Build This Modern Masters Pool!

Roberto aims to help you make it to day 2 at Grand Prix Las Vegas with this practice Sealed pool and discussion of how he would build it. Check it out!

The day is just about upon us. It’s Friday, and we are less than 24 hours away from the largest Grand Prix in the history of Magic! With so many people signed up for this tournament, we need to do some last-minute preparation to make day 2. I have had my nose to the grindstone evaluating and building Sealed pools, and today I want to go through a sample pool evaluating the cards and giving you some advice that may help you be successful.

Many Magic writers have been focused on Draft, but I believe that doing a ton of drafts online is not going to give you the necessary experience to build your pool effectively or prepare you for the Sealed environment. The reason is that Modern Masters Draft is essentially a Constructed format. It seems like every deck has three or more of the commons that make the deck good, and the synergy of the decks is great. This makes the Draft format very streamlined and fast, whereas Sealed is much slower. It is very difficult to build your pool correctly.

I’ll talk first about the steps to take once you open your pool, and then we will walk through a sample pool and talk about the reasoning for the choices. Please feel free to post your comments about the process and the build in the comments so that we can all learn together!

Now that we’ve road mapped what we’re going to do, let’s get to it!

Step 1: Find Your Bombs

Modern Masters Sealed is not much different from any other Sealed format in that we need to know which bombs in the format we should make a conscious effort to build around. I talked a little about this before, but I’ll list again the cards that are bombs that you should be looking to include in your deck and why:

Adarkar Valkyrie Elspeth, Knight-Errant Yosei, the Morning Star Keiga, the Tide Star Meloku the Clouded Mirror Kokusho, the Evening Star Skeletal Vampire Tombstalker Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker Molten Disaster Ryusei, the Falling Star Thundercloud Shaman Jugan, the Rising Star Rude Awakening Tromp the Domains Oona, Queen of the Fae Sarkhan Vol Bonesplitter Sword of Light and Shadow Sword of Fire and Ice Vedalken Shackles

Adarkar Valkyrie – Even without any abilities, a 4/5 flier with vigilance is very strong in Sealed. The only cards that can block, kill it, and not have the Valkyrie return the blocker are the mythic Dragons; Tombstalker; Oona, Queen of the Fae; and Skyreach Manta (sunburst for five). Flying creatures with five toughness are usually very strong in Sealed. Valkyrie makes combat very tricky for your opponent because any creature that dies is going to come back on your side—I don’t think we need to explain why this is a good thing.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant – Planeswalkers are great in Sealed. Planeswalkers that make creatures, pump, and give evasion to your guys as well as ultimating for super indestructibility are ridiculous. The double white in the casting cost makes it hard to splash, but very few decks will have good answers for it.

Yosei, the Morning Star – Huge flying creatures are great, like we said before. This particular one will normally win the game even if they kill it since tapping their best permanents plus keeping them from untapping is too strong. Think about why Blinding Beam is good and then give it a sexy flying body.

Keiga, the Tide Star – The monocolored mythic Dragons are strictly better than the multicolored ones because it means you can splash them in all your decks. For me, I play Keiga in every Sealed deck that I can. It’s a huge flying creature that will end up taking their best creature or killing them. Don’t let me see this in your sideboard.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror – Same rule as Keiga. This should make every Sealed deck you build. It’s easy to splash and has a huge game-winning effect.

Kokusho, the Evening Star – See the reason for all mythic Dragons then add drain for five.

Skeletal Vampire – This card is very similar to Meloku with the exception that this one is much harder to kill. Death Rattle is really the only answer heads up against it. It simply takes over the game because making tokens on tokens is silly

Tombstalker – Huge flying dork. In.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker – Obviously, having a Pestermite or two in your pool makes this a ton better, but just being able to copy your best creature every turn is a great effect. Normally, that will spell doom for your opponent. Don’t despair if you don’t have any backbreaking come-into-play effects to abuse because a copy of your best creature with hast is usually enough.

Molten Disaster – If you don’t have access to any wrath effects, anything that can wipe the board is very good. Many times this just ends up being a split second Fireball. Just remember that this doesn’t hit fliers.

