Opening Day for Magic 2010

Posted in The Week That Was on July 10, 2009

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.
"I can never wait to rip open my first packs of the newest set at a Prerelease. It's Opening Day for Magic! What could be more fun than that?"

I love that quote from Mike Turian, as it perfectly frames up the Prerelease experience. According to the Twitter reports from @mtgaaron and @maro254 everyone in the Wizards' offices had their Magic 2010 Prerelease experience earlier in the week. The rest of us get our crack at cracking the new packs this weekend—a pretty historic weekend as far as Magic is concerned. Not only will the new rules kick in this weekend, not only is there new content in a core set for the first time since Alpha (when it was all new), but it is the first time that a core set is being celebrated with a Prerelease weekend. There have been release events in the past, but this is the first time you get to have a one week head start on the new core set before it is released for mass consumption.

I know I need the head start, since I am planning on playing in a Standard PTQ the following weekend in New Jersey and will need to track down playsets of cards at the Prerelease that I might need the following weekend at the tournament. Plus it will give me a trial by fire on the new rules. We have already started using them for our local drafts, but it is one thing to play with your friends and another to play with them in a tournament setting. I will feel better heading to the PTQ with some M10 tournament experience under my belt. Now I just have to worry about getting the cards, since they will become legal for sanctioned play—and Tenth Edition will rotate out—that following Friday when they go on sale, just like any other set. I have been using the Visual Spoiler as my shopping list, and there are plenty of cards I will need to trade for unless I settle on a deck for next weekend pretty quickly. Here's to hoping I open well.

I should have no trouble getting a playset of the common Borderland Ranger should I decide to play some Jund Ramp Update that Mike Flores will surely try and talk me into, as he can use this freshly born human in place of Civic Wayfinder without any loss of tribal synergy. I am curious how the loss of the Wayfinder will impact the Green-Black Elves decks that have done so well in Standard going back to Worlds in New York. It functions pretty much the same as the Wayfinder in those decks, but without the ability to be revealed for Gilt-Leaf Palace or Wren's Run Vanquisher. Looking at Elvish Archdruid, I am sure the Elves decks will make do—just like they always have when cards like Priest of Titania or Gaea's Cradle were available to them. In his preview of this card Flores showed how quickly this card can get out of hand. I fully expect this card to be a tough one to pry away from people this weekend as there are plenty of cheap Elf makers and almost as many exciting expensive things to cast off of the Archdruid: Primal Command, Acidic Slime (and the ability to parlay the former into the latter), Regal Force, Primalcrux, Woodfall Primus, and so on. This is the kind of card that always gets me in trouble, so it may be just as well that they could be hard to trade for. I can easilly see myself "going off" with Elvish Promenade, Hunting Triad, and Archdruid, as Mike outlined in the preview, and simply forgetting that I could attack for the win because I was so busy drawing cards with Regal Force.

How good is Gargoyle Castle? I can't imagine it being a card that you would ever need to play four of in a deck, but I could see it winding its way into a control deck as a one- or two-of depending on the color requirements of that deck. It is an uncounterable creature you can send in to mop up after a long attrition war. I would not mind leaving the Prerelease with one or two copies of this card in my possesion. Although I can't imagine myself playing with them in the PTQ, I can see myself scrambling to find them for some future incarnation of Standard.

Sleep is the kind of card that I have always loved. I used to play a deck that was built around Exhaustion, Time Warp, and whatever other annoying blue cards I could find at the time. I am sure that this card will see play in Standard although how close it will come to the top tables is less clear. It is definitely an interesting card for the Sanity Grinding decks which have often had problems with aggresive creatures. I do know that it is one of the cards I always want to find in my Sealed pool this weekend. It is a Falter that lets you finish the oopponent off over the course of two turns. You tap them down and attack. Even if you don't finish them that turn, you will still have another entire turn where they may have played one or two creatures that can tussle with your attackers.

Jackal Familiar seems much worse than the card it is modeled after, and I don't see it making the leap into Standard, but Elite Vanguard should be a hot commodity this weekend. With cards like Honor of the Pure and Captain of the Watch thrown into the mix—not to mention any of the soldier synergies that are still lurking in the latter half of the Lorwyn block—there should be be plenty of White Weenie decks running around on the 18th. I am looking forward to seeing how the Standard format reacts to not having Wrath of God for the first time in its history. Will players simply opt for the more expensive Hallowed Burial or newly created Planar Cleansing, or will it lead people down a red path for Volcanic Fallout and Firespout? I suspect the latter, and I will be keeping my set of Mark of Asylum ready just in case.

My eyes bugged out a bit when I first saw Baneslayer Angel, and I'm sure many of you can relate. I imagine this is going to be one of the most requested card tradewise from the new set. Will it get played in Standard? Probably. And when it does ... don't forget that it has protection from Chameleon Colossus no matter how much mana you pump into it.

With Tendrils of Corruption and Black Knight in M10 I briefly toyed with the idea of playing a mono-black deck, but was quickily dissuaded from that notion when Mike and I got to do a preview of Mold Adder on a podcast over at It is one of two reasons blue and black players are not very happy right now. The bulk of their ire is no doubt directed at Great Stable Stag, though, which the flavor text tells us is "Ineffable," but I disagree. I have heard many a blue mage hurling a steady stream of "eff"s in the direction of the seemingly untouchable Stag. These two cards are right at the top of my trade list, although I suspect that Great Sable Stag will be tough to trade for.

Harm's Way is a card I am really excited about in Limited. I don't know if you remember playing Kor Chant—or the black version from Time Spiral block, Kor Dirge—but it was pretty much always a game-swinging play. The card never made the crossover to Constructed but I can easilly see Harm's Way getting the call up—especially with Lightning Bolt very much in the mix. Since you can redirect the damage to target player, it also serves as burn in the White Weenie deck. Imagine a White Weenie mirror where one player is running this card and the other one is not. The abillity to impact the race while killing one of their guys in the early game is as exciting as the prospect of getting a player low enough to finish them off with damage from their own attackers.

The first time I saw Magma Phoenix I had to read it a couple of times before realizing it was not a complete upgrade over Shard Phoenix since you cannot sacrifice Magma Phoenix without some help from another card. Still, this is an exciting card that reminds me of the Kamigawa block dragons. You don't really want to attack into it if you are the creature deck—the creature deck with three or less toughness anyway—and you certainly can't just Bolt it out of the way. Back in the days of Shard Phoenix, I played a Pyromancy deck that recurred Shard Phoenix. I have a friend who has been playing a Knollspine Invocation deck in Prismatic, and I will have to remind him to try Magma Phoenix as a ten-mana buyback "spell" that does 5 damage.

Open the Vaults seems like a card that is begging to be broken. It costs more than the banned-in-multiple-formats Replenish but it does more since it brings back artifacts as well as enchantments. I could see it serving as an extra Sharuum in an Esper combo deck like the one Dave Williams played to a 64th place finish in Honolulu. Having eight artifact cyclers does not seeem like a bad thing with this card either. Mike has been toying around with an Esper deck that uses eight artifact "Opts"—four each of Glassdusk Hulk and Architects of Will—and a set of Sharuums. I could easilly see Open the Vaults as a one of in that deck. I was very excited about playing this card in Extended with Krark-Clan Ironworks until I realized you could just do the same things for three less mana with Second Sunrise and no one does that. I will not need the card for my PTQ weekend but I know there will be some point where I will. Right?

Hive Mind is another card that makes you want to have Crazy Glue within reach at all times. In play this card is a nightmare for a control player who never gets to counter another spell unless they have Mystic Snake. Six mana makes it seem like no kind of threat for Standard but I definitely want one for my EDH deck for as long as it is legal. Aaron has already mused that this may be banned in that format due to the mass-murderous implications it has with the Pacts.

A 3/3 for four mana seems a little underpowered in this current format, but Master of the Wild Hunt plus Chameleon Colossus seems like an Arena most players will not want to find themselves in. Green is looking to take over the leadership production in token generation with the addition of the Master and the Ant Queen and the reprinting of Garruk Wildspeaker. I don't know if I want to play Mono-Green Tokens, but you can make 1/1 Insects, 2/2 Wolves, and 3/3 Beasts. As cool as that sounds, I will probably be looking to the 1/1 Elves if I am making any tokens next weekend.

