Alara Reborn Prerelease

23:45 Sun 26 Apr 2009
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I went to Eudemonia yesterday for the Alara Reborn prerelease. Despite my stated preference for the old-style larger prereleases, in truth I doubt I would have gone yesterday if the prerelease had been a large one, because it would have been in the South Bay and would have been harder to get to and generally eaten up more of the day.

The event was relatively well-run. It started late, but since I can’t remember ever attending a prerelease that actually started on time, maybe I shouldn’t hold that against Eudemonia. As usual, I wondered at the fact that in 2009 there’s apparently no better way to communicate pairings to a large group of people (just under 60, in this case) than to put up pairings sheets on letter-sized paper and have people mill around to get them. It’s probably already technically possible to put up some kind of service for smartphones that would allow them to access a WiFi network to see the pairings, and I think that kind of service is going to become increasingly common quite soon. Not for tournaments, but I’m sure that in San Francisco bars and restaurants could make use of that kind of highly-localized information delivery.

Wizards of the Coast, of course, would probably take at least ten years to make such an enhancement to their tournament software. For no good reason whatsoever, this software is not open source, despite the fact that they don’t sell it, that they don’t have the staff or expertise to really excel at user-interface-driven software, and that they have an extremely tech-savvy audience for it who would probably devote a lot of time to improving it if they could.

The new set itself is strange but fairly cool. It’s all multicolored cards, which is excellent in a number of ways, but which also produced the most difficult card pool I can remember having to build in any Sealed event. I ended up writing down the counts for all the colored mana symbols in my deck, as well as the counts for the different ways I could produce various colors of mana, in order to figure out land counts for my deck. I can’t remember ever doing that for Limited before, and I have played an awful lot of Sealed in the years I’ve been playing MTG. I ended up with a ridiculous five-color concoction. It didn’t have many bombs, but its overall power level was reasonable (and was only reasonable if I played all five colors). For the record, the mana symbol breakdown:
13 Black
11 White
9 Red
7 Blue
4 Green

And the mana producers:
5 Plains
4 Swamp
3 Mountain
2 Island
1 Forest
1 Jund Panorama (Black/Red/Green sac-land)
1 Obelisk of Naya (Red/Green/White-producing artifact)
1 Veinfire Borderpost (Red/Black-producing artifact)

Yes, I played five colors but only 16 land. I also had a card that could Plainscycle or Forestcycle and a card that could Islandcycle or Swampcycle.

I ended up with a 3-2 record. My first loss was a hard-fought best of three matchup that hinged on the fact that both my opponent and I had this card:

He won a crazy game three by getting it onto a creature with Double Strike, and after exchanging turns where we did each other over ten damage per combat phase (and gained that much life), he was able to close it out.

The new keyword mechanic for Alara Reborn is Cascade, which lets you play the first non-land card from your library that costs less than the card with Cascade. I’d love to link directly to the offical rules for Cascade, but Wizards don’t have an HTML version of their Comprehensive Rules to let you do that. Here’s the only card I played that had Cascade, which worked quite well for me:

Cascade seems strong, and might end up being completely nuts in Constructed.

Despite playing just 16 lands, and having such a ridiculous color mix, I was only badly screwed for color once, when I had three Blue cards in hand with no Blue sources and couldn’t hold off an opponent who could cast all the spells they drew. There were a few other times when I stuttered, but I probably deserved worse; it should be clear from the breakdown above that I needed more Blue sources.

On the other hand, I did get mana flooded multiple times, including one critical second game where I faced an opponent who, on the play, had to mulligan to five. I helped him overcome this disadvantage by drawing far too much land. With over half of my deck drawn by the end, I had played 11 of my 16 lands and 13 of my 18 mana-producing cards. I really think that getting mana screwed is a better way to go, because at least it’s quick, whereas mana flood in the midgame is torture because you’re in the game and know that you just need something, anything, to either take the game or stabilize, but end up dying a slow death as you see nothing but land after land.

I split the prize of four packs three-one with my last-round opponent. The prize distribution was extremely annoying, thanks to a new Wizards policy: they now apparently refuse to give out all prizes in packs of the new set, instead limiting it to something like two-thirds. So, instead of each person who won prizes simply going up and collecting n packs, they go up and have the situation (0.66 n packs of the new set, plus 0.33 n packs of some set of their choice, or they can come back after the actual release date to collect 0.33 n packs of the new set) explained to them, and then they have to decide. This easily quadruples the amount of time it should take to give out prizes. In some cases it seemed like it took about ten times as long.

It’s an interesting set, and I had fun. As usual a lot of the fun came from hanging out with the various friends of mine who went to it, and as usual there were some things to gripe about (in this instance, griping fodder kindly produced by Wizards of the Coast).

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