Oh, man alive, I’m tired.
I’m trying to get this report written while events are still fresh in my mind, but here it is Sunday night and I am barely awake. I left at 5 a.m. Saturday morning for the prerelease, and I got back at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, with about fifteen minutes sleep in between.
And two pots of coffee or so.
My tale begins early Saturday morning, as me and a few other fellows from Gambit Games decide what the hell, we haven’t played in a prerelease for a while – and dammit, we want to go play! Plus, my Limited rating has been creeping perilously close to the vaunted 1800 mark, and with a good showing, even at a 16K event, I might break it.
Can you feel the excitement?
Our stalwart crew again wended its way from Bend to Portland, again braving the treacherous Oregon mountain passes. And I ain’t kidding here. The mountains have gotten so much snow lately, the state is being sued by Colombia. Once again, though, the trusty Medmobile manages to get us there on time. Or reasonably close to it.
I get to open an Odyssey starter with a Finkel and strong blue and black, only to be taunted by losing it in place of something… Well, not quite as good. Solid, but not much in the way of bombs. I ripped open the quite stylish Torment packs and ended up with this:
3x Obsessive Search
Rites of Refusal
Strength of Lunacy
2x Restless Dreams
2x Krosan Constrictor
Seton, Krosan Protector
Man, did I get sucky rares or what?
I didn’t like the black, and the red was fairly poor, but the blue and green were very strong. Ultimately, I added a splash of white to go with this configuration:
3 Obsessive Search
Syncopate (foily, no less)
The deck was pretty solid – but again, no bombs. The land count is very low (sixteen of ’em), but I felt I could get away with it with my large number of cantrips and card drawing. But for a few instances, I was correct. The Obsessive Searches proved to be very valuable with the large number of discard effects I could use them with, such as the Mongrel, Looter, and Krosan Archer.
In retrospect, I probably should have ditched the white and gone with a straight two-color deck, replacing the two creatures with Steamclaw (a card I almost always maindeck anyway in Odyssey sealed) and Mossfire Egg for more card drawing… Or maybe finding room for the Floating Shield. But the Orator and Zealot did prove useful, as you’ll read.
Round 1: Sean Collins (G/R/W)
Sean’s a young-‘un, looks to be around twelve or so. I win the toss and elect to go second, which I prefer, although I found going first worked pretty well for me usually. I get early beats with a turn 2 Mongrel, killing his blocker on its first attack by ditching an Obsessive Search – and drawing a card – then keeping it alive when Sean attempts to cast Sonic Seizure, pitching two more cards – and another Obsessive Search. Stop the insanity!
Y’know, on second thought, I may like this madness thing after all.
From there, I drop the Orator and Calmer, and they go the distance, with Sean’s only blocker being a Barbarian Lunatic that really can’t do much of anything else but chump.
Game two, I get a turn two Aquamoeba this time, which turns out to be quite a handy creature on both offense and defense, then follow it up with Bamboozle, which nets me four lands. Oh, wonderful – I just helped him get out of a mana clump. I put the two forests in the graveyard (since he had none in play), which would turn out to be important, as he couldn’t find green mana for most of the game.
Most of Sean’s damage comes from me essentially”countering” a Longhorn Firebeast by paying the five life. Most of my damage comes from a Nantuko Cultivator that I pumped up to a 5/5. With no green mana to cast his hand full of green spells, Sean quickly goes down.
Round 2: Eric Johnson (G/B)
Now Eric deck scares me. If green is the best color in Odyssey, and black is obviously the best color in Torment, then a G/B deck would probably be the best in Limited play.
Eric gets off to a faster start with a Basking Rootwalla, and I am lucky to topdeck an answer with a Wild Mongrel. I decide to use my Syncopate early to counter a Cabal Torturer, which would have been problematic against my deck. I eventually play a Cephalid Looter, while Eric gets to six mana to play a Nut Collector. I keep playing creatures, he keeps making squirrels.
Once Eric reaches threshold, he sends his six squirrels into the red zone, but I’m able to use Aether Burst to eliminate much of his squirrel army by bouncing Nut Boy and buy myself a few turns, while I keep digging deeper into my deck to find an answer. I find it with about twelve cards left in my library: Psionic Gift. Putting it on my Archer, I ping away the Nut Collector, then the squirrels, then start whittling away at Eric life total. Ultimately, it’s Narcissism that carries the day, enabling me to finish Eric off with an unblocked attacker.
