Gatecrash Prerelease Event Report – By A. Thomas

I spent way to long trying to get the Orzhov guild box opened, but when I finally did, I started by opening my guild pack. I was happy to open a Crypt Ghast and the guildmage for my guild. My other five packs yielded two playable rares (Undercity Plague and High Priest of Penance) and three unplayables (including two copies of Biovisionary – what are the odds). My first swing at the deck splashed blue for Hands of Binding and a Dimir Keyrune, but after one quick exhibition game with a friend, it was clear that my deck did not want to play tempo. I cut the blue and added back in a few white cards that I wanted to play anyway. That made my mana way better and put me into a solid two-prong game plan: stall the board and extort, and fly overhead if possible. I stuck with that plan all day.


Round 1: Orzhov mirror (sort of)


My round one opponent had an Orzhov guild kit in tow, but in our two games I only saw one black spell. It looked like he went white/blue with a black splash. It didn’t work out too well for him. Game One I played solitaire while he looked for black mana. He never found one and spent the game with a full grip of cards, never casting a single one. In Game Two, he managed a Cloudfin Raptor and a Syndic of Tithes while my board had four or five creatures on it. I misplayed when I decided to cast Devour Flesh instead of my Treasury Thrull. The Thrull would have triggered my Court Street Denizen, allowing me to tap down his Raptor and swing for the win. Instead, I gave him another turn, and he cast Merciless Eviction, exiling all my creatures. It took a few more turns to reduce his life to zero, but my misplay made me realize just how many decisions Orzhov makes you think about. (1-0)


Round 2: Orzhov mirror (ugh.)


I left Round One having no idea if my deck was any good because my Round One opponent cast a total of three spells across two games. I sat down across from another guy piloting Orzhov (again with blue, but this time it was just a splash for Totally Lost). Game One went as you might expect an Orzhov mirror to go. It lasted about twenty-five minutes, and our life totals kept bouncing up and down on the strength of Extort. At one point we had the same four creatures (with the exception of my Knight of Obligation to his Syndic of Tithes). The Knight’s vigilance was particularly effective during that game, allowing me to swing when he couldn’t. I finally was able to Extort for five in one turn and that finished him off.


Game Two was faster. I had sided out Devour Flesh (in favor of Purge the Profane) because Devour Flesh was doing nothing against another Orzhov player (I left it out for the other two rounds, as well). On turn four of Game Two, I cast Purge the Profane, and my opponent all but scooped – having to throw away his fifth land and Knight Watch. I was up two cards at this point (he had also mulled to six), so I decided I needed to be the Beatdown before he could Extort his way to another stall. I cast a bunch of flyers and took chunks out of his life total and the game ended. (2-0)


Round 3: Boros


This was my toughest match of the day. In Game One, he attacked me down to four life, and I never really stabilized. I was able to hold off his Foundry Champion just long enough to pull out the victory. Here’s how it went down. He rapidly established a board presence with three creatures, including Boros Reckoner and chipped away at my life total. I almost threw away my Executioner’s Swing early, but I’m glad I saved it for the Reckoner, since it kills the creature withouth the Reckoner dealing damage back. He dropped Assemble the Legion about halfway through the game, and I thought I was done. Then I looked at Angelic Edict again and realized it can exile enchantments. Phew.


Still, I was in a rough spot. Then he misplayed – sort of. (At the time, he didn’t know I had Undercity Plague in my hand). He dropped Foundry Champion and dealt three damage to my 1/3 Vizkopa Confessor. If he had known what my next turn was going to be, he would have killed my Assault Griffin instead. On my turn I cast Undercity Plague, encoded it onto my Griffin and attacked. My opponent was forced to dome me with his Boros Charm so he didn’t have to discard it. On the next turn, he attacked with Foundry Champion. I knew I had to keep alive both my Guildmage and Griffin to have any chance of winning, so I took a calculated risk and chose not to block. He pumped the Champion but had no Bloodrush to finish me off (pretty much any of the Bloodrushers would have done it). Phew again. Next turn I attacked with the Griffin, and activated both abilities of the Guildmage. That attack made him lose seven life – three from the Griffin, one from Undercity Plague, and three from the Guildmage’s second ability. Luckily, that turn I had also drawn another creature to chump the Champion. He attacked again, I chumped, and then I repeated the Griffin-Guildmage sequence for lethal. That was a close game.


In Game Two, I curved out perfectly with Extort creatures, and he was never in it. The play of the game happened when I blocked his animated Boros Keyrune early on because I suspected had a Bloodrush card in his hand (which would have been a ten point attack; he did and used it to save his Keyrune). (3-0)


Round 4: Boros


These were two quick games, in which my opponent was stuck on three mana in both. In Game One I got out my Crypt Ghast (first time all tournament). That guy is good. With him out, I was able to cast my Treasury Thrull AND Extort four times off the resulting triggers. Kingpin’s Pet did most of the heavy lifting during the matchup, as I got both of them out in both games. (4-0)


Lessons learned about playing Orzhov


In my eight games (plus a few more on the side between rounds), I discovered just how patient the Orzhov player has to be. In order to get maximum effect out of Extort you might find yourself playing spells out of the normal sequence. On several occasions, I made sure I had the extra mana to Extort, which meant keeping back three-drops and playing them on turn five if I could afford to. I also found that I often played my creature during my first main phase in order to Extort before combat (in case my Extort creature got killed). Playing against Boros, it was necessary to trade early so Battalion was tougher to trigger. If they waited until they had three creatures to attack (likely turn four), then I usually had my defenses in place – Basilica Guards stalls about as good as any. To win with Orzhov you have to be patient, know when to trade, and know when to tap out to Extort as opposed to representing Smite with an open white (which I found I didn’t do as much as I thought I would). If you can make it to the late game piloting Orzhov, you are far and away favored. So try to manage the game till you get there.


The pre-release was great fun. Thanks to the guys at Battleground for organizing another excellent tournament.




2 Orzhov Guildgate

8 Plains

7 Swamp


1 Treasury Thrull

1 Cartel Aristocrat

1 High Priest of Penance

1 Knight of Obligation

1 Court Street Denizen

1 Vizkopa Guildmage

1 Vizkopa Confessor

1 Gateway Shade

1 Basilica Screecher

1 Crypt Ghast

2 Kingpin’s Pet

2 Basilica Guards

2 Assault Griffin


1 Beckon Apparition

1 Angelic Edit

1 Executioner’s Swing

1 Smite

1 Undercity Plague

1 Purge the Profane

1 Aerial Maneuver