Home Editorial Return to Ravnica prerelease strategy & card analysis: Izzet

Pulling up to The Only Game in Town (which is in no way connected to the mafia) in Somerset, NJ, I was pretty psyched out. I haven’t been to a prerelease in about a decade, back when there were no mythic rares or card alterations or women in Magic the Gathering.

It was a simpler time. A less hygienic time.

Anyway, I’ve been itching to unleash some Izzet chaos for months now, and I wanted to arrive early to ensure I’d get my pick of guild (Azorius was my backup) and find a seat before things got uncomfortably sweaty.

I was also meeting Captain Decoy, a reader/viewer, at the shop. I had done my homework, made sure he wasn’t completely insane, but you never know, right? It turns out he was a great guy, extremely normal with no obvious signs of dementia. We actually have a lot in common, with work history, living situation history, and the fact that neither of us had to use the emergency cattleprods we brought to the store. Well, I didn’t anyway.

There were over 60 people registered for the tournament, with Izzet and Golgari filling up fastest. Azorius was the least popular guild (as I anticipated; being a bureaucrat isn’t sexy) by a wide margin, so Decoy didn’t have too much competition for deck boxes. We each got five Return to Ravnica boosters, a guild deck pack that only contained cards from our particular guilds, and some other guild-themed accessories. With that, deckbuilding commenced… see the video below for a detailed overview of my picks.


WiNG’s prerelease card analysis & decklist

As stated in the video, I went 3-1, primarily facing down a mixture of Rakdos and Golgari piles. While I initially hit a snag against a Selesnya player who trampled over my weak creatures, I made the correction to include a few Rakdos cards like Carnival Hellsteed, which ended up deciding multiple games. When all was said and done, my Izzet/Rakdos deck delivered a lot of hard-fought victories. I was awarded four extra RTR booster packs plus the more important prize: gloating on the internet.

Well, enough about me… Got any thoughts on the cards I used or your own prerelease experiences?

6 replies to this post
  1. Hey wing! I just came out of a 10-year retirement to attend the Ravinca prerelease too! I’ve enjoyed your strategy guides for Duels of the Planeswalkers, but one night while I was playing I thought to myself, these decks aren’t exciting me anymore. I want it all! That night I sacrificed my wallet to Rakdos in an unholy ritual and have never looked back.

    I played Black/Red Rakdos and didn’t draw any power cards (unlike you I was forced to run a Cobblebrute), but I still managed to win 9.5 (one tie) out of 15 games, place 20th, and get three boosters as a prize. Didn’t pull any planeswalkers though. :)

    One thing I would disagree with you about is Traitorous Instinct. I pulled three of them, used them all, and didn’t regret it once. This is a format that’s all about large creatures with very few answers to them, and nothing says loving like stealing a 6/4 creature and then smacking your opponent in the face with it for 8 damage. At least that’s how I assume Rakdos says loving, I prefer flowers and kisses myself.

    Hilarity ensued in my matchup against Azorious, where I won a game by stealing fencing ace (1/1 double strike) in two consecutive turns and winning despite having no creatures and being at 4 life and one turn away from a loss.

    I want to ask you about strategy for splashing a third color though. It’s something I’ve always seen as a terrible risk and I want to know if you have any general advice on how to do it safely and effectively? I feel I could have benefited if I had expanded my card selection that night and just said no to Cobblebrutes.

    • Awesome stories!

      I don’t necessarily think Traitorous Instinct is always bad, but since I had so few creatures of any caliber, I felt it was risky to thin my deck of beats or real removal for it.

      As for splashing a color, it’s definitely not easy to do. In general it is safer to splash for a color when the cards you want to splash for cost more. That is, splashing in red to use a Raging Goblin is probably a bad call (since most times you won’t have both Goblin and a mountain on turn 1), but splashing in red for a Niv Mizzet is better, since you’d hopefully have at least one mountain by drop 6. In limited, you’re less likely to see unstoppable early game beatdowns anyway, so investing in late-game win conditions is usually a better strategy.

      It’s also a matter of relative “worthlessness”. In my case, not splashing black would mean taking a lot of cards that would be dead if drawn. Sure, the black cards would be dead if I didn’t draw a swamp, but at least when I could play them, they’d have an impact.

  2. This post turned into a book as I was writing it, so fair warning!

    I was at this same prerelease and had a really good time. It didn’t hurt that I pulled some really good rares from my packs. I was able to play a no-splash Azorius deck, and ended up going 3-0-1 (really, 4-0-1, defeating Wing’s deck in pre-tournament testing!). Unfortunately, my last match threatened to ruin the entire experience for me.

    As I played all my games, I knew that people would be unfamiliar with the cards, so whenever I played something that wasn’t just a guy, I made sure to let them know what it did. In game 1 of my final match, I had an Etherial Armor on each of two ground guys, giving each +2/+2 and first strike. When I played the first, I made sure to let my opponent know what it did, then tucked the enchantment underneath the creature. Later, I attacked with both, and he double blocked each one. So I assigned first strike damage, killing a Loxodon Smiter in the process and announced that my creatures lived, since neither of the remaining blockers had enough power to kill them. My opponent asked how, and I showed him the enchantments. He got really huffy, stating that, of course, I had covered that part of the card up, and then tossed the creatures I assigned damage to towards his graveyard.

    The tempo loss was unrecoverable, so I won in a turn or two. As we were shuffling up, he’s still talking about what happened, implying that I cheated, when really, I gave him every opportunity short of asking him if he was sure he wanted to block that way.

    As someone who plays a lot of games and usually finds himself on the losing end of things, I’d never been in a situation against an opponent who got pissed the way he did doesn’t end up rallying, kicking my ass, and then berating me for being bad. My heart started pounding, because now I absolutely had to win this match, or else I wouldn’t hear the end of it from this guy.

    Fortunately, in the next game I made my best play of the night. I got off to a slow start, playing a couple creatures and trading for his. I wanted to keep his creatures off the board so that I could stabilize. As a Selesnya player, he played the rare token-making land and a few ground guys, and I played a few blockers and flyers of my own. As soon as he hit 6 lands, I saw an opportunity to bait him into a really bad sequence of events. I detained one of his guys with New Prahv Guildmage, leaving a white and a blue up, and then attacked with both of my guys. He took the bait, tapping all of his land and both of his creatures, saccing the token land and making his 8/8. I then tapped my remaining two and played Dramatic Rescue on his token, returning it to nowhere, getting in for a bunch of damage, and sewing up the game and the match.

    As we were packing up, I said “good games,” to which he replied, “no they weren’t. They were two games that shouldn’t even have been played.” I asked why that was, and he said that I was “supposed to” draw round four and split the prize packs. I said “okay” and left. It felt really good.

    In the end, I ended up with 6 packs for the night, and my final round opponent only got 1, saying “I wasted all that time for 1 pack?” My first thought was, no, you got to play in a fun event with cards that won’t be available for a week. And you got a pack. Later, I overheard him talking to a buddy about the Dramatic Rescue play and a “bullshit enchantment.”

    So yeah, whenever someone is attacking you with creatures that have enchantments or equipment, make sure you know exactly what’s coming your way. It is not your opponent’s responsibility to make sure you know what’s going on or that you play well, just as long as s/he doesn’t actively misrepresent the board state. Also, don’t get huffy at a prerelease. It’s not worth it.

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