Good morning evening, everyone-

It’s currently Sunday night, and you’re getting your normal Monday material a little early for a few reasons:

1) Work day from hell expected tomorrow, combined with
2) The fact that my wife left for a business trip, leaving me to the experience of taking care of a 7-month old (with an ear infection and a massive desire to see his mom) for the next few days, as well as
3) He’s asleep now and the Pro Bowl is on there’s nothing to watch on TV…

Right!  Moving on.

.   .   .   .   .

I’m becoming a big believer in the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  I say this because everything that I’ve called in here over the past week or so basically happened yesterday.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I started the day by picking up Chad and heading to Off The Wall games in Hadley, MA.  We arrived at about noon for the 1PM event.  There were already roughly twenty-five people already there at that point. We bought in, and sat watching as the crowd grew and grew.  Mr. P arrived at about 12:45, and the head count was over forty and climbing; by 1PM, there were forty-eight people, and more were trying to sign up. 

We grabbed our product and moved on.

We arrived at Worlds Apart in Amherst by about 1:15. A much smaller group had gathered there, so we bought in, and waited. 

I was able to get in a game of EDH with Chad using my newly-minted Angus Mackenzie “Nothing is on the list that isn’t a permanent” deck.  (Man, I can’t wait for someone to resolve Warp World against this thing…)  In the long run, his Karona And Her Allies deck took the game down, but I’m quite happy to say that Angus played out in a positive way.  The deck feels stronger than average, even on the back of the design restriction of no instants or sorceries.  It comes out of the gate quickly, playing a ton of small utility creatures that build to a strong board state on the back of Cloudstone Curio, and card advantage ensues from there.  I’ve still got bugs to work out, but at one point I had Man O’ War, Aluren, and Gilded Drake active, and it felt like the deck still had plenty of gas left in the tank.  I’ll test-drive it as soon as I can and report back.

We’re getting off topic here.

We ended with 25 players, prizes based on record and not standing.  There was a chance of five rounds, so two losses would put you out of prizes.  Sealed pools were handed out, and things went about as I feared they would:

-I opened Rooftop Storm.  And four total zombies, two of which were Diregraf Ghoul.
-I opened Witchbane Orb.  At this point, I’m wondering if it is in fact possible that I lost a bet with God at some point when i wasn’t paying attention.
-I opened Runechanter’s Pike.  Hey, at least it’ worth a few bucks these days, right?  (Looks…)  Oh.  Nevermind.

Getting to the Dark Ascension stuff:

-My first pull is Lost In The Woods.  How is this card any good in any format?  Not that it matters; I have exactly five green playables in the pool.
Markov Blademaster.  Okay…better late then never.
Grim Backwoods.  At least I have one card from the list of things I want for my EDH decks.  We’ll chalk this up as a win-ish.

Looking at the whole pool, the green is nearly absent, and the white is disjointed and awful.  I’ve got a bulk of cards in red and blue, but there’s not much with any real horsepower; I have a handful of flying spirits to go with a Battleground Geist, a Skaab Goliath, and a Delver Of Secrets.  I have a few mediocre red DFCs (I think the highlight there is Village Ironsmith) an a few vampires to go with my Blademaster.  I end up splashing Black for three Tragic Slip and two Undying Evil, but have literally four black creatures and can’t commit to the color. 

To recap: I’m playing a pile of cards with no cohesion, one pseudo-finisher, and a splash to find decent removal.  The smart money here is 0-2 drop as predicted.

Round one, I’m paired against white-blue creatures.  I noted next-to-no removal in his deck, which was all about over-committing to the board and hoping to win quickly.  It did not do this too terribly well in the first game, which I managed to steal through a game of attrition and all three Tragic Slip.  It did however do this admirably in games two and three, and we were done in near-record time. 

Deflated, I watched some of the one game that went to time in the room – a matchup between an amazingly-strong red/green werewolves deck and a three-color board control deck that seemed to have the perfect answers at the perfect times (or at least dudes that could clog up the board and run out the clock.)

Round two, I was paired up against (wait for it…wait for it…) the amazingly-strong red/green werewolves deck.  Shocking, I know.  With that karma showing, I was half-expecting to get out to the parking lot later and find my car towed, or maybe I’d just get mugged and/or stabbed.  Who knows.

Anyway, Werewolf Guy came out of the gates a bit too strong game one, and I was able to run him to topdeck mode while still hanging on to a larger board position than he had.  Things were looking good; Undying Evil was every bit the swingy blowout that I expected it to be, and Tragic Slip meant that I was able to make profitable trades left and right.  Which was good, because Werewolf Guy had a stack of about nine playable DFC werewolves.  Why can’t I ever get that pool?

Game two saw me keep a two-Mountain hand on the strength of a pair of red two-drops, figuring that I’d see an island and get at the rest of my hand sometime before turn three.  Karma once again stepped up and kicked me in the junk; I saw a Swamp on turn six.  This was made all the more painful when my opponent also missed his third land drop for about three turns, but he recovered faster than I did.  Protip: when you can’t play anything in your hand, DFCs are a beating against you.

So…game three.  This was one for the ages.  We traded back and forth for a dozen turns, and ended up both at five life in top-deck mode.  I had a Tower Geist and a Lantern Spirit to his Moonscarred Werewolf.  He (of course) ripped Clinging Mists, so I swung in expecting to take him to one and instead ended with a Yosei‘d board.  I bounced and replayed the Lantern Spirit.

He untapped, drew, and swung with his werewolf.  I blocked down and traded with him, and he followed with the Lambholt Elder he drew.  I untapped, drew Island, and passed.

He flipped his Elder and swung; I went to one, thinking I would buy a turn to rip a blocker and be able to get in for two damage, or else at least have my Geist to block. 

Of course, the card he drew this turn and played on his second main phase was Feed The Pack.  I’m now staring down fve 2/2 wolves. 

Of course, I draw Mountain.

.   .   .   .   .
I was fearful that I wouldn’t like the Innistrad sealed format, and I didn’t.  It reminds me too much of Kamigawa block, where there’s a feeling of some cohesive strategy that involves low-level cards but is probably boring as all hell, or else a matter of who opens the bomb.  I feel there’s also a mis-balance of token generators and appropriate board sweepers.  (By ‘appropriate’, I mean “Sweepers that don’t only hit a specific tribe, while leaving you open to be bent over by all of the rest of them with no recourse.”)  I’m very glad the third set in this block is a standalone one. 
Getting back to the self-fulfilling prophecy thing, I was right on all counts with my predictions and complaints going into the Prerelease: 
-I was angry that Wizards took my extra sealed flights and drafts away, fearing that I’d end up with a bad pool and thus an early exit to the day and almost no product to show for it.  This happened pretty much as I expected. 
-I was home by 6PM.  By 7PM, I was on my couch watching a Mad Max marathon.  Close enough for govermnent work on that one, as they say.
Oh, and remember the Helvault thing from my early take on Dark Ascension?  Take a wild goddamn guess as to what I pulled from my first pack of the sealed pool from Off The Wall…
—>DJ