At the Gathering – M10 Ruminations

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Friday, July 17th – “Declare Attackers,” Kurt announced, proceeding to turn his Stampeding Rhino sideways into my board of Gravedigger and Rod of Ruin. I glanced at his land, noticing a single Forest and 2 Mountains untapped. Kurt knew I had Bogardan Hellkite in hand…

“Declare Attackers,” Kurt announced, proceeding to turn his Stampeding Rhino sideways into my board of Gravedigger and Rod of Ruin. I glanced at his land, noticing a single Forest and 2 Mountains untapped. Kurt knew I had Bogardan Hellkite in hand, as I had returned it to my hand just two turns ago with Gravedigger, after randomly discarding it to Burning Inquiry much earlier in the game. I had enough mana to cast it sitting untapped, and he had to know I could just flash it out, deal him 5, and block the Rhino. Kurt either has a trick, or he’s bluffing having a trick. Considering how powerful the Hellkite is just in board presence, I decide to play it safe. Before blockers, I flash the Hellkite out, and target his Rhino with all 5 damage of the Hellkite’s Enters-The-Battlefield effect, eliciting a few mocking laughs from the peanut gallery behind me.

“Dude, it’s only 4 power, Jeff just made a mistake,” I overhear.

“I wonder if that extra one damage will come back to haunt him?” another comments.

Another spectator retorts “Not just one damage, but five. He could have sent that damage to his head, and just blocked the Rhino with Bogardan.” He slurs the last word, and it rolls out “buh-gahden,” almost a mix of Jersey shore and Boston accents.

Kurt responds by turning his Forest sideways, casting a Giant Growth at the Rhino, causing the snickers to quickly Silence. I block with my Gravedigger, dealing the final 2 for lethal damage to Kurt’s now 7/7 Rhino, and taking 5 trample damage. Much better than losing the Hellkite, right?

The Prerelease weekend has come and gone, and we are all eagerly awaiting the ability to actually buy what is probably the best core set in a very long time. I had the opportunity to play in three drafts over the course of the weekend, trying a number of archetypes, but oddly enough having a common theme. Today, I’m going to take you on a 48 hour tour of my Magic weekend with M10.

We start at FNM on Friday. I was thinking of trying a few new things this week, but decided to take Seismic Cascade for a final “Swan Song” before Seismic Assault rotates out of Standard with the rest of 10th Edition this coming Friday. I did well enough, going 3-0-1, drawing in the last round as it was almost midnight, and we were in a hard fought third game which would have gone for a while longer. However, we were both agreeable to a prize split, and we both wanted to get on with the midnight madness Prerelease draft!

I wish I could give you a better play by-play, but as I mentioned, it was after midnight, and my Red Bull-induced late night makes recollection a little fuzzy. I ended up G/W with a single Mountain to support my miser’s Fireball. I did manage to have 2 Rampant Growth and 2 Civic Wayfinder Walker, Borderland Ranger to fetch it up. I ended up 3-0-ing the 8-man pod, learning most importantly that Entangling Vines is much stronger than I first thought. I ended up with seven soldiers in the deck, consisting of 1x Palace Guard, 2x Veteran Armorsmith, 2x Veteran Swordsmith, and 2x Rhox Pikemaster. With them and a few Green fatties as my offensive threats, I rode them to victory after victory alongside 2 Pacifism. I didn’t even jump into soldiers until about pick 8 of the first pack, and I know I missed at least 2 in early packs that might have been stronger, knowing what I know now. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