Ryusei, the Falling Star – The other Dragon that makes every deck I play. I cannot explain my fondness for splashable 5/5 flying dudes.

Thundercloud Shaman – In Sealed, this guy is just so much of a blowout. Like I said, we are low on wrath effects, and this guy brings one to the party.

Jugan, the Rising Star – The worst of the mythic Dragons because of the triple GREEN casting cost. I have seen people playing green who have not included it. I think that’s a mistake. It’s clearly not as good as the other ones, but it is still a 5/5 flying dragon that pumps your team if it happens to die.

Rude Awakening – Cast this with entwine and win. Very simple.

Tromp the Domains – I play this card in every Sealed deck. It is another "I win" card. In Sealed, many of the games are slow grindy games where you get to an effective stalemate until someone draws a bomb. I want to have more bombs to draw that are easy to cast. This is one that will usually win the game if cast in the late game.

Oona, Queen of the Fae – Huge flier? Six mana. Make more fliers? Hybrid Dimir X. Deck my opponent? Priceless. This card has everything you want. Find a reason to play this card if it’s in your pool.

Sarkhan Vol – With games being slower, planeswalkers are explosive. Early game, he can put it away through giving your men a bonus plus haste. If I open this, I am more likely to play cards the make tokens like Empty the Warrens and Cenn’s Enlistment. It’s very hard to lose if you control this for a few turns.

Bonesplitter – Play it. Always. Every deck.

Sword of Light and Shadow / Sword of Fire and Ice – There is no excuse for this to not be in your deck. Both are too good in Sealed.

Vedalken Shackles – I treat this card as if it has triple blue as a casting cost. When you have three Islands, this card does its best work.

Step 2: Find Your Tribe

Many Sealed pools will have no tribe at all. As I’ve opened more and more pools, I’ve seen that this is way more common than I originally thought. My opinion was warped because the first three Sealed decks I built had a great tribal theme—but the next three did not. For my breakdown of the tribes you want to be playing, go here.

Step 3: Play As Much Removal As Possible

When we look at the list of bombs, twelve of the 21 are creatures. I have found that having too much removal is never a problem. I’ve consistently been playing fourteen creatures in my decks and using the other slots for removal.

With all the said, let’s look a sample Sealed pool and see what we can build.


1 Amrou Seekers
1 Auntie’s Snitch
2 Bound in Silence
3 Cenn’s Enlistment
1 Citanul Woodreaders
2 Court Homunculus
1 Dampen Thought
1 Desperate Ritual
1 Divinity of Pride
2 Drag Down
2 Echoing Courage
1 Echoing Truth
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Erratic Mutation
1 Esperzoa
1 Etched Oracle
1 Etherium Sculptor
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Facevaulter
1 Faerie Mechanist
1 Festering Goblin
2 Fiery Fall
1 Flickerwisp
1 Fury Charm
1 Giant Dustwasp
3 Grapeshot
1 Hammerheim Deadeye
1 Horobi’s Whisper
2 Imperiosaur
1 Ivory Giant
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Kithkin Greatheart
1 Latchkey Faerie
1 Mad Auntie
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
2 Mogg War Marshal
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Otherworldly Journey
1 Paradise Mantle
1 Pardic Dragon
1 Peer Through Depths
1 Perilous Research
1 Pestermite
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Rift Elemental
1 Riftwing Cloudskate
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 Sanctum Gargoyle
2 Search for Tomorrow
1 Skeletal Vampire
2 Skyreach Manta
1 Stingscourger
2 Stinkweed Imp
1 Stonehewer Giant
2 Street Wraith
1 Syphon Life
2 Tar Pitcher
2 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Test of Faith
1 Thallid Shell-Dweller
1 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Thundering Giant
1 Veteran Armorer
2 Vivid Meadow
1 Walker of the Grove
1 Woodfall Primus
2 Aether Spellbomb
1 Aethersnipe

As I look at this pool, the first thing I see is that we opened Meloku the Clouded Mirror; Skeletal Vampire; and Ryusei, the Falling Star. I’m fairly certain we are going to be playing all of those cards if possible.

