As the final Magic: the Gathering Core Set, Magic Origins has a lot of expectations to live up to. I again ventured to Spirit Games in Burton-on-Trent to explore the new set and see what it had to offer.
The prerelease began with each player choosing a colour. I choose White, both to play with the new Renown mechanic and for the chance to get a Kytheon, Hero of Akros. I was happy to note that, unlike previous prereleases, Magic Origins, the prerelease box contained six booster packs and a seeded pack, making for seven packs in total and seven rares. What I was disappointed to find, however, was an absence of any mythic rares at all. On top of that, two of my rare slots were wasted on a pair of Yavimaya Coasts.
The best deck I could cobble together was a Red/White aggro deck that swelled on three drops due to a lack of anything else. I initially considered running a deck without rares and forsaking my promo Relic Seeker completely, but then decided to let him stay just to work as a 2-drop that could occasionally bring me a free pointy stick. The final deck that I settled on was this:
My Magic Origins Prerelease Deck:
1 Anointer of Champions
2 Mage-Ring Bully
1 Relic Seeker
1 Ghirapur Gearcrafter
1 Thopter Engineer
2 Akroan Sergeant
1 Knight of the Pilgrim’s Road
1 Iroas’s Champion
1 Blessed Spirits
1 War Oracle
1 Firefiend Elemental
1 Patron of the Valiant
1 Gold-Forged Sentinel
3 Suppression Bonds
1 Lightning Javelin
1 Throwing Knife
1 Brawler’s Plate
1 Grasp of the Hieromancer
1 Healing Hands
1 Evolving Wilds
As you can see, it’s very heavy on three drops. My card pool lacked on convincing ways to really push through with Renown other than the single Grasp of the Hieromancer or the deterrent of Anointer of Champions. I was mostly pleased with my removal. Having three Suppression Bonds would serve me well and they had a very positive synergy with Blessed Spirits. There was also some minor artifact synergy between Thopter Engineer, Ramroller and Gold-Forged Sentinel; the hastey chimera being an especially useful surprise.
Round 1; Brick Walls:
When I introduced myself to my round one opponent I asked my usual question of “So, how long have you been playing Magic for?”. Adam had been playing for just over a year and was attending his first prerelease. It soon turned out that we were both playing Red/White, but where I had loaded on early game cards, Adam’s deck had opted for more investment in the late-game. This became evident in both games, with us trading away sets of Mage-Ring Bully and Akroan Sergeant in game one only for Sentinel of the Eternal Watch to land and completely shut down everything I was trying to do.
Game two gave me a better start, with a War Oracle going renowned and giving me life, but Sentinel of the Eternal Watch reappeared on turn six while my removal was irritably absent. I was disappointed, to say the least, but congratulated Adam on his first round prerelease win.
Round 2; I Kill Giants:
I had played against Dan, my round two opponent, at almost every prerelease I’ve attend at Spirit Games. He always makes for a great opponent with a friendly attitude; today he was playing Red/Black.
Game one gave me an excellent start with my arming my Iroas’s Champion with a Grasp of the Hieromancer that was opposed by a comparatively meak Shambling Ghoul. Dan’s turn four Erebos’s Titan gave me quite a shock, but I quickly restrained it with some Suppression Bonds and cleaved my way to victory. (Praise Iroas!)
Our second game saw us both cast a turn two Mage-Ring Bully and trade them away. Dan gained ground with a Boggart Brute that I found difficult to block until a Thopter Engineer showed up to make a trade with the tiniest of gains. Eventually my board expanded to include Ramroller and Gold-Forged Sentinel who, while missing haste has from the deceased engineer, still provided enough power to push through for a win.
Round 3; Ebb and Flow:
In round three I played against yet another Dan. This round was, we both agreed, devoid of any real critical Magic. In game one, I mulliganed my way to a three-card hand through a sheer absence of land and watched Dan’s Knight of the Pilgrim’s Road go to town. In game two, Dan was the one getting mana screwed while I let a War Oracle transfer his life points to mine.
