Return To Ravnica – Saturday Prerelease

Blame Brad Nelson.

I was surprised to find the first part of a RTR set review by Evan Erwin and Brad Nelson on YouTube this morning.  I thought Detain was a neat and appropriate mechanic, but until watching that video I hadn’t really grasped that the cards with Detain are all pretty good too.  I audibled to Azorious for the RTR prerelease today and went 3-0-1 (draw was not intentional) with a strong pool and some good luck.

Most popular guild at my LGS?  Izzet, by far.  The midnight prerelease wiped out the entire stock of Izzet guild decks; 12 out of 24 people chose it!  And those 24 at the Midnight Prerelease?  Only 14 at the 1pm prerelease, about half of them chugging Red Bull and playing for the second time.  MTG players are apparently impatient zombies…

My Deck

LANDS (17)
3 Azorious Guildgate
1 Transguild Promenade
8 Island
7 Plains 
1 New Prahv Guildmage
1 Azorious Arrester
1 Frostburn Weird
1 Keening Apparition
1 Vassal Soul
1 Loxodon Smiter
2 Tower Drake
2 Armory Guard
1 Soulsworn Spirit
1 Hussar Patrol
1 Isperia’s Skywatch
1 Archon of the Triumvirate (promo)
1 Inactin Injunction
2 Dramatic Rescue
2 Azorious Keyrune
1 Cancel
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Security Blockade
1 Supreme Verdict 

Round 1: 2-0 vs GWu
Round 2: 1-1-1 vs GW
Round 3: 2-0 vs GB
Round 4: 2-0 vs UW

The draw was time limit and nearly a loss.  I had a slim chance to win and went for it instead of playing for the draw and using my Guildmage’s detain ability.  My opponent attacked with two small creatures when I was at 12…then played 3 pump spells!  Fortunately, it added up to only 11 damage.

The last round was potentially very interesting as I was facing a more aggressive Azorious deck.  Instead, it was pretty bizarre as both games I mulliganed a 5 land hand into a 1 land hand on the draw.  My opponent got a bit flooded Game 1 then a bit stuck on mana Game 2.

MVPs: Archon, Verdict, Smiter, Guildmage

No real surprise on the MVPs, except maybe Supreme Verdict.  Wrath effects are good of course, but it was repeatedly vital against Selesyna decks that could otherwise overwhelm with tokens.

Relevant Sideboard: Sundering Growth & Dispel

Naturalize effects tend to be hit or miss; I’d expect them to hit a little more in RTR Limited because of several strong Enchantments like Marshal Law and the Keyrunes, but it relevant in 2 of 4 matches.  The other 2 matches had zero targets.

Dispel came in against the Selesnya player with a ton of combat tricks.

Nombo: Paralyzing Grasp.  Doesn’t play well with Detain.

Rest Of My Sealed Pool

Izzet (4) – Firemind’s Foresight, Blistercore Weird, Chemister’s Trick, Frostburn Weird (2nd)

Frostburn Weird was my 23rd card, going out when I sideboarded.  Being a 1/4 seems more relevant than usual with lots of Centaur tokens running around.

Blue (4) – Mizzium Skin, Aquus Steed, Crosstown Courier, Doorkeeper

Mizzium Skin seems like a playable trick depending on your opponent’s deck.  It might be relevant in the Azorious Mirror.  I considered it, but never missed it.

U/W (3) – Judge’s Familiar, 2 Search Warrant

Familiar seems far more Constructed relevant than Limited.  Search Warrant seems unplayable.

White (5) – Avenging Arrow, 2 Swift Justice, Knightly Valor, Rootborn Defenses

I’m really not sure how good Avenging Arrow is.

Selesyna (4) – Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage, 2 Coursers’ Accord, Heroes’ Reunion

I considered splashing beyond the Loxodon Smiter, but decided not to since I had no other token generators.

Green (9) – 3 Urban Burgeoning [1 foil], Death’s Prescence, Aerial Predation, Golgari Decoy, Oak Street Innkeeper, Korozda Monitor, Druid’s Deliverance

I forgot about Predation when sideboard in the Azorious mirror when it would have been relevant.  I’m not sure about Prescence in a deck like mine.

Golgari (4) – Sluiceway Scorpion, Trestle Troll, Dreg Mangler, Grisly Salvage

Black (10) – Desecration Demon, Ultimate Price, Launch Party, Ogre Jailbreaker, Grim Roustabout, Tavern Swindler, Destroy the Evidence, 2 Catacomb Slug, Deviant Glee

Quantity, but not quality.

Rakdos (4) – Rakdos Ragemutt, Spawn of Rix Maadi, Skull Rend, Auger Spree

I have a R/B multiplayer deck that really wants it some Skull Rend.

Red (5) – Electrickery, Gore-House Chainwalker, Annihilating Fire, Cobblebrute, Vandalbast

Other (4) – Izzet Guildgate, Golgari Guildgate, Civic Saber, foil Swamp

Saber seems deceptive as despite the multicolor block there are a lot of monocolored creatures played.  It might have a home in the right kind of aggressive deck.

