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Getting my M12 on

July 12, 2011

The M12 prerelease was this past weekend and I hope everyone who attended had a good time. I played at the local prerelease (Dragon’s Lair in Stockholm) and thought I share some observations I made of the M12 Limited format…

Wait, you played in the prerelease? What about this rant then?

Yeah, I know… What can I say, I’m weak. My urge to get my hands on some of the new cards and just sling some cardboard was too great. The overall awkwardness that I have for prereleases didn’t change though. In round 1 a played against a romanian exchange student, Theodora. She said it was her 2nd tournament ever and I just thought, f*ck it. I let her do all the takebacks she wanted and explain every rule and interaction etc. I drew the line at reminding her on things she *might* want to do, like attacking with her lethal Flameblast Dragon. I guess I’m a little proud over my gentlemenship. I really felt like I didn’t want to be seen as the sterotype experienced player and crush the hopes and dreams of this beginner. It nevertheless felt weird though. I guess I will never get over this feeling I have for prereleases.

Enough ranting about prereleases, you have already read it before. Now back to M12 Limited!

Red is actually good.

By looking at the spoilers before the prerelease you could definitely see that red as a color has received a well needed boost since M11 and M10. Previously red has consisted of some great removal (see Lightning Bolt, Chandra’s Outrage, Fireball), some great bombs and then just some really embarrassing and hardly playable cards. In M10 I don’t think I ever played red in Limited, except for the ocational splashed Fireball or Lightning Bolt. You basically had to open up several red bombs to justify playing red as one of your “real” colors. It was that gross. In M11 red got a little help and wasn’t as embarrassing as it used to be, but red was nevertheless that least played color in Limited by a margin.

But things have changed big time this time around. Just look at some of the new commons. Blood Ogre, Gorehorn Minotours… They do deliver the business. In addition to the creature base has been upgraded like times 100, the strong removal base that red has always had has gotten even better, if anything. Lightning Bolt is gone sure, but instead there is both Shock and Incinerate. And off course, the ever lovely Fireball is still there.

Playing at the prerelease certainly reinforced what I expected of red as a color. It’s too early to say exactly how good red is and how it stands versus the other colors, but nevertheless I’m very impressed by huge leap in power red has taken since M11.

In addition to the in general boost of powerlevel of the red cards, another reason why red seems like a stronger color this time around is my next point:

The format is significantly faster than you expect.

Core set Limited format are traditionally fairly slow formats where bombs and slow card advantage heavy strategies have been the key to success. With that in mind I didn’t really expect things to be different this time around with the exception of some really fast Bloodthirst heavy strategies.

But after playing at the prerelease I was astonished that the format felt significantly faster than it’s predecessors. The realisition hit me during one of the Sealed rounds where I had chosen to draw (as my standard Sealed approach) and my opponent lead with a turn 1 Goblin Fireslinger. I kinda shrugged and in the end the Fireslinger alone did almost 10 damage to me and ended up being the difference in winning and losing for my opponent. For the next game I opted to draw again and my opponent opened up with the same play as game 1, turn 1 Goblin Fireslinger. When my 3rd turn rolled around I looked at the Arachnus Web in my hand and thought: “I really need to use it this removal spell on the Fireslinger!” At that point the increased tempo that the format has got to me.

I ended up losing that game due to severely flooding out at the end but the whole ordeal with Goblin Fireslinger thought me a vauleble lesson about the format. This ain’t no country for durdling around.

I’m going out on a limb here and going to call that Goblin Fireslinger and Tormented Soul might be as high picks as 4-5-6 in drafts. It’s still sounds a little crazy to me but the more I think about it, it makes sense. If you recall M11 Limited, Viscera Seer and Bloodthrone Vampire were at first cards you could easily wheel in draft. No one really wanted those for their decks. But as the RB Threaten archetype got more and more popular both those cards started to climb in pick orders as time progressed. Right before everybody switched to Scars of Mirrodin Limited you couldn’t by a long shot expect to wheel either a Viscera Seer or a Bloodthrone Vampire. They were essential in the RB archetype and slowly people started to realize that they weren’t that bad in their “normal” decks either.

And that is exactly how I envision Goblin Fireslinger and Tormented Soul to turn out as in M12. They are going to be crucial in Bloodthirst strategies and are going to be more than fine in anything but really slow control decks.

To summarize, I guess we can’t really second rank cards like Runeclaw Bears as we are used to… And my point why red seems like a better color now is also this. The cheap “crap” that red used to have suddenly gets more interesting. I reckon that the value of a “Grizzly Bear”-type card is going to rise in people’s mind. Not to the extreme as in Zendikar/Worldwake Limited, but surely more than previous core sets.

Bombs be bombs.

Well, nothing has really change in this department. Bombs are still ridiculous and you should really seek ways to play them. Being a little greedy when it comes to mana and curve is recommended. Off course there is a break point where the greed overcomes the output you get for the raw power of the cards your playing with, but that point is fairly far out. For example, if I open a Grave Titan in Sealed or Draft, it’s going to take a extremely weak black pool of cards or a extremely deep commitment into two other colors in draft for me to not to pick and play that card.

That said, I can imagine that in draft some of the really expensive cards that aren’t directly impacting the board might be too cute. This due to the fact that M12 seems like significantly faster Limited format compared to it’s predecessor.

The pool of playables is deep.

We just came from a Limited environment where getting enough playables to your Limited deck was never an issue. All the artifacts and phyrexia mana cards that lead made our lives easy during deck construction in Limited. I can’t think of a time were I had less than 23 playables after a draft or having trouble of getting my Sealed deck together. You could stay out of color commitment during way deep into drafts. It wasn’t uncommon that I didn’t have a second color before the 3rd pack rolled around.

But with M12 we are back in the “real” world again with colored cards being the prominent feature. That normally means that you are fairly limited when it comes to “speculative” drafting. With that I mean where you try to avoid being committed to a color as long as possible in order to get a good read on what it’s open and be able to snag powerful gifts the persons besides you sends you.

But from the whooping (lol) 2 drafts I have made so far I think you can be more speculative than you think. The last draft I did I started out red-blue and by the end of pack 1 I had about 5 playable red cards and 4 blue cards. Then in the next pack I literary didn’t see any blue card worth mentioning and started to move into black as my second color. But then in pack 3 I opened up a Mind Control which lead my pack into blue although I was worried that I would be low on playables at the end.

That fear proved to be uncalled for as I had in the end easily 27-28 cards that all easily could have made the deck. And I even had Devouring Swarm, Sorin’s Thirst, Wring Flesh and Bloodseeker in the sideboard to booth. The point I’m driving towards is that the number of playables are deep. Therefore you shouldn’t be afraid to switch colors during drafts if you open something really powerful later on in the drafts. Worst case scenario you might “have” to run something like a Lava Axe in the end but that it’s certainly not the end of the world.

Conclusion

All in all so far I’m very impressed by M12, both limited wise and constructed wise. So hat off to Wizards for another exciting core set. I said last year that M11 might have been the best core set ever which sets the bar pretty high on expectation on future core sets but M12 doesn’t leave you disappointed.

Happy drafting and may you open many a bombs!

PS Unless you are playing against me, obv! 😛 DS

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