Parsing the Prerelease

Posted in Limited Information on April 22, 2008

By Steve Sadin

Last week I made plans to meet up with my friends Asher Hecht and Gabe Carleton-Barnes (who from hereon will be referred to as GCB) to get breakfast on our way to the Prerelease.

While we were finalizing our plans on when/where to meet I went to the Gray Matter Conventions (one of the premier tournament organizers for the North East) web site to check what time the main prerelease flight starts.

I skimmed through the page about the NYC prerelease, saw 9 a.m. printed in big bold letters, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that "oh, registration must start at 9." Seeing as I was sure that registration started at 9, there would definitely be a flight for me to play in at 9:30 or 10:00.

With this in mind I made plans with my friends to meet for breakfast and get to the site at a little bit before 9:30.

We get to the site at 9:20 and, apparently, the 9 o'clock that I saw on the Gray Matter web site referred to what time the first wave of flights begins building, not what time registration begins.

Who knew? Well, for starters, anyone who actually read the explicitly clear instructions posted on the Gray Matter website.

Asher, GCB, and I signed up for the 12 p.m. flight and spent the time doing a four-man Lorwyn / Lorwyn / Morningtide draft with Craig Krempels.

I drafted an extremely good red-black Giants deck with Thundercloud Shaman, Shriekmaw, 2 Stinkdrinker Daredevils and some very good removal. In my first match I played against Craig who drafted a good blue-black Faeries / Rogues deck. I took the first game when Craig drew waaay to many lands; Craig took the second game after his Latchkey Faerie equipped with Cloak and Dagger made short work of me. In the third game I was able to Giant Craig out pretty quickly when my third turn Stinkdrinker Daredevil went unmolested.

In my second match I played against GCB who drafted a very good Elf / Warrior deck. I took the first game thanks in large part to Thundercloud Shaman, and GCB crushed me in the second game when he roared out of the gates with a turn-three Obsidian Battle-Axe and followed it up with a steady stream of warriors. In the third game, GCB once again had a turn-three Obsidian Battle-Axe with Warriors to back it up. I was dealing with the type of draw that would send most normal draft decks packing; fortunately I had no normal draft deck. A Thundercloud Shaman and a Shriekmaw later I had won the match.

Moral of the story #1: Always pay attention to the instructions that the event organizer's website gives you. If they say that a tournament is going to start at 9 then, well, it's probably going to start at 9 even if that "feels like 9 is too early for a tournament to start."

Moral of the story #2: As long as you want them to be, Magic tournaments are pretty much always awesome, even if you aren't playing in an event.

How Much Shadowmoor Must I Wait?

Noon finally rolled around and I found myself looking at a very impressive Sealed pool.

Shadowmoor Prerelease Sealed Pool

Download Arena Decklist

Wow, is it hard to type up a Shadowmoor Limited deck list. There are just so many different categories, five colors, five color pairs, artifacts, and lands.

When I got ready to type up my Sealed pool for this article I separated it by into all of the aforementioned categories, leaving me with literally a dozen piles. As I'm not familiar with most of the cards I was more than a bit overwhelmed. When GCB saw me looking at a dozen stacks of cards on the table, struggling to type up the decklist, he asked me "Why don't you separate the cards into piles by color?" My response: "They are separated into piles by color..."

As for my Sealed pool, the deck practically built itself. Between the 2 Incremental Blights, the Burn Trail, the Ashenmoor Liege, the Murderous Redcap, the Knollspine Dragon and the host of other solid red and black cards that my pool offered, I didn't have to spend much time thinking before I realized that I would be playing red-black.


Download Arena Decklist

I was tempted to try the Wild Swing, but ultimately chose not to. I was worried that my two Incremental Blights would make my Wild Swing even swingier than usual.

Fists of the Demigod seems like a fine card. However, I am always very wary to play with an enchant creature unless it's great. Getting one of my creatures that I invested an additional card into killed is just so devastating.

