Tag Archives: sealed

Grand Prix Toronto – Tournament Report (Scars of Mirrodin Sealed)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling across Canada to Toronto, a city I had never visited save the airport. I left Edmonton shortly after my first class on Friday, and met up with my uncle who was my traveling partner for the weekend. He had an old friend in Mississauga (A city adjacent to Toronto where the event was actually held) and we decided to go together.

Our flight was rather uneventful, and rather than make the 30-minute walk down from our hotel to the International Center, we decided to spend the evening relaxing after the 4 hour flight. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t get one of the sick Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon playmats they were giving out, but I was thankful for the rest.

In the morning, we bussed down to see the center filled with people. Already I could see that this event would be the largest I had ever been to, making the 100 person PTQs back in Alberta seem like an FNM.

Slightly bigger than a 100-man PTQ.
Slightly bigger than a 100-man PTQ.

When the seatings were posted for deck construction, I was surprised to see that I only had 1 bye (from rating) when I should have had 3 (from winning a GPT). After a walk by the judges station, I found out that several other players had the same problem, and the judges assured me that everything would be sorted out after deck construction.

Before handing out product, we were informed that 1462 players had sat down to battle Scars of Mirrodin sealed deck. After registering and swapping sealed decks, this is what I was presented with:

“If I was in my local store and opened an Opal I would jump for joy, but I did not travel 1000 miles to open an Opal,” – Brad Nelson

While I can’t say I was as disappointed as Mr. Nelson who ended up losing in the finals of this event, I was much more excited at the prospect of winning games with Hoard-Smelter Dragon than I was at tapping my Mox Opal.

The first thing I (and many other players) do when looking at a sealed pool is to look at the rares. A powerful rare like the aforementioned Dragon can highly incentivize the playing of one colour over another. Unlike Magic Online, I can’t apply sorting filters to my sealed pool instantly, so I looked through my pool to find Copperline Gorge, Myr Propagator, Tempered Steel and Livewire Lash in addition to the dragon and mox. Of those, the only ones which really shone were the steel and the dragon, so I kept those red and white cards in mind as I persued the rest of my pool.

Looking at my white I only had a few spells that I would be happy to maindeck: Glimmerpoint Stag, Kembas Skyguard, Tempered Steel, and Arrest. While I’m sorely tempted by the Steel, I don’t think I’ll be able to play white unless I have a Gold Myr or some other fixing to consistently get double white on turn 3. In addition, I would need a sizable number of artifact creatures to boost up. While splashing the Arrest was a possibility, I moved white to the side.

In blue we have a few playable cards, the best of which is the Riddlesmith. Bonds of Quicksilver, Disperse, Sky-Eel School and Lumengrid Drake are all playable, but nothing spectacular.

Our black is pretty underwhelming as well. There are only a few poison cards and the non-poison cards don’t exactly get me excited. Flesh Allergy is fine, but it’s not splashable and there’s really nothing else I’d be able to back it up with. I had to start hoping that my red, green, and artifacts would be enough to carry this deck, as my pool wasn’t looking very promising.

Red looked like it could provide the makings of a base colour. We have some good removal in the form of double Shatter and a Galvanic Blast. We also have Bloodshot Trainee, a card which I think is being vastly underrated. If you get the guy online, he will win you the game. Simple. There are so many ways to get him going, most obviously equipment, but less obviously so Vulshok Heartstoker, Untamed Might and Trigon of Rage, two of which our pool has. I’m a fan of the Heartstoker, as it allows you to push through some extra damage in the early game, in addition to turning on the trainee. Barrage Ogre is a card that I haven’t had a ton of experience with, but the few results I have have been relatively positive. Finally, Blade-Tribe Berserkers is a card that’s been really good for me, as sometimes a Hill Giant just gets there, and the metalcraft bonus is extremely relevant when it triggers. Red definitely looked like it had the potential to be a main colour, and I moved on to green.

Green had some solid cards, namely Untamed Might,Slice in Twain, and Acid Web Spider, along with pseudo-green card Sylvok Replica. There is also the Alpha Tyrranax a card I personally underrated until very recently, as the only real answers to it are Turn to Slag and Arrest. Again our green doesn’t have enough depth to support an infect deck, so it looks like red, followed by green and white are our best colours.

Looking at the artifacts, we a fair bit of decent equipment in the form of Livewire Lash, Grafted Exoskeleton, Strider Harness, Barbed Battlegear and Bladed Pinions. I’m especially a huge fan of the battlegear, as it turns any creature into a fighting force. Unfortunately, you have to ensure that your deck had enough creatures with 2 or more toughness to make sure that you can equip it with any regularity. We have a couple of Myr, one of which is on-colour, as well as a Contagion Clasp. This was the first Clasp I had opened in a limited event, and I was suitably happy about it.

Here’s the list I ended up registering:

A few notes about this deck.

1. It is built incorrectly. I realized after that I probably should have splashed the Arrest, as I didn’t have any answers to large, non-artifact bombs. As well, I might’ve liked Alpha Tyrannax mainboard, although that might have made my deck to top-heavy. I probably could’ve cut the Saberclaw Golem and/or a Blade-Tribe Berserkers for either of these options. Wall of Tanglecord was also a consideration.

2. Liquimetal Coating plays a role as an aggressive card here. This lets us turn all the artifact removal we have into Vindicate, and it also lets us get a great deal more value out of our Barrage Ogre. Although we can use it to turn on our 3 metalcraft spells, that wasn’t its intended primary function.

3. Barbed Battlegear only kills our 2 mana myr, and nothing else. Therefore it’s operating at pretty much max efficiency.

4. Bloodshot Trainee has 4 ways to get online including 2 equipment and 2 one-shot effects. I’ve found as long as you have 2 equipment for him, everything else is just gravy.

5. Although many players have advocated running 16 land in a for what with a bunch of myr to serve as acceleration, my testing group and I found out that you almost always still want 17 land, as an early Embersmith or Contagion Clasp can crush your dreams of making your 4th land drop. Patrick Chapin recently wrote an article about people cheating on their land bases by playing too few, and complaining about mana screws afterwords. With our slightly higher curve we want to make land drops consistently, so 17 land is definitely warranted.

Let’s get to the action, shall we?

Rounds 1-3

Chippy (front) and Steve Argyle (back) sign cards for players.  Chippy's line was easily an hour long.
Chippy (front) and Steve Argyle (back) sign cards for players. Chippy's line was easily an hour long.

The problem with the byes was fixed, but the tournament organizers messed up everyone’s country. I was playing for the states and many other players were also playing for countries in which they did not reside. This never did end up getting fixed, and I can only hope that for events like worlds they get this straightened out. Anyway, I used my byes to get a ton of cards signed by artists Chippy (famous pieces include Lotus Cobra, Abyssal Persecutor and Doom Blade) and Steve Argyle (famous pieces include Slave of Bolas, Admonition Angel, and Chandra Ablaze). It was really great being able to meet and talk with them face-to-face, and I look forward to meeting more artists in the future.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs James

I came into this round relatively happy with my deck. Action starts early in the game with me Galvanic Blasting his myr after he missed a land drop to put him on 2 mountains for mana. I followed that up with a Liquimetal Coating and attempted to further exacerbate his mana screw by Shattering a land. Naturally, he drew runner-runner land and was back in it. I was beating in with a 5/5 Acid Web Spider thanks to Livewire Lash. He brings the beatdown with a metal army boosting up Ezuris Brigade to an 8/8. When he attacks I cast[ Untamed Might on my tapped spider to trigger the lash and Shock his Snapsail Glider, taking him off metalcraft. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as shortly afterwards my opponent aimed a metalcrafted Galvanic Blast at me to finish me off.

In game 2 I bring in a couple plains and the Arrest, and we battle back and forth for a bit. I cast Contagion Clasp for the first time in my life to take out an Embersmith and keep augmenting my board presence. In the end, there’s a situation where he’s at 6 and I’m at 15. He has a Vulshok Replica and I had some relevant creature, I forgot to note down which. I debate my various lines of attack (I had some other relevant spell in my hand i could use to ensure the win next turn[/card], but I could run the option of attacking and winning with Untamed Might if he didn’t block. He fell for it and we were shuffling up for game 3.

A note on Untamed Might: everyone knows this card is insnae in the infect deck. However, some people claim that it’s not good in any other archetype. Those people are mistaken, as Untamed Might is a solid combat trick that can serve as removal for some of the bigger threats in the set. A combat trick that scales makes it also very possible to simply steal games from nowhere as I have done on multiple occasions. Seriously, the card is really good.

