Monday, April 4, 2016

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease, Part 1 - All is Sacrifice

This past weekend was the Shadows over Innistrad prerelease. I've always held fond memories of Innistrad: it was the first set to come out after I moved to Washington, and Avacyn Restored was the first time I went 4-0 at Uncle's Games. Needless to say, I was very excited to revisit Innistrad. And this set definitely didn't disappoint. But first, let's figure out what I did wrong.

Like my previous post about the Battle for Zendikar prerelease, I made some mistakes deciding on my 40 card deck. I got overly excited about some of the bombs I opened, and I'm pretty sure I got mind-controlled by a Frog Horror. Let's take a look at my Sealed pool (again, Mythics/Rares are in bold):

Colorless (5)
Explosive Apparatus (Artifact, 1)
True-Faith Censer (Equipment, 2)
2x Magnifying Glass (Artifact, 3)
Harvest Hand (Artifact Creature, 3)

Multicolored (2)
Arlinn Kord (Planeswalker, 2RG)
The Gitrog Monster (Creature, 3BG)

White (20)
2x Chaplain's Blessing (Sorcery, W)
Town Gossipmonger (Creature, W)
Thraben Inspector (Creature, W)
Moorland Drifter (Creature, 1W)
Unruly Mob (Creature, 1W)
Puncturing Light (Instant, 1W)
Declaration in Stone (Sorcery, 1W)
Bygone Bishop (Creature, 2W)
Pious Evangel (Creature, 2W)
Spectral Shepherd (Creature, 2W)
Ethereal Guidance (Sorcery, 2W)
Angelic Purge (Sorcery, 2W)
2x Tenacity (Instant, 3W)
2x Inquisitor's Ox (Creature, 3W)
Apothecary Geist (Creature, 3W)
Reaper of Flight Moonsilver (Creature, 3WW)
Emissary of the Sleepless (Creature, 4W)

Blue (12)
Vessel of Paramnesia (Enchantment, 1U)
2x Jace's Scrutiny (Instant, 1U)
Just the Wind (Instant, 1U)
Press for Answers (Sorcery, 1U)
Manic Scribe (Creature, 1U)
Trail of Evidence (Enchantment, 2U)
Niblis of Dusk (Creature, 2U)
Uninvited Geist (Creature, 2U)
Drownyard Explorers (Creature, 3U)
Sleep Paralysis (Enchantment, 3U)
Nephalia Moondrakes (Creature, 5UU)

Black (13)
Sinister Concoction (Enchantment, B)
Shamble Back (Sorcery, B)
Murderous Compulsion (Sorcery, B)
Vessel of Malignity (Enchantment, 1B)
Grotesque Mutation (Instant, 1B)
Macabre Waltz (Sorcery, 1B)
Olivia's Bloodsworn (Creature, 1B)
Ghoulcaller's Apprentice (Creature, 1B)
Rancid Rats (Creature, 1B)
Relentless Dead (Creature, BB)
Crow of Dark Tidings (Creature, 2B)
Elusive Tormentor (Creature, 2BB)
Ghoulsteed (Creature, 4B)

Green (16)
Vessel of Nascency (Enchantment, G)
Loam Dryad (Creature, G)
2x Groundskeeper (Creature, G)
Fork in the Road (Sorcery, 1G)
Duskwatch Recruiter (Creature, 1G)
Moldgraf Scavenger (Creature, 1G)
2x Byway Courier (Creature, 2G)
Graf Mole (Creature, 2G)
Might Beyond Reason (Instant, 3G)
Equestrian Skill (Enchantment, 3G)
Intrepid Provisioner (Creature, 3G)
Briarbridge Patrol (Creature, 3G)
Watcher in the Web (Creature, 4G)
Thornhide Wolves (Creature, 4G)

Red (12)
Skin Invasion (Enchantment, R)
Dual Shot (Instant, R)
Insolent Neonate (Creature, R)
Ember-Eye Wolf (Creature, 1R)
2x Sanguinary Mage (Creature, 1R)
Uncaged Fury (Instant, 2R)
Breakneck Rider (Creature, 1RR)
Structural Distortion (Sorcery, 3R)
Voldaren Duelist (Creature, 3R)
Pyre Hound (Creature, 3R)
Incorrigible Youths (Creature, 3RR)

