I had to miss the M12 prerelease because of an annual family reunion/camping trip near Rochester, NY. Following that, I had a work obligation in North Conway, NH. So, I drove starting on Friday afternoon. Based on what I thought I could do each day, I figured the best stopping point for Friday night was Amsterdam, NY. Luckily for me, the WotC site let me know that a new shop called Prof. Bond’s Emporium was having a release party on Friday evening. So, I packed some sleeves, dice, a deckbox, and playmat and headed over for the party. The store itself is beautiful, just a really nice gaming space. Players were all incredibly friendly and welcoming to this out of town stranger. Overall, I think the level of competition is not what I’m used to at my local game shop, but I think having a store available to the audience will improve everyone’s game. Turnout was pretty good, but I don’t think the five rounds of swiss was quite necessary for the size of crowd. Overall, though, it was a terrific time and I was very happy to be able to play with M12 cards for the first time.
Here’s what I opened:
M12 Release Party Sealed Pool
Yes, it’s a bomb-tastic card pool. The three obvious bombs are, of course, Gideon, Chandra, and Mind Control. Turns out that I’d classify Druidic Satchel a bomb in any deck not trying to race, so that was four. Given that my creature base was not exactly awe-inspiring in any color, I decided that the best route to victory was… stall. Play the long game, get the bombs out, and grind out the wins.
This of course meant three colors, which I generally dislike in any format like this when I can’t play some kind of green ramp/fixing, but I figured I had a Manalith and not very many double-color cards until the casting costs got a little higher, so it’d be worth a shot. I will admit that I flirted with the idea of a heavier Red build, as I do like Fling, particularly with Lightning Elemental, but that was just too aggro for what the rest of the deck felt like it wanted to do.
Here’s the list I played:
I know some of the decisions are pretty weird, and now post-event, even I can’t quite remember exactly what I was thinking. For example, I’m not sure about 2 red 1-drops with only 4 Mountains. The Thran Golem is the biggest beater, and yet I ran only one enchantment when I had two Divine Favors available. The thing about the Thran Golem is that he represents such a potential threat that he garnered an awful lot of attention when he hit the table. Still probably should have run the Aven Fleetwing or even the Phantasmal Dragon in its place, maindecked the Negate, and cut the one Divine Favor completely. Alternatively, I should have cut the Master Thief from the main and run both Divine Favors.
I didn’t take notes, so everyone will have to excuse my many memory flaws here.
R1: Dave, playing RW
This one is now kind of lost in my mind. Mainly, what I remember was grinding out a very long victory in game 1 largely through the magic of the Satchel. I do recall that I got Chandra and then he immediately top-decked an O Ring, which was unfun. However, the Satchel did everything in this game: built up my life total, kept me drawing gas, made tokens to chump and then later attack with. I remember when that card was spoiled and my first thought was “wow, that seems like it’ll be really good in Limited.” I didn’t know the half of it. Game 2 we were in danger of timing out and I punted by tapping wrong when I drew what was actually an answer to his 12/12 Furyborn Hellkite. We didn’t get to a game 3. Not a good start.
0-0-1 matches, 1-1 games
R2: Nick, playing WB
Nick had a good build with a Royal Assassin in it, but just had no answer to my bombs (I know in one game I had both Planeswalkers out, and Game 2 chumped almost every attack of his with Saproling tokens thanks to the Satchel) and I pretty much plowed through these two games.
1-0-1 matches, 3-1 games
R3: Cody, playing RW
Game 1 I kept a two-lander (on the draw) with both a Mountain and an Island in it, never drew a Plains the whole game, and died with five white cards in my hand, including Gideon… and he pummeled me with his Gideon. Game 2 he killed me very quickly with the amazing combo of Goblin Tunneler and Firebreathing on a 1/1, and I was again color-screwed. Pretty much an all-around spanking.
1-1-1 matches, 3-3 games, a ludicrous record given the conditions.
R4: Jeff?, playing GU
His deck had green fatties and a couple nice blue cards, but basically no removal and no way to get through Gideon’s Lawkeepers and Gideon himself. I think I ultimated Chandra once in this match as well, and I know in game 2 that I won by Mind Controlling a Giant Spider that had Trollhide on it. Seemed good.
2-1-1 matches, 5-3 games
R5: Brett, playing BR
Game 1 he took by getting a Gorehorn Minotaurs out after pinging me, then giving it hexproof with Boots, then pumping it with a Goblin War Cry. Basically, all I could do was chump it, and when the 7/7 started to get through, it was ugly. When he got out a Grim Lavamancer to boot, that was it. Game 2 I got a first-turn Goblin Fireslinger that went most of the way by himself. I Mana Leaked a couple of his early plays, stole his Swiftfoot Boots with my Master Thief, and then Mind Controlled his one creature and finished him with the trio. Game 3 I don’t remember as well, though I do know that the key plays were early Mana Leaks and when I Mind Controlled a creature of his that had Dark Favor on it.
