My Experiences on the Battle for Zendikar Prerelease

I just came home from my second prerelease event; this time it was Battle for Zendikar and at the first time I was at Magic: Origins prerelease. I had fun though I am suffering from a never-ending flu. As I only have experience on these two sanctioned events I cannot help but to compare the two. I might add that I have nowhere near as much experience on Magic: the Gathering as Aki has and I take the whole game anyway pretty differently.

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Magic 2015 Core Set Prerelease Planning

That time again. The prerelease promos were spoiled yesterday. All in all, M15 feels like strange set. Seems like a collection of all sorts of cards, without a real emphasis. This partly probably because of the “designer cards”, which get a lot of attention.

But, actually, I like all the prerelease cards. Some of them would be pretty poor in some contexts, but in this context, even the seemingly bad red dragon is actually quite strong.

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Born of the Gods Prerelease Planning

I wrote about my general approach to prereleases last week, but now we know the prerelease promos for Born of the Gods, so its time to go a little deeper. The problem here is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room. These are quite similar in nature. There isn’t an outlier like the last few times, so you pretty much can’t go wrong at this stage. However, I do have personal preferences.

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Theros Prerelease 22.9.2013

I know I’ve written too much about MtG in the last few weeks. The problem is, our regular games are still trying to recover from the summer, whereas I play MtG regularly. Hopefully I’ll be putting out more diverse content in the near future.

So, I went to my local game stores Theros Prerelease yesterday. I went 4-0, which is always nice. That was second place as I lost on tie-breakers to another player with the same record, as I was paired down in the last round.

I chose red for now real reason. Actually, I didn’t know I was supposed to pick a color, so I just went with red, because that came to mind first. Well, I managed to rationalize the decision soon after, so I was happy. I was even happier once I opened a [scryfall]Stormbreath Dragon[/scryfall] in the seeded booster.

The whole pool:

[cardlist title=The Pool]
1 Cavalry Pegasus
1 Chosen by Heliod
3 Decorated Griffin
1 Ephara’s Warden
1 Favored Hoplite
1 Heliod’s Emissary
2 Hundred-Handed One
1 Lagonna-Band Elder
2 Last Breath
1 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Scholar of Athreos
1 Silent Artisan
1 Traveling Philosopher
1 Wingsteed Rider
4 Crackling Triton
1 Dissolve
1 Griptide
1 Lost in the Labyrinth
1 Mnemonic Wall
1 Nimbus Naiad
1 Triton Shorethief
1 Cavern Lampad
1 Cutthroat Maneuver
1 Disciple of Phenax
1 Fellhide Minotaur
4 Fleshmad Steed
1 Lash of the Whip
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
2 March of the Returned
1 Pharika’s Cure
1 Read the Bones
2 Returned Phalanx
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Ember Swallower
1 Labyrinth Champion
1 Minotaur Skullcleaver
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Flamespeaker Adept
2 Akroan Crusader
1 Fanatic of Mogis
3 Lightning Strike
1 Spark Jolt
2 Ordeal of Purphoros
2 Portent of Betrayal
2 Wild Celebrants
1 Demolish
1 Rage of Purphoros
2 Satyr Hedonist
1 Centaur Battlemaster
1 Savage Surge
1 Time to Feed
1 Feral Invocation
1 Reverent Hunter
1 Commune with the Gods
1 Shredding Wind
1 Hunt the Hunter
1 Satyr Piper
2 Horizon Chimera
1 Prophet of Kruphix
1 Spellheart Chimera
1 Burnished Hart
2 Unknown Shores

So… what to do? Red was pretty obvious. On top of the mythic rare dragon, I had the prerelease promo [scryfall]Ember Swallower[/scryfall] and three [scryfall]Lightning Strike[/scryfall]s. Actually, I was close to going with monored, but in the end decided I’d rather not play the [scryfall]Wild Celebrants[/scryfall]. I guess they were good enough, but I didn’t want to play two [scryfall]Akroan Crusader[/scryfall]s either and though I’d rather play the instant speed combat tricks then more than one [scryfall]Ordeal of Purphoros[/scryfall].

