My memories of the prerelease are kind of fuzzy, but that’s to be expected — my brain was kind of fuzzy. I’d spent the rest of the weekend at a sci-fi convention, making liquid nitrogen ice cream, talking on panels, and chatting it up with cute girls* until three in the morning… So by the time I pulled into the Detroit prerelease at around 12:30, I was dangerously low on fuel. I read a book to pass the time until my flight started, but the words did little shimmery dances on the page, the word “the” mutating into “teh” and then into “these.”
My brain was a bowl of oatmeal mush, so of course this was when the Mana Gods give me cards that would be an auto-win in the hands of a monoxide-mangled monkey.
So I won, right?
Hang on a bit and I’ll tell you.
I really enjoyed this prerelease, because for one glorious day I found out how much easier life would be if people weren’t a bunch of cheating scum. It took an hour to scrape together enough people for my flight, and I was groaning; not only did I have a three-hour ride home, but I’d have to endure the nitpicky details of “sort the cards, register the cards, get new cards back, double-check the cards.”
Instead, the judge said, “Guess what? It’s a prerelease, and the next-to-last flight. Just build your deck when you get your cards.”
Huh? No tedious forms to fill out? Just… slap the cards on the table and start making a deck? You mean it would be this easy if it wasn’t for all the stupid jackholes who need to slip in cards so they can ass their way to a win?
In that moment, I wanted to find every cheater in the world and punch them so hard their eyebrows would touch the back of their skulls.
Strangely enough, the abrupt freedom relaxed the whole room, as if the judge had given us all a backrub. All around me, I heard people just tapping other peoples’ decks instead of shuffling and cutting, saying, “If you were gonna cheat, you would have done it by now.” We laughed, we smiled, we were at play in the fields of the Lord. We trusted each other like Smurfs.
It was glorious, even as my head swam from a lack of sleep.**
So here’s what I got:
- 1 Benevolent Ancestor
- 1 Carrion Howler
- 1 Conclave Equenaut
- 1 Dromad Purebred
- 1 Gate Hound
- 1 Golgari Rotwurm
- 1 Grayscaled Gharial
- 1 Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi
- 1 Lurking Informant
- 1 Mausoleum Turnkey
- 1 Nullmage Shepherd
- 1 Primordial Sage
- 1 Root-Kin Ally
- 1 Screeching Griffin
- 1 Selesnya Evangel
- 1 Selesnya Guildmage
- 1 Shambling Shell
- 1 Skyknight Legionnaire
- 1 Sunhome Enforcer
- 1 Torpid Moloch
- 1 Vedalken Entrancer
- 1 Viashino Slasher
- 1 Vinelasher Kudzu
- 1 War-Torch Goblin
- 1 Aquastrand Spider
- 2 Assault Zeppelid
- 1 Avatar of Discord
- 1 Azorius First-Wing
- 1 Beacon Hawk
- 1 Coiling Oracle
- 1 Cytoplast Root-Kin
- 1 Demon's Jester
- 1 Freewind Equenaut
- 1 Guardian of the Guildpact
- 1 Helium Squirter
- 1 Hellhole Rats
- 1 Kill-Suit Cultist
- 1 Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
- 1 Rakdos Guildmage
- 1 Silkwing Scout
- 1 Simic Basilisk
- 1 Simic Initiate
- 1 Slithering Shade
- 1 Soulsworn Jury
- 1 Utvara Scalper
- 2 Verdant Eidolon
- 1 Vigean Hydropon
- 1 Seal of Doom
- 1 Smash
- 1 Bloodbond March
- 1 Cleansing Beam
- 1 Dimir Machinations
- 1 Disembowel
- 1 Farseek
- 1 Fiery Conclusion
- 1 Flash Conscription
- 1 Golgari Signet
- 1 Incite Hysteria
- 1 Induce Paranoia
- 1 Necromantic Thirst
- 1 Rally the Righteous
- 1 Scatter the Seeds
- 1 Stasis Cell
- 1 Bond of Agony
- 1 Carom
- 1 Demonfire
- 1 Macabre Waltz
- 1 Might of the Nephilim
- 1 Nightcreep
- 1 Overrule
- 1 Plumes of Peace
- 2 Psychotic Fury
- 1 Stomp and Howl
- 1 Taste for Mayhem
This is one of those Sealed pools that is distressingly fractal, since whatever angle you view it from it looks like an autobuild. U/G/W? Yeah, that’s easy. R/G/B? A piece of cake. W/G/R? Sure, why not?
