The Casual Player’s Guide To Surviving The Matrix

A prerelease survival guide? Sure, why not? There’s only one problem – I have a ticket to see a midnight session of Matrix Reloaded in one hour and fifty-one minutes, and I’m only just typing this now. Well… I guess that I’ll present a list of cards you should be wary of when building your Sealed deck, and tricks to look out for while you’re playing, and what you shouldn’t do given the new mechanics. And I’ll type it all the bullet-time so I can get this done in the next hour!

A prerelease survival guide? Sure, why not? There are only one or three problems. Problem number one: Being unemployed, I have copious amounts of time to write this article, obviously. Now, that doesn’t seem like a problem – but I have a ticket to see a midnight session of Matrix Reloaded in one hour and fifty-one minutes, and I’m only just typing this now. Well…

*Puts goggles on*

*Begins the hardcore blistertype*

(The”hardcore blistertype” was actually suggested to me ten minutes ago by Martin on MSN…)

Right; thankfully, I have the whole spoiler so there will be nothing missed unless I run out of time.

1H 48M until start of movie…

(And that’s not taking into account the fact that I’m being picked up a good twenty-five minutes before that!)

As usual, I’m going to present a list of cards you should be wary of when building your Sealed deck, and tricks to look out for while you’re playing. I’ll skip any rares because you’ll see them infrequently compared to the uncommons and most importantly the commons yadda, yadda.

First of all, deckbuilding. Things to think about, and things to avoid.

*Re-reads the spoiler, quite aware that he should have done that earlier with his dinner…*

1H 44M until start of movie…

*Is actually trimming up a text file with just the commons, and another with just the uncommons*

*Realizes this could be considered procrastination*

(But then again, so could typing these very lines…)

(Sorry – hardcore blistertyping these lines!)

1H 34M until start of movie…

You should probably play some enchantment removal. While this was very much the wrong thing to do at the Legions prerelease, Scourge is not just a set of creatures; it has a bunch of enchantments, most notably this one:

Penmin’s Aura – 1UU

Enchant Creature (uncommon)

U : Untap enchanted creature.

U : Enchanted creature gains flying until end of turn.

U : Enchanted Creature can’t be the target of spells or abilities until end of turn.

1 : Enchanted creature gets +1/-1 or -1/+1 until end of turn.

(NOTE: I have these linked because we’ll have the cards in on Saturday, but they lead nowhere for now. Please don’t email me – The Ferrett)

1H 34M until start of movie…

Look familiar? It’s Morphling, but it’s an uncommon – so you’ll see quite a few of them because it is worth playing. Thankfully, this Morphling can be stopped with enchantment removal, so don’t get caught with your pants down!

(Seriously. The police keep a record of it, and from then on it haunts you for ever.)

In a tribute to Morphling’s nickname,”Penmin’s Aura” is apparently an anagram of”I am Superman.” But I don’t have time to figure out if that’s right or not – things to do, ninja antics to see!

1H 31M until start of movie…

Here is another reason to play enchantment removal, followed by two nice enchantment removal spells you would be very happy opening.

Alpha Status – 2G

Enchant creature (common)

Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 for each other creature that shares a creature type with it.

Break Asunder – 2GG

Sorcery (common)

Destroy target artifact or enchantment.

Cycling 2

Wipe Clean – 1W

Instant (common)

Remove target enchantment from the game.

Cycling 3

Alpha Status could be huge, and I would think by now we would all know it. However, I bet you dollars to wallpaper commons that some idiot leaves it in his sideboard… Break Asunder and Wipe Clean are two excellent ways to deal with either pesky enchantment, which can be happily done away with in the blink of an eye, and a flourish of some mana if they aren’t needed.

1H 10M until start of movie…

You may be tempted to play three colors this weekend, too; don’t. Keep your deck consistent and streamlined at only two. I know it’ll seem tempting with the landcyclers to go all out – and to be honest, if you get a few of these:

Sprouting Vines – 2G

Instant (common)

Search your library for a basic land card. Show it to all players, place it in your hand, and then shuffle your library.


…then it might work, but I have a funny feeling that fiddling about finding land types is somewhat similar to trying to play domain in Extended, or trying to tame a lion with a feather duster.


My ride has just sent me a text message announcing his imminent arrival!

1H 06M until start of movie…

Well – looks like sleep can wait, can’t it?

*Grabs keys, wallet, and everybody’s tickets…*

-2H 51M until start of movie…

Well, what usually happens after a midnight showing of a movie? The viewer goes home and goes to bed. But then I’d be letting you down now, wouldn’t I? And we can’t have that, can we? I said,”can we?”…

*Looks at the Ferrett*

*Jabs him*


“Hundroooooog!” (Hundroog! – The Ferrett, who’s beginning to feel manipulated by all this, but is seeing Matrix Reloaded himself in 48M)

Yes, that got his attention. Anyway, if I somehow fail to finish this prerelease survival guide, then that’ll be the first one I didn’t do since Planeshift, or something. So sleep can go do to itself what snails do to themselves.

