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(Pre)release the Kraken!

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Man, I just love prereleases. The first time you play with a new set is always memorable, and Theros was no different. I decided to go down the Path of Wisdom because, well, blue is the one true color of Magic. This is despite how bad it is in most Constructed formats lately, but we’ll save that talk for another time. Blue is particularly good in this format because counterspells are among the better answers for the God cards as well as bestow creatures. Plus, if the format was as slow as I suspected, that only made the case for playing blue even stronger. Here’s what I opened:

Oh jeez, not one but two planeswalkers? Between the overall solid quality of my blue cards, the multiple removal spells in black, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and Xenagos, the Reveler, I was being pulled in every possible direction. You could even say that a certain rare was pulling me in a hundred different directions. As much as I wanted to play Elspeth, the rest of my white was quite shallow. I wasn’t about to cut blue since it was, by far, my best color, and black seemed to pair the best with it. I had three unconditional removal spells, all of which do a great job of taking care of my opponents’ bombs. Dark Betrayal is also a fantastic sideboard card. I came very close to running the greedy double-splash for Elspeth, but I tend to favor consistency over power, especially at a prerelease. Here’s what I built:

Here are a few notes about my card choices:

Sealock Monster

  • I played eighteen lands to make sure that I would be able to activate monstrosity on Shipbreaker Kraken and Sealock Monster. I also have two 6-mana removal spells that I want to make sure I’ll be able to cast. I have a lot of scry effects, so flooding should be less of an issue.
  • With three Vaporkin, this deck is reasonably capable of being aggressive and can see some pretty good starts. For this reason, I chose to play first, although that might be correct in general due to the first-monstrosity-wins factor.
  • I don’t think March of the Returned is a great card, but it does have very good synergy with the two copies of Erebos's Emissary in my deck. It came up a few times that I was able to discard creatures that I wouldn’t otherwise want to discard because I had the doubled Raise Dead. Still, it’s a bit on the clunky side, so I only played one, and it was the card I most often boarded out.
  • Both of the counterspells were awesome, and I would always main-deck them.
  • Even though I was only in two colors, Burnished Hart was still really good at ramping me into my more powerful cards. I think I’d have a hard time cutting it from most Sealed decks.

I didn’t play Breaching Hippocamp or Boon of Erebos because I wasn’t expecting to enter a lot of creature combat, so these cards lose a lot of their value. Most of my creatures fly and don’t do a very good job of blocking. Fate Foretold isn’t great here for the same reasons. I don’t have any heroic creatures to trigger, and I’m not going to be doing a whole lot of trading. Most of the time, it would just be a cycler that opens me up to a two-for-one. Anvilwrought Raptor is a fine card, but it’s worse than the other creatures I was playing. There are a couple cards that do 1 damage or inflict -1/-1 for 1 mana, so it’s quite bad in those situations. However, it’s quite good against a U/B flyers deck, so I was prepared to bring them in for the mirror, although it didn’t actually come up. Last, Flamecast Wheel was another card that didn’t make the cut due to its clunkiness. I had actual removal spells, so I didn’t feel the need to play it.

Erebos's Emissary
The deck ended up working out quite well, and I managed to go undefeated. Erebos's Emissary was very difficult for my opponents to attack into, allowing me to take to the skies. Prognostic Sphinx is very good since it only ever dies if you let it die, and scry 3 is basically Vampiric Tutor. Once you hit 8 mana, Shipbreaker Kraken wins you the game on most conceivable board states. The same is more or less true for most monstrosities, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

My initial take on the set is that the Sealed format is actually pretty fun. It’s generally slow enough that you’ll have the time to play your expensive bombs, but fast decks can still be good. I think that in Sealed, it’s harder to have a fast deck with a bunch of heroes, as you need a critical mass of cheap cards to make it work, making it more suited for Draft. The slower decks only really need one or two quality monstrosities to close the game out and can fill out their decks with any solid cards at their disposal. The best “heroic” decks I saw tended to be green-based, as pump spells are the natural cards to trigger the heroic mechanic. Centaur Battlemaster is very strong, and any pump spell enables him to tangle with just about any monstrosity your opponent can through at you. Savage Surge in particular can lead to some blowouts.

I’ll close with my thoughts on the mechanics of Theros.

Heroic

As I said above, I think this is more of a Draft mechanic than anything else. I did play against a hero deck at my prerelease, and I very easily could have lost if not for some loose play from my opponent. As far as commons and uncommons go, the best heroes are in green and white, the best of which give you a permanent rather than a temporary bonus. Any hero that picks up a +1/+1 counter is good, and in order to gain the maximum value from your spells, you’re going to want to pick up as many spells that are capable of targeting more than one creature as possible.

Blue does have Triton Fortune Hunter, but I don’t think he necessarily needs to go in a dedicated hero deck to be good.

Bestow

This mechanic is stupid-good. The fact that you can’t even kill the opponent’s creature in response and gain the two-for-one is what pushes it over the top for me. The only risk you take when playing an enchantment creature as an Aura is tempo risk: waiting too long and being too far behind on board. That makes them extremely powerful, as they are cards that are good in almost any situation. I think they’re even better than Equipment, as they don’t suffer from the all-pants-no-men problem (not strictly better, of course; Equipment has its own set of advantages). The only downside is that bestow creatures are vulnerable to enchantment removal, which is why I recommend that you always main-deck Disenchant effects. Bestow is among the reasons that Annul is so good in this format.

Triton Fortune Hunter
Heliod's Emissary
Nessian Asp

Monstrosity

This mechanic might prove to be either this set’s greatest strength or its greatest weakness (or maybe both). I love the flavor of it, I love how you always have something to do with your extra mana, and I love the tension that these cards create. However, some of them are so good that games can turn into a first-monstrosity-wins situation. Even something as innocuous as, say, Nessian Asp can suffer from this. I realize 7 mana is a lot, but an 8/9 is almost certainly going to completely outclass anything on the other side of the table. Your opponent will probably have to spend two or three cards to deal with it—if she’s able to deal with it at all. There was one game I played in which both of us had a Shipbreaker Kraken, and I only won because I hit 8 mana first. Hard removal spells like Sip of Hemlock become extremely important, but you’re also forced to play loose cards like Viper's Kiss just to try to win the monstrosity race. This isn’t an insurmountable problem by any means, and I have no idea how prevalent it will be in practice. I hope I’m wrong on this one and that it’s nowhere near as bad as I’m making it out to be.




Well, that’s all I have for this week. How would you have built my Sealed pool? Do you have any cool stories from your prerelease? Feel free to leave me a comment below. See you guys next week, by which time I hope to have had a Draft or two in.

Take care,

Nassim Ketita

arcticninja on Magic Online

http://www.youtube.com/nketita


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