Lands (5)
Warped Landscape
Game Trail
Drownyard Temple
2x Foul Orchard

My prerelease promo was Bygone Bishop and early on in the deckbuilding process I was still leaning towards playing White. I had noticed that I could build a strong Spirit-themed deck. Then I opened The Gitrog Monster. The Gitrog Monster is insanely good. As long as you're willing to feed him [land], he will kill things for you and let you draw cards! I'd been hoping to get The Gitrog Monster during the prerelease. But at the time my Black cards were really weak, so I set him aside.

The problem arose when I opened Arlinn Kord. She was worth more than I'd paid to participate in the tournament (at the time, she was ~$26). I guess I'm weak to Planeswalkers too, because at that moment I shifted gears to see if I could make a deck using her.

I came up with the following (splashing Black for removal and The Gitrog Monster):

Jund Bombs

Creatures (13)
Loam Dryad
Groundskeeper
2x Sanguinary Mage
Ember-Eye Wolf
Duskwatch Recruiter
2x Byway Courier
Breakneck Rider
Briarbridge Patrol
Voldaren Duelist
Watcher in the Web
The Gitrog Monster

Planeswalker (1)
Arlinn Kord

Other (9)
Dual Shot
Sinister Concoction
Vessel of Nascency
Skin Invasion
Explosive Apparatus
Murderous Compulsion
Fork in the Road
Uncaged Fury
Might Beyond Reason

Land (17)
Warped Landscape
2x Foul Orchard
Drownyard Temple
Game Trail
2x Swamp
5x Forest
5x Mountain

After sleeving this monstrosity, I predictably bombed the tournament with a record of 0-3 before I dropped (both to save time and because there was no way I could win even a single pack at that point). What went wrong? Well, this deck is extremely weak to fliers. And Innistrad is full of cheap fliers. Also, if an opponent managed to remove Gitrog Monster, nothing else in the deck could really win the game on its own. Arlinn performed below expectations. Most of the time I cast her to force an opponent to attack her (and kill her), basically using her as a way to regain tempo. She is definitely strong in the right deck, but this one wasn't it.

What deck should I have played? After dropping out of the tournament, I changed my deck to the one below and challenged the visiting WotC employee Mark Gottlieb (design manager at Wizards and lead designer for Shadows over Innistrad!) in hopes of winning a Magic Origins pack and salvaging my pride. This was the deck I originally had in mind (before opening Gitrog Monster and Arlinn):

UW Spirits and Humans

Creatures (15)
Thraben Inspector
Town Gossipmonger
Moorland Drifter
Manic Scribe
Unruly Mob
Uninvited Geist
Spectral Shepherd
Niblis of Dusk
Pious Evangel
Bygone Bishop
Apothecary Geist
Inquisitor's Ox
Emissary of the Sleepless
Reaper of Flight Moonsilver
Nephalia Moondrakes

Other (8)
Explosive Apparatus
Press for Answers
Just the Wind
Puncturing Light
Declaration in Stone
Angelic Purge
Ethereal Guidance
Sleep Paralysis

Land (17)
Warped Landscape
9x Plains
7x Island

Power-wise, nothing in this deck has the presence of Gitrog Monster or Arlinn Kord, but most of these creatures fly and synergize well. I have a strong Spirit theme with cards that have an upside when I control other Spirits. I also have much better removal with Puncturing Light, Declaration in Stone, and Angelic Purge. The only problem I had with this deck was turning on Delirium, but Warped Landscape, Angelic Purge, and Pious Evangel all helped put lands in the graveyard. I was able to beat Mark's Red-Black Madness deck even though most of his creatures were much larger than mine (lots of 4-power creatures) purely because I could fly over them and pressure his life total early.

What did I learn from this? In a thematically strong set like Shadows over Innistrad, synergy matters. The deck that I played in the tournament may have had individually decent cards, but they didn't work well together. Also, flyers are still very good in Limited.

Part 2 - Mindwrack Demon Math is coming soon! Please leave your comments below.