I’ll save you the road trip anecdotes and get right to the action. I arrived in Portland after a three-hour drive to get there at nine o’clock (not ten, like every other event I’ve ever been to), wait in line an hour to register for the organizer’s new”flight” system, and after waiting a whopping two hours or thereabouts, finally get cards to register. My Onslaught starter has a Visara, Doomed Necromancer, and Cruel Revival. Of course I don’t get that one back.
Yes, I am a bit cranky. Probably just old age sneaking up on me. This was not the best-run event I’ve been to, but more on that later. My new deck, with three packs of Scourge, was clearly a step down. This is what I cracked open:
Crown of Suspicion
Words of Waste
Shepherd of Rot
Reaping the Graves
Clutch of Undeath
Thunder of Hooves
Goblin War Strike
Crown of Vigor
Wall of Mulch
Aven Farseer x2
Dragon Wings x2
Thundercloud Elemental x2
I thought this set was supposed to be about the fatties? I certainly didn’t have many in the non-green categories. White and black presented the best options, clearly, but what for the splash? Red offered a bit of burn, but I chose blue, for the number of fliers it offered – but since I splashed blue, I decided not to put in two powerful spells with double blue in their casting or morph cost; Frozen Solid and Riptide Survivor. Dawn Elemental was my last cut; that casting cost of WWWW meant that I’d probably never get it out until it was too late to make much of a difference.
I ultimately ended up with this:
2x Aven Farseer
Clutch of Undeath
Reaping the Graves (never cast it once)
I had oodles of fliers and unblockable creatures, as well as a pinch of removal, I thought deck was decent if unspectacular. I was rushed for time to get the deck registered, so I forgot to include my Secluded Steppe in my original lands. Yeah, I could have easily slipped it in, as no one was doing any deck checks, but I’ve got these pesky ethics of mine.
I look at this deck list now…What was I thinking? Thrashing Mudspawn? The lack of sleep was definitely affecting me here. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Round 1: Kurt Gabaldon (R/G)
Hey, I’m seated at Table 1 for this round. I must be in the front row…
I get a nice start, adding to my air force with a turn 2 Aven Farseer and turn 3 Mistform Dreamer. Unfortunately, that means I walk into a stormed Scattershot and lost my air force after casting a turn 4 Zealous Inquisitor. Kurt’s still a little mana shy, though, and has cast no creatures and is eventually forced to discard his Centaur Glade. By the time he can get going, I’ve cast Dragon Shadow on a Nantuko Husk and he steams across for the kill.
Game two, Kurt opens with a Goblin Sledder; I answer with Coast Watcher. A turn 4 Sage Aven reveals my next four draws will be land. Ouch. Still, I’m able to come over with the flying beats until Kurt drops a Dragon Mage, and I answer with Force Bubble. My attempt at an alpha strike with a stormed Astral Steel go awry when I do the math wrong and leave Kurt at one, but he has no answer for my scary Severed Legion enchanted with Clutch of Undeath.
Round 2: Karl Burlingame (G/W)
I get a dreamy opening of turn 2 Farseer, turn 3 Glory Seeker, turn 4 Nantuko Husk, but get stuck on three mana. Kurt drops a Farseer of his own and a Symbiotic Elf to staunch the beats. His beats get much scarier with a Silklash Spider, but I drop a Force Bubble to end the threats. I think. That’s when I learn that Force Bubble works off of points of damage, not sources of damage. Well, jeez, if I’d known that, I’d have put the Aurification in the main deck. I thought this card was good – man alive, I should read the FAQs more often.
Still, it saves me for a turn from a Farseer enchanted with Mythic Proportions, then I drop Lingering Death on it, take nine, and stabilize at eleven life. The board gets messy for a while as we drop creature after creature. Karl goes for an alpha strike, I block accordingly, and he flips his Frontline Strategist – a wonderful sealed card – to prevent losing his army. I answer with a Clutched-up Severed Legion, and win the game – barely – with my own Strategist acting as a last-ditch Fog. Strategist = some good, let me tell you.
Game two, Karl keeps the one land hand, while I get the start of turn 2 Glory Seeker, turn 3 Husk, turn 4 Sage Aven and that’s all she wrote.
Round 3: Ben Vincent (R/W)
This is the”product round,” where the winners get one pack of Scourge. Works for me.
Ben goes in the offense early with a Rock Jockey, then the insanely-good Siege-Gang Commander, while my best answers are Aven Farseer and Sage Aven. Still, fliers are fliers, and we trade damage for a while until it becomes a very bad idea to do so, when I get down to twelve life and he has five goblins in play. I peel Dragon Shadow of the top, cast it on a Nantuko Husk, and come across for the alpha strike before he can kill me with the Commander and his cronies.
Game two, I get a very slow start, having only a Glory Seeker to start with, and Ben again gets the Siege-Gang Commander. I play out Force Bubble to buy me some time, and Ben sends a Goblin War Cry my way to get rid of it. I find a Zealous Inquisitor and send it into the red zone, daring him to block it, but he instead kills it with Unified Strike.
Hmm. Ben must have missed the memo that that is a bad card. Still, it’s gotten rid of one of my best creatures.
