his week I'm going to re-visit an old archetype many players now consider dead. When the draft format of choice was triple Champions the blue-white Splice archetype that won via Dampen Thought decking was one of the most powerful archetypes around. It took many players a while to wake up to this fact but once they had Dampen Thought became one of the most powerful first picks you could get. The deck was typically very heavy on the spells to allow it to Splice Dampen Thought enough times to deck an opponent. It only really featured a few defensive creatures that could help stall the opponent while the Dampen Thought was found and then did its stuff.
With only one booster of Champions now remaining in the current draft format this particular deck type is considered all but dead. It's nearly impossible to get hold of multiple copies of Dampen Thought and the Arcane spells in the later sets don't match up to the power of Ethereal Haze, Candles' Glow and Consuming Vortex, which were all top picks for this particular deck.
However, this conclusion was reached at least in part because everyone assumed the format was going to be as fast as usual when in fact it has actually slowed considerably. I've wondered lately whether this style of deck was still possible given the slower nature of the format. It is obviously somewhat dependant upon the correct cards coming your way – not least of which involves actually opening a Dampen Thought in the first place – but there are plenty of lesser Arcane spells in the later sets to try and abuse the Splice mechanic still. There's also the possibility of seeing a Soratami Mindsweeper in the Betrayer's pack and if you're able to get into a stall situation this can effectively function as a back-up to Dampen Thought.
When I recently opened a Dampen Thought in a pack that contained very little else I decided to give it a try and see where it would lead. This is what happened.
The Champions Picks
Pack 1, Pick 1: Lava Spike, Lava Spike (Foil), Floating-Dream Zubera, Kashi-Tribe Warriors, Cursed Ronin, Lantern Kami, Ashen-Skin Zubera, Pious Kitsune, Unnatural Speed, Pull Under, Kami of Ancient Law, Kami of Old Stone, Dampen Thought, Orochi Eggwatcher, Konda's Banner.
With little else in the pack the Dampen Thought was chosen. I suppose if I wasn't trying out the experiment I probably would've gone for the Kami of Ancient Law. I don't like Pull Under much and the Kami is great. For this article though Dampen is the obvious pick.
Pack 1, Pick 2: Sokenzan Bruiser, Counsel of the Soratami, Kami of the Hunt, Scuttling Death, Blessed Breath, Hearth Kami, Crushing Pain, Kami of Twisted Reflection, Orochi Leafcaller, Mothrider Samurai, Tranquil Garden, Initiate of Blood, Swallowing Plague, Shizo, Death's Storehouse.
The other colour I want to go with the blue is white. It's the only colour that really has the defensive cards I need along with the cheap Arcane cards that can be used to Splice my way to victory. As there are less quality Arcane cards in the later sets, and as I also may well have to wait a while to find the Dampen Thought I anticipated running more creatures than the deck used to previously. With this in mind Blessed Breath is the best pick here. Mothrider Samurai is good, but there'll be plenty of opportunities to grab creatures later. As a side note, if I'd first-picked Kami of Ancient Law I would've gone with the Mothrider here and tried for blue-white I think, hopefully setting up the players on my left in black with the Plague and Scuttling Death being passed.
Pack 1, Pick 3: Callous Deceiver, Commune with Nature, Kami of the Waning Moon, Devoted Retainer, Yamabushi's Storm, Eye of Nowhere, Wear Away, Rag Dealer, Ethereal Haze, Soratami Rainshaper, Reito Lantern, Pain Kami, Nagao, Bound by Honor.
Having Nagao in any pack beyond the second pick is a rarity. However, the card I really want most of all here is the Ethereal Haze. Four drops are quite plentiful and as good as Nagao is I don't intend to win via damage. However if I pass Nagao I'm almost certainly going to put the player on my left into White, which means I won't see any of the Waxmane Bakus that I want from Betrayers. On top of that a fourth turn Nagao will still deter most any ground based attack that comes into play early in the game – there aren't many that can attack into a four mana 4/4 and live to tell about it. With the Dampen Thought archetype no longer drafted by anyone (except me here!) I believe there's a strong chance the Haze will lap the table and come back around as an eleventh pick. I go with Nagao to solidify my position in white and hope that none of the next seven drafters take a fancy to that Ethereal Haze.
