Diary of a Prerelease

Posted in Serious Fun on July 13, 2010

I was set up to gunsling some Magic 2011 Sealed alongside the illustrious Scott Larabee, Program Manager for Organized Play—the guy in charge of making sure every part of the different levels of sanctioned Magic events, from the smallest of starts through to Grand Prix and Pro Tour events, are working together to make Magic an awesome experience. He also loves to play Magic.
Funny that.

    Saturday, July 10

9:00 AM

I was at a temporarily empty convention hall. It would soon be filled with players but, for the moment, they were hording outside the door.

We cracked our six booster packs and prepared ourselves for the oncoming onslaught of hungry players. Scott and I both share a passion for EDH and had our own bevy of decks on-hand to work with in addition to our Sealed decks—the tool by which we would be charged with defending booster packs of the new Core Set. We would face many games in both formats throughout the day.

For those curious, here's what I had to work with on the Sealed side.

Adam's Magic 2011 Sealed Pool

Download Arena Decklist

From that I made the following deck:

Adam's M11 Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

I was sad to see I didn't have any of the epic Titans in my pool, but Clone looked promising: even if I didn't have an "amazing" creature, I could just copy theirs! I had some disruption from Liliana's Specter, Mana Leak, and Æther Adept, and easy-to-cast beef in Stone Golem. What I hoped would be the workhorses of the deck—three copies of Barony Vampire—had me feeling pretty good about how it would work out. (And work out it did!)

10:00 AM

The first order of business was an Open Duel against Jeff with the Power of Prophecy deck. He was new to Magic and got started thanks to his older brother (who was off in one of the main event Sealed flights). He was also very excited to get his hands on some new cards. We walked through brief reviews of things like "how to attack and block" and "what happens to cards when they go to the graveyard" as we needed during play but, for the most part, he was holding his own with the deck.

Things quickly turned into an air and ground stalemate. I used Liliana's Specter to good effect but his Conundrum Sphinx was a little scarier; a fresh Doom Blade right off the top of my deck got me out of that pickle. I cast Gravedigger twice getting back a Specter each time; it really helped my Sealed deck fight the power of his more cohesive preconstructed deck. I squeaked out a close battle over air supremacy and sent Jeff along to try his rules-refreshed memory with other players.

10:48 AM

I found the 10-year-old extraordinaire Sebastian sitting down with the same white-blue deck that Jeff had.

He had a turn-two Augury Owl and kept the card manipulation going from there. Despite trading a few creatures while Sebastian dug ever deeper into his library, my three cost creatures start to hit home hard. He finally found a solid creature in his five-Island-backed Harbor Serpent. However, my Mind Control ripped his big blocker away over to my side for the win.

11:14 AM

A short lull in the action gave me a chance to check up on the EDH shenanigans going on between Scott and his opponent, Anna. Anna's Forbid was making good use of her Land Tax, keeping Scott from doing really awesome things. Despite the bleak outlook Scott was confident that he wasn't in serious trouble—at least not yet, anyway.

I made a note to check back later as I picked up my first Sealed challenge of the day from David, packing a nice white-blue deck. It started off exciting with my Clone copying his Conundrum Sphinx, and a little Negate and Mana Leak counter battle when I tried to Doom Blade his big flyer.

Despite having dropped to 12 life from his Sphinx, I nailed the guessing game twice to net a Swamp and Island to my hand while he shipped a needed land and Ajani Goldmane (Yikes!) to the bottom of his library. Lucky me! I also immediately nailed the next guess as well: picking your basic lands seems like the strategy when they make up 40% (or more) of your deck. I rolled into victory on the backs of my Barony Vampires after trading up our big flyers. No pack for David.

When I checked back on Scott, Anna had left already—victoriously. Apparently, she cast Mirrorweave on Lord of Atlantis to islandwalk her way to victory. Sometimes it's the more mundane means to getting in there on an attack that gets the job done. And, as I've stated before, islandwalk is one of my favorite kinds of landwalk for a reason: lots of people love to use Islands! (I would regret my decision to use Islands later.)

11:39 AM

Sean stepped up to the plate with the first EDH challenge for me. His general: Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. We started with me having my first turn favorite: Rhys the Redeemed. He got stuck on one solitary Forest while I had just enough mana to land Shield of the Oversoul on Rhys and start pulling away with general damage.

When he found a second Forest he dropped a bomb: Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary. After I looked things over I decided to continue going all-in with Rhys—hitting for 21 general damage in the end. He played another Forest then cycled Krosan Tusker to get another. He then played Worldly Tutor for an Acidic Slime which ended up nailing my Shield on Rhys. Sean was sitting on 19 from general damage, but I got to take a total beating from Akroma's Memorial giving haste to a kicked-for-seven Thicket Elemental: 24 total damage in the air. Game over for me.

