Monday, April 29, 2013

Dragon's Maze Prerelease Weekend Recap

I happily continued my pattern of success at prereleases, which is nice, but not nearly as impressive as performing well at big tournaments with much more at stake. Still, it's always nice to start the draft season with a pocket full of booster packs to let you pack into drafts throughout the season.

I played four events, and here are the recaps:

Event 1:
And Books II
Lafayette, LA

Guild: Rakdos
Allied Guild: Dimir

My worst nightmare. I had the most success in RTR with Rakdos, so it was my go-to guild. Why? It's aggression level is nearly unmatched. My hope was an uber-aggressive ally like Boros or Gruul. What did I get? Guys who like to hide in the shadows. What was my Dimir rare? Whispering Madness. Ugh.

I had exactly one playable rare in this pool...Pyrewild Shaman. And he is very, very good. But when you are often facing down mythics, he doesn't really stack up. Still, the deck had a solid, aggressive curve and good removal, so I thought I might do okay. You don't need bombs to win, right?

First match I faced regular Limited player Joey, playing Naya. He had 3 Zhur-Taa Druids. I hated him already. Game 1 started out with him on the play, dropping a Druid turn 2 and a Rubblebelt Raiders turn 3. Nice. I had mana for Augur Spree, but didn't draw it until the turn after he had attacked with the Raiders, putting them out of reach of my removal. Game over. He crushed me Game 2 as well.

So...not a good start.

But now in the losers bracket, I faced three opponents in a row who were not seasoned grinders. The first two were Esper decks, both relatively weak. I 2-0'd both matches. Round 4 was against a BWR deck that was powerful, but again, my opponent made several play mistakes and I took the match.

At this point I was 3-1. The tourney was 5 rounds, and I was able to simply intentional tie into the top 8. Most wanted to call it an early day, so we chopped the prize pool for 10 packs each. Not bad.

I then wandered over to the other local game store in town to see if they might be firing any more events. Hey, they were.

Event 2:
Anime and Games Central
Lafayette, LA

Guild: Azorius
Allied Guild: Simic

They said they only had two packs left: a Rakdos and an Azorius. I'm not the biggest Azorious fan, but it's fine, so I took it. Paired with Simic, I was fine with Bant, and wanted to live the dream of pairing an Ascended Lawmage with an Unflinching Courage. Alas, I didn't open a Courage, though I did open 2 Ascended Lawmage. Again, no bombs, just solid evasive flyers and a good curve. I 3-0'd and we chopped top 4 for 7 packs.

Event 3:
Rocket's Hideout
Baton Rouge, LA

Guild: Gruul
Allied Guild: Rakdos

Now this was my dream. Jund! I went to Baton Rouge with Lyall, mostly because I wanted to play 2-headed giant and the format wasn't offered in Lafayette. But we decided to play the noon sealed as well. Why not, right?

I got my dream color combination, but again, no bomby creatures. I did have a bomb in Gaze of Granite, though. I'd generally rather have a crazy creature like Exava or Savageborn Hydra, but oh well.

Match 1 was pretty sweet. I was up against Naya. Game 1 was a blowout with me curving out with Gorehouse Chainwalker into double Rakdos Drake. I had very good spot removal to back up my efficient, aggressive creatures. So far, so good. Game 2 was more interesting. My opponent is on the play and resolves a turn 3 Boros Reckoner. I have a Stab Wound in hand, so I untap and stab the minotaur. A 1/1 Reckoner is substantially less scary, but still a problem since I can't really attack on the ground anymore. I'm hoping to bleed him out and finish him with evasive creatures. Well, then he puts Unflinching Courage on his Reckoner, rebooting it into a 3/3 lifelinker with potential first strike. I had two ground dudes (maybe the black Gatekeeper and a Swine?), and he had two other 3-drops plus a Boros Keyrune in play. The board state was pretty clogged, though I had Gaze of Granite in hand. Problem was, I only had five lands. Luckily I peeled the sixth land, cast GoG for x=3 and wiped all five of his non-land permanents. GoG did work for me all day, but that was by far the best job it ever did. I won the match.

Match 2, I faced down a 4-color deck with 2 Unflinching Courage. We went 3 games but he got it...on the back of Unflinching Courage.