Pack 1, Pick 4: Moutain (FOIL), Kitsune Healer, Yamabushi's Storm, Sift Through Sands, Kashi-Tribe Warriors, Waking Nightmare, Wandering Ones, Joyous Respite, Midnight Covenant, Nine-Ringed Bo, Squelch, Journeyer's Kite.
One thing this deck does need is land, and lots of it. While the Kite is slow if I'm able to get into a stall situation, as I hope to do with this deck, then the Kite will remove all the lands, and increase the chances that I can find the Dampen Thought. There's also the possibility I might see a Divining Top or possibly play a Descendant of Soramaro, both of which can combine with the shuffle effect of the Kite to assist me in finding the Dampen Thought. The Kite is also a much better card in general than it was previously as it is easier to use in this slower format and can be excellent at improving all of the Saviors cards that have a dependency on hand size.
Pack 1, Pick 5: Vine Kami, Waking Nightmare, Devouring Rage, Callous Deceiver, Orochi Ranger, Silent-Chant Zubera, Battle-Mad Ronin, Psychic Puppetry, Pinecrest Ridge, Bushi Tenderfoot.
The Puppetry is the obvious pick here as another solid Splice card. It can lock down a creature for the cheap Splice cost of just one blue mana, and over the course of several turns can prevent a lot of damage as a result.
Pack 1, Pick 6: Distress, Kami of the Painted Road, Mountain (Foil), Hisoka's Defiance, Humble Budoka, Battle-Mad Ronin, Peer Through Depths, Ore Gorger, Kitsune Mystic.
Finally I get one of the other cards I was really hoping for. Peer Through Depths is the best way of tracking down your Dampen Thought in this sort of deck. It'll almost always draw you into another spell anyway as long as you're running 12 or more spells or so. When you do have the Dampen Thought in hand it's a cheap Arcane spell that replaces itself with another one thus allowing you to keep the engine going.
Pack 1, Pick 7: Kami of the Hunt, Hearth Kami, Kami of the Waning Moon, Devoted Retainer, Ragged Veins, Field of Reality, Honor-Worn Shaku, Graceful Adept, Reweave.
There's nothing I really want to play from this pack but the Reweave looks like it might have possibilities. It's expensive but if an opponent has a truly problematic creature then this can be used to replace it with something hopefully less threatening. It can also be a catch-all answer to problematic artifacts and enchantments too as it can target any permanent. It probably won't make the deck but it might be a useful sideboard card.
Pack 1, Pick 8: Unearthly Blizzard, Kitsune Healer, Stone Rain, Unnatural Speed, Peer Through Depths, Jukai Messenger, Kitsune Riftwalker, Strange Inversion.
Another great late pick for the deck. With two Peers in the deck the chances of finding the Dampen Thought in a reasonable time frame go up considerably. While it would've been nice to get shipped a late Eerie Procession instead I'll happily take this.
Pack 1, Pick 9: Lava Spike, Kashi-Tribe Warrior, Cursed Ronin, Lantern Kami, Pious Kitsune, Unnatural Speed, Kami of Old Stone.
The Kami from pack one laps the table, which is a little surprising but quite welcome all the same. It's a solid card for this deck as it's able to hold off almost any opposing ground creature.
Late Picks: The next two packs coughed up Counsel of the Soratami and the Ethereal Haze that I had thought (and hoped) would lap the table! As predicted the other drafters had left the Haze, as it's a very weak spell when you're just using it to prevent some damage. It's obviously fantastic in my deck though. A Sift Through Sands also made it around along with a Devoted Retainer, Terashi's Cry and Field of Reality.
After pack one the deck is shaping up quite nicely, but that's about what I'd expect as the best cards for this deck are in the Champions pack. I need some more early defence as I was unable to grab a River Kaijin but I feel comfortable leaving this until later as there are usually plenty of Minamo Scrollkeepers going around the table in the Saviors pack and they're the ideal turn two play for this deck really.
The playable cards from the Champions pack amount to:
1CC: Blessed Breath, Ethereal Haze
2CC: Dampen Thought, Journeyer's Kite, Psychic Puppetry, Peer Through Depths x 2
3CC: Sift Through Sands, Counsel of the Soratami
4CC: Nagao, Bound by Honor, Kami of Old Stone
Not a bad selection by any means and certainly a promising start.
The Betrayers Picks
Pack 2, Pick 1: Split-Tail Miko, Frost Ogre, Mistblade Shinobi, Harbinger of Spring, Psychic Spear, Kami of the Tattered Shoji, Bile Urchin, Heart of Light, Crack the Earth, Minamo's Meddling, Traproot Kami, Sowing Salt, Hired Muscle, Flames of the Blood Hand, Toshiro Umezawa.
The Split-Tail Miko is a possible choice here but fragile 1/1s aren't what this deck is about. The better pick here I think is Heart of Light. In a deck that doesn't care about attacking with its creatures this is effectively a Pacifism but has the added bonus of shutting down the Frostwielders and Matsu-Tribe Snipers which could prove problematic for this deck.
Pack 2, Pick 2: Scaled Hulk, Skullmane Baku, Hundred-Talon Strike, Goblin Cohort, Shimmering Glasskite, Sakura-Tribe Springcaller, Crawling Filth, Terashi's Grasp, Akki Blizzard-Herder, Minamo's Meddling, Uproot, Shuriken, Sosuke's Summons, Quash.
Another weak pack for this deck unfortunately. Plenty here for the standard archetypes but I don't think Shuriken will be playable in this deck as it will probably lack the creatures to make it work. The best pick here is the Hundred-Talon Strike really. It's a cheap Arcane spell and could hopefully be used on one of the defensive guys this deck will run to take out an opposing attacker in a situation where they thought they were going to trade.
Pack 2, Pick 3: Frostling, Ribbons of the Reikai, Sakura-Tribe Springcaller, Moonlit Strider, Shinka Gatekeeper, Matsu-Tribe Sniper, Stir the Grave, Mending Hands, Ire of Kaminari, Phantom Wings, Genju of the Fields, Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch, Loam Dweller.
This is a little better. Of all the creatures I could play a 2/5 Spirit-Link'ed guy who comes back when killed seems pretty solid. The Genju is good as this deck can sit with some lands untapped to ward off opposing attackers and then use those lands for some Splice action at the end of the opponent's turn when they've passed their attack phase. A great card for this deck.
Pack 2, Pick 4: Takeno's Cavalry, Psychic Spear, Waxmane Baku, Goblin Cohort, Teardrop Kami, Harbinger of Spring, Blessing of Leeches, Heart of Light, Akki Blizzard-Herder, Veil of Secrecy, Body of Jukai, Kitsune Palliator.
It looks like the cutting of white certainly paid off in the end as the Waxmane Baku in this pack made it past three other players. It's a shame to pass up on another Heart of Light as I'd play as many of those as I could grab but the Baku is definitely the better choice when this deck will be running so many Arcane spells.
Pack 2, Pick 5: Kami of False Hope, Blademane Baku, Quillmane Baku, Scaled Hulk, Vital Surge, Bile Urchin, Mending Hands, First Volley, Floodbringer, Stream of Consciousness, Pus Kami.
While it isn't an Ethereal Haze the Kami of False Hope is still a solid addition. It can counter opposing combat tricks and ward off any potential alpha-strikes that an opponent might decide to launch if things start looking desperate for them. I would like to point out the Vital Surge in this pack as that card would probably have been my choice if I'd managed to get some Sakura-Tribe Elders or Kodama's Reaches in pack one. It's quite possible to make this deck a green-white-blue deck if you have the mana fixers available, and when you do the Surge is actually quite playable.
Pack 2, Pick 6: Hundred-Talon Strike, Shinka Gatekeeper, Child of Thorns, Kami of Tattered Shoji, Uproot, Call for Blood, Takeno's Cavalry, Kumano's Blessing, Veil of Secrecy, Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai.
Not much here to choose from again. The choice for this deck is the Veil of Secrecy or the Hundred-Talon Strike and I think the Veil is better as it counters opposing removal and combat tricks while still functioning as a cheap Arcane card that can be used solely for that purpose if need be.