In game 3 I’m the beatdown as I one again equip Livewire Lash on a guy and start beating in. When he taps out for Turn to Slag to kill my lashed beater, I realize that I’ve got the game won. I cast Galvanic Blast at his face in response before my metalcraft goes offline, and use the Lash trigger to Shock him. I then untap and use Untamed Might on a myr to finish the game.

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Matt Nass

This was my first match against a pro so to speak, and I was a little nervous when facing down the Channel Fireball writer. We made some nice conversation before the round started and then we were off to the races.

Matt took the draw and came out strong by Contagion Clasping my turn 2 myr. His Golem Artisan was quickly dispatched by my Bloodshot Trainee (powered by Vulshok Heartstoker). He dropped double Darksteel Axe with no creatures to but them on, until the next turn where he dropped Myr Battlesphere. However, it wasn’t enough to stop a Golem Artisan from flying over and taking out the rest of his life.

In game 2, Matt leads with a Darksteel Axe, and follows up with a Glint Hawk Idol. I have a Sylvok Replica which I crack to kill the idol. Maty misses his third land drop for a few turns and I’m forced to run out an Acid-Web Spider without killing anything to keep up the beats. I resolve my Hoard-Smelter Dragon which starts to dominate the game from there. Matt showed me his hand afterwards which was full of goodies like Myr Battlesphere that very well might have beat me had he hit his land drops. However, I’m not one to turn down a win, and I thanked Matt for the games.

5 – 0

Round 6: vs Thomas

In the 6th round, I start off with a myr on turn 2, although I miss my 4th land drop. I Slice in Twain his Chrome Steed only for him to buy it back with a Razor Hippogriff. In order to deal with the flier, I used my Liquimetal Coating and Sylvok Replica in combination. However, he gets double Chrome Steed to resolve with metalcraft, and his 4/4s overwhelm me.

In game 3 we trade pretty evenly for a while and I stabilize behind a sideboarded Wall of Tanglecord equipped with both a Bladed Pinions and a [/card]Livewire Lash[/card]. However, my defense is decimated upon his casting a Carnifex Demon, which pretty much beats me out from there.

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Mitchell

Mitchell and I talk before our match and it turns out that he used to live in Edmonton too before moving to eastern Canada. Early on he Trinket Mages for Darksteel Axe, but I reply with my Bloodshot Trainee and equip it with my Livewire Lash. My machine-gun quickly decimates his board and pretty much carries the game.

Games 2 and 3 were very similar, but for him. Both games he got his Darksteel Axe via Trinket Mage and pumped up his own Bloodshot Trainee. Again, the 4 damage per turn just destroys every threat I can play, and I’m quickly scooping up my cards. As well, I mulliganned to 4 in game 3, which made it slightly harder to pull out a win.

5 – 2

Round 8: vs Samuel

In round 8, both my opponent and I need to win 2 more rounds to make day 2. I keep a slower hand than I would like (I should’ve mulliganned, I just hated the prospect of mulling in such a crucial match). While I’ve become better at taking mulligans in the past year or so, I think I still need to take more when I get hands that in all likelihood won’t win me the game.

Samuel leads off with a Riddlesmith and a Trinket Mage for Sylvok Lifestaff, while I try and mount a defense with with an equipped Blade-Tribe Berserkers. He has the Turn to Slag, and punishes my slow draw to the point where I can’t recover.

In game 3 I don’t have many notes, but what I do remember is going slightly on tilt after he cast a Darksteel Myr. Normally this isn’t a card I’m terribly afraid of but I was racking my brain to see what my deck had to deal with it and I came up with nothing. Was I going to lose this match because I couldn’t get through a Darksteel Myr? Of course, in hindsight I had Contagion Clasp, Golem Artisan and Hoard-Smelter Dragon as outs, as well as my sideboarded Arrest. However, he had enough removal to deal with my team and then cast a few relevant spells that shot me down.

Final Record: 5 – 3.

So there it is. I was out of the running for day 2, and my final standing was 273rd out of 1426. I chatted with a few friends and then headed back to my hotel room, ready for a day of drafting and legacy. I also took in the judge booth, which is an experimental feature where you get asked 3 rules questions, and get awarded prizes based on the number you got correct. Seeing as I’m set to take my level 1 Judge test this Sunday (wish me luck), I knew I had to ace the questions. Of course I did and walked away with a couple of foils and a pack for my troubles.

For those of you that haven’t attended a GP yet, I highly encourage you to do so. It was a fantastic experience except for the fact that our plane heading back got hit by lightning, causing us to return to the Toronto airport. What would’ve had me home at 11PM local time had me home at 4AM instead, with a class the next morning – yay.

This was my first major event and it really only whetted my appetite for more. The 2011 GP Schedule has been announced and I’d love to make it to Montreal for the GP there. I’m PTQing this weekend in Calgary, so I’ll have another report sometime up next week.

Major thanks go to my testing team at Wizard’s Comics who helped me prepare: Matt, Brian, Blaine, Stephen, Jim, and everyone else. Thanks so much. Thanks also to Skyfox Games who put on a great tournament considering the attendance, and for quickly fixing the hiccough with the byes. Thanks to the judges who did anadmirable job, who worked nonstop for most of the weekend. In talking to my friend Matt who judged, I discovered that they worked full days on both days, and I really appreciate all the work judges do.

As always, you can feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or article suggestions via email (zak-AT-power9pro.com), via twitter (www.twitter.com/zturchan), or in Magic Online (zturchan).

Cheers,

Zak

Tales From The Magic 2011 Prerelease: Part 2

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of “Tales from the Prerelease”. I had the pleasure of attending 2 separate prereleases this past weekend because I just couldn’t get enough of the new core set: Magic 2011. Tomorrow is the set’s official release, and I hope you’ve got your boxes preordered to make sure you’re getting one of the nice new Birds of Paradise promos, I know I have.

Let’s look at what I opened in my other Magic 2011 Prerelease, shall we?

Zak’s Sealed Pool

Here’s the deck that I created.

This deck is very midrange, with most of the punch coming in the form of Cudgel Troll and Greater Basilisk. The double Crystal Ball ensures a steady stream of relevant spells in the later turns of the game, and our suite of removal should hopefully provide enough room for our green creatures to bash in.

One card I was not sold on at all was the Necrotic Plague, because it seemed like it would run counter to our plan of using Cudgel Troll as a main beater, but after some convincing by a friend who also opened it, I agreed to give it a shot. I also considered the inclusion of double Mind Rot, as that card is usually considered good in limited. However, I wanted to make sure that I had enough creatures to keep up a steady stream of guys.

Regarding the splash colour, I chose Blinding Mage because of it’s ability to deal with bombs. This quality made it more attractive to me than the double Pyroclasm. However, I understood that my splash colour might change in sideboarding, so I ensured I had a supply of basic lands on hand. Blue also is a potentially attractive splash, boasting Mind Control, Diminish, Mana Leak, and even Flashfreeze. I would not fault anyone for choosing one of these other colours as the splash, but the Blinding Mage is more universal while being less intense on our mana.

Let’s see how the rounds turned out!

Round 1: vs Garret

Garret is a local player who has a strange affinity for goblins. Having sat next to him during the sealed, I jokingly asked him if he was playing the Goblin Chieftan that I saw he opened. He gave an ambiguous response, and we were off to the races. The game started off slow, with the first play being my turn 4 Prized Unicorn, which quickly met its end at the hands of Garrets Doom Blade. I followed up with a Cudgel Troll, leaving green mana open for regeneration. Garret cast a Stone Golem the next turn, but I still bashed in with my troll, knocking him to 16. I follow up with a Greater Basilisk, and Garret suicides his Golem into my snake, trying to bluff a trick. In the absence of one, he Gravediggers it back to his hand, and lands an Ancient Hellkite. However, his life total is at a precarious 7, and he opts to trade his hellkite for my basilisk when I attack. He casts another Gravedigger, and brings his dragon back, but with him at 1 life now, he has to leave his dragon back to block. Once he commits more of a force to the battlefield and dispatches my Liliana’s Specter with a Chandras Outrage, he is able to attack with the dragon and burn my Blinding mage to cinders. However, I topdeck an Assassinate, and the game is over in short order.

For game 2, I board out my white splash, as well as 2 Black Knights and the Nantuko Shade. Boarding out 3 cards that want double black extremely early lets me deepen my splash, as I bring in 3 Islands, Flashfreeze, Mind Control and Mana Leak.

