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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Feb 23 2007 12:00am
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Planar Chaos Release Event Survival Guide

Peter Jahn


I experience with triple Planar Chaos events.  I spent a day judging, and a second day playing. at the prelease. I’ll cover the good cards, the chase card, then talk about how I built my sealed deck.  I'll also talk about riding that rather unimpressive, totally bombless set of cards through to the prizes.

The Planar Chaos prelease, in the paper world at least, was a couple weeks ago. I attended the prerelease in Madison. That’s a two day event – with registration starting just before Midnight Friday night, play starting a couple minutes into Saturday, and continuing through late Sunday afternoon. Compared to the weeks of continuous events in an Online Release, that does not seem like much, but it is big stuff in the paper world.

Planar Chaos introduces a few rules quirks, and kept producing the same questions and misplays.  I'll talk about those.  Here are a few of the new mechanics, and the tricks that people played with them.
Vanishing: Vanishing cards come into play with time counters. Each upkeep, you remove a time counter. When you remove the last one, you sacrifice the card. The sacrifice effect triggers when you removal the last counter. If you Trickbind the triggered (sacrifice) ability, you never again remove the last counter, so the ability never triggers again. And, yes, they are time counters, so Jhoira's Timebug can add or remove the counters. pic=calciderm

is back, although the echo costs are often a lot higher than the casting cost. Nothing really new here. You can still Momentary Blink a guy with echo on the stack, but you still have to pay echo the next turn.  This can actually be an advantage with a couple cards, whose echo costs are two lands greater than their casting costs.

Dash Hopes Black has a few cards with “Extortion” – which is basically a keyword for the Browbeat mechanic. Like Browbeat, they all pretty much suck. It is tempting to talk about how these are like split cards, and that either option is okay. While that might be true – that either three cards or five damage is good, the problem is that the opponent chooses which of the two options it will be. I would just note that no serious standard or extended decks run Browbeat, and that I have had it cast against me many times, but I have never lost those games.

Some cards – most of them white – have the “rescue” mechanic. This used to be called “gating,” and appeared in Invasion block. The ability is great when you can play the creature at instant speed. Your (Durkwood Baltoh) is being targeted with Lightning Axe? Cast Whitemane Lion and “rescue” it. Note, however, that the ability does not specify another creature: if you cast Whitemane Lion on turn two, with no other creatures in play, Whitemane Lion will return to your hand. pic=dust elemental

I didn’t play in the Midnight tournament. I was working Friday, and scheduled to be judging Saturday. Based on past experience, getting up at 5:30am Friday, then playing FNM, the midnight prerelease and judging for 12 hours or so on Saturday usually means that staying awake through the later rounds of the prerelease is just awful. Judging means dead time in the later rounds in any case – being dead tired just makes it a lot worse.

I was originally on call as a judge Sunday as well, but we were hit with a blizzard Saturday night and Sunday morning. It was bad: speeds were around 30 on the interstate, and cars both in front of me and behind me spun out. I, however, have been driving in blizzards all my life, and we made it. A lot of other players did not. Sunday was one big tournament, and we had numbered tables for 200. We got 66. All but two of the judges wound up playing. (Note for those who say that judges can’t play: all of the judges wound up going at least 4-2, and winning packs on the day.)

Here’s my sealed card pool for the event.

Benalish Commander
Castle Raptors
D'Avenant Healer
Dawn Charm
Detainment Spell
Flickering Spirit
2 x Ghost Tactician
Mana Tithe
Outrider en-Kor
Pallid Mycoderm
Pentarch Ward
2 x Poultice Sliver
Serra's Boon
Shade of Trokair
Sidewinder Sliver
Sinew Sliver
(Tividar of Thorn)
Whitemane Lion
Dawn Charm

The white is okay. Castle Raptors is large and evasive – it has been and still is just fine. Dawn Charm has some nice tricks. Sinew Sliver is a copy of the ancient, paper-only Muscle Sliver, which was one of the five best slivers ever printed. Whitemane Lion is a nice combat trick, and Serra’s Boon is removal – but that’s basically it. Sinew Sliver makes it a Slivers deck, if I have one, and I might splash for Castle Raptors and Dawn Charm, but I don’t really want to.

