Saturday, July 16, 2016

MTG: Eldritch Moon Pre-Release (Solo)

It's pre-release time again for Magic: The Gathering. The new set is called Eldritch Moon, the companion set to Shadows Over Innistrad.

Pre-releases are held officially on Saturday and Sunday, one week before the set is available for purchase. I usually find a tournament running on Saturday afternoon, like I did for Shadows Over Innistrad, but this time I had other plans for that time slot. I also was already committed to play on Sunday, in a 2-headed-giant team event (which I'll post about later). That only left one option for a solo pre-release event: midnight Friday night/Saturday morning. Normally I prefer to avoid those, as I make enough mistakes when I'm not tired, and it isn't great for your sleep schedule. But I made an exception in this case, and it turned out all right.

Even in a smaller city like Grand Rapids, there's a good number of stores holding pre-release events. For the midnight event, I went over to The Gaming Warehouse in Grandville, which at about a 20-minute drive is the closest to me that was holding an event at that time. The turnout was pretty good, 51 participants, although the guys running the event said that was a bit less than they'd expected. With that many people, we played six rounds over almost 8 hours...glad I got a nap in the day before!
Nice art featuring Lilliana on the pre-release pack. Very happy with my promo Ulrich!
I was fairly happy with my card pool. My promo was Ulrich of the Krallenhorde, the new Legendary Werewolf. Always nice to open up a card that I was hoping to get for theme deck play later on. When I also saw that I had Decimator of the Provinces and Flameblade Angel, with a reasonable number of other red and green creature, that pretty much locked up the deck I was going to play. I'd have liked some more removal - I only had one Fiery Temper plus Ulrich's ability - but none of my other color choices were any better. Even my black card pool only had two removal spells. So I built around my big red and green creatures, plus a few combat trick spells. I also splashed in black for a Rise from the Grave and Boon of Emrakul, which was workable since I had a Deathcap Cultivator and Foul Orchard. That put me in the minority, as most people were playing primarily white or black (or both) - the organizers even ran out of Swamps and Plains, and had to proxy some for the late-finishing deck builders.

My final record was four wins, one loss, and one tie. Three of those - two wins and the tie - were very close rounds that could have gone either way. The very first round was against a guy that I'd played before in booster drafts, but everyone else was a new acquaintance. I'd guess that only about a quarter of the people there were folks that I'd played with before, the majority being people who normally play at other places or only come out for pre-release events (much like me, up until a few months ago). Everyone was a good sport and the games were mostly fun, though there were the usual bad draws to contend with that made a few games less than enjoyable. Some of my opponents were a bit less talkative than I'm used to, but that's no surprise when everyone is sleep-deprived!

Round 1: White-Green deck, fairly aggressive with a few fliers. We split the first two games fairly quickly, but the third game took a while. I won it largely because my opponent was a little too aggressive, attacking with a Fiend Binder to allow his fliers to get through. I had just enough life to survive that attack, and my ground forces killed off the Fiend Binder. A few turns later I had built up enough creatures to get through his defenses for the win. I didn't draw any of my rares in this round, but the rest of the deck was strong enough...just barely.

Round 2: White-Blue deck. This opponent was just coming back to playing Magic after a long absence, much like I had recently, so we talked about that a bit as we played. I won two games in fairly short order, despite again never drawing my big rares, and even having a terrible draw that necessitated a mulligan to five cards in one game. The second was closer than I like when he hit me with Startled Awake - one more turn and he'd have been able to mill my deck out, but I had just enough damage to finish it off before that happened.
Event on-going. It was a bit of a tight squeeze with 50 people, but everyone had a place to play.
Round 3: White-Red and Blue-Black decks. I lost the first game in this round to a fairly aggressive White-Red assault, and a fairly poor draw from my own deck that forced another mulligan down to five cards. I was expecting to see the same again, but my opponent decided to switch his entire deck out for a slower Blue-Black build. I finally saw some of my rare cards in the next two games, and won both. I think the White-Red would have been a tougher match-up, but you never know - certainly my draw was a lot better in the second and third games, so I may have won anyway.

Round 4: Green-Black aggro-control. I was pretty heavily outmatched on card pool in this round! Both games were over very quickly, as my opponent drew some fairly small creatures and a whole lot of removal spells. I never really had a chance to go on the offensive at all, and the removal took out my defenses as quickly as I could play them. The final blow in the second game came at the hands of the first meld card that I saw played, a Chittering Host. After the games were over, my opponent showed me his deck, which had twice as much removal in his two colors than I had in my entire card pool. A bit frustrating, but you have to expect such match-ups occasionally in sealed deck events, and my opponent certainly did a good join with his deck-building and play to take advantage.

Round 5: White-Black with lots of tokens. This first game of this round was epic. Both of us built up large armies with no clear advantage: mine mostly wolves and werewolves, his mostly zombie and spirit tokens. I got Ulrich out and was able to use him to kill off a few individual threats (mainly fliers), but all the token creatures made an effective wall to keep me from getting through to his life total. He finally was able to keep a flyer on the board after killing off Ulrich, but then I drew the Rise from the Grave and brought him back to kill it. The stall continued until I finally drew Decimator of the Provinces, and that pumped up my army enough to roll over his wall of zombies. I lost the second game when he got an early flyer that I couldn't draw an answer for. Never got to the third game, as we ran out of time in the round since that first game had taken so long.

Round 6: White-Green aggro. I won this round purely by dumb luck. My opponent got terrible land draws in both games - only green-producing lands in the first game, and only three total lands in the second. I suppose that means he should have taken a mulligan, but from what he told me it sounded like the opening hands weren't too bad. In both cases he had an opening-hand Grapple with the Past that should have helped him get to the necessary lands, but it just didn't work out that way. I was fortunate to have no mana issues in either game, leading to the easy win.

Everyone who played got one additional pack as a door prize, and I was pretty happy to get a Tamiyo, Field Researcher out of it. My 4-1-1 record put me in sixth place, good enough for a prize payout of thirteen Eldritch Moon packs (which I haven't yet opened). I was fortunate to be at the top of the tiebreaker list for those with a 4-1-1 record, since prizes only went to the top eight finishers. My opponent from round 4 finished just ahead of me, which I'm sure helped my tiebreakers.
Prize packs.
The guys at Gaming Warehouse did a good job running the event, and despite everyone's lack of sleep, all the participants seemed to have a good time. I'd still rather play at a more normal hour, but I'm happy to have gone to this particular midnight event. It always helps when you win something, of course, but I was pretty happy with the cards I got even before the prize packs. Overall, a fun time that was worth losing a little sleep.

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