I don’t even know what was at the end of the rainbow, but it certainly was not a pot of gold.
After all of the upkeep to my EDH decks I’ve done online and off, the lamentation of how much effort a new set being introduced to Magic is weighs on me, and it doesn’t help when so many new cards that help the format have been introduced. As I write this paragraph, it’s 3:30 A.M. on Tuesday the 30th of April, and I’ve spent hours on and off organizing my collection and updating my EDH decks. I have posted my updated RG list (now featuring Ruric Thar, the Unbowed at the helm, overtaking Stonebrow, Krosan Hero) on MTG Salvation, and fishing through my entire collection multiple times to update all twelve of my EDH decks. All but two of the lists have gotten changes that range from small tweaks to massive updates to downright retirement (my former Vela the Night-Clad list sits atop my dresser completely gutted – over 1/3rd of the list has had its cards thrown elsewhere). When ten of your twelve decks get updated, yeah, prereleases can seem in hindsight like a whole lot of work.
But that’s half the fun, isn’t it?
You look over the new set the week before the prerelease. “My X deck can use that Y card!” You make a mental (in this case, I thank the powers that be that the Sticky Notes app exists) note of the cards you want to obtain for your collection. You go to the prerelease, make trades, and bam, your decks become more powerful. At the end of the day, that’s why I attend prerelease events – I want cards from the set, I go and trade for them.
The prerelease for Dragon’s Maze here at the CG Realm was rather…low in attendance. I expected almost 100 to show up – we ended up having around 70, if I recall. At first, I was curious about the low amount of attendees, but then I remembered – overall, the response to the set was underwhelming. Even I have to admit, despite a lot of flashy cards being released in this set, I only wanted about 15 of them – compared to Gatecrash, where I wanted about 25 cards, and that’s when I only had 9 decks. Overall, I felt like Dragon’s Maze could have offered more as a set, but at the end of the day I accept that my distaste for design’s recent track record is due to my affinity for noncreature spells and lack of knowledge of how to balance a Limited format.
Speaking of Limited formats, I have quite a strange relationship with Sealed formats that dates back to 2009 – my first ever Sealed format was the Zendikar prerelease, where I opened an Iona, Shield of Emeria, as well as a Marsh Flats. One would think now, “Wow, you made out like a bandit!”, but then you realize it was Zendikar, where a lot of the block’s rares overall are quite powerful across multiple formats.
What I’m trying to get across here is that I have a decent streak of luck that tends to lend itself to either my rares or my commons and uncommons, but there’s never a balance – I either get incredibly good rares with no support from either the color or the nonrare cards, or I open absolutely awful rares and my solid commons and uncommons get me to victory. In one of my Return to Ravnica prereleases, I remember aligning with Izzet, opening a total of three playable red cards (including the promo Hypersonic Dragon), but I also had an Armada Wurm, which helped me end up with a 3-2 record.
My first prerelease for Dragon’s Maze had me aligning myself once again with the Izzet League – frankly, winning the Implicit Maze was none of my concern, and winning the event wasn’t, either; I just wanted to get an Izzet pin more than anything, and I really didn’t mind many of the Sealed pools I opened online in the week leading up to the prerelease when I tested multiple Sealed pools on Cockatrice with my friend Drew. (Just…thank goodness I didn’t have Dimir as my allied guild, and wound up with Boros instead.)
My rares from my Sealed pool ended up being:
Clearly, the odds were not in my favor when it came to my Dragon’s Maze boosters – I had nothing but Firemane Avenger in terms of a reliable game-closing finisher, and had to rely on the rest of my pool for a decent deck. The final product at the end of the night ended up being:
Sealed Pool 1 - Izzet / Boros
Basically, the deck had an interesting line of play: spew out tokens, use mass pump, attack for a ton of damage. It was by far one of the most peculiar decks I’ve ever piloted, but I liked my deck. If I had to change one thing in hindsight, I would have played Beck // Call – I underestimated how important flying is in this format, when most of a game’s valuable blockers are on the ground.
