A Worldwake Weekend

Posted in The Week That Was on February 5, 2010

By Brian David-Marshall

I trust you all had a great time at your local Worldwake Prerelease tournaments—weather permitting—armed with some Sealed Deck advice from one of the mightiest Limited warriors the game has ever seen. For those of you snowbound or iceberg-stricken—because I cannot imagine any other reason for missing a Prerelease weekend—you can catch up on what you missed with this weekend's Launch Parties. Players will get a premium Joraga Warcaller for showing up (while supplies last, natch) and, unlike last weekend's events, when the product was only available for tournaments and prizes, you will be able to buy as much Worldwake as you can get your mitts on.

As I mentioned in last week's column, I was—conveniently—at Wizards HQ in the Seattle area and had an opportunity to play in the Employee Prerelease, which despite the name is open to independent contractors like Rich Hagon and myself. The plan had been to fly from Seattle to Richmond, VA to be a guest gunslinger for Star City Games for their large event. Inconveniently—but presciently—they announced that they would be cancelling the event in anticipation of the foot of snow that got dumped on that part of the country. With snow making travel difficult I decided to stick around in Seattle and play in their large event on Saturday. All in all the weekend a tale of two Sealed Pools followed by two fun draft decks. First up is the actual deck I built for the Employee Prerelease.

Pre-Prerelease Sealed Deck

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I had not yet read Mike Flores's preview of Searing Blaze, but I was pretty sure that I had opened well and that I would be building an aggressive black-red deck with all the removal I could pack in there. I don't know how controversial my decision to not play with Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet will prove to be, but I have a notorious hatred of seven-drops in decks that have no ability to accelerate their mana development. I would have considered it a little bit more if I had an Everflowing Chalice, but my plan was to not ever get to seven mana. I wanted to have dealt 20 damage by that point. The other decision I struggled with was the uninspired mana split of 9 Swamp and 9 Mountain. I still had Turian's advice echoing in my ears: "I really feel like you should commit your deck to one or the other and look for that. You have to lay out your cards and if you have 13 green cards, 8 blue cards, and two artifacts you probably want to be 10 Forest and 8 Island."

My split of colors was almost identical to the scenario Turian presented in the column, but I knew I was likely to have a Searing Blaze in my hand at some point early in the game and I wanted to be sure that I would have the ability to cast it. I would normally have built a deck with this spread of colors to be 10 Swamps and 8 Mountains—and would have considered even playing 17 lands with this low curve if not for the set of Searing Blazes. It worked out well for me as the red instant never dealt less than 6 damage to its two targets—thank you, landfall—and I had few instances where I scuffled for the second red to cast it. The card that I kind of wish I had started in my sideboard was Nemesis Trap, since I already had so much removal and it was really best against an opponent playing white. I often sided it out throughout my five rounds for my second Hedron Scrabbler, a card that was surprisingly solid for me.

The way the Wizards Prerelease event works is sort of a hybrid between a regular Sealed Deck tournament and an Open Dueling event where you just have to play against five opponents. The event is run by John Grant, who used to be a judge for me when I owned Gray Matter Conventions. Each player fills out a card with his or her name on it, with spots for five opponents and whether the card holder won or lost against each player. John tries to keep people roughly paired by the total number of wins, and as soon as you complete a match he finds you another opponent. At the end of five rounds, players are given Worldwake packs according to how many matches they won along the way. It is an amazingly fun event where you can find yourself taking on Hall of Famer Mike Turian or someone from the Dungeons and Dragons team who has not played much Magic. John orders in a ton of pizza and everyone has a great time giving the minty-fresh new cards their first test drive out of the packs.

My first-round opponent was none other than Mark Rosewater, who I always have a good time playing Magic against. Mark can be counted on to have some really interesting and fun interactions built into his deck. While this may occasionally be to his detriment competitively, when he pulls it off it is a joy to watch. For this event Mark had built a three—or maybe four—color Ally deck, but it did not get a chance to come online while I was beating down with my Vampires and small band of Allies and providing ample covering fire with my removal. My next two opponents were both nice guys but not very experienced Magic players, and I don't remember much about these two matches other than getting smashed deep into negative figures by Abyssal Persecutor. I was alternately scrambling for anyway to kill it and then desperately hoping he had no way to kill it himself while I cracked back with my dwarfed team to get him to zero before he could make my negative life total relevant.

I met up with Great Designer Search winner Alexis Janson for my fourth round. Alexis is an incredibly formidable draft opponent, and aside from Mike Turian, she may be the person I have the worst record against at Wizards of the Coast. Her deck was blue-black and quite a beating, with the two of us splitting games on the play. I managed to break serve for the third game thanks to a first-turn Quag Vampires. After the match we talked about the multikicker creatures and how often greedy opponents had not played them out early against her, waiting to at least be able to kick them once. DailyMTG.com editor Kelly Digges was sitting nearby and confessed to often holding onto his multikicker creatures for too long. We all agreed that this will be one of the ongoing dilemmas that the new Worldwake cards will present in Limited.

