Pattern Recognition #108 - War of the Spark Prerelease

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


9 May 2019


Hello everyone, and welcome back to Pattern Recognition, TappedOut.Net's longest running article series. Written by myself, berryjon, I aim to bring to my reading audience each week a different look into some aspect of Magic: The Gathering - be it an individual card, a mechanic, a theme, or even just general history. I am something of an Old Fogey and Smart Ass , so please take what I say with a grain of salt. I enjoy a good discussion on the relevant subject matter!

So, this week I will go over my only War of the Spark Pre-Release tournament. Sad to say, as I am moving next week, and thus had to refrain from making extravagant purchases. I'm still getting my box though, don't worry! It's just going to be in a couple weeks after my next payday.

Now, going into this tournament, I didn't really have a plan. Yeah, I had read the spoilers, and I while I really wanted to try an Amass deck, I knew that in the end, I would have to work with what cards I had and not the cards that I wanted.

Also, I was massively disappointed that it was Mass of Ghouls printed in Future Sight, and not (a) Mass of Zombies. I really wanted to bring that full-art creature for use in place of the Zombie Army token. But, eh, what can you do about that?

So, Amass, the mechanic, is found only in Grixis colours- , and outside of that, there is no real unifying mechanics in the set. Which, in my opinion, is actually a good thing. You can play pretty much anything without being pigeonholed into specific forms and play styles simply because you chose to play symbol:UG rather than . War of the Spark's strength is that there is no such limitations, thanks to Proliferate being everywhere and Amass being in enough colours that anyone can play them unless you're dedicated to being .

Let's talk Planeswalkers. This is the real draw of the set, and the one I was most interested in seeing in action. Of course, with only one 'Walker per pack, and one Foil 'Walker as the promo, each deck could run, at most, seven of them in a 40 card deck. Which, was previously unprecedented, wasn't something I was too worried about. Walkers have strengths and weaknesses like any other, and it as just a matter of using them to their fullest.

But you're all here to look at what I drew and what I built, right? Well, here's my Sealed card draw!

Now, when I build Sealed like this, I tend to look at a couple of factors. First is any sort of synergy involved with the cards I have, and second, what actually good cards do I have. And in this selection of cards, something very quickly leaped out at me. Despite having strong cards in , including God-Eternal Rhonas , I found that there really wasn't enough depth to that colour to justify dipping into it.

On 's side of things, now don't get me wrong here, it's a very good draw I got here, with plenty of burn and a great selection of creatures, it is only now, in retrospect that I figure I should have gone with that instead of what I wound up doing, But I'm satisfied with my results, so I'm cool.

on the other hand ... yeah. No. There really was nothing here that I could use, nor that I felt like using. Not like one of my Battle for Zendikar releases, where I pulled a deck with absolute drek for and an Ob Nixilis Reignited .

So that leaves me with and . In terms of anchors, gives me Single Combat and God-Eternal Oketra for the value in creatures while provided me with a couple of Amass options, a single counterspell, and a surprisingly solid array of creatures to work with.

No cards to bind the whole thing together though, so there was that. I'd have to play this multi-coloured deck old school. No Dual lands, and only minimal mana rocks to deal with any issues that might arise.

So here I now have 16 , 16 and 6 to work with. Time to start trimming!

With so few, I started with the cards first. I immediately tossed the Prismite and the Firemind Vessel , kept the Guild Globe for the fixing and the card draw, Ugin's Conjurant because I needed something to do with my mana in the late game, and it was always on curve, plus both Saheeli's Sunwings as I knew that I already had a plan, and knowing what my opponents were going to be drawing into was always a good thing.

In , I had a lot of options, one way or the other. And honestly, everything was viable to some degree or another. Obviously, God-Eternal Oketra was in, and then I started to look at the mana curve. With the God-Eternal and Single Combat occupying the spot on the curve, I decided to cut out the Enforcer Griffin despite the excellent synergy it would have with Rally of Wings , which I hoped would be a surprise finisher. Pouncing Lynx got cut as I felt that I had better uses for my -drop than a partial 2/1 First Striker. Ironclad Krovod also got the cut as a 2/5 for 4, while a good blocker, and a great way to survive a lot of the direct damage in the set, just didn't feel like it meshed well with the developing deck.

Lastly, after much consideration, I ducked Gideon's Sacrifice . While the thought of being able to redirect all damage dealt to me to a single sacrificial creature was fun, it was also seems like a 'lose slower' card, and not something that I couldn't depend on to turn a game around.

