by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos
It’s Friday and it’s nice outside. Unfortunately I won’t be able to enjoy it much because I’m going to spend most of it playing some Magic. I motivate myself to go to a local store’s FNM. They have a Type 2 tourney at 6:00pm followed by a draft at around 9:30 pm. However, today’s the midnight pre-release of Theros as well so I have a lot on my plate. I could just go to the pre-release, but I’m a gamer at heart and I want to get as much Magic: the Gathering in on one weekend without being completely wasted in between pre-releases.
I grab the good old Golgari control deck that’s been faring really well this last month and a half figuring that with one week of Innistrad/M13 Standard to go it’s foolhardy to create something new. I may possibly write a bit on the deck, time permitting. It’s a great metagame call and allows you to play some underplayed cards like Desecration Demon and Mutilate. You can probably also call it GB Rock or ‘The Rock‘ and it’s actually pretty fun to play.
That would certainly explain its sudden price surge …
vs. USA Aggro/Burn
I face a random USA Aggro/Burn deck with Delver of Secrets, Guttersnipe and Nivix Cyclops. My opponent is an OK player but is rather impulsive in nature as well. He tends to play burn-style decks then complain because he gets ‘flooded’ past turn 5. I keep a 5-lander in Game 1 and game very much punished for it. I thought I would buy myself some time by playing an Ultimate Price on his Delver of Secrets, but I get my first of many WTF? moments of the day when he responds with a Faith’s Shield. He doesn’t get to flip his Delver in like forever, but he had double Izzet Charm in hand to make sure that my Liliana turn 3 and 4 do not resolve. It’s a sad state of affairs as I continue to draw land after land and try to ‘race’ wth my Mutavault only to see it get Searing Speared. I didn’t have much gas to begin with, so it’s not like I ran out. I just lost really badly. The story does end well however, as I pretty much did what the deck does and gained enough life to get out of any kind of burn range and beat him down with bigger creatures. I also more or less destroyed all his creatures with the variety or removal the deck packs (all of them being good versus that particular deck).
vs. Naya Blitz
I’ve face this guy before and it never seems like he ever plays enough lands in his deck. The one win he got off me once was due to 4 x Boros Charms. In Game 1 he goes Experiment One into Strangleroot Geist and then Loxodon Smiter. I can’t even Mutilate fast enough and even at that it would cause his Strangleroot Geist to come back and finish me (since it has Undying). Game 2 is much much different as I have some Tragic slips for his Experiment Ones and a Scavenging Ooze later on to make sure his Strangleroot Geists do not come back. Scavenging Ooze is probably the addition that made this deck much much better than it originally was. Before the deck used to run main deck Cremates which were kind of a concession to the Reanimator decks at the time. On the third game my opponent gets stuck on mana and I just play Thragtusks and Disciple of Bolas to put myself out of any kind of danger whatsoever. I easily win that one afterwards.
I know my opponent quite well since we usually go hang out at the local bar and grab a bit to eat after these FNM’s. I know he usually plays elves but he had been talking about trying random decks before rotation. When he wins the die roll and starts off with a forest, I know I’m in a bit of trouble. He casts Elvish Mystic and follows up with Elvish Archdruid on his turn 2 and another on turn 3. My Mutilate was looking good before he cast that second Archdruid. While the GB Rock deck plays a lot of swamps it packs quite a few nonbasics as well (other than Overgrown Tomb). With 2 swamps in play by my turn4 I cannot even cast mutilate to take out as much as a Elvish Mystic. He just really really puts the hurt on me. Game 2 is very similar only this time he plays Druid’s familiars to get out of Mutilate range followed up by Wolfir Silverhearts. He had also emptied out his hand fairly quickly to the point where targetted removal even the biggest of creatures was not accomplishing much.
