Last month my girlfriend took a job out in Sacramento, California. Rather than uproot and move out to the West Coast, she just commutes there from Boston. Monday-Thursday she’s in Sacramento and Friday-Sunday she’s in Boston. 2,628 miles twice a week. This weekend, to save her from making the nine hour trip across three time zones, I took a flight out there. While I got to enjoy the weather, drink good beer, and play tourist around the town, I made time to do a prerelease sealed event at Big Brother Comics.  I’m so glad I did.

Prereleases are, pardon the pun, pretty magical. Even if you’ve gone over the set with a fine tooth comb, card evaluations just don’t compare to actually playing with the cards. Having new cards to play with just feels awesome; people aren’t bored yet, the pick-orders aren’t established, and there is room to be surprised. You can’t just autopilot deckbuilding and have to actively think about all the new tricks you could be running into every combat. I’ve said it before, but games are the most exciting when they feel like less math and more like Magic.

Anyway, this was my first time in Sacramento and my first time at Big Brother Comics (BBC). I really loved this store and would be stoked to have it as my LGS if I lived in the area. BBC had a really good selection of singles and a formidable back-stock of those hard to find commons/uncommons. Most of their prices were pretty reasonable, even a  little on the cheap side, and I managed to snag a Dark Depths for $30 and two slightly played Primeval Titans for $6 each. The store comfortably fit 40 of us between a back room and some tables set up in the front of the store.




For my seeded pack, I chose blue (big surprise). I really like playing Islands in Theros limited and didn’t see anything to dissuade me from doing so with the addition of Born of the Gods. There might have been some financial strategy to picking White, as there is some possibility of opening Brimaz, King of Orezkos, or a power-level strategy to picking Red, as Forgestoker Dragon is probably the best of the prerelease promos, but at the end of the day, if given the option, I’m a going blue. I was of course rewarded with a Mindreaver as my non-promo rare. I glared down at the stupid wizard but he refused to look me in the eye, undoubtedly to avoid seeing my disappointment at having opened a poorly-costed Goblin Piker. Mindreaver may look like he’s doing work in the image on the card, with his fingers posed on his temples for some telekinetic shenanigans, but really he’s just looking into a poorly-disguised computer monitor and reading a Buzzfeed article, probably something along the lines of “The 20 Worst Mill Strategies in the History of Magic.” I digress, here are the contents of my entire sealed pool:

Sealed Pool—Black/Red

Black (14)
Blood-Toll Harpy
Boon of Erebos
Drown in Sorrow
Erebos, God of the Dead
Keepsake Gorgon
Loathsome Catoblepas
March of the Returned
Marshmist Titan
Odunos River Trawler
Servant of Tymaret
Warchanter of Mogis

Red (16)
Akroan Crusader
Bolt of Keranos
Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
Dragon Mantle
Ephiphany Storm
Fall of the Hammer
Fearsome Temper
Lightning Strike
Messenger’s Speed
Nyxborn Rollicker
Pharagax Giant
Purphoros’s Emissary
Spearpoint Oread
Whims of the Fates

Sealed Pool—Green/White

Green (17)
Culling Mark
Graverobber Spider
Hunt the Hunter
Karametra’s Favor
Nemesis of Mortals
Nessian Asp
Nyxborn Wolf
Ordeal of Nylea
Setessan Oathsworn
Setessan Starbreaker
Staunch-Hearted Warrior
Vulpine Goliath
Warrior’s Lesson

White (10)
Cavalry Pegasus
Fabled Hero
God-Favored General
Great Hart
Mortal’s Ardor
Phalanx Leader
Spear of Heliod
Wingsteed Rider

Sealed Pool—Blue/Multi/Artifact

Blue (23)
Aqueous Form
Arbiter of the Ideal
Breaching Hippocamp
Chorus of the Tides
Deepwater Hypnotist
Evanescent Healer
Kraken of the Straits
Mnemoic Wall
Retraction Helix
Siren of the Fanged Coast
Stratus Walk
Vortex Elemental
Wavecrash Triton

Multicolored (2)
Battlewise Hoplite
Destructive Revelry

Artifact (4)
Bronze Sable
Gorgon’s Head
Opaline Unicorn
Prolwer’s Helm

Alright, I’m not sure if the build here is obvious to others but it took me quite a while to figure it out. Here is my thought process:

Black— Black offers up a limited bomb in the form of Keepsake Gorgon, a reasonable removal spell in Asphyxiate, and a situation sweeper in Drown in Sorrow. Otherwise, Erebos is basically the worst god for limited and the rest of the stuff is a bunch of filler. Pass.

