Happy Monday, everyone.  I was able to get out for a Planechase 2012 release event this past weekend, and I figured that I’d break from the mold a bit and talk about my experiences and reaction to the event.  This is going to be the start of an unofficial “Planechase Week” here at GDC, as my partner-in-crime Mr. P will be chiming in Thursday with a look at Planechase as it applies to EDH.  
Stay tuned – those of you who’ve read his blog entries know what you’re in for.  It’ll be a good time.
The “Dear Azami” article is up on StarCity for the day.  Instead of a ‘Deck Doctor’ piece, I took a break from the norm to paint a bit of a picture of my progression through the format from my first exposure to current day.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please hop over to check it out!
For now, though, my thoughts on the Planechase 2012 format as it arrives fresh out of the box.  Without further ado, I give you…
*THE 2012 PLANECHASE AWARDS!*
The “Well, At Least I Got Some Valuable Cards, Right?” Award – Night of the Ninja
This was the deck I chose to play, based mostly on the fact that I have (or had) EDH decks that cover all of the themes from the other decks, and there were a few cards in this one I wanted to slide into my Intet and Kuon lists.
If I could sum up this deck in two words, they would be “Hopelessly Outclassed.”  Thematically. I’d give the deck an A+, but it just can’t handle the other strategies – 
-“Oh…a beater that’s larger than my entire team?  Cool…I’ll just trade my only creature and an Assassinate with it.  Oh, it’s got an Umbra on it?  Yeah…I’ll take seven.”
-“Baleful Strix and Mistblade Shinobi!  Deal with that!  What’s that?  Er, yeah…Enlisted Wurm into Bituminous Blast into Bloodbraid Elf into Arc Trail seems good.  Yes…that was way more value than I got.  Choke on your pizza, jerk.  Pass.”
-“Turn one…Island.  Turn two…swamp, Sai of the Shinobi.  Turn three…Island, Augury Owl, auto-equip the Sai.  Wait…how the hell do you already have a 17/18 trampler?”
It was like that all day lone for me.  A few pieces of situational removal and a counterspell don’t make up for a very linear and honest creature progression.  The unblockable options this deck has can threaten to break open the game, but who’s attacking into any of the other decks?  Every creature I drew could’ve received errata to read “Creature – Chump Blocker.” 
Your mileage may vary, but damn…
The “I’m That Guy!” Award – Primordial Hunger
This deck had the dubious distinction of being the one to jump out to a huge lead (either on purpose, or just as likely, completely by mistake) really early on, guaranteeing that the rest of the table would have to bend over backward to shut it down, leaving a board state of two depleted decks and a third that could eke out a win after the person playing the deck was quickly killed off.
Our first game was effectively over on turn three in this exact fashion when this deck played a turn two Nest Invader and then planeswalked into Jund and dropped a turn three 17/17 Thunder-Thrash Elder with Skaarg, the Rage Pits on the table.  The player running this deck was gang-piled hopelessly out of the game after taking the Cascade player down to low double-digits, leaving that player nearly depleted, me with nothing but one-to-one answers in an Assassinate and a Dark Hatchling, and the Savage Auras player on nearly full life and about eight or nine giant tokens (thanks to an Umbra-ed up Dreampod Druid) and a Ghostly Prison to hide behind. 
Guesses on how that played out? 
Speaking of…
The “Hope This Event Has Prize Support!” Award – Savage Auras
It might help that this deck was piloted by the player in our group with arguably the highest skill-set, but Savage Auras seems like the type of deck that rewards a solid setup and asset management.  The downside is that it also seems to make a statement, and that statement is “Good luck attacking into me.” – which in effect means that it’s easy to set up shop behind a wall of tokens and prison effects and be fairly well-protected while you wait out the other players and swoop in for a finishing blow on whatever is left once the dust settles. 
The other downside is that the cards included in this deck add up to about $2.37 on the secondary market.  If you’re looking for the play experience, I’d start with this deck.  If you’re looking for value, look elsewhere, or beg your T.O. to offer prizes.  You will likely collect. 
The “Holy Hell!” Award – Chaos Reigns
And then there’s this guy.  It’s got removal, it’s got fatties, and it’s got crazy synergy on the back of the Cascade mechanic.  Throughout the day, no other deck elicited the “Jesus…look at what he just did!” reaction, followed by the entire room jumping out of their seats to run over and watch more than this deck did.  It’s just that potent.
Not that this is a surprise.
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PARTING NOTES
-I really get the impression that R&D put time and effort into the Planes themselves, and then tossed together some decks to throw in with the package before realizing that some of the strategies were just inherently weaker than the others.  At least in my particular neck of the woods, it seemed that the power level of the deck was directly proportionate to how much it was worth.  I can just hear the last-minute conversations in the WotC lab  now:
“Er…guys?  That ninja deck?”
“Cool, huh?”
“Well…yeah.  Has anyone won a game with it yet?”
“…Crap.  Er…is Ink-Eyes still going for five or six bucks on the secondary market?”
“Uhh…yup.”
“Cool…no worries then.  Pull something so we can toss in Glen Elendra Liege, give the Clone a really cheap Ninjutsu cost, and ship it!”
-Two words – Board sweepers.  No, Norn’s Dominion doesn’t count.
-While we’re on topic, I can’t roll the stupid planar die to save my life.  I think my table got to experience my planes a grand total of about twice and about thirty-seven seconds the entire day.
-Coming from someone who has played nothing but EDH and draft in the last several years, it is very strange to see an opening hand that contains two of the same card.
-Didn’t get to play EDH with these new Planes over the weekend.  Looking forward to hearing about it from those who did.  Am assuming that it will probably echo the results from the original Planechase release, which is to say it is massively swingy and broken with EDH decks. 
-I won’t go so far as to say I hate the boxed format (to be totally fair, I might have a few times while I was at the event…), but I can safely say that I’m in the process of re-allocating GenCon funds that were ear-marked for the Planechase events into other things.  

-Overall, I just would like to see Wizards of the Coast not be afraid to make to tune the decks themselves a bit more, and not be afraid of making them more potent overall.  Even the Archenemy releases seemed stronger than this offering by a country mile.  Give the Ninjas deck Phyrexian Arena; it needs to be drawing more cards to keep up.  A bit of mass removal wouldn’t hurt any of the decks, nor would some artifact/enchantment hate; a Disaster Radius or Austere Command would go a long way.  If these things were just a bit more balanced out and could answer each-other in a stronger fashion, the playability would go through the roof.

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How did it play out for those of you who got out for a Release event?  Did you get a chance to try out EDH Planechase?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments; I have a sneaking suspicion that my personal experience might be a bit different from the norm…

àDJ