I know this is over a week late now, due to me being busy elsewhere, but I just wanted to write a brief post looking back over my experience of Return to Ravnica prerelease weekend. No in-depth detail or round-by-round coverage this time I’m afraid!
On Saturday I headed to Manchester with a number of friends. In the months leading up to the event I was positive that I wanted to play Izzet. Then having seen the spoilers, in the days leading up to the event I was sure that I had decided on Golgari. Finally, the evening before, I found myself discussing guild choice with Dave Remon. In all honesty, I expected Azorius to be the strongest guild in the format, due to the Detain mechanic and a lot of seemingly strong(er) spells at common (this turned out to be fer from true, so I was wrong there). We both thought that a lot of people would be picking Golgari, to slightly increase their chances of getting one of the chase rares from the set. Thinking about it, neither of these seemed like good enough reasons to be picking a guild. We wanted to go for maximum fun. And to my surprise, I found myself finally settled in the Rakdos… party?
Come Saturday morning I was really looking forward to the event. Of course I couldn’t wait to get the chance to open and play with the new cards, but more than that, the idea of choosing a guild and competition between guilds is something I really like. Before Return to Ravnica, Mirrodin Besieged had been my favourite ever prerelease event. I had chosen to side with the Phyrexians and even gone on to win! I was looking forward to Ravnica emulating a similar atmosphere, and I was not disappointed.
The guild packs were really cool, with the letter and dice being really nice touches. It was a bit of a shame not to see the guild boosters having their own unique packaging, but that’s understandable. Opening my guild booster.. it was pretty much jank. Desecration Demon at rare was a nice bomb, but as everyone already had their prerelease promo bomb to use by default, it didn’t feel all that exciting.
Opening the rest of my packs I did get Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenious and Utvara Hellkite, both cards I really wanted. And on top of that, a foil Lotleth Troll! Numerous people offered me Vraska the Unseen to trade it, but confident that the Planeswalker’s pricetag would drop I decided to hold onto my LolTroll for now.
Another in-colour rare, Chaos Imps, made a nice addition to my deck but the bulk of my pool didn’t have much to offer. I could’ve chosen to splash Black at this point, but with a lack of reliable mana fixing I decided to aim for consistency and stick with my guild colours. I had very few cheap Unleash creatures, with most of my deck being in the 5-6 mana region. The Hellkite felt just one mana beyond playable. I did try it to start with, but my feelings were proved spot on in round 1 so the dragon was swiftly cut from my deck.
Looking over my deck, I wasn’t all that happy. I didnt look great. I re-checked a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but I’m pretty sure I’d made something close to the best deck available to me (including all my removal options, which totaled 3). Predicting the deck would let me go 3-3, thats exactly what I did. I beat Golgari twice and Azorious once, losing twice to Rakdos and once to Izzet. I felt that in matches I won my deck was quite well matched to my opponent’s in terms of power level and card quality. But in the rounds I lost I just found myself completely overwhelmed by superior cards. This was reflected in the fact that my three wins were all 2-1, and my three losses all 0-2. The Rakdos matchups were the most difficult, and over very quickly. The other Rakdos decks were able to get very fast starts with their cheap Unleash creatures. Outsized due to the +1/+1 counters, all my smaller guys could do was chump-block and the games ended before I could hit the high end of my curve.
With Dave also playing Rakdos we took time between each round to discuss our decks and how our games had gone. We helped each other with advice for specific cards, and both agreed that one of the surprise standout cards of the day was Lobber Crew! This innocent looking goblin did a lot of work for both of us (and in one game I had the misfotrune of having to face one, too). Dave had a superior-looking Rakdos deck by far and managed to go 5-1, only losing to the eventual winner (a player who had opened 2 Vraska’s in his Golgari pool!)
On Sunday I played in a smaller, more local event, hosted at my usual FNM spot in Lancaster. With a reasonable amount of knowledge of the format gained from the previous day, I had a really good idea of what to expect and, being sure I wanted to play a different guild this time, I went with Golgari. I really like the Scavenge mechanic and think its probably my favourite mechanic from the set. Nicely designed and executed, powerful but fair.
This time, I opened a fantastic pool. I could see my deck coming together as I opened my boosters. My guild boosters gave me a great kick-start this time, which really helped with building a strong deck. I was just able to cast aside any card not in my colours, and from there trimming to 40 cards was relatively easy; I tend to be pretty fast at sealed deck building normally but here I was ready in no time!
Trestle Troll was one of the stand-out cards from the previous day, and I opened 3! Only 2 made it into my deck, but as expected they were just amazing for me throughout the event. I didn’t have too many scavenge creatures, but my deck could put out a lot of guys very fast and had a really nice mana-curve to it, so it played consistently well throughout the day. With just 28 players this time (as opposed to over 100 the previous day!) we played 5 rounds instead of 6. I went 4-1, losing in round 4 to the eventual winner. He went on to the final to play a Selesnya mirror-match. In the other rounds I beat Azorius and Golgari once each and Rakdos twice.
For my troubles I came 3rd, winning 5 boosters,a nice way to end the weekend (which also included an M13 draft on the friday evening where I opened 2 Planeswakers!). On top of that, it was a fantastic thing that winner of the Lancaster prerelease was a relatively new magic player! We have a strong fast-growing community here and its always good to see newer players doing really well.
Just a couple of final notes. RtR is a much slower format than other sets have given us recently, which I really like. As a result, I’d definitely advise playing 17-18 lands in your deck as opposed to the 15-16 you may be more used to for faster sets such as Avacyn Restored and M13. And as ever, I always chose to play second (on the draw). Despite this being a slower format, I still believe strongly that seeing the extra card in sealed is much more important than getting a land down first. Even if it means taking a few extra points of damage early on, I am consistently finding the pay-off later into the game to be huge as you have a wider range of options to deal with whatever the opponent throws at you. Perhaps I should write an full article on this topic at some point, if I ever find the time..
But for now, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed your Return to Ravnica prerelease(s) too!