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Dragon’s Maze Prerelease

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Illusive Comics in Santa Clara at the Dragon’s Maze Magic prerelease event. I went to the Gatecrash prerelease in January (which I somehow forgot to write about), and had a lot of fun – I played a Simic deck and went 3-2 in 5 matches. I went to that with Andrew, Adam and Subrata and we all chose Simic as our guilds.

This time I was going on my own, but I wanted to go because I thought the structure would be really neat: You pick one guild from either Return to Ravnica or Gatecrash, and get randomly paired with one of four guilds from the other set which shared a color with it. You get a guild pack from each of those sets for those guilds, and then you get four Dragon’s Maze packs to build a deck out of the six packs. I’ve played a lot of Simic and Selesnya, and I wanted to pick a guild that looked like fun that I hadn’t played much. My guess was that Boros and Rakdos would be the guilds to pick to win a lot, but I don’t find either of those guilds to be a lot of fun to play. In the end I decided to go with Golgari. My “secret ally” guild was Orzhov, which as it turns out was my second choice.

The other gimmick in this prerelease was that each guild would advance on a chart for each match win by their guild during the afternoon; whoever got to the end first would get a special prize card, and each guild that reached the end at all would get another special prize card. The problem was that I was the only player who chose Golgari, so I’d have to win 4 of my 5 matches to reach the end.

I opened up my packs, and after some thought I ended up with this deck:

# Cost P/T Card Notes
1 black/green mana 1/2 Deathrite Shaman
1 green mana   Giant Growth
1 1 manawhite mana   Lyev Decree
1 1 manawhite mana 2/2 Syndic of Tithes Extort white/black mana
1 1 managreen mana 2/2 Drudge Beetle Scavenge 5 managreen mana
1 1 managreen mana 2/2 Kraul Warrior 5 managreen mana: +3/+3 until end of turn
1 1 managreen mana 2/2 Skylasher
1 white manablack mana 1/1 High Priest of Penance
1 2 manawhite mana 1/4 Basilica Guards Extort white/black mana
1 2 managreen mana 2/1 Battering Krasis Evolve
1 2 managreen mana 2/1 Stonefare Crocodile 2 manablack mana: Lifelink until end of turn
1 1 manawhite manablack mana 2/2 Kingpin’s Pet Extort white/black mana
1 X manablack manablack managreen mana   Gaze of Granite
1 3 manablack mana 3/2 Syndicate Enforcer Extort white/black mana
1 2 manablack manablack mana   Grisly Spectacle
1 2 manablack manablack mana 0/4 Perilous Shadow 1 manablack mana: +2/+2 until end of turn
1 2 manablack managreen mana 2/2 Sluiceway Scorpion Scavenge 1 manablack managreen mana
1 4 manawhite mana 3/3 Guardian of the Gateless
1 3 manablack/green manablack/green mana 5/4 Golgari Longlegs
1 3 manablack managreen mana 2/5 Korozda Gorgon
1 4 manablack managreen mana   Rites of Reaping
2 3 mana   Orzhov Cluestone
1     Golgari Guildgate
1     Orzhov Guildgate
4     Plains
5     Swamp
6     Forest

The format strongly encourages three-color decks, which can lead to some shaky mana bases but which I enjoy (in theory) because I like a slower game so that things can develop and we have a chance to play our high-cost cards.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get a single Pestilence in my Dragon’s Maze packs (and yes, I recognize that since it’s an uncommon I probably had less than a 50% chance of getting one). I also did not get any Guildgates in my colors other than in my two guild packs, which meant not playing any Gatekeepers.

My pool had 4 of the 6-cost Maze Elementals, but none of them did much for my deck so I didn’t play any of them, deciding to go for efficiency instead. I wondered if I should have played an Armored Wolf-Rider instead of the Golgari Longlegs, since a 4/6 body might have been more useful than a 5/4 body, but on balance it probably didn’t make much difference.

I wasn’t going to put Guardian of the Gateless in my deck at first, but I overheard people at the table behind me talking about it and saying that it was a really good card, so I decided to run it, and it was quite useful when I was able to play it.

