Scars of Mirrodin will be officially released on this coming Friday. One of the more satisfactory moments in the quarterly release schedule is the prerelease events that happen the weekend before the set hits stores. I’m lucky enough to live in an area that hosts a regional prerelease very close to my house, and it’s always a good time.
I played in two sealed prerelease events for Scars of Mirrodin this weekend. I went 2-2 in both of them, and I feel like I also made deckbuilding errors for both pools I opened. Saturday’s event I went with a Red Green metalcraft beatdown deck on the back of three [mtg_card]Galvanic Blast[/mtg_card]s, a [mtg_card]Carapace Forger[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Engulfing Slagwurm[/mtg_card] and an [mtg_card]Ezuri’s Brigade[/mtg_card]. I was pretty deep into red for the pool, and had the option of going with green, blue, or white for my companion color. I went with green because of the Brigade and the Slagwurm as finishers, which is a fine choice in a vacuum, as it’s an incredibly difficult card to beat when active, but when I got home and looked at my pool again, it was pretty clear to me that I should have played white. The mana base was also poor, which is a problem I had on both days. I was entirely unprepared to build a mana base with all the colorless casting costs and mana producing Myrs running around in a sealed pool, and my decks were the worse for it.
The highlight of Saturday was a game where I mulled to five and proceeded to god draw my way into a 9/4 double equipped [mtg_card]Carapace Forger[/mtg_card] on turn five and an easy victory. The metalcraft was activated off of a topdecked Myr, and following up with the Hill Giant that becomes a 6/6 with haste for the turn right after. The lowlight for Saturday was when an opponent (in the last round when I was 2-1 and still eligible for packs) playing [mtg_card]Asceticism[/mtg_card] into an empty board as I had a hand featuring two [mtg_card]Galvanic Blast[/mtg_card]s and an [mtg_card]Arc Trail[/mtg_card]. I eventually scraped him down to ten, topdecked metalcraft and had enough to burn to the dome for exactly 10, but the third [mtg_card]Shatter[/mtg_card] of the game from him ended up being not enough. They were good games and I had a good time, despite looking at prizes from the outside.
Sunday’s prize became evident when I pulled a foil [mtg_card]Mox Opal[/mtg_card] out of my second pack. At that point, I wasn’t too concerned about what was going on, as I had in my mind already won. It was a 113 (!!!!) person event that started very late, and while the staff at Pandemonium did all they could to accommodate us, they really shouldn’t have allowed that many people to sign up. I initially built a blue/black deck that had a nigh unbeatable late game based off the sick card advantage of [mtg_card]Trigon of Thought[/mtg_card] plus [mtg_card]Tumble Magnet[/mtg_card] plus [mtg_card]Tower of Calamities[/mtg_card] plus [mtg_card]Contagion Clasp[/mtg_card], which allowed me to easily and capably handle [mtg_card]Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon[/mtg_card] being cast by my opponent on three separate occasions. The deck was just too slow, however, and I got trounced round two. I looked back at my pool and realized (AGAIN) that I should have been playing white (AGAIN) to take advantage of my [mtg_card]Glint Hawk Idol[/mtg_card]s, and changed into a black/white aggro deck. I picked apart my round three opponent in short order, and lost round four mostly because I made the mistake of holding a [mtg_card]Glimmerpoint Stag[/mtg_card] for WAY too long in order to try and get value out of his blink effect when he enters the battlefield instead of just playing out the Stag to advance my board position. I probably could have won the second game and come home with packs if I didn’t overvalue the Stag’s ETB effect. But I opened the Opal, so I didn’t care all that much.
With Scars sealed being not only the format for the Pro Tour Paris PTQ season, but also the format for a couple of the TCGplayer 5K’s (one of which I will be attending in Boston), I’m going to do everything I can to practice building sealed pools with this set. It offers quite a few challenges I’m not used to as a person who has never tackled an artifact heavy set in limited, chief among them being my initial mana missteps. The other interesting effect of the set design is the way that you have so many more playable cards in your pool than standard sealed sets. Usually, you’ve got maybe 30-35 playable cards over your three strongest colors, and set to work cutting it to 22-23. With the nature of colorless artifacts and the importance of things like equipment, the sealed pool might have 40-45 playable cards in the two colors you’re planning to play counting the artifacts, leaving the sometimes daunting task of cutting down close to twenty cards and trying to retain things in the back of your mind like making sure you have enough aggregate artifacts in your deck to fit your metalcraft strategy, and whether it’s worth it to run off color Myrs for metalcraft and acceleration purposes.
