Remie on Sealed, and Firemane Control

Jeroen continues his popular column that answers questions posed by the Magic community worldwide! Today’s offering is the usual mixed bag… we have Jeroen’s take on the Sealed format, plus his thoughts on U/R/W Firemane Control. There’s also a little Extended chatter, and the burning question of frozen yoghurt preference is finally answered. All this and more, inside!

Welcome to the latest instalment of what has been an awesome series so far, from a writer’s point of view. I am still having a great time writing these articles for y’all.

To begin, I have a couple of things we need to talk about.

First of all, the amount of questions I am receiving each week is going down again; I only received a handful last week. This means we are running very low on content, and if you want to keep this series going please keep asking questions! The address is [email protected], and everything is welcome.

Second, I will not be writing next week because of Worlds. I’ll be travelling to the fair city of Paris early to prepare, and since I am not sure if I’ll have Internet access, I will not be writing next week. I am not sure if I’ll be back the week after that either… but trust me, after that I will be returning for sure.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are this week’s questions:

Chris Single asks the first:

I am an experienced amateur. However, Sealed has never been my specialty. I will be attending GP: NJ and don’t know what to expect. Do you have any advice on what colors to use? I was leaning towards R/X or U/W… or does it depend on the cards you receive? Also, in Sealed, do you run with the best cards or the most aggressive?

P.S. I love Amsterdam.

As it happens, I received a similar question this week. I’ll list that as well, and then answer them together. Sean Fitzgerald, with almost the same question:

What are your opinions on Time Spiral Sealed? Everyone seems to be focusing on draft, and I know that’s important for Worlds… but for the upcoming PTQs, Sealed is important to the people not going to Worlds (i.e. me).

Also, on the tour, what nationalities players are the most fun to go out with (completely ignoring their Magic ability)? Give us a Top 5 of drinking buddies!

Ah, Sealed… the format that a lot of pros ignore. The reason is that you don’t really have much control over the proceedings – you can’t really force colors or strategies, as you have to work with what you’re given. This is the reason you don’t see much strategy articles when it comes to Sealed, as every Sealed deck is different, and all you can really do is a Sealed walkthrough.

What you can do is remember some of the classic rules of Sealed deck, and how they relate to the current format…

Here are a few “rules”:

Consistency Over Power
Most of the time people will look at their bombs and try and put in as many of them into their deck as possible, stretching their manabases in the process. This is not Ravnica Block; playing many colors will lose you games. Looking back at the top Sealed decks from the past two Grand Prix tournaments:


… and it is easy to see how great players play the most consistent builds over power rares. Just look at Jelger Wiegersma’s deck at Yamagata. No real power, save from the slivers. However, it is pretty quick, it’s two colors, and it punishes bad draws fairly well. It doesn’t have anything really broken, but it is just very consistent and will not be screwed very often by mana issues. Same for Masahiko Morita’s deck, which has even fewer bombs, but shines because of its consistency. In Jersey you see the same with Rich’s deck. He doesn’t do anything crazy, sticks to two colors (with a Mountain for some flashback), and just wins because of cards like Mindstab. This brings us to our next point.

Card Advantage Rules
While tempo is good, card advantage is still the most important part of Sealed Deck. This means cads like Mindstab become MVPs, Think Twice becomes very playable, and Firemaw Kavu should be the card you want to open most of all (as you can see by those undefeated decks, he is the common card shared by most).

Don’t Plan in Advance
Don’t ever go in leaning towards a color combination. You can’t decide beforehand what is good and what isn’t, as it all depends on the cards you get. Thinking, “Ooh, I have to play Green or Red” when you prepare for an event will get you nowhere, as you might not open anything in those colors. Stay open, stay flexible.

Take What You Get, or Take Some Risks
You can’t choose the pool you have been given, and sometimes it is not what you hoped for. In that case, focus on what you can do to make it work. Maybe you need to push your mana, and play four colors and fifteen lands (like Coimbra in Jersey, though I have no clue how he got away with that), and sometimes you have to play underpowered cards that beat down very very quickly. Sure, you’ll need some luck, but it beats building a mediocre thing.

