Mirrodin offers a very refreshing change of pace from other Sealed deck formats. The necessity of running artifact removal, the mana acceleration in every color, the powerful artifact creatures and the bonuses equipment add can all drastically alter the way the format of the game plays. There’s a huge depth of playable cards as well, and running three colors is rarely as punishing as it would be otherwise. You’re offered a lot of options – so let’s try to sort them out, shall we?
First off, you have probably heard that artifacts make up half the set. 142 of the cards in Mirrodin are, indeed, artifacts. Though that doesn’t mean half your deck will be artifact in nature, it does increase the value of artifact removal effects as everyone implies.
In a Sealed deck, your deck will contain artifacts. It’s almost unavoidable when half your pool of cards is silver in nature; a fair number of those cards are going to worth playing and powerful enough to make your deck. To deny playing artifacts presents the same kind of conundrum that playing spells in Onslaught block entitles you to: While it’s possible to run without them, you are forcing yourself into shallower pools of cards than otherwise necessary. Bear in mind that while you will still face artifact removal, the raw number of Shatters, Detonates, or Deconstructs an opponent can place in his deck is limited by what he opens, the colors he plays and how many spells his deck can run. If you’re running 15 artifacts, your opponent will be unlikely to nuke them all.
Artifact creatures are generally inferior without access to the proper colored mana of their type, or colored creature in general. There are full cycles – Golems and Replicas – which are trash without access to at least a splash in their payment color. 2/2s for three are simply not worth playing unless you have access to their abilities – but afterwards, they become quite useful if not outright powerful.
There are rewards relevant within colors to playing artifacts as well. Red sacrifices them to effects – cards like Shrapnel Blast, Atog, and Krark-Clan Grunt all reward playing artifacts. Blue has affinity effects, black has the Nim, and White has the extremely powerful creatures that are enhanced by equipment. Only Green has no serious interaction with artifacts, but many green creatures severely benefit from equipment.
Lastly, within the commons and uncommon slots lie diamonds – Mana-producing Myr and dual-colored Talismen. Green has no stranglehold on mana acceleration in this set, with all the colors having access to powerful acceleration. Be wary of these little things: They change the format a lot more than you’d think – your four-mana spells can easily come out on turn 3, which can drastically alter the would be tempo of a match.
So generally, accept the fact that in Sealed deck you are going to see a lot of artifacts, both in your deck and in your opponent’s decks.
Normally, Magic sets have strong, deep pools of colored cards – not so with Mirrodin! There is a severe lack of colored cards in the packs to make space for artifacts. This means that basically, you will expect to get your best creatures from your colors, but overall you will probably be running quite a few artifact creatures. In many cases, while colored creatures are better, the common colored spells get outmatched by artifacts with spell like effects.
White is in the position of a number of ridiculous commons and uncommons. For the record, Auriok Bladewarden is a fair version of Timberwatch Elf – But Timberwatch Elf with just one Elf on the table was never bad, and Bladewarden is cheaper. Auriok Bladewarden, Skyhunter Cub, and Leonin Den-Guard all have interactions with equipment which transform them into ridiculous. White also has strong evasive creatures – Skyhunter Patrol is ridiculous when compared to other common 4cc fliers, having both a three-toughness butt and first strike, both of which are useful in this format. Slith Ascendant is a game-winner all by itself sometimes, it sometimes grows larger enough, fast enough, that it can’t be stopped. Though Soldier Replica is an artifact creature, its powerful ability requires white mana.
Against White players, you shouldn’t expect too much artifact removal. Altar’s Light is slow; while it’s an instant which allows for some trickiness the four mana cost means you might see it coming. White does, however, have the extremely powerful Soul Nova in the uncommon slot. Be wary of loading up your creatures with multiple equipment cards against players who have 3WW open: They may be telegraphing a Soul Nova which can be quite game-ending against a creature with two-plus equipment attached to it.
Green has a weakness in the commons slots unknown to it. It’s uncommons are great – but for commons, you don’t have anything larger than a 4/4 – Well, you can run that 5GG 2/2 that gives out +1/+1 tokens, but it’s probably not a great idea. The 4/4 is good, but generally, you will be looking to green’s uncommon slots for your better fatties.
On the other hand, green has a solid common mana fixer – Journey of Discovery – and then a solid”search for any land” effect in the uncommon slot, Sylvan Scrying. This means a green player can often much more effectively splash than other colors. Beyond that, green has the second-best artifact removal common – Deconstruct. This card is very potent, since it’s essentially”free” to cast as long as you have the mana, meaning that you don’t lose the tempo associated with casting the spell as you normally would.
