Hi all, I hope you had a splendid prerelease this weekend, if you went to one (or two). I really had a great time with Rick and Robert. For today, I want to give a quick recap of the prerelease, including the most epic sequence of plays I have made in recent memory, and then go over the spoiler for some good gems in there. It’s not really a set to spring a lot of ideas, in my opinion, but there’s surely one nut in there that’s been really hard for me to crack. I cracked it a dozen times, only to find out it didn’t work. On to it!
My prerelease was a bit meh. I thought I had a good deck, albeit top-heavy: Sphinx of Uthuun, Sorin Markov, Sutured Ghoul, Harbor Serpent and Sengir Vampire (an uncommon again – wow!) were at the top of my curve. I thought 17 lands and a Manalith (not to mention Merfolk Looter and Divination) were enough to pull me out of any mana-ligh situations, and they would have been, save for the fact I drew an awful lot of zero-, one- and two-landers. If this were a prerelease I attended alone, I would be really bummed out about this. Now that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t. Maybe I won’t visit prereleases alone anymore in the future, ’cause it is that much more fun for me with friends.
Anyway, I won the first round against a good player, making me feel confident. Then I started losing the next three rounds and won the final two, ending at a meager 3-3. The loot from my one pack was lackluster, it was a measly Glacial Fortress. Unlike Mr. Lucksack, Robert, who opened a foil Primeval Titan. Rick played two games of Pack Wars against Robert with Robert’s packs, all games which Robert won. I also played a game of Pack Wars against Robert, with his final two packs. There were a Garruk- and a Chandra-booster. I wanted the Garruk-one, which Robert tore out of my hands. Guess which booster had the Titan! Yeah. Pack Wars against Robert has one additional rule: Robert always wins.
I will no longer keep you waiting for the most insane thing I did at the prerelease. It was the fourth round and I was playing against the guy that sat next across from me the previous round, beating down on current National champion Bas Melis. So at the start of the match, I wasn’t really feeling it.
Game 1, he started out quick with a Tormented Soul followed out by a Reassembling Skeleton and a Child of Night wearing a Trollhide. I had a hard time keeping my head up, trying to survive until I could drop Sorin without him dying immediately and while still having an impact. I was holding a Sphinx of Uthuun for which I needed one more land, so I even took the gamble to go to 1 in order to save my Looter for as long as possible.
Finally, with the chump-blocking help from Merfolk Looter and – I believe – Sengir Vampire and the help of some well-timed counters, I was able to drop a Sorin, kill the Tormented Soul, and stabilize a bit more. My plan for the next turn was to drop a Sphinx of Uthuun and turn the tide. The Sphinx would be able to hold off the 4/3 Child while Sorin could tick down x/2’s, and make my life – or his – 10 when it would be needed.
This plan was pretty solid, except he topdecked the Rune-Scarred Demon. There went the game, I thought. I could not block-and-kill the demon in combat on his turn, and he would surely not block my Sphinx with his Demon, not when I have a Sorin out and he is at 44 life.
When my turn came around, I was holding a Diabolic Tutor and an Unsummon. I had seven lands out, a Manalith, Sorin and the Sphinx. Sorin was at 8 loyalty. My opponent was at What did I do? (This question feels like a Magic: the Puzzling question, which was what I was thinking of when the game had ended. I even did the Xbox Achievement sound in my head.)
Now comes the awesomesauce. I counted my mana. Eight. Is there anything I can tutor for? My Wring Flesh was already in the ‘yard, which was pretty much my only removal spell. I still had a Mind Rot though, and saw that I could cast Tutor for Mind Rot, Unsummon the Demon, and
Vindicate Mind Rot not only the Demon, but also the card he tutored up!
You think that was it? No. I decided that if I Mindslavered his turn, I could deal with his 4/3 Child. I just let him attack into my Sphinx, not regenerate, and hope he doesn’t draw anything useful. He drew Vampire Outcasts, which I let him cast (still thirsty) as a 2/2, only to be mopped up by Sorin on my next turn.
