The Dragon’s Maze prerelease this past weekend at Twenty Sided Store was pretty dope. I played in the Saturday 3pm sealed flight, and the evening 2HG event as well—this time with fellow Hipster (and, I have recently learned, Sagat player) Li Xu. (You can read more about our miserable 2HG run in Li’s Pondering column from this week.)

After writing my review of all the Dragon’s Maze commons, I felt super-prepared for the prerelease—more so than usual. I got my first-choice guild—Orzhov—and my secret ally was Azorius. The Orzhov guildpack was pretty good, with a Kingpin’s Pet, Smite, Devour Flesh, Basilica Screecher, and Luminate Primordial as the rare, while Azorius had not much great beyond a Lyev Skynight—the rare was Palisade Giant. BOO.


I thought the boxes they had the packs in were pretty cool.

Otherwise, the Dragon’s Maze packs were kind of crazy and all over, and I found it really challenging to find the correct build, especially with so many gates and cluestones opening up splash possibilities. Here’s the casual Orzhov-splash-Izzet build I settled on (creatures in bold, spells in italics):

Swift Justice

2X Boros Mastiff
Basilica Screecher
Tithe Drinker
Devour Flesh

Kingpin’s Pet
Lyev Skynight
Haazda Snare Squad
Vassal Soul
Rakdos Drake
Security Blockade

Millennial Gargoyle
Armory Guard
Fatal Fumes
Warleader’s Helix

Jelenn Sphinx
Haunter of Nightveil
Master of Cruelties

Smog Elemental
Morgue Burst

Luminate Primordial

2X Azorius Guildgate
Orzhov Guildgate
Rakdos Guildgate
Dimir Guildgate
Transguild Promenade
6X Plains
4X Swamp
1X Mountain

Notable sideboard cards
Vizkopa Confessor
Concordia Pegasus
Holy Mantle
Weapon Surge
Aerial Maneuver

Basically my deck’s plan was to stall on the ground and win in the air, although I figured it could also get aggressive, given my removal, combat tricks, and decent two-drops—plus support from Haazda Snare Squad, who I had previously theorized would be good.

I was a little worried about how my fixing—and the speed of the format—would play out, given that I was splashing both red and blue in my Orzhov deck, so I made some late cuts in order to slightly reduce the splashes. Also, I could have included any number of cluestones (I had roughly a billion), but I didn’t think my deck wanted them. If you are using cluestones to splash, you are rarely ever going to be able to cycle them; and if you are going to be able to reliably cycle them, then you probably don’t need the fixing. They seem really schizophrenic.


The scene at 20SS during the 3pm sealed flight.

Round 1—Hugh (Naya splashing black)

Passing Matt Jones on the way to my table, I told him I was paired up against Hugh for R1, and Jones was like, “Good luck, his deck is sick. He’s got a Ruric Thar and bunch of other stuff.” Also Hugh’s a great player. I forget whether or not I won the die roll, but pretty much all day I chose to draw, when given the chance. That’s sometimes the correct play in sealed, anyway, and I figured—at least given what I’d seen of my own deck, and the decks around—that this format was going to be especially so. That wasn’t entirely the case, but it was close.

In G1 Hugh’s deck beat him—he never drew a third land. We had a complicated board state in G2, with all his reach guys (including Towering Indrik and Thrashing Mossdog) having stalled out my fliers. He got out Firemane Avenger, too (along with at least two other guys on the board), but couldn’t attack profitably with the Lightning Helix–maker because of my Haunter of Nightveil, which was shrinking his team by -1/-0 and was a seriously an MVP all day. At one point, though, I drew Fatal Fumes, and cast it after an attack to kill his 3/3 Mossdog—which I immediately realized I shouldn’t’ve done, because he promptly scavenged the plant dog onto his Avenger and basically killed me. In G3, Hugh couldn’t find red mana, and a key Devour Flesh for me got his Towering Indrik out of the way, allowing my fliers to win. 1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2—Li (Esper)

