Innistrad Prerelease – Report And Sealed Musings

This is an article on Innistrad Sealed Deck, which is the format of the next PTQ season, so sit up and pay attention. You want to go to Hawaii, don’t you? Well then, you need to build every pool you can lay your eyes on!

Bag packed in advance with trades, sleeves, notepad and pen, I sat agonizing at my computer screen. I’d missed the last fantasy football transfer deadline by an hour, so now it was more important than ever to field players who would score points in today’s games. “But hold on a second,” I thought, “How are they going to play any premiership football matches today when the Prerelease starts in an hour?”

Oh Dan, you so crazy.

Anyway, this is an article on Innistrad Sealed Deck, which is the format of the next PTQ season, so sit up and pay attention. You want to go to Hawaii, don’t you? Well then, you need to build every pool you can lay your eyes on as part of your preparation for that. And if (when?) you wildly disagree with the author, do explain why in the comments, for everyone’s benefit.

Now, what would you do with these?


It seemed to me that every color had something going for it here and could be playable in some way, each having at least a removal spell and a couple of decent creatures. White has a pair of tappers, a few flyers, and a nice trick in Spare from Evil, which can surely engineer a blowout at this level. Blue also has some flyers, solid ground defense in the crabs and Skaab, and a few mill cards, but probably not enough to pursue that as a win condition. Ludevic’s Test Subject I may be completely wrong on, but it looks like a trap to me, very much like Forge[/author]“]Titan [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]—easy to waste 10+ mana on and then lose to an opponent’s two-mana spell.

Black has some quality removal in Dead Weight and Sever the Bloodline (with Tribute to Hunger probably being “just okay”) but doesn’t have much in the way of creatures past the bomb Bloodgift Demon. Red has several decent men, some of whom could generate a two-for-one (Pitchburn Devils), and a burn spell. Green has a couple of nice transform guys, a pair of conditional Gravediggers, and Travel Preparations, which I’m told is excellent. Tree of Redemption is a possible sideboard option, and Moonmist I probably don’t have enough transform cards for. Creeping Renaissance would be good in a very long game.

Finally in artifacts we have auto-play Geistcatcher’s Rig, some reasonable equipment, and Galvanic Juggernaut—which I will tell you right now, I totally missed when deckbuilding, did not even see it there. Cellar Door doesn’t seem worth it, as it’s probably only going to get you a 2/2 between a third and a half of the time.

After agonizing over all my options, toying with every combination of colors possible, I eventually gave up and resorted to this:

Village Ironsmith
2 Avacynian Priest
Villagers of Estwald
Crossway Vampire
Voiceless Spirit
Rakish Heir
2 Woodland Sleuth
Ulvenwald Mystics
Thraben Sentry
Abbey Griffin
Night Revelers
2 Pitchburn Devils
Gallows Warden
Geistcatcher’s Rig

Prey Upon
Caravan Vigil
Travel Preparations
Bonds of Faith
Sharpened Pitchfork
Spare from Evil
Brimstone Volley

6 Forest
6 Plains
5 Mountain

The “Shards Block Special” mana base makes a triumphant return, though with only two CC costing cards, it’s not too embarrassing. Still, even within this color combination I’m certain the build isn’t correct, and I should almost certainly have Galvanic Juggernaut, Butcher’s Cleaver, and maybe Doomed Traveler and/or Creeping Renaissance in there. And that’s without considering other color combinations… It’s clear there’s a lot still to be learned here when it comes to the build, but let’s look at the games now regardless.

ROUND 1 — The Kid (UB)

I start with the dreaded “13-year-old boy” round, which is second only to the “9-year-old boy” round in the “how likely you are to lose” stakes. He shuffles my deck pretty much upside down, seeing a bunch of my cards, and then accidentally mulligans to seven, but I figure he’s just a kid, and this is a Prerelease, so hey, whatever. Don’t be a d-bag, Dan*. He tells me many of my cards aren’t very good and has some curious rules interpretations during our games (apparently a regenerated creature “technically dies,” so he can have a morbid trigger, which I dispute), but I play nice, win in two despite overwhelming odds against me, and shrug it off as him just being inexperienced.

