Peebles Primers — Tenth Edition Sealed

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Today’s Peebles Primers sees Benjamin take us through two tricky Tenth Edition Sealed card pools, breaking down each color of cards into a distinct three-tier system. Reviewing the possibilities and maxing the power has always been the road to success in Sealed play, and BPM demonstrates how he tackles such questions when presented with a fresh seventy-five…

This week I’d like to look at building sealed decks, specifically Tenth Edition sealed. While the release events are about to end, the skill of building a sealed deck is something that will soon be in high demand when the next round of Limited PTQs begin. I’ve pulled one pool from my own experiences with Tenth, and I pulled another from StarCityGames.com own forums.

For each deck, I’ll present the whole pool and then break down each color into three “tiers.” I can’t think of a better name for these groupings, but I will try to explain them here. Tier 1 is for cards that will almost always make the deck if we play that color as a main color. Examples of this are Wild Griffin, Aven Fisher, Hill Giant, and so on. The idea is not that these are truly the best cards in that color, but that these are the cards we are happy to have in our deck. Tier 2 is for cards that we won’t always play, but we will play when we’re looking for cards 20-23. They can be as good as something like Sky Weaver, and as bad as something like Reviving Dose. Tier 3 is for cards that we will not put in our deck unless everything else fails first. These are cards that are on the same level as our nineteenth land or our fourth splash color.

With that explanation out of the way, let’s dive in.

Deck The First

1 Condemn
1 Ghost Warden
1 Heart of Light
1 Honor Guard
1 Pacifism
1 Reya Dawnbringer
1 Samite Healer
1 Soul Warden
1 Suntail Hawk
1 Tundra Wolves
1 Venerable Monk

Tier 1: Condemn, Ghost Warden, Pacifism, Reya Dawnbringer, Samite Healer
Tier 2: Heart of Light, Soul Warden, Suntail Hawk, Venerable Monk
Tier 3: Honor Guard, Tundra Wolves

Two removal spells and two utility men headline White’s contribution to this pool. Reya Dawnbringer is clearly insane if she hits and lives, but she costs nine and can easily fall to Terror or Remove Soul. The second line contains a couple of near-vanilla men and a tiny flier alongside a second-rate Pacifism. Heart of Light isn’t exactly the greatest removal spell around, but sometimes a deck packed with fliers just needs something to stop the Spined Wurm or Pyromancer that’s ruining everything.

All in all, the color is good, but likely not deep enough to be more than a splash.

1 Aven Fisher
1 Aven Windreader
1 Cancel
1 Crafty Pathmage
1 Merfolk Looter
1 Peek
1 Persuasion
1 Remove Soul
1 Sky Weaver
1 Snapping Drake
1 Time Stop
1 Twitch
1 Unsummon

Tier 1: Aven Fisher, Aven Windreader, Cancel, Merfolk Looter, Persuasion, Remove Soul, Snapping Drake, Time Stop, Unsummon
Tier 2: Sky weaver, Twitch
Tier 3: Crafty Pathmage, peek

Blue, on the other hand, contains a whopping nine cards that I’d put in my deck every time, with a handful more that might make the cut if I need them. The first attraction is Persuasion; a cheaper Confiscate that nabs the most important card type is a definite bomb, though commons like Aven Cloudchaser and Naturalize do hit it. Next up is Merfolk Looter, a relatively fragile man that will completely overwhelm an opponent who can’t kill it. Three powerful fliers, three counterspells, and the all-around solid Unsummon fill the color out. And if we wind up pairing Blue with either White or Black, the Sky Weaver could easily be included to push something like Mass of Ghouls through.

In short, Blue is almost certainly going to be one of our main colors.

1 Deathmark
1 Fear
1 Gravedigger
1 Knight of Dusk
1 Lord of the Pit
1 Phyrexian Rager
1 Ravenous Rats
1 Recover
1 Terror
2 Unholy Strength
1 Vampire Bats

Tier 1: Deathmark, Gravedigger, Phyrexian Rager, Recover, Terror
Tier 2: Knight of Dusk, Lord of the Pit, Ravenous Rats
Tier 3: Fear, Unholy Strength, Vampire Bats

Black in this pool is a handful of removal and two-for-ones, which is usually a good sign. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many creatures at all, even if we stretch to Ravenous Rats and Knight of Dusk. Since the spells are the attractive portion of this pool’s Black, the most likely outcome is that we will splash Deathmark, Terror, and potentially Recover or Gravedigger, if we play Black at all.

