All About Tainted Strike


Tainted Strike :: Kiln Fiend :: Fog
Consistency :: Making People Hate You :: … and Tainted Strike

So last month on Twitter, William Bloodworth asked…

This got me thinking… What the!?! Is this possibly a real strategy? I would certainly strangle anyone who killed me with Poison on the third turn!

Let’s look at it simple math style. You play a second turn Kiln Fiend. I am known to love a Kiln Fiend; I played it in my sideboard at US Nationals as insurance against Relic of Progenitus (and a threat in the mirror should be opponent sideboard the opposite direction that I did). Anyway, you play a second turn Kiln Fiend. He is 1/2 to start.

Then on your third turn, you play this:

Tainted Strike

The Kiln Fiend gets big[ger] when you play this Black instant. Kiln Fiend‘s stats jump up to 4/2, and with the Tainted Strike, you are up to 5/2 Infect. Is that worth half the opponent’s “life”? The answer is, more or less.

I think William’s theory is that with a little more Kiln Fiend nudging you can get the full on “kill ya” … I did in the neighborhood of 10 damage with my Kiln Fiends multiple times at US Nationals. If you accomplish the same on the third turn in Standard — while the Kiln Fiend has Infect — then the opponent should be dead on the spot.

My gut reaction is that while this might be cool, I wouldn’t build in this direction.

That is not to say that I don’t at least somewhat respect a Poison kill, just that I don’t think that this is the best way to either kill someone with Poison or break a Kiln Fiend on the third turn. Just as a very simple counter-example, consider Gerry Thompson’s “All-in On Assault Strobe” Red Deck (this is a build that Brian Siu used to mise the New Hampshire State Championships this year… congrats Brian):

3 Panic Spellbomb

4 Assault Strobe
2 Burst Lightning
4 Goblin Guide
2 Kargan Dragonlord
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Mark of Mutiny
4 Plated Geopede
3 Searing Blaze
4 Zektar Shrine Expedition

4 Arid Mesa
10 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Smoldering Spires
2 Teetering Peaks

2 Brittle Effigy
3 Arc Trail
2 Kargan Dragonlord
4 Koth of the Hammer
2 Mark of Mutiny
1 Searing Blaze
1 Teetering Peaks

This deck has a similar opening with Kiln Fiend (or for that matter, Plated Geopede).

Turn two Kiln Fiend.

Turn three Assault Strobe; Kiln Fiend goes up to 4/2… Deals 8 damage in combat. Of course Assault Strobe only costs one mana, so you can presumably load up a Burst Lightning and a Lightning Bolt (five damage) to bring Kiln Fiend‘s stats up to the full lethal.

It should be fairly obvious at this point that the Assault Strobe route is better than the Tainted Strike route for purposes of consistency. Tainted Strike might be almost as nice, but — besides being in a second color (which Assault Strobe is not) — you have the issue of splitting damage v. Infect / Poison. The last thing you want to be doing when you are playing an aggressive strategy with no real way to regulate your early game draws is to split your attack orientation. Half 20/20 lands and half Thopter / Sword combo is fine for a Blue deck with a ton of libray manipulation, but a Red Deck subject to its opening seven (with no Jace, the Mind Sculptor on the squad)? Tained Strike is just less desirable here.

This isn’t to say we are going to stop talking about Tainted Strike.

No, I don’t know that Tainted Strike is necessarily the route you want to take to turn three Kiln Fiend kill-ville. But the card itself is actually fairly interesting. For one thing, it costs only one mana, yet has a potentially profound effect on the game. For another, it’s in Black. You might expect Blue to do something clever and potential frustrating or confusing for one mana… But Black?

Think about Tainted Strike in Limited, defensively.

What happens when your opponent’s big burly Green creature is cruising in for the kill? Tainted Strike, of course!

You can point Tainted Strike at your opponent’s Big Bad, save essentially all that damage (just convert it to poison… probably not lethal), and maybe cruise back with a lethal Alpha Strike. Might not be front line material, but it will probably be the kind of thing that is situationally rewarding. Like “It’s a good thing I read that Five With Flores blog post on Tainted Strike… Otherwise I wouldn’t have realized my ‘Giant Growth‘ was capable of saving the draft!” You know, something like that.

Overall, I don’t think Tainted Strike is a Constructed-caliber card. Even as a Limited card it may be niche (and possibly for similar reasons); the idea that you need a card to switch the offensive power of a creature to conform to a sub-theme… Let’s just say it is probably the sign of a designer at odds with himself, and his cards.


facebook comments:


#1 Alfrebaut on 10.16.10 at 11:15 pm

Tainted Strike seems mediocre, though I’ll admit I didn’t think of its extra defensive utility until you just pointed it out there. Assault Strobe is just sick, though. Kiln Fiend, Plated Geopede and Zektar Shrine are all insanely powerful blowout targets. If not for all the instant speed removal, it would probably just be broken. I’m fashioning a new-style “all in red” deck full of just all-in cards like Assault Strobe and Devastating Summons… it might just be good.

#2 MTGBattlefield on 10.17.10 at 11:43 am

All About Tainted Strike…

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