White is just meh.

Ancestral Vision
Erratic Mutation
Mystical Teachings
Piracy Charm
Stormcloud Djinn
Synchronous Sliver
Telekinetic Sliver
Tolarian Sentinel
Veiling Oddity
Viscerid Deepwalker
Wistful Thinking
Veiling Oddity

Blue, on the other hand, looks sweet! I have card drawing, four cards that get rid of an opposing threat, a way to make my creatures unblockable and some good creatures. I don’t know whether I will run Slivers so far. These slivers are not all that exciting, but the rest of blue is pretty nice. Pongify is amazing. If your opponent has an amazing fattie, it gets rid of it. It can fizzle enchantments your opponent casts, and you can cast it on your own creatures, with lethal damage on the stack, and get a 3/3. This card is very much like Swords to Plowshares; as you play with it, you realize that the downside is so minor, compared with what it can do.

Brain Gorgers
Dark Withering
Dash Hopes
Haunting Hymn
(Imp’s Mischief)
Kor Dirge
Muck Drubb
Premature Burial
Spitting Sliver
Trespasser il-Vec

Black is strange. I have a bunch of madness cards, but just one madness outlet. That outlet, the Trespasser, is so very fragile. Even Piracy Charm kills it stone dead. The biggest problem is that nearly every creature costs something like 3BB , and does not hit for much. That is really slow and useless for a main color, and double black casting costs do not splash. I might splash some of the removal – but cards like Dark Withering and Premature Burial are not really good splashes, either.

Bonesplitter Sliver
Fatal Frenzy
Flowstone Channeler
Ghitu Firebreathing
Keldon Marauders
Lavacore Elemental
Needlepeak Spider
Prodigal Pyromancer
Rift Bolt
Simian Spirit Guide
Two-Headed Sliver
Volcanic Awakening

The Fatal Frenzy is a nice finisher – but it is contingent on having a creature to attack with, and not having that creature killed in response to Frenzy being cast. It’s occasionally a bomb, and occasionally dead. That makes it a very marginal splash card. Sometimes splash cards will be stranded because you don’t have the right colored mana. Having a splash card that can also be situationally dead makes it worse – and may even make it undesirable.

Ashcoat Bear
Aspect of Mongoose
Chameleon Blur
Evolution Charm
(Fa’adiyah Seer)
Gemhide Sliver
2 x Giant Dustwasp
Havenwood Wurm
Hedge Troll
Keen Sense
Krosan Grip
2 x (Primordium Seal)
Reflex Sliver
Spinneret Sliver
Sporesower Thallid
Uktabi Drake
Wormwood Dryad
Well, we have bunch more slivers, but not many amazing or aggressive ones. The biggest problem is that the deck does not have a lot of mana fixing. It has one Gemhide Sliver, and Evolution Charm, to get off-colored mana. It does not have a Shadow Sliver, or much else to give slivers any evasion. What green does have is some nice fliers and some card drawing. Harmonize is not quite Tidings, but it is pretty close. Keen Sense, on the other hand, is a 23rd card: it is only good if it resolves, and the creature then connects with the opponent twice. It will be playable in multiplayer and casual decks (e.g. Keen Sense on (Niv-Mizzet the Fire Mind) is pretty sweet.) However, that is about it.

Academy Ruins
Terramorphic Expanse
Coalition Victory
Darkheart Sliver
Chromatic Star
Prismatic Lens
Thunder Totem
Coalition Victory

 I was happy to see Academy Ruins – I needed another paper copy for casual games, but it certainly was not going to see play in this deck. The white couldn’t justify Thunder Totem, and Coalition Victory is a joke, but Assault // Battery is a removal spell.

