Hi there – remember me?
I admit, you’ve seen me everywhere over the past few months – on the backs of milk cartons, on specials hosted by Leonard Nimoy, stapled to the wall at Wal-Mart next to other itinerant teens with facial piercings – but my appearances at StarCity lately have been, shall we say, limited.
But I knew that it was time to fire up the ol’ keyboard when I started getting emails like this:
“To whoever here edits this here site here….”*
So let’s get something straight:
I’m the damn editor.
Me, goddammit. I edit the damn site. In fact, I used to be a writer of some renown before I took over this job, and now it takes up so much of my time that I don’t even play Magic anymore.
I just read about it. Every frickin’ day. And never actually get out to play it anymore.
“MULDER: What is it? What do you see?
CLYDE BRUCKMAN: He’s having sex with her. There.
SCULLY: Is he raping her?
CLYDE BRUCKMAN: Oh, no, no, no, not at all. In fact, she’s instigating the whole thing.
MULDER: Then what’s wrong?
CLYDE BRUCKMAN: Oh… sometimes, it… it just seems that everyone’s having sex except for me.”
– The X-Files,”Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.”**
So given that last year I was voted in as”Magic Legend” by the Casual Players association, and a mere three-month hiatus has dropped me to, and I quote,”The Here Edits This Here Site Here” guy… Well, I figured I’d better get on the stick.
Anyway, given that my appearances have been limited, it’s only right that I come back Limited – Limited practice, that is. With the new round of PTQs coming up, it’s only fair to discuss how to practice for a Sealed deck qualifier:
Step One: Find A Rich Guy Or A Judge
This may indeed be a tricky part, since every time you sit down to practice Sealed, you will feel an invisible hand riffling through your wallet, removing seventeen dollars. If you practice enough times, Richard Garfield will drive by in his platinum-plated, ten-wheel thirty-foot limo with Playboy bunnies krazy-glued to the sides, and personally turn you upside down to pluck the cash from your pockets. Then he will activate the special”jet engine” button on his limo and rocket out of the stratosphere to party with Pamela Anderson at his secret hideout on Mars.
The insulting part is his license plate:”SKR4SLD.”
Seriously, though, the reason Wizards loves Sealed qualifiers is that it costs you nearly twenty bucks to practice effectively, as opposed to the measly ten bucks for a draft. So here’s your best bet:
Find a judge to play with.***
Finding DCI judges to practice with have three advantages:
1) They know the rules, and therefore answer all of your questions.
2) If they’re judging at the tournament, you won’t have to endure the inevitable”I drove ten thousand miles to a PTQ, only to wind up paired against my best friend in the first round!” agonies that wind up in every cliched tournament report.
3) This is a little-known fact, but for every tournament a judge actually presides in, they get nine zillion boxes of product. Level 1 judges get the measly amount of a box for judging… But as they move up the food chain, they get more and more. A level 2 judge actually gets an entire truckload of Odyssey cards backed up to his door merely for showing up and saying”hello.”
So obviously, Judges are good to practice with because they can provide you with free cards if you work them right – and even if not, you can convince you to sell them to you at a much lesser rate. Your other bet consists of flying to Mars and holding Richard Garfield hostage.
Step Two: Open The Packs And Bitch, Then Gloat.
It’s mandatory.”Aw, man, I didn’t get any Elephant Ambushes or Roar Of The Wurms! Battle of Wits? Crap rare!”
And then, as you look deeper into the packs:”Oh, wait – Iridescent Angel? Ka-ching!”
Oh, and don’t show your cards to your friend. I’ll explain why later.
Step Three: Pick The Bombs.
I learned this particular lesson this weekend. I learned it the way that all Magic players learn lessons… And I still have footprints on my face from getting stomped on.
Consistency is nice, and the temptation to go two-color after the four-color madness of Apocalypse is, well… Tempting. Your chances of getting manascrewed will be less, and since there are very few mana-fixers in Odyssey, you might just go with two colors.
Or maybe two colors, with a third gentle two-card splash.
You can do well with a duo-colored strategy, and it actually seems to work well. Your mana is more consistent. Your cards come easier. And your games are so close.
But you still lose.
Sealed is about getting the bomb cards out, and generally you won’t have enough gamebreakers in two colors to make it worth it. Put your best cards together, and then worry about the mana base later; it’ll all work out in the wash. You may get manascrewed a few times, and that always sucks… But in the end, you’ll win more games.