My dream is to one day, by circumstance and not overall deck plan, have Rhys general damage somebody down. That game wasn't it but showed it was at least reasonably possible!

12:59 PM

Andrey brought me back to the world of Sealed with another challenge. The quick game saw me curve out beautifully while he made his first play on turn five. It was okay though as he had a turn-six Grave Titan—er, rather tried to. Let me tell you this again: Mana Leak is back with a vengeance folks. My follow up Rise from the Grave for his Titan drew the handshake. Mission accomplished: pack defended.

I wished him luck for the fourth round in his flight where he had the opportunity to go 4-0—that is, to win every round of his flight. I never did get to ask him how it went but I did note that casting Rise from the Grave on a Grave Titan in the graveyard gives you the Zombie Titan it feels like it should be!

1:35 PM

Next up, Dorian challenged me to Sealed and brought the thunder. White-red felt like the best foil for my slightly slower controlling deck and he made good on the threat. Chandra's Outrage and Lightning Bolt really did a number on my offensive potential as well as my life total. I spent much of the game backpedalling in an attempt to gain control after taking early damage from an Arc Runner. An Ancient Hellkite I couldn't solve finally brought my reign at winning Sealed to an end, and I fed the Dragon-bearer a pack.

2:01 PM

A fellow Adam of the world also sat down for the Sealed challenge. He started off strong with a Garruk's Packleader, but I got a Mind Control on it and Stone Golem made good on drawing a card for me.

He also had a Merfolk Sovereign and Scroll Thief, which started to go to town hitting me and drawing him cards. He then dumped his hand to have a board that also included Prodigal Pyromancer, Cloud Elemental, Garruk's Companion, and Greater Basilisk. I tried to stabilize, and even managed to kill some of them, but the Triskelion he had to follow up was the final blow for me thanks to the repeated Merfolk pokes.

2:29 PM

Ian, too, wanted a piece of the Sealed action. I had double Barony Vampire to his Crystal Ball, which he wasted no time in using. Obstinate Baloth was the first thing he used his oracular tool to find, though my Diminish made quick work of that. Crystal Ball kept digging and Cudgel Troll was his next try, but Mana Leak was there, being the clutch.

A Sleep that followed up, with him at 6 life, bought him even more time. I cast my own Crystal Ball and he had a Foresee on his turn, digging as hard as he could to stop my next attack. His answer: another Sleep! I found my fifth land (thanks to the Ball) and cast Rise from the Grave for his Obstinate Baloth. A Preordain on his turn brought a friendly concession.

He wanted a second try so, being a good sport, I gave him one. This game was completely different as he carefully outmaneuvered me right through to the very end. With a board full of critters I knew it wouldn't be long before he tried Sleep to kill me. When he finally did I sprung my trap: Redirect. You know what else besides Mana Leak and Negate counters spells?

That's right, Cancel. Ouch.

3:55 PM

I managed to defend more packs until Simon stepped up for some EDH fun. His general of choice was Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper. As he put it: "You'll notice he has the two best creatures types ever: Orc and Shaman."

He had an early Vampire Hexmage to stop Rhys from swinging in, and followed up the next turn with a Cultivate—the first Magic 2011 card I saw in an EDH deck. As I neglected to remind everyone before the Prerelease, cards are legal as of their set's Prerelease for EDH play.

I, meanwhile, leveraged Gaea's Cradle into Mirari's Wake. He cast Sek'Kuar and passed back after this. I tore into the token making with a Summoner's Pact for Deranged Hermit then used the tons of mana from Cradle to double the tokens with Rhys. Enlightened Tutor found me the Privileged Position to finalize protecting my board alongside Sterling Grove. Cradle paid for all the incoming upkeep costs.

Simon kept a good face as he looked at his next draw, and passed on continuing the game. The Rhys deck struck again; maybe it's time to gear it back a notch?

4:48 PM

Chris, local to my Thursday night Casual Magic group (the same guys who brought our flavor of casual to the masses at Grand Prix–DC), brought his Sealed deck over for a quick challenge. He had a first turn Llanowar Elves which I gladly cast my Doom Blade on—and Chris agreed it was the play as he was a half-step slower after that. Despite the setback his Roc Egg that followed looked problematic for my Barony Vampire beatdown approach.

