Bruce’s Combat Phase: Shadows over Innistrad Pre-Release

SOI_MTGWow, how the Magic world has changed.  Standard has been turned on its head as Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are rotating out and we get Shadows over Innistrad.  However, before we get a first hand look at what Constructed looks like, we all got a taste of what Sealed has to offer with this newest set at the Pre-release.  I figure now is as good as a time as any to go over how I fared out there is wilderness, slinging spells, and generally getting my Magic on as well as any lessons I may have learned in the process.

This pre-release was very different for me.  Typically I like to play at the Two Headed Giant pre-release at one of the LGS in my area.  However, my wife and I were talking and we decided playing at that time slot (Sunday evening) didn’t make sense with a young family that still needs daddy to help with bedtime.  So, I agreed to switch my pre-release to one during the day.  I also decided that since I was going to play by myself there was no point in traveling any further than I needed to in order to hit my event, so I decided to move stores and try a store that is closer to home.  I was playing solo for the first time since Dragon’s Maze, in a new store, and I was pretty nervous for the whole experience.

For starters, I ended up being very happy with my switch of stores.  This new store offered a much smaller event with only 15 players being registered.  I have grown accustomed to pre-releases of 60+ people, so to have a mere 15 people was refreshing if only because there wasn’t as much noise.  Secondly, the event was over in much more timely fashion.  We played 4 rounds, which was ample time to play, instead of playing 5 or maybe even 6 rounds.  6 rounds can be very long so to be done with 4 felt amazing.  The store was brightly lit, clean, and the bathroom was very tidy too.  I think people overlook the importance of a clean bathroom, but I find that I increasingly am evaluating places I frequent with an eye towards bringing my family in at some point.  The importance of a clean bathroom is pretty crucial and can’t be overlooked.  These might seem like small things, but they helped improve my overall experience at my pre-release and means I will be very happy to return to that store in the near future.  If any of you find yourself in the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada area looking for a nice place to sling cards, let me know and I’ll get you the name of the establishment.

As for opening up my pool, my pool was ok.  My promo was Odric who can be very powerful.  I also opened up a Thalia’s Lieutenant and a Hanweir Militia Captain meaning I had three very powerful Humans in my pool.  I had a Diregraf Colussus, but next to no other Zombies, a Harness the Storm, an Ulvenwald Hydra, an Angel of Deliverance, and a Declaration in Stone. I opted in the end to play G/W as a way to get most of my high impact cards into my deck and felt pretty comfortable with the list.  Here is the list I settled on:

G/W Humans Pre-release deck: Shadows over Innistrad   

Creatures: 16

Inquisitor’s Ox
Odric, Lunarch Marshal
Lambholt Pacifist
Byway Courier
2 Emissary of the Sleepless
2 Hinterland Logger
Stoic Builder
Graf Mole
Hanweir Militia Captain
Thalia’s Lieutenant
Ulvenwald Hydra
Heir of Falkenrath
Angel of Deliverance

Spells:  7

Aim High
Declaration in Stone
2 Puncturing Light
Might Beyond Reason
Clip Wings

Land:  17

1 Warped Landscape
1 Swamp
1 Foul Orchard
7 Forest
7 Plains

The biggest issue with my deck was that I was very heavy on two and three drops but didn’t have much else.  Now, ordinarily you’d think that would be great and I would be beating down with a sleek, aggressive deck.  The problem is that Humans are very fragile and require some significant synergy to be explosive and deliver a scary amount of damage.  So, in the early game my creatures were often fairly marginal and in danger of dying to plenty of removal.  I also decided to splash Black for the Heir of Falkenrath off a Warped Landscape, a dual land, and a Swamp.  The splash gave me one more potential flier to break up a board stall, but in the end she ended up being far better than that.

Match one was against a B/R Madness deck that was very sweet.  It was nothing special to write home about but it seemed to have an answer for everything, got tremendous value off of Asylum Visitor, and Malevolent Whispers was a beating every time.  I ended up going 0-2 and was a little unimpressed with my deck.  I asked my opponent to play third game for sport and my deck came alive and got a win making me feel a little better, but I hate losing 0-2.  Oh well.

