Having just finished an entire weekend filled with Magic: the Gathering pre-release events for the Dragon's Maze expansion, I am exhausted. That said, I had tons of fun, and learned quite a bit about this format, and what we could potentially see with Dragon's Maze as a draft format. Here's what I've learned: The Format is a *tad* Slower
Compared to Gatecrash, Return to Ravnica was already a slower draft format. Selesnya, Azorius, and Golgari all worked well with slowing down board states while Rakdos tried to outrace everyone. Izzet, unfortunately, didn't fare very well - but provided a decent mix of fast and slow options, depending on how you drafted (I'm looking at you, Frostburn Weird). Gatecrash, primarily because Gruul and Boros were both super aggro guilds, was definitely a much faster format overall. This isn't to say there weren't long games - anyone who ever played Orzhov mirror matches with the Extort life swings can tell you all about the long game. It just meant that you had to draft and build around the possibility that your opponent could kill you on turn 5 if you weren't careful (one of the many reasons Basilica Guards is a limited all-star).
With the launch of Dragon's Maze, it was obvious that Wizards at least designed the set to be slower (reliance on guildgates and cluestones to properly build 3+ color decks), and after playing several pre-release events, I can confirm that it plays as such. There were much fewer matches where an opponent managed to build a straight aggressive deck, and much more of the rounds that ran close to time. Drafting this set should result in similar speeds for rounds, especially because you play with one pack from each expansion of the block (starting with Dragon's Maze, then Gatecrash, then Return to Ravnica). For this reason alone, it'll be near impossible to build a solid two-color deck (and still be competitive against the other drafters) - but again, that's just my prediction. We'll see, starting this weekend.
The Gatekeepers Are Highly Playable
During our set reviews and spoilers, I kept mentioning that I didn't think the Gatekeepers of the set were that playable. After a weekend of seeing them trigger 90% of the time, I've definitely changed my stance. These cards, especially at common, will happily go in your deck and will usually always trigger - the aforementioned drafting order means you'll be forced into 3+ colors and will likely have a few gates in your deck. If nothing else, paying 4 mana for a 2/4 is decent - they comfortably block all the 2/2 and 3/3 tokens that Selesnya creates. My preference of them is in this order (from greatest to least): Opal Lake, Ubul Sar, Saruli, Smelt-Ward, Sunspire. Regardless, they're all playable and effective.
Overall, I had a blast this weekend! I did 5 events at my local gaming store, The Gaming Pit, and my overall record was 13-7 (I was 3-1 for 4 events, 1-3 for another). I got to play with several of my friends, including one that just got her start in Magic: the Gathering. She didn't fare well over the weekend, but she did win some games, and learned a ton about card interactions. As a huge fan of limited, I can't wait to draft this set.