Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease Recap

Shadows Over Innistrad, the new block of cards for Magic: the Gathering, officially goes on sale Friday. Last weekend I got to play in a prerelease sealed deck tournament at the Louisville Game Shop to get an early experience with these new cards.

During a pre-release tournament, each player is a given a special box of six booster packs from the new block to make a deck with a minimum of 40 cards. You also get a special promotional card for your collection, and prizes awarded to the top players. At our event each person in the tournament also got a couple extra Shadows Over Innistrad booster packs (that couldn’t be used in your tournament deck.)

Once everyone is registered and has their pack, you only get 30 minutes to make your deck before playing the first match. That’s actually my favorite part: quickly opening up all your new cards, examining them briefly, and whittling it down to an efficient 40(ish) cards with a simple plan to win.

I looked at going for Red+Black for the cheap creatures, some with transfrom, but didn’t have any options for a heavy hitter with those colors and couldn’t think through what my plan would be. If I had more werewolves maybe Red+Green would’ve worked.

Three mythic rares were included in my pack. Each stood out as a potential finisher.

Archangel Avacyn that transforms into Avacyn, the Purifier was a pretty obvious win condition. She was even on one of the event posters. Then I saw how many flyers I had overall and how well my Blue cards allowed for Investigation.

My plan became clear: Blue+White flyers, and investigate as much as possible to help my draw and increase chances of getting Avacyn, Geralf’s Masterpiece, and my last big flyer, Reaper of Flight Moonsilver.

Avacyn, the Purifier

It’s a simple deck and wasn’t an overwhelming winner, but it was something I knew I could play. To start, I used every blue card I had then added all my white flyers. Since my blue strategy was mostly Investigation, Tamiyo’s Journal became an obvious artifact to thrown in there too.

Tamiyos Journal would let me sacrifice 3 clues to search my library for any of my heavy hitters from the deck. Oh, and it ensures I gain at least one clue every turn too – convenient!

After that five more white cards made the cut: Inspiring Captain, while not a flyer, is a formidable 3/3 with a buff for my whole board. Survive the Night provided more Investigation, with some buffing as a bonus. Silverstrike and Angelic Purge were my best removal spells in the whole pack (my black options were really disappointing.) And finally, Chaplain’s Blessing is 5 life for 1 mana — too good of a deal to pass up.

Finish it up with 18 land, split between Islands and Plains, and I had a 41 card deck.

My Deck





  • Plains x9
  • Island x9

Also in my prerelease pack I got a couple other rare cards in other colors:

The promotional card for the event was “Foreboding Ruins,” a pretty cool red/black dual land.

I felt good about the deck, and even looking back, I don’t think I’d change anything about the build – only my play.

There were four rounds in the tournament, but I only played the first three as I had dinner arrangements to get to. In those three rounds, I lost (0-2), drew (1-1-1), and lost (1-2).

I found the Investigate-heavy strategy worked pretty well. I got at least one of my big flyers out almost every game, and never felt totally hosed. I just didn’t always have ways to handle more aggressive creatures. Could’ve really used more removal spells or de-buffs.

The sealed deck format of these prerelease events is a lot of fun. If you’re like me and don’t have a large collection of cards nor many other friends who play, it levels the playing field on what cards are available and provides a place to meet new folks for a game.



Grand Meetup Magic: The Gathering Deck Recap

Playing Magic: The Gathering over the course of the Grand Meetup was a lot of fun. While I had a losing record (5-8,) I was second in number-of-games-played, which was my true objective. We had 31 players with a round robin setup: everyone was to try and play everyone else once, but we all knew we wouldn’t get all the games in. Each match was ‘best of two out of three games.’ We were playing sealed decks with booster packs from Magic Origins, Dragons  of Tarkir, Khans of Tarkir, and Fate Reforged.

I did some research on how to build a deck in a tournament like this, and I ended up only adjusting my initial build once, to add one counter spell which I never got a chance to cast. Apparently in most tournaments you have to mantain the same build for all matches, but we allowed players to change decks completely between matches since it spanned the course of a week and was only for fun anyway.

My best cards were a pair of dragons that both required blue and black mana. I also felt okay on my blue/black cards to provide a solid opening, but I worried about how well they’d hold up in the middle. Since no other color seemed to scream a plan at me I decided to go forward with blue/black and find ways to win late with my dragons and a couple other big creatures.

2015-10-20 12.12.45
These bad boys were the pillars for the rest of my deck.

You can skip to the deck list by clicking this link.

Having low-cost, deathtouch creatures helped my early drops, but I relied heavily on creature removal to make it through the middle game. When I was lucky enough to get the Blood Chinned Rager along with multiple other warrior creatures (i.e., Unyielding Krumar, Hand of Silumgar, Alesha’s Vanguard) the requirement of two creatures to block made for a strong attack that almost always secured a win later on. But in sealed deck, one really shouldn’t rely on combos. So I added that splash of white to bring back some life. I considered removing the War Behomoth because I almost always used the 2/2 token (without morphing) as a blocker instead of using it for the big creature it can be. The Skaab Goliath and my two dragons were way better at that.

The Necromaster Dragon ended up being my best win condition. Creating 2/2 tokens turn after turn adds salt to the wound of a tough flyer and it was usually enough to turn an equal position into a winning position. Problems with this plan were against opponents playing with aggressive speed. If I was already being attacked by five or six creatures, one 4/4 flyer isn’t enough to turn the game around to my favor. But if I could steadily build as I liked, this creature became the cornerstone of my turn. Silumgar, the Drifting Death can fill the same role because he’s so tough to kill, but I just didn’t draw him as often.

If I wanted to use this deck as the basis of construction play, I wouldn’t need to adjust it much. I’d just add land appropriate to a 60-card deck and beef up the amount of black 3-drop and 4-drop creatures. The result would still be a deck that either annoys for several turns and wins late, or loses quickly due to slower draw against aggro.

Deck List with Links

Magic: The Attempt-to-Gather

Geek & Sundry produces an awesome series, called Spellslingers, where Sean Plott (aka “Day[9]”) plays the card game Magic: The Gathering with his nerdy friends. They took a lot of cues from the production of Tabletop, but gave it a unique feel. There’s a lot more shared analysis of the gameplay that doesn’t really happen on Tabletop. If Wil Wheaton wants you to play more games, Sean Plott wants you to play better Magic.

sean plott day[9] on spellslingers
Day[9], professional gamer
Confession time: I’ve never actually played a game of Magic. I grew up in the bible belt where people honestly believed that Dungeons and Dragons and Magic would teach you to worship the devil. Or at least ruin your prospects at courting a respectable, God-fearing mate. The closest thing I ever got to play was the Star Wars Customizable Card Game published by Decipher. I loved that game but it never had the mass appeal of Magic.

Anyway, Spellslingers really has me itching to play a game. Unfortunately, I’m totally not spending money on games right now. There’s a baby on the way! Gotta save up cash. But I thought I found an easy way to do this with Magic Duels – an online tabletop simulator of the game. But more downside – the only platform I can play this is on is Windows PC (I don’t have any iOS devices) and my Windows PC is so old and janky I barely got Steam installed. There’s no way I can actually play a game on it. I also tried adding it to a VM on my Mac, but the VM’s video memory is only half the recommended specifications – so it’s also slow to respond and not worthy of playing the game.

My gathering of Magic will continue to wait and I’ll just have to whet my appetite with more Spellslingers.