The week or two before a new set hits is always awkward. You’ve got the full spoiler out, but no sense of how the cards actually play; you can guess at how these cards will fit in the various metas, but unless you’re part of a higher-level testing group you’re not going to have a true sense of the meta until the first couple of post-rotation tournaments. But on top of all this, the end of a season often means that you’ve slogged through a season’s worth of ups and downs, all of which may be weighing heavily on you, since things add up. And if you’re anything like me, you have at least one intense day of Magic in the upcoming weekend.

So, when I am thinking clearly about it, I try to take the week or so before a new set is released easy. I do not always succeed at this. The week before Gatecrash came out I ran myself ragged, such that not only did I end up getting sick as a dog and miss the prerelease, I also managed to get myself sick again trying to go to the release FNM and I ended up missing the Two-Headed Giant event I had organized for the Monday following release.

But it’s not always physical health that suffers if you don’t give yourself a break from Magic every once in a while; mental health is easy to overlook but very important to monitor. After all, Magic is a game of mental dexterity, and as such it can put a strain on our brains to keep playing without outlet. Many people are capable of balancing these things over time such that they don’t need to take periodic breaks, but my guess is that if you’re reading a Magic blog, you’re more like me. And I have a ridiculously hard time stepping back. Because I love this game! I love playing it, thinking about it, writing about it, and as such it takes up a significant percentage of my mental cycles on any given day.

Anyway, my point is that you have to step back every once in a while, and the tail end of the season is a great time to do it. Who knows what this new set will bring!

And there’s no format for which that is a more open question than Modern. On the same day Wizard’s released the full spoiler for Dragon’s Maze, they announced a targeted ban aimed to prevent Eggs from being a Modern playable deck. Second Sunrise only saw play in that list, so the ban is not otherwise a particularly big loss to the format, but Eggs is now gone! It’s the second combo deck they’ve banned in as many opportunities, and it should provide an interesting decision tree now when you’re planning out a sideboard. Do you play Rule of Law and Ethersworn Canonist? Do you run graveyard hate?

Personally, I hope that graveyard hate is on the way out as a dedicated aspect of the sideboard. There aren’t too many decks out there that repeatably abuse the graveyard, but I’ve wanted to play one of them. Martyr Proc was the deck that now turned into Soul Sisters, since the necessary and rampant graveyard hate meant your plan one of recurring Martyr of Sands with a forecast Proclamation of Rebirth could be easily disrupted. Martyr seems much more powerful now, since Gatecrash brought it two key tools: Vizkopa Guildmage and Orzhov Charm. The first one gives you a legitimate way to kill your opponent, since a Martyr popped for a full hand will make your opponent lose 21 life. The second one pulls double duty against Deathrite Shaman: It can kill the annoying thing, and it can reanimate your Martyr in response to them targeting it. Both seem like particularly strong cards to add to a deck that was always a little underpowered.

The list I am thinking about would look something like this:

4 Martyr of Sands
4 Serra Ascendant
2 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Vizkopa Guildmage
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Ranger of Eos
2 Path to Exile
4 Orzhov Charm
4 Proclamation of Rebirth
2 Elspeth, Knight Errant
3 Wrath of God
2 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Godless Shrine
2 Mistveil Plains
6 Plains
1 Swamp

Martyr Proc has always had the benefit of being able to run Wrath of God mainboard since it’s a deck that uses graveyard recursion as its primary engine. Similarly, Weathered Wayfarer lets you run more four-drops than you might otherwise be inclined to run, since you can search up more of the lands you need. It’s a necessary ramp engine, since your final “lock” requires seven mana to recur. The only card in Dragon’s Maze that seems like a contender for this deck is Renounce the Guilds in the sideboard; everything else either costs too much or drags us too far outside of our primary colors.

But it will be interesting to see how the (effective) banning of Eggs influences decks like this. Or, at least it will be next week. For the time being, it’s just beaches and mojitos, if only the purely proverbial ones. Because I am on break, and taking a few days off can only mean good things for my prerelease experience.

One final note regarding my prerelease experience… I’m planning to play Golgari as my primary guild, even though it doesn’t have the rare density of Boros in its guild pack. What Golgari does have is a chance of ending up with a Deathrite Shaman, Lotleth Troll, Abrupt Decay, or Underworld Connections. Each one of those cards is a strong playable for the type of decks I like to build. But that’s not even the exciting part! The exciting part is that the guilds Golgari overlaps with are all fairly strong Gatecrash ones. Gruul and Simic both offer a fair shot at getting a Greenside Watcher, and Orzhov and Dimir both offer higher chances of pulling a removal spell. But the biggest thing is that I’d rather roll the dice on a random Gatecrash guild than a random Return to Ravnica one.

But! The truly best part of this prerelease format? If the pack mappings of the guild packs are true, and they’re not randomly distributed, it’s going to be a Limited format free of Pack Rat. And that may very well be the sweetest thing.

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