vs. UW Control
This is a matchup I have had the pleasure of playing on numerous occasions. The deck”s pilot is not really patient enough to play this archetype and as such makes many mistakes. Game 1 is really good for me since I get to peek at his hand with Lifebane Zombie and remove a Restoration Angel. It also allows me to confirm he does not have double white nor does he have a Supreme Verdict. I repeatedly attack with 2 x Mutvault and Lifebane Zombie to close it out early. In Game 2, I start off fairly strong and cast a Turn 5 Duress hitting a Sphinx’s Revelation and seeing no Snapcaster Mages. The game goes slightly longer than I like and one of my Thragtusks gets Syncopated. He also gets to draw and resolve a Sphinx’s Revelation to come back and win this somewhat long game. With about 15 minutes left for Game 3 we both pick up the pace. I get to resolve a Turn 2 Appetite for Brains on Restoration Angel and also notice that he has no counterspell or Detention Sphere in hand. I get a turn 3 Underworld Connections and the rest is pretty much history. He did get to play a Turn 5 Jace, Memory Adept against me. My deck runs Mutavaults and Thragtusks so I’m not sure just how good of an idea that sideboard plan was. I guess he really had nothing else since his list just seems different from the norm. He ran 2-3 Terminus on top of Supreme Verdicts which I felt was excessive. In his defense though, he got color-shorted on one white and had to activate his Ghost Quarter on an Island to get his second source of white in order to cast Supreme Verdict.
Final record: 3-1
So that record merits me two boosters, which is pretty good if you consider that it’s only a 2$ buy-in. I pull a Sanguine Bond and a Kalonian Hydra, which I am quite thankful for as I traded most of mine away early on.
and now onto the final M14 Draft …
I snap value pick a Fiendslayer Paladin because sometimes it’s just the right thing to do. As a rule, if the card value is 8$ or greater I will usually value pick it early on. The draft stakes are not high either, at 8 people it was like 3-2-1-1-1. I ended up with a pretty sweet Black/White draft deck overall featuring 2 of my favorite draft cards: Gnawing Zombie and Blightcaster. They have 3 toughness and a good enough impact on the board be it early, mid or late game. I also had 4 Charging Griffins and a Serra Angel. I would at times side in/out my Strionic Resonator as it worked with over half the cards in my deck (including the always good Banisher Priest).
I face my friend that was running Elves in the standard portion of the FNM. Game one is close but he gets the better of me with his Sengir Vampire + Fireshrieker. I had to go for an Alpha strike to win, but he cast a Wring Flesh to go down to 2 and take the game on the back swing. Game 2 goes by normally aside from the odd Millstone that popped up on his end. We go to Game 3 and he gets two Millstones in play with no much else. I draw a lot of lands but eventually some Charging Griffins and a Banisher Priest to take out his Sengir Vampire. I eventually get there with a couple of more swings.
The guy’s deck seemed like something very similar I had drafted a week ago during a friendly draft. It was a Blue/Red Scourge of Valkas, Shivan Dragon, Dragon Egg deck. Only his main issue is that he ran the Dragon Hatchlings and did not have any sac outlet for his Dragon Eggs. I had a Trading Post and Barrage of Expendables in mine. The game goes by quickly as he needs to firebreathe his Dragon Hatchling to do any real damage to me and I just attack with whatever I am happy to trade with. He hits on of my creatures with a Scourge of Valkas later on but is met with a Pacifism afterwards. Game 2 was really really weird. He just got out a Phantom Warrior and a Shiv’s Embrace by turn 4. Unfortunately I had a Mark of the Vampire on one of my 2-power creatures and followed it up with an Angelic Accord. I was getting and Angel token that turn, was taking 6 or so damage, getting 4 life back, making another Angel token. It was basically over and he scooped revealing a hand of just lands. He would have maybe won had he draw into Frost Breath and Archaeomancer or Chandra’s Outrage.
vs. Mono Blue
It’s down to me a pretty good player I know playing Monoblue with 2 x Opportunity. He offers me the draw so we can go grab food instead. I’m definitely down with that! There’s less than one hour left for the pre-release registration and I don’t intend to play on an empty stomach.
