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A Story of Cheating and Miscalculation
By Douwe Terluin
My Ravnica Prerelease Report

Sorry it turned out to be such a lengthy read…

Maybe I had too much coffee that morning. Maybe I didn't sleep well the night before. Maybe my feeble nerves weren't prepared for the amount of stress such an event entails. I was excited and I was looking forward to it: the Ravnica prerelease. But looking back, I realize how many mistakes I made. 20/20 hindsight is no excuse for being blind at the time.

Like a starving dog I had been living off scraps of information about the oncoming expansion. Of course I had read the spoilers and followed the preview week on magicthegathering.com. At first, I wasn't all that excited about the different guilds. It felt like they were replacing the original five color wheel with a new and improved 10 color one. Hybrid cards were also something I was hoping was a spoof. Especially the design of the hybrid mana symbol was something that repulsed me (but I must confess I was also repulsed by the new card face and split cards, so maybe I am just not capable of dealing with change that well).

But, as will new things, they become familiar pretty fast. Sure, sorting my cards at first I wondered why hadn't opened a single hybrid card, before realizing you have to see the entire border of the card to determine if it is hybrid (mistake No. 1). I had my heart set on playing with black and green and was hoping for a lot of small creatures with the new ability: Dredge. During the previews, this was the ability that caught my attention. I really like the idea that using the ability will give you more options by filling your graveyard. It has a kind of self-sustaining charm about it. (Transmute is definitely my No. 2, because it turns a lot of cards into tutors if you built your deck right. Convoke is next and reminds me a lot of Affinity, but not quite as broken. Radiance pales in comparison to the others.) When I first saw Shambling Shell, I really hoped would open three of them. It was perfect example of what a dredge creature could do. Perhaps I was even counting on getting some of those (mistake No. 2).

I got none. The person to my right opened two and the person to my left opened three. What can I say? The world is not fair. Fortunately, I did open some black removal and a couple of decent green cards, including several cards with dredge. I didn't even take the other colors into consideration, especially after reviewing the rares opened: Golgari Grave-Troll, Savra, Queen of the Golgari, Sisters of Stone Death and Scion of the Wild. All of them could be considered playable given my understanding that this was going to be a slow environment. My last for the rare was a Flame Fusillade, which could easily be splashed.

So here's an overview of my deck: Thoughtpicker Witch, Last Gasp, Clinging Darkness, Golgari Brownscale, Centaur Safeguard, 2× Galvanic Arc, Spectral Searchlight, Savra, Queen of the Golgari, 2× Dimir House Guard, Flame Fusillade, Greater Mossdog, Keening Banshee, Nightmare Void, Vigor Mortis, Golgari Grave-Troll, Drooling Groodion, 2× Siege Wurm, Sisters of Stone Death. A bit shy on removal, so I was forced to play more expensive creatures. I also opened one nonbasic land: Svogthos, The Restless Tomb. For those of you counting with me, the deck already consists of 22 cards. At this point, a voice in my head (which I mistook for logic) told me I had to choose between adding seventeen lands and the Scion or just 18 lands. Feeling the pressure and having a judge standing right next to me waiting for my registration form I opted for the land. Obviously, I totally forgot one of the 22 cards was a land. I just turned in my registration form which stated that I would be playing a whopping 19 land. Mistake No. 3.

Round 1
My first opponent was called Hendrik He was playing a green white red deck, so I was expecting a lot of little creatures in some huge ones. He won the die roll and chose to let me go first. I got the ball rolling my playing my only one-drop: Thoughtpicker Witch. It delivered a couple of point of damage before Hendrik played a Courier Hawk. I thought my Greater Mossdog would allow me to get back on the offensive, but Selesnya Sagittars thought otherwise. I needed one of my fatties and was so happy when I topdecked my Drooling Groodion I forgot that its costs six mana instead of five. My error (4) was pointed out to me and I played the Groodion began on the next turn.
Hendrik played a Galvanic Arc on the Sagittars, killing my Groodion. He followed up my playing a Night Guard Patrol and enchanted it with Pollenbright Wings on his next turn. Unfortunately for him, by now I had reached eight mana and was able to hardcast my Sisters of Stone Death. Hendrik attacked with the patrol, netting him two tokens. It was to no avail. The sisters attacked and forced the Sagittars to block. Two mana removed them from the game. Hendrik was hoping he could jump to chumpblock the sisters with his tokens and kill me with the night guard patrol, but I returned the Sagittars to block it. Only then did I realize that the patrol had vigilance and I could have used the sisters to take them too (5). Hendrik conceded.