Pack 2, Pick 7: Child of Thorns, Skullsnatcher, Frost Ogre, Blessing of Leeches, Takeno's Cavalry, Phantom Wings, Vital Surge, Sowing Salt, Soratami Mindsweeper.
Well hello! I was not expecting to get a Mindsweeper quite this late but in truth it doesn't surprise me too much as it isn't a great pick if you're trying to win through damage. Most decks can do better than a 1/4 for four mana but in this deck it's exactly what I want to see. It gives the deck a back-up plan to the Dampen Thought and will allow the game to end much quicker when the Dampen Thought is drawn as well, as it won't take very many activations to mill enough cards to deck an opponent. It's also a great defensive blocker that can hold off almost all of the common flyers.
Pack 2, Pick 8: Kami of False Hope, Quillmane Baku, Roar of Jukai, Skullsnatcher, Kumano's Blessing, Toils of Night and Day, Akki Raider, Soratami Mindsweeper.
Well I guess the only thing better than one Mindsweeper is two Mindsweepers! I'm a little concerned that the four-mana slot of this deck is getting rather full with solid creatures but I still can't ignore the Mindsweeper. Hopefully there'll be enough cheaper picks in the later packs to fill out the mana curve a little better.
Pack 2, Pick 9: Mistblade Shinobi, Harbinger of Spring, Psychic Spear, Kami of Tattered Shoji, Crack the Earth, Minamo's Meddling, Sowing Salt.
There's nothing here for the deck really so the next best option is to take the one card that I really don't want to have to play against – the Psychic Spear.
Late picks: Not too much coming around late in this pack. A Terashi's Grasp, two Mending Hands, a Kitsune Palliator and two Takeno's Cavalry was all that came around. I wouldn't anticipate any of those making the main deck but the Hands might if the deck is very short on spells.
As expected there wasn't a lot of great stuff in the Betrayer's pack. There are a few great additions to the deck in the Waxmane Baku and the two Mindsweepers but there simply isn't the quality of Arcane spells that you really need for this deck. Adding in the playable stuff gives the following pool to work with:
1CC: Blessed Breath, Ethereal Haze, Hundred-Talon Strike, Genju of the Fields, Kami of False Hope
2CC: Dampen Thought, Journeyer's Kite, Psychic Puppetry, Peer Through Depths x 2, Veil of Secrecy
3CC: Sift Through Sands, Counsel of the Soratami, Waxmane Baku
4CC: Nagao, Bound by Honor, Kami of Old Stone, Soratami Mindsweeper x 2
The deck needs some early blockers at this point in time, but other than that it just needs to be filled out with some additional Arcane spells. Both of those things can be gotten from the Saviors packs so at this point it's just a matter of hoping the last few packs are favourable.
The Saviors Picks
Pack 3, Pick 1: Cowed by Wisdom, Akki Underling, Shinen of Flight's Wings, Fiddlehead Kami, Death Denied, Shinen of Stars' Light, Sakura-Tribe Scout, Death of a Thousand Stings, Araba Mothrider, Path of Anger's Flame, Ideas Unbound, Kemuri-Onna, Ivory Crane Netsuke, Shape Stealer, Masumaro, First to Live.
A very weak pack to open, but in some ways that illustrates the lack of cards available to this archetype in the later sets. Cards like the blue Shinen are fine cards, just not for this deck. I eventually decide on the Shape Stealer as it trade with most creatures for the low cost of two mana and is another early drop I can use if I don't get the Scrollkeepers I want.
Pack 3, Pick 2: Moonwing Moth, Akki Underling, Moonbow Illusionist, Inner Calm, Outer Strength, Kagemaro's Clutch, Kitsune Loreweaver, Ideas Unbound, Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker, Death of a Thousand Stings, Curtain of Light, Ronin Cavekeeper, Footsteps of the Goryo, Oboro Envoy, Inner-Chamber Guard.
I guess I should be happy with one of the set's best uncommons but it is yet another four drop creature in a deck full of quality at that level already. However in a deck where you want to stall it's ability is just ridiculous. I take it and cross my fingers that the excess of four-drops won't come back to haunt me later.
