Lessons in Limited: Mirage/Visions Sealed Deck

As the world waits for Dissension, Nick branches away from his usual Ravnica/Guildpact play to take part in the Visions Release Events on Magic Online. Are you tired of drafting RRG? Do you fancy shaking your booty with the older cards? If so, Nick has the low-down on the format, and the results to prove it. A break from the norm, before the Dissension madness hits town this weekend…

When Guildpact was first released, I was of the opinion that the new format was going to be extremely diverse and hard to figure out, and there may be more than one “best deck.” Of course, this was just a possibility, and in the end most of you have realized that Blue is once again the dominant power in the format even if there are plenty of other solid options. With all of that in mind, it seems like RRG has been awash with strategy articles, and with Dissention only a few days away, I have decided to shift my focus to another format that has been reintroduced via Magic Online.

If you’ll think back to late December, I did a report on the online release of Mirage. Well, Visions just came out last week and I was anxious to play with the cards again, and I decided to dedicate another report to a Visions release event on Magic Online. If for whatever reason this doesn’t interest you, I promise that I will be starting plenty of Dissention stuff next week beginning with thoughts from the Prerelease and overall format theories. For now, let’s return to the world of Mirage/Visions Sealed and Draft.

Building the Deck

76 Players entered this 4x Release event on Magic Online. While this is about a normal number, it’s a little low for a 4x event and would lead to seven rounds of Swiss cutting to Top 8. Here is the card pool I received for the Sealed portion.

Okay, that should be enough time.

This pool was interesting in that I really was unsure which way I was going to take it once I sorted through and pulled out all of the good cards in each color. It was obvious that I was playing Blue in some form, but beyond that I was going to have to move some things around and see what looked good.

My first inspection of the pool told me that White and Red were both slightly on the weak side, when compared to Green and Black as possible pairings for the strong Blue cards. I went ahead and build the UW and UR versions of the deck and noticed quickly that they were both sub par and lacking in a number of areas. This made it pretty clear that the decision was between UB and UG with a possible splash for Pacifism.

When I tried mixing in the Green and Black with the guaranteed Blue cards that were going to make the deck, I couldn’t tell at first which would be better, since they both seemed to have their own set of perks. The UB version seemed slower and had a lot of four drops, while the Green side didn’t have any big monsters to play in the late game. One of the actual deciding factors in which color to choose turned out to be the fact that one of the best Green cards I had, Granger Guildmage, was going to require a splash for Red just to get the good ability! Searching through the Red revealed that there really weren’t any good splash additions to go with the Guildmage ability, unless I wanted to cast Spitting Earth for one, or possibly Chaosphere (for some unknown reason). In the end, I decided that the Green was just too weak compared to the Black, and I got some nice removal in Dark Banishing and Funeral Charm, as well as the versatile Vampiric Tutor to complement my Blue bounce cards.

After finally deciding on a second color, there were still plenty of decisions to make.

Specifically, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should have Shrieking Drake in the deck, to combo with Man-o’-War and also to possibly return Harbinger of Night for a “second” use. This seemed like a strong possibility, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to use a slot on the Drake with only these potential uses. Other cards that were on the border of making it or not making it were Bone Harvest, Jolt, and Three Wishes. I’ll explain more after I show you the final build of the deck.

Here is the final build I came up with.

Okay, so where was I?

Bone Harvest managed to get the last slot and I was on the fence as to whether or not I should put Jolt in the deck and run 16 land instead of 17. In the end I decided 17 was correct because I really needed to get to four mana to cast my good stuff and had upkeep costs to pay from Vaporous Djinn and Thirst. Another bonus of running the extra land could be to power out a big Snake Basket later in the game, which I can also fetch via Vampiric Tutor. At any rate, this may not seem like a big deal, but I really wanted to end up with the right configuration.

I mentioned earlier that certain cards were vying for the slot that Bone Harvest got and also the other slot if I ran 16 lands, and I wanted to divulge a bit on that as well.

Three Wishes
I know it is tempting since it says “Draw 3 cards” on it, but I really don’t think it’s that effective. In this deck the best-case scenario in the late game would be to cast it, get a land off of it, and be able to cast a good spell. This will easily cost seven mana total, and could be more. I think that my deck is already very strong in the late game, and I didn’t want to draw this thing early on and cast it only to find nothing I can use, or just simply to get another land. This is just too slow, unless you have lots of cheap stuff in your deck or some way to generate a ton of mana.

