Have you already figured out your plans for the weekend? And by "plans for the weekend" I mean, "which Prerelease you will be going to and how many events you are going to squeeze in." I am going to be in Boston as the gunslinger at Rob Dougherty's Prerelease tournament, so if you in the Boston area you should swing by and say hello. Play me with your Prerelease deck, and if you win you will get an extra pack of Alara Reborn. I am going to need to get a lot of matches under my belt because there are a bunch of things I want to try this weekend with the cards revealed in the Alara Reborn
The first thing on my list at any Prerelease is to have good mana. I am always concerned about mana-fixing when I go to a Prerelease, especially when you are talking about a third set and an unusual configuration of packs. This becomes even more of a priority when the new set features nothing but gold cards. There is no Conflux in the Sealed deck events, with three packs each of Shards of Alara and Alara Reborn. Without the basic landcycling of Conflux you will need to pay extra attention to Igneous Pouncer and his ilk, as well as the Borderpost cycle. Between those cards, tri-lands, Obelisks, and Panoramas players should have no trouble making sure they can cast all the golden goodness in the new set.
Talk about putting your mana fixing to good use—Sen Triplets still seems like it can't even be real to me. You can pretty much guarantee that this card will be a lightning rod for any and all removal your opponent is holding—assuming this is not some kind of trick perpetrated by someone in the online media department. The first comparison that leaps to mind is Mindslaver, but this is more fragile and more insidious if it sticks around. I am expecting to hear some great stories about this card in the days after the Prerelease—and with any luck should have a few of my own.
I cannot wait to play my first cascade spell. I don't think there has been a recent mechanic that has inspired as much talk—and a fair amount of dread from the control players—as these spells with built in card advantage. The first card that was revealed was Bituminous Blast, and the dread among the control players was not at the heightened levels it went to after a certain Elf was added to the list. On my personal blog I spent some time thinking about what cards would work well with cascade and have been fantasizing about playing Bituminous Blast with Lilliana Vess ever since.
Can you imagine passing the turn with five mana up after using Vess to place Cryptic Command on the top of your library? You opponent plays a spell and you kill a monster on their side of the board with Bituminous Blast and reveal the conveniently placed Command to counter their spell. How about if you are playing the Planeswalker Control deck featured in this Kyoto Deck Tech? You could search for Ajani Vengeant or Jace—any planeswalker with a mana cost of four or less—and play it at the end of your opponent's turn by killing a creature. Cascade is exciting. Instant-speed cascade is mind-blowing.
Those plays are not on my to do list for this coming weekend, since I will be slinging with 40 card decks on Saturday—there will be no Cryptic Commands and likely no planeswalkers for my Bituminous Blasts to reveal. I am sure I can content myself with just about any free spell off of a Blast, but I expect there will be some pretty fantastic candidates for plays of the week come Monday thanks to Bituminous Blast into ... I don't know ... Bloodbraid Elf.
How utterly insane in this card? 3/2 haste creatures have long been a Limited staple, and that was before they came with a free spell stapled to them. While a removal spell would be nice, I really would love to flip into Blightning off of the Elf Berserker. I can only imagine the shenanigans you can get into with this guy in Constructed formats. You can recover very quickly from an array of Wrath effects with Bloodbraid Elf into Boggart Ram Gang, or even a non-hasty creature. This creature is going to frustrate players attempting to hold off the pressure with Remove Soul and should be aggressively traded for by players preparing for mid-May's Regional Championships.
I don't know if I have been excited about a common creature as I am about Jund Hackblade since the debut of Wild Nacatl. Unless there is something I am missing he will not be attacking for three on turn two this weekend, since I don't believe there are any gold one-drops in this block, but hasty creatures are going to be exciting whenever you play them. I would love nothing more than to open the Hackblade and Knight of New Alara—a card that is sure to do ridiculous things anytime it hits play this weekend. With a Knight of New Alara in play the Jund Hackblade gets to attack as a 6/5. Marisi Twinclaws, in all its doublestriking glory, becomes a 5/7 nightmare in the red zone.
