Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Avacyn Restored Prerelease Vanilla Blueberry

Hello and welcome back to another addition of Untap Target Player!  Today, I’ll review my experience at the Avacyn Restored Prerelease this past Saturday. 

After an eventful weekend and an old friend’s wedding, the Prerelease just about got lost in the shuffle.  Somehow, though, I still managed to squeeze it in.  Although I originally planned to go the morning one, I enjoyed a good sleeping-in after my friend’s bachelor party the night before; a wild, raucous night of debauchery, to say the least.  I was gone after TWO Sun Drops, boxes of collectible card games were strewn all over, and Wiimotes were flying every which direction in the unbridled revelry of intense Super Smash Brothers action.  I know, I know, I’m a party animal.

Anyway, I decided to go to the second event at my local shop instead, which started at 5:00 instead of noon.  I usually prefer to do the earlier event, so I actually do get the first prerelease, where everyone is as green as you to the format, but my bed was just too inviting.  When I arrived, the first event was still going strong (finishing round 3 of 5, if I recall).  I had plenty of time and made some trades and played some EDH…I’ll tell you, EDH is a lot more fun against non-combo decks.  On a side note (one of many), I am amazed by the meteoric rise in popularity of EDH since it became a Wizards-sanctioned format.  I caught the fairy (my sister’s way of saying “I liked it before it was cool,”) on EDH, but just barely.  I think the reason it’s been so successful is that it revives the old giddiness of the Timmy within us all.  “Look at my cool card!”  That whole thing is refreshing in a world of tight one-on-one action, and I enjoy a good EDH game, especially the political aspect as well as the careful planning required to ensure your own survival.

The shop where I play, filled with eager AVR players (and foosball).
Anyway, the time came for our event to begin.  The second one was dubbed the “Helvault event,” so named because of the physical Helvault prop that we as a player base could open by completing certain accomplishments during the course of our Sealed tournament.  These accomplishments were fairly simple, including controlling a number of Human creatures at one, forcing your opponent to sacrifice a creature, and high-fiving your opponent when they get a legendary permanent on the field.  After accomplishing any five of these feats (there were about thirty possible tasks total), you could remove one seal (a diamond-shaped piece of tape) from the Helvault.  Once all of them were removed, the Helvault would be open and everyone would claim a prize from it.

With that in our mind, we sat down to open up our packs and start registering.  I opened a fairly bad pool and was grateful to pass it; it lacked consistency but did have a random Cavern of Souls for monetary compensation for the otherwise terrible pool. 

I was passed a slightly better, but unremarkable pool of cards with which to create my deck.  Here’s a picture of the piled pool.

Here it is, in all its complacency!
I did have consistency in some of my cards.  I pulled out the rares to see if any were worth building around or at least splashing for. 

My best one was probably Soul of the Harvest, but with very little green support, so I ruled out Green.  Black and Red were both fairly viable, though eventually underwhelming, so I set them aside too.  White and Blue had a fairly solid curve and a lot of temporary removal in the form of bounces.  I settled on that and threw together the best twenty-three cards from those two colors and a couple artifacts.  I saddled them up in sleeves and went to battle! 

A familiar and tried path.
After shuffling for a while, our pairings were called and a fellow named Jeremy sat down across from me.  He was a nice guy loaded for bear with Kentucky Wildcats apparel, and he was a new player to Prereleases.  I introduced myself, realized it was a Helvault achievement, checked off the corresponding box, and we went to work.  The early game saw a nice stream of flyers come down from my side and Jeremy couldn’t do much to stop it.  Game two was not much different, and he extended a hand; I took it, wishing him well in the rest of his day’s games.

I stepped out for a quick bite to eat at the Chinese place next door and got some solidly good vegetarian fried rice.  I needed brain fuel – I was up late the night before and only managed a couple hours of sleep, and I needed to be on top of my game to beat my next opponent.  My deck was fine; plenty of win conditions, but I feared it would do poorly on the backpedal, where I’d be bleeding cards to stay alive long enough to resolve my big flyers. 