That’s about it. Following these “rules” doesn’t beat old-fashioned preparation, testing and practice, but it surely helps.

As for your last question, my list of Greatest Men on the Pro Tour would be very long, and it would have to include many people (don’t want to offend anyone). It is no secret that I drift towards the American players, as many of them are my best friends on the circuit. Of course, the Dutch are awesome as well, and I kinda get along with everyone, but I really hang out with Americans more than anyone else. My favourite people and best friends on the PT are people like Gabe Walls and Neil Reeves, so…

As for drinking buddies, in Prague I had the best time ever in the bars after the tournament with the supreme crew of Hoaen, Heezy, Gomersall, Osyp, Justin Gary, Craig Krempels, John Fiorillo, Dave Grant, and the Dutch Crew. If you are looking for a good time in the bars, look no further than these guys.

Next up, another batch of enquiries from Ray Bechtel (bless you and your questions, Ray):

1. Time Spiral Block Constructed isn’t on to many peoples minds – in addition to only having one set of the block released, there won’t be any PTQs for it in quite some time. Still, I’m like some crazy bird that wakes up at 3 o’clock in the morning to eat worms. I’m just that crazy.

Anyway, going off your instincts, what do you think is going to be good?

You ain’t kidding. With Worlds and its three formats on the horizon, the last thing I am looking at is Block Constructed. However, it just so happens that Standard is already giving us hints as to what will be good and what not. This deck, which is also a nice little piece of Standard tech, went 7-0 at a pretty big Dutch tournament, and could easily be applied to block. It was made my Micha-el van Luijtelaar (don’t ask me about the hyphen… I have no idea either) who is rumoured to be one of the best rogue deck designers in the country.

2. Now for something totally different: Extended. One of my favorite decks was G/B Death Cloud. I just adored playing it. Do you think such a deck would have a shot in Extended at all?

Here’s a decklist that has never, ever been played before.

4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Golgari Rot Farm
3 Boseiju, Who Shelter’s All
7 Forest
7 Swamp

4 Kokusho, The Evening Star
3 Death Cloud
3 Pernicious Deed
3 Plow Under
4 Sudden Death
4 Sakura Tribe Elder
4 Explosive Vegetation
4 Phyrexian Totem
4 Eternal Witness
4 Spike Feeder or Ravenous Baloth

I am going to be direct and blunt here – this deck is slow. Very slow. You are basically all-in on drawing a Sakura-Tribe Elder, and even then you need a Veggies to really get started. In a format like Extended, don’t ever expect this to be good enough. Affinity, Boros, Scepter Chant, and Goblins will all have a field day against a deck like this, and on top of that you struggle versus control. You need a healthy batch of Duress, Cabal Therapy, and mana acceleration to make this work, and even then you will most likely end up with a Rock-like list.

3. In direct relation to the above, what’s better in the current Extended: Spike Feeder or Ravenous Baloth? We got into a minor debate about it down at my shop, and I don’t think we actually came to a good conclusion. Spike Feeder comes out earlier, but Ravenous Baloth is bigger and can dodge Smother and Sudden Shock.

I am the biggest Spike Feeder fan in the world, as it is my favorite magic card ever, but even I must say that Ravenous Baloth is simply the stronger card. Not only because of the cards you just mentioned, but also for the fact that Spike Feeder doesn’t stop any relevant guys any more. Silver Knights are around, as are Kird Apes, Watchwolves, Call of the Herd tokens, and Troll Ascetics. Just settle for the guy that is actually big enough to block them, as well as being a better threat on his own. Spike Feeder has a bunch of other uses that make him awesome, but the current metagame doesn’t like cute and tricky. It wants blunt, brute force.

4. Out of the following flavors of Frozen Yoghurt, which one is the best?

Fudge sickle (98% Fat Free)
Peanut Butter
French Vanilla
Hawaiian Delight
Cookies and Cream
Very Berry
Vanilla Cream (Sugar Free)

You got me. I am European. The only frozen yoghurt we have is the plain old Vanilla kind, and maybe sometimes chocolate… but that’s it. This means that I have no clue, as I have yet to taste any of them. Sure, I visit the U.S. a lot, but when I am there it’s usually for such a short period of time that I have to fulfil all my frozen goods needs at Cold Stone Creamery.

