Snowstorms Suck, Ninjas Rock, and the Betrayers of Kamigawa Prerelease Holds It All Together

Carl skipped the Richmond Power 9 to play in his Syracuse prerelease and play in the snow. Told in the usual Crazy Carl style, this report is a little light on the tech, but heavy on the fun.

My school schedule kind of blows this semester, so on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I have a five hour break between my first class (9:00 AM) and my last (2:00 PM), giving me plenty of time to do… nothing. I spent most of my morning sorting out my Type 4 deck and writing it down. That’s how bored I was. Eventually I played some games, but since it’s early in the semester my work study job hasn’t started up yet so I’m not getting paid to do anything. Yet. Mwahahaha!

The Cast of Characters:

Cr4l: A winnar am me!

Eli: The judge and driver of the Mercedes with the lights on in the parking lot

Nick: The host and member of Eli’s qualifying team for Atlanta

Seneca: The guy for the hookup at Toys ‘R Us and the third member of the Eli/Nick team

Liz: The token girl that roughed it to make it up Saturday

JoshO: The miserly dealer adept

Israel: The black guy in a pink shirt

Jesse, Paul, John and other Paul (I leave the “other” part up to you to decide): Guys I didn’t see much all weekend

Wednesday was the first session of my Foundations of American Education class (I plan on going in to teaching, derf) and after fifteen minutes of waiting, the other nine kids in the class along with myself leave a note along with a list of names for the teacher to prove we were there. Come Friday however one of the kids, after not seeing the teacher for ten minutes, calls the registrar and discovers our class was moved to the other side of the campus. How lucky.

Some kid was sent to fetch us and we met him half way. We make it to the class and the teacher seems cool, but I have to do twenty hours of class observation which will be difficult to fit in. I get out a bit early and head up to the cafeteria, a.k.a. the temporary SA Café, and meet up with Eli. We head out after making a brief stop off at the Winter Manor so I can pick up travel things and more Magic cards.

We make the trip up to Syracuse, New York, home of the second stop of the StarCityGames Power 9 series, in about an hour. We get to Altered States (the shop the pre-release and the SCG Tour® ney will be held) a lot earlier than we’d have liked to. We do a spot of trading before going to the next door Spaghetti Warehouse to load up on carbohydrates to get us through the evening. After watching some of the most horrendous play during the Standard Friday Night Magic event, we’re finally able to set up the room for the prerelease. By set up I mean we wiped down tables and taped down table numbers. We generally roll paper over all the tables, then staple it down so it doesn’t go flying around, a process that takes forever. Luckily we avoid that and are able to finish up our staff draft and leave at about 10 PM.

Myself and Eli aren’t exactly sure how to get to the Muraca Estate, so we make a quick phone call and get our bearings, making the trip take only a few minutes. We’re pretty tired, so we just crash after eating some gassy mini pizzas (thanks Mr. Muraca!).

Enter Saturday morning: My first experience of the day is Eli tossing a pillow across the room at me to wake me up. Thanks. It’s only like 6:30, but Nick’s dad is already up and making us breakfast. Mise. We scarf some eggs, ham, and bagels, during which my phone rings loudly to remind me to wake up. Sigh. We leave at 7:30 and make it to Altered States a bit early, so we sit in the car for a while, watching randoms line up at the door. In the freezing cold. When they aren’t allowed in for another 45 minutes. Riiiiiiight.

Eli and I head in at about 8 and do some last minute prep, then open the doors for the very small number of people. It’s about then that the snow starts. We get two flights filled up before we figure that we really won’t have that many people, therefore warranting the cutting down the judge staff. I had volunteered the night before, so I receive my 1/3rd of a day’s comp, along with entry into the second flight.

Josh, Jesse, Liz, and Seneca walk in a time for the first flight, though Josh and Liz don’t play because they’re lazy. Josh bounces off to sell things to Chris, the owner of Altered States, whilst the rest of us mill around waiting to be seated for the second flight.

As we sit around waiting for the cards I realize how awful pre-releases can be. Sitting around at cramped tables, full of sometimes not-so-small ladies and gentlemen, eagerly awaiting those shiny new cards that come in dem fancy packs of shiny plastic. It doesn’t take the staff long to pass out the product and I end up with one of the most insane sealed decks ever.

