SNC Prerelease Weekend

My deck during prerelease

Since the pandemic began, my enthusiasm for Magic things, not related to cube was diminished almost entirely. As a fairly longtime player, in person Magic is where the game shines best. Without in person play, why should I care to keep up with it? I did still keep up with spoiler season and general Magic announcements, but past that I couldn't care less. With the easing of restrictions where I was at, the first prerelease available was AFR, which I did manage to participate in. The set felt pretty bad to play and the energy in the room wasn't the same as before. This put me off from playing in the next several prereleases, until SNC. The set looked good but I still wasn't sure if I wanted to go because I've been getting too comfy at home the last couple years. I changed my mind once I decided to start this blog and wanted a better feel of this set and mechanics.  So this past weekend, I managed to squeeze in some time to play SNC prerelease. Wow, this was the right call to make. 

The experience reinvigorated my joy of the game and reminded me why I play it. I met people who I haven't really seen in a couple years and was able to just catch up with them. All of my opponents were fun and interesting people to talk to. Everyone just seemed to have a good time and the aura of the community really shined through. The best part was that I was able to trade cards, which I think is the epitome of the Magic Community, outside of playing it. The human interaction and conversation you make while trading is enjoyable. If you opt to buy cards, I highly recommend trying to trade instead for this community aspect. Be warned it is time consuming, but you will get to know a lot about who you are trading with from these interactions.

Promo Xander

With that out of the way, I did want to use this post to talk about my experience with the set thus far. Because we were allowed to pick which family to play, I originally wanted to opt for the Riveteers (Jund/BRG). I typically value removal over bombs when I play any limited format because threats need to go. With that reasoning, historically Red and Black are the colors with the best removal in limited combined with the general threat of strong creatures in Green, this seemed like a no brainer choice. As I arrived at the store, they were out of Riveteer prerelease kits, so I chose to snag up the last Maestros (Grixis/UBR) kit instead based on the same principles. 

During the pack opening phase, I was able to open a prerelease promo of Lord Xander, which did make it into my list. My other rares were unplayable in my deck as they either were off color or not strong enough in my deck. With the help of Lady Fortune, I was able to put together a very solid Grixis Tempo deck that was built on the foundation of strong, cheap removal, potent fliers, and card draw. The curve looked almost cube-like and felt really good to goldfish. So I went into the rounds thinking I'm going to have a good time winning. 

Never was I more wrong. I was paired up to play against the Brokers/ Bant decks every round and learned the hard way how shield counters worked. On initial impressions, I dismissed shield counters entirely as I mistook it as a form of 1 time hexproof. In reality, it played more like Focus Attacks in Street Fighter 4, which is a mechanic I didn't like, ironically enough. Shield counters are work as described as so "A counter that protects the permanent from being damaged or destroyed." In game play, it made single target removal difficult to play and trading creatures felt terrible because instead of losing the creatures they lost the shield counter instead! So cards like Disciplined Duelist were hard for me to deal with. My average creature had a toughness of 3-4 and it was often the cause that I would end trading a creature for just their shield counter had I chosen to block. It felt just as bad as spells since I had solid removal like Strangle, Torch Breath, and a Murder, but to use them would put me in the same situation as trading creatures. I had fun playing my matches but the games felt miserable every time once Disciplined Duelist hit the board.

Fortunately, my deck still felt pretty sweet thanks to card draw smoothing out any issues I could have had and a good curve. I had a lot of the instant speed spells to ensure that I could threaten a counterspell every turn, even though I wasn't running any. I rarely lost my chances to use my mana and I was rarely out of cards in my hand. The deck was working so well, I was enabled to play Lord Xander pretty consistently every time I drew him in my hand and could deal with any threat as long as it didn't have shield counters. 

At the end of this prerelease, I had a better perspective of the set and the cards. I want to evaluate some cards due to my experience with them at prerelease. 

The card that impressed me the most was Faerie Vandal. That card was so amazing, I am currently in the process of including it into my main cube. I'm aware that this card came in ELD, but I never got a chance to play with it and didn't think it was strong enough for cube because you needed to draw twice. Then it occurred to me during deckbuilding that I just needed to cantrip on my turn and this card would be amazing. Unsurprisingly, it did exactly that. I was constantly able to get it to a 3/4 or 4/5 every game thanks to instant speed draw 2 cards, which I used to pump it on the opponent's turn. Often times, it was the biggest creature on the board and if I recall correctly, the largest I made it was 5/6. It felt like playing a better Tarmogoyf almost and I am excited to find room for it. 

A Little Chat was a surprising winner in my book as well. At first glance, I just saw it as an okay Slight of Hand, then I copied it with casualty. This completely blew me away with what I can do at 2 mana. This card if you manage to casualty it becomes the equivalent of any of the 4 mana instant speed draw spells all for 2 mana and a creature at instant speed. The big disappointment was this card didn't say draw, so Faerie Vandal didn't benefit off of it. I'm still evaluating this for my cubes, but it does give blue a sac outlet. From how I felt about it, it's almost there.

Tainted Indulgence was another card that felt great to play. It synergizing with Faerie Vandal was so insane that I'm looking to incorporate into my cube. It's going to have a hard time though as my dimir sections are pretty tight. For the majority of time, this card will make you discard a card. For decks that want it or don't mind it, this is great. Not much else to say about this card as it plays exactly as everyone said it would.

Lord Xander, the Collector was probably my biggest disappointment for that prerelease. It was exciting pulling him at first and it was pretty simple to include him into my deck. As a premier mythic for this set, I was looking forward to "Such Devastation was my intent...." Sadly, that never happened once and I managed to land the card multiple games. I played him on curve when I could and each time, he had very minimal impact. On average, he discarded 0-1 cards on ETB and his swing trigger devastated the opponent's library, but did nothing else. At the point I played him, his best contribution was being a 7 drop 6/6 with no keywords. I'm not considering him for any of my cubes because of this experience. I also was not able to see his death trigger, but often my opponents only had 1-3 creatures, which would translate roughly to them sacrificing 1 creature. He might be stronger in decks that can play him out early, but I wasn't able to appreciate him. 

This is a reminder that I was talking about each of these cards in the SNC environment and I only played against the Bant decks. This skewed my perception of that draft environment, so be aware. With all this said and done, thanks for reading. If you want more from me, you can click on my profile to see more.

Again, Thanks for reading.