For round 2, I sat down across from a stone-faced Brian.  He was concentrating on the round ahead, and we shuffled up for a round.  In a polite and nearly inaudible voice, he waded into battle.  Game one, I pulled 14 out of my 17 land (and my Vessel of Eternal Rest, just to rub it in) and never hit him for more than a few points of damage.  He bashed through with a sizable squad of G/W humans.  I did get to see a fair amount of his deck, including three solid rares in Cathar’s Crusade (effectively Gavony Township), a Riders of Gavony and a Descendent’s Path with the synergy to match.  I looked hopelessly at my sideboard and shuffled a lot to de-clump the lands.  For game two, I was able to get a stronger start and push through lethal damage without dipping below 20 life. 

At this point, the weather interrupted us.  What sounded like metal banging innumerable notes erupted from the roof.  My wife had just called me to tell me she was seeing enormous (quarter-sized) hail raining down on her at home; although at the time there was nothing going on where I was (about twenty minutes away), about five minutes later, we got the rest.  It was deafening and all but one’s deepest thoughts were drowned out by the ice deluge.  I’ve never heard hail like that in my life, and going outside was comparable to a suicide by bludgeoning.  Somehow, my little Volkswagen pulled through without any visible dents or broken glass, though I know others were not so lucky. 

The third game proved to be the most interesting of the tournament so far.  We both had better, more equal draws this time.  Although I mounted a strong offense, Brian’s Seraph of Dawn paired with his deathtouching Nightshade Peddler made attacking through his team a tough, unprofitable task.  Soon, sitting on my team of untapped goons, he resolved a Jubilation Angel, effectively a Glorious Anthem for his squad.  Cathar’s Crusade also pushed his team to the max.  He had drawn quite a crowd from his amazing squad of fighters.  After my last desperate block, pulling out all the stops, I faced down several dozen power from his squad, and I conceded game three.  I extended my hand, and we shook.  He revealed the rest of his solid cards to me with a genial smile, and we had a pleasant debriefing.  I admit I was quite impressed with his deck and tight play.  He had built and played adeptly.

Disappointed but still positive, I retired to another table and power shuffled my deck, a common practice for me when I lose a close or a frustratingly disparate match.  Round three pairings came up, and I knew another match loss would toss me out of the prize pool for sure. 

But wait!  The seals had been broken for the Helvault!  After turning in our match results, each player could collect their prize from the Helvault.  I marched over, hoping to see some unique door prizes or booster packs or special promo cards. 

It was not.  It was oversized cards, several identical dice, and double-sided Angel/Demon tokens.  I had a moment like this.

Needless to say, most of us were pretty bummed that that was the extent of the over-hyped cardboard diamond.  These items were all available in the AVR Fat Pack.  Regardless, we still wanted to win something, and we suited up for round 3.  As I sat down to play my next opponent, I noticed an uncanny resemblance of my opponent (Joshua) to another fellow that plays at the shop, but he amusingly deflected a claim of blood relation; clearly he gets that a lot, especially since they look similar and are already friends.  Embarrassing attempts at recognizing unsolicited kinship aside, we shuffled up and I went on the early offense with an Angel’s Tomb and Tandem Lookout, a very effective combo of unblockable power and card-draw.  After a few rounds, my flyer sailed past his team of red and green grounders.  In game two, I resolved an Angel’s Tomb right on time again.  After hitting me with his equipped and bashing creatures, though, he top decked a Thunderous Wrath and immediately casted it, targeting me.  He brought me to a precarious 9, and I considered how best to defend myself. I resolved a Goldnight Redeemer, gained a fair chunk of life back and eventually cracked through with lethal. 

On a 2-1 record, I’d still need to win anything besides what I had already bought to get into the tournament.  When round four, rolled around, everyone was ready to see if they were successful in staying in the running, myself included.

