…And so I went. Since it seemed like EVERYONE I knew was going to Norristown, I went along, and got my first taste of the Apocalypse. And now I truly fear the end.
Okay, that’s an overstatement.
Apocalypse is an incredible set. When playing Sealed Deck with it, it’s nearly impossible to get crummy rares in those packs (although I did – that’s coming up). Even the commons and uncommons are almost all really playable, and some of the commons are so good that they can break games wide open in your favor. Draft might be tricky (since you’ll only get one pack in a draft), but I think you can still work it so that you can pull some of the great commons and uncommons when you see them. Then there’s Constructed, where the decks practically build themselves for you.
“Black and green? Well, it worked for Snuff-O-Derm, so let’s see what we got. Pernicious Deed. Hey, that’s not too shabby; it’s an amazing board clearer that you can adjust to keep what you want on the board. All we really need is a big heavy-hitter to finish the job … hey, what’s this Spiritmonger guy? A 6/6 for five? And he can regenerate through the Deed?”
Well duh. It’s like Deckbuilding For Dummies.
“Black and white? Well, that’s an odd combination. Hope they didn’t reprint Righteous War. Hey, here’s an uncommon; Gerrard’s Verdict. Holy crap, it’s practically Hymn! Two cards for two mana — that’s insane! Next thing you know, you’re going to tell me that they reprinted Drain Life, too, only it’s better because you don’t have to use black mana… Death Grasp? Oh, brother. Well, it’s not like they printed an insane removal spell in these colors – people will still have to resort to Death Bomb. What’s that? What’s Vindicate do?”
Deckbuilding For Dummies, chapter one: If They Give You Good Cards In The Same Colors, USE THOSE CARDS.
We showed up very early and helped the crew set up, and as a reward, we all got ensures a spot in the first pod. I like that – that means I can lose quickly and get into another pod early. My Invasion starter is horrible in the rare department: Phyrexian Altar, Loafing Giant, and Atalya, Samite Healer. Can we do a deck switch please? I’d like to switch with the guy with the Urza’s Rage and the dragon legend at the end of my table, please. It didn’t help that two of my Apocalypse rares were False Dawn and Planar Despair, and I had NO black other than Agonizing Demise to support black. The only rare I played: Desolation Giant. Number of times I cast it with kicker: One. Number of creatures I killed: One. (Course, it was Gerrard, so it was worthwhile.) Number of times I cast it without kicker: One. (Needed a blocker.) But I managed to build a solid R/W/U All-American deck with a good selection of commons and uncommons: Most of the Drakes, Illuminate, Fire/Ice, a handful of Flagbearers, Jilt, Fact or Fiction, Haunted and Glimmering Angels, and Scorching Lava. I can’t remember the details of all the matches, because I’m not like Rizzo and I didn’t write my report IMMEDIATELY upon my return home. But I’ll give you some of the highlights:
Round two was against a younger guy who had opened Desolation Angel and Gerrard, but was playing way too many cards in his deck. The first game he got Gerrard active for all of one turn before he met the Desolation Giant; I Excluded Gerrard in the second game. The second game ended with me flying in and dropping him to two life, casting main phase Fact or Fiction, and taking the pile with just Fire/Ice in it. He begged me not to kill him. I considered for a moment, since it’s all in fun, but after the fact I’m glad I just did him in, since his next card was the Angel.
Round four, I lost to a horrible mistake. Time had been called, and we were in the third game, having split the first two. We had developed somewhat of a stall, with my flyers and his flyers looking gamely at one another across the board. In the fifth extra turn, he killed my Coastal Drake and attacked all out, dropping me to exactly zero. The mistake? His Ancient Kavu dealt the last three damage to me. Had I remembered that he had a Kavu on the board and used the Coastal Drake, the game would have been a draw.
Round five started and I was 3-1, and the way that Gray Matter does the Prereleases (or at least the ones I’ve been to) is to run the pods at 64 people, 5 rounds, with 5-0 getting a box, 4-0-1 getting 2/3ds, and 4-1 getting 1/4th of a box. I like this format, and can’t IMAGINE the poor people who had to play seven or eight rounds. Yuck. My opponent is also 3-1, and in the first game I see why: He plays out a Spiritmonger. That guy is just TOO fat. My two Drakes and my Disciple think for a second, and then notice that he’s tapped out. Illuminate for six? Yes, that will kill him. Unfortunately, I still lost the first game, as I couldn’t keep up in the damage race. Game two he decides not to find the Spiritmonger, instead finding Treva, the Renewer to act as defense on his side of the board. At this point I’m completely aghast, as I opened no bombs and he’s already shown me two. Jilt sends Treva back into hiding, and I fly in to do the last damage. The third game was a close one as well, and all three games were some of the best (and most fun) Magic I’ve played in a bit. We begin to go back and forth until he drops a Lightning Angel on me and starts attacking. Talk about injustice! That’s three bombs! Unfortunately, he had to sac a sacland to play out the Angel, so once I find a Repulse she can’t come back. I know he has a Manacles of Decay in his hand, although I can’t remember WHY I knew that (Fact or Fiction, maybe?), so I’m holding onto a Dismantling Blow, waiting for it. He never casts it. I attack to bring him to two; on his turn, he enchants his lone flyer with Squee’s Embrace and flies in to do the last damage to me. I Blow With Kicker and draw into Illuminate, which I turn around on my turn to kill him with.
