First Thoughts on Dissension

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With the Dissension release now mere days away, and Pro Tour Prague just around the corner, eyes are turning to RGD Draft. The recent prerelease was the first time us mere mortals laid our hands on the cards. Today, Nick shares his prerelease experience, and runs through some of the strong (and weak) cards that’ll see Limited play in the weeks and months to come.

For the past few weeks I’ve been on an extended visit in Sioux Falls, South Dakota staying with my fiancée. I was concerned that this visit would cause me to miss the Dissention prerelease, but after looking on the DCI site I decided that it wouldn’t be too tough to make the three-and-a-half hour drive down to Lincoln, Nebraska to attend the event. I wish there would’ve been something closer, but as it stands there really isn’t much of a Magic scene here in Sioux Falls.

I was very excited to play with the new set, as the overall power level looked very high, and I’m also looking forward to drafting the full block a lot back in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, I was not disappointed at the prerelease and I love the new set.

A Sealed Build
While I played a few different events at the prerelease, including a three person teams event with two guys that I had just met that day, the Sealed build that I want to focus on for this article was the one I had to do for a Main Flight that saw me go undefeated. This build was a bit tougher than normal, simply because you get the 3rd pack of Dissention, and a lot of the cards are stronger in Dissention as well which makes it hard to narrow down some slots. Take a look at the card pool…

Dissension Prerelease Pool
Nick Eisel
Test deck on 04-30-2006
Ravnica Limited

I know, that’s a heck of a lot of cards.

The tough thing with this card pool was that I could either go UBg or Gbu, and you could make a good argument for either build. The card pool is very strong overall, and there should be no doubt that the Black has to make the cut. I ended up going with the Green as a base color instead of Blue, because I felt like it gave me a better early game and I’d need the early Green mana to play Shambling Shell and Assault Zeppelid. I’ll offer more explanation after I show the configuration I chose to run.

Here’s what I finally decided to play:

So many things to talk about, and I’m not even sure where to begin.

First off, most people would instinctively play 16 land in this deck, and they wouldn’t be too wrong to do so. I looked around the room and saw absolutely nobody that I recognized, and had also talked to the owner of Hobbytown USA (where the event was held) and he said that the competition was about as easy as it gets. Because of this, I decided to go ahead and run 17 land since my better spells were at the high end, and I also had Compulsive Research and Rakdos Guildmage to fix my draws if I should get flooded. This, however, was no simple decision.

If you take a look at the manabase you will see that I could’ve cut it down to 16 land and still had plenty of mana by simply replacing a Forest with the Selesnya Sanctuary from my sideboard. For a bit of the time during deckbuilding, this is what I was planning to do, until I looked again at my early drops and decided I’d rather just be more consistent, even if it meant I could conceivably get manaflooded more often. I’m still not sure if this was the right call, and if I was in a room full of more experienced players I would’ve certainly found a way to trim this deck down to 16 land.

Before I get on to other things, it’s worth looking at the manabase to see that I ran the Azorius bounce land over the Selesnya one, since I would need actual Green mana in the early game and my Blue mana could be more flexible. Therefore, I need Forest on the first few turns of most games, but I can afford to have my “Island” come into play tapped without too much disruption to my overall curve. This is an important concept for Sealed deck building as I could’ve run either of the lands in this spot, but the Azorius one is so much better. If you haven’t figured it out by now, running the bounce land over an Island is very beneficial to my overall mana count even though I can’t use the White mana it produces.

As far as actual card choices and cuts, there were a lot of close calls.

Mortipede got the last actual slot because I figured it would be better against weaker players and also help me to win the race with flyers by using the ability to get through. If I were building the deck on pure power level though, Mortipede wouldn’t be anywhere near the final build when you look at the other cards in my pool. Heck, even Greater Mossdog could’ve had this slot, but I decided Mortipede would be more beneficial since I didn’t plan on dredging the dog.

Helium Squirter
Deceptive little guy, isn’t he? On the surface he looks like another Sea Snidd.

