Reflecting Ruel – How to Build a Sealed Deck 2: Day 1 at Grand Prix Minneapolis

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Friday, November 20th – Olivier Ruel rocked to Grand Prix: Minneapolis and posted a fine 8-1 result on Day 1. Today, he shares his Sealed cardpool and deck choices, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the cards in general. After Day 1 of Worlds, he sits at 4-2… Good luck Oli!

Before I start talking about the technical aspect of the event, I’d like to say a few words about the tournament and its host city. If you read my column regularly, you probably have noticed that:

– I hate that American Grand Prix tournaments are never actually held in the actual city in which they are announced.

– I am, like most Magic players, much better at pointing out what isn’t working over what is working.

Grand Prix: Minneapolis was great. It was actually held in Minneapolis, the city was pretty nice (I hadn’t seen that many squirrels for a long while!), and the tournament ran really smoothly. Nope, I’ve nothing bad to say about this one. Good job to all the people who worked on this event.

Now back to the Sealed deck portion of the event.

I said last week I would try to post my Sealed cardpool on the forums before today’s article was released, but I haven’t had a minute to spare due to my preparation for Worlds. I’ve had so little time that I’m writing these words at 1:30am between Day 1 and Day 2 of Worlds. Sorry about that. I’ll post my cardpool list first, without commenting on the cards, for those who would like to contemplate their own builds.

Here’s the card pool I opened:

First, let’s separate the cards we want to play from those in which we have no interest. Here’s the key:

Cards you’re willing to play
Possible filler
Cards you’re not willing to play

After this, we’ll look for each color’s strong point.

Land (12)
1 Foil Swamp
3 Kabira Crossroads
2 Teetering Peaks

1 Piranha Marsh
1 Soaring Seacliff
1 Turntimber Grove

1 Akoum Refuge
1 Jwar Isle Refuge

1 Magosi, the Waterveil

Artifact (3)
2 Stonework Puma
1 Carnage Altar

White (14)
1 Steppe Lynx
2 Kor Duelist
1 Kazandu Blademaster
1 Makindi Shieldmate
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Kor Cartographers

1 Pillarfield Ox
1 World Queller
1 Quest for the Holy Relic
1 Sunspring Expedition
1 Shieldmate’s Blessing
1 Day of Judgment
1 Windborne Charge

Creatures: 5/10
Some pretty good guys (World Queller, Steppe Lynx, Kazandu Blademaster, Kor Sanctifiers), but only seven guys you’d consider playing. It’s not much.

Curve: 6/10
Short in playables, but they still fit almost every single part of the curve.

Evasion: 3/10
No flyers except for Windborne Charge. Still a very good card, but it’s a little light.

Creature Removal: 8/10
Only one piece, but it is the best removal in the format (Day of Judgment).

Tricks: 8/10
With Shieldmate’s Blessing, Windborne Charge, and (most importantly) Day of Judgment, it will be hard for your opponent to play around everything you have, not to say around anything.

Bombs: 9/10
World Queller plus Wrath of God… Quite good!

Card Advantage: 6/10
Once again, Day of Judgment is a great motor of card advantage, but so is Kor Sanctifiers.

Mana Fixers : 5/10
Kor Cartographer to search for the precious second White. Not fabulous, but still average.

Blue (14)
1 Tempest Owl
1 Merfolk Wayfinder
1 Gomazoa
1 Living Tsunami
1 Windrider Eel

1 Seascape Aerialist
1 Trapmaker’s Snare

1 Trapfinder’s Trick
2 Spreading Seas
1 Into the Roil
1 Ior Ruin Expedition
1 Cancel
1 Lethargy Trap

Creatures: 3/10
Living Tsunami is good for you when you only have three playable guys.

Curve: 5/10
Good curve, but a very limited number of cards possibly played.

Evasion: 3/10
They all fly/gain flying? They still suck.

Creature Removal: 2/10
Gomazoa and Cancel, not great if you have to actually kill a guy.

Tricks: 6/10
Spreading Seas is an average card able to win games on its own. Into the Roil and the underestimated Lethargy Trap should help too.

Bombs: 2/10
Go go go Tsunami!

Card Advantage: 5/10
You don’t really gain card advantage, but you do disrupt their tempo with cantrips.

Mana Fixers: 6/10
A Blue/Black land, but it’ll probably be useless as Blue should be too difficult to run.

Black (18)
1 Guul Draz Vampire
1 Gatekeeper of Malakir
1 Vampire Nighthawk

1 Mindless Null
1 Crypt Ripper
1 Heartstabber Mosquito

3 Hagra Crocodile
1 Guul Draz Specter
1 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Bog Tatters
1 Disfigure

1 Vampire’s Bite
1 Quest for the Gravelord
1 Soul Stair Expedition

1 Desecrated Earth
1 Needlebite Trap

Creatures: 8/10
Some of the best creatures in the format, with commons, uncommon, and even rares included.

Curve: 4/10
Black’s weakness. With so many slow drops, Black will probably need to associate with an early curve color, which won’t be easy to play as it’ll run several multi-colored-mana spells.

Evasion: 8/10
Flying, Intimidate, Swampwalk… there is pretty much everything we need.

Creature Removal: 7/10
With Mosquito, Nighthawk, Gatekeeper, and Disfigure, your opponent may find some trouble passing through you.

Tricks: 4/10
Needlebite Trap and Disfigure are a little light.

Bombs: 9/10
Yes, I know, Sorin and Marsh Casualties are missing. But I’m doing my best.

