*This name was completely stolen from Jungle Rat Rob, one of the hosts of The Retro League and the man responsible for our first three audio montages. It was just too good not to blatantly rip off (thanks Rob!). As for why it’s really cool, the Drake Equation is used to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy that could potentially communicate with us. As you may or may not know, I have a degree in physics and have always been fascinated with anything astronomical in nature, so…I’m a dork and this is awesome. Shut up, don’t judge me.
It’s that time again! I’ve been playing Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 and charting how the decks change as cards are unlocked. After burning through Chandra’s deck last time, I needed a change of pace. So I went with red’s polar opposite and picked up Talrand’s blue deck. It actually started out as a fair amount of fun to play, contrary to what one listener whose name is lost to the aether (I honestly can’t remember who said it) told me. Here’s the deck in its initial form:
Just like last time, the rules I set myself are simple. Keep the deck at 60 cards at all times. Be sure to have a real reason to remove a card, though anything can be a real reason (“It smells funny!”). And finally, absolutely no metagaming. I’m trying to build the best deck in general that I can here. Plus the load times between the deck manager and the rest of the game are ridiculously long, and I’ll lose interest too easily if I have to go back and forth more than once. So let’s see what happens when I fire this blue deck up!
Game 1: Talrand
Of course, it’s the mirror match. And of course, I lost the first game to a severe mana flood and 4 Goliath Sphinxes on the other side of the table. Two actual ones, a copy of one, and then another copy courtesy of Archaeomancer. That was awkward. The second attempt sees me with an early Kraken Hatchling wearing a Ring followed by an Invocation, a Cancel for his Invocation, a Favorable Winds, and my second Invocation. Not even close.
1st Unlock: Talrand, Sky Summoner
Hey look, the namesake! This guy knows the Drake Equation like the back of his hand. Fin. Whatever, he’s a merfolk. He’s also AWESOME, so he’s going in the deck. I think one of the copies of Goliath Sphinx has to go though. This thing is just massively expensive, and having two of them just seems like a bad choice. Let’s find out.
Game 2: Disturbing the Nest Encounter
Pretty birds! This one was simple. I just took damage and waited it out until I could play bigger flying guys, Canceled whenever possible, and forced multiple X-for-1s. One Invocation can kill four birds – value!
2nd Unlock: Repulse
Hell yeah bounce and draw! I loved this card in the last game, and I’m sure I’ll love it in this one. Let’s knock out something stupid for it. Like Hydrosurge! What a terrible, terrible card. Get out of my deck!
3rd Unlock: Dehydration
Looks like removal! I love removal, especially in a blue deck. Someone please tell me why Hydrosurge isn’t a cantrip? Damn it’s awful. No more of those in here, now let’s see what’s next.
Game 4: Garruk
I love Garruk to death, but there’s just nothing much he can do against a Fog Bank unless he’s got a trampler. And he didn’t. While his ground guys sat there staring into the fog, my drakes were chewing him up.
4th Unlock: Azure Mage
I love this chick. First off, she’s a 2/1 for 1U, so she’s actually pretty aggressive for this deck. Shut up, she’s in blue, that’s about the best we’re gonna get. Also, as the aforementioned Rob pointed out to me one day, I’m pretty sure her flavor text says something like “No one will ever read this.” The art features a scantily-clad female human with a serious case of Damn Girl. Once you manage to make it past that, her rules text says “3U: Draw a card.” There is absolutely no reason to read any further. She’s good in the early game and amazing in the late game. Holy crap this is a lot of exposition, let me get to the point. I’m removing Recurring Insight, because it costs freakin’ SIX mana to draw an unspecified amount of cards…twice. If your opponent has three or more cards in hand, it’s pretty great. If they’re rocking the Hellbent, it’s a complete waste of time and energy unless you’ve got Talrand on the board. So screw it, it’s coming out.