Look closer, he’s actually Aven Windreader! The catch is that he’s actually better than any of the 3/3 Fliers for five mana that we’ve seen in recent memory. He can give most of your team flying, if you’ve got more Graft cards, and he only costs one Blue mana. This guy was in the build of my deck until the very final stages where I decided that I needed to cut a Blue card and I wanted Tattered Drake in the deck instead. This was a judgment call, and could’ve even been the wrong one, but the way the mana worked out, I needed to cut something Blue and this guy got the axe.

In normal situations, and especially in Draft, this guy should be picked highly and always make the maindeck. It’s worth mentioning that he’s also a great splash card if you don’t already have a lot of fliers.

A lot of good Blue cards managed to stay on the sidelines because I just couldn’t fit everything while also having a good manabase. Believe me, I wanted to play Novijen Sages, and I wanted to combo Vigean Graftmage with Vedalken Entracer, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Hopefully I don’t have to explain why Twinstrike made the deck, since I had the Blood Crypt as well as the Rakdos bounce land, and the ability to use the Red mana on the Rakdos Guildmage. Adding a fourth color splash in this situation was essentially “free,” since I didn’t even have to include a Mountain.

Oh, and the Simic Sky Swallower gets my vote for best rare in the set for Limited at this point. Yes, I know that Demonfire is also a rare and that Fireball has been historically the best card in the set hands down, but once you cast the Sky Swallower, you may just agree with me. I can’t see too many situations where I cast the big flier and don’t win within the next few turns. Fireball – or Demonfire, if you will – is often used in the early game to just kill a guy to keep up the pace, and takes quite a while to end the game. It’s still insane, but it’s no 6/6 flying, trampling, untargetable creature.

I also want to discuss some of the other cards in my card pool that didn’t make my deck, because I have more general opinions of them pertaining to Draft.

Some Initial Card Values
So I guess you could call this an over/under-rated section based on my first impressions from the prerelease last weekend. I want to take each Dissention guild individually and look that the card values, as well as look at what paths you can take in Ravnica and Guildpact to put yourself in good position to maximize the Dissention booster for each particular guild. This will be a three-week series, one for each of the Dissention guilds, and I want to start with the best one, the Simic, next week.

It is for this reason that I don’t want to get too deep into the underrated cards portion, because I would like to do them guild-by-guild. Hopefully that made sense and wasn’t just a bunch of rambling. Expect to see an outline of the Simic guild next week, as well as some drafting thoughts on the first two packs if you are trying to get into Simic in pack 3.

Minty fresh!

Shielding Plax
I realize earlier that I mentioned that the competition level at the Lincoln prerelease wasn’t very high, and that would factor into why this card was being overrated, but I do want to talk about it anyway.

At least four different people played this thing on me, and I would like all of my readers to know that it isn’t very good. I believe anyone who plays it is blinded by the fact that it says draw a card on it, and therefore must be good. The fact of the matter is that you’d need a very specific situation for the card to be useful where you had a creature that you didn’t want to be killed, and you had this window of opportunity to play Shielding Plax without worrying about getting two-for-one’d by a removal spell in the process. Remember, the reason you’re playing this card is to protect a valuable creature, so it’s likely that the opponent will be waiting to use a removal spell on said creature if you give him a chance to. The only way I could possibly see playing this is if I was short on cards, and also had a few of the Guildpact Magemarks in my deck that this could power off of.

Otherwise, please leave it in the sideboard. It doesn’t really do anything.

Enemy of the Guildpact
I believe this card is solely a skill tester. Players see this and say “Oooh, protection from multicolored, this is new… must be pretty good right?” Wrong.

Remember Fallen Cleric? That guy was filler, and if for no other reason than he was a random morph. He also had the element of surprise working for him in that you could get in a fight with a Cleric and after damage flip him up and gain a card.