So I walk home with an extra nine packs of Apocalypse, which isn’t too shabby. Well, it ain’t a box, but like I’m going to complain after going 0-3-1 at States 2000. The second pod I play in, I’m not so lucky, playing G/U/B but getting matched up against one of the guys from the local store where I play every week. We end up drawing, and not on purpose, and my game in the second round ends horribly. How people can pull Spiritmonger in their sealed deck and then DRAW is beyond me, but that’s what my second round opponent had done in the first round.
All in all, I love the set. I pulled some of the painlands, and am looking forward to building lots of new opposite color decks. But that’s for next time, because…
Seven Must Be My Lucky Number
I really haven’t gotten a chance to say much of anything about 7th Edition yet. Mostly because, well, I haven’t written anything of importance in the time frame between when it came out, and now. But since it is June 1st (as I am writing this), and the set has been Constructed-legal for almost a month now, I guess now is as good a time as any to spout off.
First, I love the artwork. Wizards did a pretty good job, overall, with the new art, and the focus on some semblance of a storyline (the Paladins) makes for a pretty contiguous set of images – the Northern (or is it Southern?) Paladin on Disenchant, for example. And it seems like the foil distribution is a little higher in this set – I’ve bought about a dozen or so packs off the shelf, and have pulled foils in about two-thirds of those packs. Granted, they were cards like Unsummon, but that ratio seems a little whacked to me.
The re-emergence of the big, ‘little-kid’ creatures gives the set a more ‘fun’ tone. Mahamoti Djinn is popping up in decklists all over already, and the other big guys like Shivan Dragon, Serra Angel, and Thorn Elemental are likely to show up soon as well. It might be a while before Nightmare shows up, though, because of the focus nowadays on the bi-colored decks.
I could go on and on, but I think what would be better is to take a spot each week and look at some of the oft-forgotten cards that rotated in, and see how they might impact new decks in the months to come. Let’s start off with …
Card Spotlight On: Yavimaya Enchantress
The Enchantress with the non-Enchantress ability, this Enchantress is what made Enchantress decks work once we lost Rabid Wombat. (Did I really use the word ‘enchantress’ that many times in one sentence?) Where Rabid Wombat was an 0/1 for four, Yavimaya Enchantress is a 2/2 for three. Where Rabid Wombat got +2/+2 for each creature enchantment on it, Yavimaya Enchantress gets +1/+1 for each enchantment in play, including your opponent’s. The Rabid Wombat didn’t tap to attack, but we can’t have everything.
Enchantress decks run off of one simple equation: Playing enchantments = drawing cards = more options. Because of the inclusion of Verduran Enchantress in this deck, each enchantment you cast gives you a card right back, thereby netting you more ways to deal with problems. There are a LOT of enchantments to choose from, and most decks nowadays only run cursory enchantment removal in case a Saproling Burst gets past counters. The old Enchantress decks ran off of Rancor and Brilliant Halo, which could be recycled if need be, or used again and again through Claws of Gix. Of course, all of those engines rotated out with the Urza block, and none of them came back.
The first question to answer is,”Mono-green or green-white?” To answer that question, let’s line up the noteworthy enchantments and see what we gain either way.
Green: The first enchantment that is a must-include is Ancestral Mask. At 2G, it’s usable in either version of the deck, and not only augments the per-enchantment bonus already on Yavimaya Enchantress, but also makes any other creature in the deck into a formidable offensive force. Seal of Strength is a possibility, as is Saproling Burst, even though I’m hesitant to use it because it doesn’t give a permanent bonus. Elfhame Sanctuary becomes a nice way to thin out the library, since you’ll be drawing plenty of cards with the Enchantress. Wild Growth makes a return in 7th Edition, as does Familiar Ground, a nice way to ensure that your Enchantresses always have the upper hand.
