Pre-release and launch party week is probably my favorite time to play Magic. It’s not actually because of new cards, although they are nice, but more that I enjoy sealed and I enjoy the casual environment you get here.
With that said, the past week and a bit has been a grind. I played in two prereleases and two launch parties. I think that the format Wizards chose for the pre-releases, while interesting in theory, broke down a lot in practice and were mostly unfun. I can’t say I enjoyed either one I played in.
First pre-release, I played Mirran. I got shafted with a pool of almost no removal (a single Red Sun was it), went RW that was mostly mid-range creatures and a hint of Battle Cry. I lost the first round 0-2 against Phyrexia. Won the second 2-1 against a very badly designed Phyrexia deck. Lost the third 0-2 against Phyrexia. And won the 4th 2-1 against another Mirran, I believe. It was a long, day of Magic where the losses I suffered were blowouts and the wins didn’t provide any great satisfaction.
So, great. Second pre-release, I switch to Phyrexia. It was a middling deck with a fair bit of infect, but nothing that would have made it shine (see, Plague Stinger and Corpse Cur). I was also lacking any of the good, black 2-cost removal. A single Black Sun doesn’t Get There. First round I beat a Mirran deck. Second, I lost against another Phyrexia deck (in one game I mulled to 5 on the play and it was only a game because the other guy got mana hosed for a number of turns. I still lost.) Third round I won against Mirran. Fourth I faced Phyrexia and got completely canned to a Glissa & Corpse Cur combo.
Between both of them, I can’t even say I had fun opening cards, because except for the Zenith, nothing really shined. Meanwhile a friend of mine opened a Venser and a Blightsteel in his pool.
So, onto the Launch Parties. The pool I opened was wide and shallow. There were a few playable cards in every color, but none of them was very deep. The artifacts I got were okay, but not breakout. I ultimately tried a UW control deck with a splash of both black and red. It didn’t work. First two rounds I lost 1-2. In the third round, I faced an infect deck that astounded me had also gone 0-2. I still managed to take a game from him. I dropped and attempted to trade from then on. (The trades actually turned out pretty good.)
I’d gotten a bit despondent about the whole thing, but wanted to give it one more shot since the next chance I’d have for casual sealed like this would be at the next pre-release in a few months. So a friend and I went, both tired and cranky, went to another launch party. There were about 20 people there, which made it the smallest event of the four I attended.
What a difference a day makes. I started cracking my packs and found both a Venser and a Praetor’s Counsel. Already looking like a win. Then I started checking things out and saw a host of removal in both Red and Black. I was getting happy about my pool when I noticed a stack of cards. I realized I was starting to build with only 5 packs. In that last pack I found a Burn the Impure and a Blisterstick Shaman. Looking even better.
Eventually, I built the following:
- Blisterstick Shaman
- Burn the Impure (x2)
- Flayer Husk
- Fume Spitter
- Golem Artisan
- Grasp of Darkness
- Instill Infection
- Iron Myr
- Koth’s Courier
- Kuldotha Flamefiend
- Mimic Vat
- Myr Sire
- Ogre Geargrabber
- Oxidda Scrapmelter
- Palladium Myr
- Panic Spellbomb
- Phyrexian Rager
- Sylvok Lifestaff
- Turn to Slag
With the major sideboard cards being:
I probably made some build mistakes. The Heartstoker should have made it in over the Myr Sire. Still, it felt extremely solid. The removal was across the board, I had two guys who beat the crap out of infect by being unblockable. Few bombs, but enough ways to control the game until I got a win.
Well, first round I faced another guy going RB and made the critical play error of drawing a lot of lands. In game 1 I had something like 7 mountains, no swamps, and a hand full of black cards. In game 2 I had a bunch of both and no spells. Quick, easy 0-2.
Round 2 I faced a RW deck, the control game worked, and I cruised to a 2-0 win. Round 3 was similar. Actually, round 3 was interesting because late in the second game, when I was thinking about a play, my opponent asked me to hurry up since we were running short on time. I was sure I had the win well in hand, but didn’t want to throw it away. After I beat him, he sounded a bit annoyed because we were going to run out of time. It seemed the game had gone on long enough that he had forgotten about my very quick win in the first game.
In round 4, I faced a Phyrexian. My removal hit hard and fast and the landwalkers got through for victory. Record at this point was 3-1 with a game record of 6-2.
So onto round 5. I got paired down against a guy who was 2-1-1. He’d built a GW deck that was partially metalcrafty and partially dino-happy. I beat him game 1 and then in game 2 was doing okay but then hit a spate of about 4 turns where I was only drawing land. When I almost had him beat (down to 5 life), he managed a massive swing of life to pop back up to 14 and I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
So, final game. I win this and I’m 4-1 and guaranteed top 4. Probably not top 2 no matter what I do because of the first round loss. Lose and I’m still top 8, but the difference between the two is 6 packs.
We both fought long and hard. I got stuck on lands early on, which slowed me down and allowed him to get some early hits, but later on managed to hit my stride. He’d whittled me down, but I was able to start banging out the removal, get a few guys out and start going in for the hits. He had one bright moment when a divine offering got him a bit of life back. A bit later he dropped a Pierce Strider to make me go to 3. However, removal, removal, removal.
Time was called. We went through the 5 turns. Me, him, me, him, me. And that was it. Tie game.
He had an empty board, except for land. He had no cards in hand. I had three guys, one unblockable. We were both at 3. The only chance he had for a win was if he had a second Strider. Anything else and he was guaranteed dead on my next turn.
I felt a bit dejected. I’d done everything I could, played some of the best Magic in my life, and I didn’t know what a 3-1-1 record would do. I was top 8, sure, so I’d be getting prizes. But I felt like my deck should have gone so much further. I’d only lost three games all day, and all of them were due to mana flood. While the final game was a tie, that was as sure an 8th win as I could have seen.
As it turned out, my worry was for naught. I took 4th, behind the one 5-0 deck and the two 4-1s. If I’d gone 4-1 myself, I might have taken 3rd instead of 4th, but that’s still not likely and didn’t make a difference, prize-wise. 9 packs for my pleasure (as yet unopened. I may do a pseudo-sealed pool with them and write that up.) I attempted to do some trades that mostly didn’t pan out, but I did manage to get a Mox Diamond for future EDH play.
I think that’s actually my best performance in any tournament as yet.
Things that are nuts: Mimic Vat and Fume Spitter. Or Mimic Vat and Skinrender. I managed one game with both of those (I believe game 1 of round 5), and it destroyed my opponent, even when he tried various tricks to get rid of the Vat.
Also nuts: Ogre Geargrabber and Kuldotha Flamefiend. At one point I attacked with the Geargrabber, stole a Strider Harness, then sacced that to the Flamefiend to blow up his board.