Tabletop Preview: Magic: The Gathering -Dark Ascension’s “Dark Sacrifice” Deck

With the release of Dark Ascension, Wizards of the Coast has also released four ready to play starter decks. They are “Swift Justice,” a Red and White creature based deck, “Relentless Dead,” a Black and Blue deck that revolves around the zombies, “Dark Sacrifice,” a Black and White deck that well, revolves around sacrificing creatures, “Monstrous Surprise,” a Red and Green that revolves around the Undying trait, and “Grave Power,” a Blue and Green deck that is primarily powered by one’s own graveyard and flashbacks. Today, as the fourth and final part of our Dark Ascension preview, we’ll be taking a look at “Dark Sacrifice” – mainly because that is the deck they sent us to review.

I will say that I was a bit disappointed to see that “Dark Sacrifice” was not a pure Dark Ascension deck. Instead, it uses Innistrad cards as well. In fact a full third of the deck is Innistrad cards. I’d have really preferred to see playable decks just using the new expansion as that would highlight how good the set really is. Unfortunately ALL the Dark Ascension decks are a mix of DA, Innistrad and Magic 2012 cards.

So what do you get in a sixty card “Dark Sacrifice” deck? Well,there are 24 lands, 14 assorted spells and 22 creatures. The actual break down looks like this:

1 Champion of the Parish (R, W)
2 Doomed Traveller (C, W)
1 Selfless Cathar (C, W)
1 Disciple of Griselbrand (U, 1B)
1 Skirsdag Flayer (U, 1B)
2 Unruly Mob (C, 1W)
3 Falkenrath Torturer (C,2B)
2 Village Cannibals (U, 2B)
1 Wakedancer (U, 2B)
2 Elder Cathar (C, 2W)
2 Galvanic Juggernaut (U, 4)
2 Elgaud Inquisitor (C, 3W)
1 Mausoleum Guard (U, 3W)
1 Fiend of the Shadows (R, 3BB)
1 Avacyn’s Collar (U, 1)
2 Atlar’s Reap (C, 1B)
3 Gather the Townfolk (C, 1W)
1 Gravepurge (C, 2B)
2 Night Terrors (C, 2B)
1 Lingering Souls (U, 2W)
1 Demonmail Haubrek (U, 4)
1 Unburial Rites (U, 4B)
2 Death’s Caress (C, 3BB)

If you’re wondering which of these cards are actually from Dark Ascension it’s the following:
1 Skirsdag Flayer (U, 1B)
3 Falkenrath Torturer (C,2B)
1 Wakedancer (U, 2B)
2 Elgaud Inquisitor (C, 3W)
1 Fiend of the Shadows (R, 3BB)
1 Avacyn’s Collar (U, 1)
3 Gather the Townfolk (C, 1W)
1 Gravepurge (C, 2B)
1 Lingering Souls (U, 2W)
2 Death’s Caress (C, 3BB)

Just looking at the overall card list I saw better Dark Ascension cards that could have been put into this deck, not only to make it more of a pure expansion based deck, but also make it perform better. The good news is that you get a 15 card booster with your deck so you can hopefully start to mix things up right away if you see a card that just doesn’t work for you.

Out of the actual Dark Ascension cards in the deck, my three favorites are Skirsdag Flayer, Gravepurge, and Fiend of the Shadows. The Flayer is a cheap creature that can kill any creature in the game via four mana (three colourless and one black) and that’s a nice power to have. Unfortunately, the Flayer is only a 1/1 creature so it will more than likely be hit by direct damage or something else that takes it out of the game quickly. Fiend of the Shadows is a new twist on the old Hypnotic Specter theme. It’s a 3/3 Flying vampire that can regenerate if you sacrifice a human. If it does damage to an opposing player, said player has to exile a card from its hand. Then for as long as the card is exiled, the controller of Fiend of the Shadows can use it. REPEATEDLY/ This is a potentially awesome effect as if the card is of the right colour, it hinders your opponent and helps you. Not bad at all. Finally, Gravepurge lets you pull as many creatures as you want from your graveyard and put them on the top of your deck. Then you draw a card. All this for three mana. Millstone decks would have hated this back in the day.