Game 5: Face of the Ghoulcaller Encounter
Can I just say that I hate this guy with a fiery passion? With Chandra’s deck it was pretty simple, because I could regrow a couple of my guys and the rest were small and stupid. This time…not so simple. The first time he milled away my Talrand and snatched it out of the graveyard. Then he got a free drake every time he cast Horrifying Revelation. That was a short fight, but it was pretty cool seeing Talrand with a gold border. The second attempt saw me winning despite accidentally Dispersing one of my drakes instead of his stolen Fog Bank. No problem.
5th Unlock: Mana Leak
I almost hate to say it, but I’ve got to take out Curiosity. Its Oracle text actually says “block or destroy this creature as soon as possible or you’re going to die.” So they’re going to do so if able, and if they’re not able then I’m probably in a pretty good spot already. So I’ll throw in the early counter to help soften up the late game.
Game 6: Stampede Encounter
This freakin’ guy. A Hatchling, Fog Bank and THREE drakes just aren’t enough to stop the hot greasy death from pouring all over me. That’s ridiculous. The second attempt saw me cast these things starting on turn 3: Skywinder, Invocation, Favorable Winds & Repulse, second Invocation, second Favorable Winds. Yeah, I won that one.
6th Unlock: Distortion Strike
I have yet to draw a Sphinx-Bone Wand at a time that it would do me any good at all, so I’ll just take that out. It’s really slow at seven mana and won’t do much for a few turns anyway. Distortion Strike gives me two unblockable guys over two turns. That’s essentially six damage (assuming I have drakes for instance) for one mana. Take that, Lightning Bolt!
7th Unlock: Time Warp
I love me some extra turns. Even if I just pay five mana to draw a card, I still love it. Sometimes Time Warp will just end the game, sometimes it’s just a really expensive Explore. Either way, I’m putting it in. Other than those two times I put a one on a baby Kraken in the early game, I haven’t been impressed with the Ring of Evos Isle. It really doesn’t do enough to be a two-of in the deck, so I’ll take one out. Now let’s continue the rampage, who’s next?
Game 8: Liliana
Oh look, it’s her. This deck is the bane of my existence. In the first attempt, I drew a whole lot of useless crap against her Underworld Dreams. In the second attempt, she had all the flying creatures and I had all the ground defense. What the hell? Turns out third time’s the charm though. She Murdered my Azure Mage, leaving my Skywinder and four drake tokens. One was Publicly Executed, but I cast my shiny new Time Warp to recoup the damage I didn’t get to do. Then I got it back with an Archaeomancer. Let’s do the Time Warp again! Then I won.
8th Unlock: Cast Through Time
You know, this is one of those seven mana do-nothing enchantments that I just desperately love. If this sticks and I manage to cast ANYTHING else, I’m going to be having a wonderful time. So I’m going to put it in and see how it goes. As for what to take out, let’s go with the second Curiosity. I’m just not happy with it a high enough percentage of the time for it to be worth it.
9th Unlock: Dehydration
Hey look, an unlocked card I’m not going to put in the deck! That took long enough. Earlier when I said this was removal, I was mostly right. It still allows them one swing with the creature, and that’s not cool. I’m trying to keep up the instant & sorcery count for Talrand, Cast Through Time, and a few things that will be unlocking later. Yeah I snuck a peek, shut up!
Game 10: Krenko
Stupid goblins. Yes I know that’s redundant, shut up again. I get down two Fog Banks and think I’m doing pretty well when I cast an Invocation to start flying over his dudes. But he casts a PAIR of Shocks to kill both my drakes. But I cast another copy for two more drakes, then cast a Rite for a third one, and that was eventually that.
Game 11: Into the Mine Encounter
There’s something wonderful about a Favorable Winds followed by Talrand’s Invocation. It’s just a beautiful thing. Then I hit Cast Through Time and Talrand, so I was having a party. Drakes are on the house! According to my notes, I swung for 10,000 damage one turn, then swung for a full zillion damage the next turn. And goodness knows I’m not capable of hyperbole, so that must be accurate.