My next opponent was on a Grixis coloured Zombie deck of some sorts.  He made lots of Zombies and seemed to have fun discarding his cards, but big Ulvenwald Hydras don’t care.  He couldn’t deal with the Hydra effectively in either game and the net result was a 2-0 win for me.

Round 3 was against a R/W deck anchored with a Nahiri.  In Game 1 my opponent got out to some early pressure and landed a Nahiri putting me in danger of having her Ultimate.  Fortunately I was able to attack and get her off the board and stabilize a bit.  However, it was a bunch of successive awesome draws that sealed my the first game.  I had 3 creatures on board and cast a Hanweir Militia Captain followed by Thalia’s Lieutenant.  That dumped a pile of counters on all my humans and really closed off the attack option for my opponent.  Next turn I flipped Hanweir Militia Captain, cast Heir of Falkenrath, and made a Human token at the end of the turn.  The next turn I discarded a card, flipped Heir of Falkenrath, and then cast Odric pre-combat.  I entered combat, gave all my creatures Flying and got my opponent for exactly 20 in a single turn.  He just looked at me dumbfounded.  Sadly, my deck never managed to even get close to recreating that sort of explosive draw and I lost the match 1-2.

The final round resulted in a Bye for me which was a little bitter sweet.  However, I’ll take going 2-2 I guess…It sure sounds better than 1-2 but still didn’t end up in a prize pack or two.

While I sat and watched I was able to think about some of the lessons that I learned from this new set and what we might expect.

  1. Declaration is Stone is extremely powerful removal. This was just about the best card I could pull in almost every situation and I could honestly say that I was not sad to see it come off the top of my deck.  Now, finding a good target in Limited can be a little tough, but sometimes you just need to kill something dead.
  2. The format is aggressive.  This format felt fast for a Sealed format.  With the Madness decks looking to discard their stuff for cheap and lots of aggressive Werewolves in the 2,3 and 4 spots along your curve there was no shortage of aggressive creatures on the board and if you stumbled you got punished.  I would expect that this would only be increased in Draft situations. If you don’t have an early board presence you are in real danger of getting run over…fast.
  3. Ulvenwald Hydra is NOT a $10 card.  Don’t get me wrong, the card is strong, but it is not worth the $10 it is currently selling for. Yes, it might be the “fixed” version of Primeval Titan, and Reach is useful, but it gets blocked for days by dumpy little creatures.  In constructed I expect that it will be played in R/G Ramp decks, but without a real meaningful ability to help push through damage to close out games this is just another big dumb green creature.  I think this will likely hold $4 to $5, but $10 is silly because it isn’t THAT good. The fact that it was $3.50 going into pre-release weekend and it jumped to almost $12 by Sunday was pretty insane.
  4. B/R Vampires/Madness is really strong.  Madness is the real deal and will be a force to be reckoned with.  Anytime you can cheat on the mana cost for things fairly easily you likely have something that is pretty strong.  Well, Madness on aggressive Vampires is enough to make you wince and can deliver a wicked beating. Add in some of the payoffs you can find like Olivia and you have something that is not only a Limited mechanic, but is likely to see play in Constructed as well.
  5. Arlinn Kord is that good.  I watched as she single handedly stabilized the board and turned the tide of a game that looked unwinnable into an easy romp for the horde of wolves.  You need to watch out for her because she is going to be something to contend with.

Overall, my pre-release experience was fun and well worth the time.  I liked the new shop that I visited and am prepared to continue to head back and try it again.  It was just a nice experience and pretty refreshing.  Now I just need to play better and get a few more wins for some Prize packs.  I will be sure to tune in this week as Standard starts to take shape and I’m sure there will be some amazing new decks to freshen up Standard.  Here’s to all you brewers out there this week:  Good Luck!

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a read and good luck wherever you will be playing Magic this week.

Bruce Gray


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