Tag Archives: sealed

Magic 2015: Practice Sealed #3

Fresh from a fat pack, here’s another sample sealed pool to dissect:

White
Triplicate Spirits
Paragon of New Dawns
Raise the Alarm x4
Mass Calcify

Razorfoot Griffin
Sungrace Pegasus
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Oppressive Rays

Soulmender
Meditation Puzzle

The first pack was extremely good to White, featuring a Triplicate Spirits, Raise the Alarm, AND Paragon of New Dawns. It was even topped off with a Planeswalker, though sadly not Ajani (*tiny violin*). There’s enough random creatures here to fill out a curve, and Mass Calcify allows all the tokens to win on an empty board. White seems quite powerful, and we’re likely looking for a colour to pair with it.

Blue
Illusory Angel
Military Intelligence

Divination x3
Aeronaut Tinkerer x2
Frost Lynx
Peel from Reality

Coral Barrier
Statue of Denial x3
Glacial Crasher x2
Ensoul Artifact
Diffusion Sliver
Fugitive Wizard

Blue’s first offering is a Military Intelligence, which plays well with the token swarm strategy White is presenting. An Illusory Angel is also a solid (haha) battlefield presence, and there’s no shortage of card draw with triple Divination. Unfortunately, the is a lot of cards in the filler category for blue, giving it about 9 solid playables. Blue is still an option, but we can probably do better.

Black
Liliana Vess
Indulgent Tormenter
Necrogen Scudder
Ulcerate x2

Covenant of Blood
Paragon of Open Graves
Carrion Crow
Child of Night
Zof Shade

Endless Obedience
Witch’s Familiar
Necrobite
Necromancer’s Assistant
Festergloom

Black brings more bombs, including the Planeswalker I alluded to, alongside some premium removal spells. Covenant is extremely castable alongside the White tokens. Blacks curve is decent enough to support the bombs. This is a likely pairing for the white deck.

Red
Lightning Strike
Kird Chieftain

Generator Servant x4
Krenko’s Enforcer
Forge Devil
Hammerhand x2
Crowd’s Favor

Circle of Flame
Act on Impulse
Clear a Path

A great creature and a premium removal spell headline Reds offerings. The 4 Generator servants raise an eyebrow, but outside of that, Red doesn’t have much more depth. At best, I can see splashing the Lightning Strike, and possibly the Chieftain in a Green build.

Green
Siege Wurm

Feral Incarnation
Restock
Runeclaw Bear

Carnivorous Moss-Beast
Gather Courage x2
Ranger’s Guile x2
Satyr Wayfinder
Titanic Growth
Vineweft x2

Outside of the Siege Wurm, Green is looking completely unplayable, with too many clunky or utility spells “below the line”.

Artifact
(none)

Brawler’s Plate
Tyrant’s Machine x3

Avarice Amulet
Ornithopter

Land
Evolving Wilds
Llanowar Wastes
Darksteel Citadel x2
Sliver Hive

Not much to see here, either. Brawler’s Plate is decent, if there is space available. 2 Darksteel Citadels is worth noting, with the Ensoul Artifact in Blue. The Evolving Wilds is likely getting a Mountain to let any random deck cast that Lightning Strike. Llanowar Wastes is doing nothing, as Green is not playable.

Let’s start with the obvious:

White/Black Alarms
Sungrace Pegasus
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Child of Night
Necrogen Scudder
Witch’s Familiar
Carrion Crow
Razorfoot Griffin
Paragon of New Dawns
Paragon of Open Graves
Zof Shade
Indulgent Tormenter

Ulcerate x2
Raise the Alarm x4
Lightning Strike
Necrobite
Liliana Vess
Triplicate Spirits
Mass Calcify
Covenant of Blood

Relevant Sideboard
Oppressive Rays
Endless Obedience
Festergloom
Necromancer’s Assistant

Soulmender
Meditation Puzzle

Sometimes pools just build themselves, and this looks like one of them. The rares have neatly aligned in these colours, and there is plenty of solid card surrounding them with a coherent gameplan. This deck has been crushing the other sealed decks in our practice sessions. It’s almost like a draft deck.

