The Magic 2013 prerelease events happened this weekend. I love prereleases. A whole host of players you never see at any other time turns out to crack packs and see the new cards in action. It’s a blast to see how other players evaluate new cards, what cards do better than advertised, and what massively underwhelms.
As a Limited format I have a special interest in M13. Having qualified for the World Magic Cup, I will need to draft this format and also (hopefully) understand it as a Sealed format, so any and all hands-on experience is really valuable.
As such this article contains my initial thoughts on the format, picking out certain cards that have caught my interest, and ones that illustrate the problems newer or inexperienced players can fall into when evaluating cards for the first time.
Currently M13 Sealed feels surprisingly race-y — not fast per se — but race-y. I had numerous games that came down to a single turn (or a Safe Passage), and I spoke with several people that had the same experience. If this feeling bears out, it makes a number of effects more powerful than normal.
One of the first things I learned when coming into Magic was that lifegain effects are bad. Angel’s Mercy should basically never see play (except maybe in winning Pro Tour Block Constructed sideboards). However, effects that gain you life as a side effect, such as well-costed creatures with lifelink can be powerful players in Limited, even more so when the games go right to the wire. As such, Ajani’s Sunstriker will be a staple of white decks. More impressive for me though was Healer of the Pride. As a 2/3 she makes a fine defensive body, which fits well into an exalted-based strategy, while gaining valuable life.
I want to talk briefly about exalted. If you played in Alara block Limited then move along — but myself, along with hundreds of others, have never seen the effect in action in Limited before. It is a truly fascinating keyword. Watching games with one huge creature attacking in either direction, while pathetic 0 or 1 power defenders stand by, helpless, was a new experience for me.
As an exalted deck, it’s especially useful to have an evasive or awkward-to-block creature carry the flag for your team to stay ahead in the race. I really struggled against a Vampire Nighthawk, since I could find no profitable block and the lifegain made racing it impossible. This does, however, open an exalted player up to blowout tempo plays. With just one attacker, a well-timed removal spell can push the clock back toward your favor.
Such an interesting strategy — I’m glad I get the chance to play with it over the next three months.
“Didn’t They Do Well?” – Bruce Forsyth
When you read the spoilers for any new set, you make judgements on the new cards — what might be interesting, what you will always play, and what isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. No one is actually clever enough to get this exactly right, the evaluation of cards continually evolves and changes during a Limited season.
So which cards did better than I expected?
The Ring cycle was fairly underwhelming at first glance. Interesting enough with reasonable abilities, but nothing special. However, if you are lucky enough to open a Ring of a color you are running, do not hesitate to play it. I did not open one, nor did my pool have any artifact destruction, making for very quick and frustrating games. The green Ring was especially powerful, since the ever-growing creature got harder to impede due to the trample.
I expect Rings to be big players in the draft format, as you can more successfully navigate to end up with the correct pairing. That being the case, remembering to pick up some artifact destruction will also be important.
I had a Public Execution in one of my pools. I ran a UW fliers build, but splashed this as a removal spell. What I discovered is that it is not just removal, but actually a complete blowout card. The one time I got to cast it my opponent had attacked with six creatures into my five. He was left with none, and I still had five. There was another game where I knew my opponent had one in his deck, and after studying the board state for a time I decided that if he had it there was no way I was ever winning. It’s not an effect one can play around — it’s just insane.
At only 5 and a single black mana I would run this in every pool I open a copy in. If it is not too slow for draft it will be an easy first pick.
The next two cards I have on my list probably shouldn’t have surprised me. I evaluated them highly, but just how painful they were to play against still shocked me.
Okay, okay, I know Rancor was meant to be good, but I didn’t exactly see it in action last time around. Wow! This card is nuts in Limited — forcing through damage, trading up, and so many good targets. Creatures with first strike made for particularly good options. I am happy to admit that while I rated Rancor as always playable in my mind, I think that may have not quite done it justice. I shall respect the Rancor.