By playing the Quag Vampires on turn one, I would get in for 2 damage by the time I would be able to play it with only one kicker payment. By the time I would have attacked with the kicked variant once, I would have dealt 3 and the two creatures would have both dealt 4 by time the kicked version attacked twice. After that the kicked version starts to pay dividends on the first-turn version, but what this doesn't account for is the other things I do with my mana on turn three. What if I was holding removal? What if I was holding Vampire Nighthawk? What about if I was able to play a turn-two Urge to Feed and tap my Quag Vampires to jump the curve? While you may trade off some extra damage starting on turn six—a turn I didn't necessarily want this deck to let my opponents get to—you also don't make the best use of your mana. Wouldn't you rather pay one mana to deal 4 by turn five and have three mana open for something else on turn three than tie that mana up in the hopes of dealing 6 or more sometime later?

In the last round I played against Gregory Marques, another solid Limited player who has given me trouble in past Wizards drafts. He cleared my board twice—once with a kicked Marsh Casualties and again with Chain Reaction. Fortunately I held creatures back in reserve each time and was able to recover while pinning his team down with a barrage of one-for-one removal. In the end, I managed to go 5-0 and win fourteen packs of Worldwake for my efforts. The MVP was Vampire Nighthawk, but all my removal that was able to deal with 3-toughness creatures was a welcome addition to the format.

I got to do a two-player Winston Draft on Friday and nabbed a Jace, Mindsculptor in the process, but my next full-scale attempt at the format was on Saturday at the Cascade Games regional Prerelease in Seattle. They ran a great tournament, and all the tables were full from the time I got there early in the morning until I left for dinner. Early on in the afternoon they announced that they had run out of Prerelease foils—they started the day with a whopping 425 premium copies of Comet Storm—and there were still lines of people waiting to sign up for events.

Cascade Games' Tim Shields runs a great event and reaps some extra benefits from being near the home of Magic. He always has a murderer's row of gunslingers from Wizards, and with so many great Magic artists local he has some of the best illustrator signings. Anson Maddocks and Mark Tedin were in attendance for this one, and they had a constant stream of people looking to get cards from all the different ages of Magic signed.

My card pool looked awesome but was challenging to build. As usual, I will present the card pool and you can tell me in the forums what you would have built. I ended up going only 2-2 with the deck I built, so I am eager to see what other approaches I could have taken. It is possible that the pool just had some spectacular looking cards—foil Dragonmaster Outcast, for example—but did not offer a synergistic build. Both of my losses in the event came to red-green Ally decks that started on Oran-Rief Survivalist into Akoum Battlesinger and were able to back up their opening plays with plenty of good Allies in those two colors.

BDM's Prerelease Sealed Deck

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I had the chance to take part in two sanctioned drafts and split in the Finals of each of them—to get my pack total for the weekend up to 25. I wrote about one of them here. I was amazed by how good Ruin Ghost seems to be in Limited—essentially functioning as a mana-filtering, landfalling, Isochron Scepter for the format's "spell lands." I could actually see—at the very least in Block Constructed—this Spirit getting played in Constructed formats, as it seems very powerful.

The draft deck I want to feature here is an old archetype that I usually fall back on at Prerelease drafts but have not been able to draft often in Zendikar only: blue-black control. I know some people were "put off" by my claims that Treasure Hunt was the card that blue players have been waiting for, but after playing with this deck featuring three of them I am head-over-heels for the card and for blue in the new Limited format. The format for these drafts was Zendikar / Worldwake / Worldwake, so that explains the unusually high numbers of the new cards.

BDM's Draft Deck

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It was so much fun to draw cards in Limited again. I never got a chance to "cheat" with the Halimar Depths, but hitting anywhere between one and three cards every time I cast Treasure Hunt convinced me that this is the best card draw I have played with in Limited since Compulsive Research. It was cheap enough that I was able to cast it and a spell on the same turn quite often, and I knew I would always draw a spell in the late game if that was what was needed. The deck's MVPs were Vapor Snare, which got me past a red-black deck sporting Vampire Nighthawk, Ob Nixilis, and Butcher of Malakir. Permafrost Trap was amazing for buying me time, and I have yet to pay its reduced Trap cost. Æther Tradewinds is another welcome blue addition to the Limited format. I heard players disparaging it as a "more expensive Peel from Reality" that they felt was not as good without combat damage using the stack, but the ability to hit any type of permanent pushes this card into a new class that Peel has not graduated to yet.

I have seen the card used to bounce a blocker and a Teetering Peaks to push through for the win. I have long squeezed Narrow Escape into my decks for "enters the battlefield" tricks with Journey to Nowhere, but Æther Tradewinds is going to be the two-card combo with Journey to Nowhere that tugs at my mana bases now (see my other draft deck for an example). As with most cards that have "enters the battlefield" / "leaves the battlefield" triggers, if you can make the "leaves the battlefield" portion trigger first, then the card exiled when Journey to Nowhere's "enters the battlefield" trigger resolves won't return for the remainder of the game—plus you get to bounce another permanent of theirs and still have a Journey in hand.

