Like many, many Magic players I attended a Battle For Zendikar prerelease this past weekend. I usually make it a priority to play in prereleases since I don’t have as much opportunity to play organized Magic at the moment (a seven month old son will do that) and I think prereleases are some of the most fun events you can play in. The casual atmosphere combined with the excitement of a new set makes these things a tonne of fun.
This time around I invited a couple of friends I knew who played Magic but haven’t really had any experience with playing at an LGS before. They are definitively casual players. One of the other major reasons I enjoy prerelease tournaments is how friendly they are to casual players. I personally feel that outside of new player specific training events at stores, a prerelease is pretty much the best introduction to organized Magic a player can get.
Generally speaking, everyone is pretty relaxed and less likely to play competitively, allowing new players to make mistakes, take them back and play Magic with the fear of being crushed by someone taking advantage of their lack of knowledge.
My two friends, Joseph and Ryan, came to pick me up around 10:15 and we drove to a new LGS in my area that opened up a couple months ago. Normally I play at Just by Chance Games in Waterloo (featured on the Manaverse Podcast Episode #6 here) but I heard of this new shop that had just opened up about 20 minutes from where I live so I had to check it out.
Flint’s has done a pretty good job building up an LGS in only a couple of months. From the conversations I had with Flint himself and his father, the location was formally the father’s machine shop converted into a half retail half play space LGS. There’s still a lot of work to be done but I can see a lot of potential there.
We ended up at Flint’s CCGs around 10:30 and signed up to play. Flint’s is pretty new so they only had 36 total spots open for the prerelease weekend and to our disappointment, there were only two available spots open for Saturday’s tournament. Apparently 27 showed up for the midnight event which meant that one of us would have to sit out.
Luckily one of the players that had signed up the night before didn’t show up and so two spots became three.
The Sealed Pool
I would like to be able to tell you that I opened a full art foil Scalding Tarn but that would be a lie. The most notable card in my sealed pool was a Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Too bad that was one of the few good cards in black in my pool.
After sorting into colours, I felt Green and White were my strongest options and so went with that. This was the deck I ultimately ended up with.
Basically, it was a collection is sturdy creatures supported by some really good white removal, a couple bombs, and a surprising amount of synergy. Overall, I was very happy with the deck once I put it together. You may have noticed the lack of basic lands in the picture, I played an 8/7 split between Plains and Forests and would do it again. For those who have counted, that means I played 41 cards.
I felt like this was an 18 land deck for sure but just couldn’t decide which card to cut, they all felt so good and worked so well together so I didn’t. Turns out landfall makes playing a boatload of land a great idea, who knew? *end sarcasm
I felt like the top cards in the deck were Retreat to Emeria, Retreat to Kazandu and From Beyond. The Retreats made landfall extra potent and were the source of the aforementioned synergy. Getting a bunch of extra landfalls in a single turn make both Retreats very dangerous and Nissa’s Renewal was a devastating way to do that. Blighted Woodland turned out to be an MVP in the deck as well, many times surprising my opponent because they forgot it was sitting there.
From Beyond was the ultimate grind card. I never used the second ability to search out the single Eldrazi card in my deck because the steady stream of 1/1 Scions was so powerful.
We played 4 rounds with a total of 9 players. The resulting bye every round made things a bit awkward, byes are obviously necessary but they aren’t much fun. The fact that a player that has to sit out a round is kinda lame since everybody came to play, but alas, it is the nature of the game.
After asking around, the best card opened was a foil Ob Nixilis which was actually in the deck of my opponent in the finals. Lucky guy, it’s no Expedition but it’s nothing to sneeze at. As far as Sealed bombs go, Ob Nixilis is right at the top. I made a note to keep that in mind if my opponents were playing black.
I can’t recall all the details (sorry opponents who might be reading this) of my matches but I ended up 3-0 and met the Ob Nixilis player in the fourth round. He was also 3-0 and since we were the only two players with 9 points we intentionally drew the match and split the prizes.
Impressions of the Format
After playing several games of the format I noticed a similar pattern developing. Most of the games were slow affairs with lots of board stalls. There are not very many flyers so evasion is super common and while most landfall creatures are obviously better on the attack, landfall is very reliable.
Nearly every game I played was decided but one or two creatures that can break a board stall. In my case it was Oran-Rief Invoker and Territorial Baloth, both were big enough to attack without trading. I think the Invoker was especially annoying for my opponents, short of direct removal he’s very tricky to deal with and nearly every game goes has both players with around 10 lands in play.
Synergy is very important in this format. Allies can be super powerful if you have a critical mass of them. The various Eldrazi can be surprisingly dangerous when played on curve, they have reasonably costed bodies but when combined with the processor abilities they can be very tricky to deal with.
In my case the synergy between solid dudes, the two best Retreats in the format, and some bonus landfall cards made my deck capable of surviving the early turns and closing the game out later on. Grinding out an advantage proved very powerful.
I haven’t played as much as some people, I only played a single prerelease compared to some guys I know who played the midnight one on Friday, plus Saturday morning, and then again on Sunday, but I like this format. Sealed at least.
I reserve judgement on draft and Standard, time will tell but right now I really like BfZ sealed and look forward to playing again. As a side bonus, I got my wife to play Magic again after a multi year hiatus. It feels weird and awesome at the same time when she asks me to play Magic but I love it.
Well, that was my experience at my local prerelease, what was yours like? Did you play this weekend? Did you run one at your LGS? Did you pull one of the super sexy Expeditions (pics or it didn’t happen)? I want to know, leave a comment down below and share what you think of Battle for Zendikar.