Pack 3, Pick 3: Inner Calm, Outer Strength, Raving Oni-Slave, Torii Watchward, Shinen of Fury's Fire, Moonbow Illusionist, Promised Kannushi, Deathknell Kami, Spiritual Visit, Inner Fire, Oboro Breezecaller, Secretkeeper, Aether Shockwave, Iname as One.
Spiritual Visit is one of the few Arcane cards I was really hoping to see. It functions as a cheap Arcane card itself and can be Spliced equally cheaply too. It's very playable in this sort of deck and will almost certainly make the cut.
Pack 3, Pick 4: Moonwing Moth, Akki Drillmaster, Freed from the Real, Nightsoil Kami, Deathmask Nezumi, Dosan's Oldest Chant, Gnat Miser, Araba Mothrider, Inner Fire, Murmurs from Beyond, Ghost-Lit Redeemer, Yuki-Onna
Not a lot to get excited about here but a little life-gain in this sort of deck can go a long way. Ghost-Lit Stalker can completely negate an opposing creature like a Nezumi Cutthroat or Moonwing Moth that I might otherwise have trouble dealing with. It might not make the deck but I wouldn't be too disappointed if it did.
Pack 3, Pick 5: Minamo Scrollkeeper, Okina Nightwatch, Deathmask Nezumi, Kitsune Dawnblade, Rending Vines, Gnat Miser, Kitsune Bonesetter, Glitterfang, Cut the Earthly Bond, Nikko-Onna, Gaze of Adamaro.
Finally a Scrollkeeper that I wanted so badly turns up. This sort of big (compared to all other two-drops at least), cheap blocker is great for this deck and really gives you the time you need to get some lands into play and start abusing the Splice cards that fill out the deck.
Pack 3, Pick 6: Shinen of Fury's Fire, Sink into Takenuma, Kitsune Dawnblade, Oboro Breezecaller, Rending Vines, Shinen of Fear's Chill, Spiritual Visit, Path of Anger's Flame, Dense Canopy, Tomb of Urami.
Another Spiritual Visit in this pack and it's one of the best Arcane/Splice spells you could get from this set for this deck. These get really nasty if you can draft them in multiples, as you're then able to trade both tokens off for two-toughness creatures for the low price of just . It's quite possible to cast Peer Through Depths or something similar and splice two Visits onto it for some cheap token generation.
Pack 3, Pick 7: Kami of Empty Graves, Descendant of Soramaro, Shinen of Life's Roar, Cut the Earthly Bond, Sakura-Tribe Scout, Kitsune Bonesetter, Into the Fray, Descendant of Masumaro, Godo's Irregulars.
There's a Descendant of Soramaro here that I mentioned wanting a while back but at this point I have no room in the deck for the additional four-drop. As a result I think the best option here is to hate draft the green Shinen. It could be a particularly nasty card if channelled at the wrong moment as the fragile defensive wall this deck builds up could all be for nothing if there's no Ethereal Haze around to stop the effect.
Pack 3, Pick 8: Freed from the Real, Raving Oni-Slave, Cowed by Wisdom, Oppressive Will, Dreamcatcher, Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker, Ronin Cavekeeper, Ebony Owl Netsuke.
Not a lot playable left at this point, but I take the Oppressive Will as it might be boarded in sometimes.
Pack 3, Pick 9: Cowed by Wisdom, Fiddlehead Kami, Sakura-Tribe Scout, Death of a Thousand Stings, Araba Mothrider, Ideas Unbound, Ivory Crane Netsuke.
Once again I don't plan on playing this main but it could be boarded in against an opposing blue deck to trade off for their flyers.
Late Picks: The Inner-Chamber Guard came around the table and was a very nice addition to the deck. I was also able to grab a Murmurs from Beyond which is probably better than Counsel of the Soratami for this deck. Iname, two Cut the Earthly Bond and a Shinen of Fear's Chill made up the remaining picks.