Much later that same day, I managed another pickup draft about 9 p.m., right after getting off of work, which was nice. In this draft, I ended up G/B/r, splashing for Fireball, Lava Axe, and Prodigal Pyromancer. I had far more removal, and had to lean heavily on only 9 creatures in the main deck to take it home. I had only a single Rampant Growth this time through, but still managed to snagg 2 Rangers for further mana fixing. Overrun was the bomb in this deck, but I allowed my poor keeps to have me go only 2-1. In the losing match, I mulliganed a 1-Forest, no fixer hand into a 1-Mountain, Borderland Ranger hand on the draw, kept it when I shouldn’t have, and didn’t get there, obviously. The third game, I ended up drawing 11 lands out of 15 cards, but frankly, had I not messed up the first game, we might not even have had a third. I was happy to put together the fun little combo of Prodigal Pyromancer, Gorgon’s Flail and Whispersilk Cloak, giving me a “Golden Gun,” for you N64 Goldeneye aficionados out there, mowing down creatures of all sizes with impunity. Of course, 2 Doom Blade and 2 Deathmark made their way into the main as well. This draft gave me some nice tips on how to kill Ice Cage, as Equipment works very well. Hadn’t considered that before. More than once I would spend the four mana to move an equipment off and back again to destroy an Ice Cage. I also Giant Growthed my opponent’s Illusionary Servant to break stalemate, allowing me to get in for enough to vastly change the game, as now his backswing wasn’t lethal. I took Sleep second pick in this draft, but never played it. The lesson learned? Don’t commit to a color just because of a single good card early. Blue quickly dried up as, the player right before the Sleep was opened was mono-Blue, and taking almost anything he could get his hands on. (He went 0-3, for the record.) I feel that Blue has a lot of potential for power, but if you can’t snag a bomb like Sleep or one of the good rares, you’ll definitely need a fall back plan. Haven’t seen anyone try the Tome Scour plan yet, but I think I’ll give it a shot soon, if only for the lulz.

After that, a group of us had enough packs to do a 3v3 tournament on our own, and even though it was well after midnight, we triumphantly shouted “The game must go on!” and proceeded to split ‘em up. I ended up with Christian (probably the second best player in town) and “Mouth” (Currently on his fourth draft ever.) Normally, the opponent’s would have raised Cain to Christian and I being teamed up, but since Mouth was a stone-cold lock to go 0-3, it meant Christian and I had to manage a combined 5-1 for us to win the draft. Pack 1 I cracked open the cards to find Lightning Bolt and the aforementioned Bogardan Hellkite. While Lightning Bolt is strong, I quickly windmilled the Hellkite, passed the pack over to Kurt, adding “You’ll think I’m crazy, but I’m not. Really” He slammed the Lightning Bolt, and gave me a goofy “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?-style look. I felt obliged to flash the Hellkite at him (pun intended), and he responded by showing me his now 2 Lightning Bolt picks. Must. Be. Nice.

Alex passed me his pack with a similar “I’m not crazy, really,” comment, and I proceeded to take the Terramorphic Expanse within. After an inquisitive glance involving one or more raised eyebrows and Alex having watched Kurt and I exchange information in a friendly manner, he jumped in on the act and showed me his Lightning Bolt. Apparently, this draft had DI Lightning Bolts, and I wasn’t getting any. Lame.

Pack two opened up with another Lightning Bolt, which I was about to happily take, glad that fate, or karma, or Nicol Bolas had decided to provide me with another opportunity. That was, until a perky Red Planeswalker in the back raised her hand and offered to show me a good time. Well, always the chivalrous gentleman, I couldn’t pass the lady’s offer by. I shipped the pack, Lightning Bolt and all, to Alex. I now have opposing neighbors with two Lightning Bolts. Each. Ugh.

Fortunately, two seats down, Christian was gobbling up Fireball’s for his Red splash, ending up with two of them from pack two, keeping them out of the potential Red Mage’s hands. I ended up almost Mono Black, splashing 5 Red cards (Hellkite, Ms. Chandra Nalaar, Wall of Fire, Inferno Elemental, and Lightning Elemental) and plenty of powerful Black cards (Sign in Blood, Hypnotic Specter, Black Knight, Disentomb, Wall of Bone, Drudge Skeletons, Gravedigger, Unholy Strength, Deathmark, and Doom Blade, some of those in multiples).

I ended up going 2-1 again, losing to “Lurch.” Game one was lost to Djinn of Wishes, and game three was packed in to, of all things, Convincing Mirage turning my second Mountain into an Island, and shutting off access to the Hellkite and Chandra in my hand the turn before I would be able to throw down Chandra. I never got to my next Mountain in time, and fell prey to an attack for exactly lethal the turn before I would have drawn it. Fortunately, Christian went Crazy Go Nuts University on the opposition, going 3-0 to barely pull it out for us at 5-4.

