Zendikar Prerelease

Good news: I was actually winning in a tournament, last done at least 3 years ago. Oh, and Zendikar is a lot of fun.

I went down to the big shop in the area this morning with 2 friends for a prerelease. I’m glad I pre-registered because the line to sign up was out the door, and I’m pretty sure they had to cap. In addition to events just getting bigger and bigger, I think Zendikar was sufficiently hyped, including priceless treasures. The crowd caused the event to fall behind about an hour, but it was well-worth it.

The format was 6 packs of sealed, and I opened pretty good packs. My rares were a Malakir Bloodwitch, Bloodchief Ascension, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Archive Trap, Gigantiform, and a Verdant Catacombs. 2 hyped, limited-unplayable cards, 1 money card, 2 bombs, and 1 decent card. I got a tip that I shouldn’t play white when I opened one pack and didn’t get a single white card. My white had no removal and a smattering of not-so-good allies and kor. And my blue had several playables, but nothing too good to make it worth it, leaving me with black, red, and green. The creature curve for all 3 looked pretty similar, though the quality of those creatures varied widely.┬áThe 2 bomb black rares and 4 removal spells made me think black as my central color first, but I saw that my creatures were pretty weak (confirmed when I saw some good black card pools from others). It was painful, but I ended up cutting black. The bloodchief ascension was just too good, though, to not play, so I ended up playing 2 uncommon duals, the b/g fetch, and 1 swamp to make it playable. Ironically, it didn’t matter in a single game I played. I’m thinking that in limited, it might be a “win-more” card, but maybe I just wasn’t properly poised to use it.

My initial build was a r/g aggro deck playing several borderline creatures just because they were cheap, and that was a huge mistake. I quickly learned in a practice game that you can run out of steam very quickly. Instead, it was my 3 and 4 cost creatures that were doing the heavy lifting. Also, there was a lot of talk about playing 19-20 lands in limited decks to help out with landfall abilities, and it definitely didn’t seem worth it to me. I think I had maybe 3 landfall abilities in my deck, and only the Zektar Shrine Expedition was any good. Even so, I had no problem activating it with 17 lands. Perhaps it’s just because I was playing an aggro deck, but you definitely don’t need to scale up. So here’s a round by round

ROUND 1

Game 1: He was also playing a r/g aggro deck, and his was better. To my 1 scythe tiger, he had 2. Him playing first meant that I was always a step behind, which mattered with the amount of removal he had. Bad news, and although the life totals weren’t ridiculous at the end of the game, I never felt like I was even with him in the game.

Game 2: 5 land hand with no creatures, mull to 6. I think it was a 2-lander and vaguely playable. He got out a first turn goblin guide, which is nuts. What was worse was that even with that help, I still couldn’t find any land, not helped by the need to play a scythe tiger to get something on the table. He did at least 10 damage, probably more, with the goblin guide alone, and I think I got 2 lands out of it. It was just scary. Granted, I didn’t have a lot of lands near the top, but even so, I don’t think the lands would’ve been able to get around it. Goblin guide should be very good in constructed.

0-1

ROUND 2

Game 1: He was playing a B/W deck with a bunch of vampires, and he came out screaming. A first turn vampire lacerator into a turn 2 blood seeker with a disfigure and hideous end for removal was bad. Oddly enough, a little bit of life gain and the lacerator damage meant we both got to 15 life around the same time, but it quickly went downhill from there. WHen I dropped below 10, things got ugly with a guul draz specter and a cliff threader meant I was never in the game. After this, I remarked that I was shocked he lost the first round, because his deck looked nuts. I sided in a seismic shudder to deal with things, and I never sided it out. There are a surprising number of good 1-toughness creatures out there, and other than a regenerating river boa, I didn’t have any, so this was amazing for me.

Game 2 and 3: I don’t remember these too well, but I somehow stabilized in both of these after some mean removal. Both of his starts were ever so slightly slower (maybe drops on 2 and 3 or something like that), and I think that made all the difference for me. The expedition’s 7/1 hasty trample was great, and gigtantiform won me games. That card was surprisingly good. I wrote earlier about how firebreathing can make a sparkmage apprentice into a relevant creature, and gigantiform did the same thing for nissa’s chosen and torch slinger. Sure, you might get 2 for 1-ed, but a late 2/2 is pretty much a dead card on the board anyways, and against this guy, at least, he used up his removal early trying to “get there” before I stabilized. I just barely got out of both of these.

1-1

ROUND 3

Game 1 and 2: He was playing a R/G/B deck, but it really didn’t matter. First turn scythe tiger is nuts. With punishing fire to follow up against the river boa, and it’s a blowout. I really felt bad for him, because it happened twice, and he was having significant color problems, but the games were over far too fast. I think scythe tiger-like power is the only reason why straight-up aggro might be really good in zendikar. In limited, though, I think people are going to find that, plated geopede, and similar cards too sexy to pass, so it might be hard to play that.

2-1

ROUND 4

Game 1: He was also playing R/G, but it didn’t matter since we already decided to split packs. We played anyways, though, and a first turn scythe tiger got in for I think 6 damage before he stabilized. Unfortunately, that was more than enough. He had some great stuff once he stabilized, but the Hellfire Mongrel was a blow-out. I played it when he had 1 card in hand, and his only chance at that point was to keep playing cards to race. Fortunately, I had a bunch of chumpers and a slaughter cry to fend off the 7/1 from the zektar expedition, and the mongrel got him for about 10 damage. That game was absolutely insane.

2-1-1

Out of it, I got another 3 packs, and my first successful tournament in awhile. I don’t have too many other insights, though perhaps to say that “land matters” is slightly overstated. To be honest, I didn’t see a lot of interaction with lands in my deck. Good to get into your deck, not necessary to have the gas to win.

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