Tuesday, January 29, 2013

First Impressions: Gatecrash

So, the Gatecrash prerelease is behind us. We've played with some of the cards, so it's not all up to speculation and theorycraft anymore. We can now actually say "I played this card, and it was awesome!"

Anyway, I wanted to talk briefly on my experience, and what I think I learned from it all.

First of all, I only got to play one event this time. I usually do two flights at least, occasionally three if I can swing it. But time and money constraints forced me to abstain from indulging after the first tournament was over. I'm getting old...

Since I knew going into this that making a second event was iffy at best, I resolved to play Orzhov in the first one. Me and the Ghost Council go WAY back, and I have been a full-on Orzhov devotee for a long time. I'm Izzet by personality, but nonetheless, W/B is my favorite color pair in Magic. So, I didn't want to blow my chance at opening GhoCo 2.0.

I had practical reasons as well. After studying the spoilers furiously for days, and constantly checking online perorder prices, I decided that I needed to go with either Boros or Orzhov. I felt like both guilds represented a strong chance at winning packs, BUT they also offered the best chance at opening valuable cards if I failed to win anything. Aurelia and Obzedat are both solid, desirable and above all valuable. Both guilds also seemed to be the only two guilds with more than one Rare above the 2.00 level.

So it was down to those two for sure. If two events had been in the cards, I'd have picked Boros the second time around.

Another mitigating factor in choosing Orzhov on Friday night though, was the unsurprising popularity of Boros. It seemed like there were as many Boros players as the other 4 guilds combined. I dreaded round after round of Boros on Boros mirrors, and Orzhov seemed like the best guild to chose if I wanted to metagame against Boros.

Sure enough my only loss that night came at the hands of the Simic Combine (who cheated and dipped their toe into Gruul for removal and combat tricks!). I slaughtered every Boros deck I faced that night. The top 8 ended up being 5 Boros, two Orzhov and 1 Simic deck, which I think is slightly skewed by the shear number of Boros players.

One of my friends went Boros and was undefeated all night. Impressive, yes, but I'm relatively certain he didn't have any Orzhov matches.

All told I think Boros is the most obviously powerful guild, while Orzhov is the more subtly powerful guild. As long as Boros remains "the Guild to beat", I will happily endorse Orzhov as the antidote.

Also, to all the haters who thought Extort was going to suck... Pay up, suckers. Extort was the real deal and I heard half a dozen people or more admitting that they had seriously underestimated the guild and their mechanic. I admit, I knew it was going to be good, and had been defending the mechanic for weeks now, but even I was surprised how crucial it was to most of my games.

For me, though, the real surprise was the Simic. Holy shit those guys are scary. If you don't have a ton of removal or a blazing fast deck, they will likely overwhelm you with constantly growing guys. They just get out of hand FAST, if you let them.

I still think they can be a bit clunky if you don't open the right pool, or just draw awkwardly. They lack the consistency of Boros and the resilience and inexorability of the Orzhov, but with a little luck and skill, they can easily overpower ANY of the other 4 guilds. I was impressed by the Simic based on the spoiler alone. NOW, they have my respect.

Gruul and Dimir were basically no-shows. By the 4th round, those two guilds were firmly relegated to the loser brackets. That said, Gruul was a great support guild in several Simic and Boros builds I saw, while I also did see a Dimir deck win via decking more than a few times. That it happened at all was surprising. That it happened once or twice each round was actually a little scary.

By the end of the night I was overhearing people talking about how they sideboarded in 3 or 4 more lands as insurance against mill. Wow!

So what does that tell us about the future Limited environment? Nothing much. Draft is such a drastically different beast from Sealed to begin with, but the presence of the Guild Pack REALLY skews the results. I still think Boros will be popular early on, due to carry-over hype. But I'd expect Gruul to be a much bigger player in the Draft scene than they were in Sealed.

Simic seem to be middle-of-the-road. With some lucky picks early on, and if you aren't being cut off later in the packs, Simic should be Tier 1 for sure. But I think you can easily wind up with a few great Simic cards early and have to dip into another guild (Gruul, ideally) for support as your luck dries up.

But who the hell knows? I don't draft nearly enough to know what I'm talking about, and even when I did draft all the time, I was hardly a pro.

All this to say, Boros is the shit, but everyone already knew that. Orzhov is also the shit, much to the surprise of many. Not me, though. I am a man of faith, and I knew my guild wouldn't disappoint.

So, in the end, how'd I do? A 3-1 record netted me 4 packs, one of which contained a Domri Rade. Woot! I wanted one for my Stonebrow deck, so I was mucho pleased with that. I also traded for a shit ton of stuff, including a Lazav, an Aurelia and, I don't know, probably 15 or so other rares.

Walking out of there with 3 good Mythics and about 20+ new rares was a fine haul for one evening. I've already slotted about 12 to 15 new cards into decks, but I'm starting to think the Dimir of Gatecrash are going to necessitate a complete overhaul of my Wrexial deck.

Also, Edric is due for a serious reworking, thanks to the Simic being way more impressive and exciting than I'd expected. I like the low-key style Edric currently has, as it let's me fly under the radar and avoid being The Threat. But the Simic have some pretty bomby stuff. I don't think anyone is going to be fooled into thinking I'm harmless with stuff like Zegana, Master Biomancer or Biomass Mutation in the deck, no?

All in all, I think Gatecrash far and away exceeds the standard set by Return to Ravnica. In all fairness I am biased though. For one thing, Gatecrash had more of my favorite guilds (Orzhov, Boros and Dimir) while Return to Ravnica mostly just had Izzet (though Golgari got such a good face lift that they rose considerably in my esteem). For another, Return to Ravnica was very clearly aimed more toward constructed play, and tournament players. Gatecrash is unabashedly more oriented toward casual, multiplayer and EDH crowds.

So, it just so happens that 75% of my favorite guilds were in this set, AND the set was intentionally aimed more at the kind of player I am. So yeah, I am definitely digging Gatecrash. I can't wait to buy some packs! 


  1. I came in third place undefeated and got 9 packs and a free draft entry for the trouble. Top 8 split a box so I'm going to drop by Alien Saturday to pick up my 4/5 extra packs. Do you know if they draft Saturdays? I'll still be heading up to Gamers Guild in B'ville for their midnight release thing since I told James I would last week. You up for the road trip?

    1. No clue on Alien's schedule, but I have a feeling they'll be doing drafts all weekend.

      I don't know about going to Bville at midnight. I'm gonna be hella broke for a while, and I might be working Saturday morning. We'll just play it by ear, I guess.