I couldn’t go to one of the big pre-releases on Saturday because of family obligations; my five-year-old had a soccer game and my nine-year-old had a baseball game, and those are things I generally won’t miss, even for a pre-release.
So, I picked up Jason on the way to Montag’s Games for the Sunday pre-release. He had played in the regional pre-release the day before, and we talked about his impressions of the set. His main recommendation was to stay away from red unless you have bombs in red, because small burn spells aren’t very good against all the fat in this format. He also reiterated the importance of fliers and the utility of levelers.
Montag’s opens at noon on Sundays and the event was supposed to start at 1:00—and we just barely made it. Apparently there had been a line since 11:30. I guess WotC is getting the reaction they wanted to Rise. Montag’s isn’t that big and usually maxes out around 45 people, but the shop owner, Guy, decided we could stretch to 50 for this one since he knew a lot of people would drop pretty early. It was decided that we were playing 5 rounds, cut to top 8. This is important later…
They guy next to me opened multiple bombs: Gideon, Deathless Angel, etc. Here was my card pool:
2 Guard Duty
Wall of Omens
3 Eel Umbra
2 Venerated Teacher
2 Perish the Thought
2 Zof Shade
Tuktuk the Explorer
Might of the Masses
2 Daggerback Basilisk
2 Living Destiny
2 Haze Frog
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Reinforced Bulwark
2 Not of this World
Artisan of Kozilek
Hand of Emrakul
I did not initially like my card pool at all. I was hoping for some of the great white and a bunch of levelers and fliers, and I really wanted to play the Venerated Teachers that I had, but I just couldn’t justify going with either blue or white for a lack of serious threats. I don’t like Guard Duty as removal when I don’t have fliers to get around any walls I might create on the other side. Also, as a general rule, I hate playing three colors, and I just didn’t feel like I had any two colors that were deep enough. But, I decided that I had enough color-fixing with the 2 Evolving Wilds, the Ondu Giant, and the Realms Uncharted that I could safely run three colors. House rules for a pre-release are that deck changes between rounds were allowed, and I tinkered a little. Here was what was in my 40 sleeves at the end of the day:
2 Daggerback Basilisk
Artisan of Kozilek
Hand of Emrakul
2 Evolving Wilds
The plan was to try to run out as many Spawn tokens as possible and make them count with either the Broodwarden or some Eldrazi monster (or have something made into an Eldrazi monster via the Conscription). Someone pointed out to me that I was playing… Jund. Yergh.
Round 1: Kris, playing Bant
Game 1 he had two early small guys, and got Snake Umbras on both of them. My slow start was just way too slow; he was up something like five cards from the Snake Umbras… Ugly. Game 2 was a giant board stalemate. I didn’t have a second mountain for my Disaster Radius and he had a 6/10 first striking Caravan Escort (two Umbras) with neither of us being in position to productively attack. When I finally ripped a Mountain, I didn’t fully realize the implication of him having a Dawnglare Invoker and 8 land. I blew up his side of the board (except for the 6/10) but he tapped all my guys in response, and was able to swing for the win thanks to an Ogre’s Cleaver. Oops.
0-1 matches, 0-2 games. I made a couple changes, including going to 4 Mountains and 6 Forests instead of 3 and 7.
Round 2: Dean, playing Jund
Game 1 he got out something small out early and I took a couple hits, but then killed it with Vicious Hu..err, Last Kiss. I cast Realms Uncharted and that solved any color problems and I never missed a land drop, so I started spitting out midrange guys and Spawn tokens and ran him over. Game 2 was more back-and-forth. I again Last Kissed something early, which he also did to me (he got a level 1 Null Champion—good play). However, I again got an early Realms Uncharted though he ran out a little ahead, getting me down to 9, but then I got a Skeletal Wurm with a friend (again, I don’t remember what, sorry), and he never had an answer for that big beating. Actually, he was at 3 with two chumps available, but I got the Conscription on the Wurm, and he couldn’t handle that kind of trample damage.
1-1 matches, 2-2 games.
