At last, the final piece of the Rise of the Eldrazi puzzle is about to fall into place, with this review of the remaining intro pack deck Leveler’s Scorn. As you may recall, we began our set review with the underwhelming Leveler’s Glory, and so there’s a bit of poetry in our coming full circle here. Not only is the other Level Up deck ready to take its place on the field of battle, but as it happens Sam will be piloting Leveler’s Glory against it. Here are our notes from this head-to-head matchup of the leveling mechanic.
Question: So if Leveler’s Glory warrented little but scorn, does that mean Leveler’s Scorn will be deserving of glory? Certainly it has all the necessary makings, using Blue’s Level Up creatures instead of White’s, and with Black for its superior removal capabilities. But as we’ve seen, the Rise of the Eldrazi decks tend to follow the ‘meandering muddle’ style of construction- a few cards for this strat here, a few cards for that strat there- and seldom hew any one path particularly well. It’s been something of a mixed bag at best, and as we begin to concluse our visit to Eldrazi-infested Zendikar, we have high hopes we can end on a high note.
As touched on in the deck analysis, we had some doubts about Totem Power from the outset. It seemed reminiscent of Deadspread from Scars of Mirrodin- a deck that highlights a mechanic for its own sake, when that mechanic isn’t particularly well-suited to building a deck around. Totem Armor is an intriguing twist on the periodic attempt to make creature auras playable (typically by mitigating the inherent card disadvantage), but aside from the Kor Spiritdancer and a couple role-player cards, there really didn’t seem all that much distinguishing this deck from just a generic creature deck with a few decent auras.
Knowing that the truth often emerges on the field of battle, I sat down with Sam who opted to meet Totem Power with the Blue/Black Leveler’s Scorn. Here are the results of that matchup.
Ahh, enchantments… what a long and sorrowful tale they tell. Ever the bridesmaids, and quite seldom the bride, it is a sad commentary on the state of the permanent that it’s rather big news when one makes Constructed play (see: Eldrazi Conscription). Far more useful in limited where their glaring weakness is somewhat reduced, they nevertheless magnify the risk-versus-reward element prevalent in the game. Their effects are often quite solid, but generally not quite enough to outweigh the vulnerability they leave their player with to being two-for-oned in response to their casting.
Very early on the player base came to this realisation, and Wizards has tried many times to offset their inherent risk of card disadvantage. Some have been splendid successes (see: Rancor), but for the most part they’re considered largely unplayable. But Wizards’ R&D keeps trying, and for Rise of the Eldrazi they came up with a new iteration: Totem Armor.
Like an old Godzilla movie, our matchup today was to be a true battle of the gargantuan as Edlrazi Arisen wages war against Sam and the Red/Black Invading Spawn. As both decks are weak in the early game to ramp for late game might, neither one of us could expect to get a quick kill, leaving plenty of time and space for the worst each deck had to offer to be thrown at the other.
Sam and I sat down to battle, and here are the notes from our titanic clash.
Rise of the Eldrazi followed something of a symmetrical model for its preconstructed decks. There were two decks for the Level Up mechanic (Leveler’s Glory, Leveler’s Scorn), two for the Eldrazi and their Spawn (Invading Spawn, Eldrazi Arisen), and the odd one out was devoted to the Totem Armor theme (Totem Power). This model would be somewhat replicated the very next block, when Scars of Mirrodin assigned two decks to the Phyrexians, two to the Mirrans’ mechanics, and a tribal theme deck. It’s a model that seems to work, giving a nice variety to the representative mechanics and themes, while at the same time providing something of a contrast within a flavour.
After the poor experience with Leveler’s Glory, I was eager to see if perhaps Wizards did a better job representing Rise of the Eldrazi’s theme of Eldrazi Spawn. The deck upon analysis seemed strong but flawed, vulnerable to an early assault. It also seemed to lack the tools stall effectively, although its removal package was very solid. Still, there is no substitute for playtesting to grasp how a deck plays out, and with that in mind I challenged Sam to the customary three matches for a write-up. Sam grabbed the White-Green Totem Power, and prepared to do battle.
The second deck in our Rise of the Eldrazi preconstructed reviews is Invading Spawn, a Red/Black deck that uses Eldrazi Spawn tokens to power itself up. The designers at Wizards have referred to Rise as “Battlecruiser Magic,” a reference to its Godzilla-like theme of generating mana then spending it on massive creatures to hurl at your opponent. One of the ways this was thematically represented was in the Eldrazi Spawn, 0/1 token creatures that can be sacrificed at any time in return for one colourless mana.
The idea behind this deck, then, is to generate large amounts of mana in part by using Spawn to store up mana, then unleashing it in some way that will prove fatal to your opponent. Typically we tend to review decks starting with the creatures, then assessing noncreature support. With Eldrazi Spawn, however, we’ll be using a more integrated approach due to the design of the deck. First we’ll look at the ways in which Spawn are generated, then we’ll review the options the deck has for using them. Finally, supporting cards which don’t fit into this dynamic will be discussed, as well as the mana curves for the deck itself.
“Oh,” said Sam, picking out a deck, “I forgot that these were the 41-card ones.” I can understand her dismay- I never much cared for the 41-card model either, much preferring the 60 cards + booster pack we’ve currently settled back on. That wasn’t going to stop us, though, as we laid out the playmats and took our respective decks to battle. I had little hope- the Leveler’s Glory concoction was a study in form over function. Ostensibly selected to showcase the Level Up mechanic, as we saw in the deck analysis the efficacy of the deck is compromised by its inability to settle on a focused path to victory. Instead, what we have is a hodgepodge smattering of different win conditions, which means that it will be doing a whole lot less winning.
For this match, Sam selected the Red/Green Eldrazi Arisen deck. Here are our notes from the matchup.
In 2007, Wizards did something that they had not done in a decade’s time and tinkered with the block structure of a set (not counting the 2006 follow-up set to 1995’s Ice Age). Rather than hew to the norm- one large set followed by two smaller expansions- the Lorwyn block was laid out two halves, each with a large set and follow-up small set (Lorwyn/Morningtide and Shadowmoor/Eventide). A mere two years later, Wizards decided to do it again.
Rather than be a second “normal expansion,” Rise of the Eldrazi was designed from the ground-up as a standalone set. Certainly it retianed its thematic and story-arc links to Zendikar and Worldwake, but it was meant to be drafted alone. Additionally, it would have new machanics. No more Landfall, Traps, Allies, Quests or Kickers. Instead, a new slate of abilities were revealed: Annihilator, Rebound, Totem Armor and… Level Up.