Anyway, other than worrying about my mana base I was pretty happy with my deck. Due to my mana base I generally elected to go second, figuring the extra card would let me smooth out my mana curve. Overall my strategy was to overrun anyone who stumbled with my cheap creatures, and otherwise try to stall them out and win through Extort and eventually-superior biomass on the ground.

My first match I played against an aggressive Boros deck, who stumbled in the first game, ran me over with a nifty attack combo in the second game (Riot Piker and Madcap Skills), but I dealt with his stuff in the third game and managed to pull out a win.

My second match was against a Selesnya deck piloted by a player who didn’t seem very experienced. I swept the board with Gift of Granite, but he reloaded and we stalled out. He made an ill-considered attack, I managed to Extort him down to near-death (with help from Deathrite Shaman), and then overran him with all my bodies. But the game took 35 minutes and we didn’t have time to finish the second game, which gave me the win.

This put me tied for first place, so I was matched up against a very good Selesnya/Orzhov deck. We split the first two games, and the third game came down to the time limit. But he played Tesya, Envoy of Ghosts (he apparently had two of them in his deck!), which I didn’t have a way to deal with, and I couldn’t stall him until time was called, so I ended up losing.

The fourth match put me up against another Boros deck, and this we stalled out in the first game again. Unfortunately although it was very close, I wasn’t able to win this one. In the second game he played a Desecration Demon, but I managed to topdeck Grisly Spectacle (using a Cluestone to get there). He reloaded, but I played Gift of Granite. I think I could have won this one, but we ran out of time, so I lost the match.

The fifth match I played a Rakdos deck run by one of the guys I’d sat with while doing deck construction. He got land-shorted the first game, and then I drew plenty of removal in the second game. We played the third game and I won again – my deck was just too fast for him, somehow.

So all-in-all I went 3-2 in my five matches, and was competitive in my other two. I did misplay from time to time, but I don’t think they were decisive in any of my matches; overall I was pretty happy with how I did. I finished in eighth place, winning three booster packs.

I’ve also been happy with the people I’ve played with at Illusive, as they’re not generally clearly better players than me (as has been the case when I’ve gone toChannel Fireball), and they’re all friendly to play with. The game space is a little cramped, but they run the events efficiently so we’re never sitting around waiting for things to begin. We actually finished the event over an hour earlier than projected! So I hung out and chatted with folks for a while afterwards. I should go there for Friday night drafting sometime.

So all things considered the prerelease was just as much fun as I’d expected, and I’m looking forward to drafting the block once it’s out, as I think it should be a very interesting experience with some nifty strategies to try out.

50 for 50

Now that I know she’s received and opened the package, I can write about the idea I came up with for my friend K’s 50th birthday: I bought her 50 birthday cards!

I came up with this idea last summer, possibly while I was back east when my Mom was recovering from her surgery (I forget exactly when), since I realized I had almost a year to buy 50 cards, which worked out to a little more than 1 per week. I knew immediately that it was unlikely I’d actually buy the cards that regularly, but I figured if I could get two-thirds of them by, say, the end of February, then I could easily scramble to get another 15 or so cards in the final month.

One thing I realized when I had bought about 15 cards was that I needed to achieve some balance in the cards I bought. They couldn’t all be cards about age, I had to mix in some generally funny cards, and some more serious cards. When you’re only buying a card a week, it’s easy to just end up buying all the most hilarious cards, but she wouldn’t be reading them one a week, but (probably) all at once.

By February I had done a pretty good job – I had about 35 cards – and I started going through them and signing them. I discovered I had bought one card twice, but that’s the only one I doubled up on, and I had time to replace it, which I did.

I had also started telling some friends about this scheme, and to my surprise none of them had heard of anyone doing this sort of thing before. I’m sure someone has done it, but in my social circle it was a novel idea. My Dad said I should mail them all individually, but I felt that was farther than I was willing to go; instead I signed and sealed all of them, and shipped them in a box.

K wrote to me that she ended up opening a few cards a day, and found them quite funny overall. So, mission accomplished!

I’ll describe one card from the set: Debbi suggested I get a 51st card, “for luck”. Well, as luck would have it, I came across what I thought was a perfect 51st card while I was back east last month. Supposedly a quote from Satchel Paige, it read:

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

A good question for any of us.