I didn’t have any doubt about playing U/W; the only question was what third color splash, if any.  Reviewing my pool, I think UWg was correct.

Misc Thoughts On The Format and RTR

I think there is an interesting rock-paper-scissors metagame in RTR Limited:

Scavenge < Detain < Populate < Overload < Unleash < Scavenge

General, Azorious can keep Golgari locked down, but get overwhelmed by Selesyna (unless they have Supreme Verdict).  Izzet can negate Selesyna’s numbers advantage, but gets run over by Rakdos’ speed.  Golgari can trade with Rakdos early drops and recycles those creatures to make a better late game.

Detain seems like it could be insane in draft.

I need to see it in action more to be sure, but I think my local players seriously misvalue Unleash.  They seem inclined to use it without hesitation when I think there are some serious questions to be asked, especially for creatures that also have Deathtouch or First Strike.

Scavenge + Unleashed = Nombo.

The Play Your Guild idea is really cool, but not a complete success.  Despite 1 of 6 packs being only cards of your chosen guild, several players still ended up with card pools that made their chosen Guild unplayable.


M13 Sealed Deck Pools

The Daily MTG website (the official Magic website aka The Mothership) frequently posts sealed deck pools and draft simulators.  I’ll be posted my builds here.


This is a frustrating pool with 2 rare lands.  White seems easy to discard as not having anything good.  I think the other color to be written off is Green.  It has 2 bombs in Silklash Spider and the Hydra, but little else including almost no creatures.

Blue is intriguing with Stormtide Leviathan, lots of blue removal, and 2 blue rings.  With more mill effects I’d seriously be tempted to build a deck that tries to stall and mill with Stormtide backup.  Black offers goodies like 2 Nighthawk and removal.  Red offers alot of cards including 2 Searing Spears, but no “wow” factor.  I think you either go U/B or U/R here and the decks are two different styles: very aggressive or very slow.

Ultimately, I can’t build a U/B deck out of this that doesn’t feel clunky.  There aren’t really enough blue creatures for the rings.  The Entrancers work with the stall and could wear rings while they mill, but the deck feels like it really needs more mill to be viable enough.  All the flying and Harbor Serpent plays well with Stormtide, but the creature count is low with about 10 non-creature spells.  I just don’t feel comfortable with this deck.

LANDS (17)
9 Mountain
7 Swamp
1 Hellion Crucible

2 Goblin Arsonist
1 Bloodthrone Vampire
1 Krenko’s Command (technically a spell, but since it just makes tokens I count it here)
1 Dragon’s Hatchling
1 Torch Fiend
1 Rummaging Goblin
2 Giant Scorpion
2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Crimson Muckwader
2 Goblin Battle Jester
2 Bloodhunter Bat
1 Canyon Minotaur

1 Kitesail
2 Searing Spear
1 Cower In Fear
1 Turn To Slag
1 Essence Drain

Fire Elemental is the odd man out here.


Green is first to go due to sheer lack of cards and Red goes fast behind it with no cards of note including zero burn spells.  I’d say that is the first thing you should do in a sealed pool after sorting your cards and removing unplayable cards: find 2 colors that are just bad due to quality and/or quantity.

Lots of cards in the remaining colors so what do we go with?  Ajani is a big bomb and we’ve got Stormtide Leviathan again.  Cathedral of War is good and I see alot of other Exalt cards so lets see what we can do with that angle.  White is definitely in with Ajani, lots of Exalted, and the syngergy of Faithmender with 3 Sunstrikers.  I normally hate Guardian Lions but this seems like a deck that would actually like them.

Blue or Black for the second color?  Neither color is offering many creatures.  Black helps with the Exalted, but as a splash the early drops are a little awkward (Knight and Tormented Soul, plus 2 removal).  Blue has Stormtide and Sleep, and bunch of counter and draw.  The mana works better though and the splash would be for more than 4 cards.

LANDS (17)
6 Island
10 Plains
1 Cathedral of War

3 Ajani’s Sunstriker
1 Aven Squire
1 Attended Knight
1 Scroll Thief
1 Wind Drake
3 Guardians of Akrasa
1 Griffin Protector
1 Rhox Faithmender
1 Captain’s Call
1 Stormtide Leviathan

2 Negate
1 Pacifism
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1 Sleep
2 Divine Verdict
2 Angelic Benediction

I feel fairly good about going U/W here, but the exact 40 cards seem hard to determine.  Do I want an 18th land?  Do I skip Captain’s Call because of Exalted?  Divination or Tome?  Maybe even Essence Scatter?  (I pretty much always like Negate to stop removal more than Scatter to stop their bombs.)

