GateCrash Prerelease Report

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After all the training I got during the week before the prerelease, I was pumped at max for that great event.

On this Saturday morning, I went to my local store 15 minutes before the official time to make sure I'd pick up Orzhov. I'm not really sure if it was to cool us down a little, but we ended-up waiting 15min outside with 20+ people until they decided to open the store.
That's totally fine, it was only -11 degrees outside.

A few minutes later, got my nice box and waited til everyone got his. We are playing in a 70m2 room, and we were 62 for this prerelease.
As I opened my box, I was hoping for only 1 thing, get 5+ removals. I didn't care so much on opening Ozbedat or any other bomb, I just wanted the removals to have a decent game day. 

One thing that the practice taught me, is that it's very easy to get underwhelmed with the guild pack, so I decided to open that one last, as to not be biased on the strenghts of my pool. After the first 5 packs, I had already a decent white/black deck (removals and extort), and a great splash in red.

The guild pack was not amazing, but it provided me a useful Orzhov keyrune and a second copy of Ogre Slumlord.

When building my deck, I found out that I even had to cut some removals to add a few more creatures... I couldn't be happier. Smile

Here is the deck I mounted:

Creatures (14):

Extort (6):
1 Thrull Parasite
1 Basilica Screecher
1 Basilica Guards
1 Knight of Obligation
1 Crypt Ghast
1 Treasury Thrull

Others(8):
1 Vizkopa Guildmage
1 Armored Transport
1 Deathcult Rogue
2 Balustrade Spy
1 Firemane Avenger
1 Alms Beast
1 Ogre Slumlord

Spells (9):

Removal(7):
3 Smite
1 Executioner's Swing
1 Arrows of Justice
1 Grisly Spectacle
1 Angelic Edict

Others:
1 Madcap Skills
1 Orzhov Keyrune

Lands(17):
1 Orzhov Guildgate
4 Mountain
5 Plains
7 Swamp



Notable Sideborad cards: 

Red:
1 Cinder Elemental I already had many removals and felt it wouldn't do much. After the prerelease impressions, I can see it was a good choice.
1 Homing Lightning Great Removal, but the double splash made me side it out. I don't regret it.
2 Warmind Infantry Not really worth a splash I think. My plan was extort/evasive, and it didn't do any of that. 
1 Massive Raid I already had enough removals, not enough creatures to make it meaningful and the double red...
2 Act of Treason I wasn't sure if it was worth splashing. Maybe I could have sideboarded them in against aggro, but I didn't
1 Pit fight Already had enough removals, and besides my alms beast, my 2nd creatures was 4 power, then 3rd was 3 power. Not worth it.  
1 Towering Thunderfist Serious body, but I already had Ogre Slumlord on the 5-drop slot and didn't want to slow down the cruve even further. 

Black:
1 Ogre Slumlord A second copy that I decided to side out. Having 2 in the opening hand could mean that I would be dead before 1 see the first rat. Not certain it was a good decision, but I believe it was. (If anyone as thoughts on this, I'm all ears...)
1 Gateway Shade Works way better in guildgate.dec, would have very little impact on my deck.
1 Undercity Informer I had the feeling this would do little and didn't fit the Extort/evasion plan. Could have been a good synergy with Ogre Slumlord though...
1 Shadow Slice Too high for the curve.

Orzhov:
1 Cartel Aristocrat I hesitated a lot before taking this one out, but I couldn't really see it doing much in my deck plan.

White:
1 Daring Skyjek A good evasive 2-drop, given that you can use batalion, which wasn't my plan...
1 Knight Watch i din't feel like including more 5-drops into the deck, and this wouldn't do much anyway.

Artifact:
1 Millennial Gargoyle 1 believe I had enough flyers, and the Balustrade Spy felt much better in the 4-drop spot


I was pretty happy with my pool in general, even though there were some key Orzhov elements missing:
Kingpin's Pet
Dutiful Thrull
Syndic of Tithes
Orzhov Charm
Gift of Orzhova
Guardian of the Gateless
Death's Approach
Devour Flesh
Killing Glare
Shadow Alley Denizen

I was ready for the fight, and was thinking I had a fair chance to make it to the TOP8 this time. (At our local store, TOP9-16 goes home with 3 boosters and TOP8 compete in a draft. 1st goes home with a full box!)

