The Scrivener returns! Itís been a while, because I had other obligations that filled up my time. Namely, finding employment and currently, having a fulltime job. For now I am back, and with an article that is less casual than I usually write. I usually donít win (prerelease) tournaments, however.
Sunday 25 September, Ravnica prerelease: While I play a lot of Magic, it is only my second prerelease (first one being Mirrodin). Our playgroup regularly does a draft when a new set is released and we do a box draft occasionally (packs made out of a huge amount of commons, a lot of uncommons and a few rares). I like playing limited formats, especially draft. Sealed is always fun however, especially when you get to see a new set in action. I didnít take the time to link each card with Wizardsí autocard feature in this article. I believe that it makes the article much more enjoyable, but it would have taken even longer to finish if I would take that effort. Forgive me and open up a second internetscreen with Gatherer That will do too.
I went to the Prerelease in Groningen, the Netherlands and I met a lot of friends at the site. We were all in a good mood and were exited about the new set, Ravnica. We received our packs, and as always adrenaline surges through my body. What cards did I get? Which ones are good to play? How cool do the cards look? Did I get any money-rares? After ripping my packs I divided my cards by color (and gold, and hybrid, and artifact, and non-basic lands). Blue didnít look very spectacular, so I immediately dropped that color. I had some very good white and red cards. The most spectacular ones were:
2 Oathsworn Giant
2 Conclave Equenaut
2 Screeching Griffin
2 Courier Hawk
1 Hunted Lammasu
2 Sell-Sword Brute
1 Fiery Conclusion
1 Galvanic Arc
2 War-Torch Goblin
1 Boros Recruit
1 Boros Signet
1 Rally the Righteous
The white evasion creatures looked very interesting, but I had some doubt if these cards would make a R/W build that was fast enough. Oathsworn Giant looks like a nice card, but a 6 mana 3/4 creature isnít exactly speedy. Green looked good enough, although I would have liked more solid creatures. Finally I looked at black and I realized I opened quite a bunch of removal. I remembered having only one Guildmage, namely the black/green one, so I tried to make a B/G deck. After scrapping some useless black cards I came up with this decklist:
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Elvish Skysweeper
1 Golgari Guildmage
1 Civic Wayfinder
1 Junktroller (sided out for Ivy Dancer)
1 Dimir House Guard
1 Nullmage Shepherd
1 Greater Mossdog
1 Golgari Rotwurm
1 Netherborn Phalanx
1 Siege Wurm
2 Fist of Ironwood
1 Bottled Cloister
1 Last Grasp
2 Ribbons of Night
1 Scatter the Seeds
I had my doubts about some of the cards, but I think the only mistake is that I shouldnít have maindecked Junktroller. Ivy Dancer was probably a better choiceThe ability to remove dredge cards from a graveyard looked interesting, but it never mattered (when I had it in play). Except for Ivy Dancer, I used all my green cards. So after sideboarding, I used 100% of my green cards. Now thatís a first time.
Instead of giving a round by round report, I will focus on some of the cards in my deck. That way I hope to avoid all the not so interesting parts of the tournament and give you the best anecdotes I have.
Birds of Paradise
I never played with one, but I was happy to find one in my pack. It doesnít attack for damage, but I hoped it would accelerate my deck and fix my mana. Getting black and even blue mana from this creature was very handy. Iím in doubt whether I should sell this one or collect 3 more of them. They cost a fortune, but itís one of the best green creatures in Magic with reason. Elves of Deep Shadow and Civic Wayfarer also helped fixing my mana-base on a rare occasion. Because of the Wayfarer I included one Island. That way I had four ways to get blue mana (I didnít play any blue cards, but the blue mana certainly mattered, youíll see).
This 1-drop has a very interesting ability. Itís pricy, but the fact that you can sacrifice any creature means that you could use it multiple times, if needed. Only once did I get this creature, while an opponent had some fliers in play. The Skysweeper also helped convoking some creatures and doing some early damage. They say never to play 1-drops unless they are very good. Play Skysweeper (especially if your deck has no way to stop fliers).
Its abilities are very expensive, but if you have five mana open it can really mess up the combat math for an opponent. And getting your best creatures back, by sacrificing a chump-blocking Saproling token is very rewarding. The best part of these Guildmages is that you can drop them on turn 2, no matter what kind of lands you have in play. I kept quite a few hands with only swamps or forests, just because I had this creature in my hand.
Every color will be able to play some bears after all the Guilds are released. The Guildmages are cheap creatures with abilities that matter even during the end-game. I expect these to show during a lot of casual games. Donít sell your Hideous Laughters and Pyroclasms people!
Dimir House Guard
I wasnít sure if this creature was any good, but it was. Sacrificing a creature to regenerate it is harsh, but it was no real cost when I was able to kill an attacking creature by blocking with the House Guard and some Saproling tokens. Fear meant being unblockable surprisingly often. Quite few opponents wished this creature dead, but their removal would only got some other creature sacrificed. I never used the Transmute ability, although I could search for some other good cards. It is very plausible that it would have been beneficial to Transmute the House Guard for enchantment removal (Nullmage Shepherd) or card drawing (Bottled Cloister), but this creature won me games single-handedly. So I always played it.
