I was happily able to attend the Scars of Mirrodin prerelease last night at my local shop. We’ve normally been getting between thirty and forty players for prereleases throughout the Zendikar block, but only nineteen showed up last night. I’m going to go over my pool and discuss the builds I tried and what I ultimately ended up running.
Here’s the final build I ended up running for the last three of the four rounds on the night. The first round I attempted to use red, but my red pool was really, really weak aside from the Shatter, Arc Trail and Iron Myr. Black seemed strong and I don’t know what possessed me to resist it in my initial build. I originally included Leonin Arbiter and Memnite, but both proved to be less than optimal in my deck, and they got pulled to make room for more black.
Round 1 vs Michael
Michael sat across from me when we were opening our pools and man he opened some good stuff. I knew of Venser, the Sojourner as well as Contagion Engine. From that alone I assumed he’d play white/blue with maybe a splash to ensure he played Venser. But, the Engine was the real threat to watch out for as it has the power to obliterate my army.
Game one I got out some fliers and hit him for two, six and then two damage. He stabilized at ten life and proceeded to grind me down, and finished it up with a Contagion Engine. That was lights out for me as my next draw saw no artifact removal.
Game two I decided to play, as my deck very much wanted to do all it’s damage early as with red I didn’t have any chance at a long game. My plan was to play as many threats as I could and beat him down faster than he could play the Engine. Thankfully this worked as I killed him in five hits and I ended at twenty five life. This was thanks to Glint Hawk and Glint Hawk Idol and the life gain came from the [card]Razor Hippogriff[/card,] who was good all night. The interesting part of this match is that he played Venser and was able to get him to ultimate, but I had too many threats for him to exile and the game was mine.
Game three I was on the draw. I got a decent start, but so did he. We went back and forth pretty evenly with Glint Hawks until we were both at eight life. The only problem was he then hit Contagion Engine which proceeded to demolish my army. I was dead in two more turns. With the white/red build I was running in round one I Shatter and Revoke Existence in the deck, but sadly never drew them or hand them on hand when needed.
Michael was a great guy and he kept stopping by through the night to see how I was doing. Hope he continues to come around as he’s a good guy and a nice competitor. Apparently he came back to Magic because he remembered Mirrodin fondly and the nostalgia Scars evoked was enough to get him to try it out. There’s one point for Scars for bringing back cool people to the game.
Round 2 vs. John
I’ve seen John around at other prereleases, but had never sat down across from him for a match. After round one I had heavily edited my deck, removing the red entirely and adding all the solid black cards like Trigon of Corruption, Skinrender, Necrogen Scudder and Leaden Myr. I was hoping for a more consistent deck that could handle opposing threats in the mid to late game.
Game one he was on the play and opened with the Copperline Gorge and a Horizon Spellbomb, putting him in green/red. I wasn’t sure whether to expect Infect or simply an aggro deck, but on turn two he layed Blight Mamba and Infect it was. My turn two was Contagion Clasp killing his Mamba. His turn three he popped the Spellbomb and played another Blight Mamba. My third turn consisted of land, Glint Hawk, returning Contagion Clasp, replaying the Clasp and killing his new Mamba. Despite his low cost, Glint Hawk played at the three mana spot for me many times over the night for this exact combo, and it seemed especially good against creatures with infect, the two or three of the best Infect creatures have one toughness. I had complete control of this game thanks to all the -1/-1 counters I could distribute. His life total went 20, 18, 15, 10, 5, concede while mine went from 20 to 22 thanks to the Hippogriff, however he had me at eight poison counters, so I was a hit or two away from disaster.
Game two played out very similarly. He got me to about six poison counters, but his life total went from 20 to 17, then 11, 5 and dead. The white fliers (including Glint Hawk Idol) all were excellent in both games.
Just for fun, we played another three games while the round finished up, and I didn’t drop a single game against his deck. This gave me a lot of confidence in the new build and against Infect decks in particular. It was good experience for round three.
Round 3 vs. Kenneth
Kenneth was a young kid, but he played very well. He also opened some great green and black cards, like Geth, Lord of the Vault. Game one was a very tight game. I played my usual early fliers, but he played multiple Ezuri’s Archers. I was able to remove one with the Clasp, and another by trading with my Glint Hawk. He attacked me on both fronts, poison and life total and had me down to five life and eight poison counters before I was able to take the game.
