Marge, In Some Ways, You And I Are Very Different People

Onslaught Sealed is more luck-reliant than it’s ever been before. I was at this one event where a little kid threw all 105 cards into the air, plucked forty cards at random, and 5-0’d the prerelease! And the thing was, this was a child crack addict who had never played Magic before – he thought he was playing in a high-stakes poker tournament to become the Count of Monte Cristo!
So is this true? I mean, REALLY?

(Note to the readers: In last
week’s introductory article
, I forgot to thank Ariel Jones, the woman – and babe,
and friend of mine – who designed StarCityGames’ new logo, the star and the
city and the font. She did a bang-up job, didn’t she?)

So is Onslaught really all about the bombs?

The debate is raging back and forth across the net:

Onslaught Sealed is more luck-reliant than it’s ever been before. I
was at this one event where a little kid threw all 105 cards into the air,
plucked forty cards at random, and 5-0’d the prerelease! And the thing was,
this was a child crack addict who had never played Magic before – he thought
he was playing in a high-stakes poker tournament to become the Count of
Monte Cristo!

No, all you need with Onslaught Limited is a dollar and a dream! It’s all
about the solid deckbuilding! Why, I myself opened a freak deck with nothing
but forty False Cures and a Wellwisher, and I went 7-0 at the Grand Prix
Trial, beating the guy who opened Visara and two Rorix Bladewings!

No, you fool! It’s all luck! You have no hope!

Jane, you ignorant slut!

I hate to tell you… But you’re both wrong. Onslaught is a floor wax
and a dessert topping, kids.

The fact is that it is both harder and easier to pull out a win in
Onslaught Sealed. I mean, let’s be honest – thanks to the huge bombs, it’s
way easier to crack two or three ridiculously-broken rares and smash
your way to the top. There aren’t that many answers to a Quicksilver

In fact, let’s look at your single-card, common and uncommon answers to
Quicksilver Dragon, a Rorix,
or a Visara,
should one hit the table:

1) Speed. You can hope to outrace them. Some decks can do this,
beating the opponent into submission before turn 5 or 6 – but that’s a rare
deck that requires a lot of synergy to do so. You can’t rely on it.

2) Gang-Blocking. They fly. A lot of colors don’t have flying
creatures that can gang-block it – and even if they could, that requires
multiple cards. Nice try.

3) Pacifism and Sandskin.
It works… But neither really stop Visara, and Rorix is going to get in a
hit regardless. Furthermore, a lot of players can sideboard in enchantment
destruction, thus neutralizing your card. This does not take care of the
card in a lot of cases; it simply stalls it.

4) Unified Strike. This requires at least five soldiers in
play. This is assuming you open five soldiers.

5) Whipcorder.
…Which works effectively until Visara kills it. It can stall a Dragon or a
Rorix, but chances are that – much like Pacifism and Sandskin – you’ll have
used the ‘Corder’s ability in advance and will take a six-point hit from
Rorix before you can shut it down. And then, all it takes is a Shock.

6) Aphetto Grifter. This combines the wonder of Whipcorder
and Unified Strike – not only do you have to draw another Wizard, but it’s a
1/1 and killed as a mere triviality to most opponents. Oops.

7) Complicate , Disruptive Pitmage, and Discombobulate.
It’s possible that you could prevent any of them from coming out with this,
since they’re all pricey… But blue is so weak in this format that you
generally have to get enough strong blue cards to justify playing it. This
is rare, and you certainly can’t count on it.

8) Mistform Mask. All the disadvantages of Pacifism and
Sandskin, with the added disadvantage that it ties up mana to do so. The
Mistform’s not a bad bet, but it doesn’t get the creature off the board
where you don’t have to worry about it… And it still leaves the big
critter back on defense, so now you have to smash through it. Oops.

9) Cruel Revival, Death Pulse, and Profane Prayers. Death Pulse doesn’t really deal with the creature, but it’s entirely
possible that you could chump and finish off a Rorix with it – Visara’ll
just stay back until she’s cleared the path, and the Dragon will shunt it
elsewhere. Profane Prayers is dependent on other creatures… But if you’re
playing it, that’s a pretty clear signal that you’re playing W/B, so I’m
willing to concede that you’ll probably be able to ramp up to enough clerics
to pull it off, given time. (Given time, he said.) Cruel Revival is the only
hands-down,”Oops, you’re dead” common in the format, and even though the
Dragon can allemande left to deal with it, it still counts.

10) Erratic Explosion. Well, it could work if you stumble
into another high casting-cost card. But it probably won’t.

