Adventures in Pre-Releasing Dark Ascension with Paul Mclachlan

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Since the dawn of time, mankind has settled it’s problems in one way: the sweaty, violent, greasy, sweaty, disconcerting, unenlightened, sweaty, primal, sweaty, precipitous, greasy, sweaty arena of the Pre-release. On the morning of a Pre-release for a new Magic set I am the avatar of excitement. When I arrive at the venue my joy seeps out of me and I transform into a curmudgeon who sits and growls at people and speaks only to deliver bitter judgement on those around me.

You would think that I would have developed a tolerance for dorks with the whole playing Magic thing, but no. And by dorks, I don’t mean people whose interests lie outside the mainstream. This is the shorthand I use to describe the trolls who drag themselves from beneath the bridge that they live under, unwashed and stinking, slogan t-shirts melded to their flesh, to bleat internet memes at each other and ruin my day. This is the public face of your hobby, and what the majority of the uninitiated will picture when imagining the average Magic player. I now know how Scout Masters and Priests must feel and I sympathise.

Now I must warn you about the three terrors of the Fire Swamp Pre-release.

Firstly; the clouds of feral body odour that seem to cling to every surface and wait for some poor unfortunate to open their mouth.

Secondly; a level of chat that will force you to consider flaying the skin from your face to see if it is less painful.

Thirdly; time distortions that make an hour feel like a year. By the end of the day I was petitioning the Judging staff to start handing out environmental warnings for lack of hygiene.

This rant has been brought to you by nicotine withdrawal.

Here’s my pool for Saturday:

White –

Abbey Griffin
Bar the Door
Break of Day
Elgaud Inquisitor
Fiend Hunter
Hollowhenge Spirit
Loyal Cathar x 2
Midnight Guard
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Rally the Peasants
Sanctuary Cat x 2
Spare from Evil
Thraben Heretic
Thraben Sentry
Urgent Exorcism

Blue –

Armored Skaab x 2
Chant of Skifsang
Chill of Foreboding
Deranged Assistant
Runic Repetition
Screeching Skaab
Stormbound Geist

Black –

Bump in the Night
Corpse Lunge
Curse of Oblivion
Disciple of Griselbrand
Endless Ranks of the Dead
Ghoulcaller’s Chant
Gruesome Discovery
Harrowing Journey x 2
Manor Skeleton
Reap the Seagraf
Sightless Ghoul
Spiteful Shadows
Tragic Slip x 2
Undying Evil x 2
Vengeful Vampire

Red –

Ancient Grudge
Curse of the Pierced Heart
Erdwal Ripper
Furor of the Bitten
Hanweir Watchkeep
Hinterland Hermit
Into the Maw of Hell
Kessig Wolf
Nearheath Stalker
Scoure of Geier Reach
Tormented Pariah
Vampiric Fury

Green –

Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Darkthicket Wolf
Elder of Laurels
Feed the Pack
Grave Bramble
Hollowhenge Beast
Hunger of the Howlpack
Increasing Savagery
Prey Upon
Wild Hunger

Multi-Colour –

Stromkirk Captain

Artifacts –

Altar of the Lost
Blazing Torch
Executioner’s Hood
Graveyard Shovel x 2
Mask of Avacyn
One-Eyed Scarecrow

Lands –

Grim Backwoods

I build a G/W aggressive deck, splashing black for the two Tragic Slips. White provided a good curve of beaters and removal, and green provided some powerful rares that could break open a game. I didn’t think much of this deck. It didn’t do anything interesting, and it was an aggressive deck that had minimal fliers to push through damage. I was rather negative about my chances. Then I went 6-0. Oh well, shows what I know. I only really played against one real opponent, and he got mana screwed in game three. Everyone else was just on the receiving end of beats with a Z.

The only really interesting situation that occurred was in game two of the final round. My opponent was playing a four colour special, powered by multiple land searching creatures. I had killed one of his Elks when he didn’t have mana up to sacrifice it, and he’d been pretty vocal in his annoyance. I guessed he had a splashed card in his hand – probably a Brimstone Volley. He made a Gravetiller Wurm on his turn and I removed it with Fiend Hunter.

He plays his mountain with a sigh of relief. I don’t attack my 5/5 and Fiend Hunter into his empty board, because I don’t feel like getting blown out by Brimstone Volley on my Fiend Hunter putting a 6/6 into play. This stand-off ends in comedic fashion when he allows my Elder of Laurels to resolve and I attack, he Volleys my Fiend Hunter and I give it +3/+3.

After a long day, I dragged myself back to my friend’s flat and drank myself into a stupor while he made muffins. I foolishly bet that I could out-bake him. I will reap the whirlwind for that later, no doubt.