The first decision was whether to play five color slivers. The archetype can work. I even had a fistful of slivers, and a few mana fixers. However, I had some concerns. First, I did not really have that many mana fixers. Chromatic Star and Terramoprhic Expanse are both one shot mana fixers, and Gemhide Sliver dies all too easily. More importantly, a prerelease provides a tournament pack and three boosters. Typical tournaments provide two. That means that everyone has more cards. More people will have bombs – but nearly everyone will have faster and more efficient decks. A five color deck is more likely to stall and sputter because of color screw – and the sixth pack means that more opponents will be able to punish such stutters.
In short, 5 color slivers was a bad idea.

In any sealed event, I try to play every strong evasive creature, all the card drawing and all the removal I can get, provided I don’t wreck my mana base. That meant playing green for the three good fliers, some fatties, and good card drawing. (yes – green for three good fliers and some good card drawing; and that does indeed sound strange.) It also meant blue for much the same reason, plus a red splash for the two card burn spells.
1 Gemhide Sliver
1 Havenwood Wurm
1 Veiling Oddity
2 Giant Dustwasp
1 Viscerid Deepwalker
1 Ashcoat Bear
1 Stormcloud Djinn
1 Spinneret Sliver
1 Sporesower Thallid
1 Uktabi Drake 

1 Assault/Battery
1 Ancestral Vision
1 Evolution Charm
1 Erratic Mutation
1 Snapback
1 Pongify
1 Rift Bolt
1 Piracy Charm
1 Harmonize
1 Keen Sense 

1 Chromatic Star
1 Prismatic Lens 

1 Terramorphic Expanse 
1 Mountain
8 Forest
7 Island

That’s the deck – time to move on to the play by play. I’ll go over how I did. Since I also think that every match we play can teach us something, I’ll follow each match recap with a pithy statement of the lesson taught.

Round One: Another UG deck Not a lot to say about this match, other than the opponent was not aggressive enough. Early on, in both games, he had a lead as my deck mulliganed and faltered. However, he tended to hold back unnecessarily. Game one I dropped to one life before beginning my comeback. I had to play around some problems (e.g. he had more creatures, and I had to keep Snapback ready in case he had a pump spell), but he did not press his advantage. As a result, my card drawing eventually kicked in and I won with fliers. His deck was better than mine, card for card, but he didn’t push his deck.

Lesson: don’t dink around. Get every point in, every turn. 

 Round Two: UW Insanity I was totally outclassed here. He had a turn four Chronozoa, and I could not find a way to kill it. I drew with my Ancestral, I drew with Harmonize and I bought time with Snapback, but I couldn’t find my Rift Bolt. Game two he played a turn five (Serra Sphynx), and it killed me in five straight attacks. His bombs were backed with Snapback, Crookclaw Transmuter, Momentary Blink, Pongify, Fortify, etc. If it is good in Time Spiral block limited, and either blue or white, he had it. I lost.

Lesson: Sometimes you have no chance. Take your lumps and move on.

Round Three: GBr He had a strong Thallid theme going, and coupled it with a Deathspore Thallid (which wrecked a lot of my fliers) and a pair of Essence Wardens. The life gain and removal proved too much game one, but I sided in an extra Mountain and the Pyro version of Prodigal Sorcerer, and that little machine gun killed half his deck while my little 2/1 flew over for the win. Game three Prodigal Pyromancer ended up pinging my opponent for the last couple points after we wound up in a creature stall.

Lesson: You have a Sideboard. Use it. 

Round Four: WRgu Slivers He was playing five color slivers. The difference was that he had more mana fixers, and had the bomb slivers. I saw Search for Tomorrow, (Greenskeeper), Chromatic Star, Prismatic Lens and Evolution Charm. He also had Pulmonic Sliver, Fury Sliver and Essence Sliver, and some evasion in Shadow Sliver. Game one my fliers had him nearly dead, but he assembled a massive strike with several sliver all having +2/+0, spirit link and – once he cast Shadow Sliver, evasion. However, Pongify made a monkey of his Essence Sliver, my Piracy Charm killed the Shadow Slivers and the rest ran head on into my blockers.
Game two he had mana troubles. Five colors will do that to you.

Lesson: It isn’t about having the best cards in a match. It is all about having the best cards that are actually cast in the match.