1 Anaba Bodyguard
1 Arcane Teachings
1 Firebreathing
2 Fists of the Anvil
1 Goblin Elite Infantry
1 Hill Giant
1 Incinerate
1 Lightning Elemental
1 Pyroclasm
1 Rage Weaver
1 Raging Goblin
1 Rock Badger
1 Smash
1 Spark Elemental
1 Stun

Tier 1: Arcane Teachings, Hill Giant, Incinerate, Pyroclasm
Tier 2: Anaba Bodyguard, Fists of the Anvil, Lightning Elemental, Rage Weaver, Rock Badger, Smash, Stun
Tier 3: Firebreathing, Goblin Elite Infantry, Raging Goblin, Spark Elemental

It should be noted that Rock Badger is very close to the line of being a Tier 1 card; large men with evasion are good in Sealed. However, like Black, Red offers not much more than a splash. Arcane Teachings, Pyroclasm, and Incinerate don’t really give you enough creatures to win a fight, and even counting less-than-hits Lightning Elemental and Anaba Bodyguard, Red only offers five men that I would really want in my deck.

Another splash option.

1 Birds of Paradise
1 Craw Wurm
1 Elvish Berserker
1 Giant Spider
1 Kavu Climber
2 Llanowar Sentinel
1 Overgrowth
1 Rampant Growth
1 Regeneration
1 Rushwood Dryad
1 Stalking Tiger
1 Treetop Bracers

Tier 1: Birds of Paradise, Craw Wurm, Giant Spider, Kavu Climber, Llanowar Sentinel (assuming you can search), Rampant Growth, Stalking Tiger
Tier 2: Overgrowth, Rushwood Dryad, Treetop Bracers
Tier 3: Elvish Berserker, Regeneration

Luckily, Green comes to the rescue in the quest to find a second main color. The men in Green are very strong; chained Llanowar Sentinels and Giant Spider will both do very well at holding off the opponent while the Blue cards fly over the top, and Craw Wurm, Kavu Climber, and Stalking Tiger can all do more than their fair share of fighting. This is rounded out by two very good mana-fixers, and the potential of a cheap landwalker or creature enhancer.

Green is definitely going to be our second main color.

1 Mantis Engine
1 Mind Stone
1 Ornithopter
1 Steel Golem

Tier 1: Mantis Engine, Mind Stone
Tier 2: 0
Tier 3: Ornithopter, Steel Golem

The threat of first strike on the Mantis Engine is often enough to send him through blockers unmolested, but you have the flying option for when a simple threat isn’t good enough. He’s also a very solid defender, of both the sky and the ground. Mind Stone is similarly good; it’s acceleration until you decide you have enough mana that you want to cash it in for a new card. Regardless of the other cards in our deck, these two are certainly making the cut.

With all of that out of the way, an initial pass makes Blue/Green appear to be the best core for the deck. The Tier 1 cards from those two colors are

Birds of Paradise
Craw Wurm
Giant Spider
Kavu Climber
Llanowar Sentinel
Llanowar Sentinel
Stalking Tiger
Aven Fisher
Aven Windreader
Merfolk Looter
Snapping Drake
Mantis Engine

Rampant Growth
Remove Soul
Time Stop
Mind Stone

That’s nineteen cards, and given the fact that we’re including Birds of Paradise, Rampant Growth, and Mind Stone, we’re looking to add another four to the list. We should certainly consider the best of the Tier 2 cards in Blue and Green: Sky Weaver, Rushwood Dryad, and Treetop Bracers. We should also look into the possibility of a 2-4 card splash from White, Black, or Red.

The White splashables are Condemn and Pacifism. Two good removal spells, but Black and Red both offer removal, and some that is less restricted.

The Black splashables are Deathmark, Terror, Recover, and Gravedigger. Deathmark and Terror are both great removal at a great price, though the color restrictions can bite you every so often. Also worth noting is that I wouldn’t splash both Gravedigger and Recover, and between the two I would prefer Recover, since I value a drawn card over a Grizzly Bear. Recover’s cheaper cost is a bonus.

The Red splashables are Arcane Teachings, Incinerate, and Pyroclasm. Of the twelve shoo-in creatures, only four are killed by Pyroclasm (and one replaces itself). Incinerate is comparable to Terror; on one hand it can go to the face for the final few points and it can take out Black creatures, while on the other hand it won’t take down Giant Spider, Spined Wurm, or other assorted Green fatties. Finally, Arcane Teachings is very powerful both at creating a utility guy when I need one, and beefing up my fliers when it’s time to crack for some serious damage in the air.

In the end, I believe that the Red splash is the best option, though it would be good to keep in mind that you can swap the Red for the Black against a Green deck that can avoid the Red removal. I think that splashing in general is correct with this pool, since we have Rampant Growth, Birds of Paradise, and Merfolk Looter to help smooth the splash out.

