At the Gathering – Having Fun Again

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Wednesday, April 29th – I am burnt out on Five-Color Control. I’ve been playing it for a very long while, to pretty solid success. I’d played the deck so much that I was showing up and running on autopilot. I wasn’t learning and I wasn’t getting better; I was just coasting to victory on the power of the deck, and my familiarity with it.

I am burnt out on Five-Color Control. I’ve been playing it for a very long while, to pretty solid success. I started playing Five-Color Control in December, the 5th to be exact. I remember, because I had just given up Faeries, took a week off of playing for Thanksgiving, and when I came back to FNM, the 5th of December, I was playing Cruel Control. I went 3-1 that week, losing in the last round. It was a memorable night for me, because I would not lose with Five-Color Control gain for a while. Starting December 12th, and running through the 17th of April, I went 21-2-7 (21 wins, 2 losses, and 7 draws) one of the losses was intentional (scooping a friend into 2nd place) and most of the draws were as well. In fact, the lone actual loss was the 17th of April. That’s a pretty big win streak, and while it was nice, it wasn’t fun anymore.

I’d played the deck so much that I was showing up and running on autopilot. I wasn’t learning and I wasn’t getting better; I was just coasting to victory on the power of the deck, and my familiarity with it. I wasn’t gaining experience, or having a valuable lesson taught. It’s a bit like taking high school algebra again in College. You go through the motions, do the same homework, float through class in a daze, and end up with an A anyway.

I want to learn something new, experience something new, and with the prerelease on Saturday, I needed something fun to play for FNM. I wanted something that could still win, but that I would have fun playing.

I wanted Five-Color Swans.

This is the build that I played with main deck, although if I were going to a more serious tournament (like, say, Regionals), I would start out with the standard Five-Color build detailed below, and keep the Swans tech in the sideboard for the second match

The idea is similar to what a lot of players do with their Sealed pool, which is to be able to sideboard into a different deck. That’s harder to do with a constructed deck but enough of the pieces are usable elsewhere (Firespout is a handy sweeper, and Ajani Vengeant is pretty good in his own right)

Is the deck Tier 1? I don’t know. I haven’t tested it against a wide field yet, but I did take first with it, and I never had a time when I felt like I wasn’t in control. Plus, casting Firespout with two Swans in play is a lot of fun.

With Five-Color Control, I find I hit a lot of land pockets, and frankly, I don’t need 15 lands in play. I like having Seismic Assault to give my lands some reach against decks. You can also power your way into a win that you should lose. In game 1 against a Reveillark deck with Fulminator Mage, I was dead to lethal on the board. He was at 14 life, I had 4 lands and a Volcanic Fallout in my hand, with Swans and Seismic in play. I cast the Fallout with the last of my mana (he’d hit me with four total Fulminators, two before ‘lark, two after), drew two blanks (I think Seismic Assault and Scepter of the Fugue) and then proceeded to start shocking my Swans. First land away, draw a land and a spell. Still four lands, he’s at 12. Second land away, same story. Third land to the graveyard, another land and another spell. At this point, I need to hit two lands in a row off a discard in order to profit. Drawing one land and one spell is just breaking even. If I draw two spells, I’m down. Fourth land away, I draw two lands. Yes! Now I have 5 lands and some junk in my hand. I can get him to two, so I just need runner runner land at some point before I hit runner runner spell. Next land away… Land and Land! Got there, throw twelve to the dome, and got out of a game I probably should have lost. The Lark deck was literally killing me.

Mind Stone is a card I like in the deck, but not a whole lot. It allows you to accelerate, and it’s probably better than a 27th land, but it does make the manabase a little shaky. Obviously, it doesn’t help with Cruel Ultimatum or Esper Charm, but it will get you to Wall of Reverence or Swans a turn early, and can be used with a lot of your spells. It can also be cycled for three in the late game, making it not a dead draw. I’ve had it in since Nassif’s Kyoto deck came out, and I like it then. With Swans, I may just want the 27th land. I don’t know yet, but it’s something to think about.

