I showed up to the midnight prerelease Friday night at The Uncommons in downtown Manhattan on a whim. It was a last minute decision, one that seems great at first but ends up being something you regret at the end of it. For once, limited hadn’t been on my mind. I’ve been a more devoted constructed player the last couple of months, so the majority of my preparation for this set has been in building decks of 60 rather than 40. I opened up my pool without even knowing all the cards in the set, but with a little luck, intuition, and help from limited master Ryan Saxe, I was sleeved up and ready to battle with this beauty:

U/B Cycle by Roman Fusco at Amonkhet Prerelease

Creatures (12)
1 Tah-Crop Skirmisher
1 Doomed Dissenter
1 Miasmic Mummy
1 Scribe of the Mindful
1 Cursed Minotaur
1 Baleful Ammit
1 Wasteland Scorpion
1 Soulstinger
1 Pitiless Vizier
1 Gravedigger
1 Glyph Keeper
1 Shimmerscale Drake

Non-Creature Spells (10)
1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
1 Censor
1 Essence Scatter
1 Cancel
1 Unburden
1 Drake Haven
1 Hieroglyphic Illumination
1 Cast Out
1 Final Reward
1 Floodwaters
1 Lay Claim

Lands (17)
1 Evolving Wilds
8 Swamp
7 Island
1 Plains

Sideboard (5)
1 Unburden
1 Decision Paralysis
1 Scarab Feast
1 Cartouche of Ambition
1 Wander in Death

I was graced by Liliana’s presence, which was one of the leading factors to my 3-1 ending record when the event finished at 5:30am (yes, you read that right). As a side note, I feel the 2 white sources were sufficient given the impressive amount of cyclers in my deck. I never felt like I needed to add a third source.

Here are the cards that impressed me:

Cancel

There’s not much to say about Cancel that’s already been said about in sealed – it’s efficient at dealing with your opponent’s bombs and expensive cards – it hits gods, Cast Out, and Final Reward – ‘nuff said.

Scribe of the Mindful

The body on this guy isn’t anything incredible, which makes him more viable in sealed than in draft, but there’s some cool tricks you can do at instant speed if your opponent isn’t careful, such as returning an important Essence Scatter or Final Reward. I got to do a cool trick where I blocked my opponent’s creature with Pitiless Vizier, sacrifice Scribe to return a cycling sorcery and cycle to give my Vizier indestructible.

Doomed Dissenter

I’m convinced this card is great just on -1/-1 counter synergy alone and is a huge component of the B/G -1/-1 counter draft archetype. Making your Ornery Kudu, Defiant Greatmaw, Soulstinger, or Exemplar of Strength come into play without a drawback is completely busted, and puts your opponent incredibly far behind when curving out. Two bodies for 2 is a deal I’ll take any day.

Gravedigger

Sealed is a grindy format to begin with, and Gravedigger certainly is a great 2-for-1, which revived many iterations of Wasteland Scorpion during the course of my event. Good cards are good.

And here are the cards that underperformed for me:

Tah-Crop Skirmisher

X/1s are probably not the best in this format since they match up against 1/1 tokens and cards that place -1/-1 counters on creatures. This card probably proves better in draft than in sealed, and I ended up boarding it out during my matches that weren’t against red decks. Since my deck was winning games at least 8 turns into a game, a 2-mana 2/1 was only relevant if my opponent had a variety of bears in their deck. In sealed I’m skeptical that a 2/1 body has much impact on a given game.

Drake Haven

I was thrilled to open the card I’m brewing with in Standard in my sealed pool, but sadly, Drake Haven did not promise the same amount of power that it has in constructed. One problem with this card in general is the amount of cycling cards (or discard outlets) needed to make it worth including in your 40 – I think the answer is around 7 or 8 but that might not even be enough. The problem I kept running into was that many cards in my deck had a cycling cost of 2 mana as opposed to 1, so the initial investment of 3 mana plus another 2 just to make a drake and draw a card didn’t feel powerful enough. It was a nice trick to represent when I kept mana open, but when most of my cards cycled for 2 I didn’t have the mana at my disposal to create drake tokens.

 

Although my memory fails me (from my lack of sleep), it was a pretty fun event. I had some tight matches, my first game in particular ending with me having one card left in library after grinding it out against an opposing Oketra the True and Dusk//Dawn deck. My one (and crushing) loss was to a Rhonas the Indomitable deck with Channeler Initiate, Combat Celebrant, and Mouth//Feed. A resolved Rhonas is something purely soul-crushing, and I hope I never have to oppose one again. A 3 mana 5/5 indestructible deathtouch creature that pumps guys and is easy to turn on? Obscene.