Home Project Weekend

This weekend we took advantage of OSH‘s “we pay the sales tax” weekend to pick up a bunch of stuff for around the house. For example:

  • New filters for the HVAC system. Apparently you’re supposed to replace them more often than once every 2 years! (LOL.) The old ones were completely filthy, ew.
  • New bulbs for the under-counter lights in the kitchen and laundry room. 6 of the 9 bulbs in the kitchen were out. Replacing them was simple once I figured out how to get the covers off.
  • A couple of new daisies for sports in the yard, as a couple of plants died off over the last year.

I also mowed the lawn and gave it some food, so it was a pretty productive weekend. I still haven’t replaced the busted tube on my bike, so I still haven’t biked to work, but hopefully this week.

We also went to Half Moon Bay yesterday morning for the first time in a few months, and enjoyed the incoming warm weather to go for a couple of nice walks along the coast. We got parking at the trailhead near Pillar Point Harbor to go on this nice walk out to the beach (very popular with dog-walkers we noticed), although we didn’t walk along the beach itself.

I feel like I’m finally just about caught up on all the stuff that piled up during my trip east last month.

Sick Week

I need to write a post about my latest trip back east, which occurred over the last week and a half of March, but that will have to wait for later. Part of why it has to wait for later is because I spent much of last week sick.

I actually felt myself getting sick Friday March 29, the day before I flew home. Saturday I was definitely feeling sick and knew that the flight home was not going to be wonderful. Debbi convinced me to get some cold meds while I was waiting at the airport, and I think they helped. The 1-hour delay because of a fuel spill at the refueling truck at our plane didn’t help. However, I did make it home, feeling sick and exhausted. We grabbed dinner on the way home and then collapsed into bed around 11pm (2 am east coast time – I’d been up for 18 hours!).

Sunday Debbi got up and I told her I’d be getting up soon myself. In fact I slept for another 2 hours, and then stumbled downstairs. Debbi kindly made breakfast for us, but I was a zombie, and soon fell asleep on the couch until early afternoon (during which time Debbi went grocery shopping and took care of the cats). In the afternoon I felt considerably improved, and expected to go to the work on Monday.

And go to work I did! I wasn’t 100%, and I knew I’d run out of gas late in the day (which I did, leaving a bit early), but I had a pretty normal and productive day (for the first day back from being away for a week and a half), and expected to feel better the next day.

In fact I woke up in a fog on Tuesday. I went to work anyway, figuring I’d just shake it off, but after lunch I just could not concentrate, so I went home and promptly slept for about three hours. I had soup for dinner and mostly sat quietly in the evening (albeit working as best I could to finish a birthday gift for a friend of mine which needed to get mailed the next day). We watched Star Trek: Nemesis and went to bed early when it was done.

Wednesday I felt no better – if anything I felt worse. I took care of the morning routine (mostly giving Newton his meds, scooping the litter, and giving the cats food). I went upstairs and was so exhausted I fell on the bed and dozed for an hour and a half. I got up and had lunch, sat on the couch and read for a while, then slept for another 2-3 hours. I was tired, and sore, and developing a nasty cough. When I woke up, I finally started to feel better.

Thursday I went back to work, perhaps just a little early, as I was still tired, and the cough had turned into something where any amount of activity – like walking to the bathroom – would result in a terrible hack. Catching my breath and sitting down were the only cures.

But that was – finally – the worst of it. All the symptoms but the cough were gone by Friday, and it was getting better. It’s still with me even today, but by Saturday it had improved to the point that I could do some chores around the house (like unpacking the furniture I shipped from my Mom’s house to put it together, and mowing the lawn Sunday morning). I discovered that Robitussin cough+cold was the best thing for it, to the point that like clockwork the cough would come back 4 hours after my last dose.

Today I am medication-free, though, and even had coffee for the first time since my flight home. So I’m just about better.

I don’t know whether flying home while sick kept me from getting over the cold, or if I caught one cold on top of another one, but it was a pretty nasty week last week. Hopefully not one I’ll repeat for a few years.