Final Score: 2-0-1
I register and select my color: Blue
I thought I was more of a Golgari or Boros, but the more I examine my playstyle and actions in general, I pretty much know I am a Dimir kinda guy. I’m not always very direct,slightly secretive and don’t always reveal my true self, much like the Dimir. I even pasted the little Dimir Guild sticker on one of my trade binders.
Getting a Blue Pre-release pack gives you this bad boy:
That’s a pretty ‘Monstrous” effect
However, most of you will recognize him undet this form:
I very much prefer the artwork on this pre-release version, the Kraken seems more menacing
I come in a little late from eating at the pizza place and have less time to build my deck. I crack open my boosters and get nothing really good in the blue one (Meletis Charlatan). I figure his stats are ok and I may use his ‘Fork’ ability once in a while, so he makes the cut. The other Rares/Mythics are not worth mentioning, save Thoughtseize (which I promptly put in my trade binder). I have enough decent looking blue cards to build something worthwhile, but no Omenspeaker or Triton Tactics. I really was looking forward to having at least a copy of one of those. Then I started looking though the color combinations I could build and noticed I had two of these:
New Restoration Angel? Well, maybe not …
It did everything I wanted the deck to do. Potentially it could destroy a random attacker with 1 power. trade with anything really threatening at 3 toughness or less or simply be flashed in and be ready to attack on my turn. This card has 4 abilities by the way and the lifegain was very relevant in many of my matches. I add the green enchantment destruction, some mana fixing/accelerators (Sylvan Caryatid, Voyaging Satyr, Traveler’s Amulet) and the deck is almost complete. Unfortunately I am short on playables and after examining the rest of my pool I figure I can go Black for a couple of removal spells and Rescue from the Underworld. The black cards each contained only one black mana symbol in their cost and I had 3 swamps, Traveler’s Amulet, Sylvan Caryatid and Unknown Shores.
The deck seemed ok when I was goldfishing a few sample starting hands. No bombs were going to be winning me my games except for Shipbreaker Kraken himself. I really liked the potential turn 3 4-drops that Sylvan Caryatid and Voyaging Satyr enabled. Pairings are called and I notice that I am facing some Asian dude and for once it’s not my roommate (we end up facing each other a lot even at bigger events). I go to my table and don’t recognize this player at all.
We roll dice, wish each other luck and the game is under way. He starts off with an Island and I know the game is probably going long. I start to get beat down by some fliers and I don’t must up much of anything until turn 6. The pivotal turn of the game where I cast, you guessed it, Shipbreaker Kraken. Must be nice! It must be also nice to have 2 lands in hand knowing that if i survive two more turns I can get a foothold in winning this game. He’s playing Blue/White so I am almost sure that as long as I don’t attack when he has 4 mana up (Divine Verdict) then I am not losing my Kraken. Turn 8 rolls around, I drop my 8th land and pass the turn. I can activate the Kraken’s ability at the end of my opponent’s turn so why rush it? Also, it would leave me with open mana on his turn to run a counter or response to something he may do (eventhough I have none in hand, but he doesn’t know that). He only has 4 creatures and doesn’t drop a fifth on his turn. the end of turn comes and I activate my Kraken (“Release the Kraken!”). He simply looks at the battlefield and scoops up his cards. Game 2 is somewhat similar, only I got the Voyaging Satyr, Sylvan Caryatid acceleration. This allowed me to cast Shipbreaker Kraken turn 4 and activate if turn 6. I know right?
I’m facing a girl this time and she actually beat a decent player to get to 1-0, so I’m under the impression that she knows her stuff. She has me down to 5-6 pretty early in the game, but I cast a Horizon Chimera and then I cast the other one at the end of her turn again. Having stabilized the ground and gaining two life a turn while beating down for 6 in the air means I got this one.
Game 2 is just really bad for her as I get to copy Fade into Antiquity and copy it with Meletis Charlatan. I then get to the point where I copy Thassa’s Bounty with him as well. The game is clearly out of reach for her as I get to win without my pet Kraken. She reveals a grip of 3 Ray of Dissolution and I asked her why she didn’t side them out. I tell her that I had exactly two enchantments in my deck and played none on game 1. She said: “Well, you never know.” On that she was correct, I may have had some Bestow dudes she did not see but to keep all 3 copies just seemed a poor choice.
