Removed From Game – ShadowFUN

Read Rich Hagon every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Tuesday, April 22nd – With only a month until Standard and Block formats come to dominate the world of Pro Magic, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason Magic gets made – it’s FUN. Join Rich Hagon for an interactive journey through Prerelease weekend, where your tales of woe and wickedness will help spread the word – Magic is some of the best times ever.

I understand it. Shadowmoor has been on the horizon for a good few weeks now, and coinciding with the downtime of Magic Online, a whole bunch of people, including me, have been perhaps even more keen than usual to find out what’s gone into the new set. The world of Pro Magic has had a definite impact on this too, since Pro Tour: Hollywood is just over a month away, showcasing the next generation of Standard, and Grand Prix: Birmingham follows just a week later, bringing LorMorMoor Block Constructed to center stage. That means that pretty much everyone here at StarCityGames.com has been eagerly devouring every scrap of information about Shadowmoor, whether it’s from the official Wizards of the Coast drip-feed, or the insanely popular MTGSalvation.com.

I’m the first person to admit that getting a jump on the competition feels good, and even though I’m not playing at the big marquee events, I really need to have some clue what’s going on in the world of Sealed (Brussels), Standard (Hollywood), and Block (Birmingham), all within one calendar month of Shadowmoor hitting the streets. That makes the case for reading Messrs. Scott-Vargas, Chapin, Flores and the rest near inviolate.

But there’s one problem with all this information. Sniff the air, and there’s a distinct smell of fish going around. If you haven’t been around the game for ages, you may think I’ve gone clinically insane. The more historically astute will have spotted an oblique reference to Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz. See, Zvi reminded us in an article from the last millennium that if you teach someone how to fish, they get to eat forever. If you give someone a fish, they eat for one meal. Zvi argued, I believe correctly, that decklists and individual card evaluations are the fish of Magic. Swans of Bryn Argoll is good, and here’s a deck that showcases it. Here’s the Reveillark Combo deck that will be dead online in two weeks because the Metagame has hunted it out of existence. Here’s Tattermunge Maniac, he’s amazing for Aggro. This may all be true, but it certainly doesn’t help you to work these things out for yourself. If you’ve been playing for a couple of years or less, the chances are that you still don’t know how Flores evaluates the Maniac. That knowledge would allow you to look at all the 240 or so cards that weren’t spoiled on MagictheGathering.com, and have a better idea of how to evaluate at least some of them for yourself. Of course, you could just wait for a card by card set review, but if you do you’re still going to find yourself looking out of the window and hoping that the fish man delivers on time this week.

Just occasionally, wouldn’t it be simply more fun if you went into a Prerelease knowing only what the people who devote themselves to making the game wanted you to know? In other words, for a few short days we relied solely on our own wits and experience and skills to analyse a new set, before settling back down to getting the real knowledge from the best in the business? We wouldn’t be going in blind, because 65 cards have been given to us over on the mothership.

I have to be honest, this position was somewhat thrust upon me this time around, since for the last 10 days or so I’ve had extremely limited net access, due to doing absurd things like going on holiday with my wife and daughter – what was I thinking? Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking as I landed back in Britain on Friday night:

“Holy wow, it’s the PRERELEASE tomorrow!!!! I get to see all those new cards! Interactions! Special spells! Shake up Standard! The future of Block! Hubba hubba hubba!”

Actually, the hubba hubba hubba bit was rhetorical. But the excitement wasn’t. Having spent Saturday in the company of well over 300 people at The Games Club in central London, and then Judged on Sunday at my local Prerelease, my excitement is still considerable, and part of that excitement is based on the fact that I haven’t yet read the articles where I’m told which cards are good, and more importantly which cards shouldn’t be anywhere near mine, or anyone elses, Sealed Deck.

So, before we get down to the ultra-serious business of breaking assorted Constructed formats, defining pick orders for Draft archetypes, and making sure we have four of all the key cards, I need your help. I’m going to talk very briefly about every card spoiled officially before the Prerelease, and I want you to help me compile the Story of Prerelease Weekend, through your experiences with these cards. I know for a fact that thousands of you read us here every week, and I’m guessing that a large percentage of you were playing somewhere this past weekend. So do me, and all the other readers a favor, and give us all the benefit of your FUN Prerelease stories. By the end of this week, I’m sure we can have a list in the forums covering something for every single card I list here. I’ll give some pointers for what I’m looking for. Sometimes I’ll be trying to tease out important information about the practical value of a card. More often I’ll be looking to find out the most absurd abuses you perpetrated, were the victim of, or just plain heard about at your Prerelease experience. Because even Bog Hoodlums has its day, and that day is Prerelease day, when even the worst can pretend to be the best.

