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

At this point I think it's important to note that I really wasn't feeling all that confident about this build and in fact I was highly suspicious of the Infect mechanic as a whole.  It just seemed too "gimmicky" to me while reading the Spoilers; particularly when I realized Infect wasn't "damage" as far as opponent's life totals were concerned.  I'd figured the only real way to win by Poison would be to consistently remove your opponent's blockers and swing into an empty board; something my deck had little hope of accomplishing with it's threadbare removal.  I'd even managed to "whiff" on the 2nd half of the "evasion creature with Infect/Untamed Might" combo; despite Untamed Might being a common.  Additionally around about this time the effects of the chicken soup/hot coffee combination were beginning to wear off.  As round 1 pairings were posted I'd begun to feel sudden chills, my bones ached and I was openly chattering my teeth.  At this point I decided to play out my first match and then drop from the event so I could go home and get some sleep.  I would have dropped immediately but the names had already been entered into the computer and quitting right then would have just made more work for Stephen.

Round 1 - Mike C: Myr Theme Deck:

As it turns out I probably could have played my round 1 match at the downtown store; the computer found a way to pair me against someone I draft with weekly.  Mike was also not enthused with his "crappy theme deck" but we both agreed that playing the match out would be fun and dropping afterward remained an option. Stephen and Leon had both mentioned the possibility of side drafts starting up after the 1st round if enough people were interested and Mike was definitely interested.  We shuffled up and started game 1; no small feat considering how much I was shaking/shivering by that time.  My deck started off reasonably fast and I was able to quickly give Mike a couple poison counters with a turn 1 Vector Asp and a turn 2 Ichorclaw Myr.  Mike had played a couple of cheaper 1/1 Myr's but had chosen not to block with them on my 2nd attack; a strategy I questioned until he proceeded to cast a turn 4 Etched Champion with Metalcraft Active.  This wasn't a huge problem for me because both of my infect creatures were Myr but things got a little more complicated when he killed both of them on the next turn and played another Artifact to retain Metalcraft.  I'd drawn a Tel-Jilad Fallen and a Nim Deathmantle but I could only stare helplessly at the Etched Champion with my Fume Spitter/TJ Fallen army.  Unfortunately both of us start drawing multiple land in a row at this point and Mike isn't able to press his advantage for fear or losing either Metalcraft or the necessary blockers to stop my Infect creatures.  Finally after what seems like a half hour I managed to topdeck and immediately sacrificed a Sylvok Replica to kill the Etched Champion, blew up my Fume Spitter to kill his 1/1 blocker, activated Nim Deathmantle to bring the Fume Spitter back into play and make it a 3/3 Black Zombie and finally swung with the Tel-Jihad Fallen for 3 poison counters.  Mike managed to topdeck a kill spell for the Tel-Jihad on the next turn but I replied with a Heavy Arbalest. After confirming that I had 8 lands and the equipment did in fact combo with Infect Mike conceded and we headed to game 2.  Unfortunately game 2 had no chance of living up to game 1's epic finish and Mike's inability to draw one of his eleventy billion Myr creatures left him with no way to block my infectious hordes.  Our game ended on turn 5 when I cast the Heavy Arbalest and had already dished out 7 poison counters against a defenseless opponent.
1-0 (2-0) * Drop

After the first round I started to realize that maybe my deck wasn't quite as awful as I'd initially thought.  While it's true most of my creatures were weenies, so were most of my opponents.  In fact as it turned out Scars of Mirrodin is a very fast format and most of the people in the room were curving out at 4 to 5 mana with a few notable exceptions.  I figured I could probably gut the day out and top 8 if I wanted to, ultimately only losing to decks similar to mine that actually had opened some removal.  Unfortunately I just wasn't feeling well enough at that to point to compete credibly in a Magic tournament and the idea of going home and sleeping seemed very inviting.  I decided to drop while Leon searched around for someone to take me back home; just in case I passed out sick on the subway.  Unfortunately in the hustle and the bustle of a busy Pre-release I got lost in the shuffle a little bit and I ended up napping with my head on the table for just under an hour.