Introducing the playable cards from this set gives the following pool to work with:
1CC: Blessed Breath, Ethereal Haze, Hundred-Talon Strike, Genju of the Fields, Kami of False Hope, Ghost-Lit Redeemer, Spiritual Visit x 2, Mending Hands x 2
2CC: Dampen Thought, Journeyer's Kite, Psychic Puppetry, Peer Through Depths x 2, Veil of Secrecy, Inner-Chamber Guard, Minamo Scrollkeeper, Shape Stealer
3CC: Sift Through Sands, Counsel of the Soratami, Waxmane Baku, Murmurs from Beyond, Oppressive Will, Heart of Light
4CC: Nagao, Bound by Honor, Kami of Old Stone, Soratami Mindsweeper x 2, Oboro Envoy
When building this sort of deck it's worth separating out the spells from the creatures, as you need to make sure both elements of the deck have the necessary cards to work. As this deck will be relying primarily on its Splice engine I need to make sure there are enough spells to actually make that side of things run ok first.
The Arcane/Splice spells that I really want to play in this deck are:
1CC: Blessed Breath, Ethereal Haze, Hundred-Talon Strike, Spiritual Visit x 2
2CC: Dampen Thought, Psychic Puppetry, Peer Through Depths x 2, Veil of Secrecy
3CC: Sift Through Sands, Murmurs from Beyond
Twelve spells in total is a reasonable amount and should give enough to work with. Both the Murmurs and the Sift Through Sands are actually better than the Counsel of the Soratami here simply because they are Arcane. Card drawers like these are important as they allow you to Splice some spells and then continue to draw cards while you're doing so which keeps the engine running. I don't think the Reweave is playable really and is probably best relegated to the sideboard in this situation.
The defensive creature base I'd like to include features:
1CC: Genju of the Fields, Kami of False Hope, Ghost-Lit Redeemer
2CC: Inner-Chamber Guard, Minamo Scrollkeeper
3CC: Waxmane Baku
4CC: Nagao, Bound by Honor, Soratami Mindsweeper x 2, Oboro Envoy
That's a fairly solid base of creatures too. I'd really like another Scrollkeeper but there wasn't one to be grabbed in the draft.
In total those add up to 22 cards. Although there are a lot of four-drops with the card drawers I think I can afford to run 17 lands leaving room for one more spell. Looking through the remaining cards there's both Journeyer's Kite and Heart of Light that I'd like to play. While I'm hesitant to cut any of the Arcane cards I finally decide that Hundred-Talon Strike is a little too situational and the above two cards are both better alternatives.
This gives a final deck looking like this:
Potential sideboard cards:
Counsel of the Soratami – Against slower decks or anything featuring discard.
Terashi's Grasp – Annoying Hondens, Equipment, etc.
Mending Hands x 2 – Possible board cards against Red decks that show Barrel Downs etc.
Reweave – Might come in against some potentially annoying creatures.
Kami of Old Stone – Against anyone who shows a fondness for multiple X/1 ground creatures.
Shape Stealer – Would board against any green decks to hopefully trade with Scaled Hulks and the like.
So that's the theory behind it anyway. The only thing left to do is play with the deck and see how it actually worked in practice.
My heart leapt a little when my opponent lead off with a Plains and a Forest. Slow, ground-based attackers was exactly what I wanted to see with this deck, especially when they have no removal for my guys. The only think to worry about here is combat tricks really and I have cards like Blessed Breath, Kami of False Hope and Ethereal Haze to counter those.
The first game started smoothly. I had an Inner-Chamber Guard
to stall early but the rest of my hand was full of non-creature spells. A Peer on turn three Splicing Spiritual Visit
was lucky enough to find the Dampen Thought
while my opponent simply developed his board a little with a Kami of the Hunt
and Kitsune Loreweaver
. With both the Chamber-Guard and the Visit tokens starting to accumulate attacking was very difficult for him. He seemed to have no combat tricks to speak of and certainly wasn't bluffing any. A Moonwing Moth
came down but was matched with a Mindsweeper and as soon as I reached turn eight while still on a high life total and the Mindsweeper in play my opponent just scooped it up. He would be decked in two turns and clearly had no answers in hand and not enough men to kill me in one go even if he did have a Shinen of Life's Roar
I boarded in the Kami of Old Stone for the Redeemer but left the Shape Stealer out, as I hadn't seen a lot of fat in game one.