11th Unlock: Arm with Aether
I actually really like this card. Connecting with two creatures after casting this is a crippling blow. Unlike Curiosity, it doesn’t care which creatures land the hit, so long as any creature lands the hit. I like it. If I liked it then I should have put a Ring on it. But I don’t like the Ring, so let’s just make that an even swap.
Game 12: Righteous Anger Encounter
Apparently I managed to play enough creatures to keep the burn focused there and not at my face. I pulled the old bounce & counter on the Fire Servant and kept playing more dudes to outpace the torrent of Lightning Helixes. Helices? Sounds too much like feces.
Game 13: Jace
Oh look, the mill deck. Hey, I actually got to use my Spiketail to keep an Aether Adept from bouncing my Skywinder! Yay for using the unlocked cards! I’m really glad that he threw out a Font and a Mine, because I drew four Islands in one turn…twice! That’s ridiculous, and I appreciate him helping me draw through those clumps. I ended up just flying over with lots of drakes after using all the insane card draw to find Cancel and bounce spells to defend myself.
13th Unlock: Keep Watch
I’m not terribly fond of this one. It’s too conditional for my tastes, and far too likely to just be a dead card. Pass!
Game 14: Dragon’s Aerie Encounter
This was freakin’ epic. I started off with a baby Kraken and two Fog Banks, which are nuts against dragons. Then I get out Talrand and use Distortion Strike on him twice for some free damage and drakes. I use a Rite for my very own Shivan, then do it again next turn for a second one! The Shivans are just removal though, since he immediately trades his own for them. Of course, the dragons are slowly building up on the other side of the table and I’m starting to get concerned. One turn 10 I hit Cast Through Time while in topdeck mode. The next turn I drew an Arm with Aether, which I should have cast. It would have rebounded the next turn and I could have taken advantage of it with my newly made drake token. The next turn I did cast it, but it was too late and I was definitely going to lose. Then I drew a Disperse (luck sack!) and the rebound of it the next turn allowed me to punch through the last points of damage. Holy CRAP that was close.
14th Unlock: Time Reversal
I just went through all that for this? ARGH. This thing is too symmetrical in this environment. I’m sure I could make it work in a deck I had full control over, but that’s not what this is. Plus, I don’t wanna. Remember what I said in the last article – my deck, my rules!
Game 15: Nefarox
I had an impressive buildup of creatures to start this game off, which is a good thing because he did too. Luckily I managed to find Time Warp to get ahead, then had good old Archie to let me do the Time Warp again. And yes, that’s two Rocky Horror references in one article, shut up. He played a Deathbringer Liege, but somehow managed to not cast any white spells after that (luck sack!). I found a Goliath Sphinx for the first time ever and then two Favorable Winds. He had lots of dudes out, but the Battlegrace Angel was the only one in the air, so he fell to my mighty onslaught.
15th Unlock: Panoptic Mirror
And thus the sun pierced through the dark clouds, and the angels’ song rang out, and life was indeed peachy once more. Seriously though, you guys have no idea how much I freakin’ LOVE this card. It could be completely bonkers in this deck. Holy crap there’s an infinite turn combo with Time Warp! To try it out, I knocked out one of the copies of Sleight of Hand. What? Don’t judge me. Look, it doesn’t help so much that I can turn down a potential infinite combo. So what if there’s only one copy of each in the deck? Whose deck is this? That’s what I thought.
And that’s actually where I stopped playing for about a week, so that should be a good place to stop the first article. It’s pretty long already, so let’s just turn it into a two-parter, shall we? Here’s the deck as it stands now:
4 Talrand’s Invocation
2 Favorable Winds
2 Rite of Replication
2 Sleight of Hand
1 Arm with Aether
1 Distortion Strike
1 Time Warp
1 Panoptic Mirror
1 Cast Through Time
So there you have it. Next time I’ll cover the rest of the deck evolution, including the promo unlocks. The Revenge campaign got a little intense at times, and the deck will take a distinct turn, so keep an eye out for it! And as always, I’ll gladly accept any feedback you guys want to offer up. Did you appreciate the new format for this article? Should I put more or less focus on the games, or the card choices, or anything? Let a brother know!