Magic Origins Clash Pack – Armed and Dangerous Review by Christopher Cooper
This time around we have one of the most popular Clash Packs that Wizards of the Coast have released, with pre-orders selling out in many places, but just how good is it?
Well, let’s start with the packaging and contents. It certainly looks appealng from the front and having a dragon as a focal card certainly helps draw people in. Inside we have the two decks, some learn to play paraphernalia and a deckbox.
The Clash Pack deckbox has been my favourite thing about the Clash Packs as it is actually reasonably functional as a deckbox in real life! It fits both decks in it unsleeved with a neat little divider to keep them separated. Once you’ve built your deck for FNM, however, it can hold a 60 card deck in sleeves, with the divider separating it nicely from your 15 card sideboard. This is far more practical than the ones we’ve been getting in Duel Decks and Intro Packs since forever.
But you didn’t come here to read about deck boxes. Let’s have a look at the decks:
Wow! We can see from just looking at the decklists that some of the biggest rares in Standard are on offer here. Collected Company, Siege Rhino and Windswept Heath are all high value rares at the moment, all see play in Standard and Modern and that’s not all there is. We see some strong removal spells in Valorous Stance, Ultimate Price and Suspension Field and a rather strong mana base with plenty of life-duals and a tri-land.
The Armed deck seeks to apply early pressure with its cheap creatures, using tricks like Mighty Leap and Titanic Growth to force through extra damage and double up as removal. It makes good use of the Renown mechanic as the focus of the deck and a high number of creatures with Vigilance allow it to be relatively defensive too, giving it a big boost in racing situations.
[draft]Anointer of Champions
The mana base is very straightforward, and is possibly too overcomplicated even so, I would probably remove the Evolving Wilds myself for some more Windswept Heaths or even just some more Blossoming Sands, though some extra basics would be just fine. In a more aggressive deck like this one, the last thing you want to be doing is stumbling on mana by having your lands enter the battlefield tapped.
Dangerous relies heavily on Abzan cards from Tarkir block, with a strong focus on powerful Outlast and Bolster cards. There are some cards that are more ‘good stuff’ than synergistic, cards like Siege Rhino and Abzan Ascendancy. However, when you have other powerful bombs like Citadel Siege and Dromoka, the Eternal that are also synergistic with the rest of the deck you can really gain an advantage over your opponent.
The removal in this deck is a little weaker though. Debilitating Injury and Ancestral Vengeance are both cards that you want to get down early to clear small blockers. In these decks with the amount of +1/+1 counter synergies it is difficult to get a full card’s worth of value out of them. The Black in their costs doesn’t help this either as it is the least prevalent of the colours in the deck. Ultimate Price is good though, especially when you’re playing the decks against each other, as is Suspension Field.
The mana is still a little clunky in this deck with seven lands that enter the battlefield tapped. I would like to see some Evolving Wilds in this deck though, as they help fix all three colours and make the double black costs a little more palatable. Sandsteppe Citadel could alternatively have been a two-of and not been a promo, with a promo Windswept Heath being hugely desirable in its place, though I can understand the reasons behind not including Windswept Heath as a promo, we’re getting enough value already.
There are two things that really stood out to me though as something that is different to other decks like this that I’ve seen. Firstly, the decks are rotation proof. In the past there have been Event decks and Intro packs that have had an effective shelf life of three months use as so many of the cards are going to be rotating out in the Autumn. This time around there are no cards from Theros block or from M15, meaning that the deck is playable until the Spring (new rotation schedule, remember!)
The second point is more of a negative one, sadly, and that is that the Dangerous deck doesn’t contain a single Magic: Origins card in it, aside from the basic lands. As a flagship product of the set, it is likely that it will be bought by a pair of friends to run against each other, so even swapping out some less synergistic cards such as the removal for some Magic: Origins cards would improve the experience more, and even give the impression that the Origins cards are really rather powerful: “Man, I was getting slaughtered by that Kytheon’s Irregulars until I drew my Suppression Bonds, that card is brilliant!”
So having looked over the two decks, it’s time to play some games!
I grabbed my trusty testing partner Danni (my wife), some dice and sleeves and we shuffled up to play. Danni took the Dangerous deck as befits how she can be (or at least she will be when she reads this), and I took Armed.
In the games we played there were a few things that came apparent to us. The decks played a lot like Limited decks in style with a large importance on creature curve, getting in early hits and growing your creatures. In the games we played we rarely got past 5 lands each as the games were fast paced with aggressive combat strategies encouraged to make the most of the instant speed pump spells.
Unfortunately for Danni, she got colour screwed in a few of the games. When you get an opening hand like this:
[draft]Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Avatar of the Resolute
It’s tempting to keep but very difficult to do much of relevance, especially when such a large proportion of your lands enter the battlefield tapped. There are quite a lot of stringent mana costs in the deck which the dual lands do help to alleviate but they’re still quite difficult to hit your creatures on curve.
The other issue we found was that the decks had two halves to them: enablers and gas. Draw a good mix of the both and you’re fine and dandy. Draw just one half of the deck and you’re in trouble as your opponent’s creatures grow and grow larger than yours and you get outclassed very quickly.
In the closest game we had, Danni made an early Siege Rhino to stabilise after my Dragon Hunter into Topan Freeblade. A Dromoka Warrior from me put the race back in my favour after she used a Scale Blessing to pump the Siege Rhino further. With me at six I knew I needed to block the Siege Rhino one last time, I would win if I attacked with everything twice, and drew an Enshrouding Mist to keep my Topan Freeblade alive.
Unfortunately for me, Danni drew an Abzan Falconer. Beware: flying rhinos.
After that we decided to have a look at the combined decklist and see what we thought of it. Here is the suggested decklist for Armed and Dangerous.
Armed and Dangerous
1 Anointer of Champions
2 Enshrouding Mist
2 Disowned Ancestor
2 Mighty Leap
1 Debilitating Injury
2 Epic Confrontation
2 Abzan Falconer
1 Abzan Battle Priest
1 Scale Blessing
1 Elite Scaleguard
For only £19.99, the main deck seems pretty strong. it has the best elements of both decks with some reasonable removal which can be tailored to the matchup and opponent. Where we did feel that the deck was lacking was the sideboard, which contained a little bit too much limited fodder and not enough actual sideboard cards.
As an example, the deck has no ways of dealing with non-creature permanents and its nearly impossible to deal with a Hexproof creature. Some Celestial Flares and Caustic Caterpillars or Conclave Naturalists in the sideboard would go a long way to shoring up these weaknesses.
The real weakness though is in the manabase, which should be fairly easy to shore up. Any on colour Temples or Pain Lands would slot right in here and make the tempo loss of the enters the battlefield tapped lands a little more infrequent and less impacting on your games of Magic.
Overall the Clash Pack was fun to play and in our opinion a great success, though there is still room for improvement. We’re very tempted to buy another one. Or three…
Thanks for reading,