This line of play left him devastated, allowing me time to build up. I ended up having a 15-power flying army (Sphinx, Chasm Drake, and a 7/4 Greatsworded thirst-quenched flying Vampire Outcasts of my own), which took his life-total down from 44.
Let’s start with the new Planeswalkers. These cards are inherently powerful, the thought alone which drives their presale prices up. By now everyone and their mother has spoken up about the RUG trio in every imaginable format, but since I’m no tournament player, I’m gonna give my casual perspective.
First up we have Chandra, the Firebrand. She is the first ‘walker with just one colored mana in her mana cost, making her very splashable. Splashing is good, but I am more excited about building my very own Chandra deck, also using her pet, Chandra’s Phoenix. I don’t really see a deck of mine at the moment that needs Chandra III, but I already have an application for her.
In conjunction with her Phoenix and various other cards like Volt Charge, Karn and Tezzeret’s Gambit, I could see a reddish Superfriends-style deck looming. Koth could set up the mana, too. With Everflowing Chalice in the mix, doubling up on Tezzeret’s Gambit and Volt Charge seems insane to work your way up to a big spell, from Karn to Obliterate to even Emrakul. All the while Chandra’s Phoenix pecks at the opponent here and there. Very cool idea, not very budget. Long term idea, I fear, but an idea nonetheless.
As coincidence would have it, a new Jace surfaces right after I’ve built my mill deck. Jace, Memory Adept is a set-up for the Innistrad-block. I wonder how people will start to use him when his time comes. The idea of people drawing a card and milling themselves just makes me salivate. I love me a graveyard-based deck, and Jace III (and Innistrad) are poised to have something hidden for me. I mean, at the prerelease I already did something cool that was right out of the graveyard: I discarded a Pharaoh to my Looter to chomp on an attacker.
Vengeful Pharaoh is another niche card that I am very excited about. I had a lot of fun with a Grixis Unearth deck back in the day (River Kelpie, booyah baby!) and there’s surely another iteration of that deck waiting for me. I can’t believe I won’t have at least one deck somewhere down the line that’ll have four Visions from Beyond in it!
Getting back to Planeswalkers, the third all-new one is Garruk’s second iteration. This one is called Garruk, Primal Hunter, and what a hunter he is.
Garruk is aggressive but can draw cards too, which is basically all I ever need in a card. I should be more aggressive in some of my decks, and Garruk helps me do that. Although I’m probably not gonna resist casting him, making a 3/3 Beast, and just Harmonizing myself next turn.
Next up are a few cards that are just getting reprinted, but that doesn’t mean a casual player like yours truly can’t get excited for them. Take, for instance, our good friend Jens Thorén, better known around this neck of the woods as Solemn Simulacrum.
One, I love the art. And two, just seeing Solemn in M12 makes me want to build a deck that has four of him. Maybe Jens can un-trainwreck the disaster that is my Phycho-deck. (More on that deck in a future post.)
Grim Lavamancer is another one of those ‘gee, I remember this card!’-kinda cards. You saw him sometimes, you played with or against him sometimes, and now he’s back. Not only in M12, but in my Magical consciousness as well. Welcome back, Grim Lavamancer, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.
Perhaps the best part for me about M12 is the reprinting of a lot of staples. For casual players like me, it becomes easier to acquire former staples. I am very happy Stoneforge Mystic is both banned and reprinted in an Event Deck, because I would love to build with her. The same holds true for Inferno Titan. My life won’t be complete until I’ve attacked with a Inferno Titan wearing a Basilisk Collar. I’ll take a few high fives, thankyouverymuch.
I can sum up everything about Thran Golem in one word: nostalgia. He was in my very first deck when you played whatever in your colors you pulled out of packs. He wore Zephid’s Embraces and beat up opponent. Thran Golem is a testament to the good times I’ve had in the early days of my Magic journey. Did you know that the ‘Thran’ in ‘Thran Utopia’ comes from this thorny feller?
Up next are a couple of build-around-me’s, cards that are either too demanding or restrictive to fall into different decks. That sounds bad, but when you take a look at Arachnus Spinner you’ll notice the demand was necessary for the huge amount of flavor that was poured into this card. A big fat spider that spins a web that only the strongest of creatures can break out of? Neato!
She makes her own webs in the sticky form of Arachnus Web. Cards like these make you wish Wizards could retroactively make all Spiders able to weave a web. Arachnus Spinner and her Web are tag-team homerun for flavor, but make other (webless) spiders pale in comparison.
The other restrictive-but-flavorful set of cards that’s got me thinking is the Illusion-bunch, led by their captain, Lord of the Unreal.
This is basically Jace’s deck in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, which is a deck I kinda like. It has a hard time against aggro, which apparently is a characteristic of almost every deck I like. The deck does depend too much on the Lord and on Krovikan Mist sometimes, but a decent helping of countermagic should fix that. I should try to build more aggressive decks, and this may be the starting point, given that it’s blue, which makes it feel more familiar to me.
Being able to play Phantasmal Image in that deck too is no slouch either, especially when Lord of the Unreal shields it from harm.
Speaking of aggressive decks, I was impressed by Stormblood Beserker when I tried to block him at the prerelease. On top of being an already impressive vanilla 3/3 for 1R (admittedly with a prequisite), he can only be blocked by two or more creatures! This just might be it for me in terms of aggressive decks I like, although I’ll probably get tempted to stick (a lot of) proliferators in there, too.
The last two cards in the unnamed build-around-me’s section are Personal Sanctuary and… well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Personal Sanctuary reminds me of Darien, King of Kjeldor in that it makes cards that damage both players suddenly very attractive. Other than that, Personal Sanctuary has a lot of uses, although you’ll probably end up in white/red. Manabarbs looks very good here. The best thing is that splashing becomes almost painless, because you’ll be able to play painlands without the pain.
And now comes the single most frustrating yet most enticing card in the whole set of M12: Sundial of the Infinite. I started brainstorming like no man’s business, only to find out each time it didn’t work. The first blow to the head I got was that Sundial does not stop effects that last until the end of your turn. Goodbye Angel’s Grace (which would’ve been insane), landfall, pump spells, manlands, bushido, among others.
I learned that the best thing to look for where effects that triggered on end steps. This led to the second hit: cool things like Pyromancer’s Swath and Form of the Dragon trigger on each end step, meaning you only get to delay the inevitable for another turn, not forever. At the end of your opponent’s end step, it’s all over anyhow.
Luckily, Nacatl War-Pride does work. You attack, and with the end step-trigger on the stack, you end the turn. Next turn, things start exploding². If your opponent doesn’t have any creatures, just give him some with Forbidden Orchard or Hunted creatures. And if you draw a Hunted without War-Pride, just end the turn with the ETB-trigger on the stack – voilá, a big guy without a drawback!
I’m looking to build a Bant-colored deck with Sundial, using evoke-creatures and Hunteds to abuse with Sundial, while keeping the opponent in check with Mistmeadow Witch and Turn to Mist. Grafted Skullcap draws me an extra card while I get to keep my hand. Other options include more griefer things, like Smokestack and Final Fortune (under a Isochron Scepter). I’d rather not talk about Sundial anymore, because I don’t want to blow an idea for a whole article in a preview. I’m a tease, I know, I know.
For the final four cards, I decided to try and capture my opinion in three words. Here goes!
Innistrad coming up
* * *
absent at prerelease
* * *
peasant and pauper
* * *
always be happy
* * *
And finally, my top 10 cards for this set. See you next week!
10. Lord of the Unreal
9. Phantasmal Image
8. Chandra’s Phoenix
7. Garruk, Primal Hunter
6. Jace, Memory Adept
5. Vengeful Pharaoh
4. Arachnus Spinner
3. Chandra the Firebrand
2. Personal Sanctuary
1. Sundial of the Infinite