Deep Thoughts on…the M15 Prereleaseby Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
I hope everyone had a great weekend and a fun M15 prerelease experience. I have to say, I don’t get out to play in the shops very often, but I make a point of going to the prerelease. It is a fun environment, is a little less stressful than full on tournaments and is just a great way to try out some of the new cards in the newest set.
The shop that I attend hosts a Two-Headed Giant event on the Sunday evening which is reasonably well attended (although not packed like the other 4 events they run during the weekend) and is my preferred time slot and format. If you haven’t tried a Two-Headed Giant event I would strongly recommend that you do. For starters, it is a fresh and different way of playing Magic at a Local Game Store. We routinely assume that you have to play a 1 on 1 duel but it becomes very evident that Two-Headed Giant can work just as readily. At our prerelease events you get your sealed product and can open up your stuff, but can then share cards with your partner to make the best decks possible. This means that deck construction can be done with a partner and with a larger pool of cards meaning you are assured to be able to play a reasonable deck in the colours of your choice. I particularly like building my deck with someone else. I spend most of my time building my deck solo, so to have a second opinion and fresh eyes is refreshing and a pleasant change. The strategy of a Two-Headed Giant game is also substantially different because the 30 life you start with, while it is only 10 more than normal, is much harder to deal with. Your deck needs to take on much more of a mid-rangey feel because a full out aggro assault is very likely to come up short and out of gas. In the actual game play, you get the same time allotment as you would if you were playing a 1 on 1 duel, but only need to complete 1 game meaning that usually you are done in good order. This is nice so that you can get a little bit of a breather, get a drink of water, or visit the bathroom. There were a few games that went the distance and resulted in draws and such, but they were far from the norm.
How did my partner and I fare? My partner for such events is my brother. He’s the guy who can claim responsibility for getting me into Magic back when we were in High School and he is most often my partner of choice for such events. He’s a very good player and is quite polished in his game play…and we tend to think along the same lines when we sit down to build decks meaning that we can easily complement each other. I’m not sure the fact that we are brothers is a huge benefit, but we certainly are familiar with each other and know what to expect from the other person. In the end we went 4-1 and placed 2nd out of 20 teams which was a very strong showing for us. Here’s a look at the deck I was running.
M15 Prerelease – Two-Headed Giant Sealed
U/W Sealed deck
As you can probably tell I played the White seeded pack and was generally pretty happy with the outcome. The intent of the deck was to get out early with the 2 drops (Welkin Tern, Dauntless River Marshal, Oreskos Swiftclaw and Ajani’s Pridemate) to apply some early pressure to get us to the long game plan of the Archangel and Boonweaver Giant. I packed in a couple of auras and a little removal but was stunned to have opened 0 counterspells. I admit, I felt kind of naked without knowing that I had a little bit of counter magic, but you get what you get and play the games. My brother on his end played the Black seeded pack and opted for a wildly aggressive B/R build running tons of goblins and bringing loads of pain. In the end, our decks complemented each other pretty well and we seemed to have reasonable synergy such that we could really get out front of our opponents and then close down the match.
A few highlights were in game 1 we had fallen behind to a very aggressive Mono-Red deck that left us reeling. We had sort of stabilized at 12 life but were still in danger of being blown right out. In back to back top decks I ripped Boonweaver Giant and immediately tutored up Spectra ward for it giving me a basically untouchable 6/6 beatstick. The next top deck I ripped Resolute Archangel and swung our life total back for a ton and could then attack with impunity. The look on the faces of our opponents when the Angel came down was just priceless and the two 7 drops turned the tide of the game for us. In game 4 we were again under pressure and from an aggressive duo had just suited something up with their own Spectra Ward but I ripped my Spectra Ward suited up my Ajani’s Pridemate with 5 counters on him and we quickly closed out the game. In our final game it was once again Spectra Ward, this time on a Krenko’s Enforcer that did the damage to finish of a pair that had got off to slow start and were being punished.
Now that I have had a chance to sit down and really see the format, granted in a sealed setting and not draft, I have a learned a few things that I would pass along in the form of some Deep Thoughts
You may have got the sense that Spectra Ward is good. Based on the limited results we had, it was not just good, it was terrific. You can make ANYTHING into a basically untouchable bomb that can shred your opponent. I have rarely been excited for 5 mana auras, but I might be able to get behind this one. What is a disgusting combination is the Boonweaver Giant tutoring up the Spectra Ward for FREE and then closing out the game very quickly. If you see this one, take it because it does very good work.
Don’t underestimate the Goblins
There are a fair number of Goblins in this set and many of them are useful. Foundry Street Denizen is a terrific way to punish opponents for slow starts and Frenzied Goblin basically makes blocking a nightmare as they tap things down. However, the real star of the Goblin army is the Rabblemaster who is a one Goblin army. My brother put him to good use and routinely got in there for plenty of damage with him. Mix in the Red Paragon (yes, I know he’s NOT a Goblin) and you have an awesome combination to get out to blinding start with loads of damage.
If you weren’t sure before, I’m here to tell you that the removal in this set is very poor. It is either very situational like Pillar of Light or Banishing Light, super expensive and clunky like Flesh to Dust, or punishes you tremendously like Ulcerate. So, with the exception of Lightning Strike you are paying a ton for lousy removal. This puts extra pressure on you to curve out with creatures because the only real way to protect yourself is to block and to try and block profitably. I miss the days when removal was cheap, efficient and plentiful…alas, the times they are a changing and removal just got pricey.
Post-Theros Block Limited
All of us who enjoy playing limited are going to have to adjust to playing in a post Theros world where Bestow is no longer a deal. It means the requirement for Auras to be playable now needs to go WAY up. It also means that you can’t just load up one dude and have him smash away. I watched a number of opponents suit up there creature like they would have in Theros limited environments only to have them completely nullified by a single spell. Remember folks, don’t set yourself up for the 2 for 1 unless those auras are really good.
New Card Frame
The new card frame got its debut and it looks solid. It isn’t really a major change and it still looks and feels like a Magic card. I think everyone will get used to it and will grow to like the new look.
On between round meals
One of the hardest parts of playing Magic at a lengthy event is making sure you get something to eat between rounds. Lots of people default to Mcdonald’s or Tim Horton’s, but I’m never really satisfied with those choices. Well, as I walked into the Shop to play I noticed that the small pizza joint next door had a promotion for a slice of pizza, a pop, and a garlic dip all for $5. The proximity to the store (namely, right next the game shop), a solid price, and the fact that it was pizza sealed the deal and was the meal choice for us. Pizza has rarely tasted to so good.
Oh, as a final point, at the end of the night for my drive home I stopped at the Tim Horton’s to grab a decaf coffee (I only ever drink decaf). It’s 10:30pm and surely most Timmies have decaf brewing, but not this weekend. I had to stop and wait while they brewed up a new pot. Now, I know this sounds very petty, but who exactly is buying regular coffee at 10:30pm on a Sunday night? Presumably people want to sleep and the caffeine pretty well sewers that. Decaf would be the obvious choice but for some reason the Timmies I visited seemed stunned that I would want decaf. Perhaps I’m being overly particular because when I was younger I worked at a Timmies…but I hardly think expecting to have Decaf on hand late at night is a shocker. Rant over…thanks.
I hope all of you had a fantastic M15 Prerelease weekend. I’d love to hear about other experiences out there and what you observed. Was Spectra Ward as good for you guys as it was for us? What did you think of the removal? Did anyone open some crazy awesome rares and just go off? I’d love to hear the stories. Send me tweet and let’s hear all about it!
Thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791