With the three Red cards on the splash (and the option to switch to Black), we have twenty-two cards for our maindeck. I believe the best bet for the last slot is Rushwood Dryad. The Dryad is almost strictly superior to Sky Weaver in our deck with no White or Black creatures, and the Treetop Bracers are too much of a liability with the massive amount of cheap answers to it running around.

That’s thirteen Blue costs, eleven Green costs, and three Red costs, to go with nine Blue cards, nine Green cards, and three Red cards. With the two fixers and Looter, two Mountains is plenty to satisfy the splash, so we have to divide up the fifteen remaining lands among Blue and Green. Straight numbers say we want more Islands than Forests, since we have an equal number of Blue and Green cards and more Blue costs, but there is an argument for leaning towards Green since that will enable our fixers. However, because the double-Blue costed cards are both less expensive and more powerful than the double-Green costed cards, I think that erring on the side of more Islands is correct. This will also let us focus our fixers on getting our splash online.

The final deck:

Deck The Second

1 Angelic Blessing
1 Aven Cloudchaser
1 Ballista Squad
1 Demystify
1 Heart of Light
1 Reviving Dose
1 Starlight Invoker
2 Venerable Monk
1 Warrior’s Honor
1 Wild Griffin
1 Youthful Knight

Tier 1: Aven Cloudchaser, Ballista Squad, Wild Griffin
Tier 2: Angelic Blessing, Heart of Light, Reviving Dose, Starlight Invoker, Venerable Monk, Warrior’s Honor, Youthful Knight
Tier 3: Demystify

The White in this pool isn’t very deep at all. The two fliers are clearly good, and Ballista Squad can make combat a nightmare for your opponent, but they aren’t the greatest splash. There are a ton of playables, though, so in a weak pool this White could be a main color. For now, we can assume that the other colors are going to be better.

1 Aven Fisher
1 Aven Windreader
1 Cloud Sprite
1 Flashfreeze
1 Horseshoe Crab
1 Merfolk Looter
1 Robe of Mirrors
1 Sage Owl
1 Shimmering Wings
1 Sift
1 Tidings
1 Unsummon

Tier 1: Aven Fisher, Aven Windreader, Merfolk Looter, Sift, Tidings, Unsummon
Tier 2: Cloud Sprite, Flashfreeze, Horseshoe Crab, Sage Owl
Tier 3: Robe of Mirrors, Shimmering Wings

The cream of the crop in this Blue is absolutely outstanding. Tidings is unbelievably powerful, and Sift does a decent imitation at an easier-to-manage cost. Merfolk Looter is the Sift that keeps on Sifting, and the fliers are some of the best around. With Unsummon rounding things out, and a set of solid filler if we need to fall back on it, Blue could easily be a main color in an average pool. Its weakness, though, is that it is light on creatures, and might not be enough to fill out a deck.

1 Contaminated Bond
1 Distress
1 Dross Crocodile
1 Gravedigger
1 Hidden Horror
1 Highway Robber
1 Knight of Dusk
1 Looming Shade
1 Lord of the Undead
1 Mass of Ghouls
1 Mind Rot
1 Phyrexian Rager
1 Ravenous Rats
1 Stronghold Discipline
1 Vampire Bats

Tier 1: Gravedigger, Highway Robber, Looming Shade, Lord of the Undead, Mass of Ghouls, Phyrexian Rager
Tier 2: Distress, Dross Crocodile, Hidden Horror, Knight of Dusk, Mind Rot, Ravenous Rats
Tier 3: Contaminated Bond, Stronghold Discipline, Vampire Bats

Where Blue was lacking in creatures, Black delivers the goods. Lord of the Undead is an amazing combo with Gravedigger, and very strong with the usually-good Mass of Ghouls and the usually-mediocre Dross Crocodile. Phyrexian Rager and Highway Robber have good comes into play abilities, and Looming Shade can easily rule the table with a set of Swamps backing him. In addition to all the goodness, the filler includes many playable spells and creatures, highlighted by the aforementioned Dross Crocodile, Ravenous Rats, and Mind Rot. Another very solid color.