Against Green players, you will have an easy time if you have evasion creatures and they don’t. While Green has all the abilities to stall the ground, its only”spider” is crippled with the protection from artifacts ability. While this sounds good on the surface, protection from artifacts is good on offensive creatures and poor on defensive creatures; you generally wish to be able to equip the Tel-Jilad Archers with equipment to bolster their ability to block fliers that have been equipped.
To make up for this, Green has two Giant Growth effects. So when playing against a green player, be wary of their mana being open to give a bonus. The two growths – Battlegrowth and Predator’s Strike – are both well-priced and will often show up in green player’s decks. You should also be wary of them annihilating your equipment at instant speed with Turn to Dust, which while limited in targets makes up for it with the fact that almost every deck plays equipment in Mirrodin Limited.
Red has the best common in the set: Spikeshot Goblin. If you sit down and your deck has two to three of these and the cards to bring the goblin’s power up, you’re in a great position. You may remember how powerful Sparksmith was in Onslaught; Spikeshot is a close relative. It is sometimes stronger and some times weaker, but overall, a rock-solid card.
Beyond that, red has the best artifact removal: Shatter. Shatter is simply better than Deconstruct or Creeping Mold because it’s an instant, which allows you to pop equipment or artifact creatures during combat to your advantage. Lastly, red possesses the new anti-artifact creature Shock – Electrostatic Bolt. Just bear in mind that while it’s effective at removing artifact creatures, it can’t hit players.
Beyond those cards, though, Red is a generally bland color. While most of its commons border on playable, they usually dip below the playable artifact line which means they won’t show up often. But keep in mind that Fists of the Anvil and Shrapnel blast can both deal out a massive amount of damage in a hurry – don’t let your life total slip too low against red.
Against red players, you should expect them to be in red for either Shatter, Electrostatic Bolt, or Spikeshot Goblins – Those are red’s best commons by a fair margin and will likely show up often if they’re playing mountains (and are a decent player – but you don’t need my help with bad players, do you?). Since the Goblin is so ridiculous, you may want to be a bit more careful with your removal against red players. Losing to Neo-Sparksmith sucks because you used your Consume Spirit to eat a weenie, lemme tell you. Keep in mind as well that Red has a rather nasty uncommon Fatty in Rustmouth Ogre, and Red players will often shoot a Slith Firewalker into the fray to get a counter if you don’t leave blockers open.
Black’s commons are very debated among my peers. Terror, first and foremost, may be hampered by the fact it can’t target artifact creatures or black creatures (though you don’t see many of those) but it’s still Terror. If you get multiples of Terror, you may very well be looking at a solid splash color or just want to play black. Trust me, killing Glissa Sunseeker, Spikeshot Goblins, equipped Skyhunter Cubs, or Fangren Hunters are all thing you generally want to do in a match. Black’s next three removal commons are all of varying strength: Consume Spirit is weaker (or just plain weak) if you aren’t running as much black, Irradiate is dependent on your artifact count, and Wail of the Nim is a combat trick for hosing low-toughness opponents.
Generally, I have found Irradiate to be roughly equal to Onslaught’s Death Pulse in power in draft; however, your artifact count in Sealed deck will be very dependent on what you open. As a general rule, if you have ten artifacts – which is low, given the artifact lands – it’s playable. If you end up with more, it becomes better and better.
On the other hand, Black’s common creatures suffer from a vulnerability to cards like Spikeshot Goblin and Viridian Longbow – and those are commons, so they will show up. Nim Shrieker can often be roughly the equal to Mistform Seaswift from Legions, if not better, but it’s vulnerable. If you end up playing black, you should probably treat your Slagwurm Armors as more playable than otherwise. You will also notice that black has some interesting interactions with recurring artifact creatures. Cards like Muriok Scavenger will allow you to get the best out of your Soldier and Goblin replicas.
Against black players, you should expect them to either be running a lot of Terrors/Irradiates or to have a high end-black bomb like Reiver Demon or Promise of Power. It’s unusual to see players go into heavy into black without those sorts of cards. While black does have excellent uncommons including the potent Betrayal of Flesh and Flayed Nim, often enough Betrayal will earn them little more than a splash. Be wary of overcommiting tempo to an enhanced creature against black – if you spend several turns playing a creature, playing equipment and then attaching the equipment, you’ve set yourself up for a massive tempo loss to Terror.