When the Pro Tour returns to Amsterdam later this year, I plan to spend a couple of days sightseeing both Magical and non-Magical points of interest. On the top of my Magic list is to play Magic at Cafe Twee Klaveren in Amsterdam itself. The cafe is one of the more famous Wizards Play Network locations and Friday Night Magic sites in the history of the game with multiple Hall of Famers, World Champions, and just all-around great Dutch players having sat down to enjoy a little Sealed Deck and stroopwafel. I caught up with tournament organizer Teun Zijp to shine the WPN spotlight on this unusual corner of the Magic world.

BDM: Can you give me a little bit of detail about your tournament site?

Teun: Twee Klaveren has to be one of the most famous locations to play Magic that isn't actually a store. This is a friendly café located in the Amsterdam city centre, looking out over one of its many canals. The Monday night drafts are legendary and many a visiting Pro player took part in one of these; during the weekends, bigger events are hosted here. Three ladies run the café and take loving care of their Magic players—but don't ask them the difference between a Worldwake booster and a life counter. When the WPN allowed tournament organizers and judges to play in FNMs last October, we welcomed this possibility and started up a weekly Standard FNM in addition to the Monday drafts. We are already practicing our Standard for the upcoming PTQ season, giving Dutch people (and everybody around the world!) an opportunity to qualify for Pro Tour–Amsterdam!

BDM: How did you get involved with running Magic tournaments?

Teun: I started judging at Worlds 2000, where none other than now-retired Level 5 judge Jaap Brouwer certified me. After judging for some years, local TO Wim Feijen asked me to head judge his incredibly popular Vintage events. Eventually Wim retired and I suddenly found myself running the events. After doing that for a couple of years, I relocated to Amsterdam. I came too late for the glory days of Julien Nuijten and Noah Boeken (World and European Champion, also Twee Klaveren alumni). In late 2007, Manamaze.com owner Sven Dijt and I decided it was time for an Amsterdam Magic Competition, which the two of us are still running today (www.manamaze.com/amc if you read Dutch).

BDM: I think I know the answer, but what makes your FNM events special?

Teun: Running events in a café is special all by itself. Our events have some of the best catering I've ever seen at Magic events. Ask anyone who's ever been there about the "Broodje Loes" special sandwich and I'm sure you'll get an unexpected reaction. Other than that I try to give participants a pleasant day of playing Magic, no matter what type of event. During Prereleases we give a complete set of the new expansion to the best player of the weekend and one to a random participant. We like to accommodate PTQ circuit players as well as players who only play Prereleases.

BDM: How was your Worldwake Prerelease event?

Teun: The Worldwake Prerelease was a huge success, especially considering the bad weather circumstances. This Prerelease was very special for us. Somewhere in November, the idea for a 'Worldwake Wake' came up, an all-nighter Prerelease that started at midnight and took all night. I knew that WorldWAKE was the set to do it, and I also knew Twee Klaveren, cafe and all, was the best location for it. I did not expect it would be such a huge success. Nearly 40 players played six rounds all night, some of them coming from the darkest corners of the country, and nearly half of them was back for the regular 11:00 a.m. Prerelease. Included in the entry fee was a can of Red Bull energy drink and a lot of snacks served all night. When the Sunday Prerelease ended, I was very, very VERY relieved to find my bed waiting for me!

BDM: What can you tell us about your player base? Any notable Pro Tour competitors? Any up-and-coming players we should be on the lookout for?

Teun: Historically Amsterdam has had some of the best players of the world. Right now we don't—that is, our players don't have any big finishes. We haven't had an Dutch National Champion from Amsterdam in the past few years. But let's look at the future. We have qualified some very good players for the Pro Tour lately. Johan van der Beek wins a lot of our first prizes .... Geert Bosch can go 12-0 at the upcoming PT if he's paying close attention to his game .... Of course we have Worlds quarterfinalist Bram Snepvangers, who is a regular in Twee Klaveren as well - as a TO and judge. I suppose we could include that .... yeah, yes we could.

BDM: Anything else you want to share about running events?

Teun: The best part for any TO is the beginning and the end of the day. The beginning, when you look into the room and see everybody expecting a good tournament, expecting to have fun and to run good. The end, when somebody you've never seen before tells you that he's had an excellent day, that's awesome. Last autumn, the Dutch player community voted me for an invitation for the Bramvitational tournament, along with the fabulous TO Jasper Boelens, and I don't think people understand just how honored I was by that. It was the best reward for this work I've had.

    Friday Night Foil: February

While we're on the topic of WPN locations and Friday Night Magic, here's a look at February's prize card Ghostly Prison:

If you're really grooving on that card, make your way to Pro Tour–San Diego's Super FNM on February 19 where everyone who participates gets the February promo card. If you can't make it to San Diego, find a Friday Night Magic near you and good luck taking home the top prize!

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