Friday, October 29, 2010

Of Limited Interest #10 - "Bird Watching" - Grand Prix Toronto Report Part 1

Hello everyone and welcome to a special "Post GP Toronto" edition of The Cardboard Witch.  I hope everyone had a wonderful time this weekend, especially all the visitors from outside of Toronto who came to participate in the Grand Prix.  The announced attendance for the main sealed tournament alone was 1450 +,  although I later heard that due to a clerical error about 100 people were counted twice.  Even with that in mind 1350 + people for a Sealed tournament of all things is no joke!  Amazingly enough that doesn't count the literally hundreds of organizers, shop keeps and Magic the Gathering Judges from all over the world; this was truly the biggest Magic event I'd been to since World Championships 2002.

Unfortunately my Grand Prix experience started off like so many of my recent Magic tournaments have; I woke up feeling sick and exhausted.  I'd been running a fever through most of the night and I was pretty sure I'd feel a lot better once I took a hot shower and washed the "sick" off of me.  After all, there was no way I was going to miss a Grand Prix in my own city over a high temperature and bad lungs.  Unfortunately I was not prepared to find out that the hot water heater in my building had gone out sometime the day before.  This meant a freezing COLD shower that ultimately made me feel worse than before I took it. At one point while shivering next to the space heater in my room I informed my boyfriend that I was "not going without a hot shower" and "quitting Magic forever" because "I never get to play".  Thankfully he's a more reasonable person than I am and he managed to talk me down from the ledge with promises of warm coffee and a cab ride to the Go Station.

Our "posse" arrived about a half hour later with a cab and somehow I was actually ready on time despite the shower fiasco.  For those of you who've never been to a big Magic event I strongly advise that you bring a friend or two along for the ride; there's a lot going on at a GP and the experience can be at times overwhelming.  Having some friends around to share the excitement, stress and memories with can go a long way towards coping with the sheer magnitude of the event.  Plus it's always nice to have someone to root for and someone rooting for you while your competing with some of the best Magic players in the world.  In my case I would spent most of Saturday hanging out with Hairy T regulars Kelly Ackerman, Beau Wheelan, Stephen Kerr and of course the owner of the Hairy T; Leon Emmett.  I also spent a bunch of time cheering on friends of mine from the Hairy T North's FNM crew; David Sutherland, Jacob Lietch, Evan Biel, Shai Cramer-Hussey, Duncan MacCallum, Alex MacCallum and of course esteemed podcast star and writer for; Scott MacCallum.  Throw in the literal hundreds of customers and competitors I knew from drafts at our store and it's safe to say I found myself constantly surrounded with familiar and friendly faces.  I feel this went a long way towards helping me settle down and focus on doing well in the main tournament and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all my friends at the GP for being so supportive. 

Before we get to the actual "tournament report" part of this blog post I'd like to take the opportunity to openly admit that I had a pretty good time "star-gazing" at the Toronto Grand Prix.  I realize it may not be considered "cool" or "fashionable" to geek out over famous Magic players but I honestly rather enjoyed being surrounded by some of the best players in the world.  In particular it was pretty awesome to meet so many of the amazing writers for Channel Fireball and I have no real problem admitting that the twin highlights of my day were telling David Ochoa and Conley Woods that I really enjoyed their articles and I appreciated that Channel Fireball made them available for free.  If that makes me a "fangirl", so be it I guess.  Other "famous" people I saw wandering around the room included Gabriel Nassif, Luis Scott-Vargas (who I may have inadvertently annoyed), Brad Nelson (who I accidentally bumped into while trying to slide by the pairings wall) and  Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (who's my favorite writer but I chickened out on talking to him about 4 times).