Man, and I thought I might catch a break after playing Hugh. No dice, as I was paired up against Li. I don’t entirely remember how, but I ended G1 against him at 24 life. In G2 I kept a two-lander while Li went two (Basilica Screecher), three (Kingpin’s Pet), four (Opal Lake Gatekeepers), five (Haunter of Nightveil)—yeah, curving out like that is pretty good. I battled back a bit, but Li got me really low on life and killed me. In G3 I got out Master of Cruelties while Li was stuck on lands. I Helixed his Pet and detained his Deputy of Acquittals to swing in unblocked, dropping Li to one. Oh man, it was sweet—and I had Screecher on the board and spells in hand for the next-turn win. (Kudos to Li for being a good sport about this particularl beating.) 2-0 matches, 4-2 games

Hands of Li-nding.

Hands of Li-nding (this caption brought to you by the 1997 Catholic High Yearbook Committee).

Round 3—Jason Chan (Borzhov)

My murderer’s row of opponents continued in R3, against Jason and his pretty nut mostly Boros deck. I forget what happened in games one and two, but we both took one apiece. In G3 I had a bunch of good cards in hand vs. Jason’s deck—Smog Elemental (nuked the two birds Jason got from his Scion of Vitu Ghazi), Haunter of Nightveil (neutered the four 1/1s from Goblin Rally), and Morgue Burst—but he had Warleader’s Helix for my Haunter, and then Angelic Edict for it later, after I brought him back with Morgue Burst (killing his leftover 4/4 Scion) and replayed him. That said, I did block-and-Swift-Justice his Spark Trooper in one game and Warleader’s Helix-ed it in another, so credit for style, right? Haazda Snare Squad was really good on Jason’s side of the table, too, and really caused trouble for me. 2-1 matches, 5-4 games

Round 4—Mark (Rakdos)

My last-round opponent was a nice guy, but seemed a little inexperienced, and declined the split. I beat him G1 even through his metric fuck-ton of removal. In G2 I controlled the board with Fatal Fumes backup in my hand. Haunter of Nightveil—which, sweet art, by the way; I can’t wait to see a foil—did work in this game. That guy is a HOUSE. 3-1 matches, 7-4 games

Hey, I won six packs! That was more than enough for the DGM portion of my crew’s pre-SCG Open team sealed tournament practice that happened last night (too late for press time, I’m afraid), so I was happy. Before 2HG started I ran up the street to get a sandwich from the Lodge’s General Store (the Igneous Rock, the only way to go), and conferred with Li about our guild choices. We settled on Orzhov and Dimir, but alas, were foiled in our plans. (You can read more about our 2HG misadventures in Li’s Pondering column from earlier this week.)


After 8pm at 20SS, it gets a little blue.

Final thoughts: I never had a problem playing my spells, despite having a four-color deck. Part of that, I’m sure, was luck—but having five guildgates and a Transguild Promenade did a lot of heavy lifting in the fixing department. Transguild Promenade, in particular, seemed really good and not at too slow, as it often did in Return to Ravnica. I dunno how many games started with both me and my opponent going land, go, land, go, land, go for three turns in a row—but it was quite a few.

Haunter of Nightveil, as I said, was a real MVP, and Jelenn Sphinx seemed quite strong as well, although he (she?) didn’t come out to play nearly as often (just didn’t draw her). Warleader’s Helix was bonkers, of course, and Smog Elemental’s stock went way up, often killing a bird or two. Fatal Fumes took a little effort to make it work, as it seemed like, by turn four or five, that you no longer wanted to use it to kill a two-drop.

That’s all I’ve got! If you see me at the team sealed event in Somerset, NJ, this Sunday, definitely say hi! I’m teaming up with Matt Jones and Kadar “History’s Greatest Monster” Brock. Team name is still TBD but I’m thinking something like the Forebrock Hunters. It’s not as good as the Commie (or Christian) Hunters, but it’ll have to do. Suggestions welcomed! See you guys in the top four.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

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