Game three was a peculiar travesty, where I had a very strong start and Dan got mana screwed again, but his pair of Fetid Imps forced me to make very unfavourable trades. By the time the late-game hit, Dan had finally drawn into six lands and could cast anything in his deck, while I was drowning in the flood of my eleventh land and utter lack of any real cards. Dan took the round as surprised as I was.
Round 4; Take to the Skies!
My round four opponent was Philip; another Red/White player. In our first game I started with an early Akroan Sergeant, which was promptly melted by a Fiery Impulse. I made a Knight of the Pilgrim’s Road, it got melted by a second Fiery Impulse. Philip went on to summon his own Knight and seize the game.
Game two played out much differently. I was able to cast both my Thopter Engineer and my Ghirapur Gearcrafter, whose 1/1 token would reveal the weakness in Philip’s deck – a lack of fliers. I was lucky enough to draw both my Patron of the Valiant and a hasted Gold-Forged Sentinel, the two of which happily soared to a win.
I had high hopes that game three would be as quick as game two. My early Mage-Ring Bully traded up with a Boggart Brute. Things almost ground to a halt when Philip made a Yoked Ox, but by arming an Akroan Sergeant with a Brawler’s Plate I was able to make it renowned and rack up enough damage to get the win.
Round 5; Dropping Bombs:
Richard was the first opponent I met during the day who had been brave enough to play three colours. His deck has Red/White/Green, meaning that for another tournament I’d managed to avoid all possible blue spells.
In game one my deck was frighteningly fast, while also giving off the appearance of being mono-white. Despite being colour-screwed, I made a turn two Relic Seeker, turn three Blessed Spirits and tour four War Oracle. When Richard’s turn four Kytheon’s Irregular showed up, I simply handed it some Suppression Bonds and carried on attacking until I won.
Then came game two, which was, decidedly, awful. My start was slower and Richard eventually revealed his reason for being green; Nissa, Vastwood Seer. I saw no removal this game, so couldn’t stop Nissa from transforming and winning unimpeded.
In game three, I was able to stick a War Oracle with a Grasp of the Hieromancer. Regrettably, Kytheon’s Irregulars showed up again slowed things down. I was able to force enough of its activations to still get a few lifelink hits until I could find some Suppression Bonds. Then came the second copy Kytheon’s Irregulars. I didn’t get a second Suppression Bonds and the Irregular’s walked to victory unopposed.
Takeaways from the Magic Origins Prerelease
With a 2-3 result, this prerelease was a decidedly negative one. It showed the extreme mana-screw to the most unpleasant degree by concentrating it all in a single round. The final round then demonstrated the hugely impactful nature that bombs and rares have in limited environments and the grim reality that, for better or worse, a random card pool means that sometimes you will get games that are over as soon as you have opened your boosters.
Overall, my MVP was War Oracle. It sits at a nice spot where it’s just big enough to dodge the more common removal and, once it’s renowned, can really take control of a game. It’s ability to upscale with auras and equipment was especially useful given the formats subthemes for both.
My highlight of the day, however, came from a Commander game between rounds. My opponent used Zedruu the Greathearted to give me a Steel Golem, a play that usually shuts down creature based Naya decks like mine. Not be deterred, I buffed the golem with Ajani, Mentor of Heroes and used Dromoka’s Command to slay Zedru. Once Ajani had made the Golem a 12/13, I used Seize the Day to get three combat phases where my new Golem friend could seize victory. Even a day this bad still had some silver lining.
I’m not done with Magic Origins just yet. I’ll definitely be drafting it to see how it fares in a different limited context, but for now I think I’m glad that it’s the last core set. It didn’t deliver the complexity or synergy that I’ve enjoyed from both Theros or Tarkir blocks and the overall quality of cards is poorer due to the need to cater to new players.