White: There are a bunch of defensive enchantments in here, most notably things like Parallax Wave, Ivory Mask, and now Worship. There are also creature enchantments you can use on your opponent’s creatures, like Shackles or Hobble. Holy Strength is a nice, cheap creature enchantment that makes our creatures a little more hardy. My favorite choice in this category is probably Lashknife Barrier, which used to be just relegated to Draft or Sealed, but really makes a nice addition here, since it effectively boosts the toughness of Yavimaya Enchantress by two, and lets you draw a card off the Verduran Enchantress.
Green-white multicolored: The first one that really stands out is, of course, Armadillo Cloak. This creature enchantment was really good with a +2/+2 bonus; it’s even better at +3/+3 or better. And the rest of the green/white gold enchantments aren’t too shabby either: Dueling Grounds, Sterling Grove; heck, even Aura Shards isn’t bad.
I think you can go either way, but the green/white version appears more powerful on the surface due to the inclusion of Armadillo Cloak.
In order to give our early Enchantresses more of a fighting chance, I’m taking a page from Zvi and including some of each Acolyte. They’ll give resistance to early Terminates or Scorching Lavas, and give us one more target for an Ancestral Mask or an Armadillo Cloak. It’s possible that only the Crimson one will be needed, but I’m reserving that judgment just yet. Recoil, for one, would be a pain, and you know those Megrim / Warped Devotion decks are coming. Slay is starting to see more sideboard use as well. At the worst, it’s one more thing to put the Cloak on.
I think it’s going to be important to have SOME mana acceleration in this deck, especially with all the card-drawing we hope to do. The fact that these are enchantments themselves doesn’t hurt either. Now, for the rest of the enchantments:
Again: How good is Lashknife Barrier in this deck? Heck, you’re already getting to draw one card just by playing it. It’s like having the Enchantress built in. And then on top of that, all damage is reduced to critters you control? Sign me up. I know this little guy is pretty good in Draft and Sealed, but has yet to make a mark in the Constructed realm. Did I already mention this?
You could also opt to go a more defensive route, using Dueling Grounds, Seals of Cleansing, and maybe splashing in blue for Hanna, Ship’s Navigator. But I think I like the aggressive nature of this listing. Actually, you could swap out the Obsidian Acolytes for 1x Dueling Grounds, 1x Seal of Cleansing, and 1x Worship, and that would be pretty defensive. And eventually I anticipate shifting this deck to G/W/B for Necra Sanctuary, as there should never be an occasion (hopefully) where I wouldn’t have a green and a white permanent on the board.
Joy To The Fishies In The Deep Blue Sea
Merfolk. God bless ‘em. They’re getting a nice resurgence of late thanks to the reprinting of some solid 2cc merfolk – Coral Merfolk and Merfolk Looters – not to mention all the Merfolk we already had. OppoFishion is a new buzzword, kinda. It kinda takes me back to… Well, to Combo Winter.
When Academy was in its heyday, I played Merfolk. Not the Winter Orb kind, because really, that didn’t hurt Academy at all. No, I played Merfolk with Mana Breach. Since Academy usually operated off one or two or three land at the most and used the Academy to cast all sorts of artifact mana, having to bounce a land after each spell was usually detrimental to the whole concept. In theory, anyway; I don’t think I actually played the deck against an Academy deck once during Combo Winter.
That’s neither here nor there though, as Mana Breach is back! Dust off your old Exodus copies, because this card is fun as heck when it comes to disruption. *laugh* I am amazed that the local guys haven’t started putting it into the aforementioned Megrim/Warped Devotion decks.
Me personally, I’m back to using it in a Merfolk deck. And you all know how much I like Merfolk decks. It’s kinda like Stompy, if Stompy were blue and could counter a couple of important things and draw some extra cards. And while I realize that it’s not EXACTLY the same as having a 4/1 or 4/2 attacker on turn 2 … well, it’s pretty darn close.
4x Lord of Atlantis
4x Vodalian Zombie
3x Rootwater Thief
3x Coral Merfolk
3x Merfolk Looter
3x Mana Breach
4x Accumulated Knowledge
3x Sinister Strength
3x Sleeper’s Robe
3x Salt Marsh
2x Underground River
Actually, it’s pretty close to a 4/2 on turn 2 … it’s often a 3/3 or 4/2 or 4/3 on turn 3, which I’ll take. The most expensive things are the Seahunters and the Mana Breaches themselves – so popping a land or two back to your hand usually doesn’t hurt your chances of casting your spell next turn. And once a Seahunter is in play, you can get around the whole Mana Breach thing by searching out your Merfolk instead. And while it’s not going to be dominating Type 2 any time soon, it still is fun as heck to play … and that’s what’s important, right?
Team Sealed Qualifiers? Who goes to those? The REAL meat of Magic now is Block Constructed!