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Planeshift Prerelease: Shiny hippos!
By Eric "Apollo" Chima
Iím going to tell you about the night I lost my virginity.

No, not really.* But hey, it worked for the Ferret. If a well-respected, prominent writer on the internet can use cheap lines to grab readers, I sure can. Lord knows, I need all the gimmicks I can get. Last time I wrote a Prerelease article, I went in thinking it would be a great piece of writing that everyone would love, and talk about for years to come.

Of course, I donít think anyone ever read it. So this time, Iím going in assuming that no one will lay eyes on it. Instead, I have slightly different hopes: Iím aiming to make Shawn ďthe DiscriminatorĒ Jacksonís bottom 10 list. Thatís right; it may not be easy, but Iím hoping that Mr. Jackson will see fit to honor my article as one of the worst of the week. I figure I may as well get my notoriety somehow. A bad name is better than no name, right? No? Oh, well. Maybe I just want to see my name in something that wasnít written by myself.

But wait! This is supposed to be a tournament report, not a discussion of my writing ability. I suppose I really ought to start actually talking about Magic. I attended my second Prerelease on Sunday. I wasnít originally planning to attend, but then the Ravens had to go and beat the Raiders. The last thing I wanted to do on Sunday was watch the Super Bowl, so I had to find something else to do. Enter Planeshift. I hadnít actually played Magic since the Prophecy prerelease, and Iíd only played Sealed Deck one time in my life. Needless to say, my expectations werenít soaring. I figured I could scrub out and then kill the rest of the day drafting and losing. Hey, I could always blame it on the cards I get. In limited, youíve always got a ready excuse for losing. Thatís what I love about it.

Most of my preparations for this tournament involved actually getting a ride to the thing. Initially, one of my brotherís friends offered us a ride to the Saturday prerelease. We were all set until three days before it, when my brother realized he had some silly old SAT to take that day. Sigh. So, I try to wheedle one of my friends into going and taking me on Sunday. No deal. Finally, with no recourse, I begged my parents to take me and my brother. On Saturday, they agreed. Finally. So, that night, my brotherís friend calls and says that it turned out he was going on Sunday all along and could give us the ride.

Sigh. I really need to get my license.

So, after all that (if anyone is still reading), I finally knew I was going to the Prerelease. I woke up way too early (i.e. 8:00am) on Sunday and I was ready to go. A rather uneventful ride passed, and we got to the store (GameTraderódo I get promotional fees?) and registered for the tournament. We got our spiffy Prerelease cards (a shiny hippo! How cool is that?) and began the tournament.

Yeah, right. Of course, it was now time for the customary sitting and waiting. Fortunately, we had arrived fashionably late, and we only had to wait about an hour for those who had decided to be rather unfashionably late. Finally, we got our cards, and we were informed that we would be keeping the decks we register. All we had to do is have a neighbor check the list. So I open my Invasion pack and resist the urge to squeal. It seems the gods have decided to bestow upon me, as my rares, a Skizzik, a Void, and a WhoTheHeckCares. My eyes began to glaze over at my good fortune. Fortunately, the person next to me poked me in the ribs and told me to get going before my eyes fell out of their sockets. The gook probably would have ruined the Skizzik.

Pressing on, my eyes would behold a Fires, a Horned Kavu (foil!), a Lava Zombie, and a healthy supply of red and green fat, and some removal. The only thing I could have asked for was some Terminates (my brotherís friend pulled 3!). My final decklist, which probably wasnít nearly as good as it could be, was (with descriptions of Planeshift cards):

Gold:
Void
Lava Zombie (4/3 for 1RB that gates a red or black creature, with 2: +1/+0 until EOT)
Horned Kavu (3/4 for RG that gates a red or green creature. Shiny!)
Fires of Yavimaya

Green:
Primal Growth
Pincer Spider
Thornscape Familiar
Kavu Climber
Explosive Growth

Black:
2 Bog Down (2B, opponent discards 2 cards. Kick by saccing 2 lands to discard 3)
Ravenous Rats
Duskwalker
Volcano Imp

Red:
Skizzik (yippee!)
2 Magma Burst (3R, deals 3 damage to a target; kick by saccing two lands, deals 3 damage to 2 targets)
Kavu Agressor
Tribal Flames
Thunderscape Battlemage (2R, 2/2; kick by paying 1B and/or G. Paying 1B makes opponent discard 2 cards; paying G kills an enchantment)
Shivan Emissary (GREAT with gating. It killed 3 creatures a couple of times)
Ancient Kavu

Artifact:
Chromatic Sphere (shiny!)