Rules-wise, we never had any situations come up with the new rules. I don’t think I ever saw multiple blockers in combat. In short, nothing came up that wouldn’t have been an issue before. The only hard question was if Palace Guard was blocking 2 creatures with trample, do they each have to assign lethal damage to the creature before trampling over, or does only one need to assign lethal, allowing the other to trample over fully? (FYI, it’s the latter.)

I was quite happy to end up with two Drowned Catacombs this weekend, as it puts me halfway toward having Faeries ready for Standard post M10. Yes, while the Metagame shakes itself out, I’m going back to an old flame, Faeries. For reference, here’s the list I have planned, which of course will be tweaked after practice and information.

This list is a good starting point, I feel, and will become tuned with practice and knowledge of expected threats. I like Vendilion Clique in the main deck, as it gives me a faster clock, and it can still get rid of Great Sable Stag, which I expect to see a few players using. Negate is a four-of, as most of the worst spells against you are just that, spells. Bitterblossom, Spectral Procession, Ajani Goldmane, Honor of the Pure, and any burn spell can all be Negated. Broken Ambitions ends up being less valuable late game, as they can play around it rather easily.

Puppeteer Clique is good against the expected Aggro meta-game that usually follows a new rotation, even if it is just one set changing. P-Clique can vastly swing a race on turn 5 (Especially if it grabs, say, a Ball Lightning you Peppersmoked/Doom Bladed earlier) and is great with the plethora of “Army-In-A-Can” dudes we have running around (Cloudgoat Ranger, Broodmate Dragon, Captain of the Watch, etc.)

However, the other deck I’ll have sleeved up and ready, should the meta-game prove too hostile to Faeries (read: Red Decks with Volcanic Blowout) is Five-Color Control. Here’s a pretty basic list that I’ll be starting with.

As you can see, it’s a pretty basic Chapin/Nassif-inspired Cruel control build, with Firespout main deck out of respect to Kithkin potential. The sideboard is aimed to transition the deck into Faerie hate or aggro hate. If the mirror becomes more prevalent, it will probably need to change to compensate for that, but initially, I expect it could surprise folks.

I have considered swapping the Broodmate Dragons out for Nucklavees, to give strong card advantage instead of straight aggression, but that makes the games last considerably longer, and I’m not sure I could get three games in under 50 minutes with this consistently enough to make the change yet. As the meta-game settles down, I’ll start to consider that option more, if I can get the games to go late often enough and as I pick up familiarity with the deck again.

The sideboard has some new M10 cards that I’ll be giving a tryout to, testing how they size up against certain decks, and possibly even being promoted to main deck status, should they prove to be versatile and powerful enough.

Three damage appears to be the new threshold for removal again, as there will be quite a few decks staying above 2 toughness. Great Sable Stag, Boggart Ram-Gang, and pretty much the entire White Weenie Deck, if Honor of the Pure is out, are all expected critters needing mass removal. Without Wrath of God around anymore, Firespout stands to gain quite a bit of value, and the option to nuke only the ground pounders while avoiding my own Mulldrifters is just gravy on these Idaho Potatoes.

Let me leave you with one last thought before I go. As I was drafting in my second draft, I was passed an Elvish Archdruid, and I considered it… right up until I remembered that Civic Wayfinder is no more, and instead I had 2 Human Scouts face down on the pile below me, and zero elves. Well then, nix that baby. The Archdruid ended up tabling around, and I still didn’t take it. There were a few complaints that the tribal Lords weren’t quite there in feasibility for limited, but it’s a difficult balancing point, especially when you consider the effect of that many of tribe X in standard. It’s a shame there weren’t more Elves for the Archdruid in Limited, but I still think he could be nuts in that elf-ball combo deck in Standard.

That’s all for this week, join me next week when I’ll look at some more potential M10 Standard decks, and a few more drafts from the launch party weekend.

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