September 20, 2003

Mirrodin Pre-Release Notes

Geez, could they have hidden the geeks more if they tried? The tournament was in a ballroom on the lower level in the very corner of the Convention Center. We're sharing the center with conventions of Honda dealers and Mexican ministers, who were taking up the primary rooms. They're doing the tournament in flights of 25. The line is still long enough, I might not even make the second flight.

Second flight? Ha! Got into Flight 7 and had enough time to go halfway across the Convention Center for a coffee and muffin before deck-build started. Finished the food just as they started handing out the goods. It's a strange environment since the set is half Artifacts, so color choice comes down to the bombs. Had to leave a Terror and two Consuming Spirits (formerly known as Drain Life) out since black had no creature help and I couldn't commit enough swamps.

Knew I had a good chance of breaking my Round 1 losing streak as soon as I sat down and saw a 60-card sealed deck across from me. Although I'm not exactly the perfect model of efficiency, playing 41 cards with 18 land. He got his Terror both games, but I drew two Deconstructs in game 1 and my bomb rare Glissa Sunseeker in game 2. Artifact kill is better than creature kill in this format, and arty-kill don't come better than Glissa in this set.

Had some time to sleeve up my deck since I'm playing with some good rares, including a foil Living Hive. Got matched up with someone competent this time. First game he gets out Empyrial Plate, which was brutally unfair in Weatherlight sealed as the enchantment Empyrial Armor. Making it into a reusable, colorless artifact for the less mana hardly seems fair, especially when he equipped his flier with it. Held on as long as I could, waiting for one of my six outs versus the Plate. I'd calculate the odds of not drawing one in five turns, but that would just make me mad.

Game 2 didn't start any better as I mulliganed down to 5 (one spell, then all spells) and played first. But I got an awesomely smooth ramp-up and he stalled on three lands for too long. Stole one there, but then I promptly gave it back with the all-forest game when I had two white weenies in hand. Oh well.

Looks like another 50-card wonder deck. At the 1-1 table? I'll take it. Took a page out of my round-2 opponent's playbook and threw in a few Islands so I could take to the air with two Cobalt Golems in a format with few fliers. Worked perfectly in game 1 as I dropped an Island, played the Golem, equipped it with a Loxodon Warhammer, and smashed him from above as he played Spellbombs instead of bomb spells. Game 2 he mulliganed, then stalled on two land. Oops.

Well, at least the guy was playing 40 cards. Hammer-wielding Cobalt Golems won the day both games. One single unblockable creature can do huge damage thanks to Equipment. Of course there are those draws with all equipment but no creatures, but even that's a ton better than having a handful of Creature Enchantments. At least you can cast Equipment ahead of time and not lose early tempo.

Finally get to the top table and don't see too many familiar faces. In game 1 we kill each other's stuff until I built up enough land to drop the Living Hive and stomp him with it. He mulliganed in game 2, but I only had two Forests and not enough business. The game lasted a long time, but he dominated the board with two pingers that I had no way to kill. It was my turn to kill every artifact he put on the board in game 3. Got the hammer early, the Cobalt Golem midgame, and the money Island just as he stabilized on the ground. Golem to the air finished it off.

Just manage to squeeze into the last-chance flight 9. Picked up my prize for the last tournament while I was at it. 12 packs for finishing 4-1, so the tournament pretty much paid for itself.

Oh well, can't open huge all the time. Built a sprawling four-colored mess (splashing for Shatter!) made possible by two Chromatic Spheres and a Solemn Simulacrum (hey, pulled another good rare). More Island-Golem flying goodness plus two plain-blue fliers. Only played two pieces of Equipment even though I had lots, but I couldn't leave the Icy Manipulator on the bench. Did leave the Chrome Mox in the sideboard, even though it's suppose to be a chase rare, by its name alone if nothing else. The Imprint requirement means that it's useless for splashing colors, unlike the Mox Diamond, even though you give up a card for the Imprinting like the Diamond's Land-discard.

Finish up my deck just in time to shuffle up and play. First game, he kills my flier, then we stall on the ground until he busts out the mighty Pentavus. He could make a (flying 1/1) token, block, then move it back onto the Pentavus before it gets killed, and if he had the mana to spare (which he did), he could reseparate the token to attack in the air on his turn. Finally found a red mana source to Shatter mama-Pentavus, but that still left me with a swarm of flying tokens that I couldn't stop in time.

