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June 4, 2016

Shadows over Innistrad: Unearthed Secrets Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Josh is back to help playtest the Shadows over Innistrad decks, and today we’re looking at how investigate performs with Unearthed Secrets. Josh has chosen the Vampires-n-madness duo of Vampiric Thirst. Will he manage to solve the mystery, or will he be become buried in Clues?

Game One

Josh is on the play, and we spend the first two turns trading land drops back and forth. Josh misses his on turn 3, and I cruise past with a Forest and Byway Courier, the game’s first creature.

Now turn 4, Josh hits a Swamp, letting him play a Vampire Noble. Over to me, I drop an Island, then swing in with the Courier. Josh takes the trade,  letting me investigate to put a Clue token onto the battlefield. Back to Josh, he summons a Voldaren Duelist, attacking immediately for 3. For my part, I strengthen my defenses behind a Watcher in the Web.

Josh bolsters his attacker with Senseless Rage, swinging in for 5. I take the hit, going down to 12, but counterattack with the Spider for 2. Next turn, Josh uses Tormenting Voice to discard a Vampire Noble, getting the Mountain he’s so desperately been after. He plays it, then summons a Bloodmad Vampire. While Josh has been struggling to get the right color mana, I’ve had the opposite problem- a few too many lands. However, playing seven lands in seven turns does have an upside, as I summon my deck’s premium rare Nephalia Moondrakes.

Back to Josh, his turn 8 is a blank. I send in the Drakes for 5, then go wide with a Briarbridge Patrol and Byway Courier. Josh hardcasts Incorrigible Youths the turn following, after which I Press for Answers on the Bloodmad Vampire. I then turn everything I have sideways for 14. Although Josh manages to block the Patrol, a Confront the Unknown makes up for the lost damage and the opening game is mine.

Game Two

Josh stays on the play for the opening of our next game, playing a Mountain while I lay a Forest. Next turn, he plays a second into a Ravenous Bloodseeker, which I match with a Quilled Wolf.

Now turn 3, Josh swings in for 1 with the Vampire, which bumps off my Wolf. I play my third Forest and pass, while Josh follows with a Swamp. Back to me, I draw and play an Island, letting me then bring out a Stitched Mangler, locking down his Vampire  for a turn. I get first blood for 2 with the Wolf, then pass.

Josh summons a Voldaren Duelist on turn 5, attacking in with it for 3. Back to me, I double down with a Graf Mole and Erdwal Illuminator, some of the key components of my deck. Over to Josh, he plays Creeping Dread but declines an attack. I go in over the top with my Spirit for 1, at which point Josh discards Fiery Temper to his Bloodseeker to snipe the Illuminator. I replace my loss with Ulvenwald Mysteries and pass.

Now turn 7, things are picking up. Creeping Dread triggers, seeing Josh throw away a Mountain while I discard Jace’s Scrutiny. He summons a Stromkirk Mentor, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Bloodseeker. He then swings in for 5 with the Bloodseeker and Duelist, taking me down to 12. Over to me, I draw and pass. Back to Josh, Creeping Dread claims his last card in hand, the painful Markov Dreadknight. I lose Ghostly Wings. He then plays Sinister Concoction, but holds back on the attack since the Wolf can now activate into a 6/6 and he knows it. I finally hit my seventh land, and again the Nephalia Moondrakes ride to the rescue. I make the Mole fly, but decline the attack.

With both our hands empty, the Creeping Dread whiffs on turn 9. Josh activates the Concoction to kill off my Moondrakes, though I get a consolation Clue from the Mysteries. He then discards Malevolent Whispers to a Bloodseeker Vampire, taking my Mole for a spin. He swings with the Mole, the Mentor, and the Duelist for exactly lethal (12). I gangblock to kill the Duelist, losing my Quilled Wolf. That puts me up a Clue, but down 8 life as the other two come through. One my turn arrives, I pop one of my two Clues, going up 3 life (from the Mole) and getting a 1/1 Soldier (from the Mysteries), but do nothing else.

Back to Josh, Creeping Dread triggers. I play Confront the Unknown on my Mole, adding a second Clue. Josh summons a Ravenous Bloodseeker. Over to me, I Root Out the Creeping Dread, adding a third Clue token to the battlefield.

Now turn 11, Josh’s turn is a blank. I summon a Stitched Mangler, tapping down the Mentor. I then pop a Clue, going up to 10 life and adding a second 1/1 Soldier to the battlefield. I pop one more for good measure, tying to find things to play to stabilise me. That puts me at 13 life, with three 1/1 chump-blocking Soldiers, a much safer proposition. Aside from land, though, our next two turns are a complete standoff. At the end of turn 13, I go up to 16 life and four Soldiers as I pop my last Clue.

Josh finds a Mad Prophet on turn 14, discarding Tormenting Voice and summoning an Indulgent Aristocrat. I pop it back on top of his library with a Gone Missing, as much to annoy and get back a Clue token as anything else.

Now turn 15, Josh simply replays the Indulgent Aristocrat, and I pop the Clue at the end of his turn to go up to 19 life. My turn is a blank, as is his next- we’re both trying to draw into a break from the stalemate. I deploy a Briarbridge Patrol, but that’s about it.

Josh activates the Prophet on turn 17, then summons a Sanguinary Mage. Back to me, I play a Tireless Tracker, then bounce his Mage with another Gone Missing. He responds by popping it to his Aristocrat, giving +1/+1 counters to all non-Prophet creatures. I go up a Clue. Next turn, Josh activates the Prophet, but has no other play. Back to me, I go for the win.

Exiling the Nephalia Moondrakes from the graveyard, that gives all of my creatures flying. With a pair of Confront the Unknowns for that extra bit of damage, it’s a game-ending alpha strike.

Thoughts & Analysis

I had a lot of fun playing Unearthed Secrets, but it’s definitely not a deck for everyone. In a lot of ways, it almost feels like a combo deck, where you want to stall for time until you get your pieces assembled, then go off for the win. In that regard, it takes a bit of patience, and won’t be as enjoyable for those appreciating the more traditional summon-creatures-and-attack deck.

That isn’t to say there’s not an element of that here. While the majority of creatures wouldn’t be confused for anything other than mediocre, there are a few standouts. Most notably is the Tireless Tracker, a card that has found some Constructed play and at time of writing is worth about half the value of the Intro Pack alone. Pack Guardian and Byway Courier are also a couple of standouts, though the Moondrakes are a bit pricey at seven mana. Of course, that didn’t stop me from riding it to victory in both games here, but without an effective deck behind it, you’d never make it long enough for that to happen.

The one X-factor I had with the deck was the Clue balance. With the Erdwal Illuminator in play, I had Clues in the low teens once in our warm-up game, but without those it’s a much more modest affair. The deck does seem to hit the right mix, though, of Clue spawning and Clue utility, above and beyond simply drawing a card. I’m not sure there’s enough in the mechanic to hold interest in a hundred games, but there’s enough in Unearthed Secrets to make it fun for a little while.

Hits: Investigate is a fun mechanic, and the deck makes use of the Clue tokens in enough ways that it doesn’t just feel like you’re stockpiling card drawing; card drawing of Clue tokens can help power the deck through patches where you’ve run out of steam

Misses: All the same, investigate feels like a mechanic that doesn’t have a lot of depth. Overpaying for stock effects because they have investigate attached to them, then have a payoff based on the number of overcosted cards you cast, can be satisfying, but loses novelty somewhat quickly.

OVERALL SCORE: 4.20/5.00

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