The second game was similar. This time a Scrollkeeper kept the Loreweaver at bay in the first few turns as we both made some early guys. Kami of Old Stone came out on my fourth turn and stopped anything happening on the ground really. My opponent had an Araba Mothrider along with a Moonwing Moth and started to peck away at my life total. Luckily I soon Peered into the Puppetry which held the damage to just one a turn while I burned off a Murmurs and a Sift while Splicing the Puppetry and a Spiritual Visit to stall the ground further still. With that card drawing it wasn't long until I drew into a Mindsweeper and while my opponent was able to attack with both his flyers still he could only deal one a turn with the Araba Mothrider as the Moonwing Moth was now getting blocked. For a couple of turns I was able to just mill him for two or four a turn with the Mindsweeper while continuing to develop the board and Splice an occasional Visit and Puppetry. He had made a Moss Kami, Rootrunner and Okina Nightwatch by this point but I was able to keep my hand size ahead of his with the Mindsweeper and there wasn't much attacking he could do without losing several guys for not much gain. He eventually did attack but a combination of Blessed Breath and Spiritual Visit meant he just killed off a bunch of 1/1s in trade for his Nightwatch and Rootrunner. The game was mostly over after that and the Mindsweeper decked him a turn or two later.
Another white deck this round, but this time paired with black to prove a little more problematic. My opening start this game was all creatures with a second turn Scrollkeeper, third turn Waxmane Baku, and fourth turn Mindsweeper. My opponent had both Moonwing Moth and Mothrider Samurai to start forcing through some damage but by this time I'd drawn into Murmurs, Spiritual Visit and Psychic Puppetry so I was able to stall his attacks for several turns by combining these with the Waxmane Baku. I eventually cast Peer Through Depths splicing Puppetry and two Visits and I think my opponent realised the writing was on the wall there as he just conceded despite having 26 cards in his library and 20 life still. He did obviously have nothing in hand and a board position that was going nowhere though so I doubt there was anything he could've done to win from that point.
In the second game an early Kitsune Riftwalker
from my opponent caused a few problems as my board to start was Waxmane Baku
and the white Genju. I didn't want to attack at this early point as it would give my opponent's Skullsnatcher
and Shinen of Star's Light an excuse to attack me back. I had my Kite and so was happy to thin my deck of lands and keep playing those.
Unfortunately for four consecutive turns I managed to Kite for a land and then draw a land naturally too and it wasn't long before I was struggling on the board position and low on life due to the annoying Riftwalker. Finally a Mindsweeper showed up and things looked like they might stabilise. A turn passed and I thought I might be back in the game as my opponent could alpha-strike me down to about 3 life or so but lose half his guys in doing so. In the meantime I had about 2 lands left in my deck of 18 cards so was confident in my ability to outdraw him in the future.
The Magic Gods weren't on my side though as my opponent decided that would be a great time to rip Dance of Shadows! After a few seconds thought I concluded that yep, there was actually nothing I could do about that so time to move on to game three.
My opponent started out slow but with multiple flyers in this game with two Moonwing Moths and a Mothrider Samurai. Being able to play first helped out a lot though as I was able to Heart of Light one, and make a Mindsweeper to block another. That still meant two damage a turn but that wasn't too bad. I actually drew Dampen Thought naturally this game and soon got to work on reducing my opponent's library. A Blessed Breath, a Psychic Puppetry and a Spiritual Visit all put in an appearance and while my life total started to fall a little quickly when a Kitsune Dawnblade and a Scuttling Death showed up, the Visit tokens chumped a few times and I was able to deck him with a combination of the Dampen Thought and the Mindsweeper a turn or two before I would've been in serious trouble.
Looking good so far.