Arctic Aven is part of a cycle that I really liked the concept of for Limited. I glanced over them, and considered them eminently playable in the right colour combinations. Arctic Aven though is on a different level to the others. I mentioned in my overview that the format seems to come down to tight games — well, oddly, a three-power flier that can gain lifelink is quite good in that situation. In addition, you are likely to have some white creatures with exalted to accompany it, which makes it just terrifying.
The final card on my list is Roaring Primadox. A 4/4 for four is a reasonable creature. What I considered to be a downside, though, is secretly an amazing upside in the right deck. I saw people bouncing cards such as Elvish Visionary and Yeva’s Forcemage to gain serious profit. The person who had it with Thragtusk… let’s just say he won and leave it at that. I really look forward to drafting a strategy around this card. There are plenty of tasty ETB triggers in M13 just waiting to be abused.
Where Did it All Go Wrong?
I like seeing how newer players evaulate cards. Interestingly, there was one stand-out card that people had to be talked into running. I even saw several repeats of this story on Twitter, so it wasn’t just a local phenomenon.
That’s right. A six mana artifact that deals damage to creatures or players and draws you extra cards. I honestly don’t know why this would be so misinterpreted. There are a good number of creatures that can be killed by it in the set, including some pesky fliers. It also has the most powerful feature of any Magic card — drawing you extra cards. Which is, I think, where newer players struggle with this card. In short: it’s colorless and good, you should be playing it.
There is another card that I felt was misunderstood — Switcheroo. Some people will see it as Mind Control with a downside, having to give up one of your precious creatures. However, it’s secretly Mind Control with huge upsides. For a start, it is much more splashable; and secondly, it’s much more permanent. You can’t “destroy” the effect to return your bomb creatures to your care. This is another must run card and, like Mind Control before it, a highly respectable first pick in draft.
You Sir, Are Not Very Good
I was massively unimpressed by Intrepid Hero. For example, people seemed perfectly happy to run this 1/1 for three, despite the fact that it can actually kill fewer creatures in the set than Staff of Nin (pump effects excluded). There are decks I want it against — green fatties or lots of exalted, but plenty where I don’t. The jury is out as to whether I would even main deck it.
You Sir, Are Rather Good
In contrast, Mindclaw Shaman and Mwonvuli Beast Tracker both got the nod from me. Mindclaw Shaman seemed possibly overcosted as a 2/2 for five, but when my precious Sleep was stolen from me I appreciated its value. If it ends up being just a 2/2 for five, then at least you know there are no tricks or removal spells to play around, and otherwise you just got great value.
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker is far from an auto-include, but if you have notable tutor targets he is a nice little body while ensuring you get your Acidic Slime to destroy the Akroma’s Memorial, or that you will have a 7/7 trampler to play next turn. A solid player, and probably more so in draft where you can ensure the value.
Wall of Tanglecord, What Are You Doing Here?
I mentioned earlier that cards become more or less playable as a format evolves. Wall of Tanglecord is a really good example of this from Scars block Limited. In M13 two cards have so far caught my eye as potential rising stars.
Firstly Tormented Soul. When it was printed in M12 it didn’t see much play initially, until people appreciated that it was a good way to trigger bloodthirst, and suddenly it was a prime card. Oddly, again he seems to have fallen into disregard, and yet I’m sure he’s even stronger now in the exalted decks than he was in the bloodthirsty ones. I’m sure this will not take long to correct itself.
The other card is Courtly Provocateur. I played with this card, and was pretty undecided about it’s value in Sealed. After all, it’s a 1/1 for three. However, it really shone against the exalted decks, forcing either a multi-creature attack, or for the least good creature to come in alone instead. I think the reason I found it kind of mediocre was that my creatures were mostly little fliers whereas, if I had been UG with big fatties, I could have gotten more value from the effect in other matches by forcing attacks into my bigger creatures. In conclusion, keep an eye on this card, it might just surprise you.
That is all the notes I had written down about M13. I hope you enjoyed your prerelease events. Did any cards surprise or underwhelm you? Feel free to tell me about it @onionpixie. See you next week!