Usually, when one reads a tournament report, one expects to read about an interesting deck, or a good performance, or at least an important tournament (at the very least on par with a PTQ). Well, I can promise that you’ll find none of these things here.
Instead, this is an account of Day 1 of the two-day extravaganza that was the Pittsburgh Scourge Prerelease – and for those of you who didn’t get to one, a look at a few of the new cards in real play. For those of you who did get to a Prerelease, this may offer some insights about cards you didn’t see (there were plenty I didn’t) or just another perspective.
When the full spoiler hit the streets late on Wednesday night, I was there drafting it up in the only place you could: Netdraft. While I’ll be the first to admit that Netdraft doesn’t offer the highest caliber of competition, when the cards aren’t available in the real world you take what you can get. I didn’t document any of the drafts I did, but I had at least a little bit of experience going into the Butler Days Inn on Saturday morning.
(Aside: One of the things I had decided, and that I discussed with my carmates, was that I thought Dispersing Shield was pretty damn good. If all it did was counter face-down creature spells, it might be usable just for the ability to stop a morph when drawing first, but it does a lot more than that. I never got to play the card myself, so this hypothesis remains unproven, but I’m still of the opinion that the Shield is quite a solid card.)
The deck I registered was very nice, and whoever ended up with it was going to be playing some combination of white, black, and red. The card pool featured such winners as Jareth, Leonine Titan, Convalescent Care, Pacifism, Inspirit, Dragon Mage, Solar Blast, Shock, Carbonize, Torrent of Fire, Clutch of Undeath, Infest, and Swat. Even the green had strong playables, featuring the monster curve of Wirewood Elf – Explosive Vegetation and a Wirewood Savage, Barkhide Mauler and Snarling Undorak. I believe the guy across from me went with a black/red build, but I never found out exactly how well he did.
The deck I received back had some playable cards in all the colors, but I ended up with a R/W/u deck that had a nice compliment of burn spells and a decent Soldier theme. The decklist:
Slice and Dice
Torrent of Fire
Relevant sideboard cards:
Crown of Awe
This was a solid deck, but I had concerns that it had no real game-ending bomb and couldn’t really deal with anything massive – and with this block, there were sure to be some massive things out there. That, and I had no enchantment removal whatsoever in the entire card pool. But in Sealed you work with what you’re given, and I was sure I could win some games with what I had. If anyone is interested in knowing the entire card pool for some reason, just email me; anyway, on to the actual games!
Round 1: Korey Scott, R/G
Korey seemed like a pretty nice guy, and I think he was just getting back into the game after some time away from it. I had to explain a couple things, but he was generally cool throughout the match.
Game 1: Korey won the flip and chose to draw first. He plays a turn 1 Treetop Scout and starts laying into me. I play a morph on turn 3 and Korey stalls on two lands. I swing and lay out Zealous Inquisitor, and Korey gets his third land and plays a morph. I swing in for four and play Bonethorn Valesk. Korey hits me for one more with the Scout and passes the turn back. I attack with my 2/2s, which Korey declines to block, and I morph up Charging Slateback before damage to hit Korey for six and kill the Scout with the Valesk, bringing life totals to 16-6, my favor. I hit him for two more the next turn and Torrent of Fire him for five to win the game.
Game 2: Korey chooses to draw again, and comes out with Birchlore Rangers, Elvish Pioneer, and Taunting Elf in the first 3 turns while I only cycle Renewed Faith. This threatens some serious acceleration, but I happen to have the Slice and Dice to cycle at the end of his third turn and take out the team of elves. I play a morph on my turn, Korey plays an Avarax on his and hits me for three. I hit back and play Bonethorn Valesk. Korey untaps and keeps Avarax back to play defense, but I have Torrent of Fire for it on my turn and swing for six. He plays a Battering Craghorn, but I untap and morph up Ascending Aven to ping it and swing for seven, taking the life totals to 18-5. He plays one chump blocker for the Valesk, but two turns later the Aven flies over to win.
