Prerelease has come and gone, and I had a pretty swell time. I had the good fortune to play in two sealed events at Twenty Sided: a grixis control deck (3-1) and a UG stuff deck (also 3-1). Here’re my first impressions of the format:

rockpaperscissors

There felt to be three distinct archetypes: heroic aggro (usually white or red), midrange tempo (usually blue or black), and monstrous (usually green). There were more specific archetypes, like UR scry, but they seemed to fall within this loose framework.

Playing Grixis control (with all the removal spells), I felt extremely well positioned against heroic decks. As with Rise’s levellers archetype, heroic decks tended to spend their turns powering up one creature (with auras, in this case) or deploying unintimidating threats. Lash of the Whip and Rage of Purphoros were usually fast enough to ruin their plans and Coastline Chimera did an excellent job of holding back their threats. I felt great playing a blue deck against aggro.

On the contrary, playing against monstrous creatures was the worst. Lash of the Whip can’t kill Nessian Asp (definitely Green’s best or second-best common) and I couldn’t win once it became  monstrous and swung in for eight damage each turn. Not only did I have to deal with rares like Ember Swallower, but I needed to kill every Ill-Tempered Cyclops before it became monstrous. Control doesn’t work when you have to kill everything; there just aren’t enough removal spells or good blockers to go around. Horizon Scholar, which made my deck in both sealed flights, felt like the worst card in my deck. By the time I was at six mana, so was my opponent, and my 4/4 flying was  useless against a 4/5 reach and couldn’t race a 6/6 trample. To win monstrous matchups, I needed cards like Nimbus Naiad (and yes, I’d have played Vaporkin had I had any) to get damage in early and Voyage’s End to be my best kill-spell.

Overall, these three archetypes felt like a game of rock-paper-scissors: heroic beats monstrous beat tempo beats heroic (and given that  aggro beats control beats midrange beats aggro, this shouldn’t be too surprising). I’m excited to see what heroic aggro looks like in draft (where I expect it will be much, much stronger), as well as the narrower archetypes, like monoblack devotion and UR scry.

Also, can I say how amazing it is to have Thassa, God the Sea and Prophet of Kruphix out at the same time? Your creatures are all unblockable, vigilant, and have flash. My second sealed pool had two prophets, Thassa, and little else of import. I filled my deck with as many creatures as possible (I had seven blue permanents, so triggering Thassa was near-impossible) and had a blast. I strongly recommend combining them, if you’re ever able.

Hulk... well, you know

There was a whole bunch of discussion and disagreement regarding my review of Vaporkin. I gave it a D (“marginally playable” by our ratings rubric). Many folks thought it should be rated significantly higher. I’d like to share my experiences regarding Vaporkin.

The first one played against, in a for-fun match against my good friend, Joel, killed me (I was piloting my Grixis ‘kill-em-all’ deck). I had no lands and I was pecked- er, moistened to death. Every other Vaporkin pointed at me in every other game was either blanked by Coastline Chimera (or another flier), killed after being suited up with an ordeal, or killed with Fate Foretold on the stack. Vaporkin played exactly how I expected it to: unable to block my ground threats, blanked by my superior fliers, and while good with pants (auras), easily dispatched for value. So, I feel validated in giving it a D, right? Well, not so fast.

Vaporkin was bad against my blue skies deck. I would have killed for them against monstrous decks, where Coastline Chimera can’t apply pressure or block profitably (it’s particularly bad at blocking trampling 6/6s for four… that are common). In those matches, Vaporkin can do enough damage early on such that Voyage’s End will effectively be a Doom Blade with scry 1 and no color restrictions.

I gave Vaporkin a D because I expected it to be worse in heroic (it seems decent in WU heroic or UR heroic/scry) and for blue control to be more viable; blue seems best at midrange or aggro, whereas control seems very difficult to do. Welkin Tern is a solid aggro card, and Vaporkin will be a fine addition to aggro decks (even if it gets blanked by bigger blue decks). It’s definitely better than ‘marginally playable,’ though how much so depends on your archetype and matchup.

On the whole, Theros seems to reward the player who recognizes his or her archetype and builds around it. This reminds me of Innistrad, where multiple players could share colors without fighting for cards because different archetypes had drastically different pick orders. Innistrad’s dynamic pick order was one of its best features and I’m happy to (hopefully) see it return (Return to Ravnica was fairly linear in its pick orders and rewarded the player who found which guild was open or could force a guild effectively). I’m also reminded of Rise of the Eldrazi, as there’s a small creature/Voltron theme (levellers/heroic) as well as giant monsters that win the long game (Eldrazi ramp/monstrous). A combination of the two formats (and Greek mythology!) sounds like the greatest thing ever. Here’s looking forward to drafting it next week!

