Return To Ravnica – Sunday Prerelease

After yesterday’s prerelease I was sorely tempted to play Azorious again, but I wanted to experience the format from another perspective via one of my other favorite guilds so Izzet it was.  As expected, today’s sealed pool was not as nutty as yesterday’s.

My Deck (Grixis)

LANDS (17)
1 Izzet Guildgate
7 Mountain
5 Island
4 Swamp
1 Grim Roustabout
1 Frostburn Weird
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Goblin Electromancer
2 Stealer of Secrets
2 Dead Reveler
2 Splatter Thug
1 Viashino Racketeer
1 Voidwielder
1 Hypersonic Dragon (promo)
2 Spawn of Rix Maadi
1 Tenement Crasher
1 Skyline Predator
1 Dynacharge
2 Annihilating Fire
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Essence Backlash
1 Street Spasm


Round 1: 2-0 vs GWu

Multiple mulligans Game 1.  Game 2 I was looking good until he dropped Isperia while I was tapped out.  I forgot about Backlash in my hand and almost blew the game when he played  Isperia’s Skywatch, but I nailed a second Skywatch to win.

Round 2: 2-0 vs GB

Stab Wound is nasty.

Round 3: 0-2 vs UW Auras

My opponent had an odd  deck with lots of Auras, but they added up to big creatures that crushed me both games.  Game 1 it was T4 Skymark Roc T5 Righteous Authority.  Game 2 I got stuck on five land with no blue mana and got chewed up by Trained Caracal with Ethereal Armor and Knightly Valor.

I seriously considered switching out black for white for Game 2, but did not.

Round 4: 2-1 vs UWg

Game 1 I lost 4 of 5 Islands to Constant Flooding and nearly lost the game because of it.  Hover Barrier is a nasty wall.

Round 5: 0-2 vs RB

Got dominated by removal Game 1.  Rakdos himself came down T4 in Game 2 and was followed by 3 creatures and a removal spell to kill me on Turn 5.  I don’t know if my deck was capable of winning this match, but in retrospect I think I sideboarded inadequately.

Final Standings: 3-2 (8 of 21)

MVP:  Spawn of Rix Maadi.  6/4 beats hard.

Street Spasm:  It had to get sideboarded for Rounds 3 and 4 because my opponents played almost zero non-Flyers.

Paralyzing Grasp : Grasp was significant on a couple occasions, but more often seemed desperately needed against a creature with Vigilance or an untapped creature who either hadn’t attacked yet or was being held back to block.  I wouldn’t consider it unplayable, but it is frustrating as hell.

Dynacharge: I think I cast it exactly once, to kill off a Trestle Troll when the opponent was tapped out.  It was a 23rd card because I thought the deck would be more aggressive and thus I didn’t want another maindeck Predator.  I think that was a mistake as my deck was usually not as aggressive as hoped.

Changes & Sideboarding

I had a second Skyline Predator that came in when Spasm went out.  I also removed Backlash for Catacomb Slug against Rakdos.

As mentioned, I think I needed to sideboard more against Rakdos.  Other options:

Mizzium Skin, 2 Downsize, Chemister’s Trick

He had enough removal that I think Skin would have been significant.  I’m not sure about the Downsize and ChemTrick.  Right now I’m thinking I should have gone…
Out: Tenement Crasher, Dynacharge, Viashino Rackateer, Essence Backlash
In: Catacomb Slug, Mizzium Skin, 2 Downsize

Alternative Build (URW)

LANDS (18)
1 Izzet Guildgate
6 Mountain
7 Island
4 Plains
1 Frostburn Weird
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 New Prahv Guildmage
1 Goblin Electromancer
2 Stealer of Secrets
1 Vassal Soul
2 Splatter Thug
1 Viashino Racketeer
1 Skymark Roc
1 Voidwielder
1 Hypersonic Dragon (promo)
2 Skyline Predator
2 Annihilating Fire
1 Avenging Arrow
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Essence Backlash
1 Fall of the Gavel
1 Street Spasm

This deck doesn’t try to be aggressive and makes better use of Nivix Guildmage and Electromancer.

Rest Of My Sealed Pool

White (9): 2 Trostani’s Judgement, Palisade Giant, Bazaar Krovod, Selesnya Sentry, 2 Eyes in the Sky, Etheral Armor, Knightly Valor

I’m not sure about Judgement and if 6 mana to exile a creature is worth it.  Against the Auras deck I think they would have been worth it, but probably just sideboard.

Blue (2): Psychic Spiral, Crosstown Courier

Izzet (1): Firemind’s Foresight

Black (7): Pack Rat, Zanikev Locust, 2 Terrus Wurm, Cremate, Drainpipe Vermin, Deviant Glee

Red (6): Cobblebrute, Electrickery, Dynacharge (2nd), Bellows Lizard, Pursuit of Flight, Survey the Wreckage

Selesyna (6): Dryad Militant, Armada Wurm, 2 Centaur Healer, Call of the Conclave, Growing Ranks

Green (9): Gatecreeper Vine, Towering Indrik, Giant Growth, Chorus of Might, Savage Surge, Seek the Horizon, Axebane Stag, 2 Centaur’s Herald

Golgari (5): Dreg Mangler, Korozda Guildmage, 2 Grisly Salvage, Slitherhead

Other (6): Golgari Guildgate, 2 Selesyna Guildgate, Pithing Needle, Civic Saber, foil Plains

Upon Further Review

Looking over my pool now, I think I need to reconsider whether GWB was an option.  I certain had the mana (3 Guildgates), some bombs (Armada Wurm, Palisade Giant, some removal, and a good number of cards.

LANDS (17)
1 Golgari Guildgate
2 Selesyna Guildgate
5 Forest
5 Plains
4 Swamp
1 Dryad Militant
1 Gatekeeper Vine
1 Call of the Conclave
1 Grim Roustabout
2 Dead Reveler
1 Vassal Soul
1 Korozda Guildmage
1 Dreg Mangler
1 Selesnya Sentry
1 Towering Indrik
2 Centaur Healer
1 Bazaar Krovod
1 Palisade Giant
1 Armada Wurm
1 Giant Growth
1 Savage Surge
1 Avenging Arrow
2 Trostani’s Judgement

I’m not real sure about the exact cards here.  This seems more like a ‘good stuff’ deck that a Populate deck, hence the Centaur’s Heralds, Eyes in the Sky, and Growing Ranks not making the cut.  It does seem like the overall card quality here might be better.

I’d be interested to hear thoughts on which of the 3 builds I’ve posted seems best.


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.

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.)