Round 2: Harry Rosenburg, U/W
Game 1: Harry wins the roll and chooses to play first. We both play a morph on turn 3, but Harry has no fourth land and plays Mistform Warchief. I Carbonize the Warchief and swing in. He still can’t find a non-island land, and hits me back before playing another morph. I attack again, he doesn’t block, and I morph up Skirk Commando to take out the face-down Aven Liberator.
On my next turn, Harry cycles Choking Tethers to keep the Commando back and I play Bonethorn Valesk. Harry draws his fourth land, but it’s a Daru Encampment and he can only play another morph. I attack with the Commando, but Harry apparently forgets what it does and lets it through, letting me take out a face-down Scornful Egotist, after which I play another morph creature. Harry still can’t play anything impressive, and I Carbonize his last creature at the end of his turn. I untap, swing in for eight, and play a Charging Slateback. Harry finds a fifth land (another island), but it doesn’t help.
Game 2: Harry plays first and leads with a turn 1 Foothill Guide. I Spark Spray it when he attacks, but he lays a Glory Seeker. Neither of us have turn 3 plays as he hits me with the Seeker, but Harry has a Dive Bomber on turn 4, which I Carbonize. He plays another morph on his next turn and hits me again, taking me to fourteen. On my turn, I can only cycle Shoreline Ranger and play an Island, taking me up to two Mountains, Islands, and a Daru Encampment.
He plays an Aven Farseer and knocks me to ten; I play Bonethorn Valesk. Harry unmorphs his Aven Liberator to pump up the Farseer, but my Valesk’s ability resolves first to kill it. The Liberator and a pro-red Glory Seeker swing and Harry passes. I hit back with the Valesk, taking scores to 6-16, and cast Slice and Dice to clear the board.
Harry draws either his fourth Plains or Dawn Elemental, and the 3/3 flyer comes down. Bad news. I play a Zealous Inquisitor and Dive Bomber and pass the turn back.
Harry casts Rush of Knowledge for four cards and hits me with the elemental (3-16). I untap and hard-cast Renewed Faith before my attack, afraid of Dispersing Shield or the like. It resolves, so I swing in and Harry Inspirits the Elemental to take out Dive Bomber (9-14). I play my Ascending Aven, leaving me with a Mountain and Erratic Explosion in hand. Harry hits me with the Elemental again and plays a Dragonstalker and a Sage Aven (6-14). I untap and draw a Shock, and swing with the Inquisitor and Aven. With lethal damage on the board and a comfortable life total, Harry declines to block, and I use the Daru Encampment to pump the Aven to 4/3, taking Harry to eight.
I can Explosion the Dragon Stalker, but that only delays the inevitable, so I decide to risk it and point the Explosion at Harry’s face. I turn over Mountain, then Plains, then…. Grassland Crusader. That six damage, plus the Shock in hand, finish the game.
(Aside: Yeah, good play gets you a long way, but sometimes games are won by accident and blind luck. When that happens, you can’t do much about it; you just hope that you’re on the right side of it. I’ve been on both sides of these kinds of games before, but never in my life have I so spectacularly pulled a game out of my ass. Years from now, I’ll still be telling people about it. Major props to Harry for being a good sport about it and for being a fun opponent overall.)
Round 3: Robert Richardson, U/R, B/G
Game 1: Robert wins the roll and chooses to play. My first hand has seven lands, my second has six spells. I end up with a five-card hand that has one of each basic land, a Pearlspear Courier and another spell I can’t remember. Still, it could be a lot worse.