Coming Next, the battle! 
Thanks for sharing, and for giving us a chance to look at your pack. Look forward to the next section!

Couple of thoughts: it looks like you are playing red for Firemane Avenger, and 1 Madcap Skills (Arrows of Justice can be treated as White since you're Orzhov).

While the Avenger is a bomb, I am not sure it is worth warping your mana for it. On top of which, I am guessing the Armored Transport was an include as a nod towards enabling Firemane Avenger (otherwise, a 2/1 attacker that doesn't die on the attack seems to be a bit awkward in a Extorting/Evasion Orzhov deck).

If you took out Firemane Avenger, Madcap Skills and Armored Transport, you could take out the Mountains, and then play:
+2 Swamps +2 Plains
+Ogre Slumlord
+Daring Skyjek (gets in early for 3-6 points if lucky, trades reasonably as a 3/1, and if drawn late, cheap to trigger extort)
+1 more other card (I like Aristocrat, but it is much better when it has pants to wear, so maybe Informer with Rats as alternate win-con, or you can add in a combat trick here if you have a black/white trick).

This trades off a little power for more consistency.

Just my $0.02 - and given I actually haven't played GTC yet (only have access online), so maybe it's only worth $0.01.
Round 1 - Dimir 

As I was expecting, Dimir is probably one of the worst matchup for Orzhov (together with mirror match)

Game 1
I could see quite early that he was pretty much discovering the set on that day, which took a lot of preasure off my shoulders from the beginning. I quickly pull out the Armored Transport and started to smash him for 3-4 per turn with the help of extort. 
He stumbled into an horrible curve, playing Metropolis Sprite on turn 2, then on turn 4 Keymaster Rogue to return the Sprite, Leyline Phantom on turn 6... which he used to block my Armored Transport, while I had Smite his Metropolis Sprite and Grisly Spectacle his Keymaster Rogue after he had put Hands of Binding on it... 
I was at 27 lives when he died. 

Game 2 
This game was the complete opposite of Game 1, since he managed to take over the board position fairly quickly with a turn 4 Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, Turn 5 Consuming Aberration that was already 9/9. Of course, I did not draw any removal on that game. I thought I had seen it all, but that game only got worst from then on...

I had no removal, but I had my flyer team on the board Balustrade Spy and Basilica Screecher plus Basilica Guards and Thrull Parasite on the ground.
Lavaz was still Lazav (3/3). I could play my Treasury Thrull before things got fairly more complicated...

He quickly dropped Agoraphobia on my Treasury Thrull, to lock the ground, Mindeye Drake to lock the air... and finally Stolen Identity on his Consuming Aberration, copying my Treasury Thrull.

He pretty quickly transformed his Lazav, Dimir Mastermind into my Ogre Slumlord, while attacking with his Giant Consuming Aberration. I had to chump block each turn, giving him a deathtouch rat...


This is the kind of game where you think you are dead, and unless a large number of misunderstandings, there is no way you get out of this as winner.

After a few rounds, I had chump blocked with *almost* everything I could.
He had 3 rats, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind as Ogre Slumlord, a 22/22 Consuming AberrationMindeye Drake and a copy of Treasury Thrull which he was using to extort me... 

I had Basilica Screecher. period.
I had 8 cards left in my deck (I sided-in 5 cards between both games not to get milled...)

HOWEVER... I was at 17, and he was at 3 lifes.
The early flying aggresion, combined with the mutliple extort had brought him down to his knees. I looked at my graveyard and saw 3 out of 4 mountains. I had Madcap skills in my hand for 6-7 turns. I just needed that single mountain...
I drew it.
I won.
End of the story.

He couldn't believe it, so did the 6 other players looking at the game (we were getting close to time), who where both staring and nervously laughing. I came back from nowhere, really nowhere.

I cannot forget to say that I got extremely lucky because he didn't know the cards well, and got too scared to attack properly. He should have won the game 6-7 turns earlier if he had attack just with what he had on the board. Also the dices to replace the Treasury Thrull and the rats didn't help him see it clear. If I had play against him 2-3 match later, I would never have won that game2.  


Round 1: 2-0, Next! Tongue Out
Round 2 - Simic

I had a good feeling about playing Simic, since the large amount of removal in my deck was perfect to destroy the "evolve" curve on its way.

Game 1
I had a slow start, while my opponent started quite well pulling out a cloudfin Raptor, followed by a Gyre Sage and a Shambleshark and finally a  Fathom Mage. In the meantime, I painfully pulled out a Basilica Guards at the same time. He gave me some early damage, taking me down to ~14.

That was a far has he went. A Smite, a Grisly Spectacle, and an Arrows of Justice later left his board with a 2/2 Fathom Mage that he eventually had to use to chumpblock. I won a few turns later.        

Game 2
It was almost no game there. I had a quick start with the Thrull Parasite, Basilica Screecher and a turn 4 Alms Beast, while he was facing mana issues. He scooped after the 1st hit of the Beast.    

I never felt in a bad position on that match and was on my way to Rnd 3 pretty confident.

Round 2: 2-0 (4-0), Next!
Round 3 - Boros #1

Boros was the guild I was the most worried about, since a 2-0 Boros could mean a good deck. And for practicing a little with Boros beforehand, I knew it could go terribly wrong.

Game 1
We both developped our board in a "slow" mode. I got a few early hits with Bomber Corps and a Warmind Infantry.
On my side, I played a Basilica Guards, a Armoured Transport and Orzhov Keyrune. He played the Battalion enabler, and I used smite with extort on his Warmind Infantry, which he replaced by a new one on Turn 4. On Turn 5, he attacked with his 3 creatures. I was tapped out (for Treasury Thrull), and decided not to block. I was at 17 at that time and would take 7 damage, which I had a fair chance to recover later on with Extort.
I just didn't count on a Wrecking Ogre on his Warmind Infantry to go for lethal. Ouch! That was a silly misplay from me...     
            
Game 2
He pulled out a Blind Obedience on Turn 2, followed by 2x Warmind Infantry. I was a lot more cautious on this 2nd game, and always ket a White mana open to pretend a Smite whether or not I had one in hand. That worked well enough as he didn't attack me. He played a Skyknight Legionnaire, followed by a Foundry Champion to burn my Treasury thrull.
After that, I had plenty of mana, and no answers... My Knight of Obligation couldn't resist very long the attacks, and I lost after drawing a couple extra lands. 

He had a very consistent Boros deck, and there was very little I could do to beat it. He had all the good battalion cards, the guildmage, 2x Skyknight Legionnaire suported by bombs like:
Blind Obedience
Foundry Champion x2
Wrecking Ogre
Spark Trooper
Boros Reckoner

Round 3: 0-2 (4-2), Next!  
While the Avenger is a bomb, I am not sure it is worth warping your mana for it. On top of which, I am guessing the Armored Transport was an include as a nod towards enabling Firemane Avenger (otherwise, a 2/1 attacker that doesn't die on the attack seems to be a bit awkward in a Extorting/Evasion Orzhov deck).



Madcap skills won me 2 games on its own. Armored Transport gave at leat 4-6 damage each time I played it. I played the Avenger because I had many flyers + the transport to support it. At worst, it's a 3/3 flyer.   

If you took out Firemane Avenger, Madcap Skills and Armored Transport, you could take out the Mountains, and then play:
+2 Swamps +2 Plains
+Ogre Slumlord
+Daring Skyjek (gets in early for 3-6 points if lucky, trades reasonably as a 3/1, and if drawn late, cheap to trigger extort)
+1 more other card (I like Aristocrat, but it is much better when it has pants to wear, so maybe Informer with Rats as alternate win-con, or you can add in a combat trick here if you have a black/white trick).

The 2nd copy of the Ogre would make the deck even slower for no great effect.
The Daring cannot attack alone, and attacking with 3+ creatures was not the plan A of the deck.
+ 1 more... you start to fill with whatever to get to 23... better keep the better cards in. Wink
Round 4 - Boros #2

In this round, I played the complete other side of Boros compared with the Boros player I faced the round before.

Game 1
He started with the traditional Boros development Turn 1 Boros Elite, Turn 2 Wojek Halberdiers, Turn 3 Skyknight Legionnaire then attack. I smite the Wojek Halberdiers and took the rest. He replaced it with another Wojek Halberdiers the turn after that, which got smite again. He didn't pull anymore creatures for the next few turn but pilled up the mana, and with the help of extorters and other removals, I managed to turn around the board completely. I get back around 20 while he was somewhere around 3 lifes. I had Balustrade Spy, Basilica Guards and Basilica Screecher on the board and would swing for lethal next turn.

Then he played in one turn Foundry Champion + Gift of Orzhova + Madcap Skills.  Surprised     8/5 Flying, Boostable, Lifelink, that needed to be double blocked... Obvisouly, plan A was no longer valid, and I needed an exit, and quick!

I didn't draw any answer and took 13 damage on the next turn 20/3 >>> 7/16 ... Ouch!
Next turn, I drew a semi-answer in Arrows of Justice and waited for him to attack. He did a terrible missplay by tapping almost all his mana (leaving 1 red open) to play something I don't recall, before attacking...

I could double blocked with Balustrade Spy and Basilica Guards, adding the Arrows of Justice in the battle to see his Champion fall, just like his face. In the meantime, he was back at 25 Life...  I can't remember what he had on the board, but I remember he was in top-deck mode, and I managed to slowly get back control of the board again, draining his life slowly down again.

Then he top-decked Angelic Skirmisher, which only Grisly SpectacleExecutioner's Swing and Angelic Edict in my deck could answer. I didn't draw them. I lost in a few turns...      

Game 2 
He did not draw any of his bombs, and lost to me beating him with flyers, extort and Alms Beast. He used Act of Treason twice on my Beast to give me 12 damage, though.

Game 3
I was confident as I could see he was making several play mistakes in the first 2 games, and I believed I had a fair chance to win Game 3. He decided to play and mulligan to 6. It started to smell good.

I kept a 2-land hand with a 1-drop and a 2-drop, and dince I was on the draw, I hopped I would draw my further lands without too much trouble. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I had a very weak board with a Thrull Parasite and a Basilica Screecher. I can't remember everything on that game, except that it ended-up on a stall board and he was in top-deck mode, again. On my side, I was stuck with the whole high-end of my mana curve in hands  Ogre Slumlord, Angelic Edict and Treasury Thrull and 4 lands on the board.

He top-decked into Ordruun Veteran, to which he attached a Madcap skills and managed to trigger the battalion on it...

I drew Alms Beast, which allowed me to double block his Ordruun Veteran doing 2-for-2. I had to trade with the rest of his creatures so that he ended-up with a single Court Street Denizen facing my empty board. I did not draw a land.   
He then topdecked into his Angelic Skirmisher, attacking for 2 with his Denizen. I was at 4 life.
I finally got my 5th land, and Angelic Edict his Angel.
He drew land and attack for 2. I was on 2.
I played Ogre Slumlord.
He top-decked a white creature, tapped my Ogre and went for lethal.


Gosh, that loss was painful. Not only I was worried to lose vs. an average player (he ended up with 4v.-3l.) in top-deck mode, supported by a great Boros deck (he also had Aurelia, the Warleader), but I could also see Top8 getting further and further away... Frown


Round 4: 1-2 (5-4), Next! 
Round 5: Simic #2

After playing 2 Boros, I was happy to get back to Simic, since for some reason, I wasn't afraid of Simic at all for that pre-release sealed. 

