by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos
It’s about 5:45 PM and I’m looking to get to another Pre-release for the day. I feel super refreshed and ready to go. Let’s see what’s in store. I call a local shop that recently opened hoping that they are not as horribly strict on starting time as some shops in Montreal. Seeing as this is a sealed, the worst that should happen is a reduced dekcbuilding time. I call to make sure that it’s fine if I get there at around 6:15. The owner, who is an avid MTG player himself, lets me know that it should not be a problem. I’m also bringing him a couple of new customers as well.
Once at the store I run into a couple of employees from another shop who just happened to be playing there. Does their store not have an event? Bah, don’t really care. They jokingly ask if I’m going to write up an article on my Sealed experience to which I respond: “Right, as if I will remember all my Sealed decks”. Truth is, I don’t have to know my decks by heart only the key cards that mattered in my games.
Let’s Get Started !
Release the Kraken! Again!
Low and behold, I chose the Blue pre-release kit. I might as well go Blue all the way in order to properly gauge its sealed deck performance. Having a guaranteed late game bomb in your pool just makes you feel a little more confident about your odds. One of the other store’s employees starts boasting about all the good stuff he got in his Sealed pools. Time to start cracking mine.
Pack 1) (Blue pack) Bident of Thassa
Sure, no value here but a heck of a good card in my opinion. I definitely want this in my pool. Makes all my guys into Thieving Magpies and can force my opponent to attack and lose/trade his creature in mine.
Pack 2) Thassa, God of the Sea
FOIL! Yes!!! In your face other guy! Just kidding, but who doesn’t want to open this? It just so happen that I’m playing Blue as well. Even if this thing never becomes a creature you are steadily ahead. Scry each upkeep? Sure thing! It’s even more potent in Sealed play.
Pack 3) Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Back to back value? Is this for real? Christmas in September? I’ll take it. (Note: Sadly did not make the cut in my deck as I was not running White this time, but I can assure it must be the bomb).
Pack 4) Purphoros, God of the Forge
At this point the other guy was just in shock at the back to back to back Mythics that he said some randomness in french and went back to deckbuilding. I really thought about just playing a mediocre Elspeth + Purphoros Boros deck but someone ended up doing that instead. I played against him in my final game, more on that later.
Pack 5) Colossus of Akros
No value, not a consideration for my deck and directly into my binder.
Pack 6) Steam Augury
Some good old skill-testing Fact or Fiction fun! 100% in my final deck.
I hastily make a RUG deck, since I see a few familiar faces in my pool. Namely:
I of course had two of these. They are much better in multiples 🙂
The Red part consisted of:
All Red and all just costing one actual Red mana!
Is this for real?
The Green cards were basically some enchantment removal and fatties. Nothing really stuck out except for the Horizon Chimeras
Pairings are called and I’m just finishing up sleeving my deck as people note how nuts my deck is looking. I get paired against a random unknown that’s probably playing in one of their first pre-releases.
He comes out strong with some Heroic action and does some severe damage with Anax and Cymede. I Scry and cry enough to find a Lightning Strike and get that nuisance out of the way. He does do a lot of damage with the rest of his army, getting me down to 1 life while he has no cards left in hand. He also happened to only have 3-4 lands in play and the odds were he was going to draw quite a few of them in the next turns. I flash in my Horizon Chimera end of turn and start slowly gaining life after life and attacking for three. Of course he draws a land, complains and passes the turn. Next turn he draws what is obviously not a burn spell and passes. I flash in another Horizon Chimera and gain 2 life on my draw step, putting myself out of Lightning Strike range. I then draw and play Thassa on my turn, he draws blank and I Scry on upkeep. I gain 2 more life, drop a random blue creature giving me the devotion to blue required to have Thassa be a creature. I make him and one of my other creatures unblockable. Attack with two unblockables and the Horizon Chimeras for victory.
Game 2 is very very similar. I get to the 1 life mark and make a comeback. One of my friends even joked that me being at one is like having a Near-Death Experience in play – I just win after that.
It’s over … for you!
I think this time I never actually gained life. I just kind of drew removal for his guys and attacked when I could. I cast Steam Augury and netted 2 creatures to stall the ground while a Prescient Chimera attacked my opponent. I may have been lucky but more importantly, I had a good deck.
I’ve been paired down. Not only that, but it’s versus my roomate. He concedes since there is no point in both of us being 1-1 and he realizes that I have the ‘nuts’ deck as well. I go grab some soft drinks from the counter and trade with a few of the other players. My Theros binder is reasonably full and people are looking for new cards. I pick up some older stuff I either don’t have or am low on. One of my other friends is also running a Green/Blue deck that started with a Green kit. He also got the deck’s Hero, Anthoussa in a regular booster. I thought that it would be pretty good but according to him she is very average. I pray I do not have to face him since he gives me his winnings and in exchange I make him a deck here and there when he wants.
