Freezing Swimming Pool: Why Your Big Toe Hates You

Eli kicks off the new Limited PTQ season with an examination of a sealed deck pool and the various builds that one can create from them. If you are looking for some extra practice before this weekend’s PTQs, you might want to check this out.

Hey there, happy readers. Not much to say in intro here, other than that this article will be a lot more serious and thorough than my last article. My group was considering doing some Extended playtesting recently, but I showed up late for the session due to a farewell party taking way too long. We ended up doing Kamigawa sealed testing for next weekend, which has a GPT for Yokohama and the first Nagoya PTQ. I ended up returning the cards, and they were in Japanese anyway, so any writing about that would have been sketchy. Simple and clean is the order of the day.

Here’s a Sealed deck build walkthrough. I know I will be playing lots of PTQs to qualify for Pro Tour: Nagoya this January, and I know Kamigawa sealed is going to be a critical format for me to work on. I went out and bought a display box and a Fat Pack, so I had the real cards necessary to do an accurate sealed deck build (as opposed to five boosters, which could mean having more doubles of cards).

Sealed deck build 3 Oct 2004

White (16):

Bushi Tenderfoot

Konda’s Hatamoto (Konda’s Hamtarou?)

Kabuto Moth

Kitsune Blademaster

Kitsune Riftwalker

Kitsune Healer

2 Hundred-Talon Kami

Blessed Breath

Quiet Purity

2 Vigilance

Candle’s Glow

Indomitable Will

2 Honden of Cleansing Fire

Blue (17):

Wandering Ones

2 Hisoka’s Guard

Soratami Cloudskater

Floating-Dream Zubera

River Kaijin

Meloku the Clouded Mirror

Soratami Seer

Teller of Tales

Sire of the Storm

Reach Through Mists

Consuming Vortex

Dampen Thought

Lifted by Clouds

Peer Through Depths


Eerie Procession

Black (15)

Ashen-Skin Zubera

Wicked Akuba

Nezumi Ronin

Thief of Hope

2 Villainous Ogre

Gutwrencher Oni


Seizan, Perverter of Truth

Kuro, Pitlord

Soulless Revival

2 Rend Spirit

Devouring Greed

Red (14):

Ember-Fist Zubera

Hearth Kami

Brutal Deceiver

2 Ronin Houndmaster

Kami of Fire’s Roar


Unnatural Speed

Desperate Ritual

Mana Seism

Stone Rain

Hanabi Blast

2 Uncontrollable Anger

Green (12):

Jukai Messenger

Dripping Tongue Zubera

Humble Budoka

2 Orochi Sustainer

Sakura-Tribe Elder

Matsu-Tribe Decoy

Vine Kami

Thousand-legged Kami

Commune With Nature

Glimpse of Nature

Kodama’s Reach

Land (1):

Waterveil Cavern

Here is the point where I insert handy blank space so those of you playing along at home can tape part by figuring out how to build the deck for yourselves, then reading what I thought, and we’ll see how much we agree. However, since blank space is at a premium these days, I decided to throw some random quotes in here instead for your edification, shamelessly stolen from Internet Wrestling Community writer Chris Hyatte.

– faux blank space –

“Hey, when I was in my high school, I was ranked number one! I aced that SAT, now can you dig that? I even won an award for my graduating thesis was about Einstein’s theory of relatives!

“You mean, the theory of relativity, right?”

Shut Up, Sucka! He had two theories. You think you’re so smart.”

– Booker T and Michael Cole at Wrestlemania XVIII

 “Paul Wight, you’re a no good bastard, and your momma said so!”

– Big Bossman to the Big Show, Raw 1999. We’ll miss Ray Traylor.

“Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of the nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless.. distinguishable … post war environments: one where you got twenty million peope killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.”

“You’re talking about mass murder, General, not war!”

“Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.”

Dr. Strangelove


special exhibit:

Boids of da Wattah

– Sign from Futurama

-end faux blank space-


What makes me consider playing White? Kabuto Moth and Kitsune Blademaster are the only superb White creatures. Kitsune Riftwalker is pretty decent on defense, but he won’t help against a Moss Kami or Teller of Tales, and double White is not that easy to deal with in the format. Blessed Breath is an efficient removal counter and can be a handy splice enabler. Hundred-Talon Kami is about as exciting as you can hope for a 2/3 flyer for five mana. Which is barely at all.

It all goes downhill from there. The only card that tempts me for a few more seconds is Konda’s Hatamoto. It is passable at early aggression, but attacking for one doesn’t do much for me. If you’ve got the Legendary Samurai, then you might be in business, but that’s going to be the purview of draft and not sealed, for the most part. We’ll make a note of the Moth as a potential splash card. That’s a very, very big cry for help, though.


