“Let my sealed pool just be bomby, that’s all I’m asking.”
These were among my closing words from last week. They did prove to be correct, but that was about as much fun as I had last Saturday. I went to Eindhoven with Robert, to battle with an above-average group of players. For example, renowned pros Frank Karsten and Jeroen Remie visit each prerelease, while there is also a whole slew of up-and-comers and grinders there to slug it out. So while the competition would prove to be fierce as usual, and while my deck seemed above average as well, things all went downhill from here.
Inbetween arriving and building our sealed decks, Robert and I played a couple of games. These games were weird, since we had only one deck – total. Robert forgot to bring his decks, while I thought I wouldn’t be playing long enough to justify bringing two decks. So we made my Glissa-deck a communal library! We got to play two games and split them. While it was more hilarious and funny than serious business, I did learn how to play against my own deck. Sure, I used the same deck to battle, but I still got to see how the deck looks from across the table. But like I said, it was mostly about fun. Like me fetching Forests to prevent Robert from legend-ruling my Glissa to death, and him winning a race of decking with his two Solemns to my one.
Eleven o’clock, people gather at the usual spots, meaning the seatings are posted. Robert and I venture to our seats, pretty far apart from eachother. I silently sit in my seat and wait for the cards. Cracking open packs still is a very nice feeling, and something I can’t help myself in. Visions of opening foil versions of staples-to-be flash before my eyes. While the cards aren’t foil, I do open a few staples-to-be, namely Mental Misstep and Sword of War and Peace. The former was next to useless to me in sealed, but the latter would be my premiere bomb. That is, until I opened Life’s Finale and Sunblast Angel as well. I quickly built an Orzhov deck, but lacked a bit of quality creatures. Sure, any random dork could pick up a Sword or Argentum Armor (yup, got that one too), but I lacked creatures that could get there on their own.
Or so I thought. You see, I had plenty of quality blue cards (for example, Phyrexian Ingester and Wing Splicer), but I was too afraid to dip into Esper. Sadly, this led to an 0-2 start and me signing up for a draft. The second round was exemplary of my hunch: I cast Life’s Finale in two games and lost them both because I couldn’t find a decent creature in a whole bunch of draws. This was where I saw how good Shrine of Piercing Vision was. When the board is empty and you’re both digging for a creature, Shrine is good. Really good. I wonder if I can fit him in to some of my decks.
After that round, there were only six people in the draft, so I decided to play the third round. After losing yet another frustrating game where I cast Life’s Finale, I decided to go all-or-nothing and I boarded in blue. In an ironical turn of events, I did win the third round, but I conceded afterwards to take part in the draft that was ready to fire.
Second frustration, and the third, and the fourth
We sat down, and I recognised a few faces that belonged to people who did reasonably well in events past. Guess I wasn’t the only one whose expectations exceeded reality. Still, I wasn’t gonna let them intimidate me even before a single card was played.
The format was the official format: New Phyrexia, Mirrodin Besieged, Scars of Mirrodin. I started with a few good white cards, like two Blinding Souleaters, a Suture Priest and a Master Splicer. Of the other colors, I picked a few cards each, either because they were good or because there wasn’t much more to choose from.
Going into the second pack, my second color wasn’t determined. That was until I got passed a Kuldotha Flamefiend, and two Ichor Wellsprings to support him. I picked up a Fangren Marauder on the way too, looking to splash green, but the splash remained just that one dinosaur, as I got passed more red than green. I rounded out the draft with a bunch of cheap cards and cantrips (the green and white Spellbombs, in addition to two Wellsprings), which led me to believe it was safe to run sixteen lands. In the end, that was a grounded choice. I usually err on the side of too many lands, but sixteen wasn’t too little in this case – it was correct.
Sadly, the draft was single elimination, and yours truly left with a 1-2 defeat. I didn’t recognize my opponent, but he was friends with one of the better players at the table, so I knew I had a fight ahead of me. His dinosaurs where too big, and he had a seemingly perfect mixture of infect and non-infect critters, being able to fight well-represented on two fronts. On top of that, he had a few combat tricks (including the Phy-mana Mutagenic Growth and Apostle’s Blessing) to make matters worse. The better deck won, but at least I wasn’t run over like some helpless roadkill.
However, frustration got the better of me, as I lost in yet another event, and worse, it could’ve been that I should have stuck to the main tournament with my deck in Esper colors. Last but not least, I forgot to bring a book, so I was stuck durdling in the last two rounds of the main tournament, as Robert was still in it. Overall the day was slightly disappointing, but I had fun with a good friend to alleviate much of the downsides. Another plus was that I found some cool dice in the big dice bin at the store.
Trading and beyond
There was another bright note, though. I guess it wasn’t too bad a day after all. I followed Robert’s last match, which was done very fast (not in Robert’s favor though). There, as is standard, some people whipped out their trading binders, they were shuffled around, and cards changed owner.
I was about to leave with a disappointment in the trading department too (I just got a Bogardan Hellkite and a Comet Storm) when along came a very friendly, good and well-known player in Eindhoven. He had a binder almost filled to the brim with foils, and among those were an Oblivion Stone and a Sorin. The former is a card I’ve been looking for a long time for my old MBC deck, while Sorin is a card I want to try in said deck. I was glad to close a deal that looked very good from my perspective.
We left after the prizes were dealt out, Robert winning one booster for his 3-3 record, but opening crap. We did a Pack Wars with that single pack, and ofcourse Robert seriously out-lucked me. He did this once with Mirrodin Besieged, Horrifying Revelationing away my Phyrexian Rebirth. We had kebab at our usual place and had, just as customary as kebab, a very fun ride back home. All in all a good day, but just not on the cardslinging front.
More on New Phyrexia
While waiting for our meat-filled durum, we started talking about the top cards from the new set. Robert wants to start his own store and ordered a whole bunch of boxes. And just like with the last set, I’m planning on helping him crack a whole lot of them. Last time I even was rewarded a Tezzeret, something I’m still hugely thankful for to Robert – thanks dude!
Robert thought Karn would slowly lose a bit of value, not a lot. We agreed that we didn’t foresee tournament play – yet. If Avenger of Zendikar isn’t even seeing any play now, why would this? Besides, we have Titans at six mana, and seven is a whole lot more than six in Magic. Robert claimed that casual formats and perhaps even eternal formats would keep the price up, and that he was too slow for Standard. Double Vindicate is cool, but that’s about it. His discard-ability is basically only good against a hand full of permanents, of when you’re looking to ‘combo’ with Karn yourself.
Robert said I the Sword and Batterskull would be the biggest hit, and I was glad I got one of those from this day. In my head I started making a list of all the cards I would need from the set, and I arrived at twelve Tezzeret’s Gambits (plus other cards, ofcourse).
Via text messages and a call, I agreed to visit Rick in the afternoon. It had been a while since I’d seen him, and unfortunately he couldn’t make it to the prerelease. With that in mind, I started brewing that Braid of Fire-deck together. I had a plan in my head and a list if cards written down. The first draft of the deck wasn’t too much over sixty, which I was happy about. The deck had been lingering in my mind for so long that I already had subconsciously made some cuts. The rest, I did today, to arrive at this list:
My first version of the deck (above) places a focus on Leyline of Anticipation to throw cards out at convenient times, most often the upkeep. You could say Leyline is my premier mana-sink. Other mana sinks are Iceberg, which carries mana over to my main phase, and storage lands. Now you’re gonna say “but hey, isn’t Gemstone Array better than that Iceberg?”, and you’re only partly right. Gemstone Array charges faster, but Iceberg can come out pre-charged, plus it survives Obliterate.
It sucks to be leaving cards like Tezzeret’s Gambit and Paradox Haze out of the deck, but I had to stay focused in order to make a deck that worked and wasn’t just doing cool stuff until it died (I have had a lot of those decks, believe me).
There is a pretty big proliferate component here, with 4 Clasps and 4 Volt Charges. They double as removal, which is essential if this deck wants to reach the mid- to lategame. Magmatic Core and Comet Storm double as removal and wincondition, while Jace and Mana Leak are other pieces of glue that hold this crew together.
You sure about that Magmatic Core?
Err, scratch that. No, not the part about the glue, that still holds (pun, cha-ching!). I mean Magmatic Core. I thought I had the perfect card for the deck… until I read it. Nope, nowhere on the card does it say it can target players. Just creatures.
I didn’t notice this until after I beat Rick a few times on Sunday. We played a couple of games, and I battled his hyper-aggressive red deck and his Teferi blue-red-splash-black-splash-green deck a few times each.
Against his aggressive deck, there where a few games in which I was just dead before I had anything. Those where usually games where I kept shaky hands in the hopes of drawing into good cards. On the other hand, the deck did perform better than I had expected against this particular deck of his. Usually, if I could sweep the board with Comet Storm, I was in pretty good shape. Otherwise, keeping Jace alive for a few turns did me good to. It was nice to finally see my three Jaces bloom, since their previous deck wasn’t doing anything worthwhile and Jace couldn’t save it. In this deck, however, Jace proved to be a win condition even more than Magmatic Core was! Obliterate with Jace out is a very fast clock, even more when you can proliferate on your upkeep.
Before I took out Magmatic Core, I did some other changes as well. I didn’t have any proxies with me, so I put the deck back without making any changes. Sadly my TezzeREDRUM deck didn’t feel like working today, so that was a bummer, but the performance of Braid of Fire sure wasn’t. It could be a lot better even, with the right changes.
Sink the Iceberg! Bury the Leyline!
The first card I wasn’t happy with was Iceberg. I rarely got to use it and it felt superfluous, so I changed that to three copies of Soothsaying, a mana-sink as well and a way to dig for cards. Suppose you have a Braid and Soothsaying out – I’d imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to find a card to work with.
I actually swapped the Icebergs for Soothsaying before playing with Rick, based on experience during goldfishing. Next up on the chopping block, after having played with it, was the Leyline. Ofcourse, I was never lucky enough to start the game with it in play, since the one game I had it in my opener I had to mulligan it. And after that, it is just an expensive card that costs as much as Jace. I think you’ll agree with me which of those you’d rather cast. Also, besides Clasping a Hellspark Elemental, I hadn’t done anything cool with it. I included it here to Obliterate during upkeep, but that never came up. It turns out charging your lands with mana is more than enough to ensure a fast Obliterate. And it’s not like I need that much mana anyway; I rarely Obliterate without a Jace or so in play, so there’s no need to play immediate backup.
Removing Leyline and Magmatic Core was a big change to the deck. I needed ways to make mana, since casting Obliterate still is my main plan. And I needed another wincon. Or better, an actual wincon. I went with one Chandra Nalaar and two Myr Matrices. They both survive Obliterate and are cards that should win you the game after that. I replaced the four Leylines with a fourth Soothsaying and three Tezzeret’s Gambit, happy to be sleeving him up for the first time (not actual copies; the only actual copy I had of New Phyrexia for this deck was Volt Charge). I’m gonna need somewhere around twelve copies, so I hope Robert(’s boxes) can miss a few of ‘em Wednesday, when I’ll be coming over.
I still wasn’t satisfied, but I knew I needed to watch changing too much without playing against real players in between all these goldfishing games. I removed one Soothsaying in favor of the fourth Gambit, but I kept feeling Soothsaying was too big a liability. So I changed them for three Shrines of Piercing Vision. I saw their power at the prerelease, and I feel they could work here too. Soothsaying kept soaking up too much mana, and I have in Myr Matrix a card I’d much rather sink my mana into. The think I love most about the Shrine is that Tezzeret’s Gambit charges it with two counters right off the bat: one when you play it, and the second one when you proliferate. This lead to this deck, the one I’ll be testing Saturday against Rick. We’ll see how it goes, and if everything works out IRL as it did during goldfishing.
Other spells (36)
4 Braid of Fire
1 Chandra Nalaar
4 Comet Storm
4 Contagion Clasp
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Mana Leak
2 Myr Matrix
3 Shrine of Piercing Vision
4 Tezzeret’s Gambit
4 Volt Charge
The last thing I want to mention briefly is that I changed my Glissa-deck a teeny tiny bit, removing the two Spawning Pits in favor of two E-Caps. Pits did nothing in this deck, Rick noticed, and I agreed. I couldn’t resist the pure evil Glissa/E-Cap synergy, so I gave in to temptation.
See you next week kiddo’s!