Twice the caffeine, twice the fun

This card may not look like much, but in fact it is very strong in this format since there are plenty of big clunky creatures as well as Phasing. When you Jolt something like Breezekeeper after it finally manages to phase in for an attack, you are really buying yourself a lot of time. Of course, the main reason this is good is because it is a cantrip, and you can also use it as a Rishadan Port on turn 3 if you have nothing better to do. This was the only mistake I feel I made in deck building, and that is that this should’ve been maindeck instead of the Bone Harvest in order to compliment my other bounce and removal to force through tons of damage. I sided this is almost every round of the tournament and was mad that I had it in the deck and then cut it at the final moment for the Harvest.

Bone Harvest
I do remember this card being strong when the format was legal in paper Magic, but I sided it out a ton over the course of the tournament. This is an elbow drop against someone with lots of removal, as you essentially undo all of the work his removal spells have done by drawing those creatures over again. In a topdeck war it doesn’t get much better than this, but I think it is better as a sideboard card overall if you have other good options.

Putting the 'Dung' in 'Mundungu.'

This card is excellent in any kind of slow matchup and acts as a pinger as well as making each spell cost one mana more. I decided it didn’t belong in the maindeck though as against an aggressive deck you can’t cast it on turn 3 without getting run over. I do really like this card, but I believe it serves a better purpose coming out of the sideboard than it would maindeck. It’s also much better on the play, which is something you can know for sure when boarding.

Round 1 against Negril7
I entered this match still with doubts hanging in my mind about whether or not I built my deck as optimally as possible. The last slot was really bothering me, and I wasn’t sure if I was playing too much land… because I didn’t want to get manaflooded. As I said in deck construction, there were a lot of tough decisions to make and a few cards that could’ve easily been maindeck.

Game 1 my deck really came out to play as I started with Merfolk Raiders while he played a River Boa. I spent my third turn Banishing his Boa while he added Nettletooth Djinn to the board. On my turn the Raiders phased back in and I bounced his 4/4 with Man-o’-War and got in for some damage. He recast the 4/4 on his turn and I added Barbed-Back Wurm to my side. The next turn was a real blowout as he played Panther Warriors and hit me with Djinn, but my Raider phased back in and I cast Undo on his men and got in for 8. He untapped and played Viashivan Dragon, but I phased it out with Reality Ripple on his turn and again got through for damage. The next turn I swarmed him and he couldn’t hold on while at three life.

Game 2 he mulliganed on the play and ended up getting stuck on two lands, while I had a nice curve that eventually ended in pumping Dirtwater Wraith a bunch for the win.


Round 2 against pikey
Game 1 I opened strongly with Raiders, Dream Fighter, Vaporous Djinn, while he plays Teferi’s Drake and Raiders. I started dominating him on the board and used Vampiric to get Dark Banishing to handle his Spitting Drake. It seems I have the game completely under control when I bust Snake Basket, and he’s at two facing down my Vaporous and five tokens, with Teferi’s Drake and Talruum Champion with me at ten. Unfortunately for me, he untaps, casts his maindeck Tremor, attacks for 6 and Kaervek’s Torches me out. Sick.

I board out Bone Harvest for Jolt since I’m starting to think that Corpse Harvest just doesn’t do a whole lot in my deck.

Game 2 we both mulligan, and my Matopi Golem ends up being a huge problem for him as his Kukemesa Serpent is incapable of getting by it. Eventually I get him with the Golem and Dirtwater Wraith.

Game 3 I start out with Gravebane Zombie on turn 4 when I’m also holding the Wake of Vultures. This is an easy but crucial decision, because he has three mana up and I’ve seen him use Flare on me just to draw a card in a previous game, and I’m hoping he will do it again so that my Vultures will be in the clear. Sure enough, he fires Flare at me on my end step and then plays a few ground creatures and suddenly realizes that he has no good way to stop my Gravebane Zombie. I eventually add Vaporous Djinn to the board as well as the Wake and he is way behind. The one thing he does have going for him is a Crimson Roc that is holding off my Zombie now and he is hitting me back with a couple guys. I’m far ahead, and if he has Torch it could be close, so I wait until he dips down to one card in hand and then Funeral Charm it out of there… and find out that it was in fact a Volcanic Geyser which would’ve been trouble for me. My fliers end up going all the way. By the way, I know I haven’t mentioned it since it seems obvious, but Vaporous Djinn is freakin’ awesome.