He plays a turn 3 Mistform Warchief and I play the Pearlspear Courier. He plays a Battering Craghorn after hitting me for one, and I play a morphed Charging Slateback. He hits me for three with the Craghorn and passes. I swing, he declines to block, so I morph up the Slateback to deal six damage. He plays Lavamancer’s Skill on the Warchief, kills the Courier, and swings for three. I Torrent of Fire the Warchief, but it meets with a Hindering Touch. Robert plays an Imagecrafter and I respond with Gustcloak Savior as we beat on each other. Robert plays Long-Term Plans at the end of my turn, and lays a land on his. I bring my team, and the Slateback trades with the Imagecrafter plus two points of Skill damage, but this also stops the Warchief from being able to deal two at a time anymore. I play a Daru Lancer and hand the turn back with the life scores at 3-5, his favor.
He draws his tutored card and plays it: Torrent of Fire for four points to my face. Fortunately, I have Renewed Faith in hand and the mana to cast it, and use it to go back up to nine before taking the Torrent damage, and my counterattack kills him.
For those keeping track at home, that’s two games now that Renewed Faith has won for me. Meanwhile, between games, Robert sets aside his sleeved deck and takes out a complete other deck that he built from the rest of his cards! I’m not sure if I should be worried or what, so I simply decline to board in the Fever Charm and we get to game 2.
Game 2: He chooses to play again and mulligans once. We plays turn 3 morphs and he hits me and plays Death’s-Head Buzzard. I attack back, he doesn’t block, and I unmorph Skirk Commando to take out the face-down Haunted Cadaver. He attacks and I attack back, choosing not to Commando the Buzzard, and play Zealous Inquisitor. He attacks for two and plays Gangrenous Goliath. I attack with the Commando, he doesn’t block, and I shoot the Goliath anyway. Then I cycle Slice and Dice and redirect the damage from the Inquisitor to the Goliath, killing his team and leaving me with the cleric. He drops Lingering Death on it on his turn, and I swing and play Bonethorn Valesk, which gets a Clutch of Undeath. I drop a Shoreline Ranger, he plays a morph, and I hit him for three, bringing totals to 14-9. I play a Grassland Crusader, he has no play. I attack for five in the air and point a Shock and Carbonize at him to take the match.
Round 4: Jeremy Darling, G/R/b
Now this is unfortunate. Jeremy is a good friend of mine, a very good player and one of my teammates for Grand Prix: Pittsburgh, so this isn’t exactly my dream pairing. Nothing to do, though, but shuffle up and let the cards fall where they may.
Game 1: Jeremy wins the roll and plays first. We both play morphs on turn 3, but on turn 4 Jeremy has Forgotten Ancient. If you haven’t had the pleasure to play this thing yet, or the misfortune to play against it, then allow me to inform you that this card is insane.
My turn 4 is hardly as impressive – I can only muster a Dive Bomber. He landcycles on his turn and attacks, I play Gustcloak Savior and my Dive Bomber eats a Carbonize at end of turn. He plays a Kurgadon, and I play Dragon Scales on my morph, swing for six, and play Pearlspear Courier, bringing the life totals to 10-8 in my favor and the Ancient to 6/9. On Jeremy’s turn, he redistributes the Ancient counters, putting one on the Kurgadon and two on the morph, then plays a Sparksmith and attacks with all three creatures. I block the 4/4 Kurgadon with the Courier and Scaled morph, letting eight through, but Jeremy unmorphs Snarling Undorak and has Vitality Charm to finish me off.
I side in my Lightning Rift against Jeremy’s many landcyclers and his own Rift.
Game 2: I’m playing and Jeremy misses his second land drop for a turn while I cycle Renewed Faith, but comes up with a turn 3 Wirewood Elf to catch up on tempo. I play a morph to go with my Pearlspear Courier, and Jeremy forestcycles into enough mana to lay Wellwisher. At this point, Jeremy has all green mana and I have all white, so we’re in equally crappy positions.