(It is snails that”breed” with themselves, isn’t it?)

-3H 11M until start of movie…

Maybe that should read”X hours Y minutes until sunrise…

Anyway, don’t be tempted to fancy up your Sealed deck with a third color, you’ll just get tempoed out my some fastish deck with three Alpha Statuseses. Trust me. The only exception is if you have multiple copies of this card:

Sprouting Vines – 2G

Instant (common)

Search your library for a basic land card. Show it to all players, place it in your hand, and then shuffle your library.


This ensures a safe splash while playing a powerful card, but remember a splash is just that. Don’t over do it unless you like the bottom tables. If you do play them, don’t be thinking that because they’ll definitely play a morph on turn 3 that you should therefore respond with one of these for two…

(Tempo baby, tempo.)

Which brings me nicely I think to the most important mechanic you’ll see this weekend: Storm. In a half-shell, if you play a spell with Storm, it adds a copy of that spell to the stack for each other spell played this turn. This means two things – or maybe three things, I don’t know. The smart thing for me to do would have been to work out how many of these things there were going to be, but as usual I’m just typing this as I go.

Sorry; blistertyping this as I go.

(Martin informed me at the theatre that I was supposed to have two keyboards for the hardcore blistertype – one for this and one for general chat. Makes me think of”Beefoven” in”Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” pounding it out on multiple keyboards…)

-3H 23M until start of movie…

2H 35M until sunrise…

(I don’t know that for sure, but I can assume it’ll happen around six.)

One thing Storm does do is limit the number of spells you will want to play in any given turn. This doesn’t sound like a problem at first, but I seriously recommend you don’t find yourself in a position where you have to cast three spells in the face of a healthy array of untapped mana. In other words, don’t undercommit to the board, and do try to spread your spells across multiple turns if you possibly can.

And of course, you want to make the most of your own Storm spells. Try to maneuver your opponent into a position where they are left needing to cast multiple spells in one turn. Or perhaps fake them into casting a Storm spell of their own with a couple of thugs, and then reap the rewards of throwing three to four copies of your own spell on the stack.

Sprouting Vines may not seem that powerful, but if it reads”draw three land-cards” then book me in for a couple. Remember that a deck running three Sprouting Vines doesn’t need to be more than two colors; you can just run it as a fierce card drawing/thinning engine. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the other common Storm spells are just as good in limited too.

Astral Steel – 2W

Instant (common)

Target creature gets +1/+2 until end of turn.


This one isn’t too bad; for it to ruin your day, combat, or pants, someone has to cast some spells before combat. But if it read”two target creatures each get +1/+2 until the end of turn” you’d play it, so watch out for it. Be wary of the opponent who casts two guys and then swings in with three mana open.

Temporal Fissure – 4U

Sorcery (common)

Return target permanent to owner’s hand.


Thankfully, this being a sorcery hampers it like it were dirty laundry… My, what a bad pun, it must be all that writing while the body is actually trying to sleep thing…

But you never know. It’s basically not as good as Essence Fracture, so don’t get all excited over it. Instead, get all excited over this one:

Reaping the Graves – 2B

Instant (common)

Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.


I kinda like the thinning of the lands thing that Sprouting Vines does, but those lands do me a boatload of crap in the face of three more opposing creatures. This, however….

Scattershot – 2R

Instant (common)

Scattershot deals 1 damage to target creature.


If two spells have been cast, this is Arc Lightning. I like Arc Lightning, that’s why most of the forks in our house are somewhat discolored around the sproinky bits. The trick is rubber gloves! No wait…

(That was what we call”bad advice” there, kids.)

Anyway, if three spells have been cast, then I guess it’s like Violent Eruption, or something. Almost. Was that any good in Limited?

(Funny, why do I get the feeling that Taeme is at this very minute jabbing pins into a small doll that looks a lot like me?)

Also funnily enough, Martin is trying to convince me that Scattershot is actually really bad right now on MSN. Just ignore him, and you’ll do just fine.

Wing Shards – 1WW

Instant (uncommon)

Target player sacrifices an attacking creature.


I don’t like the idea of attacking with three guys and seeing them removed from the game, and neither should you. Play accordingly.

Brain Freeze – 1U

Instant (uncommon)

Target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.


I hate cute, tricksy spells like this! They have no place in a Limited environment. However, someone very near you will get decked because of this. The caster will be laughing, and laughing, and laughing, and then bleeding.

Tendrils of Anguish – 2BB

Sorcery (uncommon)

Target player loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.


This one seems lame to me, too, but I’m sure someone will pull the”dude, dude, win” play. I don’t think there’s much you can do about it, but try not to get in a situation where that last card in their hand is going to gain them eight life and leave you colder than a cold thing.