When I woke up I was feeling surprisingly better and while it was too late to rejoin the main sealed deck tournament the previously mentioned draft was about to start.  Since it didn't look like anyone was going to shuttle me home any time soon I decided to give the draft a whirl; at very worst I could always play a round and drop just to get more new cards.  Sadly I don't remember that much about the actual drafting process for this even; probably because by then my fever was completely out of control and I was having trouble reading some of the cards.  What I do remember is that I first picked a Bloodshot Trainee because I figured it would be pretty easy to find equipment that gave +2 Power.  This seemed pretty prophetic when my next two picks were Darksteel Axe and Barbed Battlegear but ultimately those were the only two such cards I'd see all draft.  I also remember that both the Myrsmith and Embersmith were mid pack picks and I third picked the Tumble Magnet in pack 3 after passing one pack 1 and never seeing another.  Finally my first pick in pack 2 was an Oxidda Scrapmelter and I opened the Hoard-Smelter Dragon in pack 3.  When the dust finally settled this is the deck I entered the draft with:

Draft -  W/R Flying Aggro

Creatures - 15 (17):

2x Glint Hawk
1x Auriok Edgewright
1x Embersmith
1x Iron Myr
1x Myrsmith
2x Perilous Myr
1x Sunspeak Shikari
1x Snapsail Glider
1x Vulshok Hearstoker
2x Bloodshot Trainee
1x Oxidda Scrapmelter
1x Hoard-Smelter Dragon

Spells - 9 (7):

1x Darksteel Axe
1x Sylvok Lifestaff
2x Glint Hawk Idol
1x Revoke Existence
1x Shatter
1x Barbed Battlegear
1x Dispense Justice
1x Tumble Magnet

Lands - 17:

9x Mountain
8x Plains

To state the obvious; "Wow is that sucker fast" even for what appears to be a very fast format.  This deck is easily one of the most aggressive builds I have ever assembled in a draft regardless of pack composition.  It has hordes of cheap creatures with interesting abilities, solid equipment, excellent removal/control elements and a big freaking game-winning Dragon.  You really can't ask for much more out of a draft deck and I doubt I'll be able to build anything this strong again once my fellow drafters become familiar with this set.  Most of my games ended long before I'd played any of my "expensive" cards simply because my early creatures were stronger than theirs and my removal kept opponents from playing anything but weenies.  Interestingly enough my hardest match was with my first round opponent who simply decided to "race" me despite the overall speed of my deck.  At first I thought he was insane but ultimately he took me to 7 poison counters both games with one of the most bent "Infect" decks I imagine I will ever see in SoM draft.  He won his next two rounds and finished 3rd but I honestly believe that if he hadn't have lost to me in round 1 he likely would have won the entire draft.  His deck was simply sick; almost like a Pre-Constructed Infect theme deck.

Unfortunately after finishing up the 2nd round of the draft my body slipped into "open revolt" mode and it became obvious to me that I was done playing Magic for the day.  Thankfully my opponent was interested in starting yet another draft and he agreed to split in the finals.  His deck was very strong and contained 2 copies of True Conviction although it was still much slower than mine.  I have no idea who would have won this match if we played.

2-0-1 (4-0-2)

After the draft was over Lucas and Amanda invited me out to grab a bite to eat and despite being sick I really couldn't say no.  We wandered over to a nearby KFC/Taco Bell restaurant and spent the next 45 mins or catching up on life and talking about Magic.  They were kind enough to ride the Subway with me all the way home after dinner and we did some social trading/talked more about Magic back at the shop.  Eventually however all good things come to and end and my friends had to go home.  All in all I would have to say that I had an incredibly positive Pre-release experience.  The throwing up the next day wasn't all that much fun but in terms of actual Magic I really enjoyed the event.

I'd like to thank the Hairy T North for holding/running the event and I'd especially like to thank tournament organizer Stephen Kerr for making it run smoothly.  As a paying customer, I had a great time and I would definitely go back.  I guess I'd even like to thank Wizards for making the pre-release promo such a good card; I am already running 3 Wurmcoil Engines that were all given out at this pre-release (to different people, I traded hard!). 

Well folks, that's all for this time.  Sorry for taking a whole week to post this; it LITERALLY took me 4 days to get back out of bed after the Pre-release was over.  While I can't advise playing Magic when you're deathly ill I can honestly say "there are worse ways to go than in the middle of a Booster Draft".


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