I have four Magic-playing children, my Prodigal Sorcerers, and I took two of them (the youngest two, eight and nine-year-old Aiden and Chloe) with me to the Gatecrash Prerelease on Saturday, January 26th at the Fantasy Shop in Florissant, Missouri. Normally, I would only take one of them, as the expense adds up quickly and money is tight. It was Chloe’s turn to go, but it was Aiden’s birthday, so I took them both. The Florissant Fantasy Shop is our regular spot to play, as they host casual Magic nights on Saturdays, and my Prodigal Sorcerers are well known there.
Normally, on Saturdays, space is tight when 16 people show up, and that’s considered a good night. Forty-three players showed up Saturday for the Prerelease. I was quite happy to run home to fetch more folding chairs. Comic book and gaming displays had to be moved around, and we still had at least one game playing out on the floor.
Of course, with an odd number of players, I pulled the short straw and got the round 1 bye. I had chosen Dimir for my guild, and had an interesting pool to draw from. Ironically, my milling options were very light and unimpressive, and the promo Consuming Aberration got pulled from the deck after my round 2 loss. My mana-fixing was quite solid: two Dimir Guildgates and two Orzhov Guildgates, making the white splash for a few more extorting cards and the bomb Deathpact Angel I opened quite easy. I’m not sure if I should have run with the mill plan over the extort cards, but I enjoyed having the extort options on the board. Also, I hate playing against mill decks, so wasn’t really drawn to milling anyway. I don’t normally play with Islands, but I was trying to expand my horizons a bit and get better at playing control. Well, that and I wanted the Consuming Aberration promo for my Dakkon Blackblade Commander deck!
My pool included plenty of hard-to-block Dimir creatures and cipher spells. I’m not sure if any of the Gatecrash guild mechanics are really constructed-worthy, but they are all a lot of fun in limited. Dimir’s cipher ability along with Orzhov’s extortionists is cruel; since you are casting copies of the ciphered spells, any instances of extort on your board can be triggered and paid for each “free” spell.
My round 2 opponent was my good friend Roger, who had a solid Boros build that was very hasty and aggressive, which he proceeded to carry to a 5-1 record on the day, only losing in the final round. Our match wasn’t close, with all three games being decided by mana shortages on the losing side. I took the first game, and he rolled over me the next two.
Round 3 I was matched against AJ. He was in Gruul, and I was more than a little worried that my Esper build didn’t have enough early defenses against a fattie rush. He had early action but ran out of gas before he could take me out, and my unblockable, ciphered-up rogues carried the day. Turns out, casting spells for free multiple times is pretty good.
Round 4 was Boros again, this time against George. His build simply wasn’t aggressive enough, and I was able to hit him multiple times with a ciphered rogue casting 3-point life drains and drawing extra cards. I think I even had extort out to drain him on each ciphered spell as well.
Round 5 was against my protege, Anthony. Anthony is a friend I’ve known for several years, but he only recently got into Magic a couple months ago (and through other friends, not me, weirdly enough). This was his first organized play event and I was quite happy to see him with a 3-1 record. Turns out I’d taught him fairly well. He had a good Gruul deck, but I quickly took him out in two quick games; the second game wasn’t even a game, really, as he only got two lands in play.
My final match of the day was Kevin. He was playing Orzhov, splashing red for some battalion abilities, but was mostly on an extort plan. I’ve played against Kevin plenty at casual nights; he’s usually running some kind of really solid legacy brew, and I’m not sure I’ve ever beaten him (or his brother, for that matter). He has several pages in his trade binder dedicated solely to Dark Rituals. He’s good, and he’s been playing for a long time, and I knew I had my work cut out for me. All three games were tight. My Deathpact Angel hit the board every game. It won me the first game, but he had answers for it games 2 and 3. I’m not sure exactly how I could have played around that; I tried to force him to use his removal before playing the Angel out, but he managed to be patient and extort the life out of me, slowly draining me down each game. All three games were won on pivotal turns. It was always right down to the wire, and the winner had to take it right then or lose the next turn.
I wound up in 6th place overall. Out of 43, that ain’t bad. Prizes in packs were awarded to the top half of players, 21 in all. At 6th place, I got 5 packs (and opened Obzedat Ghost Council!). There were plenty of door prizes randomly given out as well.
Gatecrash is an incredibly well-balanced set that rewards tight play, no matter what guild you are affiliated with. I saw a lot of red opponents throughout the day, but from what I saw of other matches being played, every guild had potential to do well in the hands of a competent pilot with a halfway decent pool.
Overall, this prerelease was a major win for our little shop. The event went smoothly and everyone seemed to have a great time. There was a very healthy mix of players young and old, new and experienced. I had a blast, and so did my kids.
As for my Prodigal Sorcerers, neither Aiden nor Chloe ended the day in the top half of the field. They certainly won their share of games, but each only won a couple matches, which wasn’t quite enough to make the top half. Aiden did win a door prize, though, which was cool because it was his birthday.
Major kudos to the Florissant Fantasy Shop for running the show so well! They could have turned people away when so many showed up, but they adapted and made it work out for everyone. The tournament was well-run and went smoothly all day long. I don’t think they’ve ever hosted an event that size at that store before, though the manager John has experience with larger crowds of Magic players from working at the St Charles Fantasy Shop for years, where they frequently host 100+ player events, including PTQs (and have the dedicated space to accomodate them). It was a testament to the scene here that so many players stuck around to the very end, and everyone cheered for everyone else as prizes were handed out.
This kind of event is what Magic is all about: good friends, good times, great competition. Highly skilled players were helping the newer players get their bearings and tune their decks all day long. We had one instance of a competitive level player forgetting what rules-enforcement level he was playing at, and being a jerk about a minute issue, but other than that, all went well and everyone had fun!