Magic: The Gathering 2014 Core Set – Fire Surge Review

My first real intro to Magic: The Gathering was through the Dragon’s Maze deck Gruul Siege which I reviewed tersely back in May. Since then, my enthusiasm for Magic bas been growing slowly helped in no small way by the fact my close colleague, and co-author of this new review, is a seasoned, enthusiastic and skilled MTG player.

With Gruul Siege, I never really got the opportunity to play the deck before posting my review. I understood everything that the Dragon’s Maze expansion brought to the table, but didn’t really have a feel for the deck. I’ve now played Gruul Siege against tournament-ready decks and enjoyed it, but didn’t get to play to the strengths of the deck because my creatures were destroyed instantly at every turn. When facing one of Ben’s particularly nasty decks with precious little life remaining, I thought I’d bought myself some time with [mtg_card]Ruric Thar, the Unbowed[/mtg_card] which would disuade him from playing his pesky spells, but an unfortunate combo involving [mtg_card]Tribute To Hunger[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Sanguine Bond[/mtg_card] meant my 6/6 hard-hitter was taken down with absolutely no ill effect to Ben, and worse still I was dealt a fatal 6 life loss.

I had more luck with Fire Surge, which I thoroughly enjoyed playing. Ben and I sat down with curry and booze for a thorough play-testing session during which both of us played Fire Surge against his myriad of unforgiving, tournament-ready decks.

Fire Surge deck revolves around setting up an offensive combo and taking your opponent by surprise. It’s full of hard-hitting spells, the most devastating of which is likely [mtg_card]Volcanic Geyser[/mtg_card] with which you can tap any number of mana cards to deal as much damage as you have spare mana. It backs these up with mid-range creatures, and a heavy focus on either removing your opponents creatures or simply bypassing blocks altogether with flying, counterspells and unblockable creatures.

With a combination of luck, intuition and the skill to recognise when you have the opportunity to build one, decks like Fire Surge manifest extremely rewarding single-turn combos which can deal a fair amount of damage. If you’re faced against another starter deck with minimal modifications ( ie: your friend or spouse who is also getting into MTG ) then this probably means an instant, or forthcoming win. The challenge is in orchestrating these combos properly, building decks that have the right cards to pull them off, and having a good idea of what you’re likely to draw next. In short; techniques like card counting are absolutely essential and my Ben’s ability to predict the next card off the top of my deck seemed almost magical.

An example combo for the Fire Surge deck involves having 1 [mtg_card]Regathan Firecat[/mtg_card] and 1 [mtg_card]Trained Condor[/mtg_card] down on the board. Alone these are a nasty combo, as they’ll both be flying the instant they go on the offensive and deal an almost guaranteed 6 damage.

In your hand you should have [mtg_card]Goblin Shortcutter[/mtg_card], which “Prevents an opponent blocker from blocking” and Fire Axe which you want to target at the player. And in your graveyard you should have [mtg_card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/mtg_card].

Play both of these and you’ve dealt 5 damage and prevented an opponents creature from blocking. The spell damage raises [mtg_card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/mtg_card] from your graveyard and now you can attack with [mtg_card]Trained Condor[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Regathan Firecat[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/mtg_card] for that 6 damage and an extra 2 from the Phoenix. If you’re keeping count, that should be 13 damage in a single turn. Surprisingly, devastating combos like these are not entirely uncommon in the world of Magic, you simply need to recognise when you have the opportunity to set one up, or when one might be directed at you.

Fire Surge is a good example of how much thought goes into the design of MTG starter packs. It’s fun to play, and has enough going for it that, as a beginner, you need to be constantly on the look out for plays, combos and strategies. With two booster packs full of cards to add to the mix, you’ve also got a great opportunity to try your hand at working a card or two into your deck and seeing how it plays.

During our play-test, Ben made a good point that the best way to see if a card is any good is to simply work it in and play it a few times. He swapped [mtg_card]Murmuring Phantasm[/mtg_card] into Fire Surge and it came up a couple of times during our play-testing evening. This demonstrates that, in a deck of 60 cards of which about 22-27 cards are mana, every single creature and spell card counts.

Overall Fire Surge is a great intro pack for new players looking to get started with a dual colour deck. It contains some great classic core cards such as [mtg_card]Lava Axe[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Negate[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Phantom Warrior[/mtg_card]. Fire Surge brings the essence of both Blue and Red to the table, with its blue manipulation and devastating red sorcery spells.

If you like to bide your time, set up a combo, eliminate your opponents defence and have a good chance at wiping them out in a single turn, this is the deck for you. But do it quickly, because Fire Surge is highly offensive and you’ll have little opportunity to recover from damage.

Co-authored by Phil Howard & Ben Hamment