Once the tournament finally started I could barely contain my excitement and I found myself wishing more than once that I would be passed a good sealed pool.  For those of you who've never been to a large sealed event I should mention that you don't actually get to open your own pool.  To discourage cheating players are given 6 packs to open and are required to write down their *exact* contents.  Those packs are then passed to another player in the tournament and become his or her sealed pool.  That player registers the deck he builds on the same sheet you wrote down the contents of all 6 packs you opened.  This allows the judges to check for added/missing/changed cards randomly at any point in the tournament.  If your current pool doesn't match the cards you were given or the deck you registered it becomes fairly obvious that you are cheating.  While this may seem like a bit of a hassle it's probably the fairest and most efficient way to ensure that people don't add or remove cards from their sealed pools.  I played in an Invasion block sealed tournament at the 2002 World Championships in Toronto where this was not done and scrubbed out at 0-2 after facing off against 5 different Legendary dragons that my opponents clearly "opened fair and square".  Needless to say I am now firmly "for" sealed pool registration and passing.  It also doesn't hurt that the sealed pool I opened for someone else was horrible; the good cards were spread across 4 colors, low on infect, low on artifacts.  I sincerely apologize to the person who ended up with that pool simply because there was nothing I could do to save them; the cards out of the packs were just that bad.

Thankfully *my* sealed pool turned out to be much better than the one I'd opened for someone else.  When I first started pouring over the cards all I was really hoping to find were some creature removal effects, a few flyers and some "Hill Giants".  Let's take a quick look at my entire pool and discuss the challenges it presented.  Afterward we'll take a look at the deck I ultimately registered, the mistakes I think I made and finally what I could have done to make the deck stronger:

White Cards - (10):

1x Arrest
1x Dispense Justice
1x Ghalma's Warden
1x Glint Hawk
1x Kemba's Skyguard
1x Loxodon Wayfarer
1x Razor Hippogriff
1x Revoke Existence
2x Salvage Scout

Blue Cards - (9):

1x Inexorable Tide
2x Lumengrid Drake
1x Plated Seastrider
1x Quicksilver Gargantuan
2x Stoic Rebuttal
1x Thrumingbird
1x Vedalken Certarch

Black Cards - (9): 

2x Blistergrub
1x Flesh Allergy
1x Fume Spitter
1x Grasp of Darkness
1x Hand of the Praetors
1x Ichor Rats
1x Necrogen Scudder
1x Relic Putrescence

Red Cards - (10):

1x Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1x Ferrovore
1x Kuldotha Phoenix
1x Kuldotha Rebirth
1x Melt Terrain
1x Oxidda Daredevil
1x Shatter
1x Turn to Slag
2x Vulshok Heartstoker

Green Cards - (9): 

1x Acid Web Spider
1x Alpha Tyrranax
1x Carapace Forger
1x Copperhorn Scout
1x Molder Beast
1x Slice in Twain
1x Tel-Jilad Defiance
1x Untamed Might
1x Wing Puncture

Artifacts - (34):

1x Clone Shell
1x Contagion Clasp
2x Copper Myr
1x Culling Dais
1x Corpse Cur
1x Darksteel Juggernaught
1x Darksteel Sentinel   
1x Echo Circlet
1x Flight Spellbomb
1x Glint Hawk Idol
1x Golden Urn
1x Golem's Heart
1x Grafted Exoskeleton
1x Heavy Arbalest
1x Ichorclaw Myr
1x Infiltration Lens
1x Iron Myr
1x Leaden Myr
1x Memnite
1x Necropede
1x Neurok Replica
1x Nihil Spellbomb
1x Perilous Myr
1x Saberclaw Golem
1x Silver Myr
1x Snapsail Glider
1x Soliton
1x Trigon of Corruption
1x Vector Asp
1x Venser's Journal
3x Wall of Tanglecord

Lands - (3):

1x Forest (Foil)
1x Glimmerpost
1x Razorverge Thicket.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Of Limited Interest #9 - White W(R)edding

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of the Cardboard Witch.  Before we dive right into a Scars of Mirrodin draft report I'd like to address a technical issue that has recently come to my attention.  It seems that it's very hard to post in the comments section of this blog, even if you have a Google account.  Apparently everything looks normal until you hit "submit" and then the comments box clears itself blank and your comment is never posted.  I have no idea why this is happening and I assure you that open, non-moderated comments are allowed on this blog according to the settings (which I just checked right now).  I even tried to comment on one of my own articles today and was unable to do so.  I plan to email Blogspot as soon as possible to address this issue but for now we're going to have to make do without comments.  Please email me any questions or commentary you'd like posted on the blog at  I'll post them like letters to an old fashioned advice column and we can move forward from there.  Thanks to the readers who emailed me about this problem and my friend Natalie for mentioning it in person again today.