So let’s take a look here: Of all of the common cards, there is precisely

one card that removes, without question or drawback, three of
the broken rares that everyone seems to have problems with.

That really seems to weight the set heavily towards the bombs.

Now, some of you may complain, saying that there are ways of dealing with
the bombs. My response is that they fall into two categories:

1) Rare bombs. Sometimes, you’re not so lucky. And even if you are
that lucky, sometimes your bomb is the only good card in a color you can’t
use. So shut up.

2) Multiple card interaction. Now I grant you, this is what makes
Onslaught Limited so cool; you really have to work for it. I admit that
there are plenty of cool ways to really take care of one of the big,
facesmashing legends – and it feels so cool when you do them.

However, a lot of these tricks are sorcery-speed, meaning that you have
to count on the big guys to block – which means that he has to be on the
defensive in the first place, and most good players won’t block with the big
guy until they have no other option.

Still more require using creatures to block, then lowering the ax with
another card. That’s problematic for two other reasons: One, it involves
having both cards out at the same time – which means that mathematically,
you’re at a real disadvantage to the guy who can cast his one-card combo of
Rorix. You may have the blocker, but what if you don’t ever see your Wirewood Pride?

Secondly, it involves some bad play on the guy’s part; he has to send the
bomb in unprotected. Granted, he may be happy to watch you burn three cards
to take care of his one, but usually a good player will feel it out to make
sure it’s safe. A good player may not risk his bomb at all.

So the bombs do rule. Don’t kid yourself. There are several large,
ugly creatures out there, and only one card deals with anything over 4/4
unquestioningly, on its own.

One. Card.

What happens if you don’t get Cruel Revival? You may be boned.

But that said, I was hanging around watching the latest episode of Buffy
this week… And while I did, I was flipping through the deck that I got at
the prerelease, looking over the art and the flavor text and whatnot. And it
was then I had a realization:

I had built my deck entirely wrong.

I went with blue and white, and in doing so I had screwed the pooch so
fierce that Rover woulda bit me if he could; I undervalued the removal, I
overvalued certain tricks that weren’t helpful in this environment, and in
general I screwed up.

So let me tell you something, kiddies: The bombs rule, but that’s no
excuse for poor deckbuilding. And I had no excuse for the pile I built when
I had better cards.

Here’s my deck:


Dirge of Dread

Withering Hex

Words of Waste

Syphon Mind

Syphon Soul

Shepherd of Rot


Crown of Suspicion

Gravespawn Sovereign

Aphetto Vulture

2 Screeching Buzzard

Profane Prayers

Festering Goblin

Disciple of Malice



Dispersing Orb

Screaming Seahawk

Airborne Aid

Rummaging Wizard….

Crown of Ascension

Choking Tethers


Information Dealer

Sage Aven

Disruptive Pitmage


Mistform Dreamer

Choking Tethers

Mistform Wall


Mistform Shrieker


Words of Worship

Defensive Maneuvers


Aven Soulgazer

Daunting Defender


Glory Seeker

Gustcloak Harrier

2 Daru Cavalier

Grassland Crusader

Disciple of Grace

2 Dive Bomber

Ironfist Crusher


Crown of Vigor


Birchlore Rangers

Animal Magnetism

Wirewood Pride


Explosive Vegetation

Snarling Undorak

2 Elvish Warriors

Elvish Pathcutter

Barkhide Mauler

Crown of Vigor


Break Open

Dwarven Blastminer

Solar Blast


Battering Craghorn

Goblin Sledder

Goblin Taskmaster

Nosy Goblin

Shaleskin Bruiser

2 Skirk Commando

Fever Charm

Skittish Valek


Barren Moor

Windswept Heath

Seaside Haven

So Are You Really That Stupid?

Yes. Yes, I am.

As stated, last week I went with blue/white. Wanna see what I used?
Pretty much look for the ellipses (…) in the card text; anything below
that is what went in. The sole exception was the Demystify, which I should
have started with – there are a lot of killer enchantments around.

Let’s start with white: White is not a question. None of my rares are
bombtastic, which means that I must look to the rest of the set to create my
deck – and two Daru Cavaliers and two Dive Bombers, along with an Ironfist
Crusher and a Grassland Crusader, pretty much said,”Go white.” I had three
fairly solid fliers (if you included the Gustcloak Harrier) and one great
one in Aven Soulgazer, so I could rule the air. Pacifism was a nice trick as

But there’s where I got greedy.

I looked at blue, and remembered the times I lost to the all-air
defense… And look at how many of blue’s creatures have flying! I
could fly over with everything!

