Worst Expansion Ever?: A Planescape Prerelease Report

I was very much looking forward to this tournament, being on a serious tournament jones lately… As those who have followed my Magic musings know, I am horribly overworked and underpaid and haven’t been able to attend many tournaments as I would like. In fact, it had been over a month since I’d played in…

I was very much looking forward to this tournament, being on a serious tournament jones lately… As those who have followed my Magic musings know, I am horribly overworked and underpaid and haven’t been able to attend many tournaments as I would like. In fact, it had been over a month since I’d played in a tournament with more than six people in it.

My plans to drive up to Portland the night before were foiled when I ended up working until ten o’clock Friday night; fortunately, Jay Schneider, fellow trapped-in-Eugene wageslave and builder of decks quite masterful, was kind enough to offer a ride, although it meant getting up a six to leave by seven.

Interlude 1: Don’t Talk To Me in the Morning
I am not a morning person. I don’t become coherent until around eleven o’clock and three or four cups of coffee. Getting up at six tends to make me very cranky. I miss my ten-minute drive to Eugene prereleases. Grrr, Dave angry! Dave smash! Dave want tournaments back in Eugene! (Dave also finds that there are more Portlanders than Eugenians – ergo, unless he’s willing to "hulk up" and expose his secret identity, he’d best stop whining.)

Jay, Lam (another friend of Jay’s along for the ride) and I go over the spoiler list and we pretty much agree, the set does not look promising. Goblin Game? This card can’t be for real, can it? They’re not printing Unglued cards now, are they? We see maybe four or five cards good enough for Constructed play, but outside of that, it looks like a whole lotta chaff.

After a surprisingly short drive, thanks to the fast driving of Jay Schneider, we arrive at the Portland Airport Hilton. Attendance is placed around 235. The deck I ended up is filled with lots of broken love, although not as much as the deck across from me, with a Tsabo Tavoc, Crosis and Ghitu Fire. My cards, as you can see, aren’t that bad.

Duskwalker Ertai’s Trickery Savage Offensive
Ravenous Rats Faerie Squadron Rogue Kavu
Maggot Carrier Arctic Merfolk 2x Kavu Recluse
Mourning Metathran Zombie Kavu Scout
Bog Initiate Tidal Visionary Ghitu Fire
2x Morgue Toad Sway of Illusion Thunderscape Familiar
Nightscape Battlemage Prohibit Rage Weaver
Firescreamer Shoreline Raider Singe
Agonizing Demise Worldly Counsel Kavu Aggressor
Death Bomb Sleeping Potion Zap
2x Phyrexian Bloodstock Escape Routes Tribal Flames
Vodalian Serpent Caldera Kavu
Rainbow Crow
2x Hunting Drake
Stormscape Battlemage

Green White Gold
Aggressive Urge Capashen Unicorn Void
Elvish Champion Glimmering Angel Marsh Crocodile
Llanowar Elite Holy Day Wings of Hope
Kavu Climber Reviving Dose Voracious Cobra
Tangle Strength of Unity Llanowar Knight
Verduran Emissary Heroic Defiance 2x Gerrard’s Command
Vigorous Charge Lashknife Barrier Silver Drake
Root Greevil Orim’s Chant Radiant Kavu
Thornscape Familiar 2x Pollen Remedy 2x Hull Breach
Magnigoth Treefolk Voice of All Plague Spores
Aura Blast 2x Terminate
Surprise Deployment 2x Lava Zombie
Honorable Scout
Sunscape Familiar

Split Artifact Lands
Pain/Suffering Rith’s Attendant 6x Mountain
Assault/Battery 7x Plains
5x Island
6x Swamp
6x Forest
Urborg Volcano
Tinder Farm
Terminal Moraine

My red and black is the bomb, obviously, with scads of removal and two bah-roken cards in Void and Ghitu Fire. I had some good blue cards but had trouble finding where to put them, so I ended up dropping them altogether in my initial build.

