When I sit down across from someone at a prerelease tournament, I always ask the same thing:
“So how are your cards?”
I’m not prying for specific info, but rather a general idea of how happy someone is with what they’ve gotten. It’s a prerelease, baby, and it’s all fun – I just wanna know whether you’re excited.
Nobody asked me that question at the Lorwyn prerelease. But if they had, I would have had to answer, “Honestly? I have no idea.”
See, Lorwyn appears to be a reasonably tricky set. Unlike Onslaught, where you just put your bombs, your best morphs, and your strongest tribe in the same deck and hoped for the best, Lorwyn looks like it’ll be one of the trickier Sealed environment that we’ve seen. The tribes interact in surprisingly subtle ways, so much so that at first glance, I’d say that tribes almost matter as much as color.
It didn’t particularly help that I was operating on four and a half hours of sleep, and had already been up for twelve hours.
See, as the writer of Home on the Strange – you may have heard, I co-created a comic – I have to attend conventions to shill for my baby. This weekend was spent shilling at Context 20 in Columbus, Ohio, about two hours from my house. I went down to Context, put up sample comics, and gave talks on panels in the faint hope that some of the audience would become fans.
Foolishly, I did not procure a hotel room in Columbus. So after my first panel on Friday night, I turned around and drove back. When I got back in at 10:30 at night, there was a message from Ben – Wizards had officially spoiled the set by listing it as a valid set on Gatherer. The card information was now public data.
As the Official Webmaster And Data-Importer of StarCityGames.com, it was then my job to get the information off that spoiler and into the SCG databases as soon as possible. Which was four hours’ worth of work, and I didn’t get to bed until very late.
Then I couldn’t sleep. I was very wired from all the activity. But I had a 10:30 panel to attend.
So feeling woozy and chugging Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, I got down to Context, spoke on a few panels, schmoozed with some writers, and then headed over to the convention center at a little after six – just in time for them to call the last official flight.
But by then, I was exhausted, and could barely look at the cards straight.
You’d think that given that I’d spent the whole night importing the set information that I’d know the cards down cold, but no. I actually like being spoiled.
Even though it is in fact my job to put the card information into the system, I go very far out of my way to avoid what I’m looking at. If I could, I’d program through those big thick rubber gloves attached to a hole in a way – the kind that Homer Simpson uses at the nuclear power plant. I spent the entire evening going, “Glance, don’t look. Glance, don’t look.” As it was, I knew a lot of the card names, but no actual cards.
So showing up at the tournament, exhausted, run-down after a big sugar rush, and trying to sort through a new set? Not my greatest strategical moment, that’s for sure. Here’s what I opened:
- 1 Amoeboid Changeling
- 1 Ashling the Pilgrim
- 2 Black Poplar Shaman
- 1 Briarhorn
- 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
- 1 Cenn's Heir
- 1 Changeling Titan
- 1 Cloudcrown Oak
- 1 Dawnfluke
- 1 Deeptread Merrow
- 1 Elvish Eulogist
- 1 Exiled Boggart
- 1 Faerie Harbinger
- 1 Faultgrinder
- 1 Ghostly Changeling
- 1 Gilt-Leaf Seer
- 1 Goatnapper
- 1 Hearthcage Giant
- 1 Hornet Harasser
- 1 Ingot Chewer
- 1 Inner-Flame Acolyte
- 1 Kinsbaile Balloonist
- 1 Kithkin Daggerdare
- 1 Kithkin Greatheart
- 1 Kithkin Mourncaller
- 1 Lairwatch Giant
- 1 Merrow Harbinger
- 1 Moonglove Winnower
- 1 Mudbutton Torchrunner
- 1 Mulldrifter
- 1 Nath's Elite
- 1 Nightshade Stinger
- 1 Oakgnarl Warrior
- 1 Paperfin Rascal
- 1 Ringskipper
- 1 Seedguide Ash
- 1 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
- 1 Smokebraider
- 2 Soulbright Flamekin
- 1 Sower of Temptation
- 1 Spellstutter Sprite
- 1 Tar Pitcher
- 1 Timber Protector
- 1 Warren Pilferers
- 1 Warren-Scourge Elf
- 1 Woodland Changeling
- 1 Blades of Velis Vel
- 1 Crush Underfoot
- 1 Deathrender
- 1 Elvish Promenade
- 1 Eyeblight's Ending
- 1 Faerie Trickery
- 1 Giant's Ire
- 1 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
- 2 Glimmerdust Nap
- 1 Herbal Poultice
- 2 Hoarder's Greed
- 1 Hunt Down
- 1 Lash Out
- 1 Merrow Commerce
- 1 Militia's Pride
- 1 Oblivion Ring
- 1 Peppersmoke
- 1 Protective Bubble
- 1 Spring Cleaning
- 1 Summon the School
- 1 Surge of Thoughtweft
- 1 Wanderer's Twig
- 1 Weed Strangle
- 1 Wings of Velis Vel
Rather than hit the cards, which I kind of did in last week’s article, let’s talk overall strategy.