Land:
6 Mt.
5 Forest
5 Swamp
1 Rithís Grove**

The person who checked my list summed it up pretty well by saying, ďCongratulations on opening those packs.Ē To compare, at the Prophecy prerelease I pulled one creature that had a power of 3 or greater (Darba). I spent that day trying to win with parlor tricks while my opponents dropped Avatars and various large Mercenaries. This time, I had 10 creatures with power 3 or greater in my mix of cards.

There was a problem, though. Now, my security blanket was gone. I couldnít blame my losses on the cards! If I scrubbed out, it would be because I sucked. Here I was, all ready to lose and write a miserable report about how unlucky I am. Then, I had to go and get good cards! What a stroke of bad luck!

So, anyway, after some hyperventilation and a couple of practice games against my brother's friend, I sat down for the first round. And of course, I had my head handed to me.

Round 1: Me vs. B/R/u

Game 1:
I donít exactly get off to a wonderful start. I mulligan my first one-land hand, and keep the second. As my opponent plays two Masters and various large cards, I sit in misery with my forest. I eventually draw some lands and drop a creature or two, but they were all promptly popped back to my hand by the evil Masters. I never got to the 4 mana to play my 2 Magma Bursts and take out his annoying little buggers. I am eventually stomped into submission with nothing but a Mountain and 2 Forests on my side.

Game 2:
I keep a nice-looking hand with two Forests, a Swamp, and a healthy supply of creatures. Unfortunately, only one of them is non-red. On turn one, he plays a Tidal Visionary and I fail to draw a Mountain. The Visionary hits. I draw a non-mountain. The Visionary hits. I eventually play one of my non-red creatures (I now have 2) and it is hit with the 4/2 Kavu that does 4 damage to a creature. My other creature trades with the Kavu. And the Visionary hits. And the Visionary keeps on hitting. My opponent, at this point, is drawing and playing the occasional land, but no creatures. I donít know what heís doing, just that the frickiní Visionary is whittling away at me. Finally, I draw a mountain and play an Ancient Kavu. He blows it away with a Terminate. And hits me with the Visionary. I play a Skizzik. He blows it away with a Terminate. A random 2/2 joins the Visionary and he proceeds to kill every creature I play the rest of the game. By the time the game was over, the Visionary had swung for 14 damage. He showed me the cards left in his hand: 2 creature-kill cards. He had drawn 7. Well, now I knew where those Terminates had gone. He had opened 3 also. He was very nice, and told me I couldnít do anything about the mana-screw, but at this point I was really bummed. I was absolutely sure I had screwed up the deck, messed up my mana, and would bomb out of the Prerelease. My mood just got worse when I learned that I would be playing at the very last table. Probably because I was smashed so quickly that we were the first ones done. With that cheerful thought, we move on toÖ (dum-de-dum!)

Round 2: Me vs. G/W/r/b

This round, I was unfortunate enough to play against a very good opponent. But luckily, he was a very good opponent who had opened a very bad deck. He informed me before the match that he had lost first round to fourth turn Shivan Wurms each game, and that nothing in his deck was half that size. That sounded good for me. The only removal he had was a tapper and the green Battlemage (which deals 2 damage to any creature if you pay a kicker of R), and the biggest creature he had was some Stone Kavus.

Game 1:
For the first time that day, my mana came out right and several large creatures soon followed. He played some minor creatures and the tapper, which made life very difficult for my attackers. I played my removal wrong, and though my Shivan Emissary killed 3 creatures, I never took out the tapper for some reason. Finally, I iced the thing with a Magma Burst and got him down to two. Unfortunately, I managed to plan my attacks all wrong, failing to kill him when I could, and later throwing away a Skizzik to his Stone Kavu and large amounts of mana. He managed to stabilize the game, and was beginning to take control. I was running out of cards, but the second card from the bottom was the Tribal Flames I needed to finish him off.