Second game I drop the flying kitty right on cue again, but he answers with a Soul Foundry Imprinted with a Fangren Hunter, i.e. he can pump out 4/4 Tramplers for 5 mana each turn. Yikes. A Welding Jar cancelled out my Shatter. I had a head start on the damage race with two fliers, but I wasn't going to be able to chump-block a crowd of Trampling Beasts. Had the clutch answer though in Solar Tide, which let me Wrath his beefy tokens and gave me just enough time to finish him off. The Icy was key, too, forcing him to waste more turns making tokens before I reset with the Tide.

Only had 10 minutes left for game 3. He had three Mountains in the opening hand and that was all the land he got. I had the perfect mana-curve creature ramp-up and rolled him as he discarded green fatties. He was pissed, which was understandable considering he lost to colorscrew when he had multiple colorless bombs. I was glad to steal one, though.

Traded two Revised Wrathes for two Decrees of Annihilation and a foil Mountain. I think I ripped myself off, but it beats getting gipped with the dealer prices, I guess.

Talk about stealing a round. I was paired down against a first-round loser who never showed. Yay free wins. Good thing opponent match win percentage (i.e. tiebreakers) doesn't matter today. Gave me plenty of time to catch up on writing, anyway.

Did some more trading to pick up some Onslaught multi-fetchlands for some of my extra multilands. Hate to trade down, but the release of a new large set always gives me hope for playing Type 2 again, since the card pool is at its lowest point in the cycle.

Talk and play a casual game with a dude with mad stuff, as in sealed boxes of Beta in the bank, etc. Fun to see a guy playing unsleeved black-bordered multilands, and wreck me with the Sorceress Queen-Drop of Honey-Rukh Egg combo. He finished me off when he found a Desert Twister for my Worship. Been ages since I played a casual game of Magic with non-power decks and everything.

Talk about karmic balance. Got a free win last round, this round I was the free win. Missed the round with all my other activities. Oh well.

Get back on the saddle after some furious shuffling action. Seemed to work as my fliers absolutely crush him both games. Good thing he didn't get his Platinum Angel, a literal game-winner (the card says: You can't lose the game and your opponents cannot win the game), to which I only had two outs (Shatter and Solar Tide). Hey I'm in the money again. Sweet.

My final opponent was a really nice guy who just graduated from UCSD, playing in his first sealed deck tournament, complete with oversized deck. First game he equips up a Leonine Den-Guard which completely dominated the board. Second game, I mulligan a hand with one land even though I had a couple of 2-cost guys, when of course the next card I drew would've been the second land. Keep the mulliganed six-card hand, still with only one land, and stall for one turn on one land, then spent a couple more turns at two land. Couldn't catch up after that, especially when he dropped the Empyrial Plate, armored up the Goblin pinger-dude that could ping for its power, and started doing seven points of direct damage to the dome each turn for R and Tap. Good thing I'm a mature adult now, because that was some bad beats. Matches like this happen when you play sealed deck, though.

The winning contestants in Flight 9 are the last stragglers remaining in the ballroom, waiting for the last match to finish so we can get our prizes and go home. The one good player in the flight was in a big creature stall in game 3. His opponent had a flier that was going to take him down, but he managed to do 14 damage and pull out the deciding game with a clutch Grab The Reins, which allowed him to take the opponent's biggest blocker, sac it for damage, and break through with an unblocked Atog, sacrificing a bunch of Equipment to pump it to lethal levels as everyone cheered for the end more than for the slick win. After another five hours of Magic, I got another three packs of Mirrodin with my dubious 3-2. Still, 7-3 for the day is almost statistically significantly over .500, which should be good for a ratings point or three. The next set of Pro Tour Qualifiers is actually Mirrodin sealed deck. Might give that a shot, even if I have zero Rochester Draft experience, should I make top-8.

Was glad to get out of there after a long day. Drove through In-n-Out for a celebratory Double-Double on the way home, after subsisting on a muffin and a Clif Bar for the day. Mirrodin looks like it's going to be a great Limited-set. Lots of strategy and math in combat, consistent mana-draws thanks to the predominance of artifacts, and not too many unfair game-deciding cards. Lots of rares with strange abilities, most of which will suck, but a couple will become deck centerpieces and go for big bucks. Too bad I'm not smart enough to figure out which cards they might be.

Posted by mikewang on 10:41 AM