Gatecrash is here, and Gideon is causing trouble in the City of Guilds. Two new event decks have arrived: ready to play 60-card decks with a 15-card sideboard. If you are new to Magic the Gathering and want to join in on the fun of Friday Night Magic, or you want to try something with a bit more clout than the intro packs, this is where you should start. Here are the two Event Decks in a (cough) double decker review. Hopefully something here tickles your fancy.
Thrive and Thrash is all about getting massive creatures into play. How do we manage this without dying? Mana ramp. This deck has it in bucket-loads.
The Arbor Elf is pretty straightforward, you tap him to untap the forest you just tapped for mana: adding another green to your mana pool. However, he is capable of slightly more than that. He can also untap shock lands (the amazing dual lands from Ravnica that still count as a Forest and an Island, for example), adding extra ways to get mana. However, shocklands are pretty expensive considering this is a deck for those starting out, so let’s look for another way to abuse the Arbor Elf. Verdant Haven gives you 2 life, helping you to shrug off the points of damage in the early game. Once it enchants a land, that land makes two mana, one of which is any colour you want. Now if you enchanted a forest in this way, the Arbor Elf can untap it, allowing you to add another two mana to your mana pool. In this fashion, multiple copies of Arbor Elf and one Forest enchanted with Verdant Haven equals a lot of mana very quickly. Borderland Ranger is a great way to go fetch land, especially if you need a specific colour. He also makes for a great blocker while you bide your time for more mana.
Then you finally get enough mana to cast Deadeye Navigator. While he isn’t one of the scary old titan cycle, this 5/5 has a lot of tricks up his sleeves. When paired with another creature, you can use a paltry 2 mana to ‘blink’ either the Deadeye or his new friend away momentarily, causing any enter the battlefield triggers to reoccur, as well as giving you a great way to dodge targeted removal. One creature that really benefits from this kind of blinking is Thragtusk. Every blink gains you 5 life and a 3/3 creature. Not a bad return on investment for 2 mana. The true threat though is the Gruul Ragebeast: having him in play and blinking him, or any other large creature you have, allows you to pick a fight with a creature your opponent controls. This is a great way of getting rid of deathtouch, lifelink and all other sorts of nasty blockers so that you can get your damage in against your opponent. (You could even pair Acidic Slime with Deadeye Navigator, but you might not have many friends after destroying all of their lands!)
The sideboard has some varied options for several threats this deck battles to deal with. Flames of the Firebrand can help against aggro decks and lots of small flying attackers. Rancor helps you push through with the creatures you own that don’t have trample, making for great early game threat with the Strangleroot Geist, or for just getting through persistent token decks. Dissipate is a great way to protect your creatures from mass removal and makes sure that no recursion, such as flashback or Snapcaster Mage, can happen.
While it isn’t Simic (though at this point you will have noticed that the deck isn’t really about Simic so much as ramp) Clan Defiance makes a great addition. Although it can’t target as many creatures as some of the more expensive cards out there, this spell really works well with the large pool of mana you have. Even being able to cast this spell with 7 mana means you can do 5 damage to a flyer, 5 damage to a ground unit and 5 damage to your opponent. While you may not always be able to do all three, it is always good to be able to deal a large amount of damage to one creature and your opponent with the same spell. The Zameck Guildmage can strengthen the smaller creatures you cast late game, while giving you a means to draw extra cards when you start running out of steam. While I dislike dangling Mythic Rare cards in front of players in these decks, sometimes they are the best card for the job. Prime Speaker Zegana would make a great pairing with a Deadeye Navigator, filling your hand with 6 cards while giving you a 6/6 to battle with.
I think the biggest thing that upset me about this Simic deck is that it isn’t Simic. It is more of a RUG (red blue green) ramp deck. For a box with Simic Combine and the Simic guild symbol proudly showcased, I expected more shenanigans involving the new Simic keyword, evolve. Either that or the fact that this is another event deck that tries to abuse the enter the battlefield triggers of cards. I’m not sure. Sadly the deck needs red to survive at all, even then a lucky hand (with heavy use of the side board) is needed to survive against the Boros deck.
Here is the deck list for Thrive and Thrash
2 Evolving Wilds
14 other spells
15 sideboard cards
As always, one of the decks manages to sneak in a lot of extra value for money. Rally and Rout would cost a whopping $85 or so to purchase in singles (excluding shipping etcetera). That is a lot of value for packed in one box, especially to a newer player. Older players may be chagrined to note the number of Innistrad rares present. However, I remind myself, not everyone has a full set of Champion of the Parish and Silverblade Paladin.
These three cards show one of my favourite opening three turns with this deck. Yes, only one of each rare makes it a hard hand to comfortably hope for, but that is definitely something to keep in mind for later additions to the deck. Turn 1 Champion with a turn 2 Gather the Townsfolk is a great play. In 2 turns you have amassed 5 power and toughness across 3 bodies. Turn 3 Silverblade paired with the Champion means there is a 4/4 double striking monster on the table.
Boros Elite introduces the new Gatecrash keyword, battalion. The Boros excel when fighting in formation, meaning a group of three or more attacking creatures triggers battalion. This triggers effects from +2/+2 until the end of turn, as on the Boros Elite, to all your creatures being indestructible until the end of your turn. While some players feel this mechanic is too easy to disrupt and forces your hand to the table, it really devastates opponents who do not have answers to it. Also, you could say that about almost any weenie aggro deck, but I digress. Remember I mentioned the Silverblade Paladin earlier? This deck has another friend for him. The Spark Trooper is an amazing creature for those moments when your opponent is tapped out and cant respond to threats in your turn. A Spark Trooper, paired with a Silverblade Paladin is going to net you 12 life and a massive chunk of damage to your opponent. This one shot may be fragile, but can really swing the outcome of a game or steal it outright. Remember, Ball Lightning used to fill a very similar role in old mono red decks. The Truefire Paladin was my unsung hero in this deck. A 2/2 with vigilance is not to be ignored, especially when it can become a 4/2, or a first striker. This uncommon can steadily whittle down life totals, and is a great creature to pair a Silverblade Paladin with. (What makes you think I have a deck with four Silverblades in it?)
The sideboard contains a few answers to dreadful problems. Skullcrack gives you an answer to those annoying life gain decks that love using a Thragtusk or Sphinx’s Revelation to save themselves from the jaws of defeat. Oblivion Ring helps you to deal with threats and hindrances that are too big for your creatures, or can’t be hurt by creatures. Bonds of Faith offer a similar yoke to large creatures, or can be used to make one of your humans do a lot more damage.
While Champion of the Parish does exclude some of the powerful non-human Boros creatures from your deck design, there are still plenty of options available. Wojek Halberdiers, for example, makes for a pretty reliable 2 drop. Battalion gives him first strike, making for a rather annoying early game attacker. If you don’t mind breaking the human only archetype of the deck, Firemane Avenger is a great addition to your deck. A 3/3 flyer who becomes a Lightning Helix on a stick (do 3 damage, gain 3 life) with battalion… yeah, your opponent is in for a short game if they do not have an answer. My current favourite is the Boros Reckoner. This easy to cast Minotaur means business. A 3/3 that can pay for first strike is already a serious threat. Having him able to retaliate against any damage that he receives is just amazing. Suddenly your foe’s large damaging spells don’t seem as attractive.
Here is the deck list for Rally and Rout.
3 Boros Guildgate
2 Boros Charm
13 other spells
3 Bonds of Faith
15 sideboard cards
The event decks cost around R250 – R300 and are available in stores now.