Silence is a card that players seem divided on. Certainly for combo players in Standard—if such a thing exists—the card will prove invaluable to being able to go off, but what about for white weenie decks that are sure to be abundant come the new Standard? I am certainly going to test this card out in a deck like that. It seems to me that as you come out of the gate with your horde of creatures only bad things can happen the more turns the game lingers on; why not try and negate your opponent's turns? It is hard to argue with the mana cost of the card, which should allow you to do stuff on your turn—like play and Honor of the Pure and attack—and have a mana to cast Silence on your opponent's upkeep.

I had better get to the New York Prerelease being run by Gray Matter Conventions pretty early on Saturday—There are a lot of cards I need for the next weekend. If you are in New York make sure you come by and say hello!

Interview: Magic Online Champions Series Season 3 Championship Winner

On June 27th over 500 players logged onto their Magic Online accounts to compete in the Magic Online Championship Series 2009 Season 3 Championship. For the first time in the brief history of the Championship Series the Finals were played out in Limited, with ten Swiss rounds of Sealed Deck action followed by a Top 8 Draft for an invite to play in Rome during the World Championships. The winner of the tournament was Orgg Asetic known offline as Justin Cheung, who played on last year's Australian National team that finished second to the United States at the World Championships. You can find all the decklists and the all-important Draft Viewer here and an interview with the winner here:

BDM: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your Magic resume.

Justin: I'm 27 years old, my hometown is Sydney, and I'm an office manager. In the last year I came in 4th at Australian Nationals, 3rd at GP–Auckland and made the Finals of the team portion at Worlds. I play a lot online and have several accounts in the Hall of Champions, including "Juzzasaur," which is currently 14th for Limited.

BDM: How long have you been playing Magic, and how did you get started and when did you start playing Magic Online and why?

Justin: I started playing Magic at High School just as Revised was leaving, and I remember everyone stockpiling the dual lands, and also cards like Fork and Vesuvan Doppelganger. It was fun but I realized that to be competitive, I'd need to spend a lot more time and money than I could afford at that stage, and I couldn't keep up with the frequency that new sets were being released. Everyone I knew soon moved on from Magic, and it was not until the time that Champions of Kamigawa was released that an old friend of mine called me up and tried to get me back into it. I was mildly surprised to know that the game still existed but since it did, I thought that it must be pretty good to last that long, so I gave it a shot and I liked it. Moving onto Magic Online was a natural progression for me since I like computer games, and I started playing there when Betrayers of Kamigawa was the current set.

Vesuvan Doppelganger

BDM: Would you identify yourself as more of a physical card player or MTGO player?

Justin: I don't really differentiate between physical card players and MTGO players, as I think it takes the same set of skills to play using both methods, and I'm happy to play in real life or online. Sure, there are some differences in the information you can give and receive from opponents, and there are some differences in the game play such as the timers online (which I like) and the way the computer reminds players of "may" abilities (which I dislike), but generally I prefer not to make such a distinction between real life and online.

BDM: What was your reaction when you first heard about the Championship series?

Justin: When I first heard about the Championship series I thought that it was a good way to promote online play, and reward those that already played online with some recognition and an opportunity to play at Magic's highest level. I never really thought that the change would affect me much personally though - maybe just give me some extra tournaments to play in - but it seems I was wrong!

Aaron Nicastri, Brandon Lau, Justin Cheung.

BDM: Have you qualified for any of the previous seasons and if so, how did you do?

Justin: I qualified for both the previous season championships, finishing 33rd in Season 2 by going 6-3 with a Cruel UltimatumShards of Alara Block deck that I was testing for PT Honolulu, but fell asleep before the start of the season 1 tournament! That one started at about 1 AM my time, and I missed out on the chance to play as well as the promotional Cryptic Command, which sucked. :) Having said that, I would like to applaud Wizards for rotating the starting times of these tournaments, as previously, major tournaments online have always started at around 1-4 AM Eastern Australian time, but this way everyone gets an opportunity to play at their best. I actually lost Round 2 of this season 3 tournament after a Round 1 bye, and I can say that if this happened at 3 AM instead of 1 PM I would most likely have dropped and gone to sleep rather than stick out another 11 rounds and win!