What stood out for me at first was the Faerie theme, the Treefolk theme, and the solid Black removal. The Faerie was quite nice, with Spellstutter Sprite potentially being a counterspell, the Faerie Trickery being an almost certain counterspell, and the Sower of Temptation being a solid Control Magic effect. Plus, I could fetch any of them on command, which I liked.
I wasn’t sure about Sower of Temptation; its effectiveness depended on how removal-heavy the set was. If Wizards was determined to get rid of guys through combat, it could be a bomb. If Wizards had a bunch of “shoot things” effects, it could be a fleeting theft.
Remember – I didn’t know. I looked through my Red and my Black, and frankly the Red had next to nothing in terms of destruction. And it didn’t look like it was weak overall, so I guessed that Wizards – given this was the tribal set – had probably nerfed removal a bit.
Okay, we’ll run it.
Next was the Kithkin-and-Treefolk theme. Kithkin I didn’t like, being a bunch of weenies without enough pressure here to do the job, but the Treefolk were good. The problem is that they were all huge, at least five mana, leaving me without any early plays. But I did have a lot of early plays in Faeries, pushing me further towards that.
The abundance of solid early Green, from Woodland Changeling to Briarhorn, and the abundance of fatties, made me realize that I was going to be in Green. But what else? It may be time to leave Faeries by the curb.
Black was a possibility. There were some fine removal spells (and I love the name “Peppersmoke” in addition to the potential cantripping). But aside from Hornet Harasser, Moonglove Winnower, and Warren Pilferers, I didn’t find any creatures I was excited about. I’d go with Black for removal. (While it did go with my Treefolk, the excellently-named-but-really-expensive-to-regenerate Black Poplar Shaman was in fact excellently named but too expensive to spend 2B to regenerate my guys.)
White? Well, we have the Kinsbaile Balloonist, which can help my Treefolk take flight (that’s one helluva balloon, buddy), and Lairwatch Giant, which is beefy but fragile for its cost. Oblivion Ring was good, but how common was enchantment removal? (As it turns out? Not so much. I undervalued the Ring because of that.)
Aside from that, Kithkin. Kithkin who need Kithkin are the luckiest Kithkin of them all. Unfortunately, my White Kithkin also need Giants, so they’re not lucky, and they sit on the sidelines.
And, finally, Red. It felt “Meh.” Obviously, Ashling the Pilgrim was a potential bomb, but it also wanted a lot of Red. Blade of Velis Vel would be an awesome combat trick, and tutorable with any Harbinger card. And Lash Out was removal with a potential upside. But outside of that, weenies. And not particularly impressive weenies.
There was the possibility of splashing Red to get the Soulbright Flamekin’s trample and dropping it on a Treefolk. That would have been cool, and made for a decent R/G beatdown deck. But I dismissed that, because I was very tired, and clearly rather than playing the simple beatdown deck I should play the tricky Faerie deck.
Here’s what I went with:
1 Amoeboid Changeling
1 Faerie Harbinger
1 Faerie Trickery
1 Glimmerdust Nap
1 Paperfin Rascal
1 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Spellstutter Sprite
1 Wings of Veils Vel
1 Changeling Titan
1 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
1 Gilt-Leaf Seer
1 Kithkin Daggerdare
1 Oakgnarl Warrior
1 Seedguide Ash
1 Timber Protector
1 Woodland Changeling
1 Eyeblight’s Ending
1 Wanderer’s Twig
1 Shimmering Grotto
Three swamps, and some Islands and Forests – I did not keep the deck, and thus do not have exactly what I played.
So how’d it go?
I’m sorry. It must be frustrating to show up to your first round of the Prerelease, only to be beaten senseless by a tired guy who keeps reading the cards and making terrible plays.
Yes, I stole your Imperious Prefect with my Sower of Temptation, then stupidly attacked into your 2/2 flier because I was too tired to note that it flew. It didn’t help your morale at all that you blocked, and I went, “Oh, crap! Right,” and then woozily tapped the mana for Briarhorn. And then won in the air over the next seven turns.
The second game probably was even less fun, as you were playing a W/R deck, and once I got out all three of my five-mana Treefolk and refused to attack with the one who made all of them invulnerable, you had no hope. You conceded, angrily, at fourteen life.
There was no skill involved in this game. I’m not saying that you should have won, but rather that you losing really wasn’t your fault.