The last two cards that I added to the deck were Fate Transfer and Chainbreaker. Fate Transfer struck me as a very exciting trick that would give me opportunities for a lot of two for ones and give me a way to kill persist creatures on my first try.

Fate Transfer

Chainbreaker and Fate Transfer would also give me ways to get back my persist creatures, such as the all-star Murderous Redcap, additional times.

Not only did the Fate Transfer and Chainbreaker seem like good fits with the rest of my deck, they are also awesome together. When I finished building the deck I had dreams of being able to play a Chainbreaker, get it blocked by a 2/2, and use my Fate Transfer to off two of my opponent's guys.

The only other deck that looked at all reasonable, though nowhere near as good as the red-black deck, was a blue-white deck that featured a Mass Calcify, a Biting Tethers, a good curve, and a good defense.


Download Arena Decklist

Do Yo Chainbreaker Hang Low?

Round 1 vs. John Winkel

Game 1

Jaws of Stone
I double mulliganed, but I was able to stabilize when John drew a bunch of consecutive lands. Just when I started to pull ahead thanks to my Murderous Redcap, John cast Beseech the Queen for Jaws of Stone, which, powered up by 5 Mountains, allowed him to wipe my board clean.

I put up a token resistance for a few turns, but I didn't draw anything to deal with his 4/4 that eventually killed me.

Game 2
I stumbled a bit on mana, giving John time to tear apart my hand with Cinderhaze Wretch. Just as I was starting to put together a reasonable defense, John made an attack that struck me as being overly aggressive. I blocked in such a way that put me ahead on the board and at a seemingly healthy 8 life.

Then John played a Prismatic Omen.

While the Prismatic Omen had no immediate effect on the board I was now in a race against time to kill John before he drew his Jaws of Stone or Beseech the Queen (actually Beseech the Queens; it turns out he had two copies of the new tutor, giving him a total of three cards that would instantly win him the game at that point).

I was unable to mount a good enough offense and a few turns later John once again played Beseech the Queen for Jaws of Stone, only this time he had Prismatic Omen in play turning all of his lands into Mountains allowing him to Fireball me out.

Match Record: 0-1

Jaws of Stone is awesome. It would be awesome if there were no way to change all of your lands into mountains, however there is. In addition to the rare Prismatic Omen, which will rarely be seen as it's, well, a rare, there is Elsewhere Flask. Elsewhere Flask is a common that isn't of particular interest to anyone without Jaws of Stone or Corrupt. So if you are in a draft where you see a Jaws of Stone, even if you aren't red, you should probably take it. If you pick up a single Elsewhere Flask you will be pretty happy that you have it, and if you pick up two Elsewhere Flasks you will be able to use your Jaws of Stone better than pretty much anyone who isn't mono-red could have.

Round 2 vs. Michael Belenski

Game 1
The ground got completely stalemated until I played a Knollspine Dragon, which he had no answer for.

Game 2
Michael chose to draw first and kept a slow draw while I curved out perfectly with a Spiteflame Witch, a Tattermunge Duo, and a Mudbrawler Raiders. Just as he was starting to mount a defense I was able to Spiteflame Witch him out.

Match Record: 1-1

Round 3 vs. Sean Jentis

Game 1
The game was going pretty evenly until I made an odd-looking attack with my Chainbreaker and a couple of other creatures. Sean made blocks that would be favorable against almost any normal trick. Fortunately for me, I didn't just have a normal trick, I had a Fate Transfer to pump up my Chainbreaker and ruin his other block. Between my Fate Transfer and a Scar, Sean was left with a completely depleted board that he wasn't able to rebuild.

Game 2
Sean mulliganed and never got past two lands.

Match Record: 2-1

Round 4 vs. Alfred Zheng

Game 1

Cragganwick Cremator
Alfred ripped apart my hand with Cinderhaze Wretch. The turn before I was going to die to Alfred's three creatures I ripped an Incremental Blight that cleared his board. I figured I was going to get a chance to get back into the game from there when Alfred untapped and played a Cragganwick Cremator discarding his Knollspine Dragon to knock me out of the game (not that I could have dealt with a generic 5/4 anyway).

