Official Coverage of the 2011 Innistrad Prerelease

Posted in Serious Fun on September 27, 2011

In stores worldwide, across continents and languages, last weekend was a weekend to remember for Magic. Innistrad has finally found its way into the hands of players like us, and we certainly helped bring the horror to life.

Local game stores were overtaken by endless ranks of the gamers looking for a howling good time. With some time to pass until the big event would start, I decided to begin the day polling the populace pre-packaging-popping with a few simple questions, player profile style.

    • Eight Players, Three Questions, and a Pile of Hopes and Dreams
    by Adam Styborski

  • Russell: Local funnyman with a love of all things wacky.

    Did you see any of Innistrad previewed leading up to today? Yes!

    What do you find really cool? I love Rooftop Storm because I want to put it into a Zombie deck with Cloudstone Curio. (That sounds evil.) It will be! (Anything else?) Heartless Summoning and Gutter Grime for Commander. (You didn't read my article last week, did you?) Nope.

    Anything you really hope to open today? Liliana of the Veil so I can play her in Commander after Doubling Season. That seems really brutal!

    Brandi: Newer player who finally signed up for a DCI membership!

    Did you see any Innistrad previews leading up to today? Yes.

    What do you find really cool? I'm really curious to see the double-faced cards in action.

    Anything you really hope to open today?Into the Maw of Hell! It seems so cool! Also, Bloodline Keeper for a Vampire deck!

    Lindsey: A familiar friendly face from other Magic gatherings.

    Did you see any of Innistrad previewed leading up to today? Of course!

    What do you find really cool? The double-faced cards are really cool! Also, the guys who hunt the werewolves and zombies are awesome. (Like Elite Inquisitor?) Yeah!

    Anything you really hope to open today? A foil Snapcaster Mage.

    Aubrey: A competitive regular with a discerning taste.

    Did you see any of Innistrad previewed leading up to today? Obviously!

    What do you find really cool? I think it's great that flashback is back. It's exciting for me that there are more cards that provide value. It also seems nice that everything is slower than Magic 2012. I'm looking forward to playing more Magic while I'm playing more Magic! (I hope so too!)

    Anything you really hope to open today? Village Bell-Ringer. That guy seems like so much fun to play with. Snapcaster Mage and Think Twice wouldn't be bad either!

    Min: Tireless head judge for the event.

    As head judge, Min worked extremely hard to keep a very full crowd running relatively smooth. We were at a maximum capacity of 172 players (see the first image above), but Min didn't flinch in the face of overwhelming odds. It's only thanks to the hard work judges (and other organizers and support staff) provide that events like these fire.

    Did you see any of Innistrad previewed leading up to today? I may have seen a few.

    What do you find really cool? Cackling Counterpart is great. There are other copy effects I saw too. There are quite a few to collect.

    Anything you really hope to open today? Blasphemous Act and Grimoire of the Dead are both the exact type of cards I need for different decks.

    Scott: Our self-proclaimed "King of Green."

    While I try to give Scott a run for his money, he certainly has a way with Forests.

    Did you see any of Innistrad previewed leading up to today? Mr. Styborski, I am well aware of several interesting cards in the set.

    What do you find really cool? Green Werewolves and Tree of Redemption are all things I'm looking forward to enjoying.

    Anything you really hope to open today? A foilTree of Redemption, of course. Is there anything else I'd rather find?

    Ando: A local legend for building fun and powerful decks and a wrestling coach at Gallaudet University.

    While we may not share conversations directly, the magic of Magic makes playing games even as complicated as Commander possible. (Which is something that happened the previous day!)

    Did you see any of Innistrad previewed leading up to today? Yes!

    What do you find really cool? Liliana of the Veil and Unburial Rites seem like they belong together.

    Anything you really hope to open today? Foil copies of Blasphemous Act, Charmbreaker Devils, and Devil's Play, all for my Jaya Ballard, Task Mage Commander deck.

    David: A fellow casual captain of all things fun.

    Did you see any of Innistrad previewed leading up to today? Some, yes. I did hear about "transforming" cards.

    What do you find really cool? Well, transforming cards could be cool, but I'm not really sure yet. I want to see how they feel directly. I so like the tribal feel, especially Humans with +1/+1 counters.

    Anything you really hope to open today? A cool transform, like Bloodline Keeper or Garruk Relentless. The legendary Human Mikaeus, the Lunarch would be sweet as well!

    • The Monster Mash
    by Adam Styborski
  • After getting settled and diving into booster packs, I had a chance to begin stitching together a deck for myself. Rather than give you an entire Sealed pool to review (something you can try for yourself this weekend), I'll just cut to the ending monstrosity.