I am a greedy man, so rather then play Oppressive Rays, I’m splashing for the Lightning Strike with Evolving Wilds, because 2 Ulcerates is simply not enough. I’m normally not fond of Necrobite, but there are enough random tokens available that we don’t care if that trick get’s trumped. The deck has several decent fliers, and Liliana is well protected behind a wall of tokens.

While this deck is clearly very powerful, the point of these sealed exercises is to explore the format, and learn by trying new things. In this case, I can’t help but notice the 2 Darksteel Citadels in conjunction with Ensoul Artifact. Is a 5/5 Indestructible Land Creature a viable build-around plan for winning the game? Better we learn here then in an actual tournament. Blue has a lot of potential here anyway, so let’s see what that deck looks like:

Citadel Beatdown
Ornithopter
Child of Night
Illusory Angel
Aeronaut Tinkerer x2
Frost Lynx
Necrogen Scudder
Witch’s Familiar
Carrion Crow
Paragon of Open Graves
Zof Shade
Indulgent Tormenter

Ulcerate x2
Tyrant’s Machine
Military Intelligence
Peel from Reality
Ensoul Artifact
Divination x3
Liliana Vess
Covenant of Blood
Darksteel Citadel x2

Relevant Sideboard
Coral Barrier
Necromancer’s Assistant
Festergloom
Necrobite
Endless Obedience
Statue of Denial x3
Glacial Crasher x2

Diffusion Sliver
Fugitive Wizard

The most glaring issue with this deck is the low number of two drops, which in turn makes Illusory Angel slightly worse. This is why the Tyrant’s Machine is in the main deck over the Necrobite, as well as upping our Artifact count so the Tinkerers have Flying more consistently. It’s possible the deck even wants a second, though that might be too deep.

Ornithopter, while generally being a lowly unplayable, does a surprising amount of work in this deck. From allowing a turn 3 Illusory Angel, triggering Military Intelligence, removing the Peel from Reality drawback, and even being an emergency Ensoul target. It’s important to note the times where it’s correct to play cards like this (although it still might not be). While I haven’t yet tested this deck yet, I’ll be sure to sleeve it up and give it a shot.

This pool wasn’t as complex as the previous one, but it was still a good exercise. Being able to recognize your powerful cards is well and good, but ensuring they combine to make a solid game plan is what helps you reach the next level.

See you for the next Sealed Pool.

Until then,

Random

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Magic 2015: Practice Sealed #2

As part of my GP Sydney preparation, I have bought a booster box of Magic 2015 that will be used to provide practice sealed pools, in order to practice our deckbuilding skills and enhance our knowledge of the format. This is the first of six pools from that booster box.

For a recap of the overall “sort process” I use for Sealed pools, see the first paragraph of Sealed Pool #1. Let’s get straight to it:

White
Resolute Archangel
Spectra Ward
Boonweaver Giant

Razorfoot Griffin
Midnight Guard
Sungrace Pegasus x3
Kinsbaile Skirmisher

Wall of Essence
Sanctified Charge x2
Selfless Cathar
Tireless Missionaries
Congregate
First Response

White has some immediate bombs available in the Archangel and Spectra Ward. Boonweaver Giant is not normally in the “bomb” category, but Spectra Ward pushes him up there, as a 6/6 protection from all colours is nigh unkillable. Unfortunately, White doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth outside of these cards, with a few middling 2-drop creatures and some utility spells being the bulk of the available cards. In this pool, White is at best a support colour to a deeper colour, and it could be correct to just ignore the White entirely.

Blue
Jorubi Murk Lurker x2
Illusory Angel

Welkin Tern
Aeronaut Tinkerer
Peel from Reality x3
Quickling

Void Snare
Chronostutter x3
Fugitive Wizard
Hydrosurge

Blue’s best offerings are the pair of Murk Lurkers, which forces us to pair with Black if we play the colour. While the rest of the creatures are perfectly acceptable in their own right, the awkward combination of spells is not particularly helpful, particularly the triplicates. Blue is likely not going to be played in this pool.