3-1-1 matches, 7-4 games
Quarters: Nick, playing WB
Rematch from round 2. Game 1 he had to mull down to 4 and there was just no way he could beat me with that. Game 2 was a little more back and forth, but only a little. Unfortunately I don’t remember it all that well, other than once again getting huge advantage out of the Satchel, but it was pretty one-sided.
4-1-1 matches, 9-4 games
Semis: Matt, playing WG
Game 1 he kept a 1-lander on a mull to 6 and didn’t draw a second land until it was way, way too late. He discarded a lot of cards, including his three bombs: Garruk, a Sun Titan, and an Archon of Justice. Game 2 was more interesting, including a really horrific punt, but I still won it. The punt: He got out both the Archon and a Sun Titan, and I drew into Mind Control… and took the Titan. Hunh? So, of course I had to kill the Archon at some point, and so he killed the Mind Control. Duh. However, the good news is that he killed that instead of the Gideon that I had out, and I got a Lawkeeper, and that allowed me to keep the Titan off me long enough to grind out enough card advantage through the Satchel and swing enough life through my Alabaster Mage that I was able to take it in a long game.
5-1-1 matches, 11-4 games
Finals: Mike, playing BW
Game 1 was a medium-length affair decided primarily by my inability to draw things other than land; I think I died with 12 of my 16 lands on the table having drawn little gas. Game 2 I don’t really remember all that well, but I won it without too much difficulty. He did Doom Blade Gideon when I attacked with him, but I also had Chandra and was able to ultimate her while still keeping her on the board (also killing his only creature), and took it home with her and a Fireslinger. Game 3 I played an early Goblin Fireslinger followed by Boots, he had turn 2 and 3 Stormfront Pegasus and a turn 4 Cemetary Reaper. Here’s where I punted in this game: On my turn 3 I didn’t equip the Boots on the Fireslinger. On turn 4, I dropped Chandra and killed a Pegasus, figuring that my Fireslinger could chump the Reaper and then kill the other Pegasus the next turn. Of course he had a Sorin’s Thirst to kill the Slinger and then killed Chandra by attacking into her. Bleah. He got two Zombie tokens out of the Reaper but I was able to Mind Control it to make his tokens smaller, and forced him to use a Celestial Purge to kill his own Reaper. I got Gideon and then a Dignitary and a Divine Favor on the Dignitary, and then a Lawkeeper, which I protected from his spot removal with Boots. He made a Zombie token indestructible with an Aegis Angel, but I killed the Angel with Gideon after tapping with the Lawkeeper. He did get me down to 6, but after that, he couldn’t attack through the 2/6 Dignitary meaning I was free to use Gideon alternatively as an assassin and a fog. He had been holding the same one card since I cast Gideon, which I read as the Doom Blade, so I never attacked with Gideon and just waited for creatures to come and won with Skywinder Drake and Alabaster Mage and a couple Saproling tokens created by the Satchel.
6-1-1 matches, 13-5 games
So, for eight rounds of work, I got… 5 packs of M12. Seems a little light if we had enough people to justify 5 rounds of Swiss, but I had a good time, and that’s what was key.
Some comments on cards: Chandra is very good, but not nearly as good as Gideon, at least in a deck like this. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still very good, but she’s a bit slow to get to ultimate, and I didn’t use her -2 at all. Gideon, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. Druidic Satchel is terrific; in particular, it’s a real beating to throw lands directly into play to be able to continuously draw gas in the mid to late game. Think about that for a second—how many Limited games end up in board stalemates, with the winning player being the one able to draw out of it? Now, think about building up your available mana while never drawing land in the mid to late game. It’s pretty insane.
Alabaster Mage is another card I thought would be good but is, in fact, much better than just “good.” The fact that the ability can be used the turn he comes into play and can be used multiple times in a turn is outstanding; I won several games on the back of life gained this way. Master Thief was a little disappointing and I’d relegate him to sideboard duty in the future. Unsummon is really good in a format where Bloodthirst means creatures often have counters on them, and there are a fair number of token generators and creature enchantments as well. Manalith is also even better than expected; the fact that it comes in ready to use means you can cast it on turn 4 and then still have two mana open for a counter, which I did several times. Absolutely a must-run, if you’re in a three-color deck, and worth thinking about even if you’re in two.
In general the format seems sort of medium speed, not blazing fast like Zendikar but not glacial like Rise of the Eldrazi. I think in draft it’ll work out to be a little faster than M11 because some of the Bloodthirst guys seems pretty aggressive, but II don’t yet have as good a feel for it as M11 as I haven’t drafted it yet, but it seems like a pretty well-balanced format in terms of both speed and color parity. Looking forward to drafting it next FNM!