Round 3 against bOcCuS89
Game 1 my opponent plays River Boa on turn 2 on the play, and I respond by Vampiric Tutoring for Funeral Charm to handle it. My first creature is Python on turn 3, which then trades with his turn 3 Teremko Griffin. I follow up with Wake of Vultures and then Gravebane Zombie after he fails to play a guy on his turn, and suddenly I’m far ahead. He finally musters a Panther Warriors which I simply Man-o’-War and then Thirst the following turn for the win.

I again board in Jolt for Bone Harvest, and this is the point where I realize I should’ve just had it in the maindeck to begin with. The deck is more of a tempo deck than I thought, and I’m using Reality Ripple just to clear the way for my attackers. Clearly Jolt does a better job at the specific function than the Ripple, since it also replaces itself.

Game 2 I again have the Funeral Charm for his Boa on turn 2, which is good news for me. I play out a Fallen Askari and Urborg Mindsucker, while he is sitting there not casting anything. He uses Kaervek’s Torch on my Minducker for some unknown reason, and I follow up with Breezekeeper. On his next turn I use my sided-in Jolt on his only Forest, which prevents him from doing anything, and my Askari and Breezekeeper end up going all the way after I Reality Ripple and then Undo the creatures he plays.


Round 4 against fifedogg
Game 1 we both play some dudes and he is showing only Forests with a Quirion Elf set to Red. Some trades happen and whatnot, and eventually he gets some nice card advantage with Savage Twister when I’m tapped out… by killing my Vaporous Djinn, Wake of Vultures, and Minducker. Normally after you get Twistered the game ends shortly thereafter, but I simply played a couple more guys and then used the Bone Harvest that I’d been sandbagging all game to reload all of my good creatures to the top. Man-o’-War got another use and the game was over shortly after, since he couldn’t match the fact that I was drawing all of my good creatures again and not drawing land for a while. Maybe I was wrong about Bone Harvest after all? I still think it’s a better sideboard card against someone with lots of removal, but having it main did win me one game here.

Game 2 my opponent decided to board into BR for some reason, and played out Restless Dead, Army Ants, and another X/1… which were immediately wrecked by my Harbinger of Night on turn 4. After this, I play out Matopi Golem and Barbed-Back Wurm while he isn’t doing much. He puts Enfeeblement on Matopi and then tries to Rock Slide both of my creatures on the following turn, but I use Reality Ripple to save the Wurm. He goes on to play Dirtwater Wraith and then Kookus, while I add Python to my team. The turn before he played Kookus I had drawn Vampiric Tutor, and as soon as he played it I knew to go for Thirst immediately and then attack and pump using my Funeral Charm. Kookus does the final three points to him, since he didn’t have the Keeper in play. Most people would just instinctively Vampiric for Dark Banishing here, but getting Thirst is so much better since he will then take three every turn without the Keeper in play.


Round 5 against Gaddych
During deckbuilding I really didn’t think my deck was anything special. Solid, to be sure, but nothing that jumped off of the screen at me. Despite that, I seem to continually be blowing people out of the water with the tempo of the Blue cards and a continuous stream of creatures and bounce or removal.

This round my opponent was playing UW, and game 1 was just an utter blowout as I curved out and he didn’t have anything but a lone Breezekeeper that tried to get in my way.

For game 2 I sided in Mundungu for Bone Harvest, since I felt that it would have a much bigger impact on the game and it was unlikely that a UW player was going to kill lots of my guys. So I end up Vamp Tutoring for Mundungu on turn 2 when my opponent chooses to play first and sticks on two land. He rips a land and plays out Teferi’s Honor Guard, but is now under Mundungu lock. I proceed to play Dirtwater Wraith and Barbed-Back Wurm over the next couple turns, while he draws another land and plays Teferi’s Drake. I continue to force through by using Jolt and Funeral Charm, and he’s really unable to cast anything good because of the presence of Mundungu. I end up Dark Banishing something that was in the way and then Reality Rippling for the kill a few turns later.