Black
Soul of Innistrad
Flesh to Dust

Accursed Spirit x2
Typhoid Rats x2
Crippling Blight
Blood Host

Necrobite x2
Witch’s Familiar
Unmake the Graves
Mind Rot x2
Eternal Thirst
Wall of Limbs

Headlined by a Soul and a premium removal spell, Black makes a strong case to be one of the colours to play in this pool. The rest of the cards are quite playable, with the Spirits being an evasive source of damage while the Rats gum up the ground. While the overall number of decent playables is slightly short, the is enough here that Black is worthy of consideration.

Red
Cone of Flame
Paragon of Fierce Defiance x2

Inferno Fist
Borderland Marauder
Krenko’s Enforcer
Generator Servant x2
Rummaging Goblin

Crowd’s Favor x2
Foundry Street Denizen
Miner’s Bane
Wall of Fire
Clear a Path

Cone of Flame is an extremely potent card in Limited, often removing several creatures from the board at once, or even just killing your opponent. A pair of Paragons is an excellent selling point for Red as well, and we have a number of small creatures available for them to pump up. A pair of Generator servants can be used to accelerate to some bombs in other colours, like the Soul or the Boonweaver Giant. Red is a strong contender for a playable colour.

Green
Kalonian Twingrove
Genesis Hydra
Paragon of Eternal Wilds x2
Elvish Mystic

Netcaster Spider
Charging Rhino
Shaman of Spring x2
Living Totem

Satyr Wayfinder
Carnivorous Moss-Beast
Plummet x2
Back to Nature

Green also features bombs in Kalonian Twingrove and Genesis Hydra. Another pair of Paragons also shows up in Green, and although there are less creatures available in this colour to pump, the trample-granting ability will be put to good use here. There are a number of solid creatures to fill out a curve, as well. It’s worth noting here that Green has absolutely no removal, and will be reliant on other colours to provide that protection.

Artifacts
(No bombs)

Hot Soup
Tyrant’s Machine
Will-Forged Golem x2

Staff of the Wild Magus
Staff of the Sun Magus

Lands
Yavimaya Coast

Hot Soup, and Tyrant’s Machine to a lesser extent, are reasonable includes if we need a 22nd-23rd card. The other cards areunfortunately unplayable, including the Yavimaya Coast as the Blue pool was too weak.

This is an extremely difficult pool to build from, as while there are a number of good cards available, they are fairly evenly spread across all the colours (The exact split is 16/15/16/15/15 from White to Green, a surprisingly even distribution). This is true to the extent that I still haven’t figured out the “right” build for this pool. While Blue was eliminated in our initial review of the cards, that still leaves six different possible colour pairings. While unconventional, as you certainly won’t have time to do this at a real event, I’m going to cover all the available options and evaluate them individually.

Red had the most cohesive plan when we looked at it, and Black had a reasonable game plan as well.  This pairing seems like a good place to start:

Red/Black
Typhoid Rats x2
Borderland Marauder
Generator Servant x2
Krenko’s Enforcer
Rummaging Goblin
Witch’s Familiar
Accursed Spirit x2
Paragon of Fierce Defiance x2
Blood Host
Soul of Innistrad
Miner’s Bane

Hot Soup
Crippling Blight
Crowd’s Favor x2
Inferno Fist
Necrobite
Flesh to Dust
Cone of Flame

Relevant Sideboard
Unmake the Graves
Mind Rot x2
Eternal Thirst
Wall of Limbs
Necrobite
Foundry Street Denizen
Tyrant’s Machine

Wall of Fire
Clear a Path

This deck looks very reasonable on the surface. You have an early game plan of beat down with aggressive dudes, which the Pargaons will pump. In the late game, a Soul of Innistrad can provide a large advantage. Miner’s Bane is there as an awkward second “finisher” due to the lack of options in these colours. There is a decent amount of removal available as well.

The second Crowd’s Favor was the 23rd card added, and it’s not entirely clear whether that’s correct, or if it should be the Tyrant’s Machine instead. Favor and Necrobite are definitely the two cards I would flag to take out when sideboarding, as they get worse once your opponent knows about them, and Necrobite in particular is awfully clunky.

