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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease

I hoped that Rivals of Ixalan would fix both Standard and Limited and I was looking forward to playing with this set. This time around Magic Online players the ones that got the possibility to play with RIX before the set's release first. On Thursday before the paper prerelease Wizards of the Coast opened a Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease League which also made the cards legal in Standard (you can check my article about my experience with early RIX Standard). The entry was 30tix and the prize structure was rather bad. This though meant that all the players won at least a pack of RIX (if that is good is up to you to judge).

I jumped in the League 5 minutes after it was open and opened a pool with exactly 2 removal spells (2 Mutiny). After looking at it I put together a Pirate deck and hoped it would be good enough to win some games. Usually during the prerelease events on Magic Online the players had no idea what to do so even a really bad pool could go 5-0. This time around we played 4 rounds and the players were similarly confused. RIX seems to be rather straightforward set - or just putting together something very aggressive works. This was my very first RIX deck, that went 3-1. I lost a very close mirror match.

In my next sealed deck I opened all the removal I possibly could and opened 5 rares in Black/Red. I ended up in BR 'kill everything' deck that used Etali as finisher. When I played with that I realized that I didn't carefully read some of the cards my opponents played against me. I also managed to pass my turn because I didn't realize my opponent let me be on the play etc. I decided not to spend more money on RIX that night and rather go to sleep and attend the paper prerelease in the morning. So far the format looked even less interactive than XLN even though there is obviously more removal than in XLN only.

I got up relatively early (I couldn't sleep) and arrived to LGS full of players. We got seatings and after a long period of people trying to figure out where they should sit, we could open our packs and build something. The judge made us all laugh since he told us we don't need to stay at the tables we were assigned (it took more than 10 minutes for us to get seated - mostly because some players were sitting at table numbers that didn't exist).

The pool I opened didn't look good. I stared at it for a while seeing that I won't be able to play any Ixalan tribe in their respective color combination which meant I wouldn't probably be able to use synergy to my advantage. White was the best color, black was totally useless, green had some good cards, blue was utterly useless and red was just bad. No bombs and even worse rares than my 3 graveyard hate cards on a rare slot from my first pool on Magic Online. I ended up playing White-Green Legion Conquistador deck. The deck's idea was to draw Legion Conquistador or the white Forerunner, find all Conquistadors in the deck and win thanks to being able to play a creature per turn. It kind of worked. Considering the fact that in 4 rounds out of 5 I mulled to five in game 1 and I managed to go 3-2 in the end, the deck's performance surpassed my expectations. I lost against UG Merfolk in a game in which all I needed was to keep one creature of mine in play for 1 turn, didn't work out. In game one my opponent was on the play and started with unbloackable one-drop into Deeproot Elite. He continued with few more Merfolk and a lord. I won game 2 because I managed to race. Game 3 I needed him not to play 1 drop and be able to deal some damage early game. Unfortunately turn 5 and my opponent's life total was 16. I had lethal in my hand though and just needed to block once. Run Aground was what made me lose and I was pretty sad about that loss. I was so close to winning. I lost the other match because I couldn't draw a second source of green in both games. Otherwise I'd put 2 +1/+1 counters on my creatures and win the game since I had that card in both games in my hand. The following games all I saw were Forests while I was stuck with white Vampires in my hand (I won though).

After the event I went to fetch something to eat, drink a coffee (that actually contained coffee). I went to McDonalds nearby which was probably the only place I could get what I wanted in 20 minutes. While I was there I saw three children swooning over three Pokemon cards (each of them had one). Their father (or well the adult accompanying them) didn't really enjoy their stay there and when he saw me clutching my sealed deck he rolled his eyes and muttered something to himself.

After I came back to the LGS I learned that McDonalds' Happy Meal contains Pokemon cards. I signed up for the 2HG and wondered if I wouldn't fall asleep during it.

I already learned earlier that beating Profane Procession is nay impossible and I was ready to concede. Before that though I wanted to attack with Etali because so far it always died before it got to getting in the red zone. I wondered how probable is that my opponent runs a disenchant effect in his deck. I knew that was rather probable but what were the odds of actually that card being on top of his library?

Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease 2HG Sealed Deck

After a normal prerelease I also played some 2HG Sealed Decks and here I have to thank my team mates for being great. The second sealed deck was way trickier and was a good experience because it allowed us to think very hard about RIX-XLN limited and it was nice to chat with others about RIX cards and decks. Since I already had a prior Online experience with the cards I knew that some cards are better than they might seem. I had to reevaluate many cards. I wasn't trying to impose my opinion but asked the players what they think of certain cards considering a specific context be it a deck or the format. I found out that there were many different opinions on cards - mostly because many of those players didn't read Limited Set Overview by LSV or their preferred Pro. This reminded me how fun were actually the prereleases before everything got 'spoiled' by all these articles and videos about new sets (which reminded me of people complaining about my Vintage Masters article, it didn't provide pick list and commentary on each card because I focused on archetypes and key cards for those archetypes).

Our pool contained a very strong Dinosaur cards. Black and blue seemed pretty bad but there were 2 Golden Demises which seemed stellar. During the first day many players realized that RIX is FAST and they tried to build very aggressive decks. After our initial evaluation of the pool we decided to go for the aggressive route. I tried Boros aggro and my team mate tried UG Merfolk. It looked terrible. We tried few more combinations till we ended up in Naya Dinosaurs and UBw Control (our initial decks).