Red—The red here is intriguing as you get a bunch of removal, some okay bestow guys, and a host of other heroic enablers. In general though, I don’t like red outside of the RW Heroic deck as its creatures are unexciting and its removal doesn’t match-up well with a lot of the good creatures in the format. I did end up laying out a RW Heroic deck but it was short a bomby creature and/or another removal spell, I think.

Green—Green was pulling me in two directions; GW Heroic with Karametra’s Favors, Ordeal, Warrior’s Lesson, and the heroic dudes and a G/x Monstrous deck with Asp, Goliath, Nemesis, and Peregrination. Honestly this came down to me not really knowing how to evaluate Karametra’s Favor. It triggers heroic, replaces itself, and ramps you into bigger threats, so it seems good, but does a deck want three? I considered green as my secondary color but really thought that it paired up best with White, and while I was pretty sure I wanted to play white, I also had a bunch of blue cards I wanted to play.

White—While I only had 10 white cards, I consider both Spear of Heliod and Fabled Hero to be legitimate bombs and Wingsteed Rider to be the best white common in Theros. Furthermore, Excoriate provides much needed removal and God-Favored General just seemed to be really silly in conjunction with Spear of Heliod. I knew I was going to play white but was aware that the mana could be awkward considering all of the double white cards in a deck that would need to play more cards of a second color.

Blue—Since I opened a blue seeded pack, it made sense that I would have a pretty deep pool of blue cards, however, I felt that my card quality wasn’t super high. I didn’t have Voyage’s End or Griptide but rather a bunch of Breaching Hippocamps, which I never main-deck, and two Mindreavers that were extra unplayable if I wanted to play Phalanx Leader or Fabled Hero in a timely manner. I did have Arbiter and Siren, which are basically Air Elementals, Divination, which I can’t ever resist, and two Stratus Walks which I knew would be awesome when thrown on a Fabled Hero or Battlewise Hoplite.

Multicolored—Since I was pretty sure to be on the blue-white heroic plan, I was pretty happy to see a Battlewise Hoplite in this small pile of gold cards. For the record, I really like Destructive Revelry, but of course wasn’t planning on playing RG.

Artifact—If I was building a three color deck I would play Opaline Unicorn but wouldn’t really like to start any of these other cards. Perhaps Gorgon’s Head would be good in an aggressive deck looking to power through some big green creatures, but I was planning on flying over my opponent’s board anyway.

This is what I came up with:

Sealed Deck—UW Heroic

Lands (17)

Creatures (14)
Arbiter of the Ideal
Vortex Elemental
Chorus of the Tides
Mnemoic Wall
Wingsteed Rider
Cavalry Pegasus
Phalanx Leader
Battlewise Hoplite
God-Favored General
Siren of the Fanged Coast
Fabled Hero

Spells (9)
Spear of Heliod
Mortal’s Ardor
Stratus Walk
Retraction Helix
Aqueous Form


Round 1—Nick with UR (2-0)


Believe it or not, Nick was the first person in my column to be bunny ears-ed during a picture. His friend told him to throw up the horns and, unbeknownst to him, his friend threw up the adolescent classic prank. Since I’ve never witnessed this in any of my games in New England, I’m going to conclude that bunny ears are still big on the West Coast. Though I would imagine, if this were to be true, that they would be ironic bunny ears and not a serious business the way “planking” still is in Cincinnati.*

Game one, Nick played a Crackling Triton and a Borderland Minotaur, while I played out a Fabled Hero and double enchanted it with Stratus Walk. The game was over in relatively short order.


Game two, Nick put up more of a fight when he played a Forgestoker Dragon that completely wiped out my board. Luckily, I had the Excoriate for the smithy-enthusiast Dragon, and followed up with God-Favored General and a Spear of Heliod.


Round 2—Yevgeniy with GR (2-1)


I’m sure the first thing Yevgeniy hears before a game of Magic with an unfamiliar person is, “So…how do you pronounce your name?” Yevgeniy told me I could just call him Eugene, but I feel bad when people born outside the U.S. have to give up their birth-names so American assholes can have an easier time of pronouncing a few syllables. I had him say it a few times, gave it the old college try, and them just called him “man”, the way I do with just about everyone whose name I don’t remember or can’t pronounce properly.

