A Gallery of Horror: The Intro Packs of Dark Ascension

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Creeping up behind you... hiding beneath the bed... lurking in your closet... since they escaped the confines of their containment unit in Renton, Washington and were unleashed upon our world, the horrors of Dark Ascension are firmly amongst us now. In your opponent's deck, in foil packs on the store shelf, inside boxes and on retailer websites they lurk, waiting for the right moment to strike. And when the moon rises full in the sky, they will...


Sorry about that, got a little carried away there. Of course, it's easy to when a block this flavourful comes along, loaded with tribal goodness and top-down design. There's a reason that Innistrad and Dark Ascension events are setting records, and it's been a lot of fun watching how the mechanics, themes, and perspectives of the sets have found their way into the Intro Pack decks.

In the first go-round, Innistrad brought us a trio of tribal decks and a pair of more keyword-based ones. Humans, Vampires, and Spirits each took their turn in the spotlight. Not far behind them were decks based aroundĀ flashback andĀ morbid.

Some were better than others - theĀ flashback deck (Eldritch Onslaught) was chancy but a lot of fun to play, while the other mechanical deck (Deathly Dominion) was somewhat reminiscent of the firstĀ proliferate deck from Scars of Mirrodin, Deadspread, which felt like it had a lofty concept without enough cards to really give it its due. WhileĀ proliferate would be given its due in the two following sets withĀ Doom Inevitable andĀ Ravaging Swarm, this time around it looks like the one deck is all we'll be getting forĀ morbid. Rather than try and refine earlier efforts, Wizards has given us all new toys to play with.

While some folks out there are snap-buyers of the precon decks, others prefer to take their time, weigh their options, and try to find the deck that is the best fit for how they're looking to command the night. If that sounds like you, you're in luck, for today we'll be looking at the latest crop of Intro Pack decks with an eye to matching them with the right player. And if you're a fan of horror films, then so much the better! So grab a sharpened#2 pencil and piece of paper, and let's dive right in!

Relentless Dead

Tagline: Braaaaaiiiiinsss!

Colours: Blue and Black

Strategy: Overwhelm your opponent with a growing horde of the undead.

Detail: When designing Innistrad, Wizards wanted to be able to fit each of the five primary tribes into two different colours. Black was a given for the Zombies, but casting them as "Skaabs," the Frankenstein-ish creations of mad scientists, was a masterstroke. Both have rather different styles of gameplay- the Black ones begin slowly and begin to overwhelm, rather like Romero's immortalĀ Night of the Living Dead.

That isn't to say that there aren't cards more akin to the "fast zombies" of 28 Days Later (see: Gravecrawler, Highborn Ghoul), but here we're looking at the steady buildup of the undead- until we hit a critical mass, like when it started to rain inĀ Return of the Living Dead.

Meanwhile, your Blue Skaabs offer power over numbers, limited as they are by the need to exile bodies from your graveyard to cast them. The hammer to Black's anvil, if you like grinding down your opponent on the battlefield with numerical superiority, you might findĀ Relentless Dead to be the deck for you.

Monstrous Surprise

Tagline: It's... it's not dead!

Colours: Red and Green

Strategy: A traditional R/G beats deck frame with a superchargedĀ undying engine

Detail: Few things are scarier than something you assumed to be vanquished or dead turning out not quite so.Ā Monstrous Surprise harnesses this with the highly efficientĀ undying mechanic. Not only will you get two uses out of your creatures, but when they come back they'll be stronger than ever.

If you've ever seen the heroes relax when they think they've defeated Jason, Freddy, Michael, or any other self-respecting slasher-movie villain, you'll know just what your opponent has in store for them. Even decks packed with removal can struggle to keep a good monster down, and you'll be able to keep the pressure on by attacking fearlessly since any defensive trade they make only makes your army stronger.

Dark Sacrifice

Tagline: Give me your soul, please.

Colours: Black and White

Strategy: Human sacrifice is the name of the game, as you summon Humans victims and those eager to feast on them

Detail: Horror movies abound with the idea of Humans as prey and a source of raw materials. Buffalo Bill inĀ Silence of the Lambs wore women's skin, the demon fromĀ Jeepers Creepers reconstitutes its own body with the flesh of its victims, and The Thing is able to take the shape of those it kills, all the better to blend in amongst them.

InĀ Dark Sacrifice, the coin of the realm is Human life, and the deck is filled with ways to take advantage of their harvesting. Some creatures like Village Cannibals get bigger when their fellow man dies, while others like the Skirsdag Flayer offer a more direct result. This is more of a thinking person's deck, possessing a comparatively intricate strategy over simply aiming beaters at the red zone and firing a starter pistol. With combo pieces to assemble, it can be prone to whiffing when you don't draw that final missing ingredient, but when it goes off it can be unstoppable.

Grave Power

Tagline: There are ghosts in the basement!

Colours: Blue and Green

Strategy: Use self-milling cards to fill your graveyard then pound in with monsters who get bigger the more bodies you've put in it

Detail: InĀ Grave Power, the dead don't come back from the grave. Instead, their essence powers up the living!Ā Our pick for best in show, Grave Power in some ways is an improved version of theĀ Deathfed Event Deck from Innistrad. Use Blue's unparalleled ability to rapidly fill up your graveyard straight from your library, watching your Green finishers like Splinterfright and Boneyard Wurm swell to mammoth proportion.

Intro Pack decks have come a long way since the dark days of Zendikar, and in many ways have been creeping back towards Theme Deck territory as relentlessly as The Blob. We've seldom seen so synergistic and consistent a construction as this one, Ā as all ofĀ Grave Power's cards help support its primary strategy. In a format long marked by extensive use of filler, this is a very promising development.

Swift Justice

Tagline: I kick ass for the Lord!

Colours: Red and White

Strategy: Support your aggressive ground troops with some disruptive air support in this Red/White aggro strategy

Detail: In most horror films, the monster is the star of the show and everyone else is reduced to a supporting cast. Or simply dinner. For those of you who like to see good prevail in the end, to see heroes like Ash fromĀ Army of Darkness or Ripley fromĀ Aliens persevere through strength and fortitude, this deck's for you. An aggro deck that boasts a mana curve perhaps a bit too indulgent for its own good, it still has a number of aggressively-minded creatures to throw at your opponent. Don't fearfully peer under the bed looking for that clown. Crush it instead with your Elite Vanguard and Stromkirk Noble.

Additionally, this deck has a flying subtheme, giving you extra reach across the battlefield once the red zone clogs up. Sadly it suffers a bit from the same lack of removal we've seen throughout Innistrad block, though this smarts a little worse in a Red/White deck which ordinarily should have it for miles. Guess you're gonna have to do your ass kickin' the old-fashioned way - in the red zone!

Scroll End Credits

And there you have it: five new Intro Pack decks for Dark Ascension that should fit most any horror-lovin' Magic player.

No matter how you wish to enslave the world, be it through Human sacrifice, reanimating piles or corpses, or what have you, you have the tools at your disposal. Enjoy them while you can, for the angel Avacyn will be returning before long. With the final set of Innistrad block being a stand-alone set (in the vein of Rise of the Eldrazi), we're likely to find ourselves in a whole new landscape, gaggigly good and filled with joyfulness and light.

Why, it's enough to make you sick.

The Booster Battle Packs Giveaway

You may recall in our last piece on the Innistrad Booster Battle Packs, we were giving away a card set of the Packs. Our winner, drawn at random, was Alan.

Congratulations, Alan! We'll be in touch shortly to get your preferred shipping details.

Watch this space, because the next giveaway is never long in coming!

Jay Kirkman

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