This is what I ended up putting together:

1x Assault/Battery
1x Singe
1x Mourning
1x Tribal Flames
2x Terminate
1x Ravenous Rats
1x Thunderscape Familiar
1x Rage Weaver
1x Zap
2x Lava Zombie
1x Caldera Kavu
1x Kavu Aggressor
1x Nightscape Battlemage
2x Morgue Toad
1x Agonizing Demise
1x Firescreamer
1x Void (!!)
1x Phyrexian Bloodstock
1x Duskwalker
1x Plague Spores
1x Ghitu Fire (!!)
7x Swamp
6x Mountain
1x Urborg Volcano
3x Island (added to beef up Tribal Flames, and to pay the kicker on the Nightscape Battlemage, at least in theory)

In retrospect, I should have built the deck slightly differently, replacing the Morgue Toads, Mourning and one Island with the Stormscape Battlemage, Marsh Crocodile, Death Bomb, and Terminal Moraine. I was pretty much always sideboarding these cards in every second game.

At lunch, Jay tells me he will be disappointed if I don’t go 7-0 with this deck (and bemoans the broken-ness that I even got a dual land in my colors). I shall endeavor to live up to expectations.

Interlude 2: Small, Strange World
You never know whom you run into at these tournaments. The most interesting looking player there was this tattooed fellow… On his arms, on his face, on his nose, and, I kid you not, a four-inch bone through his nose.

I wish I’d taken a picture, but I was afraid he might eat me.

Round 1: Brad Missedthelastname – R/G/B

He opens with a Nightscape Apprentice, and I, not wanting to put up with any of shenanigans, hit him with a turn two Assault, then a turn three Morgue Toad. I follow that up with a turn four Thornscape Familiar and Lava Zombie, who is indeed quite the bomb, and a turn five kickered-up Duskwalker. My opponent manages a turn six Alloy Golem, which unfortunately gets to play the Sarah Connor role ("Sarah Connor? Prepare to be Terminated." – use thick Teutonic accent) and my forces of evil and chaos come over for the brutal beatdown.

Game two, I open with early beats, a turn two Rage Weaver and a turn three Aggressor. My opponent has a turn four kickered-up Phyrexian Scuta. But I have the Terminate ready for Mr. Big n’ Broken. "First the insult, then the injury" should have been the flavor text for this card.

After that gut punch, my opponent plays out a Voracious Cobra – which gets a Ghitu Fire – and an Amphibious Kavu, which trades for an Aggressive Kavu. I keep the pressure on, though and the game ends when I Void away his last blocker, a Stone Kavu.

Round 2: Melanie Schnaber – R/G/W/u

Melanie starts off with a turn two Crimson Acolyte – and clearly, while my deck is very good, it doesn’t care for Acolytes very much. I play out a Ravenous Rats and Firescreamer, she replies with a Thornscape and Sunscape Familiar, tapping out to do so (for those playing at home, tapping out with a Crimson Acolyte and an opponent playing heavy red is not – I repeat, not – recommended). On turn five, I Singe and Tribal Flames the familiars away, and she trades her Acolyte for a Rat (which I have no problems with).

I have a turn six Phyrexian Bloodstock; she plays a Radiant Kavu, then plays Magma Burst, getting rid of the Firescreamer that was beginning to apply pressure. I’m able to establish board control by casting Void for four, nailing three creatures on her side of the board, including a freshly-cast Voice of All, then casting a Kavu Aggressor with kicker. Around turn twelve or so, I draw Nightscape Battlemage, and, counting my mana, realize I have enough to cast both kickers! That was my second-coolest play of the day. Next turn, I Ghitu Fire for eight to finish the game.

Game two, Melanie again has the turn two Acolyte, and I again have the Rats. She follows with an Amphibious Kavu and tapping out to cast Voice of All (naming black) – and I take advantage of my one shot to eliminate the flier with Assault. On turn five, I Void for three, eliminating the Amphibious Kavu and two creatures from her hand, then play the old Lava Zombie/Ravenous Rats trick. Oldest trick in the book. The cavalcade of Kavu continues as she casts Radiant Kavu, I answer with Aggressive Kavu – which isn’t much of a defensive answer, but my sideboarded-in Shoreline Raider is. She plays out a Disciple of Kangee, though, and soon I’m taking mad beats from flying Treefolk. Yes, I’m being beaten down by a flying Tree! What is the world coming to?

The Kangee-ite meets an Agonizing Demise, sadly, but Melanie answers with a Flametongue Kavu, killing my Phyrexian Bloodstock cast the turn previously, and I utilize its ability to destroy the Acolyte.