With that out of the way lets jump right in and take a closer look at a 6 man triple Scars of Mirrodin booster draft I participated in on Thursday night.  I was actually quite surprised that we had 6 players because GP Toronto started the next day but addictions die hard and so we had a mostly full table.  During the drafting portion of the tournament I was slotted in between a B/W and a B/R player although at the time I wasn't sure who was who (doh!).  This forced me to aggressively pick certain colors in certain packs to support my first few choices; as always with a premium placed on finding some removal.

At this point I think we should probably talk a little bit about my drafting style here in Scars of Mirrodin, otherwise several of my picks may seem confusing or even nonsensical.  When the set first came out pretty much everyone agreed that you had to be playing one of two decks; metalcraft or infect.  This seemed obvious because those were the two major themes in the set and numerous powerful cards were printed with either keyword at all 4 rarity levels.  Unfortunately as my first few drafts played out I began to notice some constantly reoccurring problems with either strategy; most of which revolved around the concept of scarcity.  You needed at least 10-12 good creatures with the "infect" keyword to build a winning infect deck; there simply weren't enough good creatures for multiple people in one draft to all choose infect.  Alternately you needed 16-18 solid artifacts to fuel a winning metalcraft deck; the general premium on good artifacts in this set meant there weren't enough for several people in one draft to choose metalcraft.  Remember just because your opponent isn't playing a metalcraft deck doesn't mean he won't have cards that interact with artifacts, anyone can splash powerful colorless cards!  This generally meant that if I wanted to play either theme I was going to have to play anywhere from 4-8 sub-par cards simply to "fit" my deck-style and hope that I drew more of my good cards than bad ones.  Additionally I started to notice that the decks that performed best in this limited environment typically were more about playing gobs of removal and winning the game with random Hill Giants (3/3 bodies for 4 mana).  While it's pretty easy to kill most "infect" creatures or artifacts in this format it's fairly hard to deal with large "colored" monsters in Scars of Mirrodin limited.  Most decks will have at best 3-4 good answers and it's actually quite easy to draft 5-6 of these creatures mid-pack and fit them into a functional draft deck.  This phenomena allows a drafter to focus on choosing removal/creature control spells first while opponents are busy fighting over the best cards that said "metalcraft" or "infect".  This isn't to say you shouldn't take artifacts, cards that say metalcraft or even creatures with infect; it just means you shouldn't place a premium on them.  Plenty of artifacts work well in a basic beatdown strategy (Glint Hawk Idol) and key infect creatures double as decent removal (Tangle Angler, Necropede) in the right build.  The key is to consider every single card entirely on it's own merit in the context of a basic "remove and bash" deck-type rather than based on it's thematic value in the format.  Probably the best part of this strategy is that it isn't particularly restricted by color; although Blue can be a little short in the "Hill Giant" department and Green's two best "removal" spells are very early picks (Slice in Twain, Sylvok Replica).  After testing this theory out in several sealed pools and a couple booster drafts I felt pretty confident that it would consistently produce wins.  After all the entire idea revolved around reducing Magic to it's most basic levels; playing threats and removing your opponent's permanents.  I even decided to name the deck-style "Neanderthal Aggro" because of the basic caveman logic behind it all.