Unfortunately, this deck does appear to have a weakness to fliers, having exactly zero flying creatures anywhere in the list. The decks solution to this to attempt to outrace any flying beats with the dual Paragon plan, with removal available in emergencies, but it’s still worth noting. A potential solution for this is to pair Red with White instead, as White has a few options available to control the skies:

Red/White
Selfless Cathar
Borderland Marauder
Generator Servant x2
Sungrace Pegasus x3
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Krenko’s Enforcer
Rummaging Goblin
Midnight Guard
Razorfoot Griffin
Paragon of Fierce Defiance x2
Resolute Archangel
Boonweaver Giant

Hot Soup
Crowd’s Favor x2
Inferno Fist
Cone of Flame
Spectra Ward
Sanctified Charge

Relevant Sideboard
Sanctified Charge
Tireless Missionaries
Foundry Street Denizen
Miner’s Bane

Wall of Essence
Wall of Fire
Congregate
First Response
Clear a Path

This list has a very similar plan A of playing the early beatdown game. While the Pegasi don’t look too impressive, they can help push through damage while helping you stay ahead in a race with lifelink. Inferno Fist on a Pegasus is quite good also. With a primary plan of swarming with a bunch of creatures, Sanctified Charge promises to be quite powerful here, and it’s not clear that we don’t want the second copy. Charging with two Pegasi out is another excellent way to pad your life total.

This version is able to drop the Miner’s Bane, as Whites finisher options are just so much better. While seven mana looks a bit awkward in this weenie-oriented deck, Generator Servant helps provide that little push required to get them out in time. Selfless Cathar barely makes the cut as another way to make combat awkward for the opponent.

Red/Green
I’m going to cheat here and not provide the decklist, as I don’t think a Red/Green combination is particularly viable. The curve is a little clunky, and light on early plays. There is also a significant glut at the 4-drop slot, between 2 Red Paragons, 2 Green Paragons, and 2 Shaman of Spring. The Green bombs don’t seem better then the White options, and, outside of playing maindeck Plummets, Green’s natural weakness to flying compounds the flying issue rather then aids it.

With all the red options exhausted, the other option is to use Black as the main colour:

Black/White
Typhoid Rats x2
Wall of Essence
Sungrace Pegasus x3
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Witch’s Familiar
Wall of Limbs
Midnight Guard
Accursed Spirit x2
Razorfoot Griffin
Blood Host
Soul of Innistrad
Resolute Archangel
Boonweaver Giant

Crippling Blight
Hot Soup
Tyrant’s Machine
Necrobite
Flesh to Dust
Spectra Ward

Relevant Sideboard
Unmake the Graves
Necrobite
Sanctified Charge x2
Selfless Cathar
Tireless Missionaries
Mind Rot x2
Eternal Thirst
Congregate
First Response

Amusingly enough, this deck looks like it could do a decent job of pulling off the Wall of Limbs kill, with all the incidental sources of lifegain in the deck (3 Pegasus, Blood Host, Wall of Essence, and even the Archangel, with more available in the board). Without the aggression of Red to fuel us, we’re more all-in on our bombs, with some small evasive hits getting in while the ground is clogged up with Walls and Rats.

It’s not clear this deck doesn’t want a Sanctified Charge, as it could be a nice way to get some surprise kills (Who doesn’t like killing creatures with Wall of Essence?). The Hot Soup also looks more out of place in this deck, as we’ve moved away from the aggressive swarming strategy into a more stalling long game play that the Tyrant’s Machine favors.

Ultimately, however, I’m not convinced this deck is better then either the Red/Black or Red/White variations. That said, I will sleeve it up and run it through some practice matches to confirm.

Black/Green
Black/Green is bad for most of the same reasons Red/Green was, and actually looks even worse. Your two-drop slot basically doesn’t exist, which in my experiences is unacceptable in this format, and there’s still a huge glut of 4-drops and expensive creatures. I don’t like it at all.

Green/White
For completeness, here’s the summary of Green/White as well. This option looks surprisingly better then the other pairings for Green, as White does a good job of filling the two-drop slot by itself. The bomb density is at it’s highest in this deck, with the colours each contributing two rares. However, the overall removal density is weakened as a result due to removing Black and Red, and this deck is again more all-in on it’s bombs as a result. It likely isn’t terrible, but I again don’t think it’s better then Red/Black or Red/White.