At 5:30am I jumped into a cab with my friend Seth Arar (who happened to be the only other lingering player) and headed home, passing out on my bed within minutes. Only so many cups of iced coffee can keep me going.  I would show up to prerelease again at 2:30pm the next day off of a couple hours of sleep. However, without pre-registering for a NYC prerelease (such a fool I am!) no slot was free, leading Roman’s adventure in Amonkhet to continue at another time…

Until Sunday morning.

I went to Jersey Saturday night and went to go prerelease with my little brother the next morning at All-Stars Collectibles in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Here’s what I ended up with:

R/W Aggro by Roman Fusco at Amonkhet Prerelease

Creatures (15)
1 Fan Bearer
1 Nef-Crop Entangler
2 Pathmaker Initiate
1 Gust Walker
1 Ahn-Crop Crasher
1 Thresher Lizard
3 Unwavering Initiate
1 Trueheart Twins
1 Supply Caravan
2 Winged Shepard
1 Seraph of the Suns

Non-Creature Spells (9)
1 Consuming Fervor
1 Djeru’s Resolve
1 Magma Spray
1 Fling
1 Mighty Leap
1 Trial of Zeal
1 Gideon of the Trials
1 Electrify
1 Pursue Glory

Lands (16)
8 Plains
6 Mountain
1 Canyon Slough
1 Sheltered Thicket

Sideboard (4)
1 Fan Bearer
2 Pursue Glory
1 Tormenting Voice

I’m not going to lie, seeing a Gideon of the Trials in your pool is a pretty good feeling on pre-release weekend. However, my deck seemed to be lacking in some aspects. It had decent removal and some tricks, in Trial of Zeal, Electrify, Magma Spray, and Fling. Djeru’s Resolve paired nicely with my exert creatures. I really really really wanted a Compulsory Rest in my deck. Or a Manticore of the Gauntlet. Or a Tah-Crop Elite. Is another Gust Walker too much to ask for??

But in a 58-person prerelease with a cut to Top 8, I found myself at 4-1-1 at the end of 6 rounds. My deck wasn’t anything special, but I did get to beat up on some clunky draws from my opponent’s decks. The one powerful aspect about my deck was burst damage. Fling, Trial of Zeal, Ahn-Crop Crasher, Mighty Leap and Djeru’s Resolve all turned the tide out of nowhere.

Here are the cards that impressed me:

Fan Bearer

This guy is probably a hallmark of these white aggressive decks. Tapping down relevant blockers later in the game is huge when the average converted mana cost of creatures in your deck is 3 mana.

Fling

I haven’t played much with this card in limited before, but it was nice insurance to have against an opponent’s combat trick or removal spell, making equal exchanges for cards or chipping off their life total.

Unwavering Initiate

I don’t usually rate 3/2s for 3 that highly, but it always seemed like a victory when I was able to trade off an embalmed Initiate for an opponent’s card. As an aggro deck, having a flashback-like effect was huge when I curved out and was on top-deck mode.

Djeru’s Resolve

Although preventing all combat damage is a relevant effect, the power in this card comes from the ability to untap. I think this definitely is a hallmark card of R/W in Amonkhet, since it doubles as a removal spell and as a way to get another turn of your creature’s exert ability. It also has cycling! This card does so many things for 1-mana – I’m always happy to have it in my deck.

And now for the cards that underperformed:

Pathmaker Initiate

I included two of this card in my deck just to have a 2-power creature on-curve, but I rarely found myself using it’s activated ability. I think this is because I had less 2-power exert creatures and a bevy of 3-drops, but nevertheless I wasn’t impressed by this card all day – the worst was when my opponent had a Festering Mummy or a Splendid Agony to 2-for-1 me.

I battled my way through the pre-release, Gideon by my side, even securing my spot in Top 8. But in the finals I faced an opponent (who had given me my only loss in the event) with the deadly Rhonas the Indomitable – my one true nemesis.

I fought with every inch of my being, but Gideon of the Trials was no match for the God. As I watched my Gideon get trampled to death, so did my chance at first place.

We all fall short. But if it’s in a pre-release instead of a win-and-in for a Grand Prix Top 8, so be it. This day belongs to Rhonas, but I will be back, ready to take on the Trial of Strength. At the end of the day (and morning of the Midnight pre-release) I had a ton of fun, and played some tight matches. Here’s to hoping your pre-release was just as fun and bountiful – Amonkhet is almost upon us and for once, I’m ready to cracks some packs and draft.

Cheers,

Roman

For some useful tips and tricks in Amonkhet limited, read this article by Ben Pall.

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