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.