I’d write out a decklist, but I’m lazy and don’t have it together anymore. My White consisted of a Kabuto Moth, Cage of Hands and the new White flip guy, but not much else. My Blue was fairly solid with a few Arcane cantrips, a Teller of Tales, and, oh yeah, Meloku of the Unfair Mirror Illusion dudes. My Black is also pretty nuts with two Horobi’s Whisper, a Rend Spirit, the Dark Banishing rat ninja, a few Spirit dorks and a Devouring Greed to top it all off. I’m a few cards short of a Blue/Black deck at first glance, so I set aside the non-Meloku Blue cards and get to my red, which was really, really poor.

I pass that and get to my Green, which is absolutely nuts. I have Genju of Cedars, Strength of Cedars, Sosuke, Son of Seshiro and a Kodama’s Might to go along with a solid curve of dudes. I end up with a great mana curve, solid tricks and removal, and a trio of finishers in Strength of Cedars, Devouring Greed and Meloku. I also have the equipment that attaches to dudes that come into play, but I never drew it. All of my opponents, and I mean all, had it in play every game and it made things a lot harder than they would have otherwise.

I also end up with a Boseiju, Who Shelters All, and a foil Disrupting Shoal for my Type 4 deck. I am the happy, while Liz is the jealous, being as how she’s in love with Disrupting Shoal. At Waterbury she and Stephen Menendian were giggling like school girls at the prospect of eight Force of Wills in mono-Blue decks. John and Paul from Binghamton sat across from me and complained of having poor decks. Frowns. At least I was happy, and that’s really what matters.

Yes, the world does revolve around me. Once you accept this, the rest of life becomes easier to deal with.

I lose round one to the Paul from Binghamton, not Marathon, after not drawing a second Black source to either cast the Whisper to kill his flier that was winning the race for him, or to cast the Devouring Greed in my hand to outright kill him. Frown. I think he might have killed me with his own Devouring Greed, but I don’t remember. I curve out with a dude every turn up until turn 5, and then have enough tricks and men to finish him off very early, despite a Soratami Rainshaper and Nezumi Cutthroat that take me way too long to find answers for. I lose a heartbreaking game 3 by drawing all of my crappy dudes with nothing to back them up while he has Cutthroat, again, along with Soratami Savant to ensure I’m unable to make a comeback. I end up with a Bile Urchin to hold off the Cutthroat, but I’m one mana short of being able to pay for an activation of the Savant to resolve my Venerable Kumo that I had sided in game 2. Frowns.

I lose game one of round two to a Devouring Greed to counterbalance the one I used to get him low enough to alpha strike next turn, then win the next two after stabilizing the board and dropping Meloku. In game two he was able to Pull Under him, but I had a superior ground force to carry me through, while in game three I had Soulless Revival along with a Hisoka’s Whisper to turn the game in my favor, killing one of his dudes and returning Meloku.

Round three I end up with no opponent, and in round four my opponent had a Red/Green deck that was really clogged at the four mana slot, allowing my early drops to give me enough damage to Strength of Cedars him out later in both games.

Before the flight I pulled off one of the most amazing wins ever in the dice game. For those unfamiliar with “the dice game”, or that know it by another name, it entails rolling five d6, and winning a prize corresponding to number you roll, with 25-30 winning you a deck box, full set, or booster box, and a 5 winning you a box of Betrayers of Kamigawa. I pay ten bucks for twelve rolls, hitting crap rares and uncommons on my first four rolls, then hitting a Rebecca Guay deck box. A few rolls after that I win an Urza’s Saga pack. A roll or two later I win a full set of Odyssey, and with my second to last roll netting me an Unhinged booster box. Ting!

I end up doing a bunch of trading all day long, ending up with a ton of Type 4 foil rares and a foil Kokusho, the Evening Star. Rock. I spend a good amount of time sorting the Type 4 stack and watching people draft. During this time Syracuse accumulates around four hundred thousand feet of snow, burying Seneca and Eli’s cars, and making things very cold and unpleasant. I hate the north. We dig out Eli’s car, trying our best to sneak through the snow to get inside, and we eventually rock ourselves out of the snow. The roads are complete s**t, so driving is a nightmare. We make it to Nick’s house alive, albeit with two more people than we expected, Liz and Seneca, making me kind of sad that we’d be imposing on Nick’s dad. He ends up not minding, despite some busted pipes in the basement (hehe, busted pipes), and myself, Eli, Seneca and Nick sit down for a draft.

