Step one: Don’t speak any Mandarin. This part is optional, but I find that having to pause every turn to scroll through the M15 English spoiler really adds to the prerelease experience. As it turns out, Magic is a pretty universal language, and games, regardless of opponent’s nationality, all went pretty smoothly. Knowing phrases like “end step” and “declare attackers” was helpful, but I was mostly able to communicate with head nods and articulate grunting.

Step two: Register for 11 AM, Saturday morning. Go to your local game shop and choose red. Crack your booster packs, make some faces, consult your handy English spoiler, read LSV’s set review for the sixth time, and slap together a deck.


Sounds promising.

Red is one of my favorite colors in Limited, and M15’s pool looked especially tantalizing—strong removal at both common and uncommon, exciting creatures (riding the Generator Servant hype train), and dragons. For the most part, I like to build straightforward decks. Harder for me to mess up, I think, although I usually do try and find a way.

Lightning Strikes were noticeably absent from my pool, neutering, I think, a lot of my deck’s early game board presence. I had about ten white cards in total, an unplayable array of niche green cards, and not enough creatures to support going into blue. My black had enough removal to almost compensate, and its creature base wasn’t half bad, so it was an easy second color.

This is how my deck panned out:

BR Mid-life Crisis

Creatures (13)
Witch’s Familiar
Rummaging Goblin
Siege Dragon
Generator Servant
Altac Bloodseeker
Goblin Roughrider
Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient
Typhoid Rats
Shadowcloak Vampire
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled

Spells (9)
Heat Ray
Mind Rot
Flesh to Dust
Burning Anger
Haunted Plate Mail
Sign in Blood

Land (17)
Relevant Sideboard (2)
Thundering Giant
Miner’s Bane

The game plan was to stall my enterprising opponent, resolve a Mind Rot or two, and twiddle my thumbs until a dragon or demon appeared on the battlefield, hopefully on my side. Burning Anger and Haunted Plate Mail are bombs in their own right. But in my games, my opponents were packing too much removal and bounce for them to be really relevant. Having a suited up Shadowcloak Vampire was pretty awesome. Getting it removed and dying to the two-drop flier assault squadron was considerably less so.

Round 1: Jonathan on GWb “holy shit is that two Planeswalkers” (0-2)

Not much of a match. I got stuck on Swamps game one and died a resolved Nissa.

Game two: Generator Servant and some early creatures deluded me into thinking I had a chance. A few turns later, Genesis Hydra and Nissa hit the field, and my fantasy evaporated.

Since we had about 40 minutes until the end of the round, Jonathan was nice enough to help me out with sideboarding and building for my other matches. My original deck was a pretty bad BR aggro attempt that lacked early pressure. He removed a lot of early two drops I was running and tossed in the Mind Rots and some other bigger cards. I agreed with his decisions for the most part, and I do think they did put me in a pretty decent position for the next few rounds.


Board state, game two. Things are bad when you’re getting beaten to death by a Plains in Limited.

Round 2: Wei Pei on BR Aggro (2-1)

Next round, I was matched up against an especially aggressive BR deck—basically, what I was trying to do with my original 40 cards. My opponent respected the turn two Generator Servant, using Stab Wound to kill it on two separate occasions. Smart play.

I lose game one after some back and forth. The three or so threats in my deck can’t keep up with his removal. Game two goes into a stalled, messy board state. Thanks to Mind Rot, my opponent had been topdecking for the last few turns. Thanks to some poor card management and bad allocation of resources, I had a hand of five drops that I couldn’t really play. In the end, I pitched Burning Anger to Goblin Rummager to draw my fourth land. My opponent grabbed the card from my graveyard, read it, rubbed his eyes, read it again, and then, with a shake of his head, said “You are very scary.” I end up playing Shadowcloak Vampire, the other card in my hand, and eventually win the game a few turns later. Go figure.

Some notable cards:

Goblin Rummager — I loved Academy Raiders in M14. This is close enough.

Mind Rot — Good for those long, stalled out games where nobody really knows what’s happening. It’s the little advantages that matter. I read that in an MTG article, I think.

Ulcerate — Fast and cheap. In a pinch, it worked as a pretty good cobat trick too.

Round 3: Sun on GW Midrange (2-0)

I think Sun was pretty new to Magic, and I did my best to explain some of his cards to him in a combination of English and broken Mandarin.

In both games, I hit Generator Servant into Ob Nixilis, Unchained. For the most part, I think everyone’s favorite M15 flying demon is just lightning rod for removal, but he was enough to take this match for me. Honorable mention goes to Siege Dragon, which wiped my opponent’s board on its first attack. Pretty brutal.

Round 4: Ji on UW “2-drop lifelink Pegasus beatdown” (2-1)

Ji’s was mana screwed game one, and my early creatures were enough to run away with the game. I lose the next two games to Sungrace Pegasus, the apparent offspring of Hopeful Eidolon and one of the many flying horses of Theros.

Enchanted with something like Marked by Honor, it did an incredible amount of work by both denying my creatures’ attacks and helping stabilize his life total. In game three, I had Ob Nix and Siege Dragon on the field, but lost them both to Encrusts. Over the next five turns, various Pegasus and other one-power creatures pinged me to death.

Afterwards, I drafted Cube with a few other people. In my one game, I used Stoneforge Mystic to tutor for the only piece of equipment in my deck: Bonesplitter. It was a pretty good time, and I’ll definitely miss the Shanghai Magic community. Great group of people. Lots of beginners and MTG veterans alike.

My time in Shanghai has come to an end. My shoe soles are breaking apart, I’m tired as hell, and my Mandarin has barely improved. It’s been a lot of fun.



Tony is the Hipsters’ resident scrub, and Scrub Report is his attempt to catalogue his journey through Magic. He started playing in 2013. Follow him at

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