BDM: What were your thoughts about this season's Finals being a Limited format for the first time?

Justin: Personally, I was happy for the Finals to be Limited, as that's what I enjoy the most and spend all my online time playing. Again, it's good that the format for the Finals is being rotated, to give everyone a chance to try and win with their preferred format. Without the need to own a Constructed deck, and with free product on offer, I knew this one would be popular.

BDM: What kind of Sealed pool did you need to have to go 9-1 in a 500+ person event? Give us the highlights and any tough decisions you faced in building it.

Justin: My sealed pool was full of extremely good cards across all the colours, making it really difficult to build, and looking back I'm pretty sure I could have built it a lot better. The rares included Rafiq of the Many, Obelisk of Alara, Dauntless Escort, and Lavalanche, and it also had Behemoth Sledge, Enlisted Wurm, Slave of Bolas, Tower Gargoyle, Wall of Denial, Rhox Charger, Celestial Purge and Oblivion Ring. I could have had a pretty solid Jund base with 2 Dark Tempers, 2 Bone Splinters, Drag Down, Grixis Slavedriver, Putrid Leech and some other Jund cards, but I forewent all of those and made a green-white-base deck splashing blue for Rafiq, red for Soul's Fire, Dragonsoul Knight and Gorger Wurm, and black for Slave of Bolas and Lavalanche, which also benefited my Obelisk and Matca Rioters. This was all held together with what I would call at best average mana fixing, but I was willing to take risks with my deck to give me the chance to get the required record for Top 8 if I got lucky enough.

Rafiq of the Many
Slave of Bolas

BDM: It is pretty amazing to be able to sit in any seat and see all the decisions players faced via the Draft Viewer. Your first four picks were pretty straightforward—taking the clearly best card each time. Multiple people have commented about your fifth pick—Death Baron over Blightning. Can you talk about your thinking for that pick?

Justin: I can see why people might comment about that pick, as Blightning is a pretty good spell. What I remember myself thinking, though, was that I wanted to pick a creature over a noncreature spell as I'd just picked 2 Magma Sprays and a Fleshbag Marauder, which feels like a non-creature spell—and what's more is also a Zombie! I also like Death Baron as there are a surprisingly large amount of playable common Zombies in Jund colours, such as Putrid Leech, Grixis Grimblade, and Sewn-eye Drake from the last pack, as well as the Viscera Dragger and Dregscape Zombies that I managed to get in the first pack. Drafting Death Baron gave me a chance to do something sick this draft, and I like to have that potential when I'm going all-out to win the whole thing.

Fleshbag Marauder
Death Baron

BDM: What was your experience like last year at Worlds, and how excited are you to be going back now that you have another tournament on top of the regular Pro Tour stop?

Justin: Last year was my first time at Worlds, and I was really excited to represent Australia there. The variety of formats to test for was daunting, as I was playing Legacy for the team portion as well as Standard, Draft and Extended for the individual portion. The highlight was definitely making the final of the team event—that was a pretty intense experience. Playing Magic has sent me to a variety of interesting places around the world, and Rome will surely not be an exception. While I was already qualified from Pro Player Club Level, the expense of plane tickets from Australia means that I probably would not have gone to Worlds had it not been for the Season 3 Championships, but thanks to this opportunity I'm really looking forward to it!

Firestarter: Short Lists for Standard

Ball Lightning is a card I feel like I should have a playset of but I long ago traded those away. I never expected to see it show up outside of older formats I don't really play, and it is certainly on my short list of cards I may be playing in Standard next weekend. Did you know Ball Lightning was an Elemental? I never noticed until watching someone playtest for the new Standard by tutoring up Ball Lightning with Flamekin Harbinger and then flipping it right into play with Bloodbraid Elf. Okay, it is on the very short list of cards I might play. What does your short wish list of cards in M10 look like? Head to the forums and share your thoughts on the cards you need for the impending Standard format.

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