Telemin Performance has been very solid when I need it, but dead otherwise. One local player is playing Planeswalkers Control, so Telemin Performance made its way into the sideboard to combat that deck. It’s also pretty good against Five-Color Control, and absolutely amazing against Turbo Mill, the new deck Bill Stark has been pimping, assuming you can get it to resolve. Against Planeswalkers Control, I resolved one and it straight won me the game right there. Against Five-Color Control, I cast it twice, once getting Broodmate Dragon with the 2nd card down, and then getting another Broodmate Dragon about 30 cards down, and milling a lot of good business spells in the process. Resolving a five-mana sorcery isn’t always easy, but if Head Games can be resolved, I imagine that Telemin Performance can as well, in the right matches.

I have Scepter of Fugue in the main deck. I’ve sung the praises of this card before, so I won’t bore you again with it, but it just plain does the things I want it to do. It strips my opponent’s hand, and makes them play off the top of the deck. This makes it much harder to set up a combo, and gives me a huge advantage in the “draw, go” turns. Beware of decks running Wilt-Leaf Liege, but otherwise, there’s very little to punish discard abilities

Esper Charm, at least for this deck, does a lot more discarding for opponents than drawing me cards. If I have a Swans already in play, I will frequently use the Charm to force opponents to lose two cards, because I’m fairly assured of drawing more cards later anyway. Frequently, you’ll end up with 8 or 9 cards in hand, and you’ll end up pitching lands straight to their dome just to get down to 7.

Let’s switch gears now and talk a little bit about my prerelease experience.

It was fun.

But more than that, I had a really good time with some of the local players that we don’t see very often. I was only able to get in one 8-man draft, and couldn’t make the main event, but I had a lot of fun. I love the local prereleases because, like many Magic players, I don’t get to travel very often for Magic. Locally, we get 20-30 players out at our store, plus however many players show up at the other store in town. I have never heard of any of those players traveling to a prerelease. On pair of players used to travel for them, but they were High School kids who had their parents drive them the 3+ hours over.

I managed to draft a fun Naya deck, with which I went 3-0. Drafting triple ARB is.. interesting. Locally, we do it to maximize the dollars we spend towards new cards. It does make for some interesting drafts, though. (Triple Eventide was, to say the least, crappy.)

With this draft, I knew that mana-fixing would be extremely important. With only the Borderposts as dual-color sources, the Land cyclers became very valuable.

I opened my first pack hoping to go Red Black, because I liked a lot of the cards in that color, and it opened up terminate as a main-color option. Instead, my opening pack had Behemoth Sledge, and I was passed “My Name is” Uril, the Miststalker for my second pick. Okay, Naya it is. I stayed mostly on colors, picking up some decent cascade cards like Bloodbraid Elf and Captured Sunlight. Second Pack, second pick I hate-drafted Sphinx of the Steel Wind, as the guy next to me was Esper, and good enough that I figured I would meet him at some time in the X-0 bracket. Besides, the pack was pretty weak otherwise, and that card would literally end the game for me. I wouldn’t be able to attack through it, or destroy it. Maybe it was a bad decision, and I’m usually not in favor of hate-drafting, but with the format being all Gold, I would have needed to splash Blue on top of my strong Naya colors to even cast a spell that might have a chance of affecting it.

