Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fun with Core Set 2019 - Open House, Prereleases

Wizards of the Coasts brings back Core Sets and the first new redesigned one is Core Set 2019. It contains Modern staple reprints (hello Scapeshift and Crucible of Worlds currently at 2 tix) and new cards that should help new Magic players learn the game in not so difficult environment but one that shows the depth of the game. There are also 5 Planeswalker decks that are more balanced against each other than the expert sets' Planeswalker decks. In my opinion they are actually good. They cost less (10 USD) and contain only one booster pack. Each deck is different and there are some synergies between the cards for the players to explore. During Open House, an event held a week before the prerelease of the set, we could bring new players to the local game store and teach them how to play Magic (and get a nice Guttersnipe promo). We could also buy and play with the new Planeswalker decks which was actually a nice experience. I bought Liliana's deck because I just wanted that card (I'm obsessed with Liliana) even though that is the only Planeswalker out of the five that does exactly nothing. I got quickly crushed by red flying creatures but in the following games I played I found a little bit of love for the Liliana slow and life draining deck. We certainly had some fun, I even cast Demon of Catastrophes 5 times against one opponent which certainly counts as an achievement?

My opponent was down to 2 life and played Meteor Golem to deal with my flying creature. I had Abnormal Endurance to save my creature and drain my opponent for the remaining life though

Apart from joining Open House I did one more unusual thing right before the paper prerelease (I played with the set already on MODO). A fellow PureMTGO writer shared his initial M19 card evaluations for limited. When I was going through that I strongly disagreed with many choices but then many of the cards I would evaluate differently were also build around cards or they were the cards that effectively killed me already and I knew how good they were. I decided to give it a try myself but I was already biased by his evaluations and also by mine since I saw what certain decks could do. The first thing I realized is that I can't do this without writing an explanation to why I think the card is good or bad. For example Patient Rebuilding seemed to be as an all-star but I wasn't really sure if that card would be fine in draft since the format may end up being faster than I expected. From my initial impressions the format would be relatively slow but fast decks would exist in the form of Blue-White and Black-Red. Since I already played with several Boros decks I knew that Boros does not really happen to be the aggro deck in the format. Similarly I valued both 'Wands' highly but it was just some kind of a gut feeling and I could sometimes reasonably explain why the cards are good. Chaos Wand already hit several of my own removal killing my creatures and then my opponent finally played something, killing me with it. Transmogrifying Wand was very good at making 2/4s our of Omenspeakers which wasn't the use I expected at first (later on, at the paper prerelease it seemed that this tactic was actually the norm). In the end I tried to put the cards in several categories which could be described as bomb, good card, average card and then there was bunch of cards I'd rather stay away. Since I didn't have a good methodology I played some cards at odd groups but for next time I know that I should come with some kind of methodology for this first. Nonetheless I was trying to figure out if this kind of initial analysis would give me an edge when playing the prerelease or would help me draft the set. That was to be seen.

A week after the Open House people were ready to play in the prerelease events all over the world. My first experience comes from Magic Online where it was available before the actual paper prerelease. I played my first Sealed deck without actually looking at the spoiler. I put together a GW deck since I opened Resplendent Angel and I terrible died to UB Mill twice in the first two matches! That was a very crushing experience. I decided to try one more match to see if my deck can win a game or match. I actually won but lost the other one, so I dropped and entered another League to see if it can get better. Next pool didn't look any better but it contained to my surprise another Resplendent Angel. This time I build a Boros Aggro deck and in my first match I encountered an Esper deck that played Patient Rebuilding on turn 5. That didn't feel great but this time my League didn't go badly.

My following pool was either a Boros deck again or a Junk deck without any mana fixing. Honestly I haven't really seen much of that in M19 during the six events I played and I totally lost to not being able to draw the correct lands. I went 3-2 nonetheless so 120PP and a Booster Pack gave me enough for a draft at least.

When I came back to my flat (because who plays on MODO when at home, right) we exchanged some Magic stories from the games we played with my flatmate. I complained once again about how I lost to Jace's Erasure no.2 when I decided not to board in Naturalize and my opponent just slammed enchantment number 1 on turn 3 and I got punished. I needed one turn to win the game but unfortunately a timely Divination made me lose that game. After that I brought my computer and we went through the M19 cards on MODO. We found a very cute Dragon among the cards just to find out that the card is not actually in the set but is rather a Planeswalker deck exclusive.