Game two I was not fortunate. I was able to get the Grinding Clock out early and was milling him for two and then three a turn. However, there was nothing of note in the graveyard for my Necrotic Ooze to really make use of. The game hinged on him playing Bellowing Tangle Wurm, which I Arrested. He responded the next turn by playing Tel-Jilad Fallen. My Arrest meant I couldn’t block him at all due to the Fallen having Intimidate, Protection from Artifacts and the fact that I wasn’t playing green. Failing to draw Contagion Clasp, Skindrender or Trigon of Corruption in the next two turns meant I died to poison.
Game three started out with him playing out two early Ezuri’s Archers, again. I came out with turn two Clasp, putting a -1/-1 on one Archer. Turn threeI had the Glint Hawk , returning and replaying the Clasp to put a -1/-1 counter on the other Archer. Turn four I proliferated and now had a clear path for my fliers. However, by turn five I was facing down Geth. Sadly, Kenneth seemed to have forgotten that Geth could return any creature to his side of the board as well as mill me out, so my game plan was to let him infect me a little, then switch over to letting him hit my life total. I managed to get away with him not remembering to use Geth and somehow won the game.
Round 4 vs. Teddy
Teddy is a sharp player. The last time I played against him was at an FNM and he was playing an aggressive allies deck. Game one became a lesson to me in how fast white and red can be in Scars. He had turn two Auriok Sunchaser, and on turn three he hit three artifacts and I took three. Turn four he played and activated Trigon of Rage, hitting me for six with the Sunchaser. I tried to stabilize but I was dead in only a few more turns. I did something like four damage to him, but he had complete control of the game.
The second game I had a much better hand on the play. I got down Darksteel Axe turn one, Glint Hawk turn two, and on turns three, four, and five attacked for four. With him at eight life I thought I had a chance, but he played out Horde-Smelter Dragon. I had a nice answer in the Contagion Clasp and was able to proliferate once before he ate it with the dragon’s ability. He spent a couple more turns merely eating up my artifacts and soon swung in for the win.
Since this was the last round I took some time to talk to Teddy and another really good player who happened to be sitting next to me about my build and what they would have done. The consensus from them was that I really needed to bring in extra artifact removal from green (Sylvok Replica) or red (Shatter). The other card they thought should have made it into my deck was Chrome Steed. I probably would have been well served to drop Grindclock, Necrotic Ooze and a Swamp for Sylvok Replica, Chrome Steed, and a Forest. Necrotic Ooze and Grindclock had some good combo potential, but they were underwhelming over the course of the night. In a constructed deck I think they’d both shine a little more, but Scars seems to be very much about maximizing your removal, just as Mirrodin was back in the day, maybe even more so.
All told the deck performed consistently and ran well. Glint Hawk has amazing synergy with cards like Contagion Clasp. The Hawk should really be considered to have a converted mana cost of two or three. Sure, you can run Memnite out and play the Hawk on turn one, but the Hawk can gain you a lot of value if you are willing to time it right. Glint Hawk Idol is also a solid card with all the artifacts running around. After all the matches were done I was able to talk to several people about the deck, and the point came up that I should be running the Chrome Steed and Sylvok Replica and a Forest instead of Necrotic Ooze, Grindclock and a Swamp. While the Ooze and Grindclock are a neat combo, I really needed additional artifact removal to go with my Revoke Existence. I also could have fit in the Slice in Twain or Shatter possibly, thanks to having Myr in those colors. The extra removal would have come in handy against the many artifacts running around. Contagion Engine was an extreme threat against my deck and I had my entire army taken out more than once due to an active Engine over the course of the night. Basically, if I didn’t have removal for the Engine, I lost the game. It’s brutal.
Scars of Mirrodin is a drastic change from what we’ve had over the last year or two. There’re a lot of different counters running around again; poison, charge, -1/-1, awakening, etc. Removal is plentiful, and the games play completely different than what we saw in Zendikar block. There’s a lot more “bookkeeping” in Scars, but it’s a very dynamic experience, and seemed to promote a lot of interaction between players in games. I’m really looking forward to the impact it’s going to make on standard in the next few weeks as people get their hands on the cards and spend time brewing up new decks.