This round I was up against an opposing black-red deck. My Nagao on turn four was met with a Yamabushi's Flame
but the Inner-Chamber Guard
I drew the turn after managed to hold off a Villainous Ogre
and Ronin Houndmaster
. A Gibbering Kami
from my opponent started dealing some more damage while I drew some cards and made a few Visit tokens. The card drawing paid off as I drew into a Mindsweeper to once again stabilise things. Journeyer's Kite
also started thinning my deck of lands while my opponent made a few more assorted ground-based men. My opponent then drew into a Rend Flesh
to take out the Mindsweeper but my Oboro Envoy
finally made an appearance at last to once again stabilise things. I had no route to victory at this point but held a Breath and Visit in my hand and was content to sit back on the Envoy while thinning my deck and playing out lands. The board developed a little further with a Kami of the Waning Moon
and Brutal Deceiver
from my opponent and a Waxmane Baku
for myself but the Envoy prevented any attacking. After a couple more turns the second Mindsweeper showed up and by then I think I had twelve lands in play so it was a very simple process to remove the remainder of my opponent's library.
I boarded in one of the Mending Hands and the Kami of Old Stone.
Game two was particularly brutal for me. My opponent started off with a Nezumi Cutthroat on turn two and Ronin Houndmaster on turn three. I drew the Kami of Old Stone on turn four but the addition of a Scuttling Death meant I was still taking four a turn. I drew a Scrollkeeper to trade with the Death and had a Visit to make a couple of men to take out another attacker but the Cutthroat kept pecking away. I drew some more spells and guys but nothing to race with. After a few efforts of Puppetrying the Cutthroat I failed to draw either Dampen to win with or the Heart of Light to stop it and so it was on to game three.
I had a reasonable draw in game three when my Genju came out on turn two but I didn't want to activate it on turn three in case my opponent had a removal spell. My opponent was attacking with a Skullsnatcher and the Villainous Ogre at this point. I drew my Ghost-lit Redeemer to help try and get some life back. On turn five my opponent Befouled my enchanted land and the subsequent attack knocked me down to around eight life or so, but I was able to recast the Genju the next turn. My opponent then attacked again into my untapped Genju with his two guys but in the intervening turn I had gotten pretty lucky and drew my Blessed Breath. I activated the Genju at which point he tried to Rend Spirit it. The Breath here was savage as it saved one of my two remaining Plains while allowing me to kill off his Ogre and gain life from the Genju to negate his attack.
From that point the Genju stalled the ground while the Redeemer put my life total back into double-digits. I drew into a Mindsweeper soon after and had enough lands to cast it and still be able to activate the Genju. My opponent couldn't attack as he had four ground-based men but would lose two to the Genju and Mindsweeper if he attacked while dealing practically no damage. Two turns later I drew Peer Through Depths which found the Dampen Thought and I was able to Dampen him for eight cards and then finish things off with Mindsweeper.
So a nice win with a rather strange deck. A lot of the wins came as much on the back of the Mindsweepers as the Dampen Thought but in most situations where they were in play the game was stalled so it still might've been quite possible to win with the Dampen at a later date. I definitely got a little lucky to get shipped two of them but I could just as easily have been shipped an Eerie Procession or a second Dampen Thought in Champions instead and both of those cards would probably have been preferable.
The two big two-drops – Scrollkeeper and Inner-Chamber Guard proved their worth numerous times in this deck and they're definitely better than River Kaijin or Kami of Old Stone as those cards allow multiple 2/2 creatures to attack you at will with no loss, whereas the other cards prevent that while costing one less to cast as well.
Spiritual Visit also surprised me a little as that proved very good at times. If I have any sort of Splice deck in the future I'd definitely be grabbing these highly. The one time I did draw them both they made about six power worth of men for no real cost.
So is Dampen dead? Truth be told, it probably is. I got more than a little lucky at times in the games and there were only a couple of great draws or massively problematic cards from my opponents. The two times I faced either of those I lost, but maybe that would be true with most decks. If you do see a Dampen Thought in pack one and there's nothing else then by all means grab it and see what you can make of it.
One thing about this archetype is that it does force you to plan several turns ahead. Often you need to think about what creatures you're going to tap, how many cards you're going to mill, and how much mana you're going to need several turns in advance of the one you're playing. In that aspect at least it makes for an interesting deck to play. It's certainly not the powerful archetype it once was but maybe, just maybe, there is life in the old dog yet.