Blue has some of the best commons and in a lot of ways, some of the worst. Why? Because they’re totally dependent on your artifact counts. Somber Hoverguard is very likely to be about as, but only if you have the artifacts to get it out early. Sometimes, of course, it will be swinging for three on turn 3. Overall Blue is more of a support color, giving you access to splashable card drawing, bounce, and countermagic, as well as fliers. I won’t expect too many players to be running blue in Mirrodin Sealed, though if you open enough spies and Hoverguards it’s quite a solid color. I’ll discuss more on blue shortly.
Against blue players, you should be wary mostly of them having access to bounce and countermagic. Regress is a fairly solid card; while it’s a bit heavy on the cost, it has a solid interaction with screwing up your opponent’s equipment cards. As for countermagic, the two primary in hand ones are Annul, which can be quite jarring, and Override, which shouldn’t show up too often simply because it requires so much mana to get an effect which may be no better than Complicate. Watch the blue player’s mana and don’t walk into his countermagic, should he be running it.
Here’s a list of what I feel are the most playable commons in each color (In case you want to draft, I guess these are pick orders) – I consider the spell bombs and other”colored” artifacts”in color” in this case:
Roar of the Kha
I place Patrol and Arrest over Cub, since Cub can get into messy situations should it lose its equipment during combat. Awe Strike is a quality trick in a format where removal is fairly light – though usually it shouldn’t make the cut in your deck.
Neurok Familiar is usually unplayable, but can end up playable if you deck is 33% artifacts. Evasive creatures are at a premium in Mirrodin Limited, and the Familiar sits in a spot where you might not have a lot of creatures unless you get a lot of Myr.
Consume Spirit (moves down if you’re in three color mode or black is a splash)
Pewter Golem (moves up if you have solid acceleration)
Wail of the Nim
Nim Replica isn’t a horrible card, but the fact it tends to trade with a Myr make it a little less than great. It does, on the other hand, trade with a Fangren Hunter. It wouldn’t pick it high and I wouldn’t splash it, but if I was short on creatures, I’d run it in a pitch. Scavenger’s card advantage and solid frame for cost can make it better than Shrieker and Spirit in cases.
Fists of the Anvil
Incite War (look at this a bit like Wave of Indifference)
I may be over- or underrating Hematite Golem – its pump ability is overall really solid in my head, but I haven’t gotten a lot of chances to really try him out. Incite War is a card you want in your deck if you need to break ground stalls up; however, it’s not something you ever want multiples of.
Journey of Discovery (a very flexible card. Try it out)
Turn to Dust
Green has the problem of its Spellbomb, Golem, and Replica all being generally pretty bad. Elf Replica is only good should your opponent run Arrests – and even then, that’s not that hot. However, Green can easily splash other color’s colored artifacts, using Journey of Discovery, so it’s not quite as hard on green.
Back To Artifacts: A Little Bit Less Than Basic
Beyond the”colored” artifacts, which are all actually generally playable but not always good, there’s a basic core of artifacts you should be well-versed in.
First and foremost is equipment – the common equipment is all generally pretty good. Bonesplitter should always make your deck; it’s simply excellent. Leonin Scimitar is good, and Slagwurm Armor can make your evasive creature very hard to deal with.
Viridian Longbow needs a moment of discussion all itself: This is a very key card in slower games, and will let you basically shut down Black’s Nim (not that Nim are good; heh). However, keep in mind that you can pay three to equip the longbow to a creature, use it that turn, and then after your next untap phase, tap the creature then pay 3 to move it to another creature. The result? A slow, but often important, Shock-like effect. You can continue to do this as long as you have the mana, though that’s fairly unusual.
It also works something like a Goblin Sharpshooter while on a Dross Scorpion, and reminded me Psionic Gift when splashed on a Steel Wall. Vulshok Gauntlets, which are common, are notable for the fact they work very effectively with Leonin Den-Guard, Yotian Soldier, and the Goblin machines such as Goblin War Wagon. While it’s slow, equipping a Yotian Soldier gives you access to a 5/6 that doesn’t tap to attack – that’s powerful in this format.
However, I would advise to not overdo it with equipment. I generally won’t go past three in my deck, though more is possible if you get really good common equipment like Bonesplitter in multiples. Higher-end equipment is also very much penalized for being a recursive enchantment-like ability: You may see Sword of Kaldra as incredible, but the honest truth is that eight mana for the first +5/+5 is simply not very good tempo. While I’m not saying you shouldn’t run it, don’t overload your deck with expensive equipment. You will hit fast white decks that will simply overrun you before you can step up your equipped juggernaut of destruction. Never mind if they remove the creature, which can set you right back on your ass in the tempo game. Try to keep it to two high-end equip cards at most; generally, I prefer to only have one.