I help her modify her deck so that she only has one copy of Ray of Dissolution and noticed that she did not have more than 13 creatures while playing and aggro deck. We move that up to 17 since the deck was mostly a weenie deck (she had the White pre-release kit). We play a game for fun which is much closer than previous games, but this time Shipbreaker Kraken appears to seal the game. Still, she is more satisfied with the newer build, so I wish her good luck on her remaining games.
I’m facing a pretty good player that I have played against in every possible format. I believe we are pretty much 50/50 versus each other, meaning I’m a little worried about my undefeated streak coming to an end. He also helped me splash the black cards in my deck and thus has a bit of an advantage since he knows all of my deck’s contents. I get a terrible start on Game 1 and he gets the exact opposite. He cracks his Burnished Hart after attacking me with it and a few other guys. On his turn 5 he has 7 mana and I am still unsure if he had the White or Green pre-release kit. I’m fairly certain he took white, since it’s the one most thought had the best creature. I get to kill one of his creatures with Time to Feed + Sedge Scorpion. I get a couple of high toughness fliers into play as well to cut down his offensive options. I eventually get to Shipbreaker Kraken range, but can’t attack with it since he’s always representing Divine Verdict. I use the Monstrosity effect of it at the end of one of his turns and he concedes since at the point the damage the Kraken may have done while attacking did not matter and his guys don’t untap right away even if he hits it with Divine Verdict. Game 2 is similar to one of the previous ones i had where I accelerated the Kraken on Turn 4 and he offered little resistance. I had also cast Griptide on his Burnished Hart on turn 3 to prevent him from getting any kind of acceleration early.
Afterwards we both agree that my deck is much much better than originally thought. He tells me I better not randomly lose any of my two last rounds, since this is definitely a 5-0 deck. I promise him I won’t.
My roomate is 2-0-1 at this point and I’m scared that we might face each other. It would be terrible since we share our cards and this would me that we would lose out on prize payout. He needs to g 4-0-1 to get 21 boosters and I need to go 5-0 to get a box. We go check the pairing and….
vs. NOT my roomate Red/White
I had actually seen this guy play next to me in the previous round and his deck seemed like a decent aggro deck but I never saw him drop a really good card. Also he made quite a few play errors versus a deck similar to his. Based on those observations, I am fairly confident that I have got this.
Game 1 starts out with him attacking early on, but I get enough higher toughness dudes to soak up his offense. I get down to 2 life and it’s the lowest I’ll get to in this game. Horizon Chimera helps me get back into the game and gets me 3 life the turn I cast Thassa’s Bounty. I end the game at 10 life while flying over whatever creatures he has.
Game 2 is somewhat scary because he plays a Magma Jet on my Horizon Chimera. I cry a little on the inside since it’s the first time one of my Chimera dies. Despite the Scry from the Magma Jet, he seems to be flooded somewhat. He hard casts his Celestial Archon, but at that point it’s a little too late for him to do any real damage because….
This was yet another match-up where I had to fear Divine Verdict. So I tap down 4 of his guys and slowly grind down his life total with my other creatures. I think I’d compare the Kraken to a one-sided Supreme Verdict at this point because that’s almost what it always felt like.
In other news, my roomate goes to 3-0-1 and needs to win his last game to get 21 boosters.
I’m facing another player I know as we are the only ones at 4-0. I’m unsure about intentionally drawing with him so that we each get 21 boosters. He’s a nice guy and the thought of randomly losing to end up with only 6 boosters at 4-1 is good enough reason to accept a draw. We shake on it, hand in our result slip and decide to play for fun and bragging rights.
Since the actual result of these games is irrelevant, I’ll just admit I got beaten badly. He flooded the board with creatures while I could not do the same. His pre-release kit was Green and he had a Bow of Nylea, Prophex of Kruphix and lots of fatties. I only had so much time to stabilize between casting some Voyage’s Ends.