Like a chameleon, this card pool can support almost any triad you can name. I mean, let’s look at the bomb runs that might make you want to run with any color:
- Selesnya Guildmage/Scatter the Seeds/Selesnya Evangel/Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi/Conclave Equenaut
- Demonfire/Cleansing Beam
- Rally the Righteous/Flash Conscription
- Lyzolda, the Blood Witch/Rakdos Guildmage/Hellhole Rats
- Double Assault Zeppelid/Coiling Oracle
- Seal of Doom/Disembowel
This has more rampant bombs running free than the former Soviet Union, so “power” is not an issue. “Which power” is, however, since you can’t just throw all five colors into a deck and assume that it’ll do well, unless you’re a ten-year-old kid who thinks it’s a waste not to play with all the cards he got today.
So rather than go down it card by card, let’s take a look at the possible color pairings and see how each one pans out, keeping in mind that the general rule is to stick to three colors:
If you want destruction, here’s your man. I mean, you have a slaughterhouse of removal in Seal of Doom, Disembowel, Lyzolda, Cleansing Beam, Demonfire, and the Rakdos Guildmage. It is difficult to imagine a deck that would be able to protect its creatures against all of these, and if you decide that Flash Conscription and Fiery Conclusion are also playables (as you should), you’re looking at a house.
However, once the smoke clears, you don’t have a whole lot to fall back on. The largest critter you have access to in these two colors is the Mausoleum Turnkey (and possibly the Demon’s Jester when you’re Hellbent), meaning that you pretty much have to turn to another color to carry on the onslaught once you’ve cleared the field. And Lyzolda is great, but you have to sacrifice Black or Red creatures to her, and we’re not looking at a whole lot of ‘em here.
(Of course, an active Rakdos Guildmage can create his own army which can conveniently be sacrificed to Lyzolda afterwards, but it’s usually not a good strategy to build a deck around one card’s activation… Especially one that costs six mana per guy.)
What brings the beef? Surprisingly, we have two solid candidates. Our Green is very strong, bringing us a lot in the high-end with Primordial Sage, Root-kin Ally, and Cytoplast Root-kin. Our Black also allows for the dreaded Golgari Rotwurm. The problem is that with enough Green, we wind up with a Green-heavy deck, and then our colors wind up in the dreaded 6/6/6 range.
Our other option is White, dropping the beef for evasion and niceness, going with the flying assault of Equenauts and Griffins, which also gets us access to the off-color bonus of Flash Conscription and Rally the Righteous. (Of course, you can also hope to snag the Conscription bonus with the Boros Garrison.)
Which is better? Jeez, they’re both good. I’d probably go with Green, since you wouldn’t need that much evasion with the immense destruction you have at your fingertips — just blast it out of the way!
Another strong contender, also known as the “prerelease special” since it would get you extensive hands-on experience with two of the new guilds. Your Blue here isn’t the strongest, with only a Vedalken Entrancer, a Silkwing Scout, and a Helium Squirter…. But your pure Simic is rock-solid, with a double-helping of 3/3 tramplers, a Coiling Oracle, and the supposedly-good-but-I-didn’t-see-it-played Vigeon Hydropon. In addition, your raw Simic — i.e., base Green — is packed with +1/+1 counters and a whole bunch of nifty tricks to unleash upon people.
Your Azorius is decent, not great, but you have a ton of fliers in White and Blue/Green, and beef+evasion is always a good thing. Your opponent may literally not be able to block you, leaving your strong air force to carry you to a win.
The only problem with the U/G/W plan is that you’re low on combat tricks. You get five of them, three of which are weak when it comes to throwing a combat your way: you have the conditionally-weak Carom, and Scatter the Seeds (which will only be good when you’re about to block), and the double-“No” of Induce Paranoia and Overrule, which was far better than I initially gave it credit for. (Oh, and there’s Might of the Nephilim, which might actually be quite decent in this deck.) That leaves you with a hole in your defense.
That said, the good news is that quite often, people won’t be able to block you. I could go this route with no problems.
What happens if you take the Black out and go for a modified Boros+beef? Certainly it’s not your worst combo, since you get most of the counter-switching Simic stuff, allowing you to shift the gains to your freshly-cast air force, and you still retain a lot of your removal. That said, I’m not seeing a whole lot of advantages here over the other options.
This gets you a lot more options than the Red/White/Green build; you have roughly the same amount of removal, but you get a touch of recursion built in, and you get to throw in an extra +1/+1 counter with the Shambling Shell. You also get access to the heavy firepower of both Guildmages, in a pool with a lot of color-fixing.
