In the end, I decided to do a pre-release session of the new set, only because a friend offered a lift to the local card shop.
This is the one time where everything went right, and this time finally deciding to be satisfied with one session instead of getting greedy.
At 1:30 in the afternoon, on a sunny Perth saturday, I got to duly open the pre-release box, a little finicky to open than the ones made for Aether Revolt (and certainly not as thick). Inside, six packs for the new set, and a foil promotional card with the date stamped on it (22nd Saturday).
That promotional card ended up being Harsh Mentor, a card that was useful if your opponent activated lots of abilities, but in this format, it often ended just as a creature on the field that did next to nothing, and except sometimes swing. However outside this environment, it has lots of theoretical uses, especially in formats where activated abilities form the core of top level Magic decks.
I opened the rest of my packs, paying attention to the rares. One was a green card named Prowling Serpopard, which is a cross between a cat and snake (and is not merely a creation of nerds of the 21st century- it is actually a creation of nerds back in the actual Ancient Egyptian era), and then followed by a Mouth // Feed- a card with the Aftermath mechanic, which provided a hungry, hungry hippo when cast the first time, and when cast for the second, drew me a bunch of cards dependent on how many big animals I had on the field. All I needed was a second colour to go with it.
With that forming the centre of my strategy, I was lucky to have some big animals of my own, in the form of Desert Cerodons, Greater Sandwurms and Colossapedes. These were key to ending games in my favour by being simply too big to be killed in combat, forcing my opponents to hold back from attacking. Of course however to give me time to unleash the hounds on to unsuspecting rivals, I needed some early soldiers- as soon as I saw Khenra Charioteer, which was both red and green, an early enough drop that gave all my other units on the field to ability to trample through defenses, I settled on a red as a secondary colour, filling the rest of my team with warriors, be they human or jackals who provided the early aggression. To give me an edge in tight board states, I had two Magma Sprays to kill their weaker creatures and a Synchronized Strike, which turned up at crucial moments to save my warriors and even once improving one of my troops just enough to deal the lethal blow.
My pool was solid, but it was nothing fancy. The kids near the table where I was pulled all the stuff I wanted, as usual. The $50 Gideon of the Trials that I really wanted at the time (further testing in my own tournament deck proved that the acquisition was no longer necessary)
With the deck arrayed, it was time for me to start crushing opponents, or so I thought, when was I given a bye round. So I had the privilege of watching everyone else play.
After three rounds (best of threes) of extremely casual Magic, all the games I played ended in the same manner. My opponents could not do anything as I turned creatures after creatures sideways, first they were hit hard by the early attacks, and were forced to hold back in order to just buy additional time, and then simply finished off. The slaughter was indeed ruthless- with the score card on my nerd pad to prove it. I only took a total of 4 damage that day.