Sealed involves a lot of luck. You wanna minimize that as much as possible, so only put the best cards in. Do not compromise.
Boldness is your only chance to win. Go nuts.
Step Four: Ask Yourself, What Kind Of Deck Do I Have?
The biggest mistake I’m seeing beginners make with their decks is this:
Is your deck threshold-oriented or not?
Odyssey is based around the graveyard – both reusing it and keeping track of it. Certain colors – like white – really depend on threshold for a lot of their creatures to not suck. Other colors – like green – like threshold, but deplete the graveyard with heavy dependence on flashback spells.
Decide what your deck is trying to do. Does it need threshold to function properly? Then you’d better lighten up on the flashback spells, or you’ll never get there – and include a couple of ways instant-speed to discard cards in an emergency, like Patrol Hound, Wild Mongrel, and Krosan Archer. Choose cards that work better when threshold is in play, and play aggressively to get there.
If it’s not, then don’t put in cards that depend on it. Feel free to go nuts with Flashback… And I personally had a great time at the Prerelease with”third -turn thing that I throw away in combat, fifth-turn Gorilla Titan, sixth-turn Gravedigger to empty my graveyard, attack with an 8/8 trampler.”
I did that three times, helped by the fact that I had two Gravediggers. Whee!
Mystic Visionary is nice, but it only really comes alive when you his threshold – and I’ve seen too many W/G Sealed decks with two Elephant Ambushes, Chatter of the Squirrel, and Roar of the Wurm, and then they wonder why they never hit it.
Your graveyard is a resource. Make sure you know how you’re using it.
Step Five: Analyze Your Mana Base.
The best article I’ve seen on mana bases was done by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, and it drives every limited deck I’ve built. It was written a year and a half ago, and it’s still the best article on creating stable mana bases.
Read Rule #3 and Rule #4 with careful attention. They really are what makes it. Yes, it’s a lot of math to do – bring a calculator, or make sure that you can do math on the back of a piece of paper. But if you do this, you won’t have to worry about your mana mix.
One caveat, however: If you’re splashing a third color, make sure you include one more land card than the math says you need. It helps.
Also, don’t forget that the old”land swap” rules are out, now, and you can have as many of any kind of land as you want. Make sure to swap as you see fit.
Step Six: Play.
Wow, this is amazing, isn’t it? Six steps and you guys haven’t even shuffled the cards yet!
Play two matches at least, but preferably three or four. Make sure you play with no takebacks – you won’t get ’em at the PTQ, so don’t get sloppy here. If you misread the card or mistapped your land, it’s your own damn fault.
And don’t rebuild your deck after you see how badly yours sucks. If you really blew it and you’re getting hammered, see if you can adjust your style of play to pull it out. Come up with amazing sideboard swaps; get creative with your plays. And see what works.
(For example, at the prerelease I misread Cursed Monstrosity and thought that it said,”Whenever Cursed Monstrosity becomes the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it unless you sacrifice a land.” As it turns out, you had to discard a land from your hand… So I never would have included it.
(But what I learned was that a 4/3 flyer was still pretty good despite the drawback… And except for decks that had lots of targeted creature-based effects, like Chainflinger and Troubled Healer, the Monstrosity drew tons of removal while acting as a nice finisher. I’m not sure if I would have included it had I read it properly, but it wasn’t as nearly as bad as I thought.)
Not only will you see the mistakes you made in glaring detail, but you’ll also have an excellent opportunity to cry aloud,”Why, God, why?” as you have your head handed to you.
The PTQ circuit requires that you suffer for your mistakes. So suffer, dammit. And learn.
Step Seven: And This Is The Really Tricky Bit…
Take all of your cards and hand them over to your friend. Have your friend hand over his cards to you.
Repeat steps three through six.
This will allow you to see the strengths of other people’s builds, to realize what cards might have worked better and what cards are substandard. Maybe your friend smashed your face with his cards, and you bitched about how your cards sucked…. And then he takes your cards and smashes your face with your suck cards.
It happens. A lot, actually, when you’re just starting out.
Then, when you’re done, discuss the strengths. Let’s give a real-life example:
Here’s what I opened up on Sunday.****** I’m sorry, I know card lists are boring, but there’s only so much I can do to make an article interesting. Here; I’ll put one witty comment in each color, mmkay?
