Catching the Apocalypse, Live!
Judging the prerelease was pure chuckles. Settling many disputes about flagbearers was my only annoying part of the task, but on the whole it was a lot of fun. Running back and forth, looking over different people's shoulders, watching packs get busted and decks being built, was incredible fun. Looking through decks may not have been great at times, but it sure was neat to see the cards being used as widely as they were.
Talking with a lot of people at the event, both players of professional and amatuer calibre stated that the power of the cards in the set was excellent. As for my personal opinion, I believe the same; there are going to be a lot of cards that will see constructed play, even some of the less spectacular cards. We all know that Pernicious Deed and Spiritmonger are going to find their way into decks quickly, as well as things like Death Grasp and Phyrexian Arena. The new lands go without speaking, of course: they are going to help make the new archetypes viable. But what about Overgrown Estate? Can it make it's way into some kind of control deck, using it's land to feed Phyrexian Arena? Or Goblin Legionnaire, will they fit into a blossoming R/W beatdown archetype? Do the Whirlpool creatures work well enough to push themselves into a deck?
My honest answer is this: not yet. Cards like these aren't going to see play for several months yet, mostly because of the continued availability of Masques Block in Standard. The dominance of Rebels and Fires will most likely continue while the necessary cards are still available, especially Port. The true benefits of this set will not be reaped until we have a new base set, simply because of the power of the present archetypes. This may sound like a redundant series of ideas, but I say it simply to calm some early frustrations that people will feel. People are going to expect instant results out of a new set, or some dramatically new archetype to emerge (please look at Warped Devotion for the latest example of this). They are going to be dissapointed, and unfairly so, for I shall say this right now: Invasion-block has presented us with one of the most challenging, most diverse, and probably most entertaining cardpool in quite some time. But the introduction of Apocalypse is going to be overshadowed by the past, and by a few disruptive, overpowered cards that are defining the present environment. Once we rotate sets again, then things will start to shine a bit more clearly. I ask now for a bit of patience from everyone :-)
If anyone thinks that the difficulty is only to be found in constructed, think again. Draft has become a whole new, chaotic affair, and there are going to be major problems for many players in adjusting to this. The idea of a solid two-color deck is not dead, but it's suddenly only getting two real packs of help; the third is going to offer marginal support to that kind of deck. Diversity is going to become a huge key in how you set up the draft, and making solid choices that will support what you will get out of Apocalypse. The stock on certain cards has gone up dramatically, Nomadic Elf and Harrow being two of the most important cards that I can think of . An important note is that the set is built with mana fixers *everywhere*, and you have to be conscious of this. Easy examples would include things like Slimy Kavu, Kavu Recluse, and Tundra Kavu. Red mana fixers?!? Helionaut is a white mana-fixer, and should find a place in some decks. Reef Shaman gives blue a very quick common to change a land-type to any type that they desire. Lay of the Land is fantastic, and will surely be well placed in most any deck. Every one of these cards helps to smooth out the three-color (or more!) decks that are going to become even more commonplace than they already were.
With the power being redistributed in the last booster pack from now on, decks are going to have to be more open to accomodating those opposing-colored cards and abilities, and little tricks like those listed above are going to be very necessary in order to succeed. Sealed is probably going to be even more difficult; I really don't know how things will look with sealed decks, but the randomness of sealed deck is going to be pressed a bit more here. Building your deck correctly is going to be even more key, since players are going to have to find ways to fit powerful third and fourth color cards into their deck with completely upsetting their manabases. People will probably oftentimes just be stuck with completely dead cards in that pack of Apoc they'll be getting. Since I haven't really experimented with this yet, we'll wait and see, but it's certainly going to twist some tails come PTQ time.
Well, that's all for now. I'm going to try to put together a new deck for you guy's tomorrow night; I'm still looking for more suggestions from you guys out there. This week, I'm hoping to be able to provide some coverage from the U.S. Nationals, assuming I do not manage to grind in on Thursday. If you see me, say hi if you want! Until then, I'm going to be working on decks, and trying to clean up my landfill of an apartment. G'night, folks, my shift's over.