Battle for Zendikar Prerelease

I’m writing this a few weeks after the fact, but on this day I went down to Isle of Gamers in Santa Clara to play in a prerelease for the new Magic: The Gathering set, Battle for Zendikar (BFZ).

You always head to one of these sealed deck events hoping to get a nice pool of cards that works well together. In the case of BFZ, that meant a neat Allies deck, maybe a grindy Ingest-Processor deck, a ramp deck which could power out some huge threats, or a strong aggro deck with some decent removal (this last one being what I got at the Journey Into Nyx prerelease). Instead, what I opened was this:

(click for larger image)
(click for larger image)

The first thing to notice in this pool is that the cards are spread pretty evenly across all 5 colors, which meant I was struggling to come up with 23 playable non-land cards for my 40-card deck in 2 colors. I don’t think it’s possible to do without playing really bad cards like Kitesail Scout. The second thing to notice is that the pool is very short on 2-drops. If you exclude the bad 1-drops (of which my pool had 4), the pool has 7 acceptable 1- and 2-drops, but again spread across all 5 colors. Which meant whatever deck I put together had to survive to turns 3 and 4 doing basically nothing – not a good recipe. Finally, I had three big Eldrazi which were nearly unplayable because I didn’t have a good way to ramp into them before I died.

It was, in short, a dismal pool. At least I got a foil Prairie Stream as my promo card.

I played my first match with the following deck, which was Blue/Red splashing a few White cards:

First deck - Blue/Red/splash White

This is basically the worst kind of Ingest/Processor deck – card which can Ingest, but with no payoff from Processors. And I couldn’t ramp into Breaker of Armies. I should probably have replaced a Sure Strike with Smite the Monstrous, but oh well.

My opponent for this match was a 9-year-old kid playing his first prerelease. His deck was so-so, but my deck struggled to fend him off and ultimately lost a long game 1 before getting run over in game 2. My deck just didn’t have enough payoff to play for the long game.

After that match I decided to upend my deck and instead go Red/White with a Blue splash:

Second deck - Red/White/splash Blue

This was a better deck, and I won my second match 2-1 against a woman playing a pretty good Allies deck. But her deck had left out a couple of very good cards – such as Sheer Drop and Felidar Sovereign – which after we finished our match I suggested she put in. So I kind of feel like I stole a win.

And ultimately my deck still didn’t have much oomph to it, so I lost my third match 0-2 to a guy who said he’d slept only 2 hours the night before due to working late. And my fourth match also went down, though 1-2. But both times once we got to the late game their plays were just much better than mine, and I didn’t have much of an early game. So it was a mess. With one round to go I decided to call it a day, not feeling like playing for another hour for the small chance to win a pack, and with a deck that just wasn’t much fun.

With the benefit of hindsight, I think BFZ is a rough format for sealed deck. Several of its best decks have a lot of synergy, and if you have the pieces but not the payoff (as I did), then they’re not very good. There are some decks which are more modular, but I didn’t have them. Ultimately I think my pool was just too diffuse. Maybe if I’d had some keen insight I could have put together something with a little more top end that could have survived to the late game – maybe a Blue/Green with some Eldrazi. But I keep looking at it and there just isn’t very much there.

Oh well, better luck next time.

One thought on “Battle for Zendikar Prerelease”

  1. Mine had some decent synergies in the late game:
    Defiant Bloodlord + Retreat to Kazandu + land = drain for two
    Defiant Bloodlord + Vampiric Rites + sacrifice a creature = drain for one plus draw a card
    Vampiric Rites + Rot Shambler + sacrifice a creature = gain 1 life, put a counter on the Shambler and draw a card
    and so forth.

    Of course, making it to the late game in a format where my fifth round opponent consistently swung for 15 or so on turn 5 (he played Retreat to Valakut into Grove Rumbler into Blighted Woodland, swinging with the 7/5 trampler, then cracking the Woodland for an additional two lands and +8/+4). 15-power tramplers are hard to handle. I survived that round via a timely Rolling Thunder and Radiant Flames.

    My first round opponent had the Allies deck – trampling indestructible attackers are definitely not something you want coming at you. My third round opponent had the Eldrazi ramp deck – he had a good curve and enough removal to get to his fatties. I lost to both of them.

    I’m not sure how good a sealed format it is – we’ll have to try it out a bit more :<)

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