Dark Sacrifice is supposed to break down into three categories. The first is creatures that are meant to be sacrificed, creatures that gain bonuses from sacrifices and finally, cards that reward you for sacrificing. There are several cards that will be insanely pumped up by this deck. Champion of the Parish for example gains +1/+1 every time a human enters the battlefield under your control. Well, there are between TWENTY and TWENTY-NINE other humans in the deck based on how you use Gather the Townfolk (See yesterday’s preview of White cards for more information there). As well, with Gravepurge, you can pull all those dead humans back and recast them, getting still more +1/+1 tokens for the Champion. Ouch. Unruly Mob and Village Cannibals gain +1/+1 each time a creature (For Village Cannibals it is specifically a human) dies. So that right there are three types of cards that can be pumped to the stratosphere. Too bad there’s no Trample or Intimidate for them. Another neat combo is Unruly Mob plus Elder Cathar. When Elder Cathardies, you can either put a +1/+1 counter on a creature or TWO +1/+1 counters on a human. Unruly Mob is a human AND it gets a +1/+1 counter when any creature you control dies. This means when Elder Cathar bites the bucket, Unruly Mob actually gets a total of +3/+3 if you put Cathar’s counters on it. Suddenly it’s a 4/4 instead of a 1/1. Ouch. Bring it back with Gravepurge and repeat and you have a 8/8. All that with a total of three cards. Gather the Townfolk and Champion of the Parish is another neat combo, especially if you are down to five or less life. In that situation, Gather the Townfolk gives you five 1/1 human tokens instead of two and instantly your Champion gets +5/+5 to it. Crazy.

There are also cards that net you 1/1 flying spirits in some fashion. Elgaud Inquisitors, Avacyn’s Collar, Mausoleum Guard and Doomed Traveller all net you an array of flying creatures, albeit not very strong ones. Lingering Souls is a Sorcery that puts two 1/1 Flying spirits into play and also offers a flashback version of it. Although these spirits aren’t tough, you can get a lot of them in play quickly, making them a pain to block. These then let you whittle down your opponent slowly but surely.

So what would I get rid of from this deck? Well, outright I’d lose three specific cards, each of which has two copies in this deck. They are Altar’s Reap, Night Terrors and Galvanic Juggernaut. Altar’s Reap is a waste of a sacrificed creature as is Galvanic Juggernaut. You could put some other creatures that benefit the deck as a whole in a greater fashion with sacrifices. Plus said sacrifices are better spent on the vampires on this deck anyway. Night Terrors just doesn’t fit the deck at all. It’s a neat card as it’s three mana to see your opponent’s hand and you get to exile a single card from it, but it’s still not all that helpful in the scheme (or theme) of things. I’d rather see another Champion of the Parish in here for sure. Maybe a Bar the Door, which is an instant that gives all creatures +0/+4 until the end of the turn as the deck is low on defense. I’d definitely switch out Gruesome Discovery for Altar’s Reap or Night Terrors. That card better fits with the power of Fiend of the Shadows and you get to discard two cards from your opponent’s deck instead. Even better, if a creature has died on any side that turn, you get to see your opponent’s hand and choose which cards they have to discard. Again, that fits this particular deck MUCH better and would be even more of an irritant to your opponent. Same cost plus twice the card loss.

All in all, Dark Sacrifice is not a bad deck. Are there cards I’d take out and replace? Of course, but that’s true of any premade deck. When my biggest disappointment is mainly that I wanted to see MORE Dark Ascension cards in a Dark Ascension deck, it’s a pretty minor complaint overall. The deck plays extremely well. A typical game saw me with a 4/4 Champion of the Parish by the fifth round along with a 3/3 Mob or Cannibals and a 4/3 Falkenrath Torturer. That’s pretty nice. Obviously this isn’t a deck that is going to outright win tournaments if you bring it straight out of the box untouched, but it will probably do a nice showing. If the other Dark Ascension decks are as fun as Dark Sacrifice, then I think we have some very viable decks to put into the hands of newcomers and returning players alike. If we get sent review copies of the other four, you can bet we’ll review those as well.

Remember that Magic: The Gathering – Dark Ascension is released tomorrow, Feburary 3rd. Let me know what cards you pulled, what decks you purchased and what you like or dislike about the set!

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