Every Tuesday, Piki Geek partners with Play Unplugged to bring you a quick look at all the kinds of gaming that won’t give you arthritis in 20 years. Board games, card games, miniatures, table top RPGs – TTT’s got you covered.
Intro Decks in Magic: the Gathering do not often interest experienced players. One reason is that an Intro Deck is never quite powerful enough to play at a Friday Night Magic event, given that it runs one copy each of two rare cards. It’s not supposed to be, though; it’s there to help us to learn.
But if you think of Intro Decks only in terms of, “I don’t need an introduction,” you need to take a second look.
Why? Well, how experienced are you with Dark Ascension? Not very, eh? Unless you’ve been playing in the Future Future League over at Wizards of the Coast, you probably haven’t had a chance to get a thorough handle on Undying, yet.
Undying, you may know, is a new mechanic, the functional opposite of a former and much-loved Magic mechanic Persist. When a creature with Undying dies, it comes back to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter. If it already has one of these counters, it dies as normal. If you play with the Monstrous Surprise deck for a while, you’ll start to get a good feel for what you can do with Undying before you start trying to use it competitively.
One thing seasoned players learn well is that you can’t pilot a great deck to victory unless you’re adept at playing it. Monstrous Surprise’s card selection can teach you when to sacrifice, when to fight, and when to attack and block, and make the most of your creatures’ ability to leap out from the grave.
Let’s have a look at the list!
3 Nearheath Stalker
3 Young Wolf
2 Goblin Arsonist
2 Strangleroot Geist
2 Pyreheart Wolf
2 Orchard Spirit
2 Russet Wolves
2 Skirsdag Cultist
1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Flayer of the Hatebound (FOIL RARE)
1 Rage Thrower
Noncreature spells (14)
2 Rampant Growth
2 Prey Upon
2 Rolling Tremblor
2 Wild Hunger
1 Gutter Grime (RARE)
That’s eleven undying creatures — half the creature base. The other half has creatures that either enable them to die (Skirsdag Cultist) or do other interesting things when creatures die (Pitchburn; Lumberknot). You’re going to want to do without Russet Wolves, unless you’ve already shoved in some Mayors of Avabruck, but that’s OK.
Your powerhouses here are Pyreheart Wolf, Nearheath Stalker, and Flayer of the Hatebound. First, the Flayer, which deals damage to anything it wants when someone (including itself) reanimates from your graveyard. This is where the otherwise underwhelming Nearheath Stalker (a 4/1 Undyer) teaches us how to take one for the team. Since Fling has been reprinted in Dark Ascension, we can actually cast it twice if Flayer and Stalker are on the table, sacrifice them both for 8 damage, then deal another 10 when they reanimate themselves. That’s 18 damage for 4 mana. That . . . that is some kitchen table fun.
If you’re looking for a more likely, more strategic scenario, you can use Prey Upon to fight a creature with an Undyer and take it down. Then if Flayer is on the table, it can deal damage equal to its power to another creature. Now, instead of a 4/1 that you’re scared to block with, you just took out two creatures and cleared the way to swing for five!
Greatsword is here to pump your power for all those fights and Flings and Flayers. Creatures with high power and low toughness are going to be much more effective as the targets of your spells than they will in combat. Now you’re a little more prepared for your first limited games with Dark Ascension, if you end up with some of these topheavy folks — throw them over the wall!
Sometimes, the cards in an Intro Deck can clue you in on how to use a new mechanic, as we’ve just seen. There’s also an Overrun in here, though — because at a certain point, you might just need to trample in for the win. Your top-heavy creatures can conceivably attack without worry, if they don’t already have a counter; with Flayer of the Hatebound in, too, they’ll end up dealing their damage (and then some) no matter what! Rolling Temblor, too, in a deck full of non-flying creatures, reminds us that in the right scenario, our creatures don’t have to stay dead.
These are some of the tricks you can pull with Undying as Dark Ascension pre-releases, launch parties, and FNM events creep up on us. It’s a powerful ability that many of your opponents are likely to play, so at the very least, you can see how to play around it (flying and counterspells can shut this deck down, along with the infamous Grafdigger’s Cage).
And as always, each Intro Deck comes with a pack of cards, so you can customize it out of its very own box, if you like. For $12.99, you get a guaranteed foil Flayer of the Hatebound, a slew of new Undyers to help you master this powerful new ability, and fifteen new cards on top.
Practice with Monstrous Surprise, and then you can customize it or build your own Undying deck, and you’ll prove that they don’t just come back “sometimes” — you’ll learn to bring them back at the perfect time, right when you need them the most.