Garret starts off with a Terramorphic Expanse for a mountain, and brings out Runeclaw Bear and Llanowar Elves. My first play is Cudgel Troll on turn 4, and we both cast Prized Unicorns on our successive turns. On turn 5, I’m staring at Mitotic Slime and Flashfreeze. I make the greedy play and assume he will not have a turn 6 Ancient Hellkite, but he does, and I quickly die because I didn’t leave my counter mana open.

In game 3 I cast a turn 3 Cultivate, and get two Islanda because I have Mind Control in my hand. I cast Greater Basilisk on turn 4, and draw some cards with Sign in Blood on the next turn. His attempt to Doom Blade my snake is stopped by a Mana Leak. I add further pressure with Mitotic Slime, and Mind Control his only creature: a Garruks Packleader. When he drops a Yavimaya Wurm, it simply isn’t enough.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Shane

I start this round off with a mulligan to 5, and he puts out a Goblin Balloon Brigade enchanted with an Unholy Strength. Although Quag Sickness takes care of the ballooners, I’m quickly facing down a Juggernaut, with no removal to stop it. I manage to put out a steady stream of blockers but he eventually Fireballs my last blockers and steamrolls me to death with his war machine.

I board in Naturalize, Solemn Offering, and another plains to take care of both his auras (ideally as a combat trick) or his Juggernaut. The game starts off in an eerie fashion, with both of us having turn 2 Black Knights and turn 3 Lilianas Specter. He resolves a Royal Assasin which puts a hamber on any offense I could possibly mount. However, his Juggernaut does not get to go on the rampage that it did in game 1 due to my Naturalize, and I resolve Cudgel Troll, Giant Spider and Greater Basilisk to act as a solid defense until I can draw removal for his assassin. He eventually casts Act of Treason on my troll, and I respond by putting a regeneration shield on it (all that my mana would allow). He attacks with it, and then uses both the Assassin’s ability and an Assassinate to do away with the regenerating troll. Just in time, I draw my own Assassinate to kill his source of removal. When Shane starts casting spells like Barony Vampire and Unholy Strength in the late game, my more powerful cards like Mitotic Slime and Garruks Packleader begin to dominate and clinch the game for me.

After seeing the assassin, I actually board out my extra white and bring in the blue package, hoping to Mind Control or counter the assassin, while leaving Naturalize in to deal with his artifacts and auras. In game 3, he starts of slow with an Elixir of Immortality, and missing his 4th land drop. I however, have no such problems as I Cultivate into a Cudgel Troll with regeneration mana open. Shane does have his Royal Assassin, but I’m more than happy to Mind Control it. We each build up creatures until Shane decides to wipe the board with a Destructive Force. However, I am able to rebuild my mana much easier than shane does, and I bring out a Greater Basilisk in only a few turns, which does in Shane, who’s still struggling for land after his board wipe.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Atilla

I start off with a Black Knight, and cast Necrotic Plague on his Cyclops Gladiator, trading in my knight. I cast my Greater Basilisk on turn 5, which looks quite impressive compared to his 5 drop: a Serras Ascendant. He does resolve an Earth Servant as a 4/9, but when my team grows to include another basilisk and a Lilianas Specter. When he starts to hit a bit of a mana glut, I capitalize and win out with my team.

In game 2, I board in my blue package again, including the Diminish. While my start is pretty lackluster with a Black Knight, Cultivate, and not much else. Atilla pumps up a hasty Vulshok Berserker[/card[ with Holy Strength and then brings out [card]Earth Servant. Unable to draw a Greater Basilisk, he is able to attack me down to 5 and finish me off with a Lava Axe.

Game 3 is all me as I play Black Knight followed by back-to-back Lilianas Specters. His lone Vulshok Berserker simply doesn’t do enough when I bring out a Garruks Packmaster as well, and he dies to my team when he cant mount a defense.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Matt

I’ve heard rumours of Matt’s supposedly unstoppable deck, so I’m a little bit anxious going into the round. He plays a turn 3 Cultivate and casts Acidic Slime on turn 4 to screw me out of green mana. I’m able to play out Lilianas Specter, Black Knight, and Necrotic Plague, but soon my hand becomes clogged with uncastable green spells. Matt brings out a Fauna Shaman and tutors for a Sun Titan. To add insult to injury, he equips it with a Sword of Vengeance, and pretty much wrecks me.

I board in the blue package again, hoping to counter his bombs before they start to affect the game too much. He Cultivates again on turn 3, and brings out a turn 4 Garruks Packleader. I am able to resolve a Cudgel Troll and Mana Leak his Sun Titan. However, he has double Pacifism for two of my blockers and I die off in short order.

3 – 1

Round 5: vs Liam

Liam starts the game off with a Goblin Tunneler, and follows it up with a turn 3 Manic Vandal. I resolve my Prized Unicorn on turn 4, but he replies with a Sword of Vengeance. However, a draw of double Greater Basilisk is able to stave off his weaker creatures, even the ones who wield the sword. He ends up being stuck on 4 lands, which is hard with the sword’s equip cost of 3. When I bring a Cudgel Troll to the battlefield, he can’t defend himself and quickly keels over.

In game 2 I get a turn 3 Crystal Ball, which I follow up with Blinding Mage. He casts Reassembling Skeleton and Diabolic Tutor. He plays his tutored-for Sword of Vengeance and throws it on a Child of Night for a commanding presence. However, the mage makes the sword almost useless, and I manage to Assassinate his 4/6 Earth Servant. When I bring a fighting force of Nantuko Shade, Garruks Packleader to the battlefield, he can do little as all his threats are either locked down or destroyed.

Final Record: 4 -1

My X – 1 record nabs me half a box worth of store credit, and second place in the tournament. As before, here’s my segment on my top cards of the day.

Top Cards

Crystal Ball
Although not mentioned in detail during my match analysis, this card has proved itself to be amazing. If you can resolve one early, your card quality becomes simply amazing compared to your opponent. You almost never hit a dead draw and can dig very effectively for answers or lands of a particular colour. If you’re digging for a specific card, you can scry at the end of your opponent’s turn and during your own upkeep to dig 4 cards deep before drawing for a turn. The fact that such library manipulation is staple to a colourless card is also noteworthy, as it can give green and red decks that traditionally have little card manipulation the power and consistency that they need as the game progresses to the later stages. I can easily see this card getting picked within the first 3 picks in a draft, and it should be played in every sealed deck you open it in.

Greater Basilisk
Maybe it’s the fact I had 3 of these guys, but they served me admirably throughout the course of the game. They provide both an excellent offense when against a walling opponent, and can defend against most of the formats ground-based creatures without risking their life. When building my deck I had doubts about how good they would prove to me, but rest assured, my fears have been assuaged. I’ll always be happy to have this guy an in any green deck, as he makes your opponent’s gameplay extremely difficult.

Cultivate
While many players originally thought this card was amazing, there are some who don’t realize how ridiculous this card is. Not only does it ramp your mana and ensure that you make a land drop on the text turn, but it helps you fix mana for both splashes or double colour commitments easily. This card is the absolute nuts, and is one of the most potent 3-drops that green has.

That’s it for now, stay tuned for next week when I go into detail about drafting Magic 2011, and a I launch a video series of my exploits on Magic Online. If you want to contact me, email me at zak -AT- power9pro.com or sound off in the comments below.

Cheers,

Zak

Tales From the Worldwake Prerelease

This morning I woke up only to receive a telephone call from my friend Matthew, asking if I wanted to go to the prerelease in the nearby town of Sherwood Park. Normally I go to a closer one on Sunday, but with the offer of a ride extended, I packed my Dragon’s Egg and trade binder and was off for a prerelease a day earlier than I had anticipated.

When I got to the site, I was happy to see several faces that I hadn’t seen for several months, and exchanged pleasantries for several minutes until the product was handed out. Here’s what I received.

The first thing I noticed in this pool were the rares. We can safely say that Bazaar Trader and Emeria, the Sky Ruin are unplayable, as we don’t have an Abyssal Persecutor or enough cards to warrant a mono-white deck to make either worthwhile. We also have a Mordant Dragon, which is an amazing bomb, although ti requires a heavy commitment to red. Likewise, we have Celestial Mantle, but that is hindered by the same high-colour cost as the dragon. Finally we have Guul Draz Specter, a card I’m always happy to have, and the new Theda Adel, Acquisitor which has the potential to steal a timely Blazing Torch, Trusty Machete, or even a Lodestone Golem.