I did end up with triple Pale Recluse, and a Valley Rannet for fixing as well as one of each Borderpost (R/G and G/W). Here’s what I sleeved up:

2 Naya Hushblade
1 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Rhox Brute
1 Leonin Armorguard
1 Sigil Captain
1 GloryScale Viashino
1 Marisi’s Twinclaws
1 Gorger Wurm
3 Naya Sojourners
3 Pale Recluse
1 Valley Rannet

1 Colossal Might

1 Behemoth Sledge
1 Firewild Borderpost
1 Wildfield Borderpost

1 Reborn Hope
2 Captured Sunlight

1 Trace of Abundance
1 Sangrite Backlash

8 Forest
4 Mountain
3 Plains

Reborn Hope is pretty amazing in Limited, allowing me to get back whatever I needed to help finish games off. I think it’s almost comparable to Glittering Wish, although it is easier to disrupt, and a little harder to find silver bullets for. Still, I expect it could make a decent showing in Dark Bant, getting back a Rhox War Monk; Doran, the Siege Tower; or even Rafiq of the Many.

The Naya Sojourners were absolutely stellar as combat tricks, cycling them for a card and a +1/+1 counter. I even landed one or two on a Hushblade before they were shrouded up.

I did have one game where I lived the dream…

Turn 3 Behemoth Sledge
Turn 4 Marisi’s Twinclaws
Turn 5, equip, attack, Colossal Might, take 16! Yeah!

Of course, every time I cast my beats, I managed to say “My Name is Uril!”

It feels like he can be powered up, but every time I think about it, he just seems too… something… too needy, I guess. You want to build a deck around him, but if you do, what do you do with a bunch of enchantments and no Uril? And you need an answer to Wrath other than Shield of the Oversoul. Maybe the new Dauntless Escort and Troll Ascetic as well… maybe we could make it work.

Every time someone played Giant Ambush Beetle, people would look at me, and someone would say “Yep, looks like it’s good in Limited.” I guess I’m now the Giant Ambush Beetle guy. I can live with that.

Is anyone else excited to put a Trace of Abundance on their Treetop Village? Just about makes it unkillable now, short of double Volcanic Fallout. Of course, you can’t untap him with Garruk, but you can’t have all of the cake and eat it too. Mutavault doesn’t seem as good, because it does die to a single Fallout.

I’m hearing stories of players not liking the mixed hybrid symbols on the cards. Seeing R/W G is confusing to many, and I know of at least one warning at the prerelease for paying the wrong colors, but it not getting caught until later. Hopefully, the players get used to this kind of thing sooner than later. Personally, I don’t think it’s too bad, but it is a little confusing at first.

Cascade has been a lot of fun. Casting Bloodbraid Elf into Behemoth Sledge seems good, and I say so from firsthand experience.

I hate Retaliator Griffin. One player at our prerelease drafted two in the same deck. Needless to say, it’s annoying, especially when you only have a single enchantment in your deck to get rid of it.

I’m looking forward to the Launch Party. The participation foil is much better, in my opinion. If the Prerelease participation card were better, I might have played in the main event to get another one, instead of having dinner with my visiting parents. I mean, they’re family, but they’re no Maelstrom Pulse.

Why didn’t Pikula get his face on Meddling Mage again? It’s still his card, isn’t it? It feels weird to cast the new one and not say “Cast Pikula, naming Volcanic Fallout” but seeing a girl on the art. Bad form, WotC. I can only imagine the outcry if they had reprinted Shadowmage Infiltrator without Finkel. It’s like Walker, Texas Ranger without Chuck Norris. It’s a downsizing in the level of awesome. Seems to me, you want as much awesome as possible in your card art.

Will people still ask Pikula to sign the new one? Inquiring minds (mine) want to know if it happens. Of course, now it’ll definitely happen. So that’s what a self-fulfilling prophecy feels like.

Still, this set is fantastic. Feels like Morningtide to me, with a few very strong cards making the set very powerful. Some people are comparing it to Future Sight, but without the quality lands, I’m not ready to make that leap. Morningtide was still a very god set, both in the terms of playable cards, and financially.

By the way, if you have any extra Maelstrom Pulse or Thought Hemorrhage, let me know. I saw one Pulse and zero Hemorrhage in three drafts. This is going to end up being like Mystic Gate, where there are only something like five in the whole stinking town.

See you next week.

Until then, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t Make the Loser Choice.