Round Five: URg Fliers He had some seriously good fliers, some decent spot removal, and Wurmcalling for the late game. This game was all about tempo – and Piracy Charm. We both had bounce, and both had fliers. Game one I just barely managed to pull out. We were both at very low life totals, and I ripped Uktabi Drake. I cast it, then swung with just enough creatures to get lethal damage past his blockers. He cast Crookclaw Transmuter after attackers were declared. He targeted the Crookclaw with it’s own ability, which would have made it a 1/3 that could have killed my Uktabi Drake, then swung for the win on his turn. However, I responded to the ability with Piracy Charm, killing the Crookclaw and winning the game. Game two he started recurring Wurmcalling, but Piracy Charm yanked the Wurmcalling out of his hand during combat, preventing him from summoning a critical blocker in his second main phase.

Lesson: Sometimes, tempo is everything.

Round Six: UBr
For the final round, I was paired against Pete Hills, a former teammate – and former Midwest Regional Champion. Pete no longer has time to playtest endlessly in an attempt to get on the gravy train, but he is still *very* good. We agreed to ID – since the prize structure was carefully crafted to make the payout come out the same as a split, and the outcome was far from certain. 
I’m glad I did.
Game one was very close. I got Pete to three life before his defenses came online. His defenses, however, were formidable. He had bigger fliers, big black evasive men, better burn and some black removal. I was one turn from chumping with my last dying Dustwasp, and two turns from dying when I drew Piracy Charm, and let Dustwasp Islandwalk over for the win. Games two and three, however, not even Islandwalking bugs could pull it out. My luck had run out: for example, one game I could have won by killing Pete’s 3/1, then swinging for the win. I ripped Erratic Mutation, then revealed Ancestral Vision – the only card in my deck that would not kill his creature. In short, he won the match, but I already had the draw.

Lesson: When you are really uncertain about whether you can win, consider splitting.

Judge note: The prizes were carefully crafted to allow intentional draws to balance out, without players having to trade packs or anything like that. In this case, a record of 4-2-0 would pay 5 packs, 4-1-1 paid 7 packs, and 5-1-0 paid 9 packs. That meant that if two 4-1 players met, they would be winning 14 packs. (There was no cut to top eight – just Swiss.) Having the packs even out like that prevented players from trading packs for draws – which is absolutely illegal and will get you banned and suspended in the real world. 

To wrap up, here’s a quick rundown of the colors and effects.

Best Card in the Set

No question here. It is the chase card, the money card, and a total bomb in both limited and constructed. It is a first pick, over everything, in packs one and two because you will play it, and a hate / take the money pick in pack three. There are 40 rares in the set. Leagues will have 256 players, each with three packs of Planar Chaos. That means tha a league will have about 20 decks packing Damnation. Guess which decks will be playing for tiebreakers late: in short, play around Damnation in any league games after the first day or so.
2X Release events will have 2-10 copies floating around. Watch out for it, but don’t worry too much about it. It might happen, it might not – and black is pretty bad overall. Be alert if your opponent plays Swamps, otherwise don’t worry.
Drafts have a 50/50 chance of having the card appear – and a one in three odds that any Damnations will have been hate drafted in pack three. Not a worry until you see it.

Best Color: Blue

No question here. Blue has the best common in the set:

Shaper Parasite 

It is great removal and a good combat trick, all on a 2/3 body. This card has single-handedly made Dream Stalker a lot better (although Dream Stalker is also pretty good with a bunch of other cards, like Reality Acid.)
Blue has a lot of removal and combat tricks. Blue even has some of the best removal in the format nowadays. Watch out for commons like Erratic Mutation, the Parasite and Piracy Charm, and for uncommons like Pongify and Ovinize. Blue also has bombs:
Chronozoa yes, you get 2, then 4, then 8 – but by then your opponent is dead.

Blue is an amazing color in triple Planar Chaos drafts. The only real downside is that a lot of people may be fighting over blue. Blue can probably support three drafts, but four would be pushing it.