Irregardless, I was not confident in my deck – aside from a few key players, the deck lacked creature count and lacked evasive threats. Regardless, I was confident enough in my skill as a player to ride it out and play it to the best of my ability – if I survived the 7-hour midnight madness that these tend to be, I had a beautiful prize pool to reap from whether or not this deck went 6-0.
(Spoiler alert: It didn’t.)
Round 1 – vs. Jonathan R (Selesnya / Orzhov)
I heard nigh-unbeatable Limited bombs were good, I dunno.
One thing I really don’t like about playing midnight prereleases at the CG Realm is the sheer density of player skill. It may be a peculiar thing to have an issue with, but when I’m already unconfident in the card quality of my deck, it doesn’t help when I’m paired up against people who I know know what they’re doing. It’s stressful, and does little to bolster my confidence.
In game 1, he plopped down not one, but two copies of Bronzebeak Moa. I had to use most of my resources to keep him honest by killing them, and luckily, he didn’t have many combat tricks up his sleeve. After those were deal with, I tap out and he gathers the mana to cast Collective Blessing and I know from that point I’m screwed, especially when I have to waste Counterflux on Eyes in the Skies. He stuck a creature soon after and I ran out of cards to answer it when almost all my removal relies on his creatures being not titanic.
In game 2, I dropped what had to have been the night’s MVP, Sunhome Guildmage. I got free damage from it left and right when my guys at 2 mana threatened to trade with his guys at 4. After dropping him low with help from a turn 3 Skyknight Legionnaire, a followup Goblin Rally shut him out.
In game 3, he casts Purge the Profane after I drop the Legionnaire once again, and I’m left with a problematic situation – I have 3 cards in my hand, one of them being a land, and one of them being my Madcap Skills. I opted to race him, keeping the Madcap Skills, and by the time he dealt with the Skyknight, I cast Firemane Avenger when he was at 3 life and he couldn’t find the removal he needed to stay alive.
At the end of round one, my friend Justin had remarked that he was hunting down a full set of the guild pins. Knowing that a group of friends I’d invited out wouldn’t be staying much longer, I asked them for their pins before they left, and they handed them over without much thought, bolstering me to 3 pins (Izzet, Selesnya and Orzhov). Justin had already gotten Boros, Gruul and Selesnya himself, and I was determined to beat him. (Don’t ask me why, though – for the life of me, I will never understand my motivation behind pursuing this contest; I just did it because I could, honestly)
Round 2 – vs. Jeff D (Azorius / Simic)
Protection from my deck? Okay, then. I mean, I guess…
After getting this matchup, I thought to myself, if I barely edged out round 1 due to lucky draws, I had to get that much luckier to beat Jeff, who is one of the better players at the store overall.
Game 2, I don’t even know what happened – he sat for the entire game with 4+ cards in hand and only ever cast a Wind Drake to defend himself, and I kind of just steamrolled him. Maybe he should have mulliganed…?
Game 3 he cast Elusive Krasis and managed to evolve it 4 times. When it has seven toughness, it gets to that point where it’s just straight-up impossible for my deck to deal with, and I couldn’t for the life of me hope to race it.
Running around, I believe another friend asked if I was collecting them, and I said yes, and got my fourth pin. Justin was a little annoyed that he hadn’t made any progress in this ordeal.
Round 3 – vs. Drew M (Gruul – Izzet)
I see how it is.
Drew had the same unfortunate streak of luck I did – a bad early matchup coupled with a terrible pool. He opened almost no on-color rares that he could play, and ended up adding blue to his deck after his first round loss.
In game 1, my early offense was met by a blocking Elusive Krasis, which was responded to in turn with Haazda Snare Squad. We were swinging back and forth at one another, but after I got Skyknight Legionnaire down when the board got clogged and he had no fliers, a follow-up Goblin Rally gave me lethal with a swing out.
Game 2 had to have been one of the worst bad beats stories I’ve ever had. I had the old “2 lands, all 3-drops” hand, which I probably should have kept in the hopes that two draw steps would get me there, but I instead mulliganed into zero lands two more times, and when I kept my hand of four, I never saw a white source while holding 4 white cards. Hands-down one of the most unfun games of Magic I’ve ever played.