Game two, out goes the white, in come the Krosan Constrictors and Steamclaw. My notes are spotty here, but I know I had this game won and I blew it by panicking. While at three life after taking a lot of Gorilla Titan beats, I have lose control of the board and I cast Steamclaw, then sacrifice it to eliminate a flashback card, the name of which escapes me but I’m sure it was nasty. I have an active Anurid Scavenger, methinks, so I can get the Steamclaw back in a few turns, and with a Gorilla Titan on the board, I don’t want to empty his graveyard, and I want to be able to a) get rid of the card and b) have mana free for the Refresh in my hand. What I should have done is play an extra land to make sure I could do that – but I chose not to, and that ends up killing me, as a later Peek reveals the Krosan Beast in his hand, which would have been a non-factor with an active Steamclaw. He plays the 8/8 Beast; I scoop.
Game three is anticlimactic. I’m slightly mana hosed, and my threats are taken out by back-to-back Faceless Butchers.
You win some, you lose some. And you advanced the”mistake die” about three notches some too.
But, man, that was a deck with some bombs.
Do I drop with a deck I consider average or shall I play on, in pursuit of prizes and that elusive 1800 rating? Oh, one more game, at the very least.
Round 3: Whitney Biddle (R/B)
Strangely enough, my deck seems to do very well against aggressive R/G decks, despite its dearth of early plays. My deck starts slow (it does seem to do that a lot), with my first play being a turn 3 Aquamoeba. Whitney drops Pardic Lancers on turns 5 and 6, and when he comes in for the attack, I cast Beast Attack and Whitney ends up discarding a lot of cards to keep half his army alive. My deck hits its stride after that, and I finish Whitney off with a Hydromorph Gull and flying Zealot shortly thereafter.
Game two, I get the rare early beats with the Wild Mongrel and manage to wrangle a trade, using a Refresh to keep my doggie alive. From there, I drop a Krosan Archer with Psionic Gift and start the gradual dinking to death. Whitney does steal my Nantuko Cultivator, a decent 3/3, with Temporary Insanity (great card) and attempts to go for an alpha strike with Rites of Initiation – but I am able to block with ease, taking only seven damage, and Whitney then scoops.
Okay, one more round.
Round 4: Ryder Davies (R/G)
For a supposedly black-centric set, I’m sure not running into a whole lot of it yet. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
Neither of us are off to blazing starts on this one. My first play is to Syncopate his Krosan Restorer (no, I don’t want you getting more mana than me there). From there, I drop a Mongrel; he drops a Chainflinger and Steamclaw (no threshold for me). I play a Krosan Archer and Narcissism (bah-roken), he answers with… Mudslide? Hey, fine by me. Curiously, Ryder goes for a big attack, including his Chainflinger – a card I had absolutely no answer for – and I’m glad to take a few points of damage to get rid of the ‘Flinger. Eventually, I go for the alpha strike with Narcissism for the win.
Game two is slow like the first, but Ryder gets the Chainflinger on turn four, and I drop Narcissism and Wild Mongrel soon after. Then it just gets nuts as I play my Gull and Griffin on consecutive terms and beat him down in the unfriendly skies with help from Narcissism.
Round 5: Russ Heitkamp (G/B/U/r)
An interesting concoction Russ has. I open with two consecutive Obsessive Searches, netting me a Wild Mongrel, while Russ casts the annoying Basking Rootwalla. From there, we start to develop quite a stalemate. Russ gets a few beats in with Aven Fisher, then I play Krosan Archer. He plays Soul Scourge, I play Hydromorph Gull. And I keep wondering why he’s running Shadowblood Ridge. What red cards does he have?
I put pressure – just a bit – on Russ by enchanting the Archer with Psionic Gift. With an active Anurid Scavenger in play and lots of cards in the graveyard, I suppose I can just deck him. Russ goes for the gusto, though, playing his one red card: Vampiric Dragon! I, however, have the Syncopate in hand (whew!), and Russ scoops after that.
Game two starts fast, but becomes a stalemate between my Krosan Constrictor (sideboarded in) and Balshan Griffin vs. his Springing Tiger and Rampant Elephant. Unfortunately, his offense is better than my defense, and when he sacs a Bog Wreckage to bring out the big dragon, that’s pretty much all she wrote. Even with no red mana, a 5/5 flier is some good.
Game three goes in the”better lucky than good” category. I mulligan my opening one land hand to a six-card, no-land hand. And I’m going first. Lovely. My five-card hand is playable, and I luck out with a turn 2 Wild Mongrel. After that, I decide if I’m going to win, I’d better go for the gusto. I drop Cartographer on turn three, nothing but a Gray Ogre at this point, then Narcissism, and start attacking for all I can. All the while Russ keeps dropping land, land, but no creatures. By turn five, I’ve killed him, and he shows me his hand (while I pick my jaw up from the table) full of green cards with two swamps and two islands in play.
