I really didn't expect to, but I wound up attending two Prerelease events for Avacyn Restored. First was a midnight event Friday night, then one on Sunday morning.
No sense burying the lead: It was awesome!
Thus far, AVR has lived up to the hype and the excitement, for me at least. I had a blast playing AVR Limited, and managed to pull some awesome rares and mythics. First, I'll go over some generalities, first impressions, and random thoughts/opinions, then get to the details of the events themselves.
I've seen a lot of back-and-forth about AVR's limited environment. Some dislike the swingy-ness of many of the Miracle cards, especially the rares and mythics. Sure, they're swingy, but my experience is that they'll usually be misplayed by weaker players and thus probably fail to win the game against a more skilled opponent. Or, they'll be played correctly by a superior player that was probably going to beat you anyway.
I played against a LOT of Miracles and the swingy-est ones seemed to be Entreat the Angels and Bonfire of the Damned... however the only one I actually lost to was Temporal Mastery. However, the only reason I rolled over to that one was because me and my opponent were both in a land pocket and it was really just a matter of who drew non-land first. That my opponent beat me out of the land pocket was FAR more critical than the fact that it was a swingy Mythic, though in this case it certainly cemented his victory.
Eaten by Spiders is my pick for MVP uncommon, though Vorstclaw, the 7/7 for six is probably the best bomb uncommon you could ask for. Archangel is also extremely good. The format is ALL about Flying creatures, though, so Eaten by Spiders is fantastic removal.
My MVP common is definitely Seraph of Dawn. In a vaccuum, a 2/4 Flying Lifelinker for four mana is really just "pretty good", but in AVR specifically, she's the key to holding off the blazingly fast R/W and G/W aggro decks that are possible in this set. I'm not saying she's a bomb the way rares and some uncommons are, but as far as common creatures go, she is pretty much the best thing ever.
Oh, and to all those pundits and theorists who called AVR Limited a slow format... well, that may be the cast in Drafts, I haven't had the pleasure of drafting the set yet, but it certainly is anything but slow in Sealed. Hyper-aggressive decks, usually R/W or R/G dominated every event held at my LGS this weekend, and only the insanely lucky could make a slower deck work for them.
A good freind of mine went 4-0 with a Blue/White tempo disruption deck with tons of solid Flyers and tons of bounce effects. It was his first ever 4-0 record at a prerelease, and he's been doing this longer than I have! So he's living proof that a slower, more tempo-y deck CAN win, but you have to have REALLY good cards to be able to withstand R/W assualts capable of having you at 5 life on turn 4.
Anyway, on to the events.
Friday - Midnight event.
My first six packs of Avacyn Restored definitely did not suck I opened:
Champion of Lambholt
Gallows at Hollow Hill
Cavern of Souls (money!!)
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded (more money!!)
Two amazing bombs in Green meant that I was likely playing Green/X. I also had Vorstclaw and Wildwood Geist, to more really amazing attackers. Tibalt made me want to play Red, as did some burn, but really my Red pool was abysmall. I was probably the only guy in the whole touranment to open zero Stonewrights and zero Lightning Maulers. Black offered some pretty awesome spot removal and a Barter in Blood, but felt weak other than the removal. Blue was absurdly pathetic. I only had two blue creatures in my entire pool. So White got the nod for second color, offering plenty of angels, and some pseudo removal.
This was my final deck:
Thraben Valiant x2
Seraph of the Dawn x2 (Holy shit! So good!)
Borderland Ranger x2
Champion of Lambholt
Eaten by Spiders (killed EVERYTHING all night long)
Getting to Defy Death on a Seraph of Dawn - a 4/6 Lifelinker just hoses R/W
Casting Eaten by Spiders in almost every single game of the tournament.
Attacking an opponent for 2 with my Wandering Wold, putting him at 18. A few turns later swinging for 18 with an unblockable army thanks to Champion of Lambholt.
Getting off to a "slow" start, my opponent dropping several cheap flyers, with my first play on turn 4 being Nettleswine, following that up with Wolfir Silverheart, then following that up with Vorstclaw. 23 power worth of guys on Turn 6 made all those little flyers look downright pathetic.
I misplayed horribly, one turn casting Defang on my opponent's Hound of Griselbrand, then a couple turns later swinging into it, allowing my opponent to block with the Hound, killing it off, which it then just came back even stronger thanks to Undying, while my Defang went to the graveyard. Lame.
Fortunately, I had Vorstclaw, which can block even a 3/3 Doublestriker and live, so that was lucky on my part that this misplay didn't cost me the game, but effectively giving my own 7/7 beatstick defender isn't good strategy!