I only discuss this card to say that I never used dredge all day long. I must have been the only Golgari player who didnít. Dredge looks strong and it is really annoying to see two Greater Mossdogs at the other side of the table. Do you use your removal on it? They can get the creature easily, while your removal doesnít dredge. One friend of mine played Golgari Cave Troll several times without having any creatures in his graveyard. After that he would dredge the Cave Troll back for some serious beats. His deck also included Sisters of Stone Death and Vigor Mortis. Another trick he performed was to Vigor Mortis his Sisters back into play. Quite nasty.
Opponents despaired when Ursapine dropped into play, and with reason. This beast turned all my creatures in killing machines. One opponent forgot that Birds of Paradise can also generate green mana. That mistake got his creature killed and a turn later he met the same fate. Itís hard to loose when you have this creature in play and untap.
I just mentioned that itís hard to loose with Ursapine in play when you untap. One opponent managed to hold up my entire team of fatties, including Ursapine. How? Glare of Subdual and Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree (aka token land). Slowly but certain he amassed more and more tokens and he could tap down my entire army. Slowly but certain, I waited until he made his seventh creature. I untapped, and dropped Netherborn Phalanx, while he was at seven life. ďIíll need to read what it doesĒ, he said. ďYeah, you shouldĒ, I replied. Oops, I win!
I happily played two Fists of Ironwood and one Scatter the Seeds. They provided early beats, regeneration shields for the House Guard, retrieved fatties by helping Golgari Guildmage, and helped me play Siege Wurm on turn 4 several times. Even better Scatter the Seeds is an instant. Always be watchful for potential tricks you can do with it!
I know a prerelease winner (Auckland) who didnít like these Saproling cards, but I happily played them. It depends on the deck of course. If you have some convoke cards and/or sacrifice outlets, these cards are great.
Convoke is nasty. Several games I played this big wurm at turn 4. Greater Mossdog is nice, but it has got nothing on Siege Wurm. This creature killed a lot of opponents that day. Maybe because it is also hard to kill, there arenít any cheap spells to get rid of creatures this big and expensive (except Putrefy).
Expensive, but solid. I you play enough mana producers it should not be a problem to kill most creatures. Killing a Siege Wurm was doable with this card. A friend of mine even Disemboweled a Blazing Archon. Thatís 10 mana. He won that game.
Ribbons of Night
The most useful card in my deck, by far. Kill a creature, gain 4 life and draw a card? Sign me up! This card killed fatties, fliers and last defenses all day long. The life gain was very comfortable, as I knew I could beat an opponent when we started racing each other with no thought of defense. I even managed to finish a game at 28 life. With just enough blue mana sources to support these 2 cards, I could play them as a cantrip most of the time. I canít wait to have my playset of these. They look great for casual play, especially when you pack some mana acceleration (hmmÖ. signets).
Only one game was this card of no use. The player that met his doom by my Netherborn Phalanx seemed to play a lot of maindeck artifact/enchantment kill. Both games I dropped this artifact while I still had some lands in my hand. He killed it on those occacions, gaining some card advantage in his perception, but I never lost a valuable card with it. Just donít drop it before you played all your useful cards. The times that I played this card and it didnít get destroyed were just awesome. Drawing twice the amount of cards without any upkeep means a lot of pressure for your opponent. I was a fan of Mindstorm Crown in limited already, this is even better.
The Common Guild lands
I liked how they fixed my mana. They can give some tempo loss, but the trick is to use them during a turn in which it doesnít matter much. They made sure I got the right mana quite often and as said by other writers, these lands also net you more mana without increasing the amount of lands you play. This deck could use that mana quite effectively, most of the time. For multiplayer these look awesome.
The deck had enough weenies and fatties to put some pressure on an opponent and the large quantity removal made sure that no defense lasted. I was very happy with the deck and a lot of cards performed better than I feared. I certainly enjoyed playing with this Guild during the prerelease.
The Artful Looter
The art on the cards is once again outstanding. I believe the new card lay-out works really good with the kind of art we got in Kamigawa and now in Ravnica. The card look draws your eye to the art. And is it me or has the art become more detailed? The cityscape is astonishing on some cards!
The only card that really disappointed me is Elves of Deep Shadow. I expected art worthy of its predecessor, not this. It took me while to realize that the creature shown in the art is not a strange mutant, but actually an Elf with strange clothing. They should have made the Elf bigger. Enough nitpicking, the set looks great. Thumbs up Wizards!
Type 2 Constricted
Playing type 2 constructed gets really interesting, even for a casual gamer like me. Ravnica looks very cool and I was a big fan of Kamigawa already. Although Kamigawa block wasnít powerful, it had a lot of interesting cards and mechanics. Ravnica doesnít seem to have a new affinity mechanic, thatís so good that you have to play it. Instead it promotes all kind of color combinations. I canít stop thinking about which cards will be constructed material and whether some Guild deck will be competitive. It seems that Type 2 will be very open for innovative deck ideas, something I like. Whether this is true will have to be seen. Perhaps I should give Type 2 a try.
Maybe Iíll join the next prereleases, or even play some constructed. Iíll let you know. I hope this was an enjoyable article and I wish you a time in the City.
Arjan van Houwelingen
Feedback is appreciated!
Disclaimer: Any speeling errors made are the results of hasty effort to present you this article as fast as possible. It would be a shame to read this after the Guildpact prerelease and get all confused.