Insider Information – A Sealed Deck Cardpool Experiment (Part 2)

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Friday, November 6th – In the second part of this intriguing experiment, Cedric Phillips discusses his thoughts on the cardpool he shared yesterday. He gives us a few prospective builds, and comments on the salient points from the extensive forum debate.

Yesterday, I showed everyone my sealed cardpool from a PTQ in Cincinnati I attended last Sunday. For reference, here it is:

While I was far from thrilled with what I was passed, sometimes in sealed deck you have to try to make the best out of a bad situation. I tried a lot of different builds during the deckbuilding process, but I never really found something that I liked. The first build I tried was a W/r aggressive deck:

Goblin Bushwhacker
Steppe Lynx
Blazing Torch
Explorer’s Scope

Warren Instigator
Zektar Shrine Expedition
Kor Skyfisher
Cliff Threader
Hedron Scrabbler
Goblin War Paint
Nimbus Wings

Stonework Puma
Kor Hookmaster
Kor Sanctifiers
Bold Defense
Magma Rift
Mark of Mutiny

3 Bladetusk Boar
Kor Cartographer

Geyser Glider
Tuktuk Grunts
Arrow Volley Trap
Spire Barrage

Notable Lands
Teetering Peaks

I laid this deck out a few times, but I really didn’t like what I saw. I’m fully aware that the above “decklist” is over the 22-23 card threshold that most sealed decks have, but I just wanted to put my thinking process fully out there. Those were all the cards I was seriously considering.

The problem I had with this R/W deck is that there were a lot of cards in that deck that I don’t like playing in this Limited format, let alone sealed deck:

White cards — I don’t like White much as a color in this sealed format. Outside of Kor Skyfisher or Kor Hookmaster, I have found a lot of the cards unimpressive, and that even includes Kor Sanctifiers. White is kind of in a delicate area because it’s so midrange-y (yes, I just made up a word!). Red and Black are much more aggressive colors that have access to a bevy of removal and evasion, and with the lack of removal that White has, something like a Territorial Baloth can actually just stop an aggressive start cold.

Goblin Bushwhacker – I only like this card in the most aggressive of Mono-Red / White-Red decks, and this deck certainly was not it. I really didn’t think there were any ideal starts where I would be pumping the first for drawing a Goblin Bushwhacker, but I sure could think of a lot of times where I would be upset when I drew one.

Zektar Shrine Expedition – Like Goblin Bushwhacker, I only like this Shrine in super aggressive decks. I hate cards that are a) Extremely situational and b) Extremely poor topdecks. Zektar Shrine Expedition is both of those things, and my deck would have to be off the charts aggressive for me to even consider playing it.

Stonework Puma – I’m not really for or against the cat ally, but I was not thrilled to run it in my no ally R/W deck. I like the roles Stonework Puma can play in sealed (blocking Bladetusk Boar and Surrakar Marauder), but I can’t see playing it without some ally synergies.

Kor Cartographer – This card is only as good as the amount of landfall cards in your deck, as its 2/2 body is quickly outclassed by the earlier drops in the format. I don’t have very much landfall, nor do I really have anything to accelerate out, so it was an easy no-go on this over-costed Rampant Growth.

As you can see, the above deck is not too exciting. If I decided to register this R/W deck, I felt I would have to get fairly lucky to win some matches. There are not too many synergies here, and I have one relevant removal spell in Blazing Torch (not a removal spell I especially like in this format), and some awkward removal spells in Spire Barrage (hope I draw the right number of Mountain) and Magma Rift (hope I’m not mana screwed). When building a sealed deck, I always try to think of individual cards that I would have a lot of trouble defeating. For a lot of decks, that card is Vampire Nighthawk, since it’s the best non-rare in the format (and it’s a lot better than a lot of the rares too!) For me, I was thinking of anything with three toughness!