Green in Planar Chaos: Does this look good to you?

Harmonize Giant Dustwasp

Yeah, Dustwasp is a common. It is amazing. Green also has some really solid ways of clogging up the ground – cards like these:

Mire Boa Citanul Woodreaders

Green even has a decent one drop:

Essence WardenYes, she really works. The life gain really helps, and she eventually makes the opponent waste a burn spell.

Green really suffers from the lack of combat tricks and removal, but if you can partner green with another color that can provide those effects, green rocks.

Red, White and Black:

I am going to cover these fairly briefly. I have some experience with these, but I’m not sure I have enough.
White’s rescue creatures are very good, both on their own and as combat tricks. For example:

Aven Riftwatcher 

This is good in any case – it usually means an 8 point life swing when it hits play. If you can rescue it, so much the better. About the only concern with rescue creatures is whether you can have too many. I do remember watching one player getting killed while holding three Whitemane Lions, and nothing else.

White has some other solid cards, including a “kill almost anything” sorcery Saltblast – and a “you can’t kill me” creature Calciderm.

Red has some good burn, and insane bounce. Look at this:

Dead // Gone

and this


I sided in Stingscourger in games where tempo really mattered, and I will always splash for Dead // Gone. After that, red gets Giant Growth, in a more attractive shade:

Brute Force 

Red can be very good, but I’m completely unsure how deep it is. I suspect that everyone will splash for a couple good cards, leaving enough other red cards to support one drafter for sure – but I don’t know if two or three drafters could all pursue red.

I don't know that black sucks, but if it doesn't, it sure fakes it well. Black has some bombs, and some good cards, but I would hate to have to share black with another heavy black drafter, or – gawd forbid – two other drafters. That said, if you are in black, watch for the following uncommons:

EnslaveTreacherous Urge 

Enslave is great – Urge has been situational, but often game winning for me. More importantly, black has some decent commons that should rightly be white:

Rathi TrapperMelancholy 

What black does not have is decent creatures.  Way too many of the creatures are 2/4s, or overcosted, or have serious disadvantages.  Black does not have cost effective beaters.
Personally, I am hoping to open Damnations, and ride it to wins.  Absent that, I'm hoping that everyone else at the table will not know how good blue is in triple Planar Chaos.  So, if you see me opposite you in a draft, avoid blue.


"One Million Words" on MODO and in the forums... 


Great Artical by bubbakush (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 03/01/2007 - 15:48
bubbakush (Unregistered)'s picture

I really enjoyed your artical. I think it covers many different uses from different angles.The sections where you explained the games is amazing. You are keeping it real. Thanks again for the great read!

Once again by mtgotraders at Tue, 02/27/2007 - 19:05
mtgotraders's picture

Pete always comes through with great articles. They are always fun to read and as the other people said they are very realistic for the average player with a budget.

Nice by teachpiano123 at Tue, 02/27/2007 - 08:36
teachpiano123's picture

I always enjoy your articles - well written, and informative. You seem very realistic in your expectations of gamers in general and yourself. Nicely done.

Passengers will refrain from killing my soul! by Stu Benedict (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:21
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I also love hearing how you gain cards for your personal collections. You have done that in many of your articles. I think it adds a human element to your writing. Well done!

Great Job by Dreager_Ex at Mon, 02/26/2007 - 16:56
Dreager_Ex's picture

Definetly looking forward to a day when I have money to get PLC 0_0

Glad to see you using some tables in your article =)

Nice job by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 02/26/2007 - 10:30
SpikeBoyM's picture

A nice read, I especially liked the little Limited Lessons portion. I also enjoy how you acknowledge the happiness of opening a card you need for a casual deck- I've done that in my MTGO leagues a number of times.

I truly partook in your by watsonnchriis at Tue, 02/08/2022 - 00:46
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I truly partook in your artical. I think it covers various utilizations from various angles.The segments where you clarified the games is astonishing. You are keeping it genuine. Much appreciated again for the incredible read!

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seoo by seooseoo at Fri, 01/27/2023 - 04:38
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