Round 6 against Show me the money and Round 7 against Elendil
Since this is a seven-round tournament and we were the only two undefeated players, we obviously took the intentional draws that would guarantee us Top 8 slots. I again drew in round 7 with someone who was also a lock for Top 8 after the draw.


Top 8 Draft
Going into this draft, I couldn’t really remember a whole lot about the MMV format because I only remember the format after Weatherlight was included, and UW was the best deck by far at that point. I decided that I would just go with the flow and draft whatever came, though I do have a very strong preference for Blue in Visions. Undo and Man-o’-War are both simply too good in the common slot and I have taken advantage of that in the couple of VVV drafts I’ve done online.

The draft ended up going pretty well, and White was clearly underdrafted while I know there were a few others trying to draft Blue. Here’s the deck I ended up with:

I was very happy with this deck. Both Pacifisms were passed to me and I felt like I was getting a higher number of strong cards than most players, since a lot of the White stuff came back on the lap, especially in Mirage.

As you can see, there were also plenty of sideboard cards that could’ve made the maindeck. The last cut was the Reality Ripple, though I planned on siding it in against removal since I felt like this deck was more of a controlling one and wouldn’t use the Ripple for tempo. Still, it could’ve been a mistake to not have it in the main, but I thought my other spells were just better. I would like to say that I’ve never been a huge fan of Infantry Veteran in a deck like this, and it is very possible that he should’ve been cut for it. The other tricks in the board are just worse than the ones that made the maindeck, and the Unicorns are good sideboard cards against someone with Red damage spells.

Quarter Finals against ShutYourMouf
This guy was complaining during the draft and saying he had basically no chance to win. I took this as good news for me, as I felt my deck was much stronger than the average deck in this format.

When we got to the actual match it turned out that he wasn’t really lying, as I rolled him over pretty handily in two games with fliers and Pacifism. It wasn’t really a match and nothing worth writing about for sure.

Semifinals against Gaddych
This, on the other hand, was my nightmare matchup, and I knew it ahead of time from watching the replays of his quarters match. He had a nutty GR deck featuring two Granger Guildmages (which I have absolutely no answer to), Savage Twister, burn, and excellent creatures. Lets just say I felt like I was a solid underdog in this match, and I’d need to severely outmaneuver him to win it.

Game 1 goes according to schedule and I get absolutely bashed. He plays out both Grangers, and kills anything good I play while attacking with his army.

I made a lot of boarding changes for game 2, taking out a number of the X/1 guys and bringing in Benevolent Unicorns, and Reality Ripple… and maybe something else that I can’t remember, because it was about 5am.

Game 2 was a much more complicated affair, as I was trying to beat him down but his Granger was making things difficult. Eventually I manage to get him low on life and play out Melesse Spirit, which he can’t kill, and it finishes him off. Had I not played out a bunch of my X/1 dorks as fodder for Granger, he may have been able to swing back and beat me before my Melesse could finish the job.

Game 3 the board gets very complicated, and I know he is sitting on Twister waiting to use it. In the meantime I am getting him with Melesse Spirit and something else, and Pacifying everything that gets in the way. Spitting Drake and Bogardan Phoenix were both locked under the White enchantment, and the turn he finally unleashed the Twister, I was ready. I used Reality Ripple on his Phoenix so that it wouldn’t die and then come back without the Pacifism on it. I also used Prismatic Boon to save both of my creatures, and this combination allowed my Melesse to go all the way before he could unload his reserve creatures post-Twister.

I felt like I played exceptionally well in this match, despite being very tired, and that if I’d done anything differently I could’ve easily lost. I was still surprised to win this matchup though, as I have no way to stop the Grangers and they are a big pain for my deck. He did have to use one in combination with Quirion Ranger’s untap ability to shoot down my Unicorns, which were making his Twister not as effective.

Finals against Ahura Mazda
From watching the replays in between matches, I could tell already that this guy’s deck was as strong as mine, if not better. I was initially planning on playing this match out because I was going to do the article on the tournament, but checking the clock and seeing that it was 6am made me agree to his offer of a prize split, and he would concede since I had the higher rating.

All in all, it was a fun tournament and I encourage the rest of you to take a break from the RRG format and try it on Magic Online while we are eagerly awaiting the release of Dissention this weekend.

See you next week with beginning thoughts on the full Ravnica block draft format.

Nick Eisel
[email protected]
Soooooo on MODO