I play Dragon Scales on the Courier and swing in for five, then pass the turn. Jeremy draw a Mountain and plays Sparksmith and Krosan Warchief. I’m still on four Plains, so I attack while he gains life from the Wellwisher, then he plays Lightning Rift on his turn. I attack again and my face-down Ascending Aven dies in the attack (blocked by the Warchief, I believe). I play another morph and hand it back. The morph (a Daru Lancer) dies to Erratic Explosion (turning over Forgotten Ancient) and the Courier dies to a Sparksmith ping along with a Lightning Rift activation.
I draw and play a Mountain (eliciting a sympathetic”finally” from Jeremy) and play out Gustcloak Savior. He plays a Symbiotic Beast, I play nothing. He takes out the Savior with a Torrent of Fire and the Symbiotic Beast and Warchief take me to twelve while I Scattershot away the Wellwisher and Sparksmith. I play a Grassland Crusader, digging up the Dragon Scales, and pass the turn. The Beast hits me again, taking the life totals to 8-12, and he plays Snarling Undorak. I pull a Carbonize for the Krosan Warchief and attack with a non-tapping Crusader to take Jeremy down to nine.
He untaps and swings with the Symbiotic Beast and Undorak, I block the Undorak and the Crusader pumps itself to 5/8. The Undorak pumps itself to 6/6 to live, but I have a Spark Spray to finish it and I drop to four. I play a Dive Bomber on my turn. Jeremy draws and passes. I attack with the Crusader and Bomber, and Symbiotic Beast blocks the Crusader. I pump the Dive Bomber to hit Jeremy for four (life is now 4-5) and Carbonize the Beast, keeping it from the graveyard. Jeremy draws his card and cycles a Forgotten Cave at me, taking me to two life. He draws the cycling card: Decree of Savagery, which he also cycles to take me out.
Round 5: David Shiffman, W/B/R
Game 1: I win the roll and play first. We both play morphs on turn 3, and he blocks mine when I attack. My Skirk Commando trades with his Frontline Strategist and I play a face-down Ascending Aven, which gets Pacified on his turn.
I play Bonethorn Valesk and he drops Aurification, still at 20. Bad times; it looks like that lack of enchantment removal is going to be a major pain.
I swing in anyway, just looking to get in damage where I can, and play Gustcloak Savior. He landcycles a Noble Templar and plays Reaping the Graves to get it back (still on his turn). I bring the Savior and play Zealous Inquisitor. He casts the Templar and I have no play. He plays Dragon Shadow on the Templar, then casts Astral Steel to give it +2/+4 and hits me for six. Looks like double trouble on that enchantment front.
I hit him with the Inquisitor and play a Dive Bomber, which meets with Clutch of Undeath while the Templar hits me again. I play a face-down Frontline Strategist, which is more than matched by Chartooth Cougar. He Smothers the Strategist, but it doesn’t matter as I have no answer to the Templar. He flashes me Form of the Dragon from his hand, so there were plenty of nails for this coffin.
I board out the Bonethorn Valesk and Charging Slateback for a Unified Strike and Hindering Touch.
Game 2: I’m playing again and mulligan once into a hand without Mountains. I keep it anyway, but stall on the one Plains and one Island while David plays a Sparksmith. I draw a Mountain, and things are looking up as I Spark Spray his ‘Smith at the end of his turn. He eventually plays a Chartooth Cougar, and I can only offer Zealous Inquisitor. He hits me and adds Twisted Abomination. The Abomination meets Carbonize and, as I have only 1 plains to redirect with, I swing in. I take four from the Cougar and he plays Dive Bomber, which I Shock at the end of his turn. I draw the second Plains so I can redirect enough damage to kill the Cougar when I block, but he has a Pacifism and gets through for five more damage, taking me to three. I draw Ascending Aven and play it face down. With one more mana, I’d have been able to unmorph it after blocks and pump it with the Daru Encampment, killing the Cougar, but instead I have to chump block. I draw Gustcloak Savior though, and he teams up with the Encampment to trade with a pumped Cat Beast.
We play lands at each other for a while, and he even Smothers my Pacified Inquisitor for some reason. He eventually plays Silent Specter, and I Slice and Dice it off the board. He cycles a Renewed Faith to go back up to twenty, while I’m sitting with a Torrent of Fire and Shoreline Ranger in hand, hoping for him to draw and play the Form of the Dragon he showed me last game. I eventually draw another creature, a Grassland Crusader, and I play it and enchant it with Dragon Scales to try to start getting some damage in, but David has an Insurrection and kills me with it.
(Aside: Every player loses games, and I try not to let it get to me if and when I do so… But being knocked from top 8 contention by a fifty-some card limited deck really throws my personal pride for a loop. However, they are prizing the top 16, so I still have a shot at some product. Suck it up, Self; you got three more rounds to go.)
Round 6: John Malatich, G/R
Game 1: I win the roll and play first. I play Pearlspear Courier on turn 3 and John has no play. I swing in with the Courier, but I’m holding Slice and Dice and don’t want to commit a lot to the board, so I pass it back. He plays Words of War on his turn, and I decide not to attack, leaving the Courier open to grip itself should the Words be activated. We both take another turn doing nothing, but he Spark Sprays the Courier at the end of my turn. I activate it on itself, and he casts Sprouting Vines to get two mountains.
He plays Siege-Gang Commander, and I cycle Slice and Dice to kill the tokens. I leave the Courier tapped and play a Daru Lancer face-up. He taps out to lay Wirewood Guardian; I untap the Courier and play Daru Encampment, then pass the turn. He brings the Guardian and I block with the Courier, who pumps himself and gets Encamped to deal five, and when John finishes his turn I Scattershot to kill it off. However, he cycles a Primal Boost to save the Guardian and pull a juicy three-for-one.
Just then, he hits my Lancer with a Solar Blast, which doesn’t do anything. Oops.
I Shock his Commander on my turn and play Shoreline Ranger with the Encampment still available and pass the turn back. He plays Dragonspeaker Shaman and Explosive Vegetation but does not attack. I attack with the Ranger and play Zealous Inquisitor, leaving one white mana open. Admonishing John not to be casting any Dragon Tyrants, I pass the turn back. He activates the Words of War on the Inquisitor and I redirect one damage to the Guardian, but he plays Lavamancer’s Skill on his Shaman (which I allow to resolve instead of Carbonizing in response) and pings the Inquisitor away.
He attacks with the Guardian, and the Lancer plus Carbonize take it out. I attack back for six, taking him to nine, and play my last card, a morphed Charging Slateback. John does nothing on his turn and I attack with my three creatures. He blocks the face-down creature with the Shaman, then casts Claws of Wirewood with a Lavamancer ping to kill the Shoreline Ranger. However, the Daru Encampment pumps it up to survive and deal now-lethal combat damage.
I board out the Bonethorn Valesk for Aven Farseer.
Game 2: John is playing first and plays a Taunting Elf on turn 1. I play Farseer on turn 2, and he plays Lavamancer’s Skill on the Elf and shoots it down. I play a morph, and on his turn he hits it with Scattershot and a ping to kill it. I play nothing and he forestcycles a Wirewood Guardian on his turn to find land number 4 and I cycle Renewed Faith at the end of his turn. I still play nothing, as my hand is three lands and two Carbonizes.
He cycles Claws of Wirewood at the end of my turn and plays Siege-Gang Commander on his turn, which I Carbonize. I still draw no business cards and take three from token beats. I then draw Zealous Inquisitor and play it with four mana up. He casts Sprouting Vines for two Mountains and then untaps and plays Elvish Aberration. I lay another land and end my turn with four Plains and four Mountains open for Inquisiting.