    Innistrad Sealed Deck

    Download Arena Decklist

    This was where my deck settled by the end of the day, though it went through a few mutations along the way. The following cards, in some quantity, all made it into my deck at some point:

    Innistrad Sealed – Stuff on the Side

    1 Moldgraf Monstrosity
    2 Feeling of Dread
    1 Purify the Grave
    1 Travel Preparations
    3 Ranger's Guile

    Moldgraf Monstrosity is huge, and I had hoped to get a little action in with him. Coming from playing Magic 2012 I was hopeful that games would be a little slower, and last a little longer, allowing me the time needed to play it out.

    Looking things over it's clear that I was a little on the mixed-up side of things. I didn't have enough of any one tribe—Human, Spirit, Zombie, Vampire, or Werewolf—so I decided to mash it all together. Insect, Beast, Boar, anything that could take a bite out of opponents (and look cool doing it) made my list. I added my Werewolves in, as I was looking for excuses to howl, scrounged a few Spirits for the flying, and looked at Lumberknot next to Divine Reckoning with a knowing smile. A monster mash it was.

    Mutations on this plan came up as the day wore on. I added Feeling of Dread and a pair of Islands to help slow down a deck full of very cheap Spirits. Purify the Grave helped out against a ferocious Skaab Ruinator. Travel Preparations helped me out when I was facing similarly sized (or larger!) creatures. A Ranger's Guile or two served as a protective ward against spells that would otherwise kill my dudes.

    What was important to me, however, was playing with the things I found fun in my pool. While Geistflame and Dead Weight are cards that usually get forced into a Limited deck "because it kills creatures," events like Prereleases (and this weekend's Launch Parties) let me try out whatever I want. I could focus on carefully and deliberately winning each game I played, or I could focus on winning the fun I always set out to find. Players like Brandi and Russell share the same type of enthusiasm, and it's awesome if that's the approach you find best too.

    If you're curious for some deeper details on Innistrad Limited you can check out Steve Sadin's article today (and every week for the next few weeks).

    • Round 1: Catch Me If You Can!
    by Adam Styborski
  • The event proper started with me meeting Allen. He was a friendly foe, a theme that would carry throughout the day. Allen had some Spirits in white too, but was able to pair them with some burn spells and Werewolves in red. From the pieces I saw through the games I got the sense that his deck is the type that's usually right up my alley.

    The first game was a quick affair. Several early Spirits and an Ironfang appeared for Allen, and my life started to dip pretty low before my Lumberknot appeared. A Divine Reckoning later and I had a 4/4 Treefolk. Speed was on his side, however, as a Spectral Rider and Geistflame make quick work of my last points of life.

    A quick change to my deck brought in Silverchase Fox and Geistcatcher's Rig to help fight the flying and creatures with intimidate, and we were off to the races again. This time he had a chance to howl mightily with a first-turn Reckless Waif and second-turn Village Ironsmith. My third-turn Voiceless Spirit help put a damper on his plans, and the game managed to continue on as a stalemate for quite some time until my dreams fell into place.

    Moldgraf Monstrosity had the chance to come out and play. The next turn I suited it up with Mask of Avacyn. It was all downhill from there for Allen. Fortunately for Allen, our third game was much more favorable for him, and I was run over by a quick tide of flying and first striking fiends.

    Adam's Games: 1-2

    Howl Count: 1

    Trampled Doom Levied: 1

    • Round 2: It Happens!
    by Adam Styborski
  • The next round paired me with Holman, a kindred fellow of the "This is awesome!" level of passion for Magic.

    My first game against Holman was a slow start by me against a few quick Spirits and Rally the Peasants for him. I also didn't draw any of my Forests (though Shimmering Grotto definitely helped). Our second was a little faster of a start for me, as I had a second turn Gatstaf Shepherd that immediately transformed and began to attack, but I didn't have a third land until turn eight or nine. By the time I was able to play a second creature, I was hit with Brimstone Volley for the last of my life.

    So what does this mean? Does it mean I needed more Forests in my deck? Does it mean that I needed more lands in my deck? Nope. I was just a little unlucky. I was playing 17 lands, splitting eight each between Forests and Plains with the Shimmering Grotto rounding things out. Plenty of each, and I had virtually no issues at all in any other games (before and after).

    While it goes by many names—mana screw, land screw, variance, dumb luck—there's only two things to do: shrug and smile. I could have gotten upset that it happened to me in two games back-to-back. I could have gotten angry at "how unfair" it was for me. But when these things happen (which they will) it's also disappointing for your opponent.

    Holman wanted to battle. He wanted me to have creatures and spells that presented some challenge for him. As much as I wanted to be right in the thick of it, attacking and blocking and casting spells, he wanted to see it too. While I may not always mind losing, I certainly do try to win games I play. Having a little bit of back-and-forth to get there feels a lot better than watching an opponent just shrug and smile before passing back the turn.

    But, you know, it happens.