Æther Adept bounced his egg for a turn and a Liliana's Specter started swinging in too. We traded Specter for Stormfront Pegasus, then my Gravedigger for his Garruk's Companion. He had a tough looking Giant Spider, but my Diminish took care of that. I dropped another Specter as well but an Awakener Druid from him kept things complicated.

We hit a ground stalemate, with one of my 2-power flyers getting in there every turn—neither of us unable to make a big move. I continued to drop creatures, keeping him on guard until the flying damage drew enough blood. It was a slow game but goes to show how a little evasion can go a long way in ending things.

5:15 PM

Ryan, too, came for the Sealed challenge. His second turn Garruk's Companion started to nail me before my Wall of Frost could stop it. It couldn't stop his Stormfront Pegasus, however. Cloud Crusader from him added to the complication of me not having any Swamps. He then had Crystal Ball, but I could tell my future already. He found a Yavimaya Wurm with me at 5 life. Æther Adept bought me time, but Yavimaya Wurm came back as I still failed to find a Swamp.

I finally ripped a Swamp, which got me his previously countered Tireless Missionaries off of Rise from the Grave. Up to 8 life was good but the Garruk's Packleader he had the turn before was putting the writing on the walls. I found more creatures then he did, but my situation didn't really improve. He continued to scry deeper and deeper. However, he finally decided to go all-in and came swinging. Lots of his things traded with mine or died, but he played Nature's Spiral for Garruk's Packleader again.

I couldn't really attack, though, and he finally found the Overwhelming Stampede—what he had been digging for the whole time—a turn later. With a Prized Unicorn to boot. Ouch.

5:38 PM

A different Ryan came in next looking for the Limited love. Merfolk Spy was his first turn play followed up by a Sylvan Ranger. Nice curve. I didn't have a creature that cheap as he came in for more. I played a Mana Leak for his Sacred Wolf (Whew!) but he followed up with an Awakener Druid. Wall of Frost was my answer as I sat at 12 life. He had a Juggernaut—a frosty wall solution—but my Stone Golem kept that in check. I tried to trade a Barony Vampire for his Juggernaut, but Giant Growth kept it around. Quag Sickness killed the Awakener Druid though. Juggernaut traded with my Golem after that.

Rise from the Grave brought back my Golem. Merfolk Sovereign pumped his already unblockable Spy, increasing the speed in which it was surely killing me. My Clone copied my Golem as I finally started to get a little damage in: better late than never.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that my tag-team of Golems whittled his life down. I quickly had him at 4 while I sat at 3.

His Spy took me to 1.

He had a Fog.

The Spy went all the way. Islandwalk for the win. (I told you I'd meet regret later!)

6:15 PM

Spencer came in to try his hand at EDH and Teneb, the Harvester was his beater of choice. While he had a Snuff Out for my early Rhys, an Enlightened Tutor grabbed me my Sol Ring, pushing me ahead for an early Captain of the Watch. Citanul Hierophants let me get a Mind's Eye out with the "mana" to draw whenever he did. He wasn't as thrilled as I was about that, and I reciprocated about his new Lightning Greaves.

Idyllic Tutor found me the Aura Shards (which I had just put into my deck that morning), letting me rid the world of Greaves with the return of Rhys. The soldier team struck for 9, bringing him down to half (20 life). His Kirtar's Wrath was overdue against my burgeoning offense. Deadwood Treefolk grabbed back Captain when it was my turn again. Oh, and I got Skullclamp out too, to a few groans from the bystanders.

He then got a newfound favorite of mine: Novablast Wurm. I found a Loxodon Hierarch to stay the execution for a turn. However I didn't find a permanent solution before the Wurm blasted my team—this time for good. I finally drew into Decree of Justice which, with the mana help of Mirari's Wake, let me cycle eleven 1/1 white Soldier tokens onto the battlefield at the end of his turn.

His 14 remaining life wasn't enough to live through mine.

    Another Day Done

This was a comparatively small sample of everything that happened! I may have given you almost 3,000 words here but there were so many more stories and anecdotes that I really couldn't fit it all in. I apologize if our game or your story didn't make it this round but I'm sure you'll have another chance to make a story at the next event!

All in all, it was an amazing day slinging cards and getting my hands dirty with the latest set. If you missed out giving Magic 2011 a personal trial of your own this weekend's Launch Parties are the place to get started. I could continue to pile words on about how awesome these events are to experience but if this didn't get you fired up a little maybe you should check if you've acquired the Zombie creature subtype.

Join me next week when I dig into something that's at the very core of my Magic world. I'll see you then—I hope you see each other at this weekend's Launch Parties! Enjoy!

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