(* = I’ve been told off by a judge for calling on cheaty behavior at this level before, you see. I was playing Zendikar Sealed against an Eastern-European opponent with his friend watching a game from my side of the table. After a minute or two, this friend then went round and spoke to my opponent in Polish (I think), but included the English names of the cards in my hand in their conversation. The judge I called then asked me, “It’s just a Prerelease; do you really need to be like this?”)

ROUND 2 — Stuart (UBr Zombies)

Stuart is a returning player with an extremely good Zombies deck, with loads of recursion and inevitability. He’s also clearly a good player, as he declines to attack when I “forget” to tap something down with my Avacynian Priest (holding up a potential Spare from Evil blowout) and plays thoughtfully and without errors. I make an obvious mistake not killing his Stitcher’s Apprentice when given a Pitchburn Devils trigger, growing gradually further and further behind in a drawn-out game one as a result, and concede far later than I should have. With just a few minutes left in the round and realizing I can never beat him in the long game, I sideboard boldly:

Plains, Geistcatcher’s Rig, Sharpened Pitchfork, Gallows Warden, Caravan Vigil.

+ Mountain, Reckless Waif, Bloodcrazed Neonate, Feral Ridgewolf, Traitorous Blood

I draw a very aggressive hand, but time is quickly called, and I lose in extra turns with lethal on my next attack. Shoulda scooped earlier and got me a draw!

ROUND 3 — Stewart (RB)

Stewart (this time with the proper spelling, he assures me) isn’t confident in his deck and confesses he thinks it can only beat people who don’t really know what they’re doing. His deck was a little better than he gave it credit for though, and in a fairly lengthy first game, I saw some decent Vampires and Werewolves and removal, including a couple spells and a Morkrut Banshee. We went to a third game with just a few minutes left, and again after boarding into a much more aggressive deck, I was in a pretty convincing lead, but a turn or two short of the actual win. Dang.

After the results of the last two rounds, I’ll note that sometimes you do need to speed your opponent up a bit, even at a Prerelease. Obviously be nice about it and don’t take it too far and ruin someone’s day, though. Also, pet-hate of the day: checklist cards. Everyone I saw using them had the associated real card located at least 30 seconds worth of searching away, and you have to check and make sure they aren’t cheating. Use sleeves at your PTQs please everyone!


Between rounds I learned that my round 1 opponent had now been disqualified for cheating (intentionally drawing additional cards, peeking while shuffling) and had been removed from the venue in a flash by his severely disappointed father. My immediate reaction was to find this very amusing and run around telling my friends, who reacted similarly (largely a result of the way I told it, I suspect).

This was poor form on my part though, and not the kind of behavior I should be encouraging in others. A player feeling they need to cheat is more a sad than funny situation really, particularly when it concerns someone that young. Fair play to him for fessing up as soon as a judge started questioning though; I hope he learns his lesson for the future. As for me, next time I see someone making some shifty moves, I’ll be calling a judge on it—even if it is at a Prerelease. Oh, and not finding a resulting DQ so funny, either.

ROUND 4 — Charles (RBW)

My opponent for this round came disheartened by the previous three: “I’ve had to play against that Bloodline Keeper every round so far. It’s so unfair. Six out of nine games…” I cheered him up by saying I didn’t have one, but then sadly had to undo that by winning in two pretty lopsided games. The first he got manascrewed pretty hard, and in the second his scary turn 1 Stromkirk Noble dealt me ten, but I drew nothing but creatures after trading it for a Pitchburn Devils, and when he finally topdecked another creature, it was a flier, and I’d been keeping Geistcatcher’s Rig back in hand.

ROUND 5 — Roelan (WG)

Though not one of the fantasy players I’d worried about earlier, Roelan had come here straight from morning football practice and was very appreciative of borrowing some deodorant from my bag. Seriously readers, take a can with you to all your Magic events and improve the atmosphere for yourself and others in these crowded venues (I’ll leave it to another writer to detail the benefits of smelling good when it comes to picking up girls…).

