire to force me to sacrifice the Invoker. While I wound Phil for 4 with the trample, I’m down to one creature on the board.
Next turn, Phil plays an Oblivion Sower (getting two lands), then swings in for 9 unopposed. Down to 4, I draw nothing and scoop.
I land the game’s first creature with a Caravan Escort, which I pump to Level 1. Phil simply kills it with Induce Despair (revealing Oblivion Sower). Next turn, I replace my loss with a Wildheart Invoker, and Phil matches pace by dropping a Pawn of Ulamog.
Now turn 5, I pop the Expedition for additional land, then swing for 4 to put Phil to 17. I then bring out a Kabira Vindicator, and it’s back to Phil. For his part, it’s another Akoum Refuge before passing. Keeping up the momentum, I come in next turn for 6, though Phil mitigates some of the damage by chumping with his Pawn. With him sitting at 14 life, I summon a Territorial Baloth and pass. Back to Phil, he brings out the Oblivion Sower, hitting three land.
Now turn 7, I level up the Vindicator twice and pass. For his part, Phil Corpsehatches the Invoker, then adds an Emrakul’s Hatcher. He then sacrifices five Eldrazi Spawn to help fund a second Hatcher, and suddenly things aren’t looking so good. Back to me, I play an Ondu Giant and pass. Phil comes in hard, striking for 11 with all three of his creatures. I block Hatchers with my Baloth and Giant, dropping to 15 life. Phil then finishes off my wounded with a timely Marsh Casualties. Ouch.
A turn 9 Sheer Drop kills his Oblivion Sower and awakens a land. I attack with both creatures, and Phil offers two of his four Spawn as chump-blockers. Back to Phil, he brings out the hated Butcher of Malakir, using the last two to help pay for it. I draw and pass for the next turn, and he swings for 5 to take me to 15.
Now turn 11, I kill the Butcher with Sheer Drop, then add a Graypelt Hunter. The Hunter is immediately picked off by Phil’s answering Heartstabber Mosquito, though, and we’re in a state of detente. Next turn I summon a Daggerback Basilisk and play an Explorer’s Scope, equipping the latter to the former. Phil fetches back the Butcher through a Cadaver Imp, then summons it before sending in the Mosquito for 2.
A turn-13 Graypelt Hunter isn’t enough to save me, and next turn my fate is sealed.
Thoughts & Analysis
For a deck with as much potential as one based on “Zendikar,” this one really never seemed to get off the ground. The original Zendikar environment was one of the fastest in the history of the game, while Rise of the Eldrazi was itself one of the slowest. This would have made a great matchup for a Duel Decks, all the better because of the corresponding flavor home run it would have represented.
An Allies deck would have been the perfect construction, with a generous helping of Equipment to retain that adventure-world feel. The challenge then would have been for the Allies deck to overrun the Eldrazi before they could establish a foothold, or run out of steam, as the Eldrazi would be undisputed kings of the late-game with their Battlecruisers.
Instead, we seem to have a big of a mish-mash hodge-podge of disparate elements, with one-offs like the Scute Mob or Grazing Gladehart, and suboptimal Allies like the Tajuru Archer and Stonework Puma. The Adventurers was a highly-rated Intro Pack from Zendikar, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that that would have been preferable than this one. There just doesn’t seem to be as much cohesion as the Eldrazi deck, and it showed on the battlefield.
Hits: Deck seemed to work as a “greatest hits” of Zendikar block, from Allies to landfall to level up
Misses: Missed flavor opportunity; seemed to be a little too slow off the starting blocks to really content with the Eldrazi; not as cohesive as the Eldrazi deck in either theme or strategy
OVERALL SCORE: 3.60/5.00