Game 1 and 2
Both games were pretty similar, as I could pull out my cheap extort creatures early on Thrull Parasite, Basilica Screecher, Basilica Guards and Smite anything that wanted to go through. He didn't play much, but I had the feeling he didn't know himself how he could get to win against an Orzhov deck.

I killed him rather quickly on both games (one of them finishing over 25 lifes), and I could just see his incredulous face when playing a perfect curve and extort at the same time with the support of Crypt Ghast. This card is a bomb in Orzhov!

What I remember from that game was a masterpiece: "I play Alms Beast, extort for four" and another player next to us earing it and repeating "Extort for four... Gosh... Poor Guy!

The chance made that this player was to be my next opponent.  
 
Round 5: 2-0 (7-4), On the road again... Cool Next!   
Round 6: Gruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuul!

I was interested to see what kind of match-up I would have against Gruul, and the chance put one on my road. It was epic!

Game 1 
I honestly can't remember how Game 1 went but I won that game without much trouble. I think he had a hard time getting green manas and got stuck for a too long time to be able to recover.
 
Game 2   
He didn't start super aggressively, but got the Rubblebelt Raiders out pretty quickly that I manage to Smite. He still manage to deal me some damage, and forced me to chump block a bit. I finally put the Air Force One and his cousin on the board, milling 13+ cards with the 2. 
That's how I got an idea of what he was playing... I milled 2 Scorchwalker, 2 Slaughterhorn, a Ghor-Clan Rampager, a Rubblehulk and 2 Zhur-Taa Swine. Just that!  

On the board, he had Bomber Corps, Firefist Striker and 1 card in hand. Sadly for me, it was Wildwood Rebirth, and he got his Rubblehulk back. He played it next round, and went all in on the following turn.

He had his 3 creatures, and I had the 2 Spy and a Basilica Screecher. I chumpblocked his 8/8 Rubblehulk with a Spy and decided not to block the other 2. He had 1 card in hand, I had no removal in hand but the possibility to go lethal the next turn if he didn't kill me with this 1 card. I was at 7 and he has at 4. I got the 3 damage ---> 4. He played Boros Charm.   
      

Game 3  
Game 3 was decisive in the sense that the one who would lose would definitely go out of the prize pool. 
It went incredibly fast. I'll detail the play to highlight it.   
He is on the play.
Turn 1
Him - Mountain
Me - Swamp

Turn 2
 
Him - Forest - Bomber Corps 
Me - Plain - Vizkopa Guildmage

Turn 3
 
Him - Mountain - attack for 1 (didn't feel like blowing my guildmage)- Firefist Striker
Me(19) - Moutain - Madcap Skills - Attack for 5 
 
Turn 4
 
Him(15) - Mountain - Attack for 3
Me(16) - Swamp - Attack for 5 Orzhov Keyrune

Turn 5
 
Him(10) - Mountain - Attack for 3 + Bloodrush Scorchwalker and Slaughterhorn - 11 damage, ouch!
Me(5) - Plain - Attack for 5 - Use both capacities of Vizkopa Guildmage - Game over.  
 
He stared at the board and his hand for a little bit... he had 2 more Bloodrush creatures and a Boros Charm in his hand. He was speechless. I was happy to get out of that trap!    
   
This was - by far - the Best Gruul deck I've seen in the whole prerelease. I believe he got lucky enough to get more than 12 Bloodrush creatures. Something a few players in this forum would envy by quite a bit. Tongue Out

Round 6: 2-1 (9-5), Next!
(Final) Round 7: Simic #3 

My opponent and I both being at 4-2, I believe that Simic deck was pretty solid...

Game 1
I had a very slow start while he curved out very nicely. Turn 1 Cloudfin Raptor, Turn 2 Experiment One, Turn 3 Frilled Oculus, Turn 4 Slaughterhorn, Turn 5 Drakewing Krasis Turn 6 Crowned Ceratok.
In the meantime, I played a Turn 2Vizkopa Guildmage, Turn 4Balustrade Spy, Turn 5Firemane AvengerSmite on his 4/5 Cloudfin Raptor. That the only 4 cards I got. The rest was 9 lands.
I went for a strike to launch Batalion with my Firemane Avenger on his Crowned Ceratok, and lifelink it to go back to 10. He attacked me for exactly 10 the turn later.     
When I commented that he got a pretty great curve, he replied that it was "average"... I believe it got heard.
It was a hundred miles away of all the Simic decks I had seen on that day. I reckon that guy is a good player and knows how to build a solid deck. 