Of note, I did see a good synergy in my remaining cards. Charmed Stray into Ajani's Pridemate is a solid opening, one that's pretty good, even in Standard. However, I discovered that Grateful Apparition made this even better as well as helping to blindside my opponents just a little. You see, on the turn you cast the Pridemate, swing with the Stray and the Apparition. Stack the damage triggers such that the Lifelink goes off first, then the Pridemate will have a +1/+1 counter just in time for the Proliferate to go off, doubling your gain in one quick swoop!

was a lot harder to trim down. First out was Totally Lost , the bounce-card, while hilarious in context for the Vorthos in me, occupied the same spot on the curve as cards I really wanted, so that one-of went away. Second, I trimmed both of my Relentless Advance s, the -drop was only there for the Amass, and while Amass 4 was neat, it was just not that good with the lack of support for Zombie Armies that my cards provided.

Thunder Drake got the cut. I wasn't looking to be casing multiple spells a turn with this deck, and honestly, I think it'll work better in a Jori En, Ruin Diver Commander deck than in my Sealed Deck. It was quickly followed by Narset, Parter of Veils . I don't see much extra card drawing in this set, and her ability to search the top of my library wasn't synergistic with my creature-heavy strategy.

Ashiok's Skulker , while an excellent card, was one I should have kept in, but didn't. A 3/5 contingently unblockable creature isn't anything to sneeze at, and would act a hard count on my opponents life total.

After that, I removed both Spellkeeper Weird s. Because I wasn't going deep in the Instants and Sorceries, the ability to recur them just didn't justify the expense of casting then losing the creature. I didn't feel like I needed anything back.

Then, after some card counting, I dropped the second Saheeli's Skywing, and added in 10 Plains and 7 Island s for my mana.

Round 1 was against a Golgari deck, and I wasn't able to gain any traction. Game 1 was pretty tight for the most part, but I lost on attrition. Game 2 went even worse, as I cast God-Eternal Oketra on curve, then proceeded to run into every last piece of removal in the set. Bleeding Edge , Deathsprout , Spark Harvest , Kraul Stinger , TWO Leyline Prowler , Liliana's Triumph , Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted , Ob Nixilis's Cruelty , Vraska, Swarm's Eminence and Vraska's Finisher . I never kept the God-Eternal on the board, but my opponent was slowed down as well needing to keep responses in hand for the inevitable re-casting of Oketra.

That man went on to get into second place in the tournament, so I'm not that put out by it. It was a solid deck that was well played.

Round Two was against a Rakdos deck that just kept running into problem after problem. He mulliganed down to 5 on the first game, then sat on two Swamp s with what turned out to be a hand full of cards. He scooped after I checked the top of his library with a turn 4 Saheeli's Silverwing and revealed a Burning Prophet as his next card draw. I didn't blame him one bit.

Game two, he did a lot better, but her ran into my magic synergy that I mentioned earlier in the thread. Sure, all I was drawing was Plains , but when my hand consisted of both Charmed Stray s, Ajani's Pridemate , then drawing into the Grateful Apparation? At that point, he countered with Tibalt, Rakish Instigator , and enough removal to prevent me from gaining more life. However, it was God-Eternal Oketra to save the day! And not because of her primary ability. No, it was something better.

I was at dangerously low life levels, and my opponent had more. So I cast Bond of Discipline and my opponent shrugged. I couldn't get through his life total, nor could I survive his back swing. So I swung, but not with everything. I kept Ajani's Pridemate , and one of the God-Eternal's Zombies back, and attacked a 3 Loyalty Tibalt, Rakish Instigator with God-Eternal Oketra then a Naga Eterna and a Sky Theater Strix at him. He couldn't block, naturally.

The God-Eternal did 3 First Strike damage to Tibalt, killing him in that combat step. He went away, and so did his static ability. The Naga and Strix then connected in the regular combat damage step, dropping him by five, gaining me 5, and 2 more +1/+1 counters on the Pridemate, putting him larger than any response he could muster.

Seeing I was now in the advantage, he scooped, but we agreed that it was an awesome finish. He was more concerned with Oketra's Zombie-making, and forgot that she had Double Strike as well, which allowed me to sneak in enough life gain to survive and win. Woo!

Round 3 saw me going up against a Selesnya deck. Game 1 saw me see Ashiok, Dream Render in my opening hand, so I figured, why not? I held back until I had some protection for him, and that protection came from Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor and her Wizard tokens. I put down two tokens to bolster my defenses, then dropped Ashiok.

Ashiok hit all five times. Yes, twenty cards went into exile, including his game enders like Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord (which he had rocks for) and Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi

There was no way to recover from that, and because it was still game 1, we drew out and he lost when he couldn't draw anything after a couple more turns.

Game Two was a hell of a lot more tight. Huatli's Raptor , while not Watchwolf , was a very good drop for him as it was toughter than anything I could put out initially, and Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves synergized really well with Arlinn, Voice of the Pack . Ashiok landed, and in a stroke of colossal luck, took out Sorin again. But in the end, it was a slow grind over the finish line as I was able to slip over with my flyers, a Law-Rune Enforcer lockdown of his own War Screecher and being able to Crush Dissent on his Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi because he tapped out for it.

It was a victory well earned, that's for sure. Not easy at all.