He plays Dragonspeaker Shaman, Words of War and a morph before passing the turn pack, and I take this chance to Scattershot away a Goblin token, the Skilled Elf and the morph. I play a land and end my turn. We both engage in some land-playing for a few turns with no attacks on either side. I eventually draw Dragon Scales, suit up the Inquisitor, and swing in. John blocks with a token and I redirect the damage to the last token, leaving him with the Shaman and the Aberration. He still has no cards, and the Shaman chump blocks next turn. He casts Explosive Vegetation on his turn, and the judge announces that there are nine minutes left in the round.
My next attack gets in for three points – which is the first damage I’ve done to him so far this game. He plays Goblin Warchief and chumps with it when I attack. On his next turn he plays Goblin Pyromancer to get an extra copy of his Hunting Pack. This leaves him with two beasts and the Elvish Aberration so I don’t attack. Two turns later he plays Wirewood Guardian. On his turn, he Solar Blasts the Inquisitor (who still has Scales on), and I redirect the whole thing to the Aberration. He attack with his four creatures, and I block a beast token, redirecting two more to the Aberration and one to the beast, killing both creatures and taking me to nine.
(Aside: My score sheet says nine here, but I should have taken fourteen, not ten, in this attack. I can only assume that I didn’t count the damage from the Elvish Aberration because it was dying – but it should have hit me for four damage that I didn’t take. Neither John nor I caught this, and I only now realize it because according to the game state as I’ve reconstructed it from my notes, that is the only way it could have happened.
(If I had gone to five as I should have, John would probably have been able to Words of War me out and the match would likely have ended in a draw, but instead I went on to win the game at a fairly comfortable nine life. John, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.)
Anyway, I attack for three on my turn and play two morphs. He doesn’t draw anything to cast and passes. I hit for three more and play a third morph. At the end of his turn, I unmorph Ascending Aven and attack with it and the Inquisitor on my turn. He double-blocks the Inquisitor, so I unmorph Frontline Strategist, and he cycles a Primal Boost into the Words to kill the Aven as time is called. He plays a Goblin Taskmaster on the first of our five extra turns, and the Inquisitor comes in on the second. He triple blocks and I redirect enough to kill the Taskmaster and the Guardian, then play Shoreline Ranger, which regains the Dragon Scales. He doesn’t draw anything of note on the third turn, and on the fourth I swing with the Ranger to take him to seven. I Erratic Explosion him, which turns up Torrent of Fire to deal five, and use the Carbonize I’d had in hand almost the whole game to finish it.
Round 7: Steve Hoch, B/W
Game 1: Steve wins the roll and plays, and I mulligan once before we start the game. He plays a turn 2 Cabal Interrogator, then attacks with it and plays a Nantuko Husk on turn 3. I come back with Zealous Inquisitor, so he swings in with the Husk and lays Vengeful Dead. I play a fourth land and say go. He brings the Husk again and I block. He feeds it with the Interrogator and I redirect two damage to the Dead, losing two life to the Dead’s ability.
He drops a 4/4 Soulless One and passes the turn back. I cycle Shoreline Ranger and play a morph. The Soulless One hits me for four and Steve plays a Daru Warchief. I lay Gustcloak Savior and pass. Steve hits for four more with the One and plays… Mobilization. As many 2/3 tokens as you can pay mana for seems like a good thing. Kjeldoran Outpost never had it this good.
I slap Dragon Scales on the Savior and hit for four damage, but that’s all I can muster. He plays Dragon Shadow on the Soulless One and takes me to two. I draw a second Mountain and Torrent of Fire the Soulless One away and hit Steve down to six with the Savior, but he creates a few tokens and gets the last points through.
I board Bonethorn Valesk out for Unified Strike.
Game 2: I play first, but he has a turn 2 Wretched Anurid. I play a morph; he hits for three and plays Zealous Inquisitor. I hit back and play Dive Bomber. He hits for five and plays Daru Warchief, taking him to 14. I hit the Warchief with Torrent of Fire and attack, taking the scores to 12-10. He drops Dragon Scales on the Inquisitor and hits me for six, taking me to…
Four? My score sheet and game notes agree that I am now at four life, but I have no notes indicating how I got from twelve to ten. Either I took two more damage from something that I missed, or I miscomputed my life, and both would probably have been caused by the fact that I’m trying to both play and take notes at the same time. In any case, I’m now at four, however I got there, and Steve passes the turn back.
