Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fate Reforged Pre-Release Tournament

I've been playing Magic on and off for 21 years and while I don't have a bucket list of what I'd like to do, I had not participated in an official pre-release tournament for one of the new sets.

That is, until this weekend.

With an active FLGS and a large fan base, it would be foolish for me not to try jump in on the excitement.  I've slowly been drafting Khans of Tarkir when I have some time on Sundays.  There are some definite quirks with the the set that I don't like, but there are plenty of elements that intrigue me to continue.  With the new set, Fate Reforged, they promised a couple new mechanics/options, and a whole lot of freaking dragons!

*Disclaimer:  Since the majority of my readers were Magic players over a decade ago.  The terminology I may use makes sure their eye don't gloss over the bazillion new special abilities that have come out. Heck, I probably won't cover much more than some castings costs.

I got to the store around 11:20pm and the place was already jumping.  It seemed that over 40 people had showed up to play!  It did put a strain on the inventory they had received to run three tournaments over the course of the weekend, but the last thing you want are upset gamers late at night.  Taco Bell would be doomed!

Luckily, I had called in to confirm space earlier in the afternoon and Joe, the owner, pencilled my name in a spot.

Casual play before the prerelease
By about 12:20am, all the money had exchanged hands and the lists printed.  As this was considered a "constructed" event (special box set, not the traditional starter decks you old timers might remember),  each  of the four clans that had been introduced in Khans had their own box you could pick.

In hindsight, I was an idiot and picked Sultai.

I've been intrigued by the Delve ability, where for each card from your graveyard  you remove from the game (exile) you reduce the cost of certain spells by one colorless.  I've drafted the bulk of the Sultai rares, so it was a good time to put it to the test using a set dedicated to them.

First, the contents of the box:
From @cssilver on Twitter.  Their clan was Temur, but same set up
Inside were three packs of the new set, one pack of Khans of Tarkir, a shrinkwrapped pack of cards dedicated to the clan (Each pack appeared to be different.  The guy next to me also had Sultai and we did not have identical cards, even the prerelease promo card!)  You also got a Spindown Life Counter (a d20 with all the numbers in order so you didn't need to search for the number) a pin with the clan symbol, and two sheets  of paper.  One was just an overview of the clan and their special abilities.  The second was a subgame for the tournament.

In the storyline on this set's world, some Khan is going back in time to save all the dragons, rather than killing them.  Each player had a clan specific checklists of actions.  Once enough players complete their objectives, Ugin, some badass planeswalking dragon would be revealed and special promo packs handed out.
My paltry attempt.  I'll explain why shortly.
Spoilers:  Enough people succeeded and some of the promo packs had some pretty sweet cards in them.

Sultai is a collection of Blue, Green, and Black cards, and I noticed one disturbing trend:  I had very little blue (12 cards total).  I had a ton of high casting cost green and black cards with Delve, but no blue cards to either stall my opponent or self "Mill" me.  Even among my Gold cards I had one copy of the enchantment that let's you during your  look at the top two cards of your deck and put any number of them into your graveyard and the rest back on top in any order (Sultai Ascendancy).   I was not going to rely on less than a handful of cards to make or break the deck, so I cobbled together a green/black deck of 46 cards.

The first match was an utter and total disaster.  I did have green and black creature removal (Return to the Earth: Destroy Target artifact, enchantment, or creature with flying for 3G was pretty handy), but I was overwhelmed with low and mid casting cost red/green creatures early and often.  In fact, my opponent stalled the inevitable win and allowed me to play some creatures just so he could accomplish items on his checklist!

After losing 0-2, we played two more games off the record and I pulled more cards to get it down to the minimum of 40, but as the judge called five minutes left in the round, I realized that this batch of Sultai was complete junk.

I quickly assembled my other cards I pulled from packs and built a 41 card red/white deck.  It may sound confusing for you old folks who were confused about a 15-card sideboard but in booster draft and constructed formats, you can pull and add from the cards provided.  I was still resleeving my new deck from the old one as the match ups for the second round were posted.

I had some mana issues with the second match (never got over four land and Pyrotechnics is 4R,) but the deck held it's own.  My main issue was that, in the panic to build the deck, cards I thought were creatures were, in fact, creature enchantments.  I had little room to adjust, but my 40 card deck was tuned up.

My third round opponent was suffering the same delusions I had with the original black/green deck, except he was complicating things by running three colors.   My low casting cost creatures ran roughshod over his defenses and I learned to love the Siege Cards:

The set isn't out yet, much less tournament legal, and I want to throw four of the red ones in to a goblin deck.

Needless to say, it was a total victory on my part, 2-0  (2-4 overall)

For the fourth round, I was up against blue/white control and despite a good showing, I fell 1-2 (3-6 overall)

At that point it was quarter after five in the morning, my wife was waking up at six to go to work, and I had taken her car.  The final round wouldn't start until 5:45 and even a miraculous sweep wouldn't even get me to crack the top twenty.  It was time to go home.

So,  I certainly didn't get to see all the cards for the new set, but what do I think are the top cards (from my packs)?
#5  Arashin Cleric

This fella is no Samite Healer from back in the day, but the pair of them that I drew were the MVPs of attack and defense.

#4 Destructor Dragon
A 4/4 flyer for a bit more than a Treefolk AND a special ability AND it' uncommon.  Not too shabby.

#3 Crux of Fate

Didn't get to play this one in my first match, but a black Wrath with a Dragon option?  Sweet.

#2 Siege Outpost

As I mentioned this earlier, this helped me out a LOT using the Khans option, especially in cases where the exiled card was a land and my draw was a land.  Once you get your creatures out, the Dragons option adds that right amount of insult to injury.

Honorable Mention:  Warrior Token

Yes, plenty of people at the tournament were going gaga over Ugin, or all the other special cards in some of the clan boxes, but I heard the most subtle "that's really nice" comments coming from this full card art token.

#1 Humble Defector
I'm old school when it comes to Magic cards, and this one screamed Ghazban Ogre AND MORE to me.  I don't know what the modern equivalent of Wanderlust is, but I want to slap three of them on this and tap it to draw cards.  Hilarity ensues.

This might explain why I didn't crack the top half.  Oh well...

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