Last weekend I did battle at I Want More Comics for the Battle for Zendikar prerelease. It’s a great store that runs excellent limited events, and this one was a real doozy. A few local pros stopped in to try out the new cards with us: Josh Utter-Leyton, Matt Nass, Brandon Nelson, and Matt Place. Bounties were offered up for anyone who could win a match against them. I cracked my packs eagerly.

I didn’t crack any expeditions or planeswalkers, but I was pretty lucky with my rares anyway. My stamped foil promo was Smothering Abomination, an awesome card I was excited to play, along with pack rares Drana, Liberator of Malakir, Guardian of Tazeem, Brood Butcher, Scatter to the Winds, Lumbering Falls, and March from the Tomb. I also managed to open an emblem for both Gideon and Kiora. Mise!

It doesn’t take much to convince me to play blue-black. Dimir, Silumgar, whatever. I call it the best. Brood Butcher made me think about green-black, but I liked my blue cards better than my green, and I don’t think Smothering Abomination needs additional sacrifice outlets to be awesome. I was short on exile effects, with only one ingest creature in my pool (the worst) and a handful of one shot spells. But most of my processing was single-card and late-game. Here’s what I built:

Dimir Good Stuff

Creatures (13)
Salvage Drone
Coralhelm Guide
Pilgrim’s Eye
Eldrazi Skyspawner
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Cryptic Cruiser
Smothering Abomination
Oracle of Dust
Ulamog’s Reclaimer
Guardian of Tazeem
Ruin Processor

Spells (9)
Clutch of Currents
Scatter to the Winds
Horribly Awry
Spell Shrivel
Complete Disregard
Bone Splinters
Demon’s Grasp
Grave Birthing
Lands (18)
Skyline Cascade

Sideboard (22)
Lumbering Falls
Fertile Thicket
Skyline Cascade
Ruin Processor
Kozilek’s Channeler
Titan’s Presence
Eldrazi Devastator
Hagra Sharpshooter
Voracious Null
Nirkana Assassin
Altar’s Reap
Mire’s Malice
Tightening Coils
Wave-Wing Elemental
Briliant Spectrum
Eyeless Watcher
Brood Butcher

Messing around with the deck after the event, I think maybe I should have played Kozilek’s Channeler, another big Eldrazi, and Titan’s Presence. Drana made me want to err more on the side of cheap creatures, though, and my deck played very well. I had plenty of late game strength, but I could also get ahead and press my advantage. Mire’s Malice and Hagra Sharpshooter were solid out of the sideboard, but I mostly played the deck as built.

I dispatched a couple kind souls in the first two rounds without dropping a game. Next on my list, Josh Utter-Leyton. We’ve actually played twice before in Grand Prix—I bested him in Magic 2015 sealed at GP Salt Lake City (his pool was atrocious but still) and he best me in Modern at GP Vancouver. We played a fun and complex three games in the prerelease, and I climbed back in front of the rivalry thanks to an unanswered turn three Drana, Liberator of Malakir. He was playing a Jund-ish scions-into-bombs strategy, with Brood Butcher wreaking havoc while he sets up to win. In game one, I stabilized behind Ruin Processor and chained tons of card advantage with a Smothering Abomination that couldn’t attack. Eventually I drew removal for Brood Butcher and Giant Mantis, then drew Drana and closed the game. It was a deep game and I’m excited to play more like it in this very cool format.


I won this sweet little bounty playmat for my efforts.

Round four I had this unorthodox experience: I choose to draw game one, win, lose game two with my opponent choosing to draw, realize how outclassed I was going long, and then I streamline my deck and choose to play game three. It worked, and I advanced to 4-0 in our six-round tournament.

I lost round five to Brandon Nelson. He had a similar dimir deck but with actual ingest creatures to fuel some serious processor shenanigans. I don’t think I sideboarded well, but my deck felt a little bit behind his in a way that was hard to correct. No shame in losing to the best, however.

My reward for losing was to play Matt Nass at table one. He was the last undefeated player, I had the best tiebreakers, and he’d already given two other 4-1 players their losses. I knew he had an aggressive green-white ally deck. Even so, I chose to draw first after winning the die roll. I’m not sure that’s correct, but my deck really wanted to be on the draw. I think that will be common in Battle for Zendikar sealed.

Game one unfolded strangely. Matt played Fertile Thicket on his first two turns, and somehow he missed a land on both. He may have hit a land six down and drawn one anyway, as he didn’t miss any drops, but it was funny. We both developed our boards for a bit until he dropped Felidar Sovereign. Thanks to chump-sacking two scions and awakening Clutch of Currents, I was able to take only one hit off the sovereign over five turns, while I tried to race.

On the key turn, he was at nine to my six with sovereign, Tajuru Beastmaster, and Cliffside Lookout. I had Drana and a solid team, and I drew Demon’s Grasp for the turn. I knew that I would never win if Felidar Sovereign dealt damage again, so I took the only line I could see leading to victory: shrink the sovereign to a -1/1 with Demon’s Grasp and swing with the team. I lost my awakened land to the Beastmaster but he had to chump with his sovereign and lookout, falling to two life. I passed, he failed to draw an ally, awaken spell, or pump spell to kill me, and I won. The second game Matt drew poorly and I curved out to win.

Not a bad showing for a casual prerelease! Anyway, I love Battle for Zendikar sealed. I can’t wait to delve into actually competitive events, starting with some PPTQs this weekend followed by Grand Prix Madison. I hope to see you there!

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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