Thanks for your help, and let’s go!

Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers – Is 3/4 Vigilance for 3 really good? Or did it just die to even bigger three drops?

Demigod of Revenge – Three questions. First, who can lay claim to the most DoR chicanery? I’m sure somebody contrived to get two into play, but statistically somebody somewhere will have pulled off the Trinity. Tell me. Second, I really want to hear about your DoR getting countered and then putting itself into play courtesy of the trigger. Because that’s the kind of thing that only happens early, before everyone hears about it. And third, how many people do you know who tried to play their Prerelease foil version in their Sealed Deck?

Leech Bonder – ooh, counter chicanery. What’s the nastiest thing you got to do with this?

Ballynock Cohort – In your experience, a 2/2 or a 3/3?

Inkfathom Infiltrator – Do we care that it can’t block? And is unblockable any good these days? And by the way, awesome artwork.

Wingrattle Scarecrow – I guess a 2/2 flyer for 3 would be pretty okay. How was it? And did you like the Scarecrows coming into Magic?

Order of Whiteclay – Is it only me, or are those eyes really really scary? I loved the Kithkin in Lorwyn, this lot are creepy.

Curse Of Chains – People always like to give ‘hooks’ to new cards as a way of fixing them in their mind. So this guy is apparently a ‘new Pacifism.’ But if we called it a ‘new Pacifism variant’ we might be closer to the truth. How much did the difference matter? Is this ready for Constructed?

Tattermunge Witch – I adore the look of all the hybrid cards, but there is nothing more beautiful in the set in my view than the card borders on the R/G hybrids. Fantastic swirls as the colors bleed into each other along the bottom of the card. Glorious.

Swans of Bryn Argoll – Yes yes they’re going to be Constructed wonders, but how about in your Sealed pool? Did your opponents simply out-Card Advantage you? Or were you able to pull off sick card draws of your own? And for those of you lucky enough to open them, did you keep them? Or cash in? How much did you get for them?

Rhys the Redeemed – This card practically screams Theme Deck, as when left alone it gets to do things that would make most Casual players have paroxysms. I’m looking for records here, people. How many of the irritating little 1/1s did you churn out before your opponent spontaneously combusted?

Godhead of Awe – I confess to having combined this sick little number in my UW Sealed Deck with another rather tasty rare, Thistledown Liege. Yes, I had a 4/4 flyer and a bunch of 2/2s and 3/3s, while they had a group of 1/1s. I believe this is unfair. Discuss.

Mossbridge Troll – A bunch of my friends tell me this guy is straight-up good, as you can find ways to give him trample. How did he perform for you?

Grim Poppet — Oh, this was AGONY. I watched people with Grim Poppet in play, with all the counters on, dying to 3 x/1s on the other side of the board. And I do mean people, not just one person with learning difficulties. Please tell me I didn’t imagine this horror, and that you witnessed equal incompetence with this bad boy.

Woodfall Primus – I didn’t see this all weekend, and hope not to ever, because that would mean we’re all improving.

Thought Reflection – Pots of mana, but an awesome ability. So how many extra cards did you draw?

Scuzzback Marauders – There seemed to be a fair amount of criticism floating around about card names during the last couple of sets, which to be honest I didn’t altogether understand. But it’s hard to argue with a name like ‘Scuzzback.’ This may become my insult of choice over the coming months.

Grief Tyrant – Did anyone manage (or bother) to turn this guy into an 8/8?

Kinscaer Harpoonist – Is this another in a long line of basically hideous 2/2 flyers for 4, or am I missing something?

Wilt-Leaf Liege – Did combat feel like knifing through butter with this guy around, as your 2/2s were suddenly 4/4s and 3/3s?

Tower Above – Was this worth playing if you weren’t playing Green? Who paid 6 and thought ‘good deal’…?

Dusk Urchins – We’re looking for records here. Personally, I saw a guy attack into Dusk Urchins that already had 2 counters on with a 3/3 Wither man, and saw the same guys face when his opponent drew FIVE cards. Can you beat that? [Hmmm… fishy. — Craig, amused.]