Not as good as having 2 Shipbreaker Kraken, apparently
I’m facing yet another one of my friends that I make decks for at times. He’s 1-1, has a lesser deck so he offers to conceded and go grab some good poutine. I obviously cannot refuse this offer. Unfortunately, I am a feeling super lazy and ask him if he can just pick me up a poutine while I continue to trade and scout my possible next round opponents. He brings back a super compacted Italian chicken poutine of pure goodness. It’s a big portion that looks small until you realize how jam-packed with stuff it actually is. They even throw in a big cup of Italian sauce on the side, just in case the exorbitant amount already in the poutine does not quench your sauce thirst.
I actually end up not being able to one-shot the poutine and give the rest to my friend who conceded last round. A WTF? is heard and immediately rush to see what it is. It’s the owner playing against a dude wearing really thick glasses. They are both at 2-0 and playing at the store counter so the the owner can server anyone coming in. Examining the board state gives me all the information I need. Purphoros and Elspeth have happened. This is probably really really tough to get out of. Not only does the ‘combo’ deal 6 damage, it also almost completely blocks any kind of opposing attack on Elspeth. This then allows the controller of the combo to repeat the process until their opponent is dead. The store owner draws a Bow of Nylea to buy some time, but not enough unfortunately.
Force to be reckoned with in Standard?
That was their second game and they were going to play the third. I’m probably going to be facing one of these two players next roundand thus pay very close attention to their hands and how they play. The store owner is the better player but the other guy seems to have a much better deck. It does not take long for me to realize my assumptions were incorrect. The ‘combo’ payer has the 2 Mythic cards and not much else. He seems to struggle with the basics a little and his deck seems like he could have built it better. Fortunately for me, he gets the combo online and wins it 2-1.
vs. Red/White Elspeth combo
I win the die roll for Game 1 and get to play a Turn 3 Thassa followed by a Turn 4 Steam Augury. I get one of my Horizon Chimeras and a Magma Jet (the other pile was also Horizon Chimera with Lightning Strike and a land). I think I would have given me the three card pile, but the Thassa Scry 1 is probably going to do what Magma Jet was going to anyhow. My opponent floods the board with a few creatures, none of which are really threatening. I play a few creatures too and manage to ‘animate’ Thassa. Unfortunately Thassa is met with a Chained to the Rocks (which I had not seen him play in any of the games I scouted).
‘I’ve got that too! ‘ – Boros combo guy
With Thassa down and out, I need to ‘Unleash the Kraken‘. A few turns later my opponents scoops to Shipbreaker Kraken as many before him have done. I side in an Annul versus his deck, in case I get another nasty surprise like I did with Chained to the Rocks. I would also get to counter his Purphoros by just keeping one blue mana up.
I didn’t get a great start but I got to kill his Ordeal of Purphoros with Artisan’s Sorrow the turn before he got to cash in the Order. He drops a Purphoros that I don’t have an Annul for. I then draw and play my own Purphoros, let’s see who can ‘turbo shock’ their opponent for the win first. Shall we? Two turns later opponent being awesome and all that casts Elspeth, Sun’s Champion like he has many games before . “This time she will not be doing much ” I say to him. He spawns three soldier tokens and deals me six. No problem, right? I cast a Horizon Chimera on his end of turn step, deal Elspeth 2 damage with Purphoros’s ability. On my turn, Horizon Chimera attacks Elspeth and removes her two remaining loyalty counters. Those soldier tokens do a great job defending but they don’t fly. He tries to go on the offense with his soldier tokens, but keeps losing one per turn to my awesome Mnemonic Wall that gets a boost from Purphoros. No Kraken this time, just regular Purphoros triggers and some ‘team firebreathing’ to take this one down.
Believe the hype!
Apparently the event was a 4-Round affair. Thankfully, this is great at my friend and I are the only 4-0’s. We get 24+12 boosters (a box, basically) and we start cracking packs. Nothing of interest really. No FOIL Gods, no insane value either. It’s very average for a Theros booster box. I did however manage to open this little gem:
I just can’t get enough!
I start packing my loot and make some last minute trades. It was a great pre-release day and my other friends were hungry. We go to a local pizza shop to order fried chicken. Wait, what? At least it was cheap and plentiful, unlike their drinks. We were going to be coming back on Sunday for some more Pre-release fun. When I said I was going to maybe go with the Black kit the others laughed and said : ‘Riiiight!”.
I get up only to notice that it’s already 12:30. This is already starting off badly. None of my other friends called to wake me up either. Upon looking at my messages, all is revealed. One of them had to work and the other one just didn’t feel like going again. My roommate was also working this day and I was doomed to go there alone. This meant less competition but also lowered the chances of getting more booster packs.
This is what it’s all about! Oh, and fun too!
I again call the same store warning them that I will probably be late. The store owner gives me the same speech about having less time for deck construction and I’m on my way. I arrive 15 minutes late, which isn’t all that bad. He hands me the Blue kit, already knowing that it was going to be my selection. And so another pre-release begins….
This sealed pool was very different from all the rest. It contained a Omenspeaker (yay!) and another Shipbreaker Kraken (woah!). I once again play Simic and finish building my deck before everyone else. I notice that my other firend whose Standard Elves deck I lost to on Friday is there as well. He also chose Blue as his color and we look over each other’s decks. He’s amazed that I have two Krakens and I explain to him that I can’t possibly add another 6-drop to my deck (Horizon Scholar) if I play both Krakens. He suggests I don’t switch out a Kraken for a Sphinx since Kraken is just a ‘must deal with’ creature. Fine, I won’t be greedy.