Standard Pauper Tournament

With round five behind us, we’ve got only three more weeks to go before the top eight and the ceremonial handing off of the Taiga. One hundred and fifty-two players have been distilled down to an elite seventy-two. Only five players remain undefeated at 5-0 (with some unconventional archetypes filling those hallowed spots). It was a sad week to be a Hipster in the tournament (or pretty much anyone in the tournament I know in real life)… almost all of us lost. But never fear, where we lose, our opponents gain, rewarded by Hipster bounties!

  • Jason Gray wins a booster pack of Rise of the Eldrazi for playing!
  • The_Sir wins a booster pack of Gatecrash from gwyned, just for playing!  He’s been covering the entire event.  Have you been following along?
  • Zach W wins a foil Echo Tracer for beating me!
  • Jesse S wins a foil Domestication (M14) for beating Rich!
  • Ahniwa Ferrari wins a foil Moonlace for beating Monique!

Round 6 Pairings/Standings

Player One Points vs Player Two Points Results
The_Sir (15 pts) vs Conor Moran (15 pts)  (0-2)
Charlie S (15 pts) vs Ben H (15 pts)  (2-0)
Jason Gray (15 pts) vs Ahniwa Ferrari (12 pts)  (2-1)
Mrdarby (12 pts) vs aceracerff (12 pts)  (1-1)
Andrzej "Onion" K (12 pts) vs Austin [drop] (12 pts)  (2-0)
P. Dalton (12 pts) vs Colin (12 pts)  (2-1)
Benito (12 pts) vs MattLaZer (12 pts)  (1-2)
Zach W (12 pts) vs Kaziks (12 pts)  (2-1)
Jesse S (12 pts) vs Tom (12 pts)  (1-2)
Adam Bloom (12 pts) vs Justin Beckert (12 pts)  (1-2)
Hugh Kramer (12 pts) vs Shea Strausman [drop] (12 pts)  (2-1)
Sam Werbalowsky [drop] (12 pts) vs Kevin Roman (12 pts)  (0-2)
Andrew (10 pts) vs JL [drop] (9 pts) (2-0)
Kyle S (10 pts) vs togepi258 (9 pts)  (2-0)
Brad [drop] (9 pts) vs gwyned (9 pts)  (1-2)
Will (9 pts) vs Steven (9 pts)  (2-0)
Paul Salerno [drop] (9 pts) vs Neil Anderson (9 pts)  (0-2)
Marc DeLay [drop] (9 pts) vs Lacio (9 pts)  (0-2)
Tim Akpinar (HotC) (9 pts) vs James Bathurst (9 pts)  (2-0)
Nick G (9 pts) vs Danny DiPietro [drop] (9 pts)  (2-0)
PurplePotato [drop] (9 pts) vs Edmilson (9 pts)  (0-2)
Vincent Sippola [drop] (9 pts) vs rbernardinello (9 pts)  (0-2)
Hans (9 pts) vs joekewwl (9 pts)  (0-2)
Rich Stein (HotC) (9 pts) vs ratsby (9 pts)  (2-0)
Nico (9 pts) vs MattP81 (9 pts)  (2-0)
Zachary Barash (HotC) (9 pts) vs ElPolloLoco (9 pts)  (2-0)
Jamie B (6 pts) vs David Wills (7 pts)  (0-2)
HurricaneWaves [drop] (7 pts) vs James J (6 pts)  (0-2)
King Xia (6 pts) vs ShiratoKai (6 pts)  (2-0)
Grao (6 pts) vs Nivius [drop] (6 pts)  (2-1)
Dana (6 pts) vs Daniel Gardner (6 pts)  (2-1)
DV8tor83 [drop] (6 pts) vs J.S. Bangs [drop] (6 pts)  (1-1)
Ideocl4st1 [drop] (6 pts) vs Dave Barman [drop] (6 pts)  (2-0)
Wolfmedic [drop] (6 pts) vs bacon_music_love (6 pts)  (0-2)
Kenny [drop] (4 pts) vs John Mason (3 pts)  (0-2)
Luke Burnett [drop] (3 pts) vs Chris de Lacy [drop] (3 pts)  (1-1)

That’s all for this week. Thanks for following along!

—Zachary Barash

Join the livestream! twitch.tv/ZennithGP

Magic Online username: Zennith

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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