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July 5, 2016


Oath of the Gatewatch: Surge of Resistance Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Last time we had a chance to game, we tested out the last deck we had to review of Shadows over Innistrad. Today, we’ll be bringing Oath of the Gatewatch to an overdue conclusion with Surge of Resistance, a Red/Blue deck that features- surprise!- the surge mechanic. Joining me at the table is Josh, who is running the Blue/Colorless Twisted Reality. Can Zendikar’s defenders keep the Eldrazi at bay, or will the relentless tide overwhelm them? Let’s find out! 

Game One

Josh is on the play for our opener, and leads with a Prophet of Distortion, while I keep pace with a Lavastep Raider.  Next turn he adds a Mist Intruder and passes. I play a Mountain and end my turn, neither of us yet willing to force creature trades.

Now turn 3, Josh adds a Blinding Drone to the board, then swings for 1 with the Intruder in the air. I go down to 19, and am forced to offer a card up to ingest. Back to me, I drop an Island and end the turn. Josh swings in the air for another point of damage and ingested card, then passes. Finally, I’ve stacked my cards so that I can lead with an Umara Entangler, setting up a surged Reckless Bushwacker.

While getting to use surge to reduce costs was a win, Josh seems unfazed. He deploys a Murk Striderprocesses one of my exiled cards and bounces the Entangler back to hand. He then swings with the Intruder to end his turn. All I can do is replay the Entangler and pass. Next turn, Josh simply keeps pecking away with the Intruder in the air, stockpiling my exile zone. When I shore up the hole in my defenses with a Windrider Patrol, it draws an immediate Spatial Contortion.

Now turn 7, Josh summons a Gravity Negator, attacking again with the Intruder to leave me at 15 life. My turn, sadly, is a blank. Next turn, Josh sends in the troops. The Intruder, Strider, and Negator all turn sideways, coming in for 6 in the air (the Strider thanks to the Negator’s ability). I take it full on the chin, after which he follows up with an Eldrazi Skyspawner (with a 1/1 Scion token). At the end of his turn, I cast Anticipate to find a Containment Membrane, which I then use to lock down the Gravity Negator once my turn rolls back around. I then surge a second Membrane to do the same to his Intruder.

With his creatures tamped down a bit, Josh’s turn-9 offensive drops to 2 with the Skyspawner, after having added a Deepfathom Skulker. Josh draws his free card from the combat damage trigger, and voila! A free Island. For my part, I’m in strict damage control mode, and tap out to burn off his Skyspawner and Skulker with Rolling Thunder.

Now turn 10, Josh leads with drawing an extra card off the Prophet of Distortion, then summons another Eldrazi Skyspawner. All I can manage is a Stormchaser Mage. Next turn he plunks down a Ruination Guide, taps down my Mage with the Blinding Drone, and alpha strikes to put me out of my misery.

Game Two

On the play, I open with a Lavastep Raider, which Josh matches with a Salvage Drone. I attack in for 1 with the Raider next turn before passing. Josh drops a Tide Drifter, then counterattacks for 1 with the Drone. My third turn is a blank (though I hit my land drop), while Josh pulls ahead with a Prophet of Distortion and Blinding Drone. Here we go again!

Now turn 4, I summon a Cloud Manta and pass. That keeps Josh’s troops at bay for the moment- he draws and passes. Next turn I swing for 3 with the Manta, taking Josh to 16. I then add a Windrider Patrol and pass back. Josh plays an Island, but has nothing else.

Now turn 6, Josh locks down my side with Adverse Conditions, adding a 1/1 Scion token as well. I simply play a land and end my turn. Back to Josh, he takes advantage of the breathing room to bring aboard a second Blinding Drone. Back to me, I Anticipate, keeping a Stormchaser Mage, then surge in a Jwar Isle Avenger. Back to Josh, his turn is a blank, aside from a land drop.

Now turn 8, I deploy the Mage, then surge a Boulder Salvo to kill one of the Blinding Drones. Josh retaliates by killing my Windrider Patrol with a Spatial Contortion, but I still manage to swing in for 7 with the rest. Down to 9, Josh brings out Kozilek’s Channeler and passes. I swing for another 7 in the air, dropping him to 2. I then add a Cloud Manta for good measure. With no way to stop the inevitable, Josh scoops. It’s going to 3!

Game Three

Josh (on the play) and I trade land drops for the opening turn, then I find the game’s first creature in an Umara Entangler. Josh fires right back with an Eldrazi Skyspawner, but I pull ahead with a Lavastep Raider and surged Goblin Freerunner.