Well, at least we have some playable creatures here. The Cloudskater, Teller, and Sire are a passable air force, and the Teller and Sire have excellent arcane/spirit triggers. Soratami Seer is about as exciting as you can hope for a 2/3 flyer for five mana. Which (again) is barely at all. (Aten was right, there are no original sentences in these articles anymore.) And then there’s Meloku.

Meloku. Wow, I love Meloku. I opened him at the (single) flight at the prerelease, and he won more games for me than Keiga. He’s easily splashable, and he can even fix awkward double mana requirements! Swinging with armies of my shiny Rei Ayanami tokens was awesome. I opened him at the next week’s sealed tournament and the guy almost singlehandedly won two matches for me. As long as you have board advantage when you untap after playing him, you’re going to win the game. I often ended up having him sit at home while churning out an Illusion token every turn. Once in a while you end up blocking ugly brutes like Samurai Enforcers with Illusion tokens while the rest of your fliers smack him down. The usual result is an end of turn Sunder for you before you swing for seven or more for the kill. Easily a splashable bomb.

The rest of the Blue is passable. If I went down the path of flyers while stalling the ground, there’s the adequate body of River Kaijin and Floating-Dream Zubera, both of which are Spirits. Kaijin can hold off most cheap Bushido guys, and the Zubera replaces itself, so it works as a cheap chump blocker. But I’ll need more efficient ground guys. I can’t bring myself to play Dampen Thought, because it does hardly a thing to help your board position. Reach Through Mists and Consuming Vortex are both efficient and help splice work, but I am assuming I am never going to play any splicing spell that costs four to splice unless it’s massive board advantage like Haunting Laughter, so I look at the Vortex primarily as a less efficient Aether Burst.

Overall, Blue seems workable, but not quite optimal. We have an amazing splashable bomb though, and we can also run Consuming Vortex to good effect.


Yay, a good bunch of creatures! Check this out. Demons and ogres! Seizan, Gutwrencher, and Kuro, Pitlord! Who expects the ogres to be outnumbered by the demons, though? (I find it rather unoriginal to have a demon whose name means Black, but Kuro is still cool enough in my book.) Unfortunately, Kuro costs nine, so you’re hardly ever going to play him, but when you do it will win the game thereby earning him a slot. Seizan and Gutwrencher are efficient and vicious fatties, and they enable two Villainous Ogres to attack forever. (If Kuro were to hit the table, you would be paying so much Black mana that they probably wouldn’t have mana to regenerate. Then again, they’re not going to get blocked too much longer with Kuro on the table.) That ecchi Seizan lets your opponents draw and play out more stuff before you, but you get just as much stuff if he doesn’t get rid of Seizan on the next turn.

The low end of the curve seems great too. Wicked Akuba, Nezumi Ronin, and Thief of Hope also keep you on the aggro. Two decently priced Rend Spirits and a Soulless Revival make the playable pile too, though I am not thrilled with the Revival so far. If no other color steps up to the table, Black’s going to be our backbone.

After the Revival, the quality went downhill. Marrow-Gnawer doesn’t have a lot to recommend himself, as he only has one rat to transmute, and that’s not exactly a good deal. So all we have left is evasion, and a 2/3 evasion creature for five mana (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) … doesn’t excite me much. Ragged Veins is similarly disappointing. Ashen-Skin Zubera seems like a strictly inferior Ravenous Rat, but it is a spirit, and that could be extremely important, so we’ll put him in the playable pile for consideration. We also have Devouring Greed, which has to be taken into account after we get our creature base determined.


Well, we’ve got more efficient men who can turn sideways and deal some beats. Hearth Kami is a bear who can occasionally take out the odd piece of equipment that shows up in Sealed. Two Ronin Blademasters are solid aggression. Brutal Deceiver is an excellent bluffing card, and Gray Ogres aren’t that bad. Frostwielder is slow, but once it gets online, you’re going to be able to tear up those White, Blue, and Black x/1s.

Red has only one true removal spell, but it’s a doozy. Hanabi Blast can take out any number of bothersome Bushido guys, and can even direct itself to the dome. We also have two cards that can remove a blocker from the equation, but I would rather get some board advantage by playing an Uncontrollable Anger leaving you with your creature intact.

Red also requires a serious commitment, since we have four good spells with double Red casting cost. We have a solid base here, so if we splash, we’re going to have to keep the splash light. There’s some pretty obvious chaff here. Desperate Ritual and Mana Seism are awkward fast mana, and Unnatural Speed would be possibly decent if we had a Glacial Ray or two, but that isn’t the case.