So now that you know a little more about my card selection process in Scars of Mirrodin limited lets take a quick look at the drafting portion of this tournament.  Unfortunately I don't remember every single pick in the draft but I'm pretty sure I remember most of the important ones.  My first pick in pack 1 was dead (Mox Opal) and the opponent to my right passed me a pack with Galvanic Blast and a bunch of mediocre infect creatures.  While I can't say I will never play an infect deck I typically avoid this strategy unless I pull a card that says "you should play infect" very early.  Good examples include Putrefax, Hand of the Praetors, Corpse Cur, Tangle Angler and of course Skythiryx.  Since none of the creatures in the pack were even close to that power level I took the Blast and hoped it was a signal my opponent would not be playing red.  The next pack was pretty distressing because it contained absolutely no removal, in any color.  Additionally the only bomb-ish creatures were in green; a color I typically avoid here in Scars of Mirrodin unless there is a very clear signal that it's open.  This is because the green cards in this set are divided almost half and half between big smashy monsters and the infect theme deck while still being somewhat "thin" overall regardless.  In my experience this means you can easily find yourself with half an infect deck and half a stompy deck if there's significant competition for the color at your table; a recipe for disaster.  With no removal and no game ending monsters I was prepared to draft at that point I decided to take the best aggro card in the pack; Glint Hawk Idol.  This unfortunately put me into R/W fairly early because while the Idol isn't technically a white creature it's simply stronger in a deck with a few Plains; allowing you to morph the statue into a 2/2 Bird whenever you need to rather than being forced to run out Artifacts turn after turn.  While I didn't like having jumped into 2 colors so early in an artifact based format my instincts turned out to be pretty decent on this one; my next two picks were Glint Hawk Idol and a Turn to Slag pretty much cementing me into R/W Aggro.  The rest of pack 1 was fairly uninteresting although I did pick up a Sunspear Shikari and a bizarrely late Barrage Ogre. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Of Limited Interest #8 - Grand Preparations (GP Toronto Practice Session)

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Unfortunately I woke up on Saturday morning still far to sick to risk playing in a Magic tournament; after all it would make very little sense to make myself too sick to attend the Grand Prix by attending a GP practice event!  Thankfully however my good friend Sam stopped by on Friday and we decided to rip open practice sealed pools to get ready for the main event at the GP.  When Sam first arrived he made it clear that he only had time to play maybe 4 or 5 games even at the breakneck speeds Scars of Mirrodin limited has become known for.  I think it speaks clearly to the overall strength of the decks that he stayed for roughly 15 evenly-matched games simply because both of our decks were so strong/fun.  We played back and forth for over an hour; with a significant number of the games ending in epic fashion regardless of who won.  Unfortunately I didn't think to keep game notes or to list the full contents of our original 6 packs.  I did however manage to write down each of the decklists for further examination.  I think Sam's deck is probably slightly better than mine but both of them were pretty snapped.  Let's take a look at each deck and what makes them so dangerous:

Sam's B/G Infect Deck:   

Creatures - 15:

1x Blight Mamba
1x Copper Myr
1x Ichorclaw Myr
1x Plague Stinger
2x Contagious Nim
1x Cystbearer
1x Ichor Rats
1x Moriok Replica
1x Sylvok Replica
1x Corpse Cur
1x Hand of the Praetors
2x Tel-Jilad Fallen
1x Putrefax

Spells - 9:

1x Untamed Might
1x Contagion Clasp
1x Grasp of Darkness
2x Tumble Magnet
1x Flesh Allergy
1x Heavy Arbalest
1x Instill Infection
1x Prototype Portal

Lands - 16:

8x Forest
8x Swamp

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Standard Deviations # 4 - Baneslayer Boros

Hello everyone and welcome back to another "Standard" edition of The Cardboard Witch.  For those of you just joining us recently this blog has started to focus more and more on the Post-Scars of Mirrodin Standard environment.  This is partially because I've been too sick to do a whole lot of drafting but it's also partially because Standard has suddenly become both wide open and incredibly fun!  I'm building/testing decks daily at this point and there seem to be so many options in the new environment that I don't expect to run out of ideas to explore for quite some time.  I don't have to tell most of you that it's been a very long time since you could say that with a straight face about the Standard Constructed format. For those of you hoping for more articles on Scars of Mirrodin limited play please accept my apologies.  The Hairy T North has a Scars practice sealed event planned for tomorrow afternoon (Saturday the 16th) which I plan to attend and hopefully write about soon.  Until then lets take a look at another one the 4 decks currently sitting in my "starting rotation"; Baneslayer Boros.