Round 3: Nick, playing Naya
Game 1 He got a turn 1 Student of Warfare and that was a Bad Thing. However, I ramped with a Treespeaker that got me to a Broodwarden, unfortunately with no tokens in play. He got a Hyena Umbra on the Student, but it still didn’t have double strike—he needed another turn before he got there and was mostly tapped out. I don’t remember what I had to kill the Umbra, but I had six land and the Treespeaker and so cast Eldrazi Conscription and swung for 14, taking him to 6. He leveled the Student and bashed me for 8, a putting me at 1, and he dropped a Tajuru Preserver to shut off the Annihilate, but still really had no answer for the return swing with the 14/14 trampler. I won with a grand total of two attacks! Game 2 He got a Knight of Cliffhaven on his second turn followed by a Time of Heroes on his third turn, so on his fourth turn he had a flying 4/5. Yikes. However, on my third turn I got a Basilisk, and on my turn 4 I cast a Boar Umbra, so the race was on. However, I got a Preadator and then I was able to swing for lethal with the tokens because my next drop was the Broodmaster.
2-1 matches, 4-2 games.
Round 4: Tuan, playing Black/Red
Game 1 we both did nothing relevant for a couple turns, other than him putting a turn 2 Contamination Ground on one of my Forests (I had only a Forest and a Mountain at the time, so I think it was an attempt to color-screw me, which didn’t work) which I once tapped for two. Whatever I tapped for I don’t remember, because it died right away to a Last Kiss. Then I got a killer run of cards: Predator, Hatcher, Broodwarren, Drone. He got a Hatcher of his own, but I just had to many 2/2 tokens for him to survive. Game 2 I got a turn 3 Basilisk with turn 4 Boar Umbra on it and he went all the way, though there was some fun along the way. He managed to drop a big Eldrazi when he was at 5 (either the 7/7 or 8/8 one, I don’t remember) but I had Disaster Radius along with Hand of Emrakul in my hand, so I was able to clear the board to swing for lethal.
3-1 matches, 6-2 games.
Round 5: Theresa, playing White/Blue
OK, so this sucked on all kinds of levels. First, Theresa is a fiancé of one of the Montag’s regulars, Joe, who is a very cool guy. This was Theresa’s second sanctioned tournament so she’s not a veteran, and I hate beating new players, and especially cool ones. Second, Theresa was 2-1-1, meaning I had been rounded down. This means that even if I won, this was not exactly helping my tiebreakers. Game 1 she got out a first-turn Skywatcher Adept followed by a 4th-turn Makindi Griffin, and I had nothing until a turn 3 Basilisk. She chumped the Basilisk with her Adept. I got something that generated Spawn and then a Cub, and just outraced her; I got her down to 3 and finished her with Staggershock. Game 2 she was color-hosed and had a handful of big drops with only 4 Plains in play and I completely ran her over with an Aura Gnarlid, then Bramblesnap, then Hatchling, used the 3 Spawn to pump the Bramblesnap, then sac’d for 3 to put Conscription on the Gnarlid, good game. I felt really bad because the whole match took us less than ten minutes.
4-1 matches, 8-2 games. Way to come back from the first-round loss…
And then it sucked. With only five rounds, there were a total of 10 people with 12 or more points (only 1 with 15); I was one of nine people who was 4-1. However, I was 10th on tiebreaks because my first-round opponent lost to his next round and dropped, and of course I was rounded down in round 5. Argh! The pairings computer hates me. So, for going 4-1 I got… two packs of ROE and a pack of Worldwake. Whee.
On the other hand, I now realize now that my card pool was much better than I initially thought. Having three Spawn generators plus the Broodwarden is really, really good, and I think Eldrazi Conscription is better than any of the actual Eldrazi, because (a) it grants trample, which they lack, and (b) since it goes on a creature, you can usually swing with it right away, meaning the clock is VERY short. Pretty much a major bomb in limited, and I’ll even have to try it in constructed with the set of Sovereigns of Lost Alara I picked up with my FNM winnings on Friday. Anyway, the Lorax, err, Treespeaker is better than I realized. The white levelers were consistently a strong early threat and were involved in all the games I lost and both the other games that were close, so I’ll be looking for those in ROE drafts.
The other good thing is that I think after the mistake in game 2 of the first round and one time I missed a land drop with a land in my hand (I don’t remember when), I think I played very cleanly. I’m normally a pretty awful limited player but I’m 11-2 in my last 13 sanctioned limited matches (other than IDs), so that’s something to build on. I’m looking forward to drafting ROE next weekend, and I generally don’t look forward to draft all that much, so maybe I’m turning a corner.