So, with 8 people, I went 0-2, 2-0, 2-0. This was enough to earn me third place, as I lost in round one against the guy in second. The winner of the tournament was the guy who got an absurdly on-colour precon, drawing Ob Nixilis and TWO Ashioks, including one as his pre-release foil.

Seriously, Ashiok is murder in this format, and even in constructed can be a good addition to any mill deck.

With my six prize packs, I got for my rares, Casualties of War , Karn's Bastion , Fblthp, the Lost (hah!), Living Twister , a SECOND God-Eternal Oketra (fuck yes!) and finally Jace, Wielder of Mysteries .

Fck Jace.

So, you've seen my cards. What do you think I should have run with? For the record, here is my deck:

Pattern Recognition #108 - Sealed Deck

Pre-release berryjon


Think you can do better? Comment below, or on the deck itself!

Join me next week when I come back to White's Colour Pie, and keep building toward my magnum opus!

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #107 - Lifegain The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #109 - White Filling

vortical42 says... #1

While you are right that there were not a ton of bombs in green, I think you dismissed that color a bit too easily. G/W proliferate is a really good archetype in this set and you had enough good tools in green to make it worth a try.

something like this would be my build:

The lack of 3 drops may be a problem, but there really are not a ton of options there. The best quality 3 drop in the pool is Aven Eternal, and the fixing isn't there to make blue more than a light splash.

May 8, 2019 5:15 p.m.

Boza says... #2

Personally, I think that Abzan is the best option, splashing a single blue for just Bioessence Hydra with the ability to side into black instead of white.

1x God-Eternal Oketra
1x God-Eternal Rhonas
1x Enforcer Griffin
1x Bioessence Hydra
2x Bloom Hulk
2x Law-Rune Enforcer
1x Ugin's Conjurant
1x Vraska's Finisher
1x Centaur Nurturer
1x Massacre Girl
1x Mowu, Loyal Companion
1x Pollenbright Druid
1x Ob Nixilis's Cruelty
1x Pledge of Unity
1x Firemind Vessel
1x Guild Globe
1x Bond of Discipline
1x The Elderspell
1x Single Combat
1x Spark Harvest
1x Arlinn, Voice of the Pack
1x Vraska, Swarm's Eminence

I think this is 24 cards, but guild globe is a freebie, so playing 17 lands and 41 cards total is OK. It uses your rares the best and has a good creature to non-creature ratio.

May 10, 2019 7:26 a.m.

berryjon says... #3

War doesn't have a lot of mana fixing in general, and no dual lands to support things. Depending on the Guild Globe for anything is kinda a crapshoot.

May 10, 2019 6:52 p.m.

cdkime says... #4

I went into the WAR prerelease thinking that it was going to be a particularly bad sealed set. I was not thrilled with Amass as a mechanic - it felt a lot like you’re putting your eggs all in one basket. I figured the lack of colour fixing and dual lands would make deck building a bit of a pain. I assumed the over-abundance planeswalkers (a card type I already don’t like) would also negatively effect the sealed pool.

Unfortunately, I found my assumptions proved right. My pool had a general lack of real creatures, and Amass just did not pick up the slack - it was too vulnerable to all sorts of removal, including dying to bounce, so my investments never really paid off.

I did pull a Lili and a Bontu, and got Bolas as my promo, so that was kind of neat.

Overall, I’m hoping we will not see a planeswalker set for a while, and am looking forward to a return to more usual sets.

May 10, 2019 7:40 p.m.

Boza says... #5

I would say that you are underestimating the set in Sealed - I won my prerelease with 9 creature sultai control deck. The planeswalkers really pulled through and created a solid wall nontheless and you need a single powerful creature to win sometimes.

additionally, berryjon, you are not relying solely on Guild Globe as fixing, as Firemind Vessel and Centaur Nurturer help out too.

May 13, 2019 3:34 a.m.

Shwang says... #6

Your build was good, and I can understand why you'd go azorius. The flying/control was good in your sealed set.

But it looks like you had very good green too. I might have gone selesnya, with cards like: God-Eternal Rhonas , Mowu, Loyal Companion , Pollenbright Druid , Thundering Ceratok , 2x Bloom Hulk !!, Pledge of Unity , Forced Landing (in main deck has been deadly for me), and 3 planeswalkers that could provide some amazing assistance.

And you could splash blue, as Boza mentioned for the hydra.

Now that deck would have some serious firepower. They try playing that silly Ashiok and you overrun and overpower them right away.

But like I said, your deck was good with the pool you had. Tough to decide between firepower and little flying guys. But you had some good firepower.

May 14, 2019 10:01 a.m.

DwaginFodder says... #7

With this pool, I totally would've slammed Simic. It seems like those are the best colors in this set. Here's my build with this:

Pattern Recognition #108 - Sealed Deck Choice

We're splashing both white and black because these bombs are sweeeeeet.

May 15, 2019 2:10 p.m.

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