We also have a few cards to consider as solid if unexciting filler. Stone Rain has decent sideboard potential if your opponent is playing a Legendary land, and it can hurt three color decks. I don’t care for random land destruction, though, so I’ll put it in the sideboard. Ember-Fist Zubera will trade with a Bear or remove a problem one-toughness creature (Kitsune Diviner and Soratami Mirror-Mage or Mirror-Guard are the first suspects that come to mind.), so we’ll have to keep him in mind. Same goes for Kami of Fire’s Roar. 2/3 for four nauseates me, but the guy is a spirit and his ability can help punch an attack through for the kill.


Compared to the soul searching analysis of the last three colors, green gives us happy deckbuilders and writers a breath of relief. Yes, a clearly inferior bunch of cards! Eight mana to purchase a 6/6 creature? Joy. A seven-mana 4/4 with dubious evasion and soulshift? There are no good, dead spirits in this color to bring back, and that assumes that you have a spirit in the graveyard anyway and you’re losing this guy! Feh. Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama’s Reach, and two Orochi Retainers give you some mana acceleration, but there’s nothing worthwhile accelerating to in the color. Move along, nothing to see here.

Looking at our pool, we’ve got three solid colors, with Black running the deepest. Red seems superior to Blue and has a better mana curve, but it has less removal than I would like. Blue’s creature base seems nice at the five-drop range, but that won’t work too well in the tempo-dominated format. There isn’t a lot of Splice potential, so we’ll have to let the Splice go by the wayside and focus on solid synergy. Blue wants to be playing Spirits and cheap Arcane stuff, but it’s so ridiculously expensive that I don’t want to get too attached to the color.

Is it worth at least splashing Blue purely for Meloku? I vote yes. Meloku can attack with at least eight power of fliers two turns after he hits the table, and he can spit out chump blockers. He’s a great finisher. The only other Blue card I would consider running here might be Consuming Vortex, but I don’t have quite enough Arcane to make it worthwhile.

So far the deck had been winnowed down to 25 cards.

1 Mana: none. How disappointing.

2 Mana (6): Ember-Fist Zubera, Hearth Kami, Wicked Akuba, Ashen-Skin Zubera, Consuming Vortex, Soulless Revival

3 Mana (10): Nezumi Ronin, Thief of Hope, 2 Villainous Ogre, 2 Ronin Houndmaster, Brutal Deceiver, 2 Rend Spirit, Hanabi Blast

4 Mana (5): Kami of Fire’s Roar, Frostwielder, Devouring Greed, 2 Uncontrollable Anger

5 Mana (3): Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Gutwrencher Oni, Seizan, Perverter of Truth

Dead Card Most of the Time (1): Kuro, Pitlord

Spirit Creatures: 10

Non-Spirit Creatures 7

Arcane non-Splice spells: 1

Splice Spells: 2

non-Arcane spells: 5

As I look at this pool, I see four potential targets for Thief of Hope to grab with Soulshift. That wasn’t a bonus I had focused on earlier, but I’ll take it. With an expected pool of nine spirits to work with (you never want to sacrifice Kuro anyway), Devouring Greed looks playable. The Arcane seems unviable. Four decent removal spells look good, but two of them only hit Spirits, so that’s bad. Kuro doesn’t figure into the equation, since he will only win the game once in a rare while.

The curve looks good – I have an excellent high end of the curve and a good range of three drops. Our four-drop slot looks a bit weak, but I am not a huge fan of running both Uncontrollable Angers. One swingy combat trick is good, but two can be problematic. I am hell-bent on playing Meloku, so running a 7/7/4 mana base seems reasonable to me. That way, I have a good chance of playing Meloku whenever I draw him, and I might as well have room for one other playable Blue spell, so Vortex stays. I don’t ever anticipate playing it Spliced. In the end, I cut the Black Zubera, the Greed, and the Revival. Final results look like this.

2 Mana: Consuming Vortex, Ember-fist Zubera, Hearth Kami, Wicked Akuba (4)

3 Mana: 2 Rend Spirit, Hanabi Blast, Nezumi Ronin, Thief of Hope, 2 Villainous Ogre, 2 Ronin Houndmaster, Brutal Deceiver (10)

4 Mana: 2 Uncontrollable Anger, Kami of Fire’s Roar, Frostwielder (4)

5 Mana: Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Gutwrencher Oni, Seizan, Perverter of Truth (3)

9 Mana: Kuro, Pitlord (1)

Land: 7 swamps, 7 mountain, 4 islands

The mana curve is less than thrilling, but it’s acceptable. The deck is less expensive than Onslaught block.

This deck will have a real problem with Kitsune Blademasters and Riftwalkers. The two will be able to hold the attacks off for entirely too long, and Kitsune Diviners will also be a major headache. Other than that, the premise seems sound. The deck also has issues with blocking, since the two Ogres can’t block, but these colors are built for aggression, and blocking is for sissies, right?. Playing the deck looks straightforward, though, and I would be moderately happy to play this at a PTQ.

Eli Kaplan

[email protected]

who used up his joke quota in the blank space section