I hit back with the Dive Bomber and play Grassland Crusader (4-7). He hits my morph with Cruel Revival (it was Frontline Strategist) and hits in with the Anurid, which I choose not to block – although I now can’t think of a decent reason why. I’m now at one. I hit him again with the Bomber and play a morph and Pearlspear Courier (1-3). He puts Crown of Suspicion on the Anurid and swings with it and the Inquisitor. The morph blocks the Inquisitor (which redirects one to the Courier) and the Crusader blocks the Wretched Anurid and pumps itself up to survive. I untap and attack with a pumped Bomber to win the game.
Game 3: Steve plays and has turn 2 Wretched Anurid, turn 3 Nantuko Husk. I play a morph on turn 3, and it trades with the Anurid when it blocks the Husk on Steve’s attack. He plays Soulless One at 3/3 and ends his turn. I play another morph, and Steve hits me for three and plays Mobilization. I play Zealous Inquisitor, which trades with the One when it attacks. I attack with the morph, Steve makes a token and feeds the Husk to block. I unmorph Frontline Strategist to keep it alive (but it’s not a great attack overall).
I play Pearlspear Courier and Steve makes another token. He lays the Daru Warchief on his turn and hits for two with the token. I have nothing to play and get hit for two more when Steve attack with two tokens and the Pearlspear blocks one and pumps itself. He then plays Crown of Suspicion on his token and sacrifices to kill the Courier and Strategist. I manage to kill the Warchief and a few tokens when he attacks next turn with Unified Strike/Spark Spray/Scattershot, but the Mobo-Husk combo is more than I can handle.
Well, I’m now eliminated from all prize contention, but I don’t particularly feel like paying $15 for a draft – and who wants to end their day on a downbeat? Play on!
Round 8: Tracy Rosenburg, B/G
If that name looks familiar, it’s because this is the wife of Harry Rosenburg, who I played in round 2. We talk a little bit, and it turns out her brother is also at the tournament, sitting up at the first table, right next to my friend Tim May who drove me up to the site. She learned to play when her brother taught her as a surprise present to her husband, which I think is about the coolest thing ever.
Game 1: I’m playing first, but Tracy gets on the board first with Festering Goblin. She suits it up with Dragon Shadow on her second turn, but I’m prepared with Spark Spray. I play a morph and she plays Wirewood Elf. I hit with the morph and play another. She plays Clutch of Undeath on the second morph, a Frontline Strategist and ends her turn. I hit for two more and play Pearlspear Courier, and she plays Twisted Abomination. My morph goes unblocked and I end my turn.
She plays Crown of Vigor on the Abomination and hits me for six, and I cycle Renewed Faith and play Scattershot to kill her Elf at the end of her turn. I swing for four damage and play a Grassland Crusader, but she trumps me by a long shot with Silvos, Rogue Elemental. She doesn’t attack with the Abomination, so I swing back with my morph and Courier. The Abomination blocks the morph, which flips up to Charging Slateback and trades. I pump the Courier to hit for four, taking life totals to 16-6. She swings back with Silvos and uses Shade’s Breath to get two extra points, taking me to six. She doesn’t have a creature though, so I untap, grip the Crusader with the Courier, swing and pump for the last six damage.
Once again, I board out the Bonethorn Valesk for Aven Farseer – a card which really should have been in my main deck. It’s a soldier and a two-drop, of which I had none. The Valesk was fairly useful in some of the earlier matches, but it still only has two toughness for five mana, and the Aven was a better fit for my deck.
