Hey, I’m back, did anyone miss me?
Nice. The Internet community – what a fickle mistress. I leave for six months, and it’s like Magic completely changed or something.
Was I really gone for six months?
Okay, let’s see what I missed.
- Invasion Block Constructed – That’s strange, I remember playing in one IBC Qualifier, out in Harrisburg, PA, where I finally met John Rizzo. Then he called me a teddy bear in his column next week – which is probably what drove me into hiding in the first place. And of course, he had conveniently forgotten his camera, so he had no pictures standing next to the 6’4″, 300+ pound Monstrosity of Magic. At least teddy bears are cute – I am cute also. Ahem, right; the qualifier. I went 4-3 playing Dark Domain, and I’ll be surprised if that deck isn’t still around in Type 2 nowadays. At least you can see that I have not improved on my winning ways.
- Odyssey – Aw geez, not another whole standalone. Didn’t I just open Seventh Edition packs looking for foil Underground Rivers or something? That means that I have to take apart the Wild Research deck that I just found under my bed, since it has Accumulated Knowledges in it. I wonder if there are any good cards in this set? You know, thinking back on Invasion, that turned out to be a pretty good set. The whole block was cool. So that means, in the cyclical nature that is Wizards, this one will suck.
- State Championships – Oops, I would have played in New Jersey states. Oh, who are we kidding here? I went 0-3-1 last year, playing a deck that Bennie Smith designed, no less. (I figure I can blame him now for my record, since the particulars are mostly forgotten.) Of course, he chickened out at Virginia States and played Fires that year. Wonder how he did this year? I should send out my”change of email address” notification messages.
- The Restricting of Fact or Fiction in Classic – Hrm; they affected, what, ten Magic players with that decision?
The good news is, I’m coming back on board just in time for a new set! And that means:
To me, there is nothing quite like a weekend-long Magic event. It’s almost like a vacation; a chance to forget about the pressures of home and work alike (for those of us who do work), a chance to escape to fantastic worlds full of all sorts of mean creatures. Well,”escape” is a tricky word there, since I do live in New Jersey, which is full of all sorts of mean creatures in its own right. But you get my point – I love the Magical Weekend.
Pro Tours are fine in this respect. I’ve attended the last two PT: NYs in one capacity or another, and they’re pretty cool. It tends to be above my head, me being the complete and total amateur, so I’m not completely into them. No, when I talk about weekend-long Magic fun, I’m talking about pure fun.
I’m talking about Prereleases.
Yes, Prereleases, that non-competitive (okay, semi-competitive) forum where everyone from Johnny Pro Playa to little Timmy can get their grubby hands on the next 143 cards that everyone will be playing with – at least, for another four months. Prereleases, where eager players from all walks of life continuously play in drafts or side events.
Yes, if Magic is cocaine, then Prereleases are certainly the Colombian drug cartel. All you have to do is witness one fourteen-year-old, scrambling through his pockets for crumpled-up dollar bills, begging his friends for cash – all to get one last draft in before the end of the day.
Wizards has ’em hooked. And Torment is just the newest 8-ball that they’re peddling.
By now, if you’re any kind of Internet denizen, you’ve caught up with the new mechanics that they’re dishing out for this set. One of them, Nightmares, was even created by Richard Garfield himself. And you’ve probably heard about how this set is going to be the first set that’s, um, unbalanced. Not Urza’s Cycle unbalanced, but color unbalanced – there will be almost twice as many black cards as white and green cards, and the other colors fall somewhere in between. So right off the bat, Wizards is feeding us something a little different.
And now, given the chance to peruse what appears to be the full spoiler courtesy of Brainburst.com, there are a lot of really different things. Let’s start out with this guy:
Creature – Merfolk Legend
3: Target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Side story: When I first started playing competitive Magic back in Tempest, I was lucky enough to play against a U/W control deck in one of the rounds, and the primary kill method was with the venerable Millstone. To me, winning without actually doing damage was a completely foreign idea. It still is to some extent, mostly because I like the attack phase. But Wizards has been nonetheless determined to give us access to this”alternate” win condition: Witness Grindstone and Whetstone. And now, in a block that’s just filled with graveyard fun, they give us the Millstone Stick.
Ambassador Laquatus is more than a Millstone. Comparing them across the board makes this point quite obvious: Millstone mills two for two mana and a tap; Grindstone does two (initially) for three mana and a tap; Whetstone does two cards (for both of you) for three mana and no tap. Laquatus does three cards for three mana, straight up.
Now, Laquatus does have his downsides. First, he’s a creature, which means that there are literally hundreds of ways to kill him, and people actually play those kill cards maindeck. Secondly, he’s a legend, which means you can’t get more than one into play to magnify the effect. But all this really means is that a little different approach is needed when including Laquatus in a deck.
Domain was a mainstay during IBC and could still make an appearance in Type 2 if creature-based decks start making an impact. The problem with Domain, in my opinion, is that it can’t keep up counter-for-counter with the more control-oriented decks that are popular. One option is for Domain to return to the more control-based, Hippo-bearing U/G/W version that it started out as, and Laquatus provides not only an alternate”win” condition (I’ll use that term lightly), but he also gives you a chance to chew through some of your opponent’s countermagic by putting them directly into the graveyard.
4x Lay of the Land
4x Allied Strategies
4x Collective Restraint
4x Evasive Action
4x another counterspell (your options include Gainsay, Syncopate, or Absorb)
2x Global Ruin
2x Questing Phelddagrif
3x Ambassador Laquatus
Gainsay as a maindeck choice? Given the amount of blue that sees play nowadays, why not? Counters Meddling Mages, Shadowmage Infiltrators, not to mention that nasty Upheaval… All for 2 mana. Nice.
The three Laquatuses (Laquati?) are necessary, since you want as good a shot as possible of getting one down early. Your mana should fall out so that you can cast him on turn 3 or 4, but you can hold onto him until you can back him up with a couple of counters.
Ambassador Laquatus, King Of The Fishies
The other deck that might use Laquatus is the Opposition deck, either the mono-U or the U/G version. I like the Merfolk version for this, because the Lords pump him up to a much-tougher-to-kill 2/4. Okay, he still dies to Flametongue Kavu, but not so much to the three-damage burn spells that people are packing for Shadowmage love.
4x Merfolk Looter
4x Lord of Atlantis
4x Mystic Snake
4x Gaea’s Skyfolk
3x Ambassador Laquatus
4x Call of the Herd
3x Fact or Fiction
3x Static Orb
4x Yavimaya Coast
Again, you have the basic deck that’s been around for a while, with the added ability to use your extra mana at the end of your opponent’s turn to dump some of his cards into his graveyard. Since you can use it multiple times in a turn and you can use it even while he’s tapping something with Opposition, Laquatus makes a perfect fit.
Bring The Pain
In any event, this weekend is definitely going to be fun. Do what I’m going to do, and get out and get Tormented.