Hello and welcome! One thing we've done here before is live coverage of our pre-releases. While not possible this time around I did manage to take some notes while I was there, so I can bring some posthumous coverage - here goes!
We managed to get a whopping 50 players at the event for Innistrad Sealed deck and managed an 8-man draft along the way. Some familiar faces came back, along with many new ones, and even some very old ones. We managed to begin our coverage with a feature match in round 2:
Round 2: Steve Parker vs Andy Pemberton
For game 1, both players decided to send back their opening hands and after a pair of lands apiece, Silverchase Fox on the draw began the board development by Steve. Crossway Vampire from Andy presented a potential blocker, but Steve fearlessly sends his pet, and backs it up with a Voiceless Spirit. Attempting to break the tempo of the attacks, Andy makes and equips a Blazing Torch, but once more Steve doesn't care for it and attacks to take Andy to 14.
A Galvanic Juggernaut for Steve presents Andy with quite a conundrum. Andy passes without a play once more, and Steve attacks before reinforcing his army with an Abbey Griffin. Andy attempts a comeback with a 3/3 flier for 5 mana, but a Fiend Hunter takes it out of the game and Steve is able to press even more damage through. Andy is unable to bring enough defences out to stay alive, and concedes the game - Steve 1, Andy 0.
Both players topped off at 5 lands of two types in game 1 - were their decks hiding any bombs? Steve's turn 1 Traveller's Amulet for a Forest in his previously- White/Red deck would indicate that something should come along soon. Andy makes the first creature with a Kessig Wolf, a 3/1 for 3 mana which can gain first strike - quite a difficult card to play against perhaps. Steve looks visibly annoyed at himself as he untaps, but makes a Voiceless Spirit to block. The Spirit is Exorcised, allowing for an attack for 3 damage, and after another attack into Steve's Abbey Griffin, Andy makes the Innistrad answer to Siege Mastodon.
Steve lays a Kessig Wolf Run, answering the question of what the green mana was for, and starts to clog up the ground with a Pitchborn Devils. The 5 mana creatures trade in combat, taking Steve to 11 life. Finally making the card he'd missed out on turn 2, Steve offs the 3/1 Wolf with a Geistflame, flashing it back to kill a Village Ironsmith. Both players make a few more creatures, but the Wolf Run means that Steve is able to push through lethal damage, taking the match.
Steve 2 - 0 Andy
During round 3 I was busy setting a side draft going, but I managed to note a few interesting sights around the pre-release:
- Johannes Ihli curved out with turns 2-5 Werewolves in draft but due to casting spells each turn doesn't transform them for too long - not as aggressive as desired.
- Craig Stevenson makes a turn 2 Mayor of Averbrook in both games of his match, that'll sting in the morning.
- Kenny Hall made a Grimoire of the Dead, discarded 3 creatures to it and took 7 total back onto the battlefield at once.
- Old-school pro Gordon Benson was seen bothering the top tables - does this herald a return to Magic?
Round 5's Feature Match was:
Round 5: Rob Catton vs Steve Tyson
On the play, Steve mulligans once and makes audible concerns about the hand he does keep. He has three different basic lands on turn 3, and makes the first play of the game with a Screeching Bat. Rob matches it with a Thraben Sentry, but it can only dream of attaining the 5/5 size of the Vampire on the flip-side. A Bonds of Faith deals with the Vampiric entity, and the game notably slows down as Rob summons a Skirsdag High Priest, promising to itself summon some 5/5 fliers.
Scourge of Geier Reach attempts to clog up the ground of the battlefield for Steve, and his Rolling Temblor as an attempted Plague Wind is thwarted by Rob's own small burn spell. An Angelic Overseer from Rob is rolled out to try to break the deadlock, but it is forced to Fight the Pacified Vampire. Another attempt to get things rolling is also nullified, and Steve is makin' Morbid Bacon to fill the gap. It finds itself Rebuked on its attack, and Rob is the first to draw more creatures - killing his own Pitchborn Devils with a Harvest Pyre to deal the last few points of damage.
On the draw for game 2, Rob makes the first play with a Rakish Heir. A Tribute to Hunger allows the vampire to get in Steve's hair, but a Bloodgift Demon threatens to single-handedly take over the game. Rob attacks and Steve blocks with his Demon, Rob using two different cards to save his own creature and kill his opponent's, losing out on cards but ensuring he wouldn't quickly lose the game. The Rakish Heir is dealt with, and the players resort to draw-go for a few turns, with a 5/4 trampler staring down a 1/1 deathtouch.
An Angelic Overseer is shot down by a Geistcatcher's Rig, and a first attempt to Geistflame the deathtoucher is thwarted by a Spidery Grasp. It is removed on the flashback, and Steve is forced to use 2 Rolling Temblor to not quickly lose any kind of race. A Gallows Warden is taken down via a Prey Upon, but a final Village Ironsmith is not met with an answer and Rob is able to attack in for lethal damage once and for all.
Rob 2 - 0 Steve
Round 6: Danny Whitaker vs Nathan Edwards
Two Leeds prerelease veterans face off in the finals, but neither one has ever won a feature match here - who will manage to end their streak today? A Deranged Hermit on turn 2 for Nathan on the play signals a ramped start. It only attacks for one on turn 3, but is soon stopped by a Chapel Geist. Milling an Unburial Rites while generating mana for an Angelic Overseer, Nathan threatens a very aggressive start to the game. Not to be outmatched, Danny summons the Angel's Evil Twin. Although Danny was yet to supplement his Angel with a Human, Nathan was unable to attack due to losing a racing position due to the Geist. Danny soon found a Human and a deadlock was reached - who would first be able to deal with their opponent's Humans and then Angel?
For many turns creatures were summoned and dealt with on both side of the battlefield, the action revolving around the two identical Angels in the centre. The mighty Grimgrin, Corpse-Born shows up to break the stalemate, but his Bloodline is Severed to keep the fight fair once more. Danny begins to gain an upper hand in terms of flying dominance, with some less-relevant 4/4 and 3/2 creatures which were building up to a lethal attack team. Nathan cannot find a second Island, presumably for some stockpiled spells, but also for the flashback on a milled Cackling Counterpart.
Danny finally draws enough removal spells for all the Humans, and aims a finishing blow at Nathan's Angel, but the Village Bell-Ringers ring in the town's defences to aid their champion. Taking the game another way, Danny is able to deal with Nathan's other flying creatures, and sends in his team for a large strike. A Murder of Crows finds its end, but 15 damage is inflicted to the defender. Another dies the next turn, and a brief flurry of spells seeks to save Nathan enough damage, to no avail. The players apologised for what looked like a boring match, but this writer saw nothing but a tense show-down the whole way through. Danny 1 - 0 Nathan.
The same, unfortunately, could not be said for the second game of the frame. Nathan's Deranged Assistant makes another turn 2 appearance, but Danny cuts off the Dead Weight. Nathan misses his third land for a ocuple of turns, and Grimgrin returns to take revenge for his quick death in the previous skirmish. Tearing through both armies alike, he inflicts cutting blows on Nathan, and a Stitched Drake called to Grimgrin's side is enough for Nathan who raises the white flag. We have our winner,
Danny 2 - 0 Nathan.
Thanks to all who attended the pre-release and making it yet another great day and tournament. I took notes on which archetypes were represented at the event and will be collating the data soon when I'm not so tired (I've judged 2 prereleases in the last 24 hours :s). See you at an events soon!