The Treefolk healer and Melanie’s lone island meet my Plague Spores and I start establishing control with a Caldera Kavu I can pump up to 6/6 each turn. She buys a little time, gaining life with an Honorable Scout, but in the end the Caldera Kavu is too much.

Round 3: Chris Hantzmon, 5-color

Game one, I open with a turn two Rage Weaver, and a turn three Lava Zombie (I love these guys!). Chris answers with a Metathran Zombie, and I Assault him away when Chris is tapped out of black, although he returns with a Recover. Just when it looks like I’m going to overrun Chris, though, he responds with a Tsabo’s Decree, naming Zombies, taking out two of my Lava Zombies (but also his Metathran). He’s unable to draw anything after that, however, and I get him with the Rage Weaver.

My notes are a tad spotty for the second game (and my handwriting is worst than most doctors I know), but I know I won. The opening game was very slow, as I don’t have a play until a turn four Firescreamer, then a turn six Nightscape Battlemage with the red kicker to destroy a land. The Firescreamer ends up going the distance as Chris is mana flooded and never draws an answer.

Round 4: Sean McBee – R/B/U

Again, spotty notes, but I had to concentrate here at the 3-0 table. We both had plenty of burn and removal and the spells were flying fast and furious. I got early beats with a Morgue Toad and Firescreamer and even got to Terminate a Crosis! But he has the fat removal too, and after getting him down to four, I start taking a lot of hits from a Duskwalker with Power Armor, and my deck peters out, as I draw four straight land, going from twenty to zero in rapid fashion. At least I manage to entertain onlookers with my spot-on Professor Frink impression. M’hey!

Game two sees me confounded by Confound, as a Plague Spores that would have seen me eliminate his beefiest attacker and his lone island is countered by the confounded spell! That was quite the gut punch to me. I try matching him beats for beats, but he has more combat tricks than I do, including a Cauldron Dance (good glavin!) that eliminates my last chance for winning.

I now have a new least-favorite card. Stoopid Confound… No whole box for me.

Round 5: Ariel Chavon – 5 color

Ariel has to double-mulligan to start game one and my notes look like this:

T2 Thunderscape Familiar
T3 Caldera Kavu
T5 Nightscape Battlemage w/red kicker
Agonizing Demise
Plague Spores

I’ll let you guess who won.

In the second game, I open with a turn three Morgue Toad, and ground his Razortooth Griffin with a two-point Tribal Flames. That is followed by a turn five Phyrexian Bloodstock and Lava Zombie, and they end up going the distance. Lava Zombie + Phyrexian Bloodstock + opponent playing white = some good. Ariel’s deck had plenty of sources of colored mana generation – Star Compass, Fertile Ground and whatnot – but his threats didn’t seem like they were worth going five colors for. Then again, maybe he just never got them out.

Interlude 3: Amphibian Poetry

On a few wacky occasions, I got to recite what I shall now call the Morgue Toad poem:

I have a buddy
My buddy’s a toad
He’s kind of muddy
And flat on the road
But a buddy’s a buddy
And he’s mine to stay
’til he’s peeled up
And sailed away…

And I wonder why I can’t get a date to save my life these days.

Round 6: Randy Hitzeman-Anajon – R/B/W

Game one is quick and brutal. I have a turn two Rage Weaver and a turn three Morgue Toad, and my opponent plays nothing but five swamps, and, I’m guessing, a hand full of non-black spells.

Game two is more interesting. He opens with a Crimson Acolyte; my response is the not-so-threatening Thunderscape Familiar. I bring out a few Kavus, including a non-red Firescreamer (which meets an unfortunate Terminate). Thanks to the Acolyte, all my offense is at a standstill, until I draw Void. I cast it for two, taking out his Acolyte and Capashen Unicorn and revealing his hand – which holds not just a Rout, but a foil Rout! I force him to cast it by keeping the pressure on with a Morgue Toad and Lava Zombie.

Then, the cool play of the tournament: I have Lava Zombie in hand and more mana than I know what to do with, but no way to cast the Zombie without another critter in hand. Then I draw the Rage Weaver. I cast the Weaver, then the Zombie, bouncing the Weaver, re-cast the Weaver, give the Zombie haste, Terminate Chris’s one blocker and attack for four!

After that coolness, victory is soon mine.

Round 7: Brian Hegstad – R/B/U

Brian is a fairly highly-rated player, so a win would mean not only mucho packs but also whopping sixteen rating points! Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

Game one follows the time-honored fast and brutal method. I open with a turn two Weaver; he enchants it with Mourning. Tapped out of black, he loses the Mourning when I cast my Lava Zombie. He’s slightly mana screwed and I steamroll him from there.

Game two sees him with all the answers. A turn three Bog Down strips me of a mountain and Singe, then his turn five Probe strips me of the Ghitu Fire and Void I was holding. Suffice it to say I get overrun rapidly.

Game three, and in keeping with the tradition of Dave getting mana screwed in the last round of prereleases, I have to mulligan to six (and going first-never good), and I’m completely hosed. Brian establishes early beats (stealing from my playbook) with a Mire Kavu, and I’m forced to play bombs like Duskwalker and Stormscape Apprentice sans kicker just to have blockers while I desperately try to get to five mana to cast Void.

Unfortunately, I’m dead before I get to five mana. So no massive packs or massive ratings jump for me.

But six packs ain’t a bad prize, so I shan’t complain excessively.

So what is my early opinion of Planescape? I’ll back off from the "worst expansion ever" claim in the title, as I think it’s a pretty good deck for Sealed and Draft play, but for Constructed…Boy, there ain’t much there at first glance. The familiars are nice for Sealed, but, man; the Planeswalker cards are indeed bad.

Phyrexian Scuta: I sense Omeed’s work here – scuta, plural of scutum, from the Latin for "shield" or "bony, plated armor." Again, WotC shows us that there’s someone in R&D with an appreciation for the ancient and arcane verbiage. If there’s a signature card from Planescape, it’s this latest Juzam wannabe – and a fine fine card it is – unless it’s this guy…

Doomsday Specter: This bad boy will combo well with Ravenous Rats and any black or blue "187" creature. Unfortunately, the only good think in Standard they do work well with right now is the Rats. The Marsh Crocodile isn’t half-bad, either.

Meddling Mage: He’s probably not gonna see too much use in Standard, but I imagine we’ll see it played a lot on Extended. With apologies to John Steinbeck, whenever High Tide is beating down some poor chump, he’ll be there. Whenever Trix is dominating the environment, he’ll be there. Whenever combo ever rears its ugly head and threatens to make life miserable for the rest of us – he’ll be there. I must have more of these cards, just ’cause Pikula’s so damn sexy.

Terminate: Yes, this is the best card in the set, hands down, and it might finally make B/R "Machine Head" decks viable in Constructed and force Rebel decks to start splashing Acolytes. It’s that damn good.

Diabolic Intent: Sure, sacrificing a creature sucks. But it’s a Demonic Tutor. Live with it. It’s not that bad.

Other candidates for constructed-worthy cards include Lord of the Undead – an upgrade over ye olde Zombie MasterLava Zombie, Diabolic Intent, Bog Down, Magma Burst, Shivan Wurm, and Eladamri’s Call.

Draco? Goblin Game? Oy, don’t get me started. Apparently R&D has a rule that any artifact that costs ten or more mana must automatically suck, also known as the "Aladdin’s Lamp Corollary."

And judging from the looks of things, "The Rule" (draft U/B) has morphed into "The Absolute Law" (avoid green and white like the plague). Red, black and blue are just insane right now. Blue got some nasty counterspells in Confound and the underrated Ertai’s Trickery, black got more removal, and red got more burn and good creatures, and Terminate is the absolute bomb. White got Planeswalker’s Mirth. You tell me what color got shafted.

Props, of course, to Ken Horton and his stalwart Black Lotus Productions crew for another well run tournament (although he also gets a mini-slop for moving his tournaments from Eugene to Portland, forcing me to miss valuable beauty sleep, getting up at 6 a.m. to drive to Portland) and, of course, my opponents, gracious in victory and defeat.

In two weeks: Dave’s Adventures at PTQ: Barcelona, or, I’m Qualifying For The Pro Tour If I Have To Poison The Lot Of You.

Dave Meddish