Werewolves were howling everywhere, Vampires viciously bit the necks of their doomed victims, Zombies shambled in hordes searching for fresh brains, and the Spirits of the dead haunted the living. No, this wasn’t a scene from a crazy horror movie, it was the Dark Ascension Prerelease Event!
I’m a glutton for punishment when it comes to Magic. I love spending 8-10 hours playing a Pro Tour Qualifier event I can’t possibly win, or paying hundreds of dollars to fly to a Grand Prix event in another part of the country where I’ll go 0-2, drop. Of all these crazy things, I love staying up virtually all weekend to play multiple Prerelease events for new Magic sets most of all. There is something exciting about opening new cards at the earliest possible time the boosters can be cracked, and seeing the sunrise on the drive home from a victorious night of competition.
This time around I was able to attend two Prerelease events, going 3-2 in the first and 4-1 in the second. After the fold I’ll tell you all about them, as well as my thoughts on how Dark Ascension has changed the sealed environment.
(Note – I apologize for the grainy-ness of the pictures posted here. I still have a crappy CrackBerry so my phone’s camera is subpar. I can’t wait for my Verizon contract to be up so I can get an iPhone and catch up to the real world.)
First stop was the Adventurer’s Guild here in Harrisburg, PA for the midnight event, where more than 60 players played 5 rounds of new Magic until nearly 7am. The Guild assigned regular players the Monster roles of Vampires, Spirits, Zombies, and Werewolves, and everyone else was designated a Human. Any Human who was beaten by a Monster “transformed” into that Monster type. If you “survived” the night and remained a Human at the end of the tournament, you’d get a pack of Dark Ascension as prize.
I was a Vampire, and successfully converted 2 Humans during my 3-2 run (my 2 losses were to Humans, and I beat another Monster)
My pool was pretty good and mandated that I go white/green with a splash of red for Kessig Wolf Run. Garruk Relentless and Angelic Overseer led my team of Human tokens from double Gather the Townsfolk, and a slew of good white removal in Smite the Monstrous and Rebuke gave my deck a good threat/answer balance. There was also a Helvault, which I promptly laughed at for being a mythic and put it in the ‘not-gonna-play’ pile.
Given some of the decks I played against, particularly in the later rounds, I was pleased to end up 3-2 and get a couple prize packs.
I had no problem handling the first two matches that were made up mostly of red/green werewolves and vampires, which my deck definitely was better prepared for. The third round my opponent had mana trouble while I was dropping quick early creatures and making human tokens from Gather the Townsfolk.
Fourth round I played against a green-white deck that had insane token generation abilities – Midnight Haunting, Increasing Devotion, double Travel Preparations to pump the tokens up to ginormous threats, and Deranged Outcast to sacrifice a token to make another one get even bigger. It feels really dumb playing Smite the Monstrous on a token, let me tell you. Needless to say, I got trounced. In my last round I made quick work of my opponent in game 1, got stuck on three land game 2 and couldn’t come back, and then met one of the newest bombs of Dark Ascension face-to-face: Havengul Lich. On it’s face the Lich looks insane, but in reality, it’s really, really, really insane. I mean REALLY insane.
Since my opponent was a good player and never attacked into my open Plains, my Rebuke wasn’t an answer, so I really only had two possible cards in my pool to get rid of the Lich – Slayer of the Wicked (which I actually boarded out after game 2 because I only ever saw white-blue spirits and humans, never any zombies or vampires from his super light black splash) and Smite the Monstrous. While waiting and hoping to rip Smite, I was fending off an infinite loop of Elguad Inquisitors, which I would block and kill, he would gain 2 life and a spirit, then recast it from his yard with the lich.
I played Angelic Overseer, but he was able to kill all my humans and then play Geistcatcher’s Rig, knocking off the Overseer. To make things worse, he then cast my Overseer and made it his own with the Lich. I scooped at that point, since even if I wiped out the Lich I’d still have my Overseer to deal with, and he had a few humans on his side to keep it hexproof and indestructible. Seems good, right?
After finishing the tournament and “mini-mastering” the prize packs (I lost an Elbrus, the Binding Blade and a Ghoultree), it was time to indulge in a personal tradition – MCGRIDDLES!
After every midnight prerelease I have to go to McDonald’s and get a Sausage + Egg McGriddle to celebrate the glory of opening new cards. I don’t normally go to McDonald’s or eat McGriddles, so this is an epic treat that tops off a great night.
I went back home for a power nap and some power-up food (oatmeal + protein powder ftw) and then it was on to Card Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the second event.
This pool was significantly better, and I cruised to a 4-1 record, losing my only match because of classic color screw in game 3, where I could only get one color and was drawing all spells of the missing color. Very frustrating.
It was easy for me to build a red-green deck with six werewolves including Huntmaster of the Fells and Daybreak Ranger, plus Immerwolf tying the tribe together. Having a foil Clifftop Retreat made it possible to splash white for Mikaeus, the Lunarch and Angel of Flight Alabaster (and Burning Oil flashback). Having six rares in a sealed pool you can play in one deck is pretty insane (granted the double-sided cards gives it higher odds of happening), but having two mythics is even more nuts (although still not as nuts as Havengul Lich.
I won 9 packs for being 4-1, and the first pack I opened had a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad inside, which I immediately sold on eBay for around 50 bucks, making the whole weekend essentially a free experience.
Overall I really enjoyed the new sealed format, although I never really felt that Dark Ascension changed anything about the sealed format other than the addition of new cards. This is a good thing, since I personally liked Innistrad Sealed very much, and think it’s one of the more fun sealeds in a few years.
Token decks are definitely stronger given the increase in ways to create them, and there are certainly more bomb mythics to open like Lich and Huntmaster. It’s still a very heavy creatures-bashing-each-other-as-removal format with just a few new combat tricks. The “Increasing” spell rare cycle is a nice addition, and Increasing Savagery can cause a blow-out, and a deck with that card and Travel Preparations or Hunger of the Howlpack. Fateful hour is interesting but I didn’t experience enough of it to find it useful yet. When I lost games with fateful hour cards in my hand I had more than 5 life when my opponent sent over an alpha strike.
One card I am curious about is Warden of the Wall. Is that card any good? The two abilities seem good on their own – having a bit of mana acceleration and a flying blocker, but I was turned off by the ‘enters the battlefield tapped’ condition. A major downside is that it would make a great Grasp of Phantoms target for my opponent. If you played with the card in your deck this weekend, drop a comment and let me know what you think about it.
I would say my Unsung Hero card this weekend was Lambholt Elder, which was completely bonkers once she flipped. That old lady drew me tons of cards and pulled a lot of weight at the second event. Burden of Guilt was the bane of my existence, since on at least three occasions I had a turn 5 Vorapede single-handedly controlled by that common.
I really like how uncommons and commons like Tragic Slip are as brutal as rares in these sets, as it adds a good balance to the sealed pools. Scars of Mirrodin block was so dependent on how many rare bombs you opened in your pool, and I believe Innistrad/Dark Ascension is the complete opposite. Sure, bombs like Lich and Bloodline Keeper will win games on their own, but they both die to Slayer of the Wicked, an uncommon.
The prerelease events were fun enough to make playing in a Launch Party a snap call. Good luck to anyone who plays this weekend, and may we all open a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad!