With the launch of Avacyn Restored looming, last weekend was full of Pre-Release events with Sci-Fi Genre, our local game store here in Durham, NC, running three separate events over the weekend, two of which featured the Helvault. With seven members of The Escapist staff in tow, we showed up to the Sunday event eager to delve into the new set and ready to play. Kross, s0osleepie, Myan, Sir Isaac, Slycne, Trujkin, and, of course, myself battled it out with a whopping 74 total players at the Sealed Deck event with more than half of our crew taking home prizes. Having acquired some much-needed experience in Sealed with the Dark Ascension pre-release, I fared much better this time around, going undefeated and intentionally drawing Round Four to split the prize difference with my opponent. I played mostly White splashing Green for ramp and Black for removal, the final decklist and card pool you can check out here. Suffice to say, I was pretty pleased with how my deck played out. While I was concerned about my mana curve, with the ramp elements of the deck I didn't have much trouble casting even the largest of creatures. Only once over the course of the day did I lose with cards stuck in my hand without the mana to cast them. Before I break down the rounds, I'll run through some card choices.
First things first, in my second pack I opened Avacyn, Angel of Hope, which I immediately took to be a red herring like Mikaeus, the Unhallowed which I played during the Dark Ascension pre-release, in that it was a great bomb that I'd probably never be able to cast. I was leaning towards White, but wasn't quite sold given that I would need to get to eight mana somehow to cast her. Then I opened Angel of Glory's Rise and Goldnight Redeemer and was pretty convinced I had to play white, if only for the evasive bombs. A Somberwald Sage in my last pack moved me into Green as an enabler for my small army of Angels. At this point I was pretty set on White/Green ramp but I had only minimal removal in Defang and Righteous Blow plus some deterrence in Nightshade Peddler. I figured that this was not going to be consistent enough to win me games, as the deck was shaping up to be very slow, and would need to survive for a minimum of five turns before I could really do anything at all, and that's only if I drew my Somberwald Sage. I started looking for removal, and noted Death Wind and Undead Executioner in Black. Since I only had three mana fixers, I had to commit to Black fairly heavily with three Swamps, but the inclusion won me multiple games and I am quite content with how it worked out. I opted to include my entire arsenal of equipment to boost up my early creatures in order to help them in their defensive role while I waited for my Angels to take to the skies. The only card I really ever wished was something else was Angel's Tomb. Given that I was playing for the long game, 3 damage here and there just didn't make enough real difference and I could have really used that Joint Assault in its place. Of course, I didn't have this realization until after the third round when it was a little late to do much about it.
Round one I sat across from what may have been the youngest Magic player I've ever met. I felt terrible when he mulliganed for the first game. Then mulliganed again and again, on down to one card. He didn't raise too much of a fuss about it, cheerfully wondering aloud how he had still not drawn any land. After a quick match, I made some suggestions for fixing up his deck and wished him luck for the rest of the day.
Round two was much more exciting with my opponent on a Red Green aggro plan. Game one he lead with a Fervent Cathar and followed that up with plenty of Soulbond creatures. I put out Angelic Armaments and followed up with Undead Executioner. Once equipped, and noting the text of the equipment, my opponent commented on the White Black Zombie Angel monstrosity I had just created. I was endlessly amused. Once he cleared out my Executioner, he put out a Pathbreaker Wurm which I followed up with an Angel of Glory's Rise. I traded my Angel for his Wurm and played Defy Death bringing the Angel back with two +1/+1 counters which, now equipped with Bladed Bracers, threatened him with lethal damage in two turns. He cast another Pathbreaker Wurm and I swung for half his life total. After some audible prayers, he looked at the top card of his library and revealed it to be Revenge of the Hunted. He Miracle'd it on his paired Nightshade Peddler, meaning that he only had to assign one damage to a blocking creature for it to be lethal. He swung with his 7/7 Deathtouch Peddler and his Wurm for 12 damage, just enough to end the game. Game two was also down to the wire. I got an early Nearheath Pilgrim Soulbonded with a Midvast Protector and we traded damage for a few turns. He destroyed my Angelic Armaments with some boarded-in artifact hate, and I was looking to be on the ropes. He furthered his lock by enchanting a creature with Lightning Prowess, following that with a Nightshade Peddler and pairing the two. His creature now reads "Tap: Destroy target creature." I re-read the text on Defang and breathed a sigh of relief, as it prevents all damage, not just combat damage, thereby nullifying that threat, and getting huge value out of my removal. I followed up with my own Pathbreaker Wurm and started swinging big, and he was never able to recover, but I was still sweating. Our last game was not quite so close. My turn three Somberwald Sage turned into a turn five Avacyn, Angel of Hope. I paired her with my Nearheath Pilgrim, making her 8/8 Flying, Vigilance, Lifelink, Indestructible. After swinging with her once, my opponent drew one last card and conceded.