When we look at our tribes, we see that our Rebels are pretty weak since we have zero Rebel searchers, but we do have two Bound in Silence, which could be a nice splash if we go that way. That said, we don’t have a Rebel deck. I do see two Kithkin Greatheart, Ivory Giant, and Stonehewer Giant, so maybe we have Giants. Across our other colors, I only see two more Giants and zero Changelings, so Giants are a no-go.

What really stands out to me are the Goblins. We have Auntie’s Snitch, Facevaulter, Festering Goblin, Mad Auntie, Empty the Warrens, two Mogg War Marshals, Stingscourger, two Tar Pitchers, and Murderous Redcap. By being in B/R, we also can stay on the plan of playing our Skeletal Vampire and Ryusei. Our green does have double Imperiosaur, Kitchen Finks, Giant Dustwasp, and Woodfall Primus, but I don’t feel like those are anywhere close to our Goblin build.

If we commit to splashing for blue for Meloku, our two Drag Downs become much better. In addition to those, we get Executioner’s Capsule, Horobi’s Whisper, Fiery Fall, Pyrite Spellbomb and Grapeshot as our removal spells. Murderous Redcap, Hammerheim Deadeye, Ryusei, Stingscourger, Tar Pitcher, Festering Goblin, and Stinkweed Imp also double as removal spells.  

It looks like we have roughly 34 playables amongst our B/R cards plus Meloku and Errant Ephemeron. We will need to get this down to 23, as I feel this is a seventeen-land deck since we need to hit five and six mana for our bombs.

My first cut is Ephemeron because it is only really exceptional when you can suspend it on turn 2 and I’m not sure we will be able to reliably do that while playing one or so Islands. We have a ton of red and black creatures, so we should start there with our cuts since we want to have fourteen-to-seventeen creatures.

Out: Facevaulter, 2x Street Wraith, Hammerheim Giant, 1x Stinkweed Imp, Rift Elemental, Thundering Giant

I’m not sure if we should cut Facevaulter because of Empty the Warrens and Festering Goblin, but we will revisit that before we finalize our list. Street Wraith and Hammerheim Giant are cards I usually don’t start but get sided in often. I do like having Stinkweed Imp, but I don’t think two of them maindeck is where I want to be because it doesn’t have any synergy with my Goblin plan. The second one will obviously get sided in against the big green decks.

Now that we’ve made some creature cuts, let’s look at our spells.

Out: Fury Charm, 3x Grapeshot, Desperate Ritual

All of these cards are good, but I feel that the way this deck will lose is if I cannot get to five or six mana for my bombs or I can’t get the last few points of damage in to kill them. Two Fiery Falls solve both of those issues. I like having at least one card with retrace in my decks, and Syphon Life is a great option to push through the last few points of damage. Against smaller creature decks like Fae and Rebels, we will side in the Grapeshot package.

Now we have 23 cards, but I’m still stuck between playing the Stinkweed Imp or the Facevaulter. Facevaulter has a ton of synergy with our deck and makes the turn 2 Auntie’s Snitch draw possible, while Stinkweed Imp flies and helps us deal with big monsters over and over again. I think I’ll stick with the one Stinkweed Imp, but I could see someone going the other way.

Here’s our 23:

1 Auntie’s Snitch
2 Drag Down
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Festering Goblin
2 Fiery Fall
1 Horobi’s Whisper
1 Mad Auntie
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
2 Mogg War Marshal
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Pardic Dragon
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 Skeletal Vampire
1 Stingscourger
1 Stinkweed Imp
1 Syphon Life
2 Tar Pitcher

Lastly, we need to decide on our mana. The distribution between black and red cards is pretty even, so we can go seven and seven since we’re going to play both our Terramorphic Expanses. With two Fiery Falls and the two Terramorphics, I think we can get away with just one Island for Meloku. Our final mana should be:

7 Mountain
7 Swamp
1 Island
2 Terramorphic Expanse

In the end, our deck ends up looking like this:


I’m think we have a deck that is good enough to make day 2 of Grand Prix Las Vegas. Just keep in mind that we have a sideboard that gives us options against the different builds in the format, so use it often! Thanks for checking in with me, and definitely let me know your opinions on how you’d build this pool. Until next time, let’s do it big in Vegas!



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