Conclusions
Of the decks examined in this article, I think the “best” option is either Red/Black or Red/White, with the edge slightly given to White, as it has both more bombs available, and can be more explosive thanks to Sanctified Charge. The limited interactions with fliers is another strike against the Red/Black build.

An honorable mention is given to the Black/White deck, as it’s worth experimenting to see if a deck with that kind of game plan can succeed in the format.

I hope everyone enjoyed looking at this Sealed pool. This is the kind I would consider to be the most educational, as there’s no clear “best deck”, and we have to weigh the pros and cons of a variety of configurations.

Stay tuned for more M15 Limited breakdowns.

Until then,

Random.

Magic 2015: Practice Sealed #1

Yesterday, I attended a Launch Day Sealed Event for Magic 2015. This was a small 8 player event at a local game store. As part of my GP Sydney preparation, here is a break down the deckbuilding portion, as well as my thoughts on the format.

First I should explain my sort process for the deckbuilding. It’s something I picked up from (I think) an article on wizards.com, and is used as a very rough guide to what colours are and aren’t playable. It consists of a grid, where the columns are each of the colours, and rows by the following criteria:
– The top row is your bombs and high-impact cards in that colour. My guideline for this row is “cards that pull you toward playing that colour”. Examples include Stoke the Flames for Red, and Devouring Light for White.
– The middle row is “solid” cards. These are the cards that, while not actively pulling you toward the colour, you are more then happy to include if you’re playing that colour. Examples are Charging Rhino in Green, and Divination in Blue.
– The bottom row is “filler” cards. These are either utility sideboard cards, or cards that you’re not necessarily excited to run, but will if you need to fill out your deck. Examples are Witch’s Familiar in Black, and Naturalize in Green.
– During this process, I also typically include an “unplayables” pile, where all the Mediation Puzzles and Profane Mementos end up.

I’ll do my best to present the pool in this fashion as I go through the list.

White
Constricting Sliver
Seraph of the Masses x2

Geist of the Moors
Paragon of New Dawns
Razorfoot Griffin
Ajani’s Pridemate x2
Midnight Guard x2
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Ephemeral Shields

Soulmender
Selfless Cathar
Battle Mastery
Sanctified Charge
Meditation Puzzle

White has an excellent removal option in Constricting Sliver, and some nice finishers with the Seraphs. The Seraphs are complimented by an abundance of small white creatures to Convoke them out, including a pair of Midnight Guards which remain on defense after casting the Angel. They also have the important number of 3 toughness. Finally, we have an excellent evasive creature in Geist of the Moors, and a white Paragon to boost the team. White looks reasonably deep and a solid option to consider for the deck.

Blue
Encrust
Kapsho Kitefins

Research Assistant x2
Coral Barrier
Void Snare x2

Statute of Denial
Chronostutter x2
Mind Sculpt x2
Invisibility
Fugitive Wizard x2
Hydrosurge

Blue starts out nicely, with a premium removal spell in Encrust and a reasonable finisher in Kapsho Kitefins. However, it quickly falls off after that, which a bunch of middling do-nothing spells that don’t really help win the game. Awkwardly, Encrust and Kitefins both have double blue in their mana costs, making splashing for these cards unlikely as well (and Kitefins likely gets pushed out as a finisher by the other colours anyway). Blue can likely be safely dismissed as an option.

Black
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Stab Wound
Covenant of Blood

Shadowcloak Vampire
Crippling Blight
Zof Shade x2
Black Cat x2

Witch’s Familiar
Feast on the Fallen
Necrobite
Stain the Mind

Black has some real nice headliners in Ob Nixilis and Stab Wound. A flying trampling creature is excellent as a finisher, and Stab Wound is removal that can also act as a finisher. Black doesn’t have a lot else going on, though. Shadowcloak Vampire is a solid creature, but Zof Shade demands we be reasonably heavy black with mana to leave open. Ultimately, black doesn’t seem deep enough to support a whole deck, but it might be worth seeing if we can splash for some of the better cards.