Game 2:
We have very little time left, and we agree to play quickly. I do my best to keep up the pace, but Iím a rather slow player when I donít know the cards well. I donít think it really mattered, though. He plays some 2/2 creatures early. I play some bigger guys, but he drops the Power Armor that says his creatures are the biggest. He Harrows to get his one Swamp and Mountain, so he can give his guys +4/+4. He smacks me around, getting me down to four, and Iím throwing my guys in the way of his. As we are about to go into extra turns, he asks me to just concede and call the match a draw as I have only one creature left to battle his 2/2. He will kill my guy on the first extra turn, then me the second. I decline, saying I think I can still pull it out. And then I pull, right off the top, the one card in my deck he hadnít seen yet: Void. He moans audibly as I Void for 4, killing the Armor, and knocking away the one card in his hand. At this point I had control of the game anyway, as his two 3/3 creatures (the Stone Kavus) are dead and I have the bigger creatures in play. I think I would have won eventually, but the turns run out before I can, giving me the match.

Iíd just like to say that this was one of the coolest guys Iíve played against, and was very nice in offering me play advice when I was screwing up game 1. He was also a very good sport, especially losing the way he did.

Round 3: poor guy playing all five colors

This was a nice kid, maybe 12 years old, who doesnít really know what heís doing. I wonít really go into the games as I just smashed him two games in a row. I believe he only cast one spell in that time. He asked me afterward why everyone had such small decks (he was playing with all of his cards). I tried my best to explain mana issues, drawing your best cards, etc. I donít think I really got through to him, though. All he would say is that all of his cards were good, so he was using them all. He even asked me to play a regular game (we were the first match done, even before they had passed out the results slips). I only had one deck with me, and I felt awful as I Hymned his 5-color Dragon deck twice and Duressed him once before smashing him with a Plaguelord and a Hyppie. Sometimes, even winning can make you feel like scum. {As well it should, you big meanie. --CT}

Round 4:

This round, I play another nice guy (noticing a theme here?). He had a neat turntable that had a space in the middle for his deck of cards, and rows of tokens stacked around the outside. There were +1 tokens, tokens numbered with 1,5, and 10 (for his life), and other neato stuff. He told me it was for Doomtown, but it seemed perfect for Magic. Definitely one of the cooler play items Iíve seen.

Game 1:
On his second turn, my opponent plays a Hate Weaver, and says, in a perfect Palpatine voice, gravely and evil, ďGive in to your hate!Ē.

I must say, it was the first time Iíve ever had an opponent say that to me. Everyone at the surrounding tables cracked up.

Anyway, more cheap guys join the Weaver in running over and smacking me upside the head. He gets me down to single digits, when I topdeck the Void and wipe out 4 creatures and one card in his hand. He canít recover, and several beefy creatures hit the table and wipe him out in the next few turns. As he described to a friend, ďWell, there was the part of the game when I was doing good. And then there was the part of the game where he cast Void.Ē

Game 2:
Unfortunately, I remember very little about this game. I do remember that I played Duskwalker, Pincer Spider, and Kavu Agressor, all with kicker, letting me use a lot of the spiffy counters. He didnít have much in the way of big creatures, and I stomped him fairly quickly.

After the match, I got up, thanked him, and wished him good luck. I also told him Iíd never forget that Hate Weaver comment. He replied, ďWell, Iím glad I left some mark on you. The games sure didnít.Ē I donít think he finished very well, but he was a lot of fun to play against.

Suddenly, Iím back to 3-1 and feeling pretty good. One more match win out of the next two gets me a pack, letting me pretty much recoup my entry fee. Then, they hand out the matchups for the next round; Iím playing my brotherís friend (the Terminate boy, AKA my ride).

Round 4:R/U/B

Game 1:
Turn 2, I play a Ravenous Rat. Turn 3 and 4, I play Bog Downs. Turn 5, I play a Thunderscape Battlemage with the black kicker. He discards 7 cards in 4 turns. Feels almost like type 1, except no one is dead yet. His hand is completely empty, and I play a Duskwalker with the kicker to go with the Battlemage. This clock kills him over the next few turns, with a Magma Burst finishing off.

Game 2:
Turn 3, I play Bog Down. Turn 4, I play Bog Down. Turn 6, I play Thunderscape Battlemage with both kickers (to take out a Planeswalkerís Fury) and make him discard two more. Sound familiar? So weíre on to round 6Ö except I managed to lose this game anyway. He plays a 4-cost serpent with kicker to make a 6/6, and a 5-cost drake that is a 2/2 flying. I have a Void, and I have no idea what to go for. Finally, I decided to do it for 5 because I have trouble with flyers and I had a couple of big creatures in my hand. He shows me a hand with 2 4-cost creatures, one of which flies. Ouch. They come out over the next couple of turns, and I lose.