One kid at the tourney opened a foil Tamiyo, the Moon Sage (worth about $80.00) and proceeded to play it in his sealed deck... WITHOUT SLEEVES! I considered going and buying the kid a pack of sleeves so he wouldn't ruin his awesome card, but then I realized that the kid would probably never trade it to me anyway, so I just let him go on destroying the card utterly out of jealous spite. I'm not proud of that, which is why it's in the lowlights section, but if I could go back and be the better man... I wouldn't. Fuck him.
As for my record, I went 3-1, punting the first round. I was a bit rusty, having not played in a Limited event in a year, and also my deck just utterly CHOKED hard. The very first game, I got beat down by three 2/2 or 2/1 flyers while I had two Seraph of Dawn's in my hand, and later an Archangel, but only one Plains. By the end of the game I'd drawn 8 out of 9 Forests, and only drew the second Plains in time to die to his next attack. Had I been able to drop back-to-back Seraphs, it might have gone WAY differently.
The second game, I hit two plains and two forests right away, and absolutely DESTROYED him.
The third game was the one where we both hit land pockets, and both went "land, go" for about 6 turns each, when he finally top-decked Temporal Mastery for the win.
The rest of the tournament, my deck never once stumbled. I always had the mana I needed, and even when I was forced to wait an extra turn or two to drop my Vorstclaw or Archangel, it always happened just in time. Zealous Strike saved my ass a number of times.
I won five more packs, and the first three rares I opened were absolutely TERRIBLE, then the last two I cracked were: Avacyn, and Temporal Mastery! Score!
So, between Tibalt, Avacyn, Temporal Mastery and the Cavern of Souls, I definitely made my money back and then some. I traded away Tibalt for a Griselbrand and a large stack of dollar-bin rares, giving the other guy a pretty sweet deal, but I was FAR happier with Griselbrand than I ever would have been with Tibalt, so it was still a worthwhile trade.
The Saturday Helvault event was sold out before I could get there. :(
Too bad for me, since THAT Helvault had a stack of Champs Serra Avengers, and everyone in the event got two of them (those are about 70 bucks a peice!). The Sunday Helvault was just the regular one with tokens, dice and oversized angel cards. Lame, but still pretty cool, as I got Gisela's oversized card, which was the only one I really cared about!
Anyway, my pool was less bomb-y than the one from Friday night, but I still cobbled together a pretty nice Green/Black deck. This was my final list:
Howlgeist (very good!)
Pathbreaker Wurm (also good)
Snare the Skies
Eaten by Spiders (MVP, once again)
Revenge of the Hunted
Barter in Blood
Ghoulflesh started out in the sideboard, but every match had 2/1 flyers coming down early, so it wound up being maindeck material. I also had an Appetite for Brains in the sideboard, which was instrumental in beating a deck that ran two (!) Angel of Jubilations. I lost to the Angel in game 1 primarily because she came down the turn before I was going to cast my Bone Splinters. The next two games I got super luck and drew Appetite for Brains early and both times I hit an Angel of Jubilation. Ridiculous luck, I know.
Anway other highlights include:
Staring down a Malignus with nothing on the board except a Wandering Wolf... only to watch my opponent cast and then equip Angelic Armaments to the Malignus... allowing me to cast the suddenly-not-useless Eaten by Spiders as a 2-for-1.
Casting Bone Splinters sac-ing Butcher Ghoul three times in the tourney, once sac-ing Howlgeist, and once sacing Undead Executioner to kill two guys instead of one.
Casting Barter in Blood when my opponent and I each had exactly two creatures... but both of mine had Undying.
Losing in the finals to a R/W deck that was one of the fastest, most lethal Limited decks I've ever seen. I was at 5 life going into my 4th turn. Ouch.
Not opening anything of significant value in my sealed pool. Then opening my 5 prize packs to crack a Gisela... 5 minutes after I traded for one. Okay, it's not all bad, I have two of her now!
Making a boneheaded play by casting Revenge of the Hunted on my Howlgeist... I thought it'd kill all my opponents dudes, but it really just made Howlgeist unblockable! Still, ten damage to my opponent's face wasn't all bad, but it ALMOST cost me the game.
Finding out the previous Helvault was full of $70 promo cards, then getting probably-worthless oversized cards out of my Helvault. Not that I don't appreciate free stuff that I didn't have to pay for, but when one guy is flashing around $140.00 worth of free stuff, and my free stuff is worth maybe $1.40 it does make one feel shafted.
But, regardless of my Sunday packs being almost entirely poo, I traded like mad and got a shit-ton of stuff that I wanted, so I still left feeling very happy and very satisfied. The tournaments were both a lot of fun and I fully enjoyed playing with this set's new cards. Avacyn Restored has, thus far, been every bit the success I hoped and wanted. I can't wait until next weekend, to crack some more packs.