Thus ends my first pre-release
My roomate won the game to also go 4-0-1 so we get to crack a lot of boosters. We open some good stuff but nothing really noteworthy except a Thassa and a Thoughtseize. We go home and get some much needed sleep. Then I get up, but it’s not morning time. It’s 12:30 and most other pre-releases have already began. I quickly go on Facebook and check the local store events then notice that one of them starts at 1:30pm. I call them to confirm and they assure me that it’s ok if I’m a little late. I wake up my roomate and we rush to the store.
Pre-Release # 2
I decide to go with yet another Blue pre-release kit since Shipbreaker Kraken was insanely good. I open yet another Thoughtseize and joke about how I’d much rather open it in my winnings than in my Sealed pool. Looking over my options, I spot no eally good 2-color deck. I go with the one that allows me to stabilize the mid game and to deal with opposing bombs : White. With 2 Divine Verdicts, Coastline Chimera and a Spear of Heliod, I was pretty sure to be able to contain most aggressive decks. Sadly, I again have no Triton tactics nor do I have any Omenspeakers. The Spear and Daxos are the only rares in my deck except for Shipbreaker Kraken, but that was a given when I selected my color.
Pairings are announced!
So I start off facing the same combinations of colors as I did yesterday. Fair enough! I recognized the guy as one of the regular customers who was frequenting the last card store I worked at. He recognized me too and was not too happy to be facing me early on. I assure him that my deck is far from good.
Game 1 is pretty close, but I end up losing to a Dauntless Onslaught targetting two of his unblocked creatures. Not much I could have done at the point but make the proper bocks to not lose and hope to win on the back swing (which never occured). Game 2 is very very different with me going full aggro by casting an early Spear of Heliod and beating down with a Daxos of Meletis who is now a pain to block. I gain some life and cast some of his deck’s cards. I never was really in bad shape during the game and was dealt pretty much most of the damage with Daxos.
So far so good in Limited formats
In the final game I get to Divine Verdict his Celestial Archon to gain a good moment of respite. I really don’t know why people are so impatient with this card. I would always want to Bestow this card. I get to cast Daxos in this game as well but he gets double blocked this time. I opt to let combat damage resolve and kill both his guys I had a Nimbus Nayad enchanting him. Taking out two of his fliers seemed fine as I’d get a 2/2 flier back anyhow. A few turns later he casts his own Shipbreaker Kraken (he got one in a boosters). I cast Voyage’s End to buy some time and hope to win with my fliers. The card I Scry is Vanquish the Foul, which I decide to keep on top. I could have sided this card out but I figured with all the Bestow creatures he had there was probably going to be a 4/4 or bigger creature on his end eventually. I destroy the Kraken he re-casts the following turn and we’re both in no condition to attack (we each had a Nimbus Nayad and a stalled ground position. I draw a Heliod’s Emissary and Betsow my Nimbus Nayad with in order to start attacking. Low risk, high reward at this point. I attack, tap his Nimbus Nayad and get 5 points of damage in. The following turn I try the same thing but am met with a Divine Verdict. I decide to save my Nayad by casting Voyage’s End on it. I then Bestow my Heliod’s Emissary with the Nayad, basically re-creating the same beast. He then casts his own Vanquish the Foul on my Heliod’s Emissary and casts a Wingsteed Rider. The Aura-fest continues when I cast a a Hopeful Eidolon for its Bestow cost on my Nimbus Nayad. I figure that with his available mana he can’t do much from what I have seen other than target his 2/2 flier and trade with my 3/3 flying lifelinker. He just lets it through and just never really gets to trade with my creature as he draws blank the following 2-3 turns.
He starts of the game with a Priest of Iroas which can be pretty annoying against me if I don’t get it off the board so that it doesn’t kill one of my Bestow creatures. I get a Travelling Philospopher to trade with Priest of Iroas and another 1-power guy later on, which clears the way for my Bestow creatures.