Game 3:
Turn 2, I play Ravenous Rats. Turn 3, I play Bog Down. Turn 4, I play Bog Down. It should be noted that at this point my opponent was visibly restraining himself from attacking me and destroying the Bog Downs. He was also mana-glutted, which should have given me the easy winÖ except I couldnít draw a mountain. At one point, I had a Skizzik, Kavu Agressor, Tribal Flames, 2 Magma Bursts, and a Lava Zombie in my hand. And not one lousy mountain. The person who was sitting next to me, and being deck-checked, was laughing and laughing as I drew one red card after another. Finally, I draw the Lair and start playing creatures...just as my opponent hits his string of Terminates. I lose some creatures, but the Rats hit him a few times, the Skizzik hits for 1 as it goes through my opponentís Waterspout Elemental (the 3/4 with the kicker that makes you skip your turn), and the Lava Zombie hits once before it is killed. I get him down to 9, and hit him for three with Magma Burst number one, three more with Magma Burst number two, and the last three with Tribal Flames. My opponent starts scooping his cards, when a judge lets us know that I only have 2 basic lands (I never drew that mountain). I was amazed at my own stupidity, and about to panic, when I realize that he has no creatures. The Ravenous Rats run over and poke him for one, and the game is over. Whew. I improve to 4-1, despite my best efforts to give him the match.***

Round 6:

One more win makes me 5-1, and I win 9 packs. That would be pretty cool. Unfortunately, I was in the same situation at the Prophecy prerelease, and lost the match and walked away with one pack. That pack that sounded good a round ago sounded pretty lousy now. So I offer my opponent a split of the packs no matter the result. He thinks, and declines. It turned out he got enough good blue and white spells to make a two-color deck, so maybe it was the smart move. He was at table 2 for a reason.

Game 1:
My opponent dropped various 2-cost creatures, including 2 of the white familiar (1/3 wall, kick it for a +1/+1 and the ability to attack; U and G spells cost one less), one of which was kicked, and a couple Falcons to go along with a Visionary. He knocks me down to 6. I topdecked Void (in case you just joined us, this was a rather common event throughout the day) and do it for 2. He takes it from me, reads the card, looks at his board, and reads it again. Sighing, he scoops up his creatures and puts them in the graveyard, then shows me his hand: a pair of 2-cost spells. He was left with some land and that oh-so-strong Tidal Visionary. I played Horned Kavu and Pincer Spider, and killed him shortly thereafter.

Game 2:
This one wasnít quite as suspenseful. I had the Void the whole game, and just waited for him to over-commit those 2-cost guys, then Bog Down to clear the rest of his hand. I knock him down low, and he draws a few more creatures to almost stabilize. At one point, I declared my attack with 4 creatures. He had 3, and was taking a long time to decide what to block. After a few minutes, I finally just told him that I would Magma Burst him out of the game no matter what he did. When I showed him the card, he scooped.

So, I went and picked up my nine packs. They never bothered to calculate tiebreakers, but Iím pretty sure I would have been third as the only player I lost to ended up 5-1, and only one of my opponents was sub-.500. In the packs, I pulled another Hippo, a Goblin Game, a Nemata, Grove Gardian, Eladamriís Call, and some other cool stuff. All in all, I was pretty darn proud of myself. I'd have to thank my opponents for all being very cool and not killing me when I topdecked Void for the forty-second time.

Right here, the traditional prerelease report examines the authorís opinion of the new set. But somehow, I donít think many of you are interested in the opinion of an admitted scrub that hasnít played since Prophecy. So I wonít be offering any gems of wisdom, save one: hippos will dominate the new type II. If you were reading this for an extensive card-by-card analysis, Iím afraid youíve been wasting your time. Go read an analysis by someone who knows what theyíre talking about, like Frigginí Rizzo (), or discuss the cards in the forums: http://www.magic-singles.com/cpa/forums/index.php.

Hopefully, I'll be doing another one of these for Apocalypse (unless I'm run out of town before then...)

Eric Chima
Apollo just about everywhere
Still hopiní for bottom 10 of the week!
Anybody want some... toast?

*And I apologize to anyone whose psyche was scarred by that mental image.

**Before I go any further, it should be noted that my chair just fell apart. This metal folding chair, which we have had for years, just started dropping metal bars all over. Itís rather hard to copy a decklist when your chair is disintegrating under you.

***Not literally, silly.

Read More Articles by Eric "Apollo" Chima!

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