How was I supposed to get through a Mold Shambler?I


So, I settled upon this build

Blazing Torch
Vines of Vastwood

Stonework Puma
Oran-Rief Recluse
Turntimber Basilisk
Tajuru Archer
Magma Rift
Hideous End

3 Bladetusk Boar
Heartstabber Mosquito
2 Nimana Sell-Sword
Joraga Bard
Mold Shambler

Geyser Glider
Tuktuk Grunts
Hagra Diabolist
Baloth Cage Trap
Marsh Casualties (kicker)

2 Akoum Refuge
7 Forest
5 Swamp
4 Mountain

The reason I built my deck like this was fairly simple: Marsh Causalities. I felt the one-sided Infest was the best card in my sealed pool, and could lead to game wins all by itself. Yes, I realized my deck was horrifically slow, but I really felt that was the risk I had to take to win games. I had good mana (two dual lands and a Harrow is above average), a one-sided Infest, and a lot of ally synergies. Furthermore, building my sealed deck this way gave me access to some real spot removal, and if I was able to play first, I would be able to play my four-drops to stabilize from an early rush and get my big men set up to take the game over. At least that was my rationale…

Some cards in my deck are a little suspect, but here is my reasoning:

Joraga Bard — Normally a card that I despise; I felt that this vigilance ally would allow me to start blocking early and get in free attacks late. The only reason I even considered playing Joraga Bard is because I wanted to put the number of allies I had in my deck over the top.

Vines of Vastwood — This was being used entirely for its non-kicked ability. Considering that I was going to have to beat a removal spell for sure, it was nice being able to lead with a hard-to-kill 3/3 in Nimara Sell-Sword (dodges Hideous End, Disfigure to a certain extent, un-kicked Burst Lightning) and then following that up with another four drop plus counter your removal spell. At no point was I expecting to kick Vines of Vastwood to kill someone.

I’ve checked the forums over the past 24 hours, and there are definitely some things that I did incorrectly here. For starters, I like the idea of the Soaring Seacliff in this deck, since I am hoping to mize anyway. To everyone who thinks I should have that in my deck, I can safely say I agree with you.

I don’t think I could have gone B/R even though I did try for a small length of time. The lack of any real two-drops just made that strategy completely impossible. Following up Guul Draz Vampire with a four-drop was just not going to win me any games.

I think I should have had Hedron Scrabbler in my deck, looking back on things. I think I had to hope to trade with something on turn 2, and that would have given me a decent shot at doing that. Now, if I draw Hedron Scrabbler at any other point in the game I would be fairly upset, as it probably would have no impact on the game, but once again, I think I had to really take on the mizer’s mentality to do well in this tournament.

So what happened?

I got smashed by a B/R deck that had a ton of removal, efficient creatures, and Ob Nixilis. The next round, I lost a pretty bad B/W deck because I couldn’t kill Bog Tatters either game.

Did I build my deck wrong? I’m not sure. I thought my reasoning was sound (wanting to play my best cards instead of trying to bum rush someone and crossing my fingers), but I did not win a game at the PTQ and decided it was time to reevaluate. I understand that this sealed pool was pretty poor, but I was trying to make the best out of a miserable situation.

For those of you in the forums who just responded with, “You’re screwed,” you’re the kind of person this exercise was for. You cannot just give up because a sealed pool is pretty terrible. There is always a correct build, and there are always decisions that can be made to increase your winning percentage. The people who saw my deck at Grand Prix: Boston had no idea how I was playing for Day 2, but I knew how I got there.

I never gave up. My deck was laughably bad, but your opponents can get mana screwed a bunch, they can mulligan a ton, and they sure as heck can play poorly.

Like I said yesterday, I really need a top 32 in Minnesota, and I am tired of not doing well in sealed deck. The two times I have made it to Day 2 of a sealed Grand Prix, I made Top 4 and lost playing for Top 8. Twice. To say I’m comfortable with drafting is an understatement, but for the life of me, I cannot get sealed deck right (except for one tournament a year, it seems).


Do you like what I did?

Do you think my logic was sound?

Am I crazy?

Am I stupid?

Am I both?

Let me know!

Cedric Phillips
[email protected]

PS: If you like this kind of article, I would be more than happy to keep doing it.