Game 2
This time, the Simic miracle didn't happen. He got a Turn 1 Experiment One, a Turn 3 Elusive Krasis and that's about it... He got a few tempo spells like Totally Lost and Gridlock but nothing to really be threatning. He lost pretty quickly.

The prize packs and potentially the Top8 were 1 game away...
  
Game 3
He decided to play and we both mulliganed. I ended up with a hand with 2 plains, Orzhov keyrune, basilica screecherbasilica Guards and Smite. Potentially i couldn't play anything. However, any land would unlock my hand. I decided to keep it.
He had a very slow start and played a Turn 3 Slaughterhorn.
Of course, I missed my 3rd land. However, I was pilling up the threats and extort cards. The 4th card that I drew was a land. I was at 17 and decided to play the Orzhov keyrune

He already had hit me for 6 with his Slaughterhorn when I could stop it with basilica Guards. It got Totally Lost and the hammer continued...
By the time I manage to stabilize the board, I was down to 8 and he was still at 20. From then on, I slowly extort him with both Basilica dudes and the Parasite while he was not drawing any proper answer. He even had to use a Pit Fight with his 1/5 Elusive Krasis on my Thrull Parasite... that's how desperate he was mid-game. It didn't last much longer as he was drawing lands after lands... while I was attacking through the air and extorting him to death. He left really - really - mad... and for being often on the screw/flood side, I could easily understand his reaction.

Round 7: 2-1
   
Final result: 5-2 (11-6)
Epilogue and Final Thoughts...
Due to bad tie-breakers, I ended up #10 out of 62 players, got 3 boosters prize, and was overall really happy about it. Smile

The 1st Boros I lost to, went into TOP8 with the same result (5-2), while the 2nd Boros didn't make the TOP16 (limit of the prize pool), mainly due to lack of skills while his deck had all the ingredients to finish TOP8.

In the player pool, we had (can't remember the exact numbers):
- 20 Boros (~32%)
- 17 Simic (~27%)
~ 12 Gruul (~19%)
~ 8 Orzhov (~13%)
~ 5 Dimir (~8%)

I can't remember exactly who ended in the TOP8, but I know there was at least 4 Boros, a Simic and an Orzhov. I don't think any Gruul nor Dimir went into TOP8.
Most of them opened crazy pools. The Swiss winner opened both Aurelia and Aurelia's Fury.

The Simic was ridiculous. That player almost got a contruscted deck in his pool. Among others, he got:
Fathom Mage x2
Master Biomancer
Prime Speaker Zegana Foil, of course.
Zameck Guildmage x2 
Elusive Krasis x2
Drakewing Krasisx2
Spire Tracerx3
Madcap Skillsx2
Ghor-Clan Rampagerx2
Gridlock  
...

This guy is the archetype of the player you want to take them down a peg. Not only he's extremely lucky anytime he opens a single pack (I remember him opening Vraska the unseen - Foil, of course - at the RTR Prerelease) but he keeps on braging about how good he is, and how everybody else does play mistakes... Luckily, I played really few times against him, and I remember beating him once (without mana screw/flood) in a RTR draft. He couldn't understand what happened.
I'm pretty sure there are a few guys like that at every single Magic store.

Back to the topic, Madcap skills was the MVP of many prerelease decks. I advised a few players in Dimir and Simic/black to MD Bane Alley Broker as he turned to be a lot better than people originally thought.
The Prerelease was mainly ruled by Boros (they were also so many...) and the few Orzhov decks.


I had a lot of fun playing the GTC Prerelease, and I'm looking forward to the next one in April. Smile