Basically, any creature card in Alara Reborn will get at minimum a +2/+2 bonus from the Knight, but players will have plenty options that get +3/+3 or more. Like Jenara, Asura of War needed any help. The mana cost of has long been an irresistible lure for me. I would gladly play this card with either half of its two abilities—a 3/3 flier for three mana or a permanently pumpable creature. To have both is going to be an embarrassment of riches for anyone that opens this card. I may sign up for Sealed Deck flights until I get to play with one.
I have recently started playing some Elder Dragon Highlander, and this seems like a fine general to build an aggressive deck around. I showed this card to a friend preparing a Bant deck for Regionals and the response was a sputtering sequence of joyous expletives not suitable for this family website (I guess technically we are PG-13, which means I am allowed one, but I am saving them all up for one "special" column). I expect Jenara to be a popular choice for Regionals and would not be at all surprised to see it in many Shards of Alara Block Constructed decks come Pro Tour–Honolulu.
Jenara is suitable for play in aggressive decks like Brian Robinson's Doran of Many Colors from the Top 8 of Pro Tour–Kyoto, which featured eight mana creatures to power out three-colored three-drops on turn two. While the lifelink of Rhox War Monk is nice the evasion of Jenara is sure to supplant it if that deck sees play come Regionals. I can also see Jenara being a part of a more controlling deck that wants to keep its mana open for reactive cards and can pump the Angel slowly and surely over the course of a few turns when the coast is clear.
An exalted deck, replete with all the new tools that Alara Reborn brings to the archetype, is high on my list for Saturday. The third set of this block clearly represents exalted's Finest Hour. I would very much like to open this card on Saturday and give it a test drive. On turn four it is not hard to imagine attacking for 8 or even 10 with an Aven Squire thanks to this card.
I doubt there is any card that Bant partisans will be looking to open more than Behemoth Sledge—a card that merges the Bantness of Armadillo Cloak with the Esperness of Equipment. While it will cost three more mana for that initial hit from a Sledge-equipped creature than it would for a Cloaked creature, the Sledge sticks around even if you manage to kill, remove from game, or bounce the equipped creature. I expect that Loxodon War Cloak will win many packs for players this weekend and have players less fortunate them to be looking for main-deck answers to this game-swinging uncommon.
One way I have not won yet in Shards Limited is via decking. I would look forward to getting a chance to do it with Lich Lord of Unx, but it is much more likely that the second ability will just finish them off with life loss before the decking can be a factor. If you have a lot of unearth cards in your deck don't forget to at least consider using this ability on yourself to restock your undead army with more graveyard fodder for unearth ...
... or for Necromancer's Covenant, a nifty little two card combo with the Lich Lord in an Esperless white-blue-black deck. Covenant is a fine card all on its own—kind of like Necrogenesis on performance enhancers. I will be happy to see this card in any deck I open and can rarely see myself passing it in a draft.
If I am going to actually deck anyone it will be with Nemesis of Reason. This card is really strong and I fully expect to see it get playing time in Constructed decks. It has a difficult-to-kill 7 toughness, and it merely needs to attack to mill ten cards! By the time this thing hits play, you will not need more than three attack steps to finish off your opponent. This card is very high on my list.
I had the opportunity to preview Glory of Warfare on another site, and it is high on my list of potential combos to open this weekend. Goblin Assault becomes a much more serious crime with this card on the table, and if Martial Coup was not already a enough of kick in the teeth this enchantment all but guarantees that the game will be over a turn later. Dragon Broodmother and her flying minions might be the most exciting pairing with this double Crusade.
There are plenty of cute two-card combos on my list, but I can be pleased with simple things too. I would be perfectly happy with a Lavalanche, for example. This one sided Wrathferno will easily be one of the defining cards of this Limited format and should result in lucky recipients getting paid quite handsomely in Alara Reborn packs all weekend long.
My list of things to do cannot possibly be accomplished in one weekend. I may have to attend a Release event on the following weekend to finish crossing things off of it. What cards on the Visual Spoiler are you most excited about opening at a Prerelease or Launch Party event in the next two weekends?