This was a chatty, friendly guy – great! The kind of person I wanted to play against. And when I asked, “How’s your deck?” he said “Great.”
I like that. It’s confidence.
I chronicled the first game in last week’s article – that would be the one where thanks to Warren Pilferers and Footbottom Feast, he played Shriekmaw four times. I was slightly mana-screwed, but even if I wasn’t it would have been hard to come back from that.
The second game was over quickly; I got a good hand, and fought past a Pestermite or two to smash him. He destroyed my Treefolk, but I just made more and stomped face.
The third game was the interesting one. I knew his deck was superior to mine, packed with a lot of removal, but he was stalled at three land. I’d been aggressively throwing everything I had at him, coming out with some fairly potent stuff and trying to overwhelm him before he set up, but he’d drawn both of his Pestermites and had staunched the flow of blood. I Peppersmoked one of them. With three cards in hand and nothing left on the table, it was my land, a Glimmerdust Nap, and a Faerie Harbinger to his five cards and a Pestermite.
(I don’t remember his life, but it was in the twelvish range.)
What do you tutor for? You could fetch:
- Sower of Temptation, to take his Pestermite;
- Sentinels of Glen Elendra, to act as a blocker (but he’d know it was coming);
- Faerie Trickery, to stop his next spell.
- (The Spellstutter had been used previously, in case you were wondering.)
I thought about it, and wasn’t sure. Sower of Temptation was good, but getting a Pestermite didn’t seem like a great move – given that he had five cards in his hand and they weren’t land, when he started to get land I had a feeling he could cap my Sower with ease.
Faerie Trickery might do it, but then again I’d stop one spell – and he’d know it was coming, and to play around it. That didn’t seem right, either.
I went with the Sentinels, to try to stop him from attacking with the Pestermites and to buy some time. It was the wrong move. If he’s stronger than I am, then a 2/3 isn’t going to make a difference. Sower, on the other hand, has the possibility of doing an extra six damage to the dome the next turn if he doesn’t draw removal or another flier (Pestermite+Faerie Harbinger+Sower itself), and even if it does it draws the removal away from the beef in my deck.
Another option would have been to get the Elemental Champion and try to race with a 7/7, but I was leery of that as well. I had one guy on the board, and that was my Harbinger. One removal spell and I was toast… And he’d know it was coming, so he could set up for it. But it was an option I should have considered a little harder.
(Even the Faerie Trickery, to slow him down while I tried to build up, would have been a more defensible option.)
It was the worst possible choice. But I was tired. At the same time, it’s nice to know when you lose to terrible decision.
I hear tell you were playing R/G/w. I say “Hear tell” because you drew two Forests in the first game, and three Forests in the second. I crushed you like a bug.
We played a game for fun. You had to mulligan down to five then, too, and you were running eighteen land. I let you draw a fresh hand of seven for fun, and then I beat you in a slightly longer game.
I don’t know whether your deck was any good. I do know that, well, it didn’t show up this round. Sorry!
Another friendly guy. That was good. Very smiley, I can’t even remember what he was playing aside from “Blue.”
That said, this was a terrible game for me because in the first round, I kept a land-heavy land and drew fourteen land before the game was out. It went long, but I managed to pull it out – barely – because I kept Clashing away excess lands and Mulldriftering past the flood. The fifteen cards I had left in my deck were awesome, every one.
People are down on Clash. Yes, my opponent gets to smooth his draw, too. But at least at the prerelease, it worked more often in my favor (and I did have the Gilt-Leaf Seer to fix that a little). All I know is that if it hadn’t been for my own Clash effects, I would have died to a flood of five straight lands. I powered past those and managed to win at three life.
He killeded me day-ed in the second game. No particular strategy – he just zonked me with something huge and flying, I can’t remember what.
The third game was close. We’d traded all of our creatures and removal, and it was down to topdecking and racing – very exciting. He was attacking in the air with flying creatures, I was attacking on the ground with 2/2s and a pair of Gilt-Leafed tokens. As it was, the race was close; he beat me when he was at six life, which he probably wouldn’t have had I not drawn sixteen of my seventeen lands.
It was a good game, don’t get me wrong. Again, all the Clashing helped me flash past those, so instead of getting generically mana-flooded it was genuinely exciting. It was a race both on the ground and through my deck. I lost, but it felt like I could have won, which was nice.
In the end, I went 2-2. And stumbled home. Exhausted.
Good day, though. A good day.
The Weekly Plug Bug
Karla, drunkened by a plotting Tanner, called out for help and got some from an unexpected source. Now the last survivor must discover the mystery of what Tanner’s up to… And it’s probably not what you expected. Much is revealed this week on Home on the Strange!
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