1 Anaba Bodyguard
1 Earth Elemental
1 Firebreathing
1 Flamewave Invoker
1 Goblin Piker
1 Goblin Sky Raider
1 Hill Giant
1 Lightning Elemental
1 Prodigal Pyromancer
1 Raging Goblin
1 Shivan Hellkite
1 Spitting Earth
1 Stun
1 Sudden Impact
1 Viashino Sandscout

Tier 1: Earth Elemental, Flamewave Invoker, Hill Giant, Prodigal Pyromancer, Shivan Hellkite, Spitting Earth
Tier 2: Anaba Bodyguard, Goblin Piker, Lightning Elemental, Stun
Tier 3: Firebreathing, Goblin Sky Raider, Raging Goblin, Sudden Impact, Viashino Sandscout

The hits keep coming here. Shivan Hellkite is quite the house, burning peasants and swinging for five, and he’s backed up by Prodigal Pyromancer and Spitting Earth. Hill Giant and Earth Elemental are also both strong men, and if the game goes long, Flamewave Invoker can end it faster than most. Rounding Red out are a few good men and a possible cantrip trick. The interesting decision at this point will be which of Blue, Black, and Red get left out in the cold.

1 Aggressive Urge
1 Canopy Spider
1 Giant Growth
1 Might Weaver
1 Might of Oaks
1 Natural Spring
1 Naturalize
1 Rampant Growth
1 Rootwalla
1 Skyshroud Ranger
1 Yavimaya Enchantress

Tier 1: Aggressive Urge, Canopy Spider, Giant Growth, Might of Oaks, Rampant Growth, Rootwalla
Tier 2: Might Weaver, Naturalize, Skyshroud Ranger, Yavimaya Enchantress
Tier 3: Natural Spring

After three very good options, Green is slightly disappointing where it would usually be at least somewhat attractive. Might of Oaks can end games out of nowhere, and Aggressive Urge and Giant Growth are both very good, very cheap tricks. Rootwalla is always a sizeable threat, and Canopy Spider can hold the ground against many of the common fliers. However tempting the pump spells may be, they just don’t compare to Blue, Black, and Red.

1 Fountain of Youth
1 Howling Mine
1 Ornithopter
1 Rod of Ruin

Tier 1: Rod of Ruin
Tier 2: 0
Tier 3: Fountain of Youth, Howling Mine, Ornithopter

Rod of Ruin isn’t as sleek as Prodigal Pyromancer, but the effect is a strong one both as a part of combat and just as a way to pick off smaller men. It’s the only artifact worth mentioning, however; all the rest ride the bench every time.

Outside of Shivan Hellkite and the Lord/Gravedigger combo, I believe that Blue has the best cards in this pool. This is unfortunate, though, because the small number of creatures that Blue offers mean that we would likely have to splash it if we were to play it at all, and splashing Blue takes away two of the most exciting cards and neuters more. Sometimes, though, things simply shake down like that, and so I’ll start off with the core Red and Black cards.

Anaba Bodyguard
Earth Elemental
Flamewave Invoker
Hill Giant
Lightning Elemental
Prodigal Pyromancer
Shivan Hellkite
Dross Crocodile
Highway Robber
Looming Shade
Lord of the Undead
Mass of Ghouls
Phyrexian Rager
Ravenous Rats

Spitting Earth
Mind Rot
Rod of Ruin

We’ll need at least three more cards to go with that. We can reach into the real dregs of RB for cards like Stun, Goblin Piker, and Knight of Dusk, or we can consider splashing.

If we splash White, we gain Aven Cloudchaser, Ballista Squad, and Wild Griffin. In other words, we get two fliers and a combat utility creature. While fliers are valuable, splashing two 2/2s does not excite me.

If we splash Blue, we gain Sift, Merfolk Looter, and either Aven Fisher or Unsummon. Merfolk Looter and Sift are both very strong cards, but part of their strength is their ability to use the middle turns to set up the late game; splashing them means they won’t even come online until the lategame they would usually craft. Splashing Aven Fisher is approximately as attractive as either of the White creatures above, and Unsummon, while good, is not exactly the best possible spell we can splash.

If we splash Green, unlikely though it may have seemed, we get the perfect cards. At this point, our deck is very creature-heavy, yet it only has one removal spell and no tricks. Green gives us Aggressive Urge, Giant Growth, and Might of Oaks. In other words, Green gives us the tricks we need so badly.

With the three Green cards added, we’re looking at ten Black cards, eight Red cards, and three Green cards, to go with fourteen Black costs, ten Red costs, and three Green costs. Keep in mind also that Black has Looming Shade and Red has Spitting Earth and Shivan Hellkite; all of these cards like as many of their lands as possible. The splash eats up three land slots, so we’re left to look at how to split the remaining fifteen lands again. Luckily, it’s not much of a question; we need plenty of both Mountains and Swamps, but our Black commitment is greater than our Red commitment. That leaves us with

Hopefully my thought process is helpful to you. The general idea is that I break down the colors into the cards that I want in my deck, the cards I could live with, and the cards I won’t play, and then I just look at the depth of each color and the various numbers (number of creatures, number of tricks, number of removal spells, etc).

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM