Sunday, July 8, 2012

My M13 Prerelease

Author's note: I apologize for the formatting issues (color/background). When I changed the layout, this post got all fouled up.

This post will contain heavy amounts of Magic: The Gathering content.

I am so happy to be done with Avacyn Restored limited. I know I am an above average player, but no aspiring pro. I like playing Magic and I like getting better...and I've been playing for a while. I had never felt so terrible at Magic as I did during Avacyn drafts. I think the format needed one more removal spell at common, and some type of catch up mechanism- one misstep and you were dead. Additionally, I felt niche cards were prominent and rewarded (Thatcher Revolt) but terribly unplayable outside of those archetypes. Rise of the Eldrazi draft had fewer of these cards, but very rarely were the niche cards completely useless.

Back to the present: I was excited to be playing playing with removal again. I stopped by my local shop, the 20 Sided Store yesterday after a shopping trip and watched some friends build their decks for the second pod. My initial impressions of the format were:

  • Hey look, there's removal! It is a bit slower than previously, but it is there
  • This set is slower than M12 and way slower than AVR
  • Exalted is a real threat
  • Red seems underpowered in sealed
  • The games can become wars of attrition with relatively complex board states
  • I'll probably value card advantage much higher than I should

I arrived to 20 early and walked up the block to grab a bagel and some iced coffee. I was recognized quickly by some of the other gamers and we began a conversation. Turns out one of them works with my old boss. Small world.

A few minutes before 10am we head down to 20 and wait until the doors open. I bask in the AC and find my seat, wait for my packs, and finally...crack them.

One thing I never get tired of is the smell of freshly opened cards. It brings me a memory of opening a starter decks of Revised, and seeing Personal Incarnation and Underground Sea.

Here's my pool, tell me what you think you would build:

Ajani's Sunstriker
Angelic Benediction
Aven Squire
Angel's Mercy
Griffin Protector
Guardians of Akrasa (x2)
Intrepid Hero
Pillarfield Ox
Safe Passage
War Priest of Thune

Encrust (x2)
Fog Bank
Jace's Phantasm
Kraken Hatchling (x2)
Mind Sculpt
Talrand's Invocation
Tricks of the Trade
Unsummon (x2)
Welkin Tern

Bloodhunter Bat
Bloodthrone Vampire
Diabolic Revelation
Duskmantle Prowler
Duty-Bound Dead (x2)
Essence Drain (x2)
Mark of the Vampire
Mind Rot
Servant of Nefarox
Sign in Blood (x2)
Tormented Soul
Vampire Nighthawk
Vile Rebirth

Chandra's Fury (x2)
Dragon Hatchling (x2)
Goblin Arsonist (x2)
Fire Elemental (x2)
Furnace Whelp
Reckless Brute

Arbor Elf (x2)
Bond Beetle
Centaur Courser (x2)
Deadly Recluse
Duskdale Wurm (x2)
Flinthoof Boar
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
Quirion Dryad
Titanic Growth (x2)
Vastwood Gorger (x2)

Artifact and Land
Evolving Wilds
Clock of Omens
Gem of Becoming
Jayemdae Tome
Ring of Kalonia
Ring of Valkas
Ring of Xathrid
Stuffy Doll

Obligatory blank space

I immediately decided I would be playing black (so deep) dismissed red (the opposite of deep). Benching Magmaquake was hard, but right. I then set aside white, probably too quickly as the BW Exalted build looked promising, even if it did lack creatures to actually attack (my main reason for ignoring it). Looking back, this was wrong- you do not need a ton of attackers in the BW Exalted deck- and I would have run a BW build if I could. I was enticed by blue and the prospect of exalted + Watercourser, two Encrust, and Invocation + Archaeomancer, but laying out the deck, it just felt wrong. When I looked at Beast Tracker, I knew I had my second color, as it helped me find my Nighthawk. After a few minutes, I had my deck, although cards 21-23 were the tough decisions.

Arbor Elf
Tormented Soul
Duty-Bound Dead (x2)
Qurion Dryad
Deadly Recluse
Servant of Nefarox
Centaur Courser (x2)
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
Vampire Nighthawk
Bloodhunter Bat
Duskmantle Prolwer
Stuffy Doll
Duskdale Wurm (x2)
Titanic Growth
Ring of Xathrid
Sign in Blood (x2)
Mark of the Vampire
Essence Drain (x2)
Evolving Wilds
8 Forest
8 Swamp

Relevant Sideboard:
Mind Rot
Diabolic Revelation (for long games)

I went 3-1, winning handily against some newer players. In round two, I had a great match against Rob with UGrw, another regular. I won game one. Game two was a fantastic battle, coming down to his large creatures with Rancor racing my smaller creatures and Stuffy Doll. He won the turn before I would have swung in for lethal. My mistake had come on turn two, when he attacked his Welkin Tern into my Deadly Recluse and I did not block. Next turn he put Rancor on the Tern and I then blocked, taking 4 points of damage. Rob won by two points. Granted, the game probably plays out differently if he's holding Rancor, but he did not follow up Tern with a creature for multiple turns (hah), so I feel that if I had pulled the trigger and blocked that first attack, I would have won the match.

I won 7 packs for my efforts, as well as a sweet deck box from a raffle. My day ended with a three person game of Commander. My Skullbriar against Shawn's Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and Alex's Niv-Mizzet. The game went long, but eventually Alex won out with his Niv-Mizzet combo. That being said, it was still a fun game of Magic, despite the combo and lock decks I was up against.

Here's my list for Skullbriar, heavily influenced by Sheldon Menery's Nath of the Gilt-Leaf list featured here. It started as a Glissa the Traitor deck, which might give insight into the artifact subtheme.
Quickly: Commander is a fun project for me. I like to trade and find cards in bargain bins. I optimize my decks to the best of my ability, but do not go crazy.

Commander: Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

Wickerbough Elder
Indrik Stomphowler
Bellowing Tanglewurm
Yavimaya Ekder
Lotus Cobra
Oracle of Mul Daya
Eternal Witness
Champion of Lambholt
Scavenging Ooze
Awakening Zone
Saproling Burst
Sylvan Library
Doubling Season
Strength of the Tajaru

Spike Cannibal
Skirsdag High Priest
Disciple of Griselbrand
Creakwood Ghoul
Blood Artist
Falkenrath Noble
Dark Confidant
Vigor Mortis
Living Death
Grim Harvest
Phyrexian Reclamation
Executioner's Capsule
Grave Pact

Golgari Guildmage
Glissa, the Traitor
Vulturous Zombie
Grim Feast

Steel Hellkite
Solemn Simulacrum 
Oblivion Stone
Contagion Clasp
Contagion Engine
Spine of Ish Sah
Horizon Spellbomb
Nihil Spellbomb
Ichor Wellspring
Mycosynth Wellspring
Throne of Geth
Venser's Journal
Sol Ring
Golgari Signet
Skull Clamp
Darksteel Plate
Sword of Light and Shadow
Lightning Greaves
Nim Deathmantle

9 Forest
6 Swamp
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Verdant Catacombs
Command Tower
Golgari Rot Farm
Pine Barrens
Treetop Village
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Tranquil Thicket
Slippery Karst
Cabal Coffers
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Bojuka Bog
Polluted Mire
Barren Moor
Volrath's Stronghold
Phyrexia's Core
Temple of the False God
Reliquary Tower
Blasted Landscape

That's all for now. It was a good day of Magic (and the air conditioning didn't hurt). Like I said, I'm happy to be playing with removal again.


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