Round 1

We watched in horror as one of our opponents was creating an army of 2/2 Merfolk. We had Golden Demise in hand but no Swamps. We produced one Treasure token which in theory could help us cast the card when we would draw a Swamp. Unfortunately we were forced to crack it to play a blocker. When our opponents played Air Elemental we knew that Golden Demise wouldn't be enough to keep us alive. We both mised though. My team mate drew a Swamp, I drew Bombard. I had Blossoming Dryad in play so thanks to it we produced double black. I killed the Air Elemental and then we just had to hope that our opponents wouldn't be able to deal the remaining 4 damage to us somehow. A bit later we even managed to draw some creatures and eventually won.

It was a funny game because our opponents assumed that we play UW Control splashing some black. They saw one black card (2/4 Deathtouch). Even when my team mate had to discard he discarded a blue card and an Island which didn't suggest a black deck. Golden Demise was a surprise.

Round 2

In our following round we learned that keeping ok-ish hands against opponents that decided to actually be on play was a very bad idea. We got overrun before I managed to draw my 3rd land and my team mate was able to produce a second black source for Golden Demise.

Round 3

In round 3 our opponents certainly got a reason to get tilted. Here's a photo of my board on turn 5. It didn't end up well for our opponents.

Round 4

The following round the game didn't really look that good for us. I needed lands or mana dorks to help me cast Gishath otherwise we seemed to be doomed. When I finally managed to cast the card we had to somehow kill our opponents. They were down to 26 after my attack with Gishath. Next turn we had to deal lethal in order to win the game since their flyers would just kill us. I drew Dinosaur Stampede which in theory should allow us to go through and deal lethal. I had to count that damage though because there were several possibilities how to block and I needed to present a lethal threat. It took me a while to count but in the end all possibilities ended up in us winning the game. Our opponents didn't obviously believe my calculations so just chumped the biggest non-Trample creature. I cast my spell and hand shake followed.

After the event we went to Vietnamese restaurant, we cracked our packs and talked about Standard decks we would brew. I put my faith into BG Explore and another player was looking forward trying out Boros Mettle deck.

Draft

I knew I would be exhausted after a long week of playing on MODO, working and well playing even more Magic during the weekend. When I came back to the flat I decided to open MODO anyway and draft the packs I got on Thursday. My first two picks were - Bishop of Binding and Baffling End. I continued in white but then suddenly the color was gone. I started picking blue cards because Siren Reaver was passed to me. But even that color was obviously drafted somewhere close to me. I switched to a third color - red. I picked all the aggressive creatures I could but my removal was in white. It was clear the League would go bad for me.

I was ready to lose several quick matches. The sealed decks I played before all took about 2 hours and 20 minutes. I expected draft to be faster. Opponent was found, I joined and it took about 2 minutes for us to even resolve mulligans. I lost game 1 because I kept 3 nonland cards and 4 lands but draw additional 8 lands and 1 nonland card after I finally died to a Merfolk lord. In game two I kept a good curve. 1-drop, 2-drop into Siren Reaver and I even had Unfriendly Fire to deal with something. I clicked on my creature to play it, waited a second or two till MODO played it and pressed F6. The game continued in similar fashion. When this hardly 3 minute game was over my opponent had 10 minutes on their timer. Game 3 started. I kept a hand with a curve but without blue. I played my 3 red creatures and hoped to draw an Island in 7 turns. Unfortunately I didn't draw it. Instead I drew few mountains and 5 blue cards. In the meanwhile my opponent played a Merfolk after Merfolk and I died to the same rare that killed me in game 1. 45 minutes passed and I was seriously angry. I lost a game I shouldn't have lost if I drew an Island (8 Islands in deck) and I certainly didn't want to spend over 40 minutes on a match that would take 5 minutes on MODO!

I tried to calm down and decided to try another match. After several no landers I kept a terrible hand. During the game I observed the lag getting even worse and my opponent was obviously struggling too. I kept on playing because my deck was a fast aggro deck but everything took ages and I eventually dropped.

Well, at least someone drafted a really cool deck without any bad cards etc unlike me

I had to take a break and calm down. I was tempted to try again but also didn't want to experience the same. My curiosity won and jumped in another draft. My deck was better in terms of quality of the creatures but it was still a pretty bad deck. My first opponent with just three Forests in play managed to kill me with several blue flyers and Bishop of Binding (New Horizons in play). I won game 2 after I managed to deal with their flyers. In game 3 I lost to several rares. Again I lost about 40 minutes of time. It didn't get better...

We all know this sentence but this popping at us when we get kicked out from the server, that's new.

MODO entered a downtime...and I was left alone with a really bad feeling not entirely sure who to blame. I had a really bad experience from the events I played in. It seemed that going aggressive and non-interactive is the way once again. I was casting one drops and enchanting them with Swashbuckling and One with the Wind. If I didn't win fast enough I faced cards like Etali or Tetzimoc. Either way it felt bad. Drafting wasn't fun, playing wasn't fun and MODO was seriously messed up. I remember that I had the very same Ixalan experience. But Wizards seemed to say that Magic Online was unable to deal with the number of players that entered the Leagues. What happened this time?

So far I have no idea what to think of Rivals of Ixalan. It feels totally the same as Ixalan. Is it just initial impression or not? I will have to find out so when I get back I'll try joining another League and this time I hope I won't need to drop!