Saturday’s pool was full of bears, and Sunday’s pool is full of poop. Here it is:

White –

Abbey Griffin
Avacynian Priest
Bar the Door
Burden of Guilt
Midnight Guard
Rally the Peasants
Silverclaw Griffin

Blue –

Call of the Kindred
Chill of Foreboding
Civilized Scholar
Curse of the Bloody Tome
Dream Twist
Lost in the Mist
Memory’s Journey
Nephalia Seakite
Saving Grasp x 2
Soul Seizer
Spectral Flight
Thought Scour x 2
Tower Geist

Black –

 Black Cat x 2
Chosen of Markov
Curse of Thirst
Deadly Allue
Diregraf Ghoul
Falkenrath Noble
Farbog Boneflinger
Fiend of the Shadows
Gruesome Deformity
Skeletal Grimace x 2
Spiteful Shadows
Typhoid Rats

Red –

Bloodcrazed Neonate
Faithless Looting
Fires of Undeath
Harvest Pyre
Infernal Plunge
Nearheath Stalker
Night Revelers
Nightbird’s Clutches
Rakish Heir
Russet Wolves
Scorch the Fields
Village Ironsmith
Wrack with Madness

Green –

Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Dawntreader Elk
Festerhide Boar
Hunger of the Howlpack
Orchard Spirit x 2
Tracker’s Instinct
Scorned Villagers
Somberwald Dryad
Spidery Grasp
Strangleroot Geist
Ulvenwald Mystics
Woodland Sleuth x 2
Wild Hunger
Young Wolf

Multi-Colour –

Diregraf Captain

Artifacts –

Butcher’s Cleaver x 2
Demonmail Hauberk
Ghoulcaller’s Bell
Heavy Mattock
Inquisitor’s Flail
Silver-Inlaid Dagger
Warden of the Wall
Wooden Stake

Lands –

Clifftop Retreat
Evolving Wilds
Hunted Fengraf

Just look at those rares: Séance, Nevermore, Clifftop Retreat and a blue enchantment that’s so bad I can’t ever remember what it does. I just know that it’s awful. All the platinum hits. The bombs are falling out this deck like it was the bay doors of a B52.

I ended up playing a semi-controlling Grixis deck, splashing red for a trio of removal spells. Again, I did not have high hopes for the deck. I spent some time deciding whether or not to play a mill package featuring Dream Twist, Ghoul Caller’s Bell, Chill of Foreboding, Curse of the Bloody Tome and Shriekgeist, but I decided against it. If I felt that my opponent’s deck was sufficiently bomb laden or removal heavy, I would side them in an cross my fingers.

I started out 3-0, squeaking a close one against Billy “10 packs” Logan with the mill sideboard plan. To be fair to Billy, he’s reducing the amount he cheats, and claimed that he only opened seven packs this pre-release. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one cutting out bad habits.

Round four I face off against Duncan Tang, whose couch I had been passing out on that weekend. He tempos me right out of game one, so I don’t feel confident siding in the mill package. I just hope that I can assemble a motley crew of beat down. I manage to succeed to do this in games two and three, getting him down to a single point of life in the final game. He untaps with that lonely little ounce of vitality and plays Drogskol Reaver. That felt awesome.

That was my first sealed loss of the weekend, and the first time Duncan had beaten me that weekend. My record against him was 6-1 across multiple sealed games and four Winchester drafts. This has no particular bearing on the report, but I’d like this fact to be public knowledge.

In round five I’m paired against an opponent with every flashback removal spell that was ever printed in every Magic set or in any game with a similar mechanic. He also has Charmbreaker Devils to recur the spells he can’t flash back. My little flying dorks die… a lot. Once again, I side in the mill plan with my extremities overlapping. You could argue that this was a mistake given his high volume of flashback spells, but I didn’t see a ton of creatures in game, so I hoped that without a recurring source of damage he wouldn’t be able to kill me before he found himself without a deck.

After he felt the wrath of various crap mill spells in two games, I rebuilt his deck to feature more creatures. He was playing some marginal cards (the artifact that taps to add two mana that can only be used for flashback) and put in some more creatures. A common theme I’ve seen with less experienced players is that they won’t be interested in vanilla creatures, in this case: Russet Wolves. I’ve watched Azure Drakes go pretty late at some draft tables in my time. With experience you learn to appreciate a good body. The brain isn’t everything. It’s okay to be shallow with Magic cards.

The final round of the day saw me paired against the resident TO and dreadlock enthusiast, whose name I’ve forgotten or don’t know how to spell because it’s foreign. One of those two. We had both suffered through a very long weekend of cards and alcohol and found ourselves making a high number of bad attacks and misplays due to tiredness. Scottish Magic Superstar and part time Bumfluff Elemental, Bradley Barclay, once told me he goes to the gym and then plays Magic for hours at a time to help build up his mental stamina. He’s a bit of a freak though. I think his mental stamina comes from the fact that he’s been cross-bred with a peach. There’s just fuzz everywhere.

(That last paragraph was just an elaborate excuse for the fact that I played badly and lost.)

The things I’ll do to make sure I qualify for whatever they’re calling the re-vamped Scottish Nationals.

Thanks for reading,

Paul Mclachlan



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