I sat down for my final match against Tim, a man perhaps my own age, began shuffling while I made small talk; I know you’re not supposed to in a tournament setting because they get information about you and your playstyle from the way you talk and gesture, but I was fairly nervous, so I jabbered on for a minute, and he graciously let me.  Our first game was an interesting one, beginning with me mulling to five on the play.  Despite this, I had on-time angels and offense, while he couldn’t block flyers for the vast majority of the game.  Though, as I came as close as I could to killing him, he cast a Bonfire of the Damned for three, evening the score heavily.  Thankfully, I had gas left in my hand, and he did not, so I clenched game one with a perfectly lethal Zealous Strike on an unblocked flyer.

Game two was perhaps one of the most encouraging in my recent Limited career.  As Tim and I developed our board, I saw one of his own bombs: Herald of War.  At the rate he was going, he could have continuously attacked, being just one power and toughness bigger than all my angels waiting in the wings (hah!).  However, as I resolved my Archangel, he stopped.  After a couple stalemated turns of draw-go, I realized something.  The reason he’s not attacking must be because he doesn’t have a trick to blow me out (I could have double blocked his Herald of War with my Archangel and a Seraph of Dawn, but some kind of trick with a Zealous Strike or some such, would allow him to live and kill them both.)  So, on my next turn, I pushed with my Archangel, knowing that he had seen the Zealous Strike I played last game.  The fact he did not block suggests that he also didn’t have a whole lot of flyers.  As I suspected, he didn’t block.  I did this the following two rounds and, after an unfortunate attack from his team, he was unable to block the rest of my ground team and I won the match 2-0.

His Bonfire was just two draw steps away.

I used a little bit of information and planning, and it helped me win the game and the match.  Pleased with this realization, I walked up to the judge’s table for prize distribution.  

I ended up in 5th place, a solid finish for a 3-1 in a field of about 40-45 people.  Sadly, though, I was awarded only three packs; on inquiring with the judge, he assured me this was the correct number.  I still don’t believe this is true, as the 1st place and 2nd place winner won 36 and 18 packs respectively but it was getting late and I needed to get home, so I left, cracking my packs at the subsequent stoplights.  Out of my three packs, I managed to pull some solid uncommons and a foil Vexing Devil (which I almost missed while flipping through my packs.)  Sweet deal!

All in all, it was a good showing for me.  I’ve done better, but this was certainly more successful than some, and I had a good time.  Soulbond was just as fun and skill-testing as I thought it’d be, but I actually found Miracle pretty uninteresting.  Vanishment, the only Miracle card I had in the deck, was never cast for its miracle cost, either because it was in my opening seven or there were no juicy targets when I did turn it up.  I had to hard cast it whenever I cast it.  Unlike Terminus, Bonfire of the Damned or Temporal Mastery, I think the lower-tier Miracle cards are a bit too conditional even in a Limited environment.  Sure, they’re still good, but they won’t be as game breaking.

In building, I felt great; first, if you noticed, my deck had no rares in it whatsoever, and I aimed entirely for consistency and curve.  It paid off, despite the fact that the other colors probably had intrinsically better cards.  That being said, part of me wishes I would have splashed a single Swamp for the Killing Wave as it would have helped me recover in my losses against Brian.  But who knew?  I’ll know that next time; my colors weren’t terribly intense, so I should have felt more comfortable doing that.

As for the MVP of my deck, there are several that would make the cut.  Out of all of them, though, I think I like Angel’s Tomb best.  Although fairly unexciting, it did so much work in my deck, and it was easy to miss when my opponents were calculating damage.  It complemented my Fettergeist and Goldnight Redeemer well, being a creature when it needed to be and not one when it was inconvenient. 

After a solid night of fun and relatively relaxed play, Avacyn Restored’s Prerelease is in the books.  Admittedly, this is not one of Magic’s best sets, but it will still provide a lot of fun for the next few months.  I think its Sealed format is weaker than some previously, but I really look forward to drafting this set; this will be a good one to draft, and I think it will help other colors shine.  I didn’t play a single black or blue deck yesterday and saw very few while wondering around. 

There are a few cards I’m excited about for Standard and other formats, and we’ll get into those next time.  I hope you had a great time at your own Prerelease or that this will whet your appetite to try the next one, which I believe is the first weekend in July for Magic 2013. 

Until then, don’t forget to untap!

- Matt

No comments:

Post a Comment