The Captain’s Log: Gatecrash Prerelease Weekend

The Captain’s Log – Gatecrash Prerelease Weekend

This past weekend, as I am sure many of you did, I spent an enormous amount of time at my various local shops prereleasing. This a time that comes four times a year and it is when all the anticipation of all the spoilers and eventually the full list of the set getting revealed all come to a head and we all are finally able to get to play with the new cards. For me analyzing new cards is a very important part of the game. Maybe it is just the way I learn best or that we get to see how all the new cards truly interact with each other to determine the actual power level. Whatever the case, being able to sit down with the actual cards is much more exciting than reading about them on a spoiler list.

Up until the actual prerelease I was uncertain of what guild I wanted to choose. All Guilds seemed to have some merit even though some guilds looked obviously stronger than others, so I had it narrowed down to three guilds; Boros, Gruul, and Orzhov. Now this is very different form the traditional style of Magic that I have come to play in the past, which is a much more controlling style, but what I have learned in a fresh new format of any type it is important to play something proactive rather than reactive because it is much easier to attack in new formats than trying to be the one to have all the answers.

Boros was my first thought of this sealed format. Why wouldn’t you want a guild that has a great amount of quick efficient creatures with an awesome ability like Battalion? I mean this is sealed right; you want to be attacking so hard that your cards are sore the next morning right? This guild provides you with that ability. From what I saw on the spoiler and what I saw in person when this guild is firing on all cylinders it seems very tough to beat. The pressure and increase in creature power and ability when attacking together seems to push the power limit to the edge. In this guild maybe more than any other the curve is very important. What you want to be doing more than ever is using your mana efficiently every turn and curving out. Ideally on the fourth turn you want those three creatures on board and ready to attack. With this guild pressure is the name of the game get their life total low, fast and keep them on their back heels the whole way.

For this strategy Gruul looked insanely awesome. I mean look at this new mechanic, Bloodrush. This mechanic in limited seems to solve many of the problems that traditional beat down decks have, it gives the deck combat tricks while always allowing the deck not to stall out on threats. This is very important for beat down decks because there is nothing worse than holding a hand with all creatures and then just being dead to an opponent’s vastly superior creature on board. Conversely if you are a beat down deck and you are hold too many combat tricks you will find it too hard to maintain the proper amount of pressure to win the game. Blood rush gives you that versatility of being able to attack into a bigger and better creature and have a way to kill it. While this ability is absolutely awesome and will forever change the way combat is dealt with, it does leave a hole in the “actual removal” area. If an opponent simply wants to protect their big awesome creature they can simply chose not to block with it. This does not appeal to my controlling side and if I want a creature dead I want to be able to kill it now!

Enter Orzhov! Now this is a guild I can get behind. It has all the elements of what I am looking for in a prerelease. The ability to simply play out efficient creatures, but also be able to have a late game and a mechanic in extort which can simply drain the game away. It turns all of those two and three drops that you draw turn five through the end of the game into amazing life drain spells. What I ran into a lot this weekend was the decision of whether I should play for the early game and cast a creature on curve or should I wait until next turn when I can get full value and extort the spell for that extra life. What I found was that inevitably the games went long and the few extra points of life were crucial. Now this isn’t a solid rule that I would always leave back an on curve card in favor of one life, it is always important to assess the game state and figure out what is more important, that one life (really it is a 2 point life swing, you take one from them) you will get next turn or the possibility for more with an attacking creature on the board that next turn.

I was really impressed with the way that the Orzhov Guild played because it seemed to favor the long game and in long games the edge usually goes to the person who can make the best decision not just for this turn, but the next several terms. This long term planning appeals to my inner control player.

Another great part of the prerelease is getting to see how those cards you have been dying to get ahold of actually play out in real life Magic. With a new set there are so many new possibilities with certain decks getting just that much better with complete and whole new strategies possibly being developed. Standard will surely be changing and it will be because of the new addition of this set. Here are some of the new cards I am very excited to play myself and also see others play.

Watery Grave Godless Shrine Sacred Foundry Stomping Ground Breeding Pool
These cards are the obvious new addition to standard that will make so many new decks possible. Decks like black white will now have the full set of 8 eight dual lands, as well as decks like Esper, Naya, and Grixis having the complete full set of duals. Being able to fix all of your mana problems at the mere cost of 2 life per land if needed is something that cannot be understated. Having a solid manabase is something that every successful deck has and that is the foundation to reliability and consistency. I am convinced that WOTC could have printed these five lands and a set of complete junk and it still would have sold off the shelves like hotcakes, that’s how important these lands are. Luckily for us they did not do that and they provided us with no shortage of amazing cards.

