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Dark Ascension launches this Friday, and last weekend was packed full of Pre-Release events. Sunday’s event at Sci-Fi Genre in Durham saw a small contingent of five staff members from The Escapist, including myself, and a total of 42 competitors. The judges actually mentioned for the fourth round, that not a single player had dropped, so all 42 players finished out the event. Kross and Trujkin came out with packs for their trouble, but the rest of us spent the evening licking our wounds. The competition was fierce and our decks just weren’t up to the task. Thankfully we each came out of it with at least one win, so it could have been worse.

In case you’re not familiar, the Pre-Release was a Sealed Deck format where each player receives six booster packs to open (and keep) which you must build a deck with. The card pool is very limited and no trading is permitted between players. This is a fairly even playing field for all the players, since you’re not playing against ‘the best’ cards in the set, instead each player just has the luck of the draw to work with. We each received three packs of Dark Ascension and three packs of Innistrad.

Opening my first pack of Dark Ascension, I saw a Mikaeus, the Unhallowed. I was pretty confident that this meant I was running Black, unless I saw some very special cards in other colors. The next pack I opened saw a Diregraf Captain and with that I had two Zombie lords and just needed some backup to support them. I found that in Diregraf Ghoul, Walking Corpse, Armored Skaab, and Rotting Fensnake from my Innistrad boosters. I was lacking for fliers and for removal, but I had a really solid Zombie build in the making, and I wanted to run with it. My other consideration was that I might have gone for a RG build instead, since I did grab an Immerwolf, and that would have given me access to Wrack with Madness for removal. Ultimately, I really wanted to play with Mikaeus, and so I went for it. You can check out my final decklist and card pool here.

My deck actually did exactly what it was supposed to do most of the games I played. The trouble came in that what it was doing just wasn’t enough. Round one saw me against a White and Black deck featuring Angel of Flight Alabaster and Hollowhenge Spirit for some really fancy combat tricks, plus a pair of Ghoulraisers that came up both games. I was holding Mikaeus both games, but stalled for mana and never got him into play. Between the heavy-hitting fliers and the Ghoulraisers locking down the ground, I just couldn’t get in for damage later in the game, and the Angels and Spirits took it home for the opponent. He was a great sport, and I can’t begrudge such a nice guy for rocking my face with fliers.

Second round I fared a little better against a Black and Red deck. My draws weren’t bad at all, but given how much my deck likes the Graveyard, the Skirsdag High Priest that came out both games put a hamper on my ability to do much, and my single removal spell, Death’s Caress, never came up to clear out the Priest. Curiosity drew me 3 cards in the first game, though, and Rotting Fensnake got in for 15 damage in the second. It was good, but it wasn’t quite enough to bring home a victory against a field of 5/5 Demons. This was another graceful winner who was also using Judge sleeves, so I don’t feel too bad having lost here.

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I now sat at 0-2 for matches and, around this time, I started considering my options for a total overhaul into Red for Wrack with Madness, and likely Green for Immerwolf and Prey Upon. Of course, thinking through it, Wrack with Madness wouldn’t actually have killed the Skirsdag High Priest, and I would have been in pretty much the same situation only without Ghoulcaller’s Chant to get my guys back once they hit the Graveyard. Splashing White occurred to me, as that would give me Bonds of Faith and Smite the Monstrous. Once again, I realized that this might have helped in Round One, but would have done nothing in Round Two, and I decided at last to stick with my guns and feast on brains with Zombies. And feast I did.

Round Three I had to mulligan to five on my first hand, and still only had 1 land. I drew into another land just in time to see a Hollowhenge Beast hit the field and proceed to tear my late-to-the-party Zombies to pieces. Second game went much more smoothly, with a first turn Diregraf Ghoul into a second turn Walking Corpse and a third turn Diregraf Captain. The zombies were finally getting it right. A couple of Ghoulcaller’s Chants made sure I kept Diregraf Captain in play, and I dropped Mikaeus, the Unhallowed on turn 6 for icing on the cake. Game three was a closer match, with none of the Zombie-fueled mayhem of the second game. I played my Armored Skaab on turn three, which they followed up with Gatstaf Shepherd with no more action on my side, that meant they had an intimidating Gatstaf Howler swinging for 3 each turn. I got a Soul Seizer out turn five and they followed up with their Hollowhenge Beast. I blocked the Beast with my Skaab, after which they dropped three counters on the Beast with a morbid Hunger of the Howlpack. Next turn I stole the tapped 8/8 with Soul Seizer, and finally had an out to the Howler. Unfortunately, since it was tapped I couldn’t block that turn, and they swung for 3 and followed up with a Devil’s Play for lethal to finish the job.

Round Four was a relief and saw the zombie hordes doing what they were supposed to do. There was nothing quite like game two of round three, but the Zombies put on the pressure early both games and kept it on for the duration. Every time one of them would die, they’d come back with a Gravepurge or Ghoulcaller’s Chant, or they’d get replaced with the Headless Skaab. Mikaeus made another showing in game two, and pretty much ended the game outright.

All told, it was a ton of fun to play and, given my inexperience with the Limited Format, I’m not too worried about my record. I am now looking forward to doing some drafting around the office with the new set and getting in some extra practice in Limited.

Q&A

Q: Can Nevermore be used to affect an Artifact Land like Seat of the Synod?

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A: There are two reasons this doesn’t work. First, Nevermore states “As Nevermore enters the battlefield, name a nonland card. The named card can’t be cast.” Since one of Seat of the Synod’s types is Land, it cannot be named for Nevermore. Secondly, since Seat of the Synod is a Land, it is never actually cast. Lands are simply put onto the battlefield as a special action which doesn’t use the stack.

205.2b Some objects have more than one card type (for example, an artifact creature). Such objects satisfy the criteria for any effect that applies to any of their card types.

305.1. A player who has priority may play a land card from his or her hand during a main phase of his or her turn when the stack is empty. Playing a land is a special action; it doesn’t use the stack (see rule 115). Rather, the player simply puts the land onto the battlefield. Since the land doesn’t go on the stack, it is never a spell, and players can’t respond to it with instants or activated abilities.



Q: How does Undying work with Token creatures?

A: Unfortunately, it doesn’t. When a Token creature is put into the Graveyard, or any Zone other than the Battlefield (Exile, Hand, Library), it ceases to exist as a State Based Action. As such, when the Token with Undying with no +1/+1 counters is put into its owner’s Graveyard, the Undying ability will trigger but before the ability is put on the Stack, the Token will cease to exist when State Based Actions are checked.

110.5f A token that’s phased out, or that’s in a zone other than the battlefield, ceases to exist. This is a state-based action; see rule 704. (Note that if a token changes zones, applicable triggered abilities will trigger before the token ceases to exist.)

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