Roar of the Wurm (Heh – I Muscle Bursted my Wurm. Can I Twiddle your Rack next?) (This counts as witty? – The Ferrett, distressed sideline commentator)
Werebear (Where bear? There bear! There castle! Ah, that joke never gets old…)
2 Woodland Druid
Rites of Spring
Barbarian Lunatic (It’s obligatory – when you play this, you must shout,”Barbarian Looooooooon-a-tick!” at the top of your lungs. And when you sacrifice him, as all good players will, you must shout,”Yaaaaa!” Trust me. Pro players love this.)
2 Dwarven Grunt
Kamahl’s Desire (Heh. Wurms and Missiles and grunting dwarves – and then Kamahl’s Desire. Say, Timmy, do you like… Gladiator movies?)
Dwarven Strike Force
2 Aven Cloudchaser
Second Thoughts (Did I really commit to a”witty” comment for each section?)
Sphere of Law
Sphere of Reason
Pianna, Nomad Captain
2 Morgue Theft
2 Coffin Purge
Travelling Plague (Wow! Because, like, Takklemaggot was so overpowering, they had to suck it up and make a worse version for more! What’s next – a fixed Tahngarth’s Glare?)
God – I mean, Gold:
So here, roughly, is what I built, given that I barely remember it:
Iridescent Angel (duh)
I went 3-4 with this particular build. (Although one”loss” should have been a draw if we were playing in tournament times, since he cast that rare lifegain card twice and gained eighty-eight life, thus stretching the game to the point where he decked me after an hour.)
Now What Did I Learn About This Deck?
Pianna, Nomad Captain = Bad Inclusion. The whole idea of this deck is to win in the air while stalling the ground, which it does very well. Pianna, Nomad Captain only attacks on the ground. Without a Muscle Burst or a Shelter to back her up, she kind of sucks and should never have been included.
The Deep Reconaissance Was Unnecessary. I splashed blue, and only put it the DR because I was terrified of not being able to find a blue when I needed to put or my Iridescent Angel. Given the slim amount of blue that this deck needs and the huge amount of cantrips, I would have been better off to put in a real card and trust to luck.
The Offense Sucked. This deck was huge on”D,” but couldn’t really mount an effective counterattack. Iridescent Angel was the only thing that really packed a punch, and often it wasn’t enough, leading to long-game stalls that went nowhere. This deck needed to get more critters through – and for that, it needed more critters.
Half Of The Offense Took Out My Defense. The Spheres came in handy, but I kept blowing them up with my Cloudchasers. Hint: Don’t put in things that you to blow things up when they come into play. Thank God for my Auramancers, but even so the Cloudchasers meant that I couldn’t put in the much-needed Seton’s Desire.
Dematerialize Kept Getting Forgotten. I loved this, and it’s happened more than once. Play it early, let it sit. They’ll play a token eventually, and forget all about it. Wheelets!
I Was Blinded By The Angel. I should have splashed for the Angel. White’s creature base was too weak to use properly in this deck.
Then Chris took over, and here’s what he built:
What we learned:
Boy, This Deck Worked Better When We Used Red. The removal helped, and it turns out that I’ve really been underestimating red’s power in Sealed all along. Ooops.
The Cartographer Was Unnecessary, And At One Point Lost The Game. There are no lands that need to come back, except maybe for the white, and it further sucks your threshold down for no reason at all. At one point Chris would have won if he hadn’t Cartographered a land back to help him with mana issues, thus stopping him from doing a critical point of Chainflinger damage that would have killed me. Then I killed him. It should be a sideboard card at best.
More Creatures = Better Deck. Remember what I said about going with your bombs? Go with creatures, too. I knew this, but I was seducted by that angel, dammit. Mana consistency sucks.
So there ya go. If you all wanna write in and tell me how we both misbuilt this deck, go ahead. I don’t see your pathetic butt writing articles, now do I?*******
NEXT WEEK: A Tourney Report! Yay! Let’s waste everyone’s time!
* – An actual quote. He didn’t get his here article published here, for here obvious reasons here.
** – Incidentally, I started that whole”quoting” bit, so don’t accuse me of ripping Rizzo off. That sly conniver stole that whole”quoting” thing from me – it’s true. Check my archives, chief.
*** – A Magic judge, obviously. A real judge will hit you on the fingers with his gavel.
**** – Yes, I know. Save your emails.
*****- Last I heard, he was creating an extension to his house out of varnished Tahngarth’s Glares.
****** – Jeff, I called, but got no answer – sorry! And Chris just sorta stopped by on a whim…..
******* – Although if you do have pictures of your butt writing articles, send them in. I’d love to see how you hold the pen.