Another year has gone by and another core set of Magic the Gathering cards is released. With that as always, comes a fresh set of intro packs for the new players or those of us who like to collect them. Myself and Tom were lucky enough to get the chance to review the "Bestial Strength" pack. A Green and black intro deck comprising of a healthy chunk of nasty creatures and some nice tricks to support them. We had a few test games with this deck in its vanilla "out of the pack" state and we showed some serious restraint in not opening the two booster packs that come with the intro deck. We matched it against a slightly customised "Path To Victory" which is an intro deck from the Core 2013 set and they seemed like a good match and mix of colours. The games were pretty balanced and Bestial Strength certainly has some nice moves to make.
As an introductory deck for the card game I think it's a really fun deck that shows off some of the best bits of Magic the Gathering. It has big creatures mixed amongst simple yet powerful spells to get new players into the action quickly. If you wanted to get someone into the game, this deck is straightforward enough that there aren't many wrong moves, but it has enough cards like Giant Growth, Doom Blade and Briarpack Alpha to let people get a taste for having some tricks up their sleeve.
The deck also contains a few "big plays" like Garruk's Horde, Enlarge and two Woodborn Behemoths. In our games we didn't get to see these come into action - but again it feels great to have the promise of those bombs lurking in the deck. In actuality, the star of our first game was the humble Rootwalla, a 2/2 which costs three mana who can be pumped up to a 4/4. The threat of a bigger beastie kept a lot of the combat steps in the deck's favour, often without needing to actually spend the mana to make him bigger.
Playing against Bestial Strength can also be intimidating when you know what's in it. Deciding when to use your creature removal cards turns into a difficult decision and a bit of a gamble in most circumstances. Quite often you can destroy a pretty hefty creature, only to see it returned from the graveyard thanks to Corpse Hauler, or be replaced by another, even scarier creature.
Bestial Strength isn't without its faults though. In each game we played, we found it ran out of cards in hand and steam by around turn four or five. Having dropped all our creatures on the table and used our combat tricks to good effect, you're relying on a good top-deck to see you through the next few turns. You'll be trying to hit your eighth land to kick Woodborn Behemoth up a gear, or draw another spell card to give you the edge, and all those options you had a few turns ago have suddenly dried up. This puts a lot of pressure on your early-game to control the situation and gain the upper-hand.
Being an intro deck, it also contains some cards any experienced player will want to be shot off as quickly as possible. Staff of the Wild Magus is the Core 2014 equivalent of Wurm's Tooth, and should be ditched in favour of nearly any other card. The two Vial of Poisons are effective threats and certainly did well in the games we played, but I would be inclined to replace them with more copies of Giant Growth or Doom Blade.
We also tried a game where we matched it against a black "Tragic Slip/Black Cat" populated deck with a real focus on creature removal. Again it was a fairly even matched and in this instance, the Bestial Strength lucked out with some ideal draws. Several combat steps that would normally have been too expensive to consider instead became very favourable thanks to a Rootwalla on the table and some combat trick spells in hand. A timely Briarpack Alpha then allowed for another surprisingly one-sided combat the following turn. When the dust settled, Bestial Strength's forces dominated the table and the rest of the game.
After a few matches we decided to open the boosters and take a look at some of the options to customise the deck for another couple of games. Unfortunately, there was little in the boosters to supplement this intro pack due to colour mis-match or duplicates, however this is obviously luck and it could have just as easily gone the other way and ended with a nice Planeswalker or some powerful green or black cards.
In summary the deck works really well and not only is it a great way to get into the game, but it manages to hold it’s ground pretty well when up against some good decks. Making it a great way to start teaching a beginner the ins and outs of combat tricks and timing. A more experienced player might want to spend some time fine tuning it though but it’s a great base for a potentially strong deck. Perfect as an intro deck, however there’s definitely room for improvement for MTG pros.