Pairings are call and we’re both glad to not be facing each other.
My opponent is a foreign guy who recently came to Canada, so I’ll need to be patient since his English is not the best. Still, the game does not require that much actual communication and we understand each other just fine. The first thing I notice about his deck is that it is very removal heavy on top of having Agent of the Fates. One of my Kraken dies to a Sip of Hemlock. My second Kraken dies to fighting with his Agent of the Fates (Time to Feed). I also lose another creature in the process thanks to Agent of the Fates’ Heroic trigger.
I begin Game 2 with a hand of 4 lands, Kraken, Voyaging Satyr and an Agent of Horizons. Fairly respectable and can maybe get me a Turn 5 Shipbreaker Kraken. He dispatches my Agent of Horizons with a Pharika’s Cure. There goes a great deal of my aggro! I get my Turn Shipbreaker Kraken, but it I refuse to block and trade with whatever 2-power creature he attacks with fearing eh has a Lash of the Whip in hand. He gets Viper’s Kiss on my Kraken before i get to 8 mana. Great move! I eventually decide I might as well start blocking with it and to no one’s surprise he casts Lash of the Whip on my Shipbreaker Kraken. No ‘Heroic’ comebacks were made and I lose this one quite miserably. What a way to start my last Theros Pre-release.
I look over my opponent’s deck that seemed to be chock full of removal and Bestow-pump. It was indeed a 4-0 deck (which he ended up doing). I go pack up my stuff and leave, swearing to never go back there again. Just kidding, I still had chances of going 2nd -8th and getting some boosters prizes.
The matches were really quick and both were won on the back of a Shipbreaker Kraken (I have 2 this time, so it’s more likely I get one each game, right?).
I’m paired against a guy that I’ve traded with many times before. He got the Black pre-release kit and is unsurprised that I chose the Blue one. Game 1 is fairly close until he hits Abhorrent Overlord. There go my hopes of winning with my flying creatures. He attacks without fear with his Overlord. I don’t chump or trade 3 of my creatures early on since I still have ways of winning this one. I don’t draw into any of my outs, so I choose to give him a 2-for-1 on his Abhorrent Overlord. Unfortunately he casts a Rescue from the Underworld which gets him his Overlord back on his upkeep with 5 little Harpy tokens. I do get my Shipbreaker Kraken but I never get to the 8-mana mark. I believe the gods have forsaken me.
Game 2 is pretty good for me as I get 2 Agent of Horizons in play early on and just get there via unblockable damage while chump blocking what I need to in order to stay ahead of the damage race. He did gain some life along the way, which made the game longer than it should have been.
We have ten minutes left for Game 3 so I actually lowered the curve of my deck and added a third Agent of Horizons to it.
Theros’s Phantom Warrior
I cast Voyaging Stayr, followed by Agent of Horizons and then another Agent later on. On his end of turn I get a Horizon Chimera in play. It’s basically too much for him and I get the win before time is called. Didn’t even need Kraken for that game.
Meanwhile the guy who beat me in Round 1 just beat my Elves! deck friend to move up to 3-0. I warned him the the deck was pretty tough to beat and surprisingly low on ‘bombs’.
I’m facing my friend who also has a SImic deck. One of us will get top 4 and the other might get a booster if they’re lucky. Third or fourth place is just 3-4 boosters. Nothing to write home about but still some loot. We only ended up being 17 for this pre-release, which is why booster prizes are not mind-blowing.
We have trade tempo plays: his Griptide being better than my Voyage’s End. I get some inevitability with my Agent of Horizons in there. He activates Monstrosity on his Kraken but I have another Voyage’s End for it. My team does not get frozen and I get to attack him for more damage. He does nothing the following turn but cast Shipbreaker Kraken again. I swing with everything to secure the W.
Game 2 was very anti-climatic with me keeping a 5 lander plus Kraken and him having seemingly done the same. I get a turn 4 Bident of Thassa (first time I probably cast this thing) and he does not cast his Kraken on turn 6. I cast mine however, threatening a ‘quick game’. He shakes his head, reveals his all land hand (which was fairly obvious he was holding) and shakes my hand. Not quite the way I want all of this pre-release goodness to end,but I’ll take it.
If you’re planning on making this Devotion to black thing work, you’ll probably need some Nightveil Specters. The go a long way in making your devotion count (monoblue as well). The card itself is far from unplayable, but it was just not good enough last Standard season. What’s in store for it this time? Why not try a playset in your decks and give us some feedback?
Let us know what new brew you’re planning to play at your local store’s FNM Standard event.
The Blue pre-release deck gained a lot of popularity in my area since a lot of the pre-release winners played blue either as a main or support color. Clearly a lot of wins were backed by Shipbreaker Kraken, a creature that most may have prematurely dismissed as ‘costing too much’ as far as its Monstrous ability goes. I guess we showed them!
Overall record: 16-2-1 (Though the draw is an ID in the final round)