Game 3, a similar problem occurred – I lacked the white mana I needed to cast my spells. However, I stabilized to the point where we were trading back and forth, but his topdecks were significantly better than mine, and I couldn’t keep up.
I believe it was at this point when I received a great assist from Mel, who handed me the elusive Dimir pin, and I managed to snipe a Rakdos pin as well, bringing me up to 6. At this point, Justin had practically given up, especially as the collection began making a reference to Pokemon gym badges (prompting me to remark “Gary was here, Ash is a loser!“), but if I managed Dimir, I figured I’d go all-out to secure the full set.
Round 4 – vs. Devon E (Gruul / Selesnya)
At the beginning of the match, he lamented that his deck was awful and he was strongly considering dropping afterward, and I understood his plight – being at 1-2 after the third round is a rough spot to be in, but I was confident seeing it out would win me at least something.
In game 2, the board state got clogged, but again, Sunhome Guildmage did a whole heap of work, making tokens to slowly build up an alpha strike. Eventually, I pulled the trigger on Righteous Charge with 5 creatures in play, and he had no answer to it.
It was at this point I exercised equal parts charm and grovel to acquire the remaining pins. I managed to convince two more players to part with their Boros and Azorius pins, bringing me up to 8. All I required were the Golgari and Gruul pins, and I was hard-pressed to get the players aligned with those guilds to part with theirs. I convinced myself that, should I fail in acquiring all ten by the end of the night, I’d get the other two in the next prerelease event.
Round 5 – vs. Ryan C (I don’t remember what he was playing)
Surprise! Take 2~
I don’t know what it was – I took notes of all my matches on my iPod and almost every single one refers to Sunhome Guildmage, Skyknight Legionnaire, or in some cases, both. In this matchup, he got stuck on two lands while I landed the Guildmage on turn 2.
In game 2, a turn 3 Legionnaire began pecking at his life total, and when I dropped turn 6 Guildmage with a land drop on my next turn, he was unable to find the removal for it, and my army soon overran him.
It was then that my friend Christian took notice of my collection and asked which I was missing, and when I mentioned Gruul and Golgari, he came back not a minute later with Golgari. Before the sixth round pairings went up, I noticed a stray pin on the table he was sitting at, and lo and behold, it was the Gruul pin I needed, likely his. I had completed the full set, and I’ll take the time to thank everyone who helped my achieve this, but specifically Mel and Christ for giving me the hardest ones to find.
Round 6 – vs Alwyn A (Selenya / Boros)
Ten power for 7? Sure, that’s fair for a Limited format.
In both games, he cast Trostani’s Summoner, which is pretty decent beats if you ask me. He began to race, and I couldn’t counterattack in game 1 because his backswing was lethal, and drew nothing to help me stabilize.
In game 2, I had to fight the Summoner again, this time with only 4 lands in play. You can imagine how that went.
So I finished the night at 3-3, which is pretty unfortunate – I have a bit of a curse where most of my prerelease events end me at X-2, but Alwyn had to go and break my curse. However, I got a sweet Stomping Ground playmat as a door prize in the last round, which was pretty sweet, and I wound up with 2 packs of prize, which isn’t the worst. What did I open?
Oh, thanks, buddy. You could have shown up like, 7 hours ago when I actually needed you. But no, it’s cool, I’ll take it regardless.
What a cruel, ironic twist of fate. I feel I may possibly have done better in the prerelease had I opened those two before the event and not after. Oh well, c’est la vie.
Overall, I had a pretty fun weekend – I opened 18 packs, and although my second prerelease event didn’t end up nearly as great as the first, I still enjoyed it. Overall, Dragon’s Maze is a fun Limited format to play in, and there are still a few goodies I need to secure from this set. I also managed not only a set of pins, but a set of the guild insignia cards as well, which will go nicely with the set of guild die I have. (Although, my Boros die has been misplaced – I’ll need to fish around for a new one)
Next week, I’ll be talking about the remaining five maze runners for Dragon’s Maze not covered previously. Stay tuned!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594