Looking at the white cards in this pool, we have some very good support cards, such as an Ionas Judgment, an Apex Hawks and the always amazing Brave the Elements, in addition to the aforementioned Celestial Mantle. All in all, I don’t think that there are enough high-quality cards for white to warrant being a main colour, which pretty much excludes the mantle from getting played.

Blue in this pool is actually quite deep. We have bombs like Living Tsunami, Vapor Snare and Merfolk Seastalkers, as well as the neo-Sleep: Permafrost Trap. This can definitely be a main colour, as it has some of the most powerful cards in the pool.

When we look at the black cards, we unfortunately come up a little light on removal. However, we have solid cards like Giant Scorpion and Vampire Nighthawk. Also worth noting are the 2 copies of Pulse Tracker, which can act as a pseudo Savannah Lions, so if we have the cards to play a bit more aggressive deck we can go that route.

The red cards in this pool are okay, but they all have a tendency to get outclassed relatively quickly. While Crusher Zendikon and Goblin Shortcutter are fine, I just don’t know exactly how much we can count on the red cards in this pool to still be relevant in the late game.

Looking over the artifacts and lands, nothing super-special jumps out at me, except for the pair of Adventuring Gear, the double Tectonic Edge and the Quicksand. However, I don’t want to play too many lands that produce colourless, and I think the Edges are best suited for the sideboard, to be brought in against any opponents lucky enough to open a new manland.

In the end I decided to play an aggressive blue-black build, using my early drops like Pulse Tracker and Welkin Tern in conjunction with Adventuring Gear to swing in for lots of early damage, and then use my late game cards to clean up the leftovers.

Here’s the list I ended up playing:

In round 1 I was paired against Tom, who told me that this was only his second sealed deck tournament ever, after starting around Conflux. I didn’t want to let my guard down, as I wasn’t familiar with the new cards he might have, so I made sure to treat him just like any opponent. I game 1 I got the jump on him with a pair of Pulse Trackers and an Adventuring Gear, and when he finally mustered a defense in the form of a Shepherd of the Lost, I had the Vapor Snare to punish him for playing such a good card, and he quickly succumbed to the beats doled out by his own angel.

Game 2 was quite different, with him resolving both the Shepherd of the Lost and an Archon of Redemption. He also had an Oracle of Mul Daya which ensured that he was able to dig through to his threats extremely quickly. I made one misplay in this game which probably would have bought me an extra turn or two. He had a 3/3 Gnarlid Pack which he attacked with into my Caustic Crawler. I blocked and used my Quicksand to weaken his attacker and ensure the survival of my creature. Looking back, I should have let the creatures trade so that the next turn I could cast Dead Reckoning for 4 to kill off his shepherd, rather than keep taking beats from the angel. Eventually I get a Vampire Nighthawk and equip him with both copies of Adventuring Gear, gaining 6 life in a single swing, but I fail to draw enough lands and quickly roll over to Baloth Woodcrasher and his fliers.

In game 3 he gets a Hada Freeblade on turn one, which I meet with my double Pulse Tracker and Adventuring Gear. On turn two me casts Explore and fails to play a land, while I augment my forces with Vampire Nighthawk and Thada Adel, Acquisitor. Even when he finally gets a third land, my fliers have dealt too much damage to him for him to recover.

1-0 (2-1)

In round 2 I’m up against Andrew, a player who was showing off his triple Windrider Eel and double Harrow earlier, so I’m wary of landfall creatures. He has a Wind Zendikon which trades with my Welkin Tern, and I play a turn 3 Theda Adel, Acquisitor when he has an Island on the battlefield. When the merfolk connects, I snag a Blazing Torch, which I use to later dispatch a Windrider Eel. Theda gets through on the next two turns to snag a Pilgrims Eye and a Walking Atlas over the course of the next 2 turns. Add an Adventuring Gear to my unblockable merfolk and the game is quickly mine.

When sideboarding I think about boarding in a Tectonic Edge to lessen the impact of a Zendikon, but I decide that my mana base is fragile enough with all the early drops I want to make, and the Quicksand is probably a better utility land in this situation. In the second game, I again get a Theda Adel, Acquisitor, as well as my Living Tsunami and a Vapor Snare to take a Windrider Eel. He can’t really do anything against this, and I take the match in 2 games.

2-0 (4-1)

In round 3 I’m up against my friend and ride for the day Matt. I’ve seen that he has a red deck packing both Mordant Dragon and Hellkite Charger, in addition to an Omnath, Locus of Mana. Needless to say, I’m worried. He starts out with an Arbor Elf and a Vastwood Animist, but doesn’t draw any mountains for a while. I punish him with my Ruthless Cullblade suited up with some Adventuring Gear, and his lack of removal spells defeat for him in game 1.

In game 2 he has a pair of early Harrows to ramp up his mana, and he quickly resolves a Hellkite Charger. I think I’m set when I draw a Vampire Nighthawk, but he has Claws of Valakut to make my vampire a lot less impressive. However, I have enough creatures on the board so that he can’t attack multiple times with his dragon and live, so he needs to spend 7 mana (including his Arbor Elf) to give his dragon pseudo-vigilance. Luckily for me, I draw the 5th land I needed to cast Vapor Snare, taking his untapped dragon and swinging for the win thanks to the dragon’s haste.

3-0 (6-1)

In round 4 I’m up against another one of my good friends, Josh. I know he’s packing Sorin Markov, Abyssal Persecutor, and Lodestone Golem. In the first game he resolves a Marsh Threader and swampwalks his way to victory, aided by a Hedron Rover. In game 2 I take the draw and Quicksand his threader as soon as he attacks with it, and I use Welkin Tern and double Adventuing Gear to pound for 6 repeatedly and clinch the second game. In the rubber match, I keep a 2 land hand on the play, and live to regret it, as I don’t draw a land for 2 or 3 turns. By the time I cast Vampire Nighthawk, I’ve been taking 4 a turn to the double Marsh Threader assault, and he has no problems casting a Journey to Nowhere.

3-1 (7-3)

Due to my tiebreakers I get second place, earning me 5 packs of Worldwake. I realize that I shouldn’t have kept the 2 land hand in the last game, and I realize that I need to mulligan more often, as I have a tendency to keep sketchy hands. I also realized that Treasure Hunt is a very poor card in limited. I must of cast in 7 or 8 times in the day, and I never drew more than a single card off of it. I think that it is much better in constructed, but in limited, I’d much rather have something that affects the game state more. Like Twitch, and I have a personal vendetta against the reprinting of Twitch. I also love the irony of how in yesterday’s article I touted Marsh Threader was extremely important in this new limited format, only to lose to a pair of them in the finals.

Anyway, the tournament was great, and I look forward to using what I learned tomorrow, when I play in another Worldwake Prerelease. If you want live updates of how I’m doing, make sure to follow my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan, and as always, post any comments, suggestions or questions in the comments section, or email me at zak -AT- power9pro.com.

Cheers,

Zak

Zendikar and Worldwake: A Combined Limited Format

Well it’s that time of year, where Magic players from all around the world gather together to play in the prerelease for the latest set, in this case, Worldwake. This set brings with it some of the most powerful cards to hit standard in recent memory such as Jace, the Mindsculptor and Abyssal Persecutor. However, standard isn’t currently in season, and I’m still getting a feel for extended, so I decided to write about limited, and how to best succeed at your local prerelease.

Unlike Zendikar before it, Worldwake is a second expansion, which means that we’ll still be using three packs of Zendikar for our sealed pool. Thus, we cannot simply consider cards in the context of the Worldwake set, we must consider them in the context of the entire Zendikar block thus far.

For example, take the new one-drop ally, Hada Freeblade. In Worldwake, there are 11 allies, 4 of which are rare. We can discount the rare ones because they will seldom show up in a limited card pool. Of the other 6 non-rare allies, none of them share a colour with the Freeblade, and although we will often play multiple colours in a limited format, the benefit of any ally is greatly reduced when you have a low density of allies. Of course you could remedy this by increasing the number of colours you play, but then you run the risks associated with an unstable mana base. Thus, we can say that in a format that only includes worldwake, the Freeblade is most often going to be a white Norwood Ranger.

However, when your sealed pool is a 3-3 split of product, the power of freeblade goes up because of the number and quality of allies in the Zendikar expansion. Freeblade is best when you can follow it up with a turn 2 ally, ideally Kazandu Blademaster, but something like Oran-Reif Survivalist also works. Compare the survivalist to something like Bojuka Brigand, and you see the difference in card quality.