The following day (or rather the morning on the same day, I didn't get much sleep) I wanted to go to a paper prerelease. I wasn't sure if I'd wake up but somehow I did. I came on time and opened a great pool. When I opened (a 3rd) Resplendent Angel I just put it on the pile with cards without even a blinking. Someone saw that and was like 'Hey, that's awesome, no?'. I just replied 'Sometimes' but I honestly hoped that my Angel would find a way to actually kill some of my opponents because it didn't on Magic Online. My next pull was Ajani's Last Stand and I started wondering if all my pools will contain these two cards. I put together a 3 color deck for round 1 but after my experience with three color decks on MODO I decided to change it to a two-color deck. My opponent was very sad facing my all flyer deck and lost to two 5/5 Dragons but it took a me while to assemble two Mountains that I needed to cast the Dragon. While going through my pool so I could cut a color a fellow player came and suggested that I should play just straight UW which I totally agreed, it actually looked like a very solid deck. It just top8ed our 57 player prerelease.

The prerelease was fun and the games were actually more difficult to win than I expected. When I was paired against our National Champion I knew that things would get really messy. We sat next to each other so I knew what was coming. His pool looked like it needed a great amount of luck to assemble all the 3 colors he needed but there was a fair amount of filtering the library and card draw in the form of (Dryad Greenseeker, Tormenting Voice, Blood Divination). The rares were Gigantosaur, Lathliss, Dragon Queen and Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire. I won the first game fast because I simply curved out and finished with Angel of the Dawn. In game 2 I kept an ok hand that could even survive one removal. I expected that Tomas didn't really have that many removal spells. I suspected Shock and I also knew that he might be running Act of Treason (since I even said that playing Act of Treason and than casting Blood Divination sounds like a more likely scenario than one would think). My Snapping Drake died to Shock and then I had to wait for another flyer that could possibly deal some damage. I had a hard time drawing something, meanwhile my opponent was filtering his library with Dryad Greenseeker and eventually landed the Dragon Queen. I scooped and mulled to 5. Again my opponent started with mana dork and Dryad Greenseeker and I knew things would get messy. That wasn't all though. He played Tormenting Voice discarding Talons of Wildwood. Later he played Elvish Rejuvenator hitting a dual land and then sacrificed it to Blood Divination. I started to feel very overwhelmed since my opponent was like 10 cards ahead and even I faced just a bunch of elves I also knew that any of his rares would kill. None arrived though. I finally drew a threat and played it. My opponent tapped three mana and I already suspected Act of Treason and awaited the worst punishment to follow in the form of Blood Divination. That's EXACTLY what happened. We had a good laugh, I conceded and wondered if I can win my last round. I wanted to ask Tomas for a picture of his deck but when I came he just lost the finals to a BW Lifegain opponent that played Hieromancer's Cage on his Gigantosaur and swung for lethal so I let it go. The deck though was awesome and I was glad I could see it in action.

After almost falling asleep during the last round I decided not to participate in the following prerelease and return to my flat to do the laundry and other stuff I usually do during the weekend because that's when I have the time. I managed some of it and then got stuck on MODO and I don't even remember what I was doing! I went to sleep late and woke up in the morning being totally exhausted. I ignored the alarm for a while until I realized that I set it to the last minute I should be getting up. So I grabbed my stuff and ran to the subway station. I missed the train by like 10 seconds but I knew that if I take the next one and run when changing the trains I'd arrive at the same time. I was also relatively calm because coming to a sealed deck late is not usually an issue.

When I saw my pool though I was glad I came on time because it seemed terrible. I spent most of the time staring into the cards trying to figure out what to play and I wasn't fairly sure if what I played with in the end was the best possible solution. Anyway we had some fun.

While I was staring at my pool I was also wondering if I actually used the information I got from when I trying to evaluate the cards or not. I found out that I used none of what came out of the evaluating - I was only evaluating my pool and the best options of what I can put together. When I wasn't sure about a card I was taking experience from the decks I played against because that gave me information about the format how others see it and the speed of it at least that weekend.

In the last event that day I put together a deck out of cards I could never really see working together unless I'd manage to get my hands on few more other cards. I spent a lot of time staring at my pool and trying to put something together. I had like 7 black cards but few were good and I considered splashing them without any mana fixation though I decided against it. I had tons of red cards which was strange. What was even stranger was that the color did not contain any removal and it hardly contained creatures. Green was unplayable so the choice of colors was rather easy. I put together a deck out of cards that seemed to make sense and during each match I usually was boarding in or out about 5 cards. I did not trust my deck and the games were very straining for me. I always expected my opponent to disrupt my plans and sometimes it happened but still I was able to take over. I went 4-1 with this and the loss I got was because of Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma into some Angel and very big attack that followed. In the deciding game I mulled to five but I was still able to deal 20 damage before I died to the Angel again. My opponent gained 2 life that won him the game. A pity I lost that match. In the end this deck was supposedly not as bad as I envisioned it, but without a good pilot it would have most probably been a failure. It was a big difference from the UW deck I had the day before but it got the job done too and it was a nice experience.

Now it is time for some drafts and new Standard.

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung (follow me @stsungjp on Twitter)