Enemy of the Guildpact can’t even be a random morph. This is nothing more than a very narrow sideboard card when your opponent has an abnormally large amount of gold creatures and/or removal. Trust me, this situation won’t come up very often, even though this is the multicolored block.

That being said, I’ve surely played much worse cards in the past, and I suspect I’ll be forced to run this piece of junk sometime in the coming weeks, even after I just preached to all of you that it isn’t good at all.


Mercadian Masques was the one block where I had quit playing Magic for a year, and therefore didn’t get to play with this card when it first came out. However, we do “goof” drafts on a semi-regular basis, which is just using packs from old sets that were never played together. This creates an interesting format as you’re combining things like Sunburst, Flanking, and Invasion Block gold cards.

Getting back to the point… I suspect that this card will be overrated at first, especially on Magic Online because it looks good at first sight. When you actually think about the overall picture, you should realize that unless you have lots of guys out, the fact that this is a Sorcery is going to take a lot away from it. Of course, it is playable when you have some of the Graft dudes who can then use their abilities on all of your guys. It’s nice when Helium Squirter suddenly becomes Wonder. The card is also great in anything with Selesnya and token generation, of course.

My overall evaluation is that while I suspect it will be much better this time around, it is still not a high pick, and I don’t think I’d like having more than one copy in my deck. The card is very specialized and doesn’t just go into any deck.

Delirium Skeins
If Shielding Plax was overplayed at the prerelease I went to, then you could be sure that most people there considered this card an auto-inclusion.

I’m not going to discount it entirely, because if you do manage to draft a super-aggressive BR deck that can dump its hand early, then this thing becomes Mind Twist while also turning on all of your Hellbent dudes. I saw plenty of people playing this in slow decks just because they had a few Hellbent cards, and it really has no place in anything but hyper aggression. I can definitely see it finding a home in Constructed, but for the most part this should not be making your Limited decks unless you have a very good reason.

Sporeback Troll and Simic Basilisk
I realize that Basilisk is uncommon, but I just want to lump these two together to get my point across.

First of all, Troll is slightly overcosted as a 2/2 regenerator for 3G, if that was all that it did. Granted, you can turn one of your other guys into a regenerator while keeping the Troll around, but this isn’t all that great on its own. In a dedicated Graft deck, I can see playing a Troll or so, but only because I’d have +1/+1 counters flying around everywhere and wouldn’t need the Troll to do all the work.

Basilisk, on the other hand, is not very good. For six mana I only get a 3/3 with a medium ability that can be pretty easily disrupted? Both cards are probably going to be overrated because it’s a new mechanic, but if I had my choice in a deck with lots of ways to distribute counters, I’d certainly want the Troll, as regeneration is a much better ability.

Cytospawn Shambler
This guy is an entirely different story than the above two cards, as he is actually very cost efficient for what he does. Now that the full block is out, this guy is much better than Siege Wurm, assuming you won’t get a mass of token generators, and he also doubles in that he is extremely splashable. I really like this card as it can power up your whole team and still be a formidable attacker itself (with the trample ability). The only thing against it is that by the time it gets out you may not have anyone left to Graft onto, but hey, 6/6 trample for G6 is plenty good enough in my book. And you will be drawing creatures off the top in the later turns as well, possibly even fliers that make Graft that much better.

The Eidolons
Obviously the best of this cycle are the Blue and Black versions. The degree of their playability will depend on the overall number of ways to return them in your deck, as well as whether or not you can make use of the Blue Eidolon with some Dimir stuff. The Green version could also be useful to pop out a big fatty and get it back in the same turn.

Overall, these are interesting cards that are playable, but again, not high picks. Oh, and having multiples is definitely valuable, as you can trigger them all at once. My pick for the most played in Draft would easily be the Black Eidolon, because the ability is most synergistic with the color’s overall strategy.

I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, but I want to save most of my other stuff and do it guild by guild. Next week I’ll be starting with the Simic Guild, and hopefully I’ll be able to also help you with some overall drafting ideas now that we’ve got the full block on our hands.

Nick Eisel
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