Now turn 4, Josh brings out a Blinding Drone. Back to me, I swing with the side, only to see my Freerunner picked off with a Spatial Contortion. Josh falls to 16. He then summons a Tide Drifter, giving his side a defensive boost, then sacrifices his Scion token to help pay for a Cultivator Drone. He then counterattacks for 3, behind the Blinding Drone and Skyspawner. At the end of his turn, I add a little more gas to the tank with a Comparative Analysis, then on mine I bring out another Goblin Freerunner.

Josh begins to pull ahead on turn 6, though, as my deck seems little match for his efficiency. He summons a Prophet of Distortion, then a 4/4 Endless One. He then swings for 2 in the air with the Skyspawner and passes. Aside from playing a Mountain, my turn is a complete blank.

Now turn 7, Josh nabs a card off the Prophet, then taps down my Raider with his Blinding Drone. That lets him come in for 6 with his Endless One and Skyspawner, and I fall to 9. The best I can do is play a Pyromancer’s Assault. Back to Josh, he simply repeats the same sequence of play, putting me to 3 life. Back to me, I summon a Stormchaser Mage, then surge my Tyrant of Valakut. That triggers the 3 damage, which I send at the Prophet to shut off Josh’s card drawing. Then Pyromancer’s Assault triggers, letting me send an additional bit of burn to take out the Skyspawner.

It’s a nice sequence of play, but Josh simply deploys a Kozilek’s Pathfinder on turn 9. With a Mountain in hand, I draw my last card of the game- Boulder Salvo. Game over.

Thoughts & Analysis

Surge of Resistance is a classic ‘feast or famine’ deck. When things don’t click together, the deck doesn’t work very well- on its own, it has a lot of cards that aren’t all that great, except for the fact that you can cheat them in cheaply. When things do click together, however, the deck can really punch above its weight. Piling spells on top of spells, saving tons of mana in the process and even getting synergistic benefits like the Tyrant’s free Lightning Bolt or the extra Shocks from the Pyromancer’s Assault. Like a combo-control deck, chaining effects and taking command of the battlefield.

Or at least, that’s how it looks in my imagination, because nothing remotely like that happened in our playtest. The closest I got to that vision was surging my Tyrant with an Assault on the board, but by then the extra five points of damage it afforded me to change my fortunes was hardly enough. And that’s the problem I had with Surge of Resistance; in a nutshell, it fell down on both surging and resistance.

Part of this has to be attributed to how well Josh’s Twisted Reality performed. With both very efficient creatures as well as mana dumps, he always seemed to have something to do. Meanwhile, there I am on the other side of the table trying to figure out how I can cast my spells in the first place.

As longtime readers can attest to, I generally enjoy the intricacy that this color pair tends to offer. I was not impressed with Surge of Reality. With lousy burn/removal, there just wasn’t enough there to give me a chance to experience the mechanic to its fullest effect before simply being overrun.

Hits: the surge mechanic has lots of potential and is fun to play- when given the chance

Misses: Lack of removal or other ways to effectively apply a brake to the red zone leave the deck vulnerable to being overwhelmed before it has a chance to come together; in many cases, surge seems a later-game mechanic (mainly where the surge reduction is minor)

OVERALL SCORE: 3.75/5.00

Read more from Oath of the Gatewatch
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. westbrook57
    Jul 6 2016

    I think your rating scale is kind of broken. From your words, it sounds like you barely enjoyed the deck, it failed at its basic concept and was uninteresting to play, as well as performing poorly. Doesn’t that belong more to 1-2/5 instead of nearly a 4?

    • Jul 6 2016

      There’s actually no hard science to the rating system, particularly as it’s evolved and refined itself over the years of doing this. If I could go back in timer, I’d go with a much more scientific scale, probably not unlike what’s used at the amazing CRPG Addict blog.

      But here’s how I basically get my rating. I give the deck a score based on our school grade convention, then divide by 20. So a 3.75 is, in essence, a middle of the road C (a ’75’).

      This is a fairer grade than 1 (’20’) or 2.5 (50), because those would be FAILING grades. The deck works. It does what it’s supposed to do, and I even won a game with it. It’s not something miserably unplayable, like Anthologies, or 30 Land and 30 Grizzly Bears. I rarely if ever give out a ‘failing grade,’ because the decks do what they’re more or less designed to do, just some better and some worse.

      By that note, you could also make the case that if all decks are assumed to be functioning decks of some level (after all, WotC wouldn’t sell decks of 30 land and 30 Bears), then maybe THAT would be a better baseline. But for the sake of consistency, I’m pretty locked in at this point.

      Great question. I get this one from time to time, and always happy to clarify.

      • westbrook57
        Jul 7 2016

        Ah, I see. Thanks.


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