Scarscale Ritual – L’oreal. Because I’m worth it. Scarscale Ritual – worth it? How did you benefit from the counter you ‘had’ to put on?

Cragganwick Cremator – Surely destined to be ‘Camberwick’ here in Britain, a cultural children TV reference that will leave our transatlantic audience headscratching.

Merrow Wavebreakers – I love blue art, but seriously, this is gorgeous.

Dramatic Entrance – I’m moderately certain this is awful, and as it’s rare we might not get much concrete information on it, so if you saw this in action, share.

Morselhoarder – A 4/2 for 6, but so much more really. Anyone forced to take manaburn to keep this one alive?

Crowd of Cinders – Alright, who lays claim to the largest?

Ashenmoor Gouger – Sing it with me, ‘I can’t block and I don’t care, doo dah, doo dah.’

Fulminator Mage – One of those cards that is basically unexciting on Prerelease day, and maybe very exciting afterwards. But how exciting? Do you love Stone Rain?

Beseech the Queen – I maintain that tutoring effects are some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on, and if you paid 6, chances are you could therefore search for pretty much anything your evil little heart could desire. What did you fetch with it?

Sunken Ruins – ‘Look Mum, I know it has words on it you don’t understand, but it’s actually money, real money. Truly.’ Truly? How good are this lot?

Wasp Lancer – From the flavor text, what exactly is a ‘safewright’? Any clues?

Knollspine Invocation – Hear about the turn 3 kill with this one? Land, land, land, Knollspine Invocation. Discard an 8cc, 7cc, and 6cc card. Kill you. Then I enquired how he was paying the combined 21 mana for this kill. X, gotta love it. Anyone actually DIE to this misreading?

Jaws of Stone – Make all my 13 lands Mountains, kill you. Thanks, Elsewhere Flask. What’s the most damage you got out of the Jaws?

Rosheen Meanderer – Another with wonderful artwork.

Shield of the Oversoul – Hmm, Auras. Traditionally reviled, is this guy worth playing?

Drove of Elves – Give me numbers, people. I played with the Theme Deck that had him in, and at 5/5 he was pretty tasty. Surely somebody got to pair him up with Rhys?

Din of the Fireherd – If I’m spending 8 mana, I want free rape and pillage to be part of the deal. Didn’t see it in action, but did carnage indeed ensue, or was this just an overcosted 5/5?

Augury Adept – I’m looking for reasons to not think this is awful as a 2/2 for 3. I don’t think any of you can give me any. That’s a challenge, by the way.

Burn Trail – Any sense that this feels like a Constructed card, judging by its performance at the weekend?

Sygg, River Cutthroat — Boy, does this ever look good in foil. The player who opened it doesn’t know, because he sold it for good money 3 seconds later (approximately). Free card draw, but how many hoops did you have to go through?

Oona, Queen of the Fae – I now know I shouldn’t be trusted on card evaluation. When my Friday Night Magic crowd told me about this, I was a bit sniffy. The 5/5 flying for 6 sounded fine of course, but I guessed at maybe 2 1/1s coming from a whole turns-worth of mana. Turns out, I didn’t pay attention to the straight-up milling aspect. 3 turns was usually enough to get the job done. Seemed like one of the utterly dominant cards of the weekend. How about you?

Dire Undercurrents – Talk about clean design. Blue, card draw. Black, discard. In a card. Simple, elegant, top. R & D, I love you all, and am looking forward to visiting you next month!

Mirrorweave – Any good?

Deep-Slumber Titan – What’s the most elegant and efficient way of making this awesome?

Plumeveil – I saw someone try and attack with this guy. Hmm. A 4/4 for 3 mana. With Flash. And flying. That attacks. Boy, that powercreep is really something. Possibly.

Tattermunge Maniac – Lots of arguments over this one at the weekend. Better or worse than Jackal Pup? Yes, it dies sometimes, and is probably not at its best in Sealed, or even Draft. But when was the last time you ran a Jackal Pup into a Phyrexian Negator in order to then Incinerate the Negator? (Anyone who answers either ‘1998′ or ‘Tuesday’ will be shot.)

Mana Reflection – Oh Muppet fans, join me in my distress. This card was practically begging to be called (clear your throats and join in the chorus) ‘Mana Mana’ (doo dooooo de doo doo) ‘Mana Mana’ (doo doo-doo doo). Pop culture references, yum.

Knacksaw Clique – when I saw it being filthy, it was being FILTHY. But how often did it work for you?