Of course, if your opponent has a slow deck, sideboard them in – they’ll be worth it there.
Second, there’s a range of very powerful abilities hiding in uncommon artifacts. Serum Tank is basically going to be a cheaper Jayemdae Tome – and recursive card drawing is incredible in Sealed deck if it’s not too expensive. Most of the Shards are quite good, pardoning Heartwood Shard. Pearl Shard is borderline playable without the white – but with the white, the card is ridiculous. It’s Aven Redeemer in a can. Crystal Shard and Skeleton Shard are both ridiculous as well, while Granite Shard is more quality without being quite so insane from time to time. One red mana to poke is reasonably efficient, though it’s probably better to run Longbows if you’re not in red.
Mourner’s Shield, while pricey, will basically allow you to shut down one colored permanent a turn to great advantage. Mirror Golem is notable in that if you remove a creature from a graveyard, he’s a high-toughness, unblockable, three-power creature, which isn’t bad. Leonin Bladetrap is, to be honest with you, ridiculous. In the late game it’s an instant-speed Earthquake on your opponent’s attackers, in the early game it will keep him from being able to attack effectively.
Rust Elemental is very powerful as long as you have the artifacts. He’s obviously a risk if your opponent is running Arrest – but beyond that, it’s a cheaper Air Elemental with a drawback that while risky, is well worth having four power swinging in the air.
Third, Myr are very key cards in this set. Myr Enforcer is basically as large as any other common creature: While it’s an artifact and will often get removed, your opponent is going to have less removal than you have artifacts. His affinity ability will usually make him a 4/4 for five mana, which is a great deal. (From time to time it will be absolutely ridiculous at four or three mana, but that isn’t something to rely on.) The Mana producing Myr cycle can be a bit cruddy if you draw them late, but the added mana is very useful in this set. If you’re running high end bombs like Bosh, Iron Golem or Plated Slagwurm, you will want to run the Myrs you have. Also keep in mind if you have two Myrs or more, you can often cut land (though not two land per Myr!). I usually end up running seventeen land in this set, with two Myr, to help me out.
You will usually end up running two colors in Mirrodin, but there are some rewards to splashing – a fair number of things that help you out. All the colors have nice splash cards in the Replicas, Spellbombs, and removal you sorely need. This set is more friendly to splash since you have more than just 2/2s for three, and there are mana-fixing elements available in the uncommon and common slots. Off-color Myr that pay your splash costs aren’t as bad as running the splash lands; Talismans can help out a great deal too.
To give an example, think of a situation where you’re running a Green/Black deck, but you seem a little short on quality cards. A blue splash could yield the following options:
Somber Hoverguard, Wizard Replica, Thoughtcast, and Aether Spellbomb.
Of those cards, there is no great demand for blue mana – Thoughtcast, while great if you can cast it quickly, isn’t too punishing if your island shows up on turn 7. The Spellbomb can be cycled and the Replica, while not great as just a 1/3 Flier for three, isn’t ass either. If you end up considering a splash to get more quality cards, look over your pile and see if you have things to help out. There’s a great deal of splash enablers: Like I said earlier, splash color Myr are solid, Chromatic Sphere can help out and a Talisman in one”main” color and one splash color is a pretty decent way to gain access to your splash effects.
My favorite splash cards in colors are the following:
- White: Soldier Replica, Pearl Shard, Blinding Beam
- Green: Deconstruct, One Dozen Eyes, Tel-Jihad Archers
- Red: Shatter, Goblin Replica, Granite Shard, Pyrite Spellbomb
- Black: Terror, Irradiate, Skeleton Shard, Pewter Golem
- Blue: Thoughtcast, Somber Hoverguard, Wizard Replica, Cobalt Golem, Aether Spellbomb
You may notice from the list that both Red and Blue really do take well to being splashed, so bear that in mind when considering the depth of your blue and red cards, and if they can be added to a W/B deck for better effect than running B/R without access to unsplashable white cards like Leonin Skyhunter.
Good luck at your tourneys and remember: Not too much equipment, don’t run less than fourteen creatures, and side in your artifact removal if he has two Platinum Angels. Sealed deck is about many small choices that lead to a good game, make sure you’re making the right ones.
Taeme on IRC and in other places where he frequently screams at people for no good reason.