Card Advantage: 7/10
Two Nekrataal guys and Soul Stair Expedition should help when games go long.

Mana Fixers: 6/10
Two dual lands have a good chance to help when I get to pick colors for my deck.

Red (11)
1 Goblin Bushwhacker
1 Plated Geopede
1 Highland Berserker

1 Ruinous Minotaur
1 Hellfire Mongrel
1 Molten Ravager
1 Murasa Pyromancer

1 Zektar Shrine Expedition
1 Seismic Shudder
1 Magma Rift
1 Spire Barrage

Creatures: 3/10
Even when you have some good early drops, you don’t build a deck with eleven cards.

Curve: 5/10
It’s easy to have a low curve when you don’t have many playables.

Evasion: 0/10
I fear not.

Creature Removal: 3/10
Magma Rift and possibly Murasa Pyromancer. This Red will count on allies in order to be anywhere near efficient. Spire Barrage will probably be pretty bad as Red is short on playables.

Tricks: 2/10
The Goblin Bushwhacker was a good trick until it started being played in Standard; now it is much easier to anticipate. Seismic Shudder is pretty good, but it is mostly a sideboard card.

Bombs: 0/10
Plated Geopede on turn 2?

Card Advantage: 1/10
One point in case the Pyromancer does something really strong, but only one point because the color actually relies on card disadvantage (Magma Rift, Zektar Shrine Expedition).

Mana Fixers 5/10
One dual land… and two Teetering Peaks.

GREEN (12)
1 Nissa’s Chosen
1 Oran-Rief Survivalist
2 Oran-Rief Recluse
1 Mold Shambler
1 Timbermaw Larva

2 Zendikar Farguide
1 Quest for the Gemblades
1 Khalni Heart Expedition

1 Predatory Urge
1 Relic Crush

Creatures: 3/10
Some pretty good guys, but they are just not enough.

Curve: 4/10
Quite variable depending on whether you want to kick the three echo guys. However, with so few playables, you can’t really be satisfied about it.

Evasion: 4/10
It doesn’t have any flyers, but it can deal with them quite easily (2 Spiders, Urge). Also, the Farguides are an interesting possible sideboard option.

Creature Removal: 6/10
Surprisingly, it has quite a lot!

Tricks : 1/10
If you manage to destroy a spell like Journey to Nowhere with Relic Crush, then you’re about as far from tricky as you can be.

Bombs: 0/10

Card Advantage: 4/10
The three kicker creatures should provide some.

Mana Fixers 0/10
And… nope!

The build of the deck ends up being pretty easy. As the stats confirm, White and Black are by far my best colors. Green has some good stuff, but it is low in playables, while my Red’s potential key card (Pyromancer) is just decent. As Blue is the weakest, it doesn’t leave with many plans but one: playing White/Black.

The archetype may not be very good, but it seems to be, by far, the best option I have. It has my guys, my rares, my curve; all the strong points of the cardpool.

Let’s see the deck I played in Minneapolis

10 Swamp
5 Plains
3 Kabira Crossroads
1 Steppe Lynx
1 Guul Draz Vampire
1 Gatekeeper of Malakir
1 Kazandu Blademaster
2 Stonework Puma
1 Makindi Shieldmate
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Guul Draz Specter
1 Kor Cartographer
1 Pillarfiled Ox
1 Crypt Ripper
1 Heartstabber Mosquito
1 Bog Tatters
1 World Queller
1 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Disfigure
1 Soul Stair Expedition
1 Quest for the Gravelord
1 Shieldmate’s Blessing
1 Day of Judgment

Synergy: 9/10
I love the deck because it is the first time I’ve manage to pull off a stable and good control deck in the format. My plan is simple: slow him down then take control with my bombs and win. The cards in the deck do that well, as they often go together well (Gatekeeper/Mosquito + Soul Stair Expedition, 4 allies, Wrath + Quest/Expedition). Also, the three Crossroads help the deck buy the time it needs.

Stability: 7/10
Of course, it’s bad to have Kazandu Blademaster and Gatekeeper of Malakir in the same deck. Also, Lynx surely doesn’t shine brightly when you only have five Plains to cast it on turn 1. However, I still think my deck is excellent, and very consistent. Why so? Because I am playing a control deck, and early drops are just an option to go beatdown once in awhile, but if they don’t show up in the first few turns, it’s not a big deal. I still have my many bombs and removal to take control of the game.

Not really an option here, as my deck is strong enough the way it is, and because there is no card at all I want to splash in this Sealed deck. If you wanted to change something about the mana, it may be the addition of a 19th land.

I thought this deck was good, but it was actually excellent. Starting with three byes, I finished Day 1 with a 8-1 record, after only losing to Sorin Markov.

Unfortunately, I started Day 2 with a pitiful 0-3 despite a 4 Living Tsunami deck. In draft 2 I did better, with a 2-1 result drafting Naya Allies. I ended up 66th, and very close to the money. The final draft was very instructive, as I had a pretty good ally deck, an archetype I had not been playing much in ZZZ. I’ve given it many tries since then, as you will see in the next few drafts, and I’m willing to try it at Worlds in five hours, if it’s open.

Oh yeah, a quick word on Worlds: I went 4-2 in Standard, running Bant (a deck from Manu, who posted a 5-1 result with it). I’m playing the first round of tomorrow’s draft against the only player I know in my pod: Frank Karsten. See you next week for decklsits and my Worlds report!

Until then, have a great weekend!


PS: Article complete at 4:13am, with my next match starting in 4 hours and 47 minutes. Maybe it’s time to go to sleep…