Opening the Helvault- Avacyn Restored Pre-release
At precisely 7pm-ish, Friday April 27, the pairings for Friday Night Magic at one of my "less-local but worth the drive" gaming stores were being read aloud. What does this have to do with Avacyn Restored? Because we were little more than three rounds of Standard format away from the Midnight Pre-release (for some reason only three rounds were played, I still am not sure why). I did really bad in FNM, I attribute that to my deck chemistry being switched around just a few minutes prior to playing, but it didn't really matter. This time around it was a free tournament, so I was just there for fun. Besides, when your puny army of mono-white Humans is up against a Wurmcoil, Spellskite, and two Metamorphs, your chances of victory are slim to grim.
So, after a humiliating three rounds of FNM, I went in the back room to watch a Commander-format game between some campus-mates, while we waited impatiently for the new AVR packs to be distributed. When my friend James, who happened to be running the event, came in and gave us the twenty-minute countdown, we all moved back into the main room. Finally, after many shenanigans were going down, the packs were distributed and a few rounds of pack-trading began. My goal was to get one of each, while one player wanted all Tibalt-packs and my friend was looking for all Angels.
While we traded unopened packs, we were told that the tournament would be played in "pods" of eight players- so all our matches would be between our podmates only. We were assigned- and once we were seated, it was Midnight-ish and the room was filled with the noise of crinkly paper and the smell of brand-new cards.
My Pre-release Card Pool
I've said plenty of times that white is obviously the power player in this set; and the cards I pulled proved it. My stack of white cards was as big as any other two colors combined; a mono-white deck would have been very easy to make.
Unfortunately, I play mono-white every Friday night. I wasn't about to play the same theme at the pre-release. I wasn't against splashing or having a dual-color deck with white, but I really wanted to do something different. I had a grand total of about 9 green cards, and no mythics decided to grace my table, therefore I had no Legendary angels which would have given me my only real reason for playing white. Looking at my cards, I had nothing worth playing in red, but some pretty good things coming at me in blue, black, and green. My initial deck was a splash of all three, but since I've never had luck running three, and the green pool was so limited, my finalized sealed deck was thus:
1 Butcher Ghoul
1 Scrapskin Drake
1 Demonic Taskmaster
1 Searchlight Geist
1 Stern Mentor
1 Evernight Shade
1 Undead Executioner
1 Maalfeld Twins
1 Latch Seeker
1 Mist Raven
2 Lone Revenant
3 Gryff Vanguard
8 Other Spells
1 Angelic Armaments
1 Peel from Reality
1 Spectral Prison
1 Death Wind
1 Amass the Components
1 Grave Exchange
3 Mental Agony
In retrospect, it was a decent deck, but there were way too many flying Angels and I had way too few removal abilities in my deck. I lost every match but won one game in two of the three rounds against my opponents.
My Matches in a Nutshell
Game 1: Loss
With Latch Seeker equipped with Angelic Armaments, as well as Butcher Ghoul for a couple of turns and Undead Executioner in the final turns, I hit my opponent down to 3 Life eventually- all the while he kept gaining life with Seraph of Dawn. The killing blow was against me while I had 10 Life and my opponent 3; he attacked with Champion of Lambholt, Gryff Vanguard, Vorstclaw, Nettle Swine, and Nephalia Smuggler. With only two cards to block even the powerhouses (his Seraph was pumped up as well) his sheer numbers overwhelmed me.
Game 2: Loss
This game was a little faster and a little more even; my opponent hit me down to 8 with Champion of Lambholt and Seraph of Dawn. I was able to get through to him much quicker with Latch Seeker and Mist Raven, played Mental Agony a few times til he was down to 8 Life as well. He brought out Vorstclaw and I had no responses in time for his win on the next turn.
Game 1: Loss
Pulled out Taskmaster first for some early heavy-hitting down to 13 life after my opponent gained life with Seraph Sanctuary. After a few turns, he Defang-ed my Taskmaster, keeping it from dealing damage but making it so I still had to sacrifice. I Grave Exchanged myself to pull Mist Raven to my hand and sacrificing my Taskmaster. While I did this, he swung with a Soulbonded Wolfir Silverheart and Trusted Peacemage for the win.
Game 2: Win
I had a good comeback with game two. My opponent gained life with Seraph Sanctuary again, I played a couple of Mental Agony-ies and my Gryff Vanguard to pull him down to 13. I summoned Latch Seeker, Butcher Ghoul, and Searchlight Geist, put him to 6 and then the win.
Game 3: Draw
Game three was interesting- neither of us managed to deal damage to each other and ended up going to Turn while still both at 20 Life. Judge ruled draw for the match. My board had Latch Seeker and Spectral Prison on one of my opponent's two Nettle Swines, he also had Angel's Tomb and Bladed Bracers.
Game 1: Loss
My opponent had a slow start, but so did I. I managed to bring out Butcher Ghoul early enough but only managed one or two hits before he was sent away for good (so much for Undying!). With a Mental Agony my opponent went to 17, but after that he wasted no time in summoning a Goldnight Redeemer. Combined with that, and his Scroll of Avacyn, he quickly went back up to 22. A turn later I was able to attack with Latch Seeker equipped with Angelic Armaments to bring him back down, but he had been hitting me for 4 each turn with his Goldnight. Going down to 8 Life, then with a Midnight Duelist and a couple of human tokens he came in for the win.
Game 2: Win
I attribute my win in this game purely to good luck versus bad luck. My opponent was mana-screwed the entire game and was unable to play anything good. Meanwhile, my mana was spot-on, I summoned Evernight Shade, let him die once to get the extra +1/+1, and four turns later my opponent was at 7 Life to my 20. Evernight eventually was taken care of with a good blocker and few swamps to pump him up any higher, but that turn Mist Raven came to the field and my opponent was at 2. He finally summoned Goldnight Redeemer again and with Scroll of Avacyn went to 7 life, but Latch Seeker and Mist Raven pulled in for the win.
Game 3: Loss
This time around, the playing field was a bit more even. We both had good draws, but he had more creatures than I did over all. With Wingcrafter, my opponent chipped me down a few turns until I summoned Demonic Taskmaster. I was at 17 Life, he went to 8 with Taskmaster out. He pulled back up to 10 with Goldnight, but I was saving a special Death Wind just for that and was able to get rid of her fairly easily. With my opponent at 6 and me at 17, I felt pretty good about this game, until Bruna, Light of Alabaster suddenly appeared. He sacked his Scroll of Avacyn and gained life back, and my Taskmaster was destroyed after the second hit with Bruna, and with nothing else coming to my aid that would hold out against Bruna, she hit me down to 0 while my opponent stayed at 11.
I did really bad over all, but I had a lot of fun and ended up getting a Commander-style oversized copy of Gisela, Blade of Goldnight in my second round. Since she was my favorite of the three gold legendaries, I felt quite happy with the turn of events. Unfortunately, the booster pack I recieved (also just a consolation prize) yielded nothing worth selling and nothing good for any of the decks I have.
I feel slightly saddened that AVR will die down soon, as the pre-releases end this weekend. Being sick for the days following my midnight excursion, I was unable to participate in the advertised 8-man Draft-format pre-release at my much more local game shop where I usually play FNM. As there will be few, if any, more surprises regarding Avacyn Restored, I shall continue to keep tabs on my game play and deck-building (I have some cash set aside for at least one Booster Draft) but until the next block, Return to Ravnica, happy crafting, fellow players!