Match 3 I played against a pretty good Esper deck. Honestly I'm pretty sure my deck was better, and I'd seen my opponent punt to Lyall in round 1, missing a sure lethal attack. So I felt pretty good. Well, this was one of those matches decided entirely by mana issues. Game 1 I kept a 5-land hand with a 3-drop creature and a removal spell (Fatal Fumes, I think), and 5 of the next 6 draws were lands...hard to win a game like that. Game 2 I won. Game 3 I kept a 2-land hand with a Chainwalker. Missed my third and fourth land drops, never made it past 4 lands, and promptly died.

It's possible I should be mulliganing more aggressively. That's a part of my game that could probably improve. Both those hands were marginal keeps, but not outlandish.

Anyway, at 1-2 I only had one more match to play. My opponent in round 4 was not very experienced, so I 2-0'd pretty easily. Players with a 2-2 record got a single pack. Meh.

Onto the last event!

Event 4:
Rocket's Hideout
Baton Rouge, LA

Guild #1: Izzet
Allied Guild #1: Simic

Guild #2: Izzet
Allied Guild #2: Gruul

Sweet...two RUG decks! At first I built a straight aggro RUG deck, but then decided that the blue wasn't buying a whole lot in terms of power, and that a RG deck would be more efficient without losing much power. It was a straightforward deck with a solid curve and almost no removal. It did have 2 Zhur-Taa Druids, though, which was cool. Gruul Ragebeast was the curve-topping bomb. I also have a lot more respect for Armed/Dangerous.

Lyall, on the other hand, but together a sweet Grixis control build with scads of removal. I believe the deck had 5 premium split cards (3 Far/Away and 2 Turn/Burn?). He also had 2 Mirko Vosks!

Round 1 we played against two former state champs. The match was very tight. Half of their team was stuck on 3 lands the whole match, but every spell he played was relevant: Arrest on my Madcap Skilled bear, a timely Rootborn Defenses, a Sundering Growth that populated a bird token for a game-saving block, and an Unflinching Courage on his partner's own Gruul Ragebeast to build them back up to a safe life total. Lyall resolved both Mirko Vosks back-to-back after the first was removed, but only got in one hit. A second might have been the game. The game was extremely close, and it's possible we misplayed by being too aggressive, but if so, it wasn't a huge misplay. The key to the loss was that we both flooded mid-game and Lyall drew nearly none of his removal. Turn/Burn or Far/Away would likely have been game at nearly any point. Ah well.

Our first round opponents were running Crackling Perimeter and a jillion gates, which seemed like a really sweet idea, so Lyall revamped his deck to add in this combo. I also dropped the 17th land in favor of Electrickery.

Round 2 Lyall's deck was working as planned, and we were able to maintain the superior board presence throughout and steadily pound out lethal damage.

Round 3 we played a very nice father/son duo (both named Alex). Their decks weren't completely awful, though we did get Riot Control played against us (in rounds 2 and 3, actually). We took a fair amount of early damage, but were able to keep their worst threats in check and inevitably build up to a lethal alpha strike. Lyall had a Void Wielder in play and I had a Zhur-Taa Swine and another smaller creature. I cast Armed/Dangerous targeting the VW to give it Lure and making my pig a 6/5 double-strike. Upon attack, I bloodrushed it with a Rubblebelt Maaka, making it a 9/8 double-strike, which was lethal. Even if that hadn't done it, Lyall had Crackling Perimeter in play with something like 5 gates. Each hit from Perimeter does 2 to the team, so we had extra damage to spare.

Teams going 2-1 got 3 packs for each team member, so that was fine.

It's possible we could have made better play decisions in match 1...I don't know. The only other match I think my play was a factor was Event 3, Round 3, where I may not have mulliganed aggressively enough. On the whole I was happy with the way things turned out, though, and my play in general.

Event 1: 3-1-1 (top 8: 10 packs)
Event 2: 3-0-1 (top 4: 7 packs)
Event 3: 2-2 (1 pack)
Event 4: 2-1 (3 packs)

Total: 10-4-2 (21 packs)

I've come away from the last 4 prerelease events with 15-20 packs of the new set, which is always sweet for a rabid drafter. So I'm pretty happy. Still, I feel like to get to the next level I need to win or top-4 a competitive event.

There was a recurring theme throughout the prerelease, and it was Unflinching Courage. I either lost, or nearly lost to this card in almost every decisive match. I hope to actually have one of these in my card pool at some point in the format, because it's kind of nuts.

Next Sunday is the Win-a-Case sealed event at Rocket's. I'll be there, and hopefully I'll open a legitimate bomb or two and make a real run for the top. Either way I'll post the results here.

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