Another card I think has huge potential in Limited is Marsh Threader, the companion to Zendikar’s Cliff Threader. We saw in 6x Zendikar sealed that the most popular colour combination was without a doubt red/black. This card is a tool that will hopefully be good enough to see mainboard play because of the sheer number of players that choose to play black for cards like Hideous End, Urge to Feed and Disfigure. The allure of the removal spell is a strong one, and many players will choose these colours for that reason. Therefore, I think that this card is an extremely viable candidate for any deck playing white. In Zendikar limited, having efficient creatures is of the utmost importance, and so when we have a creature that will be unblockable against the majority of the field, we might wish to overvalue it a little bit more. In the same vein, Quag Vampires might be a bit more playable in this format than it normally would, but the colour commitment for that card is slightly higher and thus makes the vampires slightly less attractive.

Oftentimes in Zendikar limited, I would notice that some creatures were amazing in a vacuum, but never stayed alive long enough to be absurdly powerful. I’m talking about cards like Territorial Baloth, Merfolk Seastalkers and Baloth Woodcrasher. All these cards were powerful, but they were only a Hideous End or Inferno Trap away from being destroyed. Even some bombs out of Zendikar packs could be quickly invalidated by removal, making them a lot less spectacular. For this reason, I believe that Canopy Cover is a Worldwake spell that should not be overlooked. Of course it can be responded to, but it adds so much resiliency to your creatures that are otherwise so vulnerable that I would run the risk of the 2-for-1 that accompanies all aura to better enhance my long-term game plan.

These are the 3 cards that I believe should not be undervalued now that Worldwake has been added into the mix. While most players will be able to identify the likes of Bestial Menace and Apex Hawks as powerful in limited, the best players will look beyond those for the cards that are best suited to the environment.

If you have any ideas as to what cards might be great in limited out of Worldwake, sound off in the comments. Any questions/comments/suggestions can also be aired there, by emailing me at zak -AT- power9pro.com or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

I wish you all luck in your prereleases, and may open many copies of Jace, the Mindsculptor.

Cheers,

Zak

Power 9 Pro Online Workshops

In case you’ve heard a little about our Pro-Player workshops or caught one of my tweets about them, I thought I’d post a bit more info and a couple of clips to give everyone a better idea of what we’re putting together over here. After all, I’m a player, always looking to improve my game and imagine there are a lot more players like me out there. I have to admit I certainly don’t have all the exposure or practice these master players do, but I know that excellent coaching goes a long way to improving my game…Like I said, it’s always great to win. :)

Power 9 Pro’s workshops are your chance to get first hand advice and analysis of Magic the Gathering with some of the best players in the world. In addition to real-time streaming, we limit workshop size to 15 people. This gives everyone a chance to ask questions and interact directly with not only the pro instructor but also the rest of the participants. I can personally say that being able to hear and discuss other players’ questions and opinions has led to a number of interesting discussions. No need to be shy but if you prefer to listen and soak in the information, then sit back and relax.

By delivering the workshop over the Internet, everyone can participate regardless of location–your house, office [after hours of course. ;-)], a friend’s place, local shop, or even sandy beach in the tropics. We can always wish! The software connecting everyone is free of charge, guaranteed to be malware free and best-in-industry. After signing up, you will recieve a link with confirmation time and instructions (you just click the link). You can then stream the audio through your computer or dial a toll free number. Simple and convient. All participants will also receive the full video-audio recording for later review. I’ve found this great for reviewing important points. Here are a couple of examples from our most recent workshops with Ben Lundquist.

Our next workshop series will be starting December 8th at 5:30 PST (8:30 EST) with renowned player Luis Scott-Vargas. You can see the full schedule at power9pro.com/workshops/schedule.php .

I’d love to hear your topic requests and any other thoughts you may have, so let us know what you think in the comments. Also, if you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you a free mp3 of Ben Lundquist discussing the fluctuations and changes of a Meta-game; great for trying to calculate what deck to play at your next tournament!

Halfway Between the Zendikar Prerelease and Launch Party

Well, we’re at the halfway point between the Zendikar prerelease and the Launch Party. Halfway between Rampaging Baloths and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Halfway between a standard format defined by Faeries and 5 colour control and a standard format defined by vampires, soldiers, and Naya Zoo (Or so though Ben Lundquist in our most recent workshop).

So with this halfway point in mind, I though I’d split my article for today in half. I want to talk a little bit about the prerelease and Zendikar sealed, and then a bit about the upcoming launch party and the Zendikar draft format. In homage to Evan Erwin, Let’s Go!

Sealed at the Zendikar prerelease was, if I may quote a friend who was next to me as we built our decks, “like Christmas.” The smell of brand new cards (or not in the case of a signed Scrubland that was opened) and the sound of cracking packs was a great start to the day.

The shop I play at, Wizards Comics & Collectibles in Edmonton normally has a limit of 16 players for tournaments, because that’s really all they have space for. When I got to the shop with 20 minutes to spare, I entered and found out that I was the 30th person to enter. I still don’t know how we managed to fit everyone in there, and we were informed that we were playing 5 rounds, when usually we only have 3 or 4. The only problem was where would 1/3 of the people play? All the tables had been set up and the chairs were all filled, so there were 8 people without seats.

Luckily, John, the store owner came to the rescue. He called on myself and 4 other players that he knew and trusted (I’ve been going to Wizards for Magic for 2.5 years now), and asked that we set all our stuff up behind the counter. Not only was I going to play more rounds than I expected, but I was going to do it standing up. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

Obviously I was hoping to crack a priceless treasure, but I was still happy to see an Arid Mesa among my rares, as well as bombs Gigantiform and Beastmaster Ascension. Yeah, I thought I could do something with this.

Unfortunately for me, no two of my colours were deep enough to warrant a nice, streamlined 2 colour deck. While I had the aforementioned green bombs, only 3 of my other green cards were playable, so it took me a while before I decided on my colour combinations. I probably could have gone with 2 colours, but I would have had to play a number of sub-par cards in order to round out my 23. Thus, I remembered what Alara Block taught me about playing 3 colours and set to work playing the best of green, red and black. Luckily I also had a number of equipment that didn’t care about my mana base, including one my new favourite cards for limited, and the younger brother of Vulshok Morningstar: Trusty Machete.

Here’s the list I ended up playing.

Now, the first thing I realized was that I had to play a super-aggressive deck. I got this idea from the double Zetkar Shrine Expedition and double Ruinous Minotaur. I believed that I had enough removal to ensure that my opponent’s board would be more or less empty, allowing my 7/1s and 5/2s to attack relatively unhindered. Now one thing I understand is that these cards should not by any means be played in any deck that can support you. Without a large source of constant, high-level pressure, these cards can be more of a hindrance than a help.

Now, in the context of the sealed environment at the prerelease, I’d like to give my initial impressions of some of these cards. Obviously removal like Hideous End is really good, but there are some cards whose abilities may not be as obvious.

One disadvantage of Hideous End is its inability to deal with Vampire Nighthawk, one of the biggest and most potent cards in the format. Thus, anything that can kill the 2/3 vampire is always worth a consideration. Thus the inclusion of Oran-Reif recluse and Burst Lightning becomes even more relevant.

Speaking of the new Shock variant, I think that it warrants an extremely close look. I would say that I kicked it 80% of the time, and many times it was used to blast my opponent for the last few points of damage. It’s a super versatile card that could easily be a first pick, and should definitely not go later than 4th.

Now one of the cards I was extremely disappointed in was Beastmaster Ascension. I’ve seen many claims that this is a limited bomb, but although I resolved it multiple times, I never got it online once. The sheer number of quest counters is almost impossible to achieve without killing your opponent. If you get off 7 successful attacks, and were able to tap 4 for an enchantment, you should have won outright. Should the seventh quest counter ever be added to the enchantment, the extra +5/+5 will be nearly negligible.

River Boa was a great addition to the deck, because it provides an ample shield against opposing fatties, and the islandwalk is a really nice ability to have. The Boa’s cheap cost also makes it a really great target for all sorts of equipment while having regeneration mana open.

The final two cards I want to talk about that really shone in my sealed deck were Adventuring Gear and Plated Geopede. Yes, they’re both great, and yes, I was able to go turn 1 Gear, turn two Geopede, turn 3 equip and play Arid Mesa. I think that they both are really great with landfall, and just enable Harrow to be simply game breaking.

I was able to go 3-2, losing to a WB deck featuring Feledar Soverign and WUG Allies featuring Turntimber Ranger, Kabira Evangel and Sea Gate Loremaster, as well as 8 other Allies. It seemed like an amazing pool, and my opponent admitted as such after our games. My other games were just me running over anything that wasn’t as fast as I was. The constant slew of removal and fast creatures just was too much. However, the allies were just as fast but helped his board position more, and the lifegain from the black white deck nullified many of my offensive threats.

In short, the key to Zendikar sealed is to have a mix of mid-cost and early creatures that can impact the board as much as possible, with a few late game bombs to seal the deal.

Drafting Zendikar

I have not done an actual Zendikar draft yet, as our prerelease didn’t have any, but I will do at least 1 tomorrow and 1 more on the weekend, so I want to give you my first impressions as to what stands out and some potential strategies for the Launch Party.

Personally, I think that the blue cards in Zendikar are lacking, especially for limited. Thus, I don’t intend to draft it, but if you do, Whiplash Trap seems like a really great card. The ability to bounce 2 creatures is huge, especially when you can clear the way for an attack.

Black in Zendikar is extremely strong, and Mark Rosewater tweeted earlier in the year about 3-0-ing a Wizard’s employees draft with mono-black, and I can easily see how it was done. With super efficient cards like Quest for the Gravelord and Vampire Nighthawk, It seems probable that a fast black deck would be almost unbeatable. Black (as usual) has some of the best removal in the set, such as Hideous End and DIsfigure, in addition to the new Infest variant: XXX. Just like in M10 draft, mono black decks can take advantage of Crypt Ripper as an upgrade to Looming Shade as a great outlet for excess mana. However, because of this, I think that black will be overdrafted and you might want to consider leaving the vampires alone for a bit.

The red in Zendikar is pretty solid, with all-stars Burst Lightning and Unstable Footing able to deal out their fair share of burn damage, and Geyser Glider and Bladetusk Board provide some low-rarity evasion in red, something not often seen. There is great depth to red in this set, and I think that it’s not a bad colour to try and force through. Even cards like Slaughter Cry and Shatterskull Giant are terrific role players in a red deck. I also think that Plated Geopede is something that you should try and pick up multiples of, especially if you’ve got a couple Adventuring Gear or Harrows lying around.

White is an interesting colour in Zendikar, in that it has some commons that are totally bonkers, and others that are the epitome of “meh”. Cards like Shepherd of the Lost and Journey to Nowhere are obviously good and first-pickable, but there are a fair few common slots given to just mediokre spells, like a couple of guys with high toughness/low power, or cards that gain you life or prevent a single point of damage. In short, I don’t think going white is worthwhile unless you open up a bomb rare, or have multiples of the good commons/uncommons that would warrant it. However, the slim pickings are likely to be picked up by other drafters and you won’t have the luxury of all the best white cards.

Last we come to green, the colour that is probably a must if you really and truly wish to abuse landfall shenanigans. Obviously Harrow is amazing, but so are Khalni Heart Expedition and Frontier Guide. There are also some awesome pseudo-removal spells in there like Orang-Reif Recluse, which is just the think for taking out a Shepherd of the Lost or Vampire Nighthawk. I also believe that Mold Shambler is an excellent pick, because at it’s worst, it’s a Hill Giant which is absolutely fine in limited. At its best, It can kill an enemy quest or (as I saw at the prerelease) aggravate an opponent you has hiccoughed on their mana.

In short, when drafting Zendikar I think that black, red and green are the best colours with the deepest card quality. Send good signals in pack one and you should be rewarded with some choice uncommons in the later packs. Remember, this is not Alara block where you can decide halfway through pack 2 to go 5 colour and come out all right. If you can manage a solid mono-coloured deck (Mono red and black would be my ideals), go for it, but do not take poorer cards instead of adopting a second colour. There’s more fixing in Zendikar than M10, so your mana base is much easier, with about the same colour restrictions.

I’ll be at the Zendikar Launch Party this Sunday at Wizards Comics in Edmonton if you want to say hi. I’ll be wearing the bright orange Power 9 Pro t-shirt, so don’t be afraid to stop by. As always, article suggestions or questions can be put in the comments field, sent to zak(AT)power9pro.com, or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

A Limited Analysis: Magic 2010 Sealed and Draft

With the Magic 2010 Prereleases just around the corner, we’re going to have a much more interesting time playing limited with this core set than any other.  So, in order to give you a better shot at winning your tournamnt, I’m going to discuss which common cards you should look out for, in both draft and sealed events.  Let’s start with white.

White has a number of basic utility commons that server their role extremely well.  The first card is the age-old favourite, Pacifism, which I really hope gets some new art (I’m kinda sick of the creepy looking dud from Mirage).  Pacifism is an easy first-pick, and is well worth splashing as it is a solid removal spell.  Any card like this that can deal with annoying bombs (Read Shivan Dragon, Bogardan Hellkite, Baneslayer Angel, etc.), is a terrific card for limited.

Another removal spell that white gets is Divine Verdict, which is a functional reprint of Lorwyn’s Neck Snap.  Again, a sloid removal spell, it is worthy of a first pick in a draft, barring anything stunning at the uncommon or rare slots.  Removal is always good, although this does require you to leave 4 mana open if you want to take your opponent by surprise, which can get annoying if they don’t attack you with something worth killing for a while.

Another pseudo-removal spell that white gets is a functional reprint of Master Decoy.  Being able to tap down your opponent’s most powerful guy is quite a boon, and Blinding Mage does this with flying colours.   This mage also provides a way to free up room for some of white’s smaller attackers to get through, and that is always a good thing.  However, beware of your opponent’s removal spells coming straight for this guy, as he won’t live long once he starts ruining your opponent’s combat plans.

The three cards I’ve discussed have already been seen in some form before, but my 4th pick for white commons is a brand new card.  Veteran Armorsmith is a white Elvish Warrior, but it also gives a relevant boost to your soldiers, which are a sort-of underlying subtheme amongst white’s creatures.

Those are the only commmons that really stand out for me when I’m playing white, so let’s move on to blue.  Blue got hit pretty hard in Magic 2010, with cards like Jump, and Disorient.  However, there are still some cards that will help it out.  Believe it or not, Blue gets 3 counterspells at common, in the form of Cancel, Negate, and Essence Scatter (a reprint of Remove Soul).  Because of the small set size (compared to 10th Edition), it wouldn’t be all to uncommon to get a very nice quite of countermagic.  Paired with some  green fatties, you’re looking at a very nice control deck in a draft.

I wouldn’t pick a counterspell first pick, but I would start to pick them up en masse if I saw that they were flowing my way throughout picks 6 and on.  The few cards I might pick earlier are all under-whelming for blue.  Wind Drake and Snapping Drake both provide some sort of offense in the air, which is how you’re going to have to win if you end up playing blue.

Ice Cage is a variant on a blue Pacifism that seems strong, however a single Giant Growth will destroy the enchantment.  I would still play this card, but only as a half-removal spell, for it is easily circumvented by an ability or spell.

With the new rules changes which are effective as of the Magic: 2010 Prerelease, cards like Unsummon are not nearly as powerful, because you cannot save your blockers after damage has been placed on the stack.  Unsummon is still a powerful effect, but now it has to be played a little bit earlier.  Expect these to go much later than normal, perhaps pick 7-9, but with so few blue cards that are playable, they may be taken earlier.

Black is relatively strong in Magic 2010, primarily because of the large suite of removal spells it has at it’s disposal.  Although Terror has been ousted from the core set after its brief return in 10th edition, a new variant promises to be even better.  Doom Blade allows for the possibility of the target creature being Regenerated, but it can hit artifact creatures.  I believe that this was necessary after the high-volume of artifact creatures that were present in the Shards of Alara Block, so that now there is a black removal spell that can hit the likes of Sharding Sphinx and Master Transmuter.  Almost always first-pick this, and splash it if you open it in your sealed.

Assassinate returns for another year in Magic 2010, and it is still a solid removal spell.  Again, a first-second pick, it’s just really great removal for its cost.

Tendrils of Corruption was one of my favourite cards from back in Time Spiral, and it’s great to see that it’s back, with even more awesome art.  This is probably a ~5th pick, simply because it requires you to be pretty heavily in black.  However, because black is relatively deep in M10, this may get picked earlier.  If nothing else in the pack is promising, don’t be afraid to snap this one up early.

Black also has two common creatures I think are worth laying.  Vampire Aristocrat is a new Nantuko Husk, and Child of Night is a 2/1 with Lifelink.  Both of these cards are fine early drops for a black deck, and should be considered.  Although the Aristocrat is less powerful after the rules changes, it is still a force to be reckoned with.  Expect both of these to go around picks 6 or 7.

Red has basically the best common in the set.  Lightning Bolt can take a chunk out of your opponent’s life, as well as kill a great number of creatures that you may find on the other side of the battlefield.  First pick, undoubtedly.  Simply an amazing card that will always be relevant.

Many people have been dumping on Sparkmage Apprentice.  I personally think he is a fine card to go in a red deck.  He gets rid of cards like Prodigal Pyromancer and Child of Night, as well as providing a small body.  Although a poor candidate for a splash, he is a solid card that will go into most decks that play red.  He’ll probably go around pick 5-6.

Siesmic Strike is a nice piece of red removal that can be played at instant speed, which is always useful.  Like Tendrils of Corruption, it requires a bit of a commitment to red, which does make it’s playability suffer.  Depending on how heavy in red some drafters are, I can see this going between pick 4 and 8.

Red has a nice new beater in the form of Fiery Hellhound.  A 2/2 for 3 with Firebreathing is a solid card that will often get into the red zone for increased amounts of damage unless it is dealt with.  A solid, all-around card that really helps the aggressive side of any red deck.  Keep in mind that this also requires a heavier commitment to red, especially if it is run in multiples.

When we get into green we see some efficient creatures that will hopefully be able to outnumber your opponent’s removal spells.  Borderland Ranger and Centaur Courser are both excellent 3 drops that pull their weight.  Reprints of Civic Wayfinder and Nessian Courser respectively, these are creatures that will be able to outrun the opponent, and in the case of the Ranger, removal spells will be much worse, as you get to fetch a land upon its coming into play.  Any damage he can deal just makes him that much better than a Sylvan Scrying.

We also see that the Dehydration effect has been moved into Green with the addition of Entangling Vines.  This is useful, because Green doesn’t get very much removal, and this will help your efficient beaters to get in for more damage.  It should go around pick 3   in a draft, and is definitely splashable.

The key to a green deck is lots of big creatures, and joining the classic Craw Wurm is Stampeding Rhino, a 4/4 Trampler for 5, which will serve an excellent role as a dumb guy who can bash through blockers, as well as a way to draw removal spells from your opponent, as an undealt-with trampler could spell the end for your opponent.

The artifacts in Magic 2010 are all uncommon or rarer, so I guess all I have to say is that if you see a Darksteel Colossus, draft as many Llanowar Elves and Rampant Growths as you can, as well as lots of Fabricates, and you;ll be on your way.

Have fun at your Magic 2010 Prereleases, and I’ll be back in a week once we’ve all has a chance at playing with the new set!

As always, any questions, suggestions ro comments can be emailed to be at zak – at – power9pro.com, or through my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Embracing M10 rule changes

It was 3am and I had just got home and plopped on my bed. I turned on my macbook and began a quick check of gmail and my daily sites. In a sleepy haze I began reading the article on the changes coming in M10 at the wizard’s site. 

Changes sweep through the R&D department like spring cleaning. Aaron Foresythe’s article on these changes was like a tangent about all the imperfections in the game that they had let slide for so long. Mulligans, tokens ownership, Lifelink, Damage on the stack, mana burn; it really was just a long time coming.

The real kicker here is damage on the stack. I personally embrace the direction combat is taking. I had a very long discussion with a great magic player I know who is debating whether or not to quit the game. He told me that the removal of damage on the stack is tearing away the skill of the game. He then brought up Sakura Tribe Elder and Mogg Fanatic, how they are dead and how there are no more tricks. I admit that they got a lot worse, but at the same time, they weren’t filled with skill either. I know people that when they first learned how to do tricks with damage on the stack, they felt like the best players.

Think about Mogg Fanatic for a second, isn’t the play always just “damage on? sac him and ping you/that for 1″. He was just a one trick pony if you really think about it. He was almost never killing the thing he was blocking, but rather assisting some other creature in lethal or just getting in there for some more damage. Killing some random x/1 isn’t what he is known for, but rather being able to block you from taking damage and then hurt the opponent. Has he changed all that much with damage leaving the stack? No. He can still block, prevent you from taking non-trample damage and ping the opponent. 

Lets say there is a 3/1 crashing at you, and you have the Tribe-Elder as a blocker. You have a choice, does he block for lethal or does he slither into your deck and grab a land? The better player only gets better with these rule changes. Until all the creatures have their “correct play” pinned on them, like Mogg Fanatic and Sakura Tribe-Elder.

Creatures like Ravenous Baloth did get considerably worse from this change, but again, the better player will still win through skill, because there is still so much skill necessary to outplay your opponent. It is not losing any at all, but perhaps gaining it for the time being while the rules are still a shock to many copycat players.

The thing about Magic R&D is that they are always right with their decisions. I have yet to be disappointed with their decisions. I remember seeing Planeswalkers for the first time and thinking “What are they doing to this game?”. I think I can honestly say that Planeswalkers are one of the greatest things to happen to Magic. I personally am behind all of R&D’s decisions.

Lets talk about the new dual lands. Comes into play untapped if you control a basic land of the two corresponding types. Again, I was upset at first. The more I thought about it, the more I like them. I foresee the death of 5 color decks, the uprising of mono color decks, and a slower pace of mana fixing after those vivid lands get pushed. Terramorphic Expanse should perhaps get reprinted to help out their dual lands. I hate seeing that vivid land/reflecting pool garbage. “I like Broodmate Dragon but there isn’t really a deck that is good with those colors, or has a slot for it…oh wait, I can run all three colors! I also like Ajani Vengeant, Plumeviel, Putrid Leech, Cryptic Command and Bloodbraid Elf. Lets run them all!” That is just annoying. Anathemancer will soon be gone from view because non-basics will be a thing of the past. I hope. 

M10 will also bring some interesting reprints like Ball Lightning, Lightning Bolt and my personal favorite Duress. The power level of these cards is a clear indicator of where they see their game going.

I will be attending Grand Prix Boston at the beginning of August. I am very excited to be able to use M10 right out of the gates for an endless weekend of booster cracking, hotel charades, and random tournaments into the middle of the morning. I’ll be taking a 4-day weekend off of work for this endeavor.

My fellow team member Zak plays a format called DC10, a format my area knows as Type IV. The other night I had an idea to draft it. I pretty much shuffled a pile of rares and put them into piles of 15. I drafted Progenitus beat-down. 1st pick Progenitus, into second pick Finest Hour kind of sealed the deal for me. I had some really great synergies in my 40 card deck. I am considering making my own pampered Type IV brick of cards. Maybe on my down-time between M10 and Zendikar. Drafting piles of rares is just hilarious. Kind of like my Star Trek party in a couple weeks. I will have my box of M10 by then so lots of drafting will ensue with laughter wrapped in U.S.S Enterprise outfits. James Kirk drafting G/B.

Well, I will be waiting eagerly for M10 spoilers. In the meantime I will ponder over how great Lightning Bolt will be, how over-hyped Ball Lightning will be, how over looked Acidic Slime will be, and how under appreciated the new duals will be.

Dillon

Tales from the Alara Reborn Prerelease

I know it’s a week late, but I’m sure you all had fun at last week’s Alara Reborn Prerelease. I got to my sealed pool and was amazed by all the juicy Naya goodness that awaited me. I had both Spell and Spearbreaker Behemoths, as well as a total of eight removal spells. Needless to say, I was pumped, and in the pre-tournament testing, everything seemed to work out fine. With a steady flow of fatties and a surprise performance by Exuberant Firestoker, I was finishing my test games in record time.

My Dragon's Egg and my sealed pool (in pack form).  Kudos to Brian for bringing his traders in a Pokémon binder as seen in the top-right.
My Dragon's Egg and sealed pool (in pack form).

Alas, fate has a way of giving us cards we would rather not have been dealt. In round 1 I was up against Remkes, a local player who specializes in limited, and when I asked him how his pool was before we started, the only answer I got was “Extremely overpowered.” Keeping my cool, I drew my opening seven and was pleased to see my Spellbreaker Behemoth staring me in the face, in addition to a Magma Spray, a Resounding Thunder and a Gorger Wurm.

Unfortunately, while I started off strong, Remkes had an Oblivion Ring for my Behemoth and a surprise Ethersworn Shieldmage to take down my fatties, and my removal was used up. He kept playing Esper threats and eventually landed a Nemesis of Reason that threatened to take my entire deck out. Luckily, Remkes milled me of my Spearbreaker Behemoth, and I was able to use Vengeful Rebirth to both destroy his giant milling machine and play an indestructible threat. It didn’t last long though, because another Oblivion Ring resolved for Remkes, and I had no defense to stop his Etherium army.

Shuffling up for game 2 I failed to pay attention to my opponent’s sideboarding (as I now know I should) while I was performing my own. While I was siding in the likes of Naturalize and its kin, Remkes had (unbeknownst to me) simply switched decks. This was more than a transformational sideboard, because there were no overlapping cards in either deck. With a fattie, a removal spell, and Naturalize in my hand, I thought I was in good shape.

Unfortunately, Remkes came out of the gates with Dragon Fodder and Sprouting Thrinax. These were promptly followed by a Lightning Reaver that was essentially unblockable. Having used my removal spell earlier, the continuos damage from the reaver spelled out my demise as I stared at the useless Naturalize in my hand.

With my first loss of the day under my belt, I went up against Mike, a player who usually only plays EDH and limited. I don’t remember as many of the details of this match, but I remember losing in three games. With such a terrific pool I was disappointed, but I perked up when a call was made for people to drop out for a triple Alara Reborn Draft (which officially now tops triple Eventide as the wackiest draft format ever). I have always preferred draft to sealed, and with two losses to my name, I signed up.

Now one thing I hadn’t considered was the sheer impossibility to send signals in a draft where everything is multicoloured, so it was agreed upon to basically rare-draft until we figured out what we were doing.

I had an idea in my third pick (after taking Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Fight to the Death in my first two picks), and whether or not it was a Stroke of Genius or just a plain stroke that made me do it was unsure at the time, but I started joking around how I was picking really bad cards very high up. What nobody realized was that these cards were all cascade cards, most notably Deny Reality, Stormcallers Boon, and Kathari Remnant. I thought that since I might never get to try this format again, why not do something totally crazy. I picked up a Maelstrom Pulse as my rare for my second pack, with the intent of splashing it off a borderpost in my deck, or just simply cascading into it.

Halfway through the second path, I called over Marcel (who has played on the Pro Tour and is one of the best Edmonton players) and showed him all the cascade I had drafted so far. He laughed and said “Combo!”, and watched the rest of my draft. I also picked up a nice suite of the Shard-Blades, which work very nicely with all the borderposts and other cards I might cascade into.

When I made my deck, I decided to stick to only Esper colours, which gave me a total of 4 Deny Reality, 3 Stormcallers Boon, 3 Kathari Remnant and 2 Ardent Plea for a total of 12 on-colour cascade spells. Coupled with these were around 5 or 6 Shard-Blades, as well as a smattering of other cards to fill our the curve. To be honest, I had no idea how the deck would do, and I was doubtful that I would win a game.

Round 1 I went up against Attila, who unfortunately got mana-screwed both games. I was able to pull of some cascade shenanigans, and won on the back of an alpha strike with a bunch of my pumped up Shard-blades. Game two was very similar, so I didn’t really know how good the cascade deck was at the moment.

When people began to hear how the cascade deck had won a match, they came over to watch round 2 against Zach, or as we call him around the store, Zach the greater, whereas I am Zak the lesser, but it’s all in fun. It was amazing how fast a turn 2 Ethercaste Knight into turn 3 Ardent Plea into turn 4 Kathari Remnant can improve your board position. The clincher in both games was Deny Reality, which I would play as soon as I could to clear the way for my attackers, in addition to landing another one to three extra cards worth of advantage on my side. Again, the deck won 2-0, and Zach was admonished by Lane (another experienced local player) for losing to “that deck”.

In the finals of the draft, I was pitted against Dennis, who was playing a very controlling deck. This worked out great for me as I was able to resolve a series of cascade spells before he managed to play any real threat. When he did start to resolve some late-game threats, I was able to play all 4 of my Deny Reality cards on his blockers. Also, I learned that Sovereigns of Lost Alara can help me shuffle all the cards that were too expensive to cascade into back into my deck, even if I didn’t have an aura to search for. Again, the cascade deck went undefeated, and I won first prize in the triple-ARB draft.

Well, I’ve got an hour before my second Launch Party (I hosted one on Friday before my FNM), so I’ll finish this article by saying that Cascade is an amazing mechanic. This afternoon I intend to try my hand at building a constructed variant of the deck, but only time and testing will see if it will work out.

PTQ-Kyoto At Superstars

This past Saturday I had the great pleasure to compete in the Pro Tour Qualifier: Kyoto at Superstars in San Jose. We had a pretty good turnout considering there was a PTQ: Kyoto a few weeks ago in Sacramento–I wasn’t able to go. :( I believe there were 188 players; I finished 16th which I was pretty surprised about considering I had a few early match losses that were pretty devastating.

A bit about my deck since that’s what’s interesting. Before getting into a decklist (I forgot to write it down before taking it apart, I’ll be better about that next time, sorry), a few quick notes/observations:

I hadn’t had any real Shards of Alara sealed exposure before this PTQ–I’d purchased a few tourney-packs and boosters to open up and “see what the pools would be like” because I’d heard that most people were building pretty slow, clunky decks. That definitely proved true but with a cause. With all the mana fixing available, people are very inclined to go for four and five colored decks. This is just crazy to me. Even in my limited exposure with sealed, the best decks seem to stick with two colors and a splash. (Has anyone won any big, highly competitive tournaments with a four or five color deck?–and I’m talking about Shards here.) As I mentioned, I’ve not been able to compete in any sealed Shard tournaments but I have drafted a few times and keep coming back to a blend of Bant-Naya as the best combination. I can see Jund + X also making a great combination. Cards like Drumhunter in combination with exalted-Bant affects make for nastiness once we’re able to plop down a 5-powered creature (which is easily accomplished on turn 5 with Drumhunter in play. I drafted a very sub-par Esper deck for my first draft but find that the good comons like the Tidehollow Strix are always nabbed up early.

On to the deck and then onto more specific notes about my play and card MVPs.

First the bombs: Battlegrace Angel, Sigil of Distinction, Wildnactal, 2x Knight of the Skyward Eye, Sight-Caste Sorcerer (I’ll explain why I like this guy so much in a second), list of MVPs is rounded out by the Drumhunter which in my opinion has to be one of the better cards to nab in any limited deck.

Deck-specific notes: Obviously the Battlegrace Angel and the Sigil of Distinction are straightup bombs–but I’m not convinced they’re not even close to the most powerful of the cards available in Shards (limited play). There are so many ways around both of those cards–and that’s where the design of the set is really well done. I have to hand it to Wizards that they did well makign sure the set had plenty of limited bombs to attract the masochistic side of all Magic players with the work-arounds with commons that balances the game and provides players with the comfort that their deck “can compete.”

I was talking with a few players and they don’t seem to value exalted creatures as highly as I do. The entire day, keeping my exalted creatures on the board not only allowed me to get in a few early pings while my opponents were busy playing obelixs and land-sacrificing but also mid-to-late game, allowed me to squeeze attackers through, avoiding blockers because the additional +1/+1 (or +2/+2 when I had two on the board) was too overpowering. All the great articles I’ve read in the past (by far more experienced players than myself) always indicate it’s only about the extra one or two we can squeeze through each turn. I’m pretty convinced that my deck was extremely efficient and were it not for a few mistakes, it was a much better deck than 16th (probably not top-8 though).

My biggest play mistake was swinging in a turn too early in Match 3. (My first two matches were total blow-outs, lasting 15 min max). My opponent, later discussing the game with me, admits that he was very quickly losing board control because of the Drumhunter and the two 5 powered creatures I had on the board. My mistake was attacking into him, leaving myself completely exposed to get attacked. I saw that he had a 5/5 on the board (the Feral Hydra) but had forgotten that it’s pump-able. I was at 6 life, he pumped the Feral Hydra and swung for 6. This game loss cost me the match because the next game was a total-mana screw.

The next match which I lost followed this one. I started with a game loss for showing up two minutes late. (Is this normal? I thought I got more like five minutes or something and ten minutes for a match loss). Either way, I was upset and not clear-headed and stayed in on a hand I should have mulligan’d due to color/land issues (right curve but wrong colors–doh!).

Next four matches, I blew my opponents out of the water. Just totally steam-rolled them. I think one of the matches went to three games.

I had a great time but kinda kick myself still now for messing up on the play mistake; live and learn. In the end, it was amazing getting to play and discuss Magic with all the great players. I even made a couple of new friends!