I sideboarded out two swamps for a Scion of the Wild and Elves of Deep Shadow. Hendrik started out strong with a Selesnya Evangelist and a Civic Wayfinder, churning out tokens. I started out with two Dimir House Guards and later played a Golgari Brownscale and a Siege Wurm, which made sure Hendrik could not attack. The amount of tokens was getting out of hand, so I was glad when I drew my Nightmare Void and was able to see if he had any tricks up his sleeve. His lack of tricks allowed the House Guards to go all the way.

2 - 0

Round 2
This time I opponent was Andre. He was also playing a white and red deck with just a splash of green, which I had just beaten so I liked my odds. He started out with a Thundersong Trumpeter, which I destroyed with my Keening Banshee. He followed up with the Nightguard Patrol and a Veteran Armorer, but fortunately I got my trusty Mossdog on defense. I kept on playing Nightmare Void until the Golgari Grave-troll was dumped into my graveyard. I played a next turn and two attacks were all it took to finish the game.

This entire time I was holding two Galvanic Arcs, but didn't draw single Mountain. So I sideboarded out a swamp and a forest to bring in the Elves of Deep Shadow and an additional mountain.

He started out my playing a Courier hawk and a Veteran Armorer. Most of my removal depended on reducing a creature’s toughness to 0, which is why I severely detested the boost given by the Veteran Armorer. I complimented myself all excellent sideboarding when my next draw turned out to be a mountain. I kept three mana open and tried to transmute my second Dimir House Guard at the end of his turn. Andre politely informed me that this could be considered savagely cheating, because transmute has to be played as a sorcery. I honestly have never noticed, but that doesn't make it any less illegal. Mistake No. 6.
So, on the next turn my transmuted Dimir House Guard and searched my library for a Galvanic Arc. For those of you who aren't paying attention, I once again use my savage cheating skills. Galvanic Arc only costs three mana instead of four so is no legal target. I didn't realize this until several games later, so there was nothing I could do but chalk it up as mistake No. 7. I played the Galvanic Arc and killed the Veteran Armorer.
Andre untapped and I noticed the Veteran Explorer was still there and his Courier Hawk had mysteriously gone to the graveyard. I realized I had pointed at the wrong creature (8).He now played several small creatures which were all not very impressed by my Keening Banshee, which I chose to play anyway because he had no flying creatures. Unfortunately, a Rally the Righteous on a Boros Guildmage meant he could force through enough damage to go to game 3.

Andre got stock on two lands and even though he managed to play a Courier Hawk and a Veteran Armorer, my Mossdog and Keening Banshee quickly finished the game. I feel kind of sorry for Andre, losing to an unintentional cheater like me.

2 -1

Round 3
My next opponent seemed to be in a hurry. Robin started out with a Boros Recruit, followed by a Boros Guildmage and topped of by a Flame-Kin Zealot. I played my fourth land and my first creature: Greater Mossdog. He played a Galvanic Arc to kill it and alpha-striked me. The game was so short, I only had time to make one mistake, which was not to mulligan is starting hand containing five land, a Mossdog and a Drooling Groodion.

Once again I sideboarded out two swamps for a mountain and Elves of Deep Shadow. He started with a Courier Hawk which I killed with a Keening Banshee. I answered his Veteran Armorer with a Galvanic Arc. I drew my Vigor Mortis, so started to chumpblock with my Mossdog until I flipped my Sisters of Stone Death. Only four mana made her come back to life (with a +1/+1 counter) and at the sight of the legendary Gorgon, Robin conceded. How mythically correct.
Dredge was always a bit of risk to use; I really didn't want to put my Vigor Mortis or any removal cards into the graveyard unused. Now it dawns on me that the Dimir House Guards can be transmuted to get the Vigor Mortis. I have to remember that one.

Unfortunately for me, game 3 resembled game 1. The only notes I made this match were his life total (a lone 20), my life total (20,17,13,10,3, x) and the word "helaas" (which is Dutch for "too bad").

1 -2

Round 4
It is always nice to see a familiar face at a prerelease. I always seem to run into Andrew which, by now, is something I look forward to. He is a friendly dude and this makes for a pleasant game experience. We don't go so far as to allow takebacks, but we do tend to encourage the other. I win the die role and choose to go first. On turn three, I drop a Centaur Safeguard and on turn four I play Nightmare Void. He reveals a hand containing a Dimir Guildmage, a Selesnya Sagittars, Tolsmir Wolfblood, Clinging Darkness and a Hex. I get rid of the Clinging Darkness and take out to the Dimir Guildmage. Greater Mossdog and Centaur Safeguard go all the way, mostly because Andrew is stuck on four lands with no black mana.