Still, given that you can have the ultimate air force with the U/G/W package, using the Selesnya Guildmage to swell your fliers to truly frightening proportions, I’m not sure this is the way to go.
So What Did I Go With?
The answer, of course, comes because I was so very tired. If I had seen at the time that I had two Assault Zeppelids instead of one, my decision to try U/G/W would have been a cakewalk.*** As it was, I was writing down this card pool for this article when I went, “Hey — I have two? Really? Wow, that would have been awesome at the prerelease!”
Hmm. Maybe writing down your cards would have helped.
As it was, I went with this, which wasn’t bad but wasn’t optimal:
Seal of Doom
Scatter the Seeds
Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi
Lands and stuff
So How Did I Do?
My first pairing was with a nice guy who had obviously been playing a bit too much Magic Online: He mentioned every step by name, asking me for a yes/no confirmation before he continued. It could have been annoying if the guy was a machine, but he joked and laughed in between step confirmations.
In the first game, he smashed me thanks to my rampant stupidity. We got into a standoff where neither of us could attack, and I plucked Root-Kin Ally with four critters on-board. I decided, in my muddled asleepual haze, that I would fake him into thinking that I had a combat trick by convoking with all but two of my creatures, one of which was a Benevolent Ancestor. He attacked, I automatically prevented the damage, and then he killed my Root-Kin with some three-damage spell.
Yeah, I threw that one away. I’m not proud. Remember, kids, if you’re going to fake a combat trick, don’t do it at the expense of the one you already have on the board.
Ferrett, you jackass.
The second game, I won… But I lost. It was another tense showdown where I was at two life and he had a single creature, but I’d stabilized with a Spider, a Vitu-Ghazi, and three tokens. I attacked all-in for the win on an empty hand, and he cast Scatter the Seeds, blocking my Spider and killing it….
I actually put the Spider in the graveyard before he said, “Wait, wait.” He’d realized, as I had known, that if he just blocked the Spider and the Ghazi, he counterattack the next turn for the win.
If this was a real tournament, I would have called a judge… But hell with it. It was a prerelease. I said “Sure,” and took the loss, and moved on. Silly? Maybe, but I was still intoxicated by the freedom of not having to register my deck.
My second round was against a kid. I felt bad. He had a fifty-card deck, and kept a one-land hand, and cast spells just ‘cause he could. It was like kicking a puppy. I spent the rest of the round wandering around and watching other people play.
For the record: If you get the chance, Golgari Rotwurm + Stalking Vengeance is just unfair.
My third round was against a guy who had a Simic deck that was decent, and it was actually the kind of Magic I was happy to play — three really close games that came down to the usual gamut of playskill and topdecking, and it took about thirty-five minutes to get through it all. Each game ended with both players at less than five life, usually in a position where we would have died the next turn if we hadn’t won right then.
I was, surprisingly, not in bad form, and I lost the first game, took the second game, and despite some severe Lurking action, my deck crapped out in the third game.
The guy next to me was in that unfortunate position where his opponent didn’t show up, and he watched us play for the entire round. I could have kept in, or I could have said, “Wanna play for fun?” and gone and played with this guy. Which I did, dropping from the PR because I was not going to last much longer anyway.
We played a solid twenty-minute game, my deck against his largely Hellbent deck, and for the umpteenth time that day it came down to a single attack phase. All hail the mighty Informant, who locked him out of his good burn cards, and I won at four life.
So I went out with a win. All the games I played that day were so close that I’m pretty sure I could have done something with them on a full head of sleep, but I was so exhausted that I can’t even remember what I might have done poorly (except for that Godawful fakeout). The funny thing was that I thought I was awake and largely competent, but getting lost three times on the way home showed me that I was clearly out of my gourd.
Still. It was, if not full of victories, fun and instructive. For me? That’s good enough.
The Weekly Plug Bug
Home on the Strange, my webcomic about nerds and nerd life, is back online this week — and Monday’s strip deals with the perils of moviegoing. Roni’s back in town and we’re off the fill-in-the-time “Here’s a sketch” week, so enjoy the new comics!
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy
* – Yes, I’m married. But I still like talking to cute women. There’s no shame in’t.
** – And a cheater probably won. I am way too cynical these days.
*** – Again, there’s a case to throw in the Garrison and a Mountain in an attempt to get the Demonfire in. I’m not a big fan of that strategy, even as I know many others are – but if you’re gonna splash for one card, Demonfire is definitely the X spell you want to do it for.