Baneslayer Boros

Creatures - 22:
4x Goblin Guide
4x Steppe Lynx
4x Plated Geopede
3x Kor Skyfisher
2x Stoneforge Mystic
2x Kor Hookmaster
3x Baneslayer Angel

Spells - 14:

4x Lightning Bolt
2x Adventuring Gear
4x Arc Trail
3x Journey to Nowhere
1x Hammer of Ruin

Lands - 24:

4x Arid Mesa
4x Marsh Flats
4x Teetering Peaks
1x Evolving Wilds
1x Terramorphic Expanse
5x Plains
5x Mountain

Sideboard - 15:

4x Tunnel Ignus
4x Kore Firewalker
2x Cunning Sparkmage
2x Burst Lightning
1x Basilisk Collar
1x Sword of Body and Mind
1x Journey to Nowhere

Friday, October 15, 2010

Standard Deviations # 3 - "$30 Red Deck Wins"

Hello everyone and welcome to a special "quickie" edition of The Cardboard Witch.  At this exact moment I'm trying to decide if I feel well enough to head out to FNM at the Hairy T North so I only have a few minutes to share a deck-list before I potentially dash out the door.

While reading the various posted deck-lists and articles from States this past weekend I came across David Russo's interesting 3rd place Red Deck Wins build from New York.  You can find the exact list a number of places online, including the middle of Antoine Ruel's article "Analyzing the Post-States Metagame" over at Channel Fireball so I won't bother to re-post it here.  What I found particularly interesting about this deck was the disgusting turn 3 win possibilities provided by Kiln Field and Assault Strobe.  Like most of the Magic playing world I had quickly relegated Assault Strobe into the "limited only" and "not as good as the Instant from Eventide" sections of my mind.  Seeing the disgusting interaction with Kiln Fiend made me quickly reconsider however and it wasn't long before I was tinkering around with my own version of Red Deck Wins.  Unfortunately despite this new two card combo I found that the same old issues I'd had with RDW were continually cropping up.  Yes it's a little faster than Boros but not having access to Journey to Nowhere or Steppe Lynx make the deck much weaker against the field at large.  No Kor Skyfisher means you're dead drawing to find lands to make the Geopede relevant way more often and finally the deck flat out loses to a turn 3 Pyro. I was just about to toss the entire design in the garbage when it dawned on me that you could essentially double the number of Assault Strobe combos by adding Chandra's Spitfire to the equation.  While RDW might not make a good aggro deck in my opinion it certainly could make a decent aggro-combo deck (like W/W Affinity for example); with a little tinkering.  Additionally if you ripped out all the "crack" lands and Geopedes you would have more room for Smoldering Spires and cards to feed your combo.  As an added bonus the only rares in this deck are Goblin Guides and Desvastating Summons, cards you can easily obtain for under 30 dollars if you shop around.

Here is the list as it stands now; please be warned this is hardly a finished product.  I've played a grand total of 6 games with it and won 5 of them; including a gimme win against Mono Green Eldrazi Ramp.  This list can and probably will change over time as I get more testing in and I'm not even sure it's actually "tournament-worthy" at this point.  I am sure however that it's very fast, it has multiple 2 card combos that can win it the game on turn 3 or 4 and it's really only about $30 to build.  At the moment I don't even have a sideboard that's how "new" this deck is.

$30 Red Deck Wins:

Creatures - 22:

4x Goblin Guide
3x Goblin Bushwhacker
4x Kiln Fiend
4x Ember Hauler
3x Goblin Shortcutter
4x Chandra's Spitfire

Spells -16:

3x Devastating Summons
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Assault Strobe
3x Burst Lightning
2x Staggershock

Lands - 22:

4x Teetering Peaks
4x Smoldering Spires
14x Mountains

Thoughts:  This deck might not have enough land simply because 8 of them come into play tapped, so far it hasn't been an issue but the math seems dicey.  The spell ratio may not be mixed right, I really wanted to include Arc Trail/more Staggershocks but again 22 land with 8 of them tapped seem to discourage this.  While I like Searing Blaze adding it back into the design would necessitate adding at least 8 "crack" lands and probably Geopedes and I'm just not prepared to do that.  I honestly think Boros does the landfall aggro thing much better and your best chance of beating them is to combo out on turns 3 and 4.  This works for W/W Affinity and they have fewer game winning draws.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Standard Deviations # 2 - Missing State Championships (decklist included)

Hello everyone and welcome back to another belated edition of The Cardboard Witch.  As regular readers of this blog know my health has been a little dicey recently; forcing me to miss a number of Magic events over the past 30 days.  Needless to say this has been a sad time in Ninaville and it's probably safe to call being too sick to play at Ontario Provincials this Saturday a new low water mark. I even went so far as to get dressed and ride all the way out to the event before constant chills and body wracking shivers forced me back home to bed.  I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I slept roughly 34 of the next 48 hours; waking up cold and miserable from time to time.  Thankfully today I'm finally starting to feel a little better (Wednesday) or at least better enough to write about my favorite obsession: Magic.

While I didn't actually get to compete at "States" I did spend a significant amount of time preparing to do so; including both designing a number of decks for friends and testing against the "Net" decks I expected to be popular this time around.  I'd estimate that I probably spent 75 hours over 9-10 days attempting to immerse myself in the new post-Scars Standard.  Of course like almost everyone else who is playing Standard right now the first thing I discovered is that "Mana Ramp" and "U/W Control" decks are both popular and fairly hard to beat.  Complicating matters even further it became fairly obvious that so-called "Mana Ramp" decks were actually two completely separate deck-types; G/R Valakuut and either Mono G or G/x Eldrazi.  While both of these decks share many common cards and a key lynch-pin (Primeval Titan) they play and must be played against quite differently.  Despite these harsh realities however I also felt that post-Scars Standard was a wildly varied format with at least 8-10 viable deck choices openly supported within the card pool. Though I clearly expected the "Big 3" decks to dominate the format through sheer numbers I believed you could build several decks that would be strong against either Ramp or Control; while still competing on a 50/50 basis with the other option.

Ultimately I think it's fair to say that States results bore most of these opinions out.  U/W Control was a little stronger than I thought it would be but otherwise there was a fairly wide variety spread across the Top 8's of this event.  While obviously present Ramp most certainly didn't run away with the format as many had predicted.  With the first major Standard event of this season as a backdrop I'd like to take a look at some of the decks I'll be playing around with in this "Brave New Standard".   While clearly I can't claim that these decks tested out well at States because I didn't go, I do feel they represent reasonable options in the coming weeks and I intend to play them or variations on them at my local Standard events.

First up let's look at my favorite "new" deck in the format and the one I myself would have played at States if I had been well enough to stay:

Die in a Fire: - Mono Red + Artifacts

Creatures - 21:

4x Goblin Guide
4x Ember Hauler
4x Kargan Dragonlord
3x Chandra's Spitfire
3x Molten-Tail Masticore
3x Inferno Titan   

Spells - 15:                

4x Lightning Bolt
4x Burst Lightning
3x Brittle Effigy
4x Koth of the Hammer 

Land - 24:

24x Mountain

Sideboard - 15:

4x Tunnel Ignus
3x Arc Trail
3x Ratchet Bomb
3x Ricochet Trap
1x Brittle Effigy
1x Molten-Tail Masticore

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Of Limited Interest # 7 - Home For a Rest (Scars of Mirrodin Pre-Release)

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to a special Pre-Release edition of The Cardboard Witch.  I hope all of you had a great time no matter where you played last Saturday and trust that you all opened Koth's, Ratchet Bombs and Molten-Tail Masticores because I know I certainly didn't. :)  I did however manage to pull a Mox Opal and a FOIL Mox Opal so it wasn't all bad; although the jury is still very much out on exactly what deck that card belongs in.