Also, two [scryfall]Satyr Hedonist[/scryfall]s means, you can play [scryfall]Stormbreath Dragon[/scryfall] on turn three quite often. I didn’t actually get to do that at any point, but I did manage activate the monstrosity a turn earlier, which was pretty nice. As my regular readers probably have noticed, I like fighting, so [scryfall]Time to Feed[/scryfall] was also a card for me.

With all the bestow and monstrosity in the format, I thought it would be pretty slow, so I tried to go over the other decks with my bombs and just keep the battlefield balanced until then. Pretty basic sealed strategy. Turned out, the format was much faster than I expected, but I was midrange enough to beat all the other decks, whereas the aggressive decks weren’t fast enough to kill me before I stabilized.

[cardlist title=The Final Deck]
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Ember Swallower
1 Labyrinth Champion
1 Minotaur Skullcleaver
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Flamespeaker Adept
1 Akroan Crusader
1 Fanatic of Mogis
2 Satyr Hedonist
1 Centaur Battlemaster
1 Burnished Hart
3 Lightning Strike
1 Spark Jolt
1 Ordeal of Purphoros
2 Portent of Betrayal
1 Savage Surge
1 Time to Feed
1 Feral Invocation
10 Mountain
7 Forest

Apparently, red was the thing to play. All my opponents played it, even though as I was picking up my prerelease pack, I was the second to pick up red out of twenty or so people. This probably means people will play red in the future too, but you should probably try to next level it.

Monstrosity was great. With three monstrous creatures in the deck, I managed to slow down most of the games enough to trigger it. The most punishing activation came in the final game of the final round. I had a starting hand of five lands, [scryfall]Burnished Hart[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Ember Swallower[/scryfall]. It took me a minute to convince myself I should do it, but I decided to keep, since I hadn’t seen any removal from my opponent in the first two games. As you can imagine, that was very painful for my three-colored opponent. On the other hand, although [scryfall]Ill-Tempered Cyclops[/scryfall] is the least flashy of the three, its monstrosity had the biggest impact, because it just generally hit a couple of turns earlier.

Heroic was pretty good at times and pretty bad at others. I thought [scryfall]Labyrinth Champion[/scryfall] might be good, but I didn’t find a place to use it at all. I drew it a couple of times, but only cast it once and never triggered it. [scryfall]Akroan Crusader[/scryfall] was pretty bad too. I did manage to trigger it a couple of times, but that never amounted to anything.

[scryfall]Centaur Battlemaster[/scryfall] on the other hand was great. I [scryfall]Spark Jolt[/scryfall]et it a couple of times to grow it. Once from 11/11 to 14/14. To kill my opponent’s monstrous [scryfall]Hundred-Handed One[/scryfall] with an enchantment on it. That rocked. I even contemplated expending a [scryfall]Lightning Strike[/scryfall] on my on creature, but decided against it, because its generally better to remove chump blockers. It was tempting though.

Bestow was pretty good, although I didn’t use it myself. My opponents did and it seems like a good way to gain some benefit from flooding. They didn’t really win the game (well, against me anyway), but they were good value. Who doesn’t like value?

Devotion didn’t matter much…

I didn’t sideboard at all. I had some artifact hate ready, but I didn’t see anything worth that made me think I should put any in my deck.

All in all, I found this much more fun than the any other format I’ve played sealed in, with the exception of our own full Innistrad block sealed, which I enjoyed immensely. The flavor is great, but it doesn’t stop there. I just had fun playing with the cards. There weren’t many board stalls (actually only one in a game where both of us were manascrewed), which is a testament to a great design. Its hard to make dynamic, but balanced enviroment, but it feels like they’ve done it.