Torrent of Souls – This was in one of the Theme Decks during Open Duelling, and by God it was irritating. Get my best guy back, with haste, total of 8 power pumps, for 5 mana. Utterly miserable to play against, top fun to play with. What Magic’s all about.

Murderous Redcap – I just don’t get what this guy looks like. A sort of warped Emu? I know what it does though, and in Sealed that means good times. Now somebody explain that picture to me.

Oracle of Nectars – ‘Look how long it took me to kill him.’ That was the favorite phrase of my playgroup when some hideous joker used to turn up with every lifegain and fog effect in the book. These days, lifegain can be pretty good news. This guy, if left untouched, could get you into big number territory. How far out of range did you get with this comedy rare?

Spawnwrithe – A bit like Rhys, this can be foolish, but that whole 2/2 for 3 thing is really offputting in a set with some serious 2 drops. So did Spawnwrithe get off the ground at your event?

Deus of Calamity – 6/6 Trample for 5 in colors with mana acceleration. I’ll take two, thanks. Anyone manage to rip someone’s lands to shreds with this?

Prismatic Omen – Now this is what I’m talking about. At the weekend, I know for a fact players were looking at this and going ‘yay, I get to play 5 colors’ and MEANING IT. Five seconds in the company of Stuart Wright told me that this was basically worse than Fertile Ground. I’m glad to know that, but I’m even more glad that those people who played with it didn’t, because now we get to hear stories of Prismatic 5 color Green decks. Tell me all about it, you know you want to.

Midnight Banshee – There were a bunch of mono-Black decks around (and of course I’m including all the hybrid stuff) based around Corrupt and this guy. What was the largest Corrupt you landed? And is the Banshee one of the best situational Rares for Sealed?

Aethertow – God I love this card. In mono-White/Blue Draft this is such an unrestrained beating it’s untrue. BDM, who isn’t exactly shy when it comes to tempo, probably has a shrine being set up right now. Be honest, weren’t you just DESTROYED by this in Draft?

Twilight Shepherd – Okay, competition’s over, we have a winner in the art department, and it’s this. What an astonishingly beautifullly pure image. Fan-flipping-tastic.

Puncture Bolt – Are the words ‘1 damage’ and ‘a -1/-1 counter’ so hard to understand? Apparently so, since any number of people seemed surprised when their 2/2s went to the bin.

Reaper King – Oh come on dream-livers out there, lurking in a Sealed Pool somewhere was Prismatic Omen and this guy, and they got played together. Tell me you played the King for just 5 mana, because that’s the Holy Grail this time around. If there’s a little boy inside you, don’t tell me this doesn’t appeal. (And if there’s a little boy inside you, and you’re a girl, seek professional help.)

Witherscale Wurm – I imagine somebody passed out from excitement playing with this big boy. Chump block, it’s a 7/7. Chump block, it’s a 4/4. Chump block, TOWER ABOVE la la la la la. It’s blatantly rubbish for Constructed, but I can’t really imagine more fun than messing with people with this guy. How did you annihilate opponents with him?

Flame Javelin – I know plenty of people who felt 6 mana was perfectly acceptable. Really?

Kitchen Finks – As in the phrase, ‘I wonder what the Kitchen Finks about when we’re not there?’

Wort, the Raidmother – So you probably know by now that if you have an instant or sorcery with Conspire and this foxy lady in play, you get double Conspire. In other words, you get to tap 4 guys for triple the fun. Anyone pull this one off? I’m thinking 9 damage off Burn Trail here.

Mistmeadow Witch – I had the chance to talk with Greg Staples, the artist for this and almost 200 other Magic cards down the years. That interview, plus a bunch of other top people, coming your way next weekend over at MagictheGathering.com.

River Kelpie – Was this any practical use at the weekend?

And that’s our lot. 65 cards, and a lot of stories. But I need you to tell the stories too, so that those hideous Bog Hoodlum-alikes get their moment in the sun. So, when you post in the forums, give us a subject headline of the card name. Post as many stories as you like, but each with a different post. Then we can genuinely get a flavor of Prerelease weekend.

I can’t remember a Prerelease weekend where I’ve had more fun for quite a while. I have no idea right now how powerful the set is, or how many chase rares there are, or how Standard or Block will look in a month’s time. But right now I don’t care, because Magic is meant to be fun, and this weekend it certainly was.

Thanks for helping me put the fun front and center, if only for a short while.

As ever, thanks for reading.