I won’t complain, nosiree.
Round 6: Andrew something-or-other (B/G)
Yuck, my least favorite color combination. Andrew starts nailing me with early beats, so I’m forced to drop an early Anurid Scavenger (he was my MVT… Most Valuable Toad) with only a couple of cards in the graveyard, I have to scramble to find ways to feed the beast. But he does keep all the black nasties off me for a while. When I find Narcissism, I no longer have to worry about finding him flies.
Turns out Andrew has a Narcissism as well. I, however, have the Druid-Lyrist-on-steroids and I’m able to eliminate his and slowly begin to come back on offense. When Andrew is at eight, he goes all out – Cabal Ritual, Krosan Restorer, Werebear – to cast Hypnox! Ouch! Of course, the problem is, even with no cards in my hand, that with Narcissism in play I can attack back for eight and the game… Which, of course, I do.
Game two, I cast Aquamoeba and give it the Gift of Tim-ness, then Syncopate his Centaur Chieftain to retain control. Andrew casts a Rabid Elephant, though, with a Shade’s Form – which meets a well-timed Aether Burst during combat.
During the game, I look outside and see that it’s snowing. Hard. We’re talking soap-flake sized snow the size of half-dollars and it’s sticking. Please remember that this is Portland, Oregon we’re talking about, which gets sustained snowfall as often as I schedule haircuts.
And I’m thinking, boy, the drive home is going to be fun.
Andrew makes a few errors, which prove his undoing. He also has an Anurid Scavenger, but forgets to keep it fed, so it goes away. Ultimately, I take to the air with Hydromorph Gull and the bird takes me to victory.
Hey hey – I’m in the money. The question is, for how much?
Round 7: Chris Losta (R/G)
Well, I like my chances here, especially when he mulligans in game one. I get a really good start, Bamboozling away two good cards, then dropping a turn four Zealot, then Narcissism to back it up. I get a really cool trick off with threshold and the Zealot – I go to attack, and Chris attempts to steal my Cephalid Looter to block. I activate the Looter, discarding an Obsessive Search, then activate Narcissism twice to take me up to threshold, and voila! Instant 7/9 unblockable flier.
Boy howdy, you think that would have boded well for me. But game two is horribly anticlimactic. I draw six forests the entire game, so, of course, I get steamrolled and game three is worse – I have to mulligan to a five-card, no-land hand. I do draw land eventually, but not before I’m defeated with squirrel tokens.
Beaten down by squirrels. How embarrassing.
But 5-2 isn’t bad, and I won’t complain. Much. I get a lot of free packs, so I’m happy.
Oh, and the trip home? Not fun. We have to end up taking the”long route” (with apologies to Mike Turian), eschewing the passes, which have gotten a fresh foot of snow, for I-84, following the Columbia River past the mountains and then going south. Safer, perhaps, but about sixty miles out of the way. Nothing like heavy snow and visibility of 100 feet or so when driving. But I’m writing this, so I obviously made it back safely.
And let me tell you, the drive though the back country of eastern Oregon is really beautiful, especially with a full moon out. If I wasn’t too busy slapping myself to stay awake, I might have been able to enjoy it more.
Thus ends my own personal odyssey, which I shall not be repeating anytime soon. I hope.
So what are my early impressions of Torment?
It reminds me a lot of Planeshift – a great middle-set for drafting but not a lot of what I would call”chase” cards for the Constructed environments. There may be three, four rares I’d want four of, after that, things drop off dramatically.
And until I do more drafting, I have no idea how the skewed-toward-black thing is going to work, other than the fact that it may be a lot easier to draft bombs in G/W now. Not like that combination was that good to begin with, but you never know.
Rather than do the traditional”Top Ten” list or give everything a rating (lord knows there’s enough of those around by now), I’ll just give a few brief impressions of the set, Nick Bakay-style.
Best Artwork: Longhorn Firebeast
Most Overrated Card: Ambassador Laquatus
Best Timmy Card: Hypnox
Best”Good, But Not That Good” Card: Grim Lavamancer
Most Underrated Card: Insist (and, to a lesser degree, Overmaster)
Card That Is All That And A Bag of Chips: Plagiarize (time will prove me right)
Best”I Don’t Get It” Card: Cephalid Vandal
Card That Makes Me Think There’s An Anagram Junkie and Seattle Mariners Fan In R&D: Ichorid
Card That Is Most Likely to Have A Fairly Obscene Nickname: Skullscorch
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really need a nap.