After that, I stall on creatures and he burns me out with the Siege Gang Commander. I burn through over half my deck and never get the double black I need to demorph the Silent Specter sitting on the board and cast all the double black spells in my hand. Mana troubles plagued me throughout the day, even with landcyclers.
Game three is short, because we run out of time, and my last-ditch attempt at an alpha strike is foiled by Frontline Strategist. It ends in a draw.
So who gets the pack? Nobody! The judge comes over and takes it away before we can even offer some sort of split.
Now I am more than mildly irked.
Round 4: Ian Johnson (B/G)
We were paired up last round, but got re-paired due to some kind of error. And he also beat me up at Regionals, two weeks ago.
Ah, a revenge match! I do well during these kinds of affairs.
My deck is nice to me game one, offering an Aphetto Alchemist and a Nantuko Husk early, and I get a few beats in before encountering a de-morphed Spitting Gourna, forcing me to sacrifice the Alchemist. Nice knowing you, pal, thanks for stopping by. I use Clutch of Undeath to make the Husk really big, but Ian has an answer in Prowling Pangolin. I, too, have an answer, using Death Pulse during combat to take it out, and from there, the 5/5 goes the distance for the win.
Game two sees me make a few minor play mistakes that probably cost me the game… Like attacking with my Nantuko Husk into his Zombie Cutthroat and Bladewing’s Thrall when I should have used Lingering Death to take out one blocker beforehand.
Final game comes down to Dave failing to read the cards. I attack with a de-morphed Silent Specter into a Death’s-Head Buzzard. I thought it was just target creature, like Festering Goblin, not all creatures. Combined with a cycled Primal Boost, I end up with no creatures on the board, and Ian only has a morph, which turns out to be Root Elemental, which ends up bringing his friend Symbiotic Wurm into play…
…and that’s all she wrote. Phooey.
Round 5: Tom Carter (R/G)
Win, I get product. Lose, I go home dejected.
Game one goes to Tom. I get a decent opening, but he storms up a Sprouting Vines, giving him a big mana advantage, then starts dropping big beasts to go along with a Contested Cliffs, and a Treetop Scout with Extra Arms (oh, that’s just lovely) and my decidedly small ground forces fall in short order.
Game two, I get a fast start with a turn 2 Glory Seeker, then a Coast Watcher, and demorph an Ascending Aven on turn 5. Even with a Sprouting Vines, he draws no creatures and I beat him down before he can get any.
The final game sees me very creature-light, and Tom doesn’t have that problem, especially with a Forgotten Ancient getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I make a big mistake with my Zealous Inquisitor, blocking a morph with it – that morph turned out to be Serpentine Basilisk. I could have redirected the damage to kill the Forgotten Ancient, and that’s what did me in, as he ended up spreading twelve tokens around to get his army through for the final alpha strike.
So I finish 2-2-1. And go home dejected.
That’s not a big thing, really. As much as I like winning product, I primarily come for the chance to play a new set for the first time. Unfortunately, I will have to take the tournament organizers to task. I arrived at nine, played my last match at 5:30 – for almost nine hours in one place, and no lunch break, I got to play five matches. This is unacceptable. Five matches aren’t going to cut it.
The flight system was interesting in theory, but in practice, I’d have to call it a failure. I would much rather have larger flights of at least 128 and be guaranteed seven rounds of play than this supposedly”streamlined” system. The organizers did not have the manpower or enough computers to execute this as smoothly as they would have liked.
If the TOs continue to use this system, I don’t think I’ll be attending any more prereleases.
So what are my opinions of the set, from what I saw (which, based on five rounds, wasn’t much)?
I’m not sure. It’s keeping with the Timmy-ness we’ve come to expect from OnBC. But unless Mirrodin keeps with the trend of overpriced creature removal, underpowered hand denial, and neutered counterspells, I don’t know how good most of these cards will be in the full Standard Environment.
That being said, here’s what caught my eye. We’ll see how accurate my predictions are in a month or so:
Call to the Grave
Probably more of a OnBC card, but even for an extra mana, the Abyss-like effect is very powerful. Mono-black Clerics, like my Regionals deck, could use this in Block very effectively.
All the Warchiefs are pretty good, but this guy could move Goblins back into Tier I contention.
Decree of Annihilation
I doubt I’ll be casting it much, but the cycling effect-an instant-speed Armageddon – will have a home somewhere.
Like Harrow, but without the sac-a-land drawback. Should make four- and five-color green decks playable in Standard again.
Ark of Blight
Landkill rises again? Maybe. Perhaps I can finally create a working Dark Ponza build. With Pillage, Stone Rain, and Rancid Earth, there’s more than enough to make it work. (Well, except for a casting cost below three – The Ferrett)
You want a Slide killer, here it is. Expect to see a lot of this in OnBC sideboards.
A Dragon you can use to get land, and he keeps coming back for more? Again, probably a better OnBC card but not to be scoffed at for Slide decks of all colors, possibly as an alternate kill mechanism.
After Sprouting Vines, maybe the best storm card in the set.
Your only defense against a cycled Decree of Annihilation. Works against a number of other targets as well. Too bad it’s not a cantrip.
There’s certainly more, but this is what I like the most. Not a bad list, but not a great list, either. Time will tell if this third set is comparable to either Prophecy or Apocalypse.