Game 2
My turn-five Incremental Blight killed three of Alfred's creatures, while he put up a good fight, I was just up too many cards for him to get back into the game.

Game 3
Alfred chose to draw and wound up keeping a good, but somewhat slow hand. In either of our previous two games his draw probably would have been very good.

Unfortunately for Alfred, I got a draw that would be quite competitive in Constructed. I played a turn-two Spiteflame Witch, a turn-three Fulminator Mage, and a turn-four Ashenmoor Liege. Alfred had a three-drop, which never got a chance to block, and was able to kill the Ashenmoor Liege on his fourth turn. By this point he was already down to 6, then I untapped played a removal spell for his only blocker and put him down to 2. Alfred didn't have a way to stop my two creatures and was dead before he got to his sixth turn.

Final Record: 3-1

After the fourth round prizes were handed out and I got a draft set for my 3-1 finish.

Queue a Draft

I wanted to get some more Shadowmoor in before I went to dinner so I signed up for an 8-person booster draft.

Prerelease Draft Deck

Download Arena Decklist

My draft went pretty well. I picked up a lot of evasion creatures and 4 Torpor Dusts to go with them. While Torpor Dust often won't be that impressive, it was exceptionally good in my deck because of how few non-evasion creatures I have. Only my Isleback Spawn, Sickle Ripper, Wanderbrine Rootcutters, and Cinderhaze Wretch didn't have some form of evasion.

I picked up 2 Jaws of Stone during the draft, hoping that I would pick up some Elsewhere Flasks to turn them into Fireballs. Unfortunately that didn't happen and my Jaws of Stone were forced to cheer on from my sideboard.

I was very impressed with my Inkfathom Witches. Not only did they set me up for a number of quick kills, there were a number of spots where I would end my turn with an Inkfathom Witch and 4 lands up and my opponent would be unable to attack with any of their creatures with any -1-1 counters on them, such as their creatures that they had persisted back.

Boggart Ram-Gang
In my first round I played against Christopher Algou, who had drafted a very aggressive red-green deck. In the first game Christopher played a Boggart Ram-Gang which I enchanted with Torpor Dust. I thought that that would be the last time I would have to think about his Boggart Ram-Gang that game, but that was not the case. On his fifth turn, Christopher enchanted his Boggart Ram-Gang with a Runes of the Deus. Fortunately, I had a second Torpor Dust to once again neutralize his guy. When this happened we couldn't help but chuckle at the four-card stack that we had assembled together.

Christopher killed most of my early guys, but he wound up running out of removal before I ran out of creatures, allowing me to take him down with an army of fliers powered up by an Inkfathom Witch.

In the second game Christopher mulliganed into a land-light hand that just wasn't able to keep up with my army of fliers.

Round 2 I played against Patrick Shin, and in both of our games I was able to set up a reasonable defense early and then finish him off with an Inkfathom Witch-powered onslaught.

In the finals I split the prize with old-school New York gamer Rich Fein.

Closing Thoughts

I had a really good time at the Shadowmoor Prerelease and I can't wait to learn more about Shadowmoor Limited. There are just so many good, easy to cast cards.

Not since the artifact-heavy Mirrodin block has it been this easy to fill out a limited deck. But, more importantly, I can't remember a format where it was this easy to draft a good deck. Even if you are sharing colors with both of your neighbors, it shouldn't be too much of a strain to wind up with something that you would be happy to shuffle up.

So, since it's really easy to build a good deck, the goal should no longer be to try to build a good deck. Instead, it should be to try to build a great deck.

I don't know what the best ways to go about putting together a great Shadowmoor draft deck are yet, but you can be sure that I'll have plenty to tell you in the coming weeks as I become more familiar with the format.

May you spend all of your time drafting instead of sleeping,

Steve Sadin

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