After sideboarding out two swamps for the Elves and a mountain, he chooses to begin. I don't draw enough creatures, and Andrew, who apparently is playing a four color deck, draws the lands needs and plays and Oathsworn Giant. Now, all his creatures are immune to my removal spells and the game turns into a creature standoff.
I draw my Vigor Mortis and decide to sacrifice my Mossdog to my Thoughtpicker Witch each turn, hoping to dredge my Sister into my graveyard while keeping him from drawing any possible removal. My luck seems to have changed, because the first dredge reveals my Sisters of Stone Death. I tap all but one mana to play the Mossdog and revive my Sister. Andrew reads the card and frowns. I expect him to concede, especially since I know his top card is a land. But, he untaps, draws, and plays a Hex. He targets one of his own creatures (Voja, his legendary wolf token) and clears my side of the table. I use my last mana to sacrifice my Thoughtpicker Witch to look at his top two cards, instead of using it to regenerate my Golgari Grave-Troll. I simply assumed that Hex wouldn't allow regeneration. Silly me (mistake No. 9).

If I wanted to win, I needed to have a fast start. Unfortunately for me, turn six Andrew played the Oathsworn Giant again. Once again, the game turned into a creature standoff. Only this time, I was holding a Flame Fusillade. I out already got him down to eight life, so I needed to have twelve permanents in play. I drew my Golgari Grave-Troll but decided against playing it for reasons I now cannot remember. Something to do with being afraid of another Hex. On my next turn I had to play it anyway and won on the turn after that. I still won, but I gave Andrew an additional turn to draw the dreaded Hex.

2 -1

Round 5
I kept a hand containing a Thoughtpicker Witch, the Spectral Searchlight, a Golgari Grave-Troll and four lands. My opponent, Laurens, played a red white and black deck and started off quite a weenie rush. Veteran Armorer, Courier Hawk and Mausoleum Turnkey (Turkey) followed each other into the red zone. On turn four, the Spectral Searchlight allowed me to play the Golgari Grave-Troll, which came into play with no counters. On my next turn I dredged for six to reveal six lands off the top of my library. If I only had flipped one creature card, the Grave -Troll would've been able to chumpblock and would've been Thoughtpicker Witch fodder. The next try reveal four lands, a Last Gasp and a Vigor Mortis. The third and final try reveal to two lands a Nightmare Void and two Galvanic Arcs. What are the odds? He won at eighteen life, only taking two manaburn from my Spectral Searchlight.

The second game, a turn four Nightmare Void revealed an Oathsworn Giant, Hex, Brainspoil and a Courier Hawk. I took out the hawk and decided to replay of Nightmare Void on my next turn. He responded by playing a Turkey, returning the hawk to his hand. At this point, I should have abandoned the Void strategy, because I was in dire need of blockers. Although this seems perfectly obvious to me know, I didn't realize at that time and kept on filling the Void. Mistake No. 10. The Turkey went all the way.

To kill some time, we played a third game. Needless to say, I lost this one to. At least I got him down to eleven this time.

2 -0

Round 6
My last opponent was called Jeroen and played a black and blue deck (with just a splash of green). He started with a Lurking Informant, but I had a turn three Centaur Safeguard. We traded creatures and I played the Spectral Searchlight, and decided to take mana burn road. He came out with a Snapping Drake, which I killed by playing a Galvanic Arc on my Greater Mossdog, which I was forced to sacrifice to a Twisted Justice. For the first time today, Svogthos attacked for some damage. Jeroen topdecked his Helldozer, but was forced to block Svogthos with it, thanks to the amount of mana burn he already received. The board was once again cleared, and I almost thought that mana burn would go all the way, but I drew my Flame Fusillade. Next game.

I got stuck on two swamps. That sucks. Next game.

My opening hand containing Vigor Mortis, a Greater Mossdog and a Thoughtpicker Witch. My game plan was obvious until I drew my Sisters of Stone Death on turn two. I decided to forget about dredging for a moment, and just reach eight mana. We traded some creatures but I was still in double digits when sisters came to play. He took a long time deciding what to do. I thought he was contemplating giving up, until he tapped out to play Hex. We both had three creatures so he had to targets everything. He was looking pretty smug, until Vigor Mortis returned Stone Death. He sighed and conceded.

In Conclusion
I like Dredge. I like it a lot. Playing with a high land percentage turned out to be no big mistake, because Dredge allows you to draw ‘business’ when you want. Although I regret several mistakes, I had a fun day and I am looking forward to playing with other Ravnica cards.

My 4-2 result got me one additional boosterpack. It contained a Shambling Shell. Figures.

Read More Articles by Douwe Terluin!

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