For when you need that 23d card in your deck
The rest of the game was pretty much one-sided. I just attacked with my enchanted creatures which were always bigger and/or had evasion, so we move onto game 2. The following game is just ridiculous. I start off by casting Daxos of Meletis. The following turn I Bestow Hopeful Eidolon and the the turn after that I Bestow Nimbus Naiad ending up with a super creature akin to Banesalyer Angel. And that’s al she wrote!
I’m facing one of the store’s better players and he’s yet another person who chose the White pre-release kit. He starts off strong with some Heroic creatures: Battlewise Hoplite and Fabled Hero. I am rather instantly unsettled as to the probably outcome of this match. I draw Divine Verdict, think for a bit, play my land and pass the turn. It’s fairly obvious that he will attack and I’m more than happy to trade my removal spell for either of these guys (though I obviously prefer Fabled Hero). He attacks with both and plays Dauntless Onslaught. He Verdict Fabled Hero and gladly take 5. I cast a Thassa’s Emissary to potentially draw a couple of cards. He attacks with his Battlewise Hoplite, bluffing a potential combat trick. These is no real reason for me to block/trade as I would really like to draw with my Emissary, so I let the Hoplite through for 3.
Crabs are cool again! Well, maybe not …
The crab draw my one of my best defensive creatures: Coastline Chimera. I cast it and figure that I’m probably going to have to lose it to the following attack. My opponent chooses to not attack with his Battlewise Hoplite this time. Clearly this is a mistake? He basically is confirming that he had no combat trick. Then again, maybe he’s just not happy to just take out a Coastline Chimera. Beats me, but it also means I can’t really attack with my Crab. I’ll assume he knows what he’s doing so I’ll just lay down my sixth land and cast Shipbreaker Kraken (since I’m fairly sure that Stymied Hopes is not maindeck-worthy). I get to the 8-mana mark a couple of turns later, attack with everything but Kraken and get a concession from my opponent.
Game 2 I sided in some lifegain in the form of Lagonna-Band Elder and Ray of Dissolution. It ended up being just enough to edge him out in the damage race. No kraken this time, just all my little dudes versus his Heroic team. Not much in terms of trading since I was mostly flying and choosing not to trade any of my other creatures for his unless absolutely necessary. It became necessary in the end and allowed me to counterattack for just enough to win. There were a few removal and bounce spells along the way, but this game was pure and simple Magic.
I honestly do not even remember this match at all. it even shows up as Unknown, Unknown in my match History on the DCI site. I think he just auto-scooped due to intimidation. Ha! as if! Try as I might I just really cannot remember this one.
vs. Green/Blue Good stuff
This is the store’s regular judge and I usually judge their Monday Standard events since he only usually does FNM‘s. I saw what he opened and already did not want to face him. Polukranos, Thassa, Boon Satyr and Stormbreath Dragon. It was as though he had already won. Despite being the only player at 4-0, I had to face off against him as he was 3-0-1. I honestly would have rather faced the other 3-0-1 player.
Game 1 is close enough until Thassa hits the board and makes his guys unblockable. It’s fairly easy to win when your opponent can’t really interact.
The following game is rather close as well, with me gaining small amount of life with Daxos, but flipping lands or smaller spells and not casting them. He accelerates with Karametra’ Acolyte into Polukranos who is ready to go Monstrous x =3 the very same turn. That does not happen. Instead it does X = 6 the following turn taking out 2 of my guys plus the creature who had to block him. I cannot possibly recover from this (even Kraken is not enough) since I am dead on the following attack.
Unfortunately we could not have drawn, since he would of ended up lower than the 4-1 and might have ended up second. We had to play and the prize differential was not huge. It was something like 15-13-10-etc. I ended up third place since the other guy with a 3-0-1 record also won. My packs were so-so with my best card being:
You know it!
Up Next …
Part 2 of this rather lenghty article. I just saw the word count and 5000+ seems a tad much. Stay tuned for my report on the following 2 pre-releases I attended.