I open up Thief of Hope, Rend Flesh and Ghostly Prison along with a few other solid cards. I was torn between the Thief of Hope and Ghostly Prison, eventually taking the Prison. I’m a big fan of both and I probably took the wrong card because I could cut off Eli (who was to my left), but since Black is so deep in both sets I decided to try and set both Eli and Nick into Black, lowering the chances of them taking White. I second pick a Honden of Seeing Winds, third pick another Ghostly Prison and fourth picking a Dampen Thought after a bit of consideration between that and a Kitsune Blademaster. Probably not the best pick, but with two Ghostly Prisons I figured I could make up for the lowered chances of getting the staple Dampen Thought cards (Ethereal Haze and the Blue cantrips) by having the defense the Prisons would provide with a few blockers to give me time to win.

My strategy was pretty dumb in hindsight. How exactly was I supposed to find the Dampen Thought? Heh. I end up with a pair of Callous Deceivers after picking up the Blademaster 8th. Wha? *shrug*, I won’t complain. Pack two delivers me a first pick Glacial Ray and I also get a third pick Honden of Cleansing Fire. Yay! The rest of the pack gives me a few solid men to complement the meager amount of Arcane spells circling the table.

I went into the Betrayers pack hoping for salvation, and I wasn’t too badly disappointed. I picked up a pair of Torrent of Stones, but end up having to run two Toils of Night and Day. I get a late Ire of Kami that ends up not making the cut, but I also get a Genju of the Falls, giving me a way to help with the Glacial Ray damage plan. The Toils of Night and Day weren’t too bad, giving me a small tempo advantage by tapping down an attacker along with a land during the attack step, and of course being an Arcane vessel for Dampen Thought or Glacial Ray.

I played against Eli first and lost game one to getting flooded with lands against his relatively quick Green/Black pile. He had the 2/2 for 1G that lets you drop a tapped land whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell which sped him up a lot. He finishes me game one after I leveled out the board with a few removal spells with Devouring Greed, then just pushes past my Ghostly Prison game 2, using my Dampen Thought as fuel to Splice his Horobi’s Whisper onto random Arcane spells.

I beat Seneca in the second round due to him getting mana screwed and me getting a pretty good draw, winning both games with damage. I just barely won game two before my Honden of Seeing Winds combined with my Honden of Cleansing Fire would deck me. Game one involved a top decked Lava Spike, and game two I used Petals of Insight to reuse Torrent of Stone and Glacial Ray. I’d have had an easier time by attacking with Genju of the Falls, but he had a Consuming Vortex to shut it off on my first attack.

We finally ended up going to bed, but I got very little sleep because some people are squirmy and the sleeping space was a bit too tight. We leave around 8:30 AM after checking out the tournament site and seeing the lack of action going on. The journey was a bit slow, but safe, due to the recent snow being not completely cleared out, but cleared enough for safe driving conditions. We hit Binghamton at around 9:30 and I get to shovel the two feet of snow out of the Winter Manor’s driveway before reading some things on the intarweb and getting a nap.

Thus ends mine prerelease adventure. Betrayers seems pretty sick, and I’m especially a big fan of Black. Throat Slitter is awesome with all of Black’s cheap two-drops and Takenuma Bleeder is an awesome three-drop. Horobi’s Whisper is obviously absolutely insane, but the rest of the Black commons are pretty good. As for the rest of the set, well, I really only got to play with the Black cards on both Saturday and Sunday, but Blue has some insane ninjas and awesome fliers, especially the 2/3 that counters the first targeting of it.

I don’t really look forward to drafting the set, but it seems like it will be fine, despite the high power level. The Team Sealed events that use Betrayers will change a lot of strategies, but I’m not too knowledgeable on the subject so I’ll leave it at that. Vintage seems to get little from the set, but people will have orgasms over Disrupting Shoal for a few weeks before they realize it’s really not the card they think it is. I’d recommend picking them up anyway because even if they aren’t that good, they’ll still be great trade bait.

Goodbye and I’ll see you on the 26th for StarCityGames Power 9 event number five!

Carl Winter

Member of Team Meandeck

Awesome Sauce incarnate

Magic Renaissance Man