While I've not played too much Magic: The Gathering recently, I like to go to the pre-release events if I can (even if I prefer drafting), so was pleased to be able to go to the Gatecrash one in St Albans. I heard about it early and checked I was free that day (i.e. Liz wasn't working so she would be able to look after Kaleb) so pre-registered. I can't remember how much I had read about Gatecrash at the time, but knew the guilds roughly at least, so decided to pick Gruul as my first choice of guild.
The main reason being that I like the colour combination, and that I hoped that it wouldn't be too hard to play (with a general plan of play creatures and attack), me not playing as much and all.
Being busy with Kaleb, I hadn't had a chance to listen to the Limited Resources set review podcast (it's in my list so I'm sure I'll get to it eventually, I'm currently a couple of weeks behind on podcasts), but had looked over the set online once or twice, so knew a couple of things to look out for.
At the pre-release, I opened my cards and had a quick look through, separating cards into two piles ("Gruul" and "not-Gruul"). I built my deck pretty quickly, probably because I didn't have to spend a lot of time reading the letter from my guild leader ;-)
In the end, I played 18 lands (two guildgates). A couple of the cards benefited from it, and I wanted to make sure I could play the top of my curve. Like with the RTR pre-release, I stuck with my guild colours only (no splash). There was an interesting RW card (double strike from Batallion), and I did have a Boros keyrune, but I had enough decent stuff that I didn't want to mess around with the mana base unless the card was very powerful.
1 Spire Tracer - kinda handy. Got s bit of early damage in a couple of games
2 Mugging - I liked this one, killed a lot of creatures outright, and won a game by stopping a key blocker for a turn
2 Burst of Strength - Gruul was all about attacking, so it was nice to get some surprise blocks in occasionally. I did manage to attack with all my creatures one turn and use this to kill a Obzedat, Ghost Council, leaving my surprise blocker alive, which I was pleased with
1 Foundry Street Denizen - Not sure I really played this one, it never came up
2 Skinbrand Goblin - I usually played these as early creatures instead of extra damage, I may have used the Bloodrush once (or have it available but not need it)
1 Burning-Tree Emissary - Helped me out of a shaky hand for a couple of turns, and is a nicely costed creature
1 Ground Assault - damage that scales; I like it as a well designed red-green card too
2 Slaughterhorn - Usually played as a creature I think so I could start attacking early, I think I should have used Bloodrush more in general, however
1 Ember Beast - Not especially impressed with this card. It was alright a couple of games, but I did manage to have my other creatures killed one game making it a bit useless on its own
1 Act of Treason - Didn't start with this, but moved it to the main deck after a round or two. Stole a lifelinking creature an Orzhov opponent had one game which was helpful
1 Rubblebelt Riders - This got silly pretty quickly, and was partially the reason I was playing out more Bloodrush creatures than getting the attack bonus whenever it was in play
1 Crowned Ceratok - Gave a nice bonus to the previous card, and is a nice aggressive creature on its own (played the Riders one game, followed by the Ceratok in the pre-combat main phase, so the rider would give itself trample when it attacked)
1 Ivy Lane Denizen - Gave out some counters one game to grow a couple of creatures, which game them trample from the Ceratok
1 Homing Lightning - I was impressed with this card, didn't hit players, but I had big enough creatures that I didn't need to, just wanting to get past theirs
1 Wrecking Ogre - This won me some games out of nowhere. Sometimes closing a game I was winning already straight away instead of a few turns later. I think that this mixed with the pre-release card was pretty silly
2 Zhur-Taa Swine - I quite liked this one, probably one of the cards I actually used Bloodrush on more (but I still played it as a creature about as often)
1 Rubblehulk - Went well with the Ogre. I think I should have used Bloodrush on this more that I did, as I was usually waiting to get extra value out of it by having extra lands, by which point I may as well get the big creature instead
1 Ripscale Predator - Not huge, but big enough for my top end. It is either hard to block, or allows more of my attackers through if it is blocked, so nice to finish some games with
It was a 5 round tournament, the guilds I played against were 3 Orzhov, Simic and Boros (I lost to Orzhov and Boros). I ended up 3-2 which is a lot better than the last pre-release I went to, and probably better than most sealed deck events I play in, so I am happy (even if I came 7th overall with the cutoff for prizes as 6th). In the last round, the two matches we were waiting for in the end were two Orzhov mirror matches...
I think I should have tried to be a bit more aggressive with Bloodrush as I usually just played the creatures unless I was able to use the Bloodrush creature as a finisher (which did admittedly end a few games)
Hopefully I'll be able to play the set again, it does look fun. I only managed to draft RTR the once (playing Golgari again), so perhaps I will draft Gatecrash slightly more (which wouldn't be hard), only time will tell. I may try to play another guild, Simic looks interesting (and hopefully not as annoying as blue often is), the Evolve mechanic in particular looks quite strong and fun to play with (I was kind of hoping for a couple of green evolve cards but didn't get any). Boros looks fun so I might try that. Orzhov looked powerful, but I don't know if I would get annoyed playing that style or not. I think if I were to play Dimir, it would be to go the milling route because the strategy seems more interesting to me.
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