Furthermore, the all-flying dream was further supplemented with Crown of
Ascension – a damn fine finisher. I could also blitz past defenses with
Choking Tethers, a bomb card in its own right… And I thought that the
Mistform Creatures would allow me to play a lot of tricks in this

(As it turns out, the Mistform creatures are only good if you have
effects that benefit from it. There are a couple of rare spells that the
Mistforms can dodge – Harsh Mercy, for example – but mostly, if you don’t
have spells like Wirewood Pride, you can leave them behind.)

Meddle seemed like a fine combat trick, but I forgot that there’s not a
lot of targeted removal in this environment – most of them are on creatures
or come at the tail end of cycling. (I did, however, Meddle a Lavamancer’s
Skill once for the game, which didn’t hurt.) Also, as
noted in last week’s article
, I thought Backslide was good… And it

(Dave Meeson asked me an obvious question about Backslide, incidentally:
If you didn’t like it, why not cycle it? The answer is, of course, that
Backslide was going to be good! Eventually! Sometime it would turn
out to be useful! What if I cycled it away and then lost to a morph?)

(Incidentally to the Incidentally, why did I play the pathetic
Information Dealer over Rummaging Wizard? Mainly because I noticed Rummaging
Wizard later, and I thought I could pull off some cool Mistform tricks. I am
an idiot, thanks.)

So all in all, my blue cards were a lot weaker than I thought they
were… And the tricks that I was splashing for, Crown and Tethers aside,
were weak.

I didn’t have any bombs, but I built my deck wrong.

Listen to that, because that’s honesty. I spent an absolutely delightful
half an hour listening to Geordie Tait drive spikes into my ears – and
fortunately, Geordie passed
the whining directly along to you
! He claimed repeatedly that his deck
sucked, his deck sucked, his deck sucked.

Maybe it did, Geordie. But as Laura Mills said,”If Geordie didn’t even
splash for Wave of Indifference, he should be subjected to a series of
papercuts under the nail of his little toe.”

Your card pool might have been weak… But you certainly didn’t
build the deck out of the best cards you had. Be a man.

You screwed up, chief.

The bombs rule this format, but that’s no excuse to knuckle under to
them. As stated, it requires at least two cards to get rid of a Rorix… But
if you’re not even playing with those two cards, you deserve to lose.

Finding the best cards and building the best deck is what you need to do,
more than ever. In that sense, Onslaught does allow the idiots to win, and
win with ease; sometimes you’ll just crack
a Mills
and be done with it. But that means the rest of the time, there
is no slackness allowed in your deck; you can’t use”sort of” bombs like you
found in Invasion or Odyssey. All of your cards have to work together in one

And isn’t that what they really wanted?

Here’s how I should have built the deck:



Aven Soulgazer

Daunting Defender

Glory Seeker

Gustcloak Harrier

2 Daru Cavalier

Grassland Crusader

Disciple of Grace

2 Dive Bomber

Ironfist Crusher


Shepherd of Rot


Crown of Suspicion

Gravespawn Sovereign

Aphetto Vulture

2 Screeching Buzzard

Profane Prayers

Festering Goblin

Disciple of Malice


Barren Moor

Windswept Heath

Ah, this is more like it.

Not only do I have a more cleric-centric deck – making the Profane
Prayers and the Daunting Defender about a thousand times more effective –
but I keep most of the air force, with Screeching Buzzard and Aphetto
Vulture, but I also get the possibility of using the Gravespawn Sovereign
who is overcosted, but could occasionally just win me one at random.

Furthermore, this gives me access to Swat, Profane Prayers, Crown of
Suspicion, and Festering Goblin, all of which could remove creatures… And
Dirge of Dread is equally as good as Choking Tethers against many decks, and
this gives me more offensive capability.

(Well, my creatures actually decrease slightly in power, but the ability
to kill off opposing blockers goes up about 300%.)

If I need disruption, I can always try Blackmail in the late game – no
Visara for you, my friend! – and the zombies help minimize the worry
of a random Cruel Revival.

Now. Is this a great deck? No. It’s not bomb-tastic, nor is it an
autowin. I’d have to fight hard against bomb.dec. But would I have gone 2-2
drop, like I did at the prerelease?


So learn your lesson, my friends; Onslaught is about the bombs. That
means your deck is either a bomb or a bomb shelter. Now more than ever, you
have to optimize your deck before you step into the area.

The question is, did I?

Much like Iain Telfer, I encourage you to scroll to the top of the
article and leave some feedback in the forum. Did I build this deck wrong?
What else could I have used? Would you have a built it?

I want to know. Tell me.

Signing off,

The Ferrett

[email protected]

The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy