I just got back from the pre-release at Gamer’s Sanctuary in Flint, Michigan for some gun slinging action. This was my first time doing the whole gun slinging gig and I have to say it was a lot of fun. The event was very well-run with free lunch as well as a clean venue (not as common as it should be). Everyone also got 20% off of the bill from the Middle-Eastern restaurant next door as well. There were twelve people in four different rounds that won a draft set each day; Duel Decks and From the Vault: Legends were also given out as random prizes. The Saturday main event had about 130 players and Sunday was about half of the size. I was kept very busy battling all weekend due to the high attendance (and the chance to get a pack for winning). Most of the players did not bring constructed decks so I had a chance to play more games of sealed than a majority of people in the room. I learned plenty of things about the new cards throughout the weekend.
I want to say how excited I am that M12 is no longer the draft format because it was so boring. It’s nice to get back to a format where the interactions are actually new and interesting. While the transform cards are annoying due to the lack of a back, they are all great in limited. I tried day 1 without sleeves and was forced to use the checklist cards- this was just plain annoying. There was not enough time for me to get a draft in so I have not attempted to draft essentially face-up cards yet. I think black (or any other dark color) sleeves are going to be a lot more popular because it’s way more convenient to exclude proxies from your deck.
My first deck was pretty weak, but had to option to play black, red, white, and green. There was not a dominant color present, but blue was by far the weakest.
This is what I played for a majority of the day.[deck]1 Bonds of Faith
1 Chapel Geist
2 Elder Cathar
1 Thraben Sentry
2 Village Bell-Ringer
1 Voiceless Spirit
1 Abattoir Ghoul
1 Altar’s Reap
1 Corpse Lunge
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Moan of the Unhallowed
2 Night Terrors
1 Screeching Bat
1 Typhoid Rats
2 Vampire Interloper
2 Unburial Rites
1 Silver-Inlaid Dagger
1 Abbey Griffin
I wanted to play green, but there just wasn’t enough depth in the pool (although pretty close).[draft]Darkthicket Wolf
2 Grave Bramble
There were some nice high-end cards, but the curve was just going to be too rancid. [card]Kindercatch[/card] is very difficult to deal with due to the high toughness. It seems like there are plenty of big creatures, but not much else in green. It’s a great color if your curve can support it, but I was unable to do so both days. [card]Grave Bramble[/card] was difficult for my opponents to attack through and made up for the lack of early drops; it also was a combo with [card]Prey Upon[/card] since it’s almost guaranteed to win a fight.
It’s pretty scary to play against green because of the awesome creatures with Morbid. You can think a trade is harmless until they play a [card]Woodland Sleuth[/card], [card]Festerhide Boar[/card], or [card]Hollowhenge Scavenger[/card] in the second main phase. I have yet to find the perfect plan to combat such a strategy because you cannot play a grinding game against green decks because they are so good at going over the top. It’s the only color that can just pump out huge monsters every turn- not to mention their awesome human-werewolves.
I saw many players armed with Plains because of the large amounts of removal and evasive creatures; that’s always a recipe for victory in any limited format and this is no different. White has [card]Avacynian Priest[/card], [card]Bonds of Faith[/card], [card]Rebuke[/card], and [card]Smite the Monstrous[/card] at common so there’s a good chance the pool will contain plenty of removal. Speaking of removal, there seems to be much less than the average set. It becomes more awkward when most of the removal has strict specifications such as non-human or non-werewolf, zombie, and Vampire. I had a chance to play with [card]Victim of Night[/card] on Sunday and it was terrible in many matchups. There were several decks where I just lost with it sitting in my hand against a horde of Halloween monsters.
Cards that impressed me in the Saturday deck were [card]Unburial Rites[/card], [card]Elder Cathar[/card], [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card], and [card]Moan of the Unhallowed[/card]. I came into the format with the expectation that any playable card with Flashback would be awesome and it seemed to be the case. [card]Moan of the Unhallowed[/card] and [card]Unburial Rites[/card] have fine effects, but are so much better with affordable Flashback costs. The main reason I chose to play Black White was the ability to easily flash back [card]Unburial Rites[/card]. This seems like a good route for deck building because the secondary color has the ability to make your primary spells much more powerful. It’s also not unreasonable to play a third color to splash for Flashback effects; perhaps a basic land as well as a [card]Shimmering Grotto[/card]. I had two [card]Shimmering Grotto[/card]s on the second day and it made my deck so much better. It was a Red/Black deck, but splashed [card]Smite the Monstrous[/card] and [card]Bonds of Faith[/card]. This land seems harmless, but can make your deck so much better by being able to effectively splash your most powerful spells.[card]Elder Cathar[/card] seems decent, but it really did some work with human sub-theme. It’s especially cool to run it into another creature with nothing else in play only to flash in a [card]Village Bell-Ringer[/card]s for two +1+1 counters. [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card] was in my deck both days and it won many late games. For one extra mana that should be paid for a 2/2 flyer, you can turn creatures into life drains even if they trade. The ability also counts itself so you are guaranteed to gain some value (and I love value).
Cards that were unimpressive included [card]Corpse Lunge[/card] and [card]Altar’s Reap[/card]. I think there are decks that can support [card]Corpse Lunge[/card], but I had [card]Unburial Rites[/card] as well as generally smaller creatures. This card’s utility is largely based on your secondary color; green has plenty of giant monsters so the card gets much better than in white. The largest power creature I had was 3 so it was pretty lackluster, but it’s removal either way. I had high hopes for [card]Altar’s Reap[/card], but it was rarely a blowout like I expected. There was a time where I sacrificed a creature that was enchanted with [card]Bonds of Faith[/card] for maximum value, but that was about it. The card gets much better when you have more creatures that benefit from going to the graveyard (obviously) so it’s difficult to adequately measure the overall power. I like that it can trigger Morbid or [card]Time Walk[/card] an opponent when they plan to flip a Werewolf by not casting any spells for their turn.
Speaking of Werewolves, these cards are very tricky and I gotta say the design is awesome. The cards have so much strategy to them that I doubt the surface has even been breached. Start by looking at their interaction with [card]Bonds of Faith[/card]; the card pumps them up before they are flipped. After they have transformed, the werewolves cannot attack. Playing it on an opposing werewolf can be a dangerous maneuver because it can transform again by casting two spells. After the card transforms into a human, it can not only attack, but also deal an extra two damage.
I really like the instant speed flashback spells such as [card]Geistflame[/card] and [card]Feeling of Dread[/card] because you have the ability to mess with Werewolves. The time walk effect can be a game breaker as the opponent loses an entire turn of early development because they want to transform. It’s even awesome in the late game because you can transform their werewolves back into humans by casting the spell followed by flashing it back. This can even benefit your own werewolves by transforming it into a human in the face of [card]Avacynian Priest[/card] so it can no longer be tapped (remember that they won’t transform until the next upkeep).
It’s great that all of the transforming creatures are playable since there’s one in each pack. The worst one is [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] and that card is perfectly fine as long as there’s at least five spells in your deck. Be sure to take note that it’s possible to open a rare transform creature as well as a normal rare in the same pack. It’s also possible (but a lot less likely) that you open a pack that contains a foil rare, a normal rare, and a transform rare. It appears that every transform permanent with a rare or mythic symbol is a bomb.
I tried to make sure I had an early curve because it’s very possible to just effectively have the game end on turn 3 because your opponent played an insane werewolf. One game ended on turn 3 when I could not play a spell after my opponent played [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card]. I lost to the tokens very quickly so keep in mind this may happen to you. The argument could be made the other way around because you have werewolves in your deck. Who would want to play a three drop when you could have a four drop after your own Mayor transforms? This mentality not only ruins your curve, but keeping the opponents werewolves in check is a lot more difficult. You can hold the three drop if transforming the creature is that important to you, but may be blown out by an end of turn instant anyway. I like the strategy of waiting to transform the creatures until you are more established because of being set back so far by instants and removal.
Only one opponent played [card]Turn to Mist[/card] against me, but the card seems very strong. You can bounce a flipped creature in order to really put the opponent on defense. I like the other two counterspells as well ([card]Dissipate[/card] and [card]Frightful Delusion[/card]) because they can both essentially get a two for one. [card]Frightful Delusion[/card] can counter a spell and make them discard a card while [card]Dissipate[/card] can remove a card with flashback from the game. Be careful to not play too many of these cards because they can be trapped in your hand during the early game; that’s the easiest way to lose to a werewolf.
I was drawing in almost every one of my games, but there are certain creatures that would make you want to do otherwise. If you have an early werewolf, I could see going first due to the opponent having less lands to potentially cast a spell. My Sunday deck had a [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card], which is better the sooner it attacks as well as [card]Vampire Interloper[/card]. Unless you have specific cards that gain significant advantages from being played as soon as possible, I would highly recommend drawing. The format is slow and there are plenty of defensive creatures that can get you to the late game.
I don’t like the green cards that gain an advantage from having creature cards in the graveyard because they are difficult to establish early. Who wants to draw [card]Boneyard Wurm[/card], [card]Wreath of Geists[/card], or [card]Splinterfright[/card] in their opening hands only to see it take about four or five turns to set up? They are only good if you pack your deck full of creatures, which may or may not be the right play depending on your deck.
A key aspect of learning a new limited format is determining the important tricks to avoid. Green typically has a pump spell, what is it? This time around, green has [card]Spidery Grasp[/card], which happens to be very strong and [card]Ranger’s Guile[/card], which can also trick somebody pretty badly. [card]Spidery Grasp[/card] is extremely strong so be aware that it’s not always safe to attack into 2G even if their creatures are tapped. Other tricks to avoid involve the opponent leaving up W2 because white has [card]Village Bell-Ringer[/card] and [card]Rebuke[/card]. Either one or both of these tricks can potentially blow you out so be sure to think twice before attacking.
I saw a number of players who had [card]Traitorous Blood[/card] in their deck and I can’t say it’s a good card in most scenarios. Most of the time it just dealt four damage to me, which is hardly worth a card in many cases. I would gladly have my opponent mulligan and waste the third turn to start the game at 16 life. It obviously becomes more powerful when the deck is more aggro, but it’s rarely good in the opening hand. The flashback spells that stop creatures from blocking such as [card]Nightbird’s Clutches[/card] and [card]Feeling of Dread[/card] are a little more powerful because it gets your creatures through twice (value). They also get better if you play any cards that mill yourself.
There are not as many board sweepers as compared to other sets. The big ones to watch out for are [card]Rolling Temblor[/card], [card]Divine Reckoning[/card], and [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]. They can all be played around in their own ways and it’s an even easier task to dodge the flashback.
Overall, this is a great set to play for limited and I can’t wait to start drafting! I’ve only scratched the surface of the limited strategy, which says a lot regarding the format due to the sheer complexity of the new mechanics. By next week, I will have some drafts under my belt and can delve into some archetypes.
Thanks for reading!