M11 Prerelease

I attended the Magic 2011 prerelease at my local shop this past weekend on Saturday night. This is the third prerelease I’ve been able to attend, and I was really looking forward to playing with the cards. The last couple weeks of spoilers and discussion about the new set had me salivating to see what goodies I would open in my sealed pool. My card pools for the Worldwake and Rise of the Eldrazi prereleases were pretty poor, so I was just looking for an improvement. I busted open all my packs at once without looking at them, then layed them out by color to see what I had. Here’s the pool I opened that evening.

All in all I thought it was a stellar card pool. The Destructive Force and one of the Jace’s Ingenuity were foil. I had several absolute bombs to build around in blue and white, while red was also deep and had some powerful yet splashable removal. Black had a grand total of eleven cards with the best being, in my opinion, Reassembling Skeleton and Rise from the Grave. The splashable cards in red were much better overall, in that they were removal, so black got cut quickly. Green also seemed anemic. The Naturalizes maybe would come in handy, but the rest wasn’t solid enough to build around. Thankfully blue and white delivered.

I ended up grabbing the blue and white bombs and all the decent creatures with flying and adding a splash of red for Lightning Bolt and Fireball. After playing it for five rounds there are a few minor changes I think I would make to give my deck more choices or outs, but the following is what I started the night out with.

Round 1 vs. William

Game one started with Leyline of Vitality in play on my opponent’s side of the board. I had the answer – a War Priest of Thune in my starting hand – so I was hoping that I’d draw into a plains in a turn or two and deal with the leyline early. However, I didn’t draw the needed plains until about halfway into my deck. During that time my opponent had kept his life total hovering around 20 while whittling me down. I just couldn’t get enough damage to stick on him before he knocked me out.

Game two I curved out with turn two flier, turn three flier, turn four Juggernaut. He had Solemn Offering as an answer which only helped his Ajani’s Pridemate get larger. Fortunately for me, my Frost Titan came down on turn six and kept his pridemate tapped out for almost the remainder of the game. The final nail in the coffin for my opponent was Angelic Arbiter which flew over for the win.

Game three played similarly to two, only I got a Sun Titan to stick and lock in the win.

Great opponent, nice guy.

Match Results: 1-0 (2-1)

Round 2 vs. Joey

His deck was a red black aggro deck that simply didn’t deliver enough for him either game. Game one I dealt with his early Fiery Hellhound with Condemn. My draw was spectacular as I ramped from Stormfront Pegasus to Wild Griffin and then to Assault Griffin. I simply overwhelmed him with fliers.

Game two was more interesting for him as he  was able to get out a Brittle Effigy onto which he placed a nice phylactery to house the soul of his Phylactery Lich. Unfortunately for him, I had the Condemn the next turn when the Lich got aggressive. Fliers again won me the game in short order. My opponent was able to play a lethal Quaq Sickness on my Sun Titan in game two, though. Gave me new respect for how good that card can be in a mono black deck.

Our games were short, so we played two more games for fun. My deck continued to win. I feel that his red black build might not have had enough removal or aggressive creatures, or maybe he kept hands that should have been mulliganed for ones that would have given him a better start. He was a great sport, as he was friendly and seemed to still be having fun despite his deck not cooperating with him.

Match Results: 2-0 (4-1)

Round 3 vs. Brandon

This round was over in about 6 minutes, including shuffling. The play was fast but my starting hands, while decent, were way too slow against my opponent’s multiple Garruk’s Companions and solid black removal in both games. Game two my opponent had ramped right into a Grave Titan and I didn’t draw into any of my removal to deal with it. I really love Grave Titan though facing off against it isn’t really a good thing.

Match Results: 2-1 (4-3)

Round 4 vs. Caleb

Game one was decent, with quite a bit of back and forth interaction between our decks. He was running white, green. I ended up getting through for enough to win the first game on the back of some fliers and removal. The second game was just a blowout, in that I kept a really slow hand with him on the play and I ended up drawing into many turns of land. His Sword of Vengeance didn’t help. I also found out that he also was playing Angelic Arbiter before it was on to game three.

The third game was a tight race. On turn four I used Fireball to torch his Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves, leaving him with two land, as he had missed a land drop. This felt like a solid play as it set him back quite a bit and I had a few creatures in my hand to take over the game with. However, my deck then simply coughed up mostly land. Once he got Ajani Goldmane on the board he took over the game. I was able to use Mystifying Maze to stem the bleeding for a few turns. But, by the time I had been able to kill the Ajani, I didn’t have enough creatures to hold him off any longer. I really enjoyed this match against an amicable opponent.

Match Results: 2-2 (5-5)

Round 5 vs. Ricky

The last time I played Ricky was the Worldwake prerelease, I believe. Turns out he was running a pretty decent blue black build with about three Liliana’s Specters. The first game my deck choked a bit and those Specters really put away any chance I had to win it.

The second game had a solid amount of back and forth, removal, and counterspells. I tapped out to cast Angelic Arbiter on turn 7 only to have it meet up with a Cancel. I was then able to get my Sun Titan online to start returning some of my fliers to the board when my opponent dropped Platinum Angel. He let me attack through his creatures, putting him to negative twelve life, but he slowly whittled away at me. Fortunately for me, I was able to cast Jace’s Ingenuity which drew me one of my few answers for the angel; Fireball. The next turn I was able to zorch the angel for the win.

Game three again was hard fought. It came down to my Whispersilk Cloaked Sun Titan versus his Platinum Angel. The war of attrition this time ended in his victory as I wasn’t able to draw my Solemn Offering or Fireball. He had lethal on the board and I had drawn a Plains, so that was game. I peeked at the next card and of course, I saw a Fireball staring back at me. Just drawing it a turn earlier and the game could have been mine. I had enough mana to Fireball my opponent and his angel for 6 for game, had I drawn it a turn earlier. Such is Magic, and that’s one of the reasons I love it. Looking back on this match, I should have cut Elite Vanguard and sided in the Manic Vandal to help improve my odds against the Platinum Angel. Negate might have also been useful to back up my own big guys. Prodigal Pyromancer would have also been really helpful against his Specters. Sideboarding is really one of my weak points, which I am working to improve each time I play.

Match Results: 2-3 (6-7)

What I Would Do Differently

While I feel that I had a great deck, I had more sideboard options at my disposal that I should have taken advantage of. Rounds four and five I was so close to edging out the opponent in game three that I feel that better sideboarding might have given me the edge I needed.

Elite Vanguard was not a very good card for this deck. I should have cut it permanently for either a Solemn Offering, Manic Vandal or Prodigal Pyromancer. Manic Vandal would have been awesome to board in against my round five opponent who depended on Platinum Angel to win. Or against my round four opponent with his Sword of Vengeance. Leaving the Negates in the sideboard wasn’t so bad considering I ran a Mana Leak and a Cancel in my main deck. I believe I should have sided them in a couple of my games, however. It was nice to have a Cancel maindeck that could answer anything, but having a Negate would have allowed for some more cheap protection for my bombs.

Final Thoughts

I really love Magic 2011, even more than I did Magic 2010. They’ve upped the anty for future core sets and they’ve packed it full of flavor and interesting cards. The cycles such as the Titans and the planeswalker inspired spells and creatures really help pull the set together. I had a blast playing and hope I get to engage in more limited action with the set.

Father, husband, programmer, gamer. Magic: The Gathering enthusiast who enjoys playing and discussing the game with anyone who is willing.

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