Red
Stoke the Flames
Heat Ray

Inferno Fist x2
Borderland Marauder
Altac Bloodseeker x2
Krenko’s Enforcer
Torch Fiend x2
Crowd’s Favor
Thundering Giant
Blastfire Bolt x2

Goblin Roughrider
Miner’s Bane
Lava Axe
Shrapnel Blast
Circle of Flame
Crucible of Fire

Red immediately presents two very appealing removal options with Stoke the Flames and Heat Ray. It’s “solid” category is also reasonably deep, with a multitude of two drops available. Borderland Marauder is excellent for pushing through damage, Torch Fiends help deal with random Juggernauts and other artifact threats, and Altac Bloodseeker can get some nice blowouts with removal mid-combat. Krenko’s Enforcer is an excellent way to push through the last few points with intimidate, and a pair of Inferno Fists provides more quasi-removal for the deck. Red is currently the most likely candidate for this deck.

Green
Siege Wurm x2
Phytotitan

Living Totem
Venom Sliver
Undergrowth Scavenger

Naturalize
Titanic Growth
Plummet
Hunter’s Ambush

Green starts off alright, with a pair of Siege Wurms and a Phytotitan promising to be reasonable finishers. Like Blue, however, things quickly trail off, with a bunch of utility spells being the bulk of the green cards, and the remaining creatures not really being high-impact enough. There isn’t enough depth here to supprt a deck, so Green is also dismissed as an option.

Artifacts
Scuttling Doom Engine

Shield of the Avatar
Will-Forged Golem

Tyrant’s Machine
Profane Memento

Lands
Shivan Reef
Evolving Wilds x2

Scuttling Doom Engine is a real boon here, providing a colourless bomb that can be played in any deck. The Golem is nice to have available if a bigger creature is needed, and the Evolving Wilds make any potential splash much easier.

As red and white were clearly the deepest options available in this pool, it makes sense to start with a red/white deck:

Ajani’s Pridemate x2
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Borderland Marauder
Altac Bloodseeker x2
Torch Fiend
Geist of the Moors
Midnight Guard x2
Krenko’s Enforcer
Goblin Roughrider
Paragon of New Dawns
Razorfoot Griffin
Thundering Giant
Constricting Sliver
Scuttling Doom Engine
Seraph of the Masses x2
Crowd’s Favor
Inferno Fist x2
Stoke the Flames
Heat Ray
Blastfire Bolt

Sideboard
Ephemeral Shields
Selfless Cathar
Sanctified Charge
Torch Fiend
Blastfire Bolt

This maindeck has 25 cards, so some trimming is required. In addition, the pair of Evolving Wilds makes splashing black for the Stab Wound relatively easy, so I’d like to try that.

I believe I slightly misbuilt my deck in round one, as I trimmed the Torch Fiend and one Bloodseeker, and substituted Stab wound for the Blastfire Bolt, running a manabase of 7 Plains, 7 Mountain, 1 Swamp, and 2 Evolving Wilds. After losing the first round to a bit of ill fortune (Never drew a land across both games after keeping 3 landers), I elected to lower the curve of the deck by replacing the two drops, and instead trimming the Thundering Giant and the second Seraph.

This version of the deck functioned much better, leaving me with a 2-1 record, although being in the lower bracket meant I faced opponents who had also likely misbuilt their decks. Still, the game plan of early beatdowns followed by evasion and burn is still a solid one and provided I had a reasonable curve the deck performed quite excellently.

Stoke the Flames was a real standout card, as Convoke enabled me to stay in the game in round 1 where I was missing land drops. Altac Bloodseeker also reasonably impressed, as people generally tended to not want to get blown out by blocking him, so he got through for a reasonable amount of damage. Heat Ray functioned quite well as an enabler for the Bloodseeker, as did Inferno Fist (The on-board “don’t block this guy” is rather nice).

Seraph, on the other hand, rather underperformed. I probably didn’t have the right deck for it, seeing as I had no Raise the Alarms or Triplicate Spirits, but most of the time it was “only” a 3/3 or 4/4 flier, but I had to give up blocking for the turn to play it without Midnight Guards. Doom Engine is a complete and total bomb, however, and the blocking clause is relevant against a high number of creatures in the format. If you get in enough early damage, they get to this lose/lose point of “can’t block it, can’t kill it” thanks to the 6 damage ability as well.

Overall I was quite happy with my deck for this event. I look forward to sharing a bunch more sealed events, including the upcoming Magic Online M15 launch. I hope people find this to be informative.

Until then,

Random