Game 1 he kept a speculative one-land, five two-drop hand, but didn’t get a land in his first three draw steps and scooped them up. Game 2 he had turn 2 Mayor of Avabruck, which made a trio of tokens before I managed to get rid of it. A while later once back in the game, I got a little impatient with him at five life and made a god-awful alpha strike into open mana with Roelan having cast nothing for a few turns and was deservedly blown out by Spidery Grasp + Rebuke. Game 3 I didn’t have a two-drop on the draw, allowing his Mayor of Avabruck to transform at the earliest opportunity, and even killing it turn 3 didn’t allow me to recover.

FINAL SCORE: 2-2-1, +11 Planeswalker Points (fist pump).

I was more than a little pleased to not have to play against, and inevitably lose to, any of the bombs I wrote about last time. However, as a few of you noted in the comments, there are more answers to them than I initially thought (to be fair, the spoiler wasn’t complete at that point).

However, you’re probably wondering what someone who can do a little better than dead even has to say about INN Sealed—so I consulted a trio of X-0 friends, in Glenn “Big Man” Goldsworthy, Josh “Hair” Tovell, and Stuart “Frimley Ripper” Wright, who between them managed a combined 24-0-0 record. Here are some of their thoughts on what allowed them to do this, cards that were particularly good, and the format in general.

Everyone agreed the format seems pretty slow in general, and that as such you should choose to draw, with most players not starting to cast spells until turn 3. This was something Glenn was able to take advantage of when he received an underwhelming pool:

My pool was not good at all—no bombs and only three pieces of removal total, so I went aggro, and it worked crazy well. W/G, with five one-drops and twelve two-drops, I frequently killed people by turn 5. I often had four guys in play by turn 4 while my opponent had just one. I only dropped two games all day.”

Both Stu and Josh respectively noted how easy it was to splash an extra color:

Splashing was pretty easy. I was G/W/r followed by G/R/w and very rarely had any trouble with my mana.”

Splashing is really easy in this format (Shimmering Grotto, Traveler’s Amulet). If you’re not splashing, you should probably have a good reason. I played G/B/w, splashing for two Rebuke.”

On cards of note, Josh had quite a lot to say:

All of the morbid cards are super powerful. Festerhide Boar and Somberwald Spider in particular were amazing all day. Manor Gargoyle and Daybreak Ranger were also outstanding. I had Liliana of the Veil too but only drew her in two games. In those two games though, she won them singlehandedly. If you play her on turn 3, make them sacrifice a guy, and also have removal for their next guy, the game is literally over.”

On the new game mechanics, it was noted that morbid on occasion allowed you to chump attack with impunity—you either got through or triggered your bonus, but opinions were mixed on the transform cards, Werewolves in particular. Josh liked them:

All the Werewolves are very good, as are all the transform cards in general. Not playing anything (to flip a Werewolf) is certainly the right line sometimes. Case in point, not playing anything to get Nightfall Predator going is an investment that pays dividends.”

While Glenn maintained they were terrible, particularly if you were skipping turns to enable them:

People who skip one of their turns to flip a Werewolf are bonkers; I killed so many people because of this. Let’s put it this way: I made a guy on turns 1 to 3 in nearly every game; they made a guy on turn 3, and if they did nothing turn 4 for the transform, then they were dead turn 5.”

In general, this sealed format seems decent and challenging—and as yet there doesn’t appear to be an obvious “best” archetype (e.g. R/B in Zendikar, R/W in Scars of Mirrodin) that you want to play whenever possible. Five final thoughts for you before your next event:

You are almost certainly going to be playing three colors and choosing to draw.

Be aware that you may be giving much-needed morbid when making an “obvious” block.

If your non-terrible opponent makes an attack that doesn’t make sense (particularly one that would have them dead on the swing back), they are probably looking to blow you out with Spidery Grasp, Village Bell-Ringer, or one of the many other combat tricks. For this reason, attacking into open G/W mana is horrible.

Travel Preparations is nice for proactively taking your good x/2s (say, Avacynian Priest?) out of Dead Weight range. Note you can play it targeting just one creature, and sadly it is not an instant.

Opening hands with two-drops are even better than usual, as they can stop your opponent getting a free transform on an early Werewolf (say, Mayor of Avabruck) and running away with the game as a result.


Dan Barrett