Thursday, 25 October 2012

Return to Ravnica League - 40 Cards

Our three-person league kicked off the week after the pre-release. It's a little unconventional in that we start with our sealed pool from the pre-release and add two new booster packs each week, starting with the first week. Conveniently, our local store gives out two boosters to everyone who participated in the pre-release, so we were guaranteed to have the packs we need in week 1. We also split a booster box giving us another 12 packs each, which weren't available until week 2 of the league. We took advantage of a deal that involved getting a $20 gift voucher at our local store as well as getting the buy-a-box promo card, which is Supreme Verdict. We agreed to put up both of these for prizes, the voucher going to the first place winner and the promo card the prize for second place.

We also agreed on exactly the same structure as last time: seven weeks, starting with eight packs (sealed pool + two boosters) and building up to a total of 20 boosters. We'll play the first four weeks with 40-card decks and then shift up to 60-card decks for the final three weeks.

At this point, we've completed the first four weeks - the 40-card decks. Below is a summary of each of the weeks and the standings up to now.

Week 1

Here were the contents of my two booster packs for week one:

1 Azorius Justiciar
1 Sunspire Griffin
1 Rootborn Defenses


1 Crosstown Courier
1 Soulsworn Spirit


1 Drainpipe Vermin
1 Stab Wound
1 Shrieking Affliction
1 Ultimate Price
1 Perilous Shadow
1 Catacomb Slug
1 Launch Party


1 Pursuit of Flight
1 Cobblebrute
1 Tenement Crasher


1 Giant Growth
1 Korozda Monitor
1 Axebane Stag


1 Search Warrant
1 Dramatic Rescue
1 Azorius Guildgate


1 Rakdos Shred-Freak
1 Slaughter Games


1 Risen Sanctuary
1 Coursers' Accord
1 Selesnya Keyrune


1 Trestle Troll


1 Counterflux

A handful of potential goodies for Azorius and not much to pull me in another direction. Ultimate Price and Stab Wound are good cards, but not enough even combined with my other Black to make me jump ship. Blue-White-Black (a.k.a. Esper) is not one of the tri-colour combinations supported by the mana in this set so there's little incentive to make major changes. Furthermore, I have neither Selesnya Guildgate nor Izzet Guildgate in my pool, so beyond the one copy of Transguild Promenade and the newly opened Selesnya Keyrune there aren't really any mana fixers to support a natural splash.

Meanwhile, another Azorius Guildgate makes my on-guild mana a little better. Azorius Justiciar and Sunspire Griffin #2 also seem like auto-includes. The cards that are debatable from my perspective are Crosstown Courier, Soulsworn Spirit and Dramatic Rescue #3. The Courier's upside is not really something that is likely to greatly benefit my deck, so it would be included simply to have another 2-power beater on turn 2. It is more aggressive than Concordia Pegasus, for example, and is probably worth trying just to see how it performs. Soulsworn Spirit continues the detain shenanigans that the deck really relies on to get the job done. It is also an unblockable threat, though without any equipment it's a little slow for a 4-drop. Perhaps it would make me consider playing a card like Ethereal Armor - I don't have Civic Saber. Evasion is very strong though and it seems like it should be worth playing. Finally, Dramatic Rescue is actually just what the deck needs, but I'm not really sure that it needs 3 copies. If I find that it does, then this card is available, but I'll leave it in the sideboard to begin with.

The cards that seemed to under perform included Palisade Giant and Concordia Pegasus. The pegasi can come in from the sideboard against heavy aggression if necessary. I'm conscious of the fact that if I remove 2 2-drops that's bad in general, but if I replace them with a 2-drop and a 3-drop and replace the giant with a 4-drop then overall I think my curve is adequately dealt to. The question is whether I can fit another 4-drop in. I decided to play the Soulsworn Spirit in the end.

I managed to defeat Gund 2-0 with his Rakdos build.

Meanwhile, Michael got the prize for being first to abandon his guild, and he did it grand fashion, switching from the Green and White of Selesnya to the Black and Red of Rakdos. This means that I have to play against all Rakdos all the time. Michael's deck was fast, too, and he played well, stocking up on burn to finish me off when things seemed to be stabilizing. I went down 1-2. With Michael defeating Gund as well, Michael jumped out to the early lead in the standings.

Week 2

Unfortunately, I forgot to write down what I opened and shuffled it all in with the following weeks before I realized. After opening, I did sent the following email summarizing: "I opened nothing and Supreme Verdict".

So, the question is, would you play Supreme Verdict in a tempo deck? If it's in your opening hand, you can craft your game plan around it. But if it isn't, it pretty much works against what this deck is trying to do. I'd be interested to know what other people think. I ended up playing it. It was stuck in my hand more than once and I never ended up casting it which of course only reinforces my thoughts. But maybe I wasn't thinking about it the right way.

I ended up beating Gund 2-1. His deck has Pack Rat which scares me, but I always seem to have a way to deal with it - usually Detention Sphere. That card is just always there when you need it.

I also beat Michael 2-0. It was a big reversal from the previous week. Michael also lost to Gund, erasing his early lead in the league standings.

Week 3

Once again I didn't open enough of anything to steer my pool on any course other than the Azorius detain plan. Here are the relevant cards that I opened:

1 Sunspire Griffin
1 Runewing
1 Stealer of Secrets
1 Crosstown Courier
1 Dramatic Rescue

I don't need another bounce spell. The 2-drop could be a consideration if I'm looking to reduce my curve, but I'm more drawn to the two fliers. Stealer of Secrets I was unsure about. I decided to try it just to see how it plays. My thinking was that if I'm detaining and bouncing things, it might just get through and do some good work.

The rares were Nivmagus Elemental and Death's Presence, neither of which I see much use for in my established deck. The Elemental really requires a build-around instant and sorcery theme and the Enchantment doesn't seem like enough to put me into Green. It's interesting to note that I'm building up some decent Rakdos in my pool, but not enough for a really strong deck and I definitely don't want to play Rakdos mirrors the whole week.

I ended up with the exact same record as the previous week, defeating Gund 2-1 and Michael 2-0. Michael managed to defeat Gund but I had a 6-point lead in the standings after week 3.

Week 4

Here are the relevant cards that I opened for Week 4:

1 Soulsworn Spirit
1 Keening Apparition
1 Trostani's Judgment
1 Avenging Arrow
1 Fencing Ace
1 Crosstown Courier

Swaps: +1 Keening Apparition
+1 Soulsworn Spirit
-1 Crosstown Courier
-1 Supreme Verdict

I was thinking that Trostani's Judgment might be a bit too slow in the harsh environment that I'm playing in - two Rakdos decks. Avenging Arrow is also mediocre here where you're looking to stop damage rather than take it. Fencing Ace would be good in some environments, but I don't have ways to pump it unless I play Ethereal Armor, which just seems subpar.

Supreme Verdict has been awkward in a deck that is trying to tempo the opponent out. I left it in for Week 3 but decided to remove it for Week 4.

I won 2-1 over Gund - the games were close and I felt like I was on the back foot most of the time. I also got a little colour-screwed in two of the games, which made them a little closer.

I lost 0-2 to Michael. Once again I felt on the back foot a lot, even though the games were close.

The standings are close after the first four weeks as I'm holding on by a slim 3-point margin.

Next week we shift to 60-card decks. This changes things a bit and potentially provides a good opportunity to reassess the deck. In particular, I think that I need to consider whether my card pool can put together a strategy that can beat two Rakdos decks rather than just playing what my card pool does best.

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