Off to my last M13 draft at tonight’s FNM…

RTR Reviews: Mana Fixing

Return to Ravnica prerelease is a week away and we have the entire spoiler so let’s see what we can tell about the set.  I will probably do some kind of full set review, but I wanted to start by examining what the set brings us in terms of certain types of cards.  The presence or absence of these cards can have a significant impact on a set, especially in Limited.

Rare: Shocklands (5), Chromatic Lantern
Uncommon: Keyrunes (5)
Common: Guidgates (5), Transguild Promenade

For comparison: in the original Ravnica there were 4 Shocklands at rare, 4 karoos at common, and 4 signets at common.  It was also a larger set (286 cards in Ravnica, 249 in RTR – excluding basic land).   More recently, Shards of Alara gave us 5 TriLands at uncommon, 5 Panoramas at common, and 5 Obelisks at common.

If those past sets are any indication, I would expect playing 3 colors in Ravnica will be commonplace and splashing for a 4th color not unreasonable.  Colorless manfixing should be valued higher than it would be in a normal set like Innistrad or M13.  Shocklands are first-pickable (especially given their dollar value) and probably Lantern too.  I’d probably take Keyrunes after bombs and good removal then Guildgates around mid-pack (5th-8th).  Promenade is a function reprint of Rupture Spire (from Conflux) and should probably be valued accordingly; I don’t care for the card, but it’s certainly playable especially if you go 4 colors.

Rare: Mana Bloom, Deathrite Shaman
Uncommon: Seek The Horizon
Common: Gatecreeper Vine, Axebane Guardian , Grisly Salvage, Urban Burgeoning

Gatecreeper seems very playable in any green deck, especially if you have some Gates.

Seek The Horizon is probably much better here than its original printing (SOK).

Axebane is effectively a BOP even if he is your only Defender, but that effect on a 3-drop isn’t too impressive.  It’s main use would seem to be in conjunction with a mass of Doorkeepers for a Defender Mill deck in Limited, or as a cute casual card in conjunction with cards from ROE.

Mana Bloom is a very interesting card, but between the initial mana investment and the limitation of removing only one counter per turn it seems purely a color fixer.

Deathrite seems unreliable in Limited, though may still be useful.  It would love a format with Fetchlands.

Burgeoning seems too cute unless you have a lot of Guildmages or other activated abilities.

Grisly Salvage fits nicely in Golgari decks (and 4 Salvage + 4 Mulch in a deck could be very interesting…)

By comparison, the original Ravnica: City Of Guilds set had Birds of Paradise at rare and Farseek, Civic Wayfinder, and Elves of Deep Shadow at common (and Stone-Seeder Hierophant plus Perilous Forays at uncommon, but I don’t think those latter two were relevant at all).

Overall, there seems to be more an emphasis on color-fixing rather than accelerating which should be good thing for the format.

Join me next time when I talk about removal spell.  I think the full Official Spoiler goes live on Monday on the mothership.

(In the meantime, I am using the unofficial spoiler on MTGSalvation as my source.)

Introductions Are In Order

I will pass my 10th anniversary of playing Magic The Gathering not long after Gatecrash releases.  I started playing Magic not quite 10 years after the game first came out.

My Magic “career” has been a less than smooth ride.  I started playing at college.  Back home that summer I started learning the rules because I’d been taught and played at college with casual players who didn’t know the rules well themselves.  (I don’t know how many times I took 6 damage because I didn’t “have” Book Burning)

My first Sealed was MD5; my first draft and first booster box were Kamigawa.  (3x Betrayers is a HORRIBLE format.)  I got my DCI number when I registered for Florida Regionals 2005.  (When the best two-color lands are the Invasion tap lands it makes for a bad format.)  I played States, Regionals, PTQs, GP Daytona Beach 2007, and GP Tampa 2009.  I got to live the glory days of Ravnica block and played in all 3 States events that year (Standard States, 2HG States, and Limited States).

I beat a Phantom Centaur wearing an Armadillo Cloak while playing Goblins.  I got a Game 1 time limit draw playing GWR Predator Zoo vs U/B Teachings.  I started a GPT Round 2 straight to Game 3 when both me and my opponent got deck registration errors.

For a span of about 5 years, I played MTG out of a Barnes-n-Nobles then a McDonalds then a Borders Books then a Burger King then Borders again.  (BK Lounge!)

I entered both Great Designer Search 1 and 2.  I love the color pie and Tribal; I hate broken cards and mirror matches.  I am probably 70% Timmy 20% Spike 10% Johnny and about 90% Melvin 10% Vorthos.  I find the design of cards and blocks very interesting.

I have a semi-encyclopedic knowledge of Magic cards.  I love designing decklists; I’m less good at tuning them.  I claim no skills at sideboarding.  I’m an okay drafter, but terrible at reading signals.

What will I write about here?  Anything MTG-related that crosses my mind: tournament reports, analysis of new sets, decklists (probably no hot tech I’m afraid), my card designs, reaction to Mark Rosewater’s latest weekly column, or anything else that comes to mind.  I’m also open to suggestions/requests.