From a sealed deck perspective, it seems nigh impossible to not either run metalcraft or infect, as these keywords/abilities are so omnipresent in the colors of the set. White has no infect, but there’s metalcraft as far as the eye can see, and even without the metalcraft, you’ve got cards like [mtg_card]Glint Hawk[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Glint Hawk Idol[/mtg_card] that want you to run artifacts anyway, so you might as well run the metalcraft guys too. I find red to be in a similar situation, as so many of their cards are made better when running the metalcraft strategy. The infect deck seems very difficult to build for sealed, as you have no control on how many [mtg_card]Blight Mamba[/mtg_card]s/[mtg_card]Plague Stinger[/mtg_card]s/[mtg_card]Ichorclaw Myr[/mtg_card]s/etc. that you open, and you can go for the sort of half infect deck with [mtg_card]Tainted Strike[/mtg_card]s and[mtg_card] Grafted Exoskeleton[/mtg_card]s, but you end up dividing your focus if you don’t draw those cards for your non-infect creatures. There are also quite a few cards that can easily deal with the infect deck. [mtg_card]Wall of Tanglecord[/mtg_card] itself can withstand quite a few -1/-1 counters while you set up for the kill, and [mtg_card]Contagion Clasp[/mtg_card] kills damn near everything important to them. I feel like it’s much more likely that the infect strategy or the third anti-artifact red green strategy will be perfectly viable in draft, but sealed seems pretty strongly like a metalcraft world, which is something to consider when building. For example, if I were trying to figure out card 20-23 and was trying to decide between [mtg_card]Auriok Replica[/mtg_card] (a card that basically makes it impossible for the infect decks to use [mtg_card]Giant Growth[/mtg_card]/[mtg_card]Tainted Strike[/mtg_card] style shenanigans until they take care of it) and [mtg_card]Sylvok Replica[/mtg_card] (good against metalcraft, arguably splashworthy if you have a [mtg_card]Horizon Spellbomb[/mtg_card] or two), I’m going to main deck the [mtg_card]Sylvok Replica[/mtg_card] every time in sealed. Infect will be around, and folks will try to play it, but they’re going to contribute to very clunky sealed decks.
To close, I thought I would spotlight the cards that impressed me the most over the weekend (both good and bad impressions) in no particular order.
[mtg_card]Contagion Clasp[/mtg_card]: This card is the real deal. Infect decks obviously love it, but they was it can often basically be an X for 1 while also increasing your metalcraft count is crazy good. All of the non-white Trigons are playable. [mtg_card]Tumble Magnet[/mtg_card] is awesome. Something like [mtg_card]Necrogen Censer[/mtg_card] can become playable. Proliferating in limited formats seems to be a lot more about charge counters than it is about -1/-1 counters, and that’s why[mtg_card] Contagion Clasp[/mtg_card] is easily the best of the bunch. [mtg_card]Steady Progress[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Throne of Geth[/mtg_card] are okay, but a slow deck utilizing [mtg_card]Trigon of Thought[/mtg_card] is going to be all about the [mtg_card]Contagion Clasp[/mtg_card] goodness.
[mtg_card]Glint Hawk Idol[/mtg_card]: This little guy is really hard to kill. Can’t be [mtg_card]Arres[/mtg_card]ted, can’t be [mtg_card]Bonds of Quicksilver[/mtg_card]ed, can’t be [mtg_card]Arc Trail[/mtg_card]ed, difficult to block. He’s a nice little clock, and while it’s mana intensive, he is quite adept at becoming a bird, picking up a [mtg_card]Barbed Battlegear[/mtg_card] and bashing for 6 through the air. You should probably be running white for him, but he decent enough, and [mtg_card]Horizon Spellbomb[/mtg_card]s are colorless options to go fetch a one-of Plains. Good card
[mtg_card]Darksteel Juggernaut[/mtg_card]: Maybe I built my deck in such a way not to maximize its effectiveness, but I found this guy to be pretty bad. Indestructibility really isn’t nearly as important on offense compared to defense, and it’s a card you don’t necessarily want to play on curve. There are so many -1/-1 counters floating around from Infect and [mtg_card]Trigon of Contagion[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Contagion Clasp[/mtg_card] that the value of indestructibility has gone down significantly. I did not like this guy at all. [mtg_card]Darksteel Sentinel[/mtg_card], for example, is a much stronger card for what you want here.
[mtg_card]Golem Artisan[/mtg_card]: He does everything. He ends games by jumping artifacts into the sky. He makes combat math basically impossible. He makes your opponent a sad panda, and while he’s a little fragile, he just wreaks havoc on opposing board states.
I think that’s enough for now. I have mixed feelings about this set. I’ll probably go into more details next week.
This post was written to the tune of Mastodon’s Blood Mountain