Aurelia, the WarleaderLet’s just get this out of the way. This card is bonkers! I mean are you kidding me? A 3/4 flyer for 6 mana is not something on the surface that too many people are interested in, but how about if you add another attack phase to your turn? What about if you give her haste so you can have that extra attack phase immediately? What about if just for a cherry on top you give her Vigilance, sure why not right? This card will simply end games. Whether you chose to put it in a new shell of what Boros will assuredly have or you put it in a deck filled with Thragtusks and Huntmaster of the Fells you will not be disappointed. Two attack phases are you crazy? All I can think of is how this card will blow out Naya mirrors immediately. If this card doesn’t lead to an automatic win on that turn think about the following turn. What if you Wolf Run a creature and it gets 2 attack phases? Think that is enough to end the game?

This card is simply must be answered immediately and it is not that easy to do so. Spot removal that is currently in standard right now consist of Ultimate Price, Searing Spear, and Tragic Slip (Marginal use), all of which do not touch Aurelia. Cards like Supreme Verdict and Terminus lose a ton of value because you just may never get another turn to cast that sorcery. This card will surely change what type of removal people will play.

Aurelia's FurySure seems like Aurelia is one tough chick huh? Another Boros card that is amazing. This card is so versatile and that is what I like the most about it. It allows aggro decks to push through that extra damage it needs in the late game while also allowing midrange decks and control decks to buy extra time while possibly killing a few creatures here and there. The card also acts as a time walk in some scenarios too. Think about if your opponent who is playing control reveals a Terminus off the top to wreck your board? Well in response to the reveal before they can cast the Miracle Terminus you cast Aurelia’s Fury and they have just taken extra damage and they can no longer play that Terminus for its reduced price or even for the rest of the turn. This is a card that I am very excited to play. This card may single handily change me from Esper to UWR control. The possibilities are endless and that is precisely what you need in a control card.

Now I don’t want to be that guy who is like “Yea mythics are good”. We know Mythics are good that is why they are mythic, but there are many other cards in this set that will be impacting the format at the rare and uncommon slot.

Boros CharmWOTC should have just called this set Return to Boros form all the nasty additions Boros is getting and this Charm has been talked about in depth on many forums and in many articles for good reason. This card is everything that aggro decks want to be. It is 4 damage to a player or a troublesome Planeswalker. It saves all of your creatures from an uncounterable sweeper such as Supreme Verdict, it allows your team to attack into a unfavorable board knowing they will live to see another attack phase, and it gives you combat tricks where if your opponent makes the wrong block they could simply just be dead. This card will make it miserable for control to play around because control will have to start to think again if their sweeper will actually resolve, which is something that was taken for granted since the printing of Supreme Verdict. I think that this is WOTC’s attempt at fixing something that they realized wasn’t the best. Uncounterable spells lead to very warped and twisted interactions, but now with Boros Charm there is a versatile reasonable answer to Supreme Verdict.

High Priest of PenanceThis is a card that I am personally excited for. I will be trying out this card in my current Esper list because I believe the format will be increasingly aggressive and I will need an answer to many quick efficient creatures. This card allows you answers, while also not being dead in the late game. The High Priest’s ability to also destroy Planeswalkers, artifacts, and enchantments is the real deal. It is the versatility of Oblivion Ring and Detention Sphere combined with a cheaper mana cost and the ability to soak up some damage. All of the versatility does come at a cost though. If your opponent does not want one of their vital permanents to be destroyed they simply do not have to attack, but in a control decks if my opponent isn’t attacking me, I feel that I have the advantage the later the game goes. High Priest also allows you to free up spots in your deck that were normally occupied with early mentioned Detention Sphere and some spot removal. I will surely be testing with this for some time to come.

Blind ObedienceWith the format seemingly going to speed up with the addition of such aggressive cards, control players may need something more to slow everything down. This just may be the card. It effectively turns off haste which make cards like Ash Zealot, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Falkenrath Aristocrat much less impressive. Another area of this card that cannot be overlooked is the extort ability. Late game when control decks have an abundant amount of mana and are casting those cards like Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy it is nothing to pay one more mana to gain a life. Points of damage saved like this can mean the difference between dying to an off the top Aurelia’s Fury or Bonfire of the Damned. This card may turn out to be a needed sideboard card or nothing at all, but if you are playing control in the upcoming season I think this is a card that will help you get to that late game against mono red and all the Boros decks that will assuredly be out there.

These are just my top favorite cards of this set please feel free to comment in the section what you guys are looking forward to playing with and what you think will be absolutely insane.

That’s all for this week, hope you enjoyed.

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