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New Phyrexia: War of Attrition Review (Part 2 of 2)

With the reviews written and the stage set, it is time to pit Event Deck versus Event Deck and see how they play against one another. As we saw, both decks have embraced a speed-kills mentality. To crib a little Thomas Hobbes, every indication points to these matches being nasty, brutish, and short. One controvertial decision we made during the last round of Event Deck playestings (for Mirrodin Besieged) was to forego a sideboard, and we’ll be repeating that choice here. Although sideboards are indisputably a critical element of constructed play, there are two reasons for our decision. First, as precon players we’re perfectly happy to see how the ‘stock 60’ stands up- we’re looking for overall performance of the deck moreso that how it manages to outmaneuver a specific opponent. A worry here is that one player might skew results by happening to draw a couple of their sideboard options and gaining considerable advantage. This is the point of a sideboard at the constructed tables, of course… but perhaps a little less so here, when we want to see how the list stands up on its own.

The second reason is unfamiliarity with the concept. If Event Decks are to be the gateway to competitive play, they’re going to need to do a better job of coaching players on how to manage a sideboard. Because of the level of skill it requires in making decisions- both what to put in, and perhaps more critically what to take out– there is a high level of intimidation factor. Not all in the Ertai’s Lament crew are as comfortable with the concept, and so setting the sideboards aside is the better option.

There is a minority opinion here (read: mine) that holds that sideboards are actually part of the deck, and that a thorough testing should include them. It’s something we’re working on with our skill levels, and I should expect that by the next set of Event Deck reviews, we’ll have full integration for testing purposes.

Until then, we can only hope that you’ll enjoy our review of the stock decks, and on that basis get an idea of what they are capable of right out of the box. Here are the game notes from our matchup.

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New Phyrexia: War of Attrition Review (Part 1 of 2)

The story of the Stoneforge Mystic is a story about patience as a virtue. Released in 2010’s Worldwake expansion, she was recognised by many for her card advantage and tutoring, but in the environment she was born into, this wasn’t very exciting. Luis Scott Vargas of Channel Fireball- noted for his set reviews (and dreadful punnery)- spoke with the voice of many when he said that she was “unlikely to make a splash in Standard.” And he was right… for a little while.

Then came word that the next block was a return to Mirrodin, and with the artifact pool about to get a huge boost, canny minds thought back to this belle-of-the-ball-to-be still waiting for her chance in the spotlight. The actual release of Scars of Mirrodin brought even more around, and slowly her price started to move. According to the Black Lotus Project, which tracks price trending for Magic cards, 19 October 2010 was the day that Stoneforge Mystic became a débutante. Long languishing as an inexpensive rare, she crested $5 in value for the first time after some nine months in waiting and slowly began climbing as more people gave her a look.

Then things changed overnight- as they can- with a Pro Tour. The Caw-Go deck, which Brian Kiber had played to no small notice in Worlds the previous December had been given a gift in Mirrodin Besieged: the Sword of Feast and Famine. With the Stoneforge Mystic perfectly positioned to take advantage of this new mythic equipment, Ben Stark’s upgraded “CawBlade” list took him top honours at Pro Tour Paris in mid-February. Over the course of that weekend, whispers and mentions leaked out that saw the Mystic crest $8 in value. By two weeks after the event- with the full decklists spoiled- she was already on her way to $12 and climbing fast. She would soon reach her zenith at over $18 and become one of the Standard environment’s most sought-after cards.

Not bad for a wee slip of a thing from nomadic paths of the Kor, no? And while the story of the Stoneforge Mystic is not the story of War of Attrition, you could not tell the story of War of Attrition without it. According to Wizards Director of R&D Aaron Forsythe, Stoneforge Mystic was $4 when the deck was shipped off to the printers. It is the Mystic’s rise to prominence which has given this latest round of Event Decks the commanding attention denied the first two.

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