Game 2: She plays first and lays turn 1 Wirewood Symbiote, then a turn 3 Wall of Mulch. I play a morph to keep back the Symbiote, and Tracy matches me on her turn without playing another land. I get in for two damage, play yet another morph and pass. She plays a Wirewood Elf and ends her turn, and I bring both morphs. She blocks one with the Wall and one with her morph, which morphs into Ascending Aven. The one blocked by the Wall unmorphs into Frontline Strategist, and the Aven survives. She suits the Symbiote up with both Dragon Shadow and Crown of Vigor on her turn and hits me for three points. I hit back with the Ascending Aven and play a Daru Lancer face-up.
The Symbiote hits me again with a Shade’s Breath to deal two extra damage, making the life totals ten to fifteen. I attack with the Aven and Lancer, which gets blocked by the Wall. I use Spark Spray to finish the Wall, and Tracy forgets to draw a card from it. She realizes it almost immediately and I offer to let her draw the card, but she decides to play it straight and declines. I play Pearlspear Courier and end my turn. She draws, cycles Break Asunder and hits me with the Symbiote plus a Wirewood Pride for one, taking me to six life. I attack with the Lancer, Aven, and Strategist; she blocks the Lancer with the Elf and sends it back to her hand with the Symbiote. I hug the Strategist with the Courier to deal six damage, taking her to six, and play Torrent of Fire, fueled by the Lancer, to end the match.
I ended up placing 32nd out of the field of 180 – which isn’t too bad, but I would have liked to have won something. Jeremy (my round 4 opponent, remember?) got 3rd and a box, and Andrew Brown, my other teammate for the upcoming GP, got 9th and half a box after they drew with each other in the last round. Tim May, my ride, pulled 22nd, and we commiserated over our so-closeness (or, in my case, sort-of-closeness).
One card in my deck that really didn’t live up to expectation was Scattershot. There were exactly two instances where it was better than mediocre, and often I ended up just offing some random 2/2 at the first chance I got. While that’s not necessarily bad, the first chance I got was often a lot later than I would have liked, and constantly leaving three mana open for a long time will cost you dearly. Yeah, removal is removal, but this thing was so situational and generally weak that I don’t see myself maindecking it in the near future if I can help it.
Conversely, Spark Spray was generally very good. It only deals one damage, but it only costs one mana (which, incidentally, also makes it very appealing for creating Storms), and even cycles away for only one red. It’s a necessary effect for the right cost (instead of Scattershot’s three mana) and the cycling just puts it over the edge. If you’re playing red and this card is in your sideboard, you’re either doing something wrong or your deck is insane.
As I noted before, the Aven Farseer should have been main deck, but more than that I wish I had had some form of enchantment removal. The Dragon Parts enchantments are all playable, I think, but the Shadow was very difficult for me to deal with if put on a creature of any respectable size (see round 5, game 1), and the Mobilization that wrecked me in round 7 was no picnic either. A Wipe Clean would have gone a long way for me, I think.
I also saw a lot of third-color splashes. Not so much in my opponents, but in the games around us, a lot of people (myself included) had a few cards of a third color, and while that isn’t unusual for sealed, this time nobody was having any problems with it. Between morph, cycling, and now landcycling, two or three cards of a color is no problem. The two bird-soldiers I had in my deck were just fine, and I had more mana problems with my main colors than I ever did with the splash.
The landcyclers in general seemed to be very good all around, but the Twisted Abomination seems particularly tough. That thing is enormous, and the regeneration makes it very hard for most decks to take out. Clutch of Undeath and Cruel Revival don’t work, and most burn won’t get the job done. If you don’t have Carbonize, Pacifism, or Frozen Solid (another card I like more the more I see it in action), you’re in for a smacking.
That concludes my account of the Saturday Prerelease, and I hope that it was informative, entertaining, or even just a successful waste of a few minutes. If you did enjoy it, I’m not done just yet! I came back the next day to try my hand once again at the wonder that is Scourge, and a report of that day’s happenings will be forthcoming soon.