Game one, I kept an awkward mana hand on the mulligan and couldn’t draw a Plains for the life of me. Meanwhile, Yevgeniy dismantled me with a Forgestoker Dragon. I did have an idiotic moment where I saved my Vortex Elemental from a Forgestoker Ping with Mortal’s Ardor and then attempted to block the Dragon, obviously forgetting that a living tidal pool cannot fly.

Game two, I played Fabled Hero, put Stratus Walk on it, and watched the human soldier run on clouds Dragon Ball Z style right over his ground pounders.

Game three, Yevgeniy Magma Jetted my Phalanx Leader on turn two, looked at the top two cards with scry, whispered, “this is risky,” and then didn’t draw another land for another few turns. I guess he really needed a green mana source, but instead saw two Mountains on top and sent them to the bottom.  This happened in the meantime:


Round 3—Mike with UG (2-0)


Mike is originally from Syracuse, so before getting into our games we talked about the Magic scene there. It seems to me that Syracuse has a very good magic scene, with very good players, despite the fact that it’s…Syracuse.** Regardless, Mike was a really gracious opponent and just an all around nice dude.

Game one, I started the game with an early lead, again with Fabled Hero, and forced him to make some not so great blocks. However, Mike kept playing creatures and managed to catch me off guard with a Sea God’s Revenge which nearly finished me off that turn. I was able to stabilize over the following turns and attacked for exactsies in the air.


Game two, Mike got stuck on mana, and while he was discarding during his clean-up phase, I was durdling hard with Divination, Mnemonic Wall, and Divination again. The final board state looked like this:


Round 4—Ryan with UW/BR (1-2)


Before taking a picture, Ryan asked me if it was okay that his shirt had some logo/text on it. I said I didn’t know what the text meant (I don’t remember what it even said at this point), but that it wasn’t a big deal. He then put his sweatshirt on. Despite being curious what his shirt might have said, we had some pretty solid games where he completely switched decks and ended up Demolishing me (like he actually cast Demolish during our games).

Game one, Ryan was playing a good UW Heroic deck which also featured Battlewise Hoplite and Wingsteed Rider but also had Prognostic Sphinx, which is obviously insane. At some point, I forced him to trade off his Prognostic Sphinx with a giant cloud-running Fabled Hero and made his attacks bad with Spear of Heliod. I ended up grinding him down over a 20 minute period of near parity on the board. I eventually assembled more fliers than he could handle:


Game two, Ryan switched to an aggressive BR deck that completely punished my awkward start game two. He played Reckless Reveler, Blood- Toll Harpy, then Demolished my only blue source to pretty much lock me out of the game.

Game three, I sided in Wavecrash Triton and Deepwater Hypnotist to try to block his early assault. I got a little stuck on blue mana this game and Ryan came right out of the gates, hitting me with Tymaret and Bronze Sable while burning every creature I tried to block with. The game ended up going to turns but Ryan was able to burn me out with Bolt of Keranos:


I finished the night at 3-1 which was good enough for six packs of Born of the Gods. Erica also managed to win a few packs at the event so we went out to celebrate. It turns out there are a lot of great restaurants and beer lovers bars in Sacramento where I also faced down some notable opponents.

Round 1— Vegan Chipotle Sausage and Tricerahops Double IPA at Lowbrau (1-0)


Round 2—Biggest Pretzel Ever and Drake’s IPA at Firestone Public House (1-0)


Round 3—Spicy Guacamole Veggie Burger & Beer Flight at Burgers & Brews (1-0)


Round 4— Portabello Benedict and Unlimited Mimosas at Capitol Garage (0-1 the mimosas stole this round from me)


I’m sorry if the last part felt a little too much like an Instagram food barrage or a David Ochoa article, but I couldn’t go to a new place and not take pictures of my food.

Next week I’ll be in the awkward position of playing Standard and not having Born of the Gods legal yet. Woo-Hoo Wednesday Night Magic!

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro-wrestling.

*I actually have no idea if this is true, but I just have to imagine that if “planking” is still a phenomenon somewhere, Cincinnati is the place.
**Geez, I’m being kind of a geography jerk today. If it makes anyone feel better, I’m from Lunenburg, Massachusetts which has gotten a name in local news because of an incident involving racist graffiti on some kid’s house. My town sucks too.

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