It's been a couple of weeks since the Return to Ravnica pre-release and that means that our new tradition of running a league at work is underway. Before I get to that, however, today I want to talk about the pre-release itself. Michael, Gund and myself all attended the pre-release at Vagabond, our local store, again. There was a pretty impressive turnout for our area - we counted more than 40 people, and while plenty of stores in larger cities have more, that seemed pretty strong for our smaller town. To be honest, there really wasn't room for more people.
I had been wanting to play both Izzet and Azorius. However, after the cards were spoiled on magicthegathering.com, I was very unimpressed with the cards in the Izzet guild - I'm talking about commons and uncommons here, the majority of what you have to work with in Limited. As a result, I decided to go with the Azorius guild pack and see how it ran.
Here's the pool that I opened:
I built the following deck, though some cards were a bit fluid throughout the day. One of the things that I really like about pre-releases is the ability to switch your deck around as you learn more about the new cards.
|RTR Prerelease Sealed Deck|
1 Azorius Guildgate
2 Keening Apparition
2 Concordia Pegasus
2 New Prahv Guildmage
1 Sunspire Griffin
1 Vassal Soul
1 Hussar Patrol
1 Isperia's Skywatch
1 Palisade Giant
1 Archon of the Triumvirate
Other Spells (8)
2 Inaction Injunction
2 Dramatic Rescue
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Detention Sphere
1 Azorius Keyrune
1 Eyes in the Skies
After my initial build, I played a practice game against Michael after which I decided to swap in the 2 Dramatic Rescue - I took out Mizzium Skin and Soul Tithe. I had originally thought that Dramatic Rescue only targeted your own permanents, but upon closer inspection it bounces any creature, so that fit in pretty well with all of the detain in the Azorius deck. I actually swapped the Soul Tithe back in against opponents with a lot of big guys but generally was happy not to have it. In retrospect I don't think it's very good. I also swapped out Palisade Giant several times. I was pretty disappointed with it, since usually it just bought me one turn - my opponent would swing for 7+ damage and just kill it. The only other change I made was after the first round, during which I found Transguild Promenade to be far too slow and unnecessary in a 2-colour deck.
Detain is a mechanic that performs better than I expected in practice. I guess I must have initially thought that it just bought you half a turn - either the block if you played it on your own turn, or their attack if you played it on theirs. However, since it lasts until your next upkeep, you actually get both, making it pretty effective in a tempo-based deck. I also notice afterward that all of the detain cards occur at sorcery speed anyway, so the point is moot.
Inaction Injunction was pretty good - not fantastic, but pretty good. It usually did what you wanted and it cycles for another card making it's cost actually pretty low. Sometimes stalling and digging for another card is exactly what you need to do. The number of times that I've needed a land, played Inaction Injunction and found my land - both during the pre-release and since - is actually pretty impressive.
Keening Apparition was mostly pretty average because it gets outclassed so quickly. However, against my round 3 opponent who had a Collective Blessing, it proved invaluable, destroying it both games. It's also pretty good against Stab Wound, and sometimes you just need a 2-power dude to start beating down on turn 2. So while not fanstastic, it turns out to be a pretty useful card.
Concordia Pegasus looked bad, seemed good in the first match, and then didn't really seem very effective after that. I think it has it's place to stop the early beatdown and can be an effective sideboard card in this deck, but probably should not be maindeck if I have other options.
Hussar Patrol was pretty great on the day. People didn't seem to play around it and it managed to eat something in many games, giving me the 0-for-1. It's a nice pairing with Eyes in the Skies, since you could have either when you pass with 4 mana up.
Voidwielder, especially having 3 copies, played extremely well into the detain plan. In general, bounce is a natural companion to detain and I was very happy with these all day. I do think that they're very expensive and as I add more cards to the pool for league I think they may just be too slow. But I do think they were the right call during the Sealed event.
Detention Sphere is obviously a great card, but I just seemed to always draw it as well. An answer card always seems much better when you always have it.
Round 1 I played against a Rakdos guild pack that splashed Green. His deck had some threatening dudes but I always seemed to have something to hold him off. I would come to find out that this is the bread-and-butter of the Azorius detain decks. There were some good games here and I felt like I just managed to pull off the win. Most games ended with me staring down something like a Chaos Imps.
Round 2 I played against a solid Golgari deck with Underworld Connections. My opponent, Jeremy, seemed to bury me in card advantage but somehow I pulled off the victory. Once again, I felt like I barely got away with it and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, staring down a Corpsejack Menace or an "active" Ogre Jailbreaker.
Round 3 I played against Kelly with an aggressive Selesnya build with a very low curve. These games seemed less close, but that's largely because "I always had it." By "it" I actually mean whatever wrecked his well-laid plans. To wit - both games Kelly played Collective Blessing and both games I had Keening Apparition to neutralize it; both games I had Detention Sphere to take out multiple 3/3 or 4/4 tokens. My deck gave me what I needed when I needed it, and I was ecstatic to go 3-0 for the flight.
I'd be interested in knowing whether you would have built the deck differently and if so, why. I've been hearing that certain Izzet-aligned cards are maybe better than I thought so I wonder whether I should consider any of them. Should I have played Blustersquall? If so, over what? Were any cards in the pool worth splashing for in your opinion?
I ended up playing a Rakdos guild pack in the afternoon and went 2-1 with a good strong deck that I was very happy with. In the final round I made many very bad play mistakes and deserved to lose. Prior to that I was 5-0 on the day. Overall I was pleased with my 5-1 record and felt like the two guilds that I played were good choices. The other guilds didn't seem to come together as well, but that may just have been a result of my small sample size. One friend opened an Izzet pack and ended up building what was in his own words "an average Azorius deck" - that's just how poorly the Izzet cards were initially received. Of course, that's the deck I lost to in the final round of the afternoon flight, so it couldn't have been that bad.
In any event, the Azorius pack is the one that I'm using for league. Not only did I like it, but it seems right given that Michael and Gund didn't play the afternoon flight so this is the pack that we opened at the same time. Plus, Gund opened a Rakdos guild pack and Michael opened a Selesnya guild pack, so I'm all for diversity. More on the first week of league in my next post.