Hunting Pack – 5GG

Instant (uncommon)

Put a 4/4 green Beast token into play.


Hey hey, Bennie – what’s up? Yeah, if you play out three guys in one turn because you think it’ll help you win faster, and they have seven mana untapped. Heh; I’ll personally email you a well-earned slap.

-4H 12M until start of movie…

1H 47M until sunrise…

(Feeling… lethargic…)

I had better round up with some more tricks you’ll want to be prepared for.

(Heh. Martin has now changed his mind on Scattershot. He claims it’s because he didn’t realize Storm was everyone’s spells, but I know it’s because I told him that the whole world would be laughing at him in just over 24 hours.)

Pause for everyone to laugh at Martin.

(I really hope it doesn’t end the other way around with everyone laughing at me…)

Aven Liberator – 2WW

Creature – Bird Soldier (common)


Morph 3W

When Aven Liberator is turned face up, target creature you control gains protection from the color of your choice until end of turn.


Yay morph triggers!

Frontline Strategist – W

Creature – Soldier (common)

Morph W

When Frontline Strategist is turned face up, prevent all non-Soldier combat damage that would be dealt this turn.


Cheap and easy to do.

Recuperate – 3W

Instant (common)

You gain 6 life; or prevent the next 6 damage that would be dealt to target creature this turn.

Not cheap, but it might save them.

Reward the Faithful – W

Instant (common)

Any number of target players gain life equal to the highest converted mana cost among permanents you control.

I wouldn’t play it, but it doesn’t mean they won’t.

Dispersal Shield – 1U

Instant (common)

Counter target spell if its converted mana cost is less than or equal to the highest converted mana cost among permanents you control.

Hindering Touch 3U

Instant (common)

Counter target spell unless its controller pays 2.


Two, count ’em, two common counters. Notice that the Storm one will always be for at least four…

Unburden – 1BB

Sorcery (common)

Target player discards two cards.

Cycling 2

Don’t be Mr.”Heh, all I need is two more lands and this card will own – hey, let me read that…”

Zombie Cutthroat – 3BB

Creature – Zombie (common)

Morph – Pay 5 life.


Morphs for free, and anyone can and should be doing it. Seriously, this guy should be in practically everyone’s deck. You should play these when you open them.

Um, nope. I can’t think of another way to say the same thing.

Accelerated Mutation – 3GG

Instant (common)

Target creature gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the highest converted mana cost among permanents you control.

Probably like Might of Oaks.

Gilded Light – 1W

Instant (uncommon)

You can’t be the target of spells or abilities until end of turn.

Cycling 2


Rain of Blades – W

Instant (uncommon)

Rain of Blades deals 1 damage to each attacking creature.

Not cute; nasty. Caltrops was fair when you could see them coming… And while this is still kinda fair, you don’t want to be the guy who attacked into this with three or four single-toughness critters.

Chill Haunting – 1B

Instant (uncommon)

As an additional cost to play Chill Haunting, remove X creature cards from your graveyard from the game.

Target creature gets –X/-X until end of turn.

A little counterproductive next to Reaping the Graves, but it’s still a good spell so it would be cruel of me to not at least warn you.

(Ooo! Apparently there’s a split infinitive in there!)

Putrid Raptor – 4BB

Creature – Zombie Beast (uncommon)

Morph – Discard a Zombie card from your hand.


Another free one, but at least this one can only be played in black decks.

Carbonize – 2R

Instant (uncommon)

Carbonize deals 3 damage to target creature or player. That creature can’t be regenerated this turn. If that creature would be put into the graveyard this turn, remove it from the game instead.

Burn. Cute burn, so be careful when suiting up your pets for a big day in the park.

-4H 41M until start of movie…

1H 18M until sunrise…

Which must mean recap time – except it’s not really a recap when I mention things I haven’t bought up anywhere else in this article, but what are you gonna do, sue me?

Storm means you shouldn’t undercommit to the game, but should overcommit to the turn.

There is a super-Armageddon, which is at least thankfully rare, but it still means you shouldn’t overcommit with your lands. I bring this up because there hasn’t been something that will punish you for this for quite some time, and it’s easy to forget.

Don’t be tempted to make a”cool” deck by playing three colors, unless that third color is black for Zombie Cutthroat. In this situation, you still have a two-color mana base. Just thought I should mention that before someone screws it up.

Play enchantment removal, or be prepared to get Morphlinged up like it was 1999.

Do play Scornful Egotist if you have some spells that ask for converted mana costs. At first I thought the idea of playing an eight-cost 1/1 was daft, but then I remembered he is at least a Grey Ogre who could result in you drawing eight cards for five mana or whatever.

And finally, don’t leave this kind of article to the last minute.

(That last one may have been for my benefit…)

*Avoids eye contact*

…Good luck, everyone.


-5H 13M until start of movie…

46M until sunrise…

(And I’m going to bed!)

(No beep? – The Ferrett, disappointed)