Unfortunately my weekend didn't start so well because I woke up very sick on the morning of the event; sick enough that I almost decided to skip it entirely.  The very idea of missing the Pre-release me feel pretty awful however and I eventually decided that the lure of new/awesome Magic cards was too much to resist.  Against my better judgment I pulled myself together and made the hour long subway ride to the North End store.  Riding the train with Leon meant that we had to arrive fairly early but even getting there just before noon there were already 8-10 people waiting in the back for the event to start. This gave me pretty high hopes that we'd finally hit the magical "32 Attendees" number our T.O. (Stephen Kerr) needed to "level-up" our store with the DCI.  I had also invited a bunch of friends to the event; I figured at least half of them would actually show up which further increased our chances of making it to 32.

In the hour long wait for the tournament to start Leon managed to grab me some hot coffee and a bowl of chicken soup.  This worked on some level to make my stomach/lungs feel less awful and by about 10 minutes before the event began I was actually pretty sure I would last the whole day.  Putting the final icing on the cake, some of the friends I had invited started to show up; most notably Amanda and Lucas.  Now I don't want to go all sentimental here but Amanda and Lucas have been friends of mine for over a decade; from way back in the days of Open Legend of the 5 Rings Tournaments.  Unfortunately despite being such close friends with them we're all very busy people and they live about and hour to the West of me (Toronto is a very big place), so I rarely get to see them.  By the time we sat down to open packs I have to admit I was thoroughly "geeked".

For most magic players there are few more exciting moments than opening your first few packs of a brand new set at a Pre-release.  There's a sense of wonder and optimism as you open and start reading the new cards that "supercharges" the whole experience, making it more than just a random sealed tournament.  In a way it reminds me of the feeling you got at Christmas when you were very young and still believed in Santa Claus.  Anything and everything could be behind that wrapper and you find yourself hoping it's the "anything" you wanted; in my case Koth and/or a Molten-tail Masticore. 

Unfortunately as previously mentioned I opened the aforementioned valuable but rather uninspiring in limited Mox Opal/Foil Mox Opal combination.  I also opened a B/R dual land and a Spikeshot Elder but ultimately my Red was simply too thin to play.  What I did have going for me was some decent B/G cards; about half of which said Infect and about half of which said Metalcraft or otherwise worked with Artifacts.  Sadly however aside from a 2x each of Sylvok Replica and Fume Spitter the only removal I'd pulled was the rather clunky Heavy Arbalest.  Additionally I'd pulled 2x Exsanguinate but no copies of Untamed Might which suggested I should be playing a classic "damage" style deck rather than trying to use Infect to give my opponent 10 poison counters.  This is relevant because as many people at the Pre-release found out too late; creatures with infect don't deal ACTUAL damage to your opponent they instead give poison counters.  Therefore it's fairly counterproductive to mix and match Infect and non-Infect creatures in a single deck.  I spent about 30 minutes trying to cobble together a G/B Metalcraft deck with a few defensive minded infect creatures before finally accepting that aside from the Nim Deathmantle I'd opened I really didn't have enough sick "bombs" to try and bash my opponent down.  Essentially my entire offense would be a Painsmith, 2 Rusted Relics and 2 Carapace Forgers plus a lone Bladed Pinions to help sneak damage through.  In the face of some of the monster bomb rares I'd seen opened around me that just didn't seem very strong/capable of winning.  Finally with about 10 minutes to go before Round 1 I said "screw it" and audibled into a B/G Infect rush deck.  I figured if I was going to lose simply because I hadn't opened any removal I might as well do it running the "crappy theme deck" for my own amusement.   With just over a minute before Pairings would be posted I settled on the following list:   
Sealed Pool - B/G Infect w/ Artifacts

Creatures - 18:

2x Fume Spitter
2x Vector Asp
1x Blight Mamba
2x Copper Myr
1x Ichorclaw Myr
1x Painsmith
2x Plague Stinger
1x Ichor Rats
1x Moriok Replica
2x Sylvok Replica
3x Tel-Jilad Fallen

Spells - 7:

1x Mox Opal
2x Horizon Spellbomb
1x Bladed Pinions
1x Nim Deathmantle
1x Throne of Geth
1x Heavy Arbalest

Lands - 16:

8x Swamp
8x Forest