    Adam's Games: 1-4

    Howl Count: 2

    Trampled Doom Levied: 1

    • Round 3: The Pecking Order
    by Adam Styborski
  • The next player I met was Daniel, who shared a similar land-light experience in a preview round. He was playing blue to mill himself or me for effects, and I was very curious to see how things would work. Our first game was a close one for me. We had an early creature exchange that let me bring out a 5/5 Festerhide Boar that paired up dangerously with Cobbled Wings.

    He managed to play a Skaab Goliath, but it was just a moment too late. Our second game didn't feature a Skaab Goliath but did show off Mindshrieker. My first effort to fight came in the form of my Kessig Cagebreakers. Dead Weight and a Blazing Torch scuttled that plan. My follow-up of Lumberknot and getting into the "let's kill creatures" game helped, but Mindshrieker got to party. One peck had me cast off Bonds of Faith. Another peck was a two-part deal that saw Rebuke and Divine Reckoning enter the graveyard. A fifth, and final, peck was all it took.

    Our third game was a little anticlimactic. My early Gatstaf Shepherd (transforming into Gatstaf Howler) was equipped with Cobbled Wings and Mask of Avacyn, and joined by a partner Werewolf in crime, Ulvenwald Mystics (which also transformed, into Ulvenwald Primordials). With my night terrors attacking in high gear, Daniel decided to go the route of Evil Twin for my Primordials. This is something I can usually get behind, but I also had Spare from Evil.

    Yes, I was able to spare my creatures from the evil of its Evil Twin with Spare from Evil. We both couldn't help but laugh at that!

    Adam's Games: 3-5

    Howl Count: 5

    Trampled Doom Levied: 2

    • Round 4: Narrowly Avoided Ruination
    by Adam Styborski
  • My fourth and final round featured Nate, a sharp guy with a deadly monstrosity hidden in his deck.

    Our first game didn't get off to a good start for Nate: he took two mulligans, but I came out of the gate with a quick Gatstaf Shepherd into the transformed Howler version. A disappointing it happened moment.

    The second game was much more exciting. My Lumberknot got knotted up with Cobbled Wings and a few +1/+1 counters after we exchanged several creatures, including a Civilized Scholar into Homicidal Brute for an attack or two. Then the secret he had been holding was unleashed: Skaab Ruinator!

    I took a hard blow from it before I placed a Bonds of Faith down, but that would only delay it as Nate sacrificed it to Stitcher's Apprentice. It was a tight squeeze to get the last of his life points before the Ruinator could come back for more ruination. Whew!

    Adam's Games: 5-5

    Howl Count: 7

    Trampled Doom Levied: 3

    • Hunting Season: Bonus Tags
    by Adam Styborski
  • While I had other matters to attend to in the evening, there seemed to be no shortage of players queuing up for the second Sealed run of the day, and a large block of my fellow "casualties" had overrun the draft to transform it into one of the Group Game variety (the stories from which I'm desperately awaiting until our usual Thursday rendezvous).

    Before I left, I tried to catch up with some of those I interviewed earlier. Brandi opened a Liliana of the Veil, which she took consolation in after having a blast but losing all day. Russell was too excited to get into the draft to give a coherent response; his enthusiasm was infectious. Min was still judging away, anxiously awaiting his chance to open a few packs. David cheerfully flashed the few packs he won. All told, everyone I talked to had fun, with or without a winning record.

    And about having fun, last week's poll was one for the laughs:

    At an Innistrad Prerelease or Launch Party, I will most likely:
    Some or all of the above!18636.5%
    Announce 'It's alive!' every time I bring a creature card back from the graveyard.18135.5%
    Howl at my opponent every time I transform a creature.5611.0%
    Whisper a prayer as I fight against the stream of dark dudes I keep facing.458.8%
    Start singing or humming "Monster Mash" when I have a Werewolf, Zombie, and Vampire all in play together.428.2%

    Everybody was getting in the spirit of things last weekend, and some of you shared other, more entertaining ways to show your love for Innistrad in the forum comments. I loved seeing that we're not alone in howling, cackling, or otherwise sharing our moments in gaming. This weekend's Launch Parties are your next chance to be lively. I'll be travelling for a different kind of Magic but I'm just as interested in your stories from Launch Parties as Prereleases. Keep the scary details coming!

    In this week's poll, a bit of bookkeeping:

    Did you want to see Adam's entire Sealed pool rather than just his deck and a few other cards used?YesNo

    I didn't want to bore you with the details, but if getting "the whole story" is something you're adamant about, then I'd be glad to make good on the nitty-gritty.

    There is one other reminder I have: I'm still looking for Werewolf and Zombie decks, particularly those that show off Innistrad. I'd take delivery of these tribal themes through tomorrow, so if you've been holding out, it's time to get a move on!

    Join us next week when we leap into a howling good time. See you then!

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