Man, I wish we had Cold Stone.

5. I hate Windows 98. Do you?

I would advise an upgrade. Windows 98 was a long time ago, dude. Seriously. (I have never used 98 — I went from 95 to XP in one go.).

6. First Pack, First Pick?

Zealot il-Vec; Ironclaw Buzzardiers; Temporal Eddy; Tendrils of Corruption; Lightning Axe; Mogg War Marshal; Basal Sliver; Sage of Epityr; Ghitu Firebreathing; Momentary Blink; Knight of the Holy Nimbus; Dreadship Reef; Primal Forcemage; Nether Traitor; Desolation Giant.

What do you take, and why? If your first choice wasn’t in the pack, what would be your second?

As a first pick, I would go for Lightning Axe. It is close between Desolation Giant and Lightning Axe, but I don’t like to heavily commit myself to two colors this early in the draft. I also like drafting Blue, which means I will try and force that color whenever I can. All this considered, and Axe it is.

I just wanted to finish this out by saying how much I love your articles and enjoy your writing. You’re one of my favorite writers, and someday I hope you sit across from you and sling some spells.

My pleasure, buddy! Thanks for all the questions over time. These articles wouldn’t be here without you and the other guys that like to send me stuff.

David Shakarisaz gives us another question:

I’ve been playing U/R/W Firemane Control for quite some time now. It stomps pretty much any deck in the format, given the correct hand. It is geared towards smashing aggro decks like no tomorrow. With maindeck cards such as Condemn / Faith’s Fetters (not sure about this main) / Lightning Helix / Wrath of God, and counters for support with Firemanes for life gain… I was wondering what you think the perfect U/R/W Angel Control build is. I read your reply to questions about Urza’s Factory… maybe I’m playing the wrong deck for this format, because every time I have laid out an Urza’s Factory (especially against another control deck), it’s pretty much a scoop for their side of the board. What are your thoughts on this deck type?

One last question: I’m siding in Trickbind for the Dragonstorm matchup. Do you think its really going to be played? I use Trickbind over Shadow of Doubt because Trickbind is more flexible in both its use and color mix. I will be more likely to have Blue mana open for counters when I use Trickbind, and I can Trickbind other cards too.

I really like the R/W/U decks that have been around lately. A combination of great removal – with Lightning Helix at the top — card advantage, and very solid tempo makes it a prime choice in the metagame.

I can’t really give you the best build, because as I have said before in this column, I am not about to give away our own decklists right before tournaments. I suggest waiting for Worlds, as our team is looking at a version of this deck to play as one of the possibilities, and you’ll see in the coverage.

As for the Factory… I never said it was a bad card, just that it was not an auto-include in any deck. The real decks in which it can shine, draw go-ish control decks, are not good enough right now. The U/R/W Angel decks tend to be just that kind of deck, and therefore they are very good at getting to the late-game, giving this card a chance to perform well. It still isn’t an auto four-of, as the manabase can’t handle this, but playing one will be harmless most of the time, and it can win you games.

The control matchups do worry me, though… generally, the maindeck is geared to beat aggro decks, and therefore it will have trouble dealing with dedicated control cards like Persecute. This card alone scares me in the Solar Flare matchup, and makes me think that matchup is not in your favor. Solar Flare is a very popular deck, which means there is a reason to avoid playing Angels.

Dragonstorm is a real deck that is out there, and sideboard cards to combat the strategy are few and far between. The problem is that – be it Trickbind or Shadow of Doubt – they have Gigadrowse to tap you out and you will not be able to cast either in the typical game. This is another reason to shy away from the deck, and a reason to look at different sideboard options for that matchup. Something more in the way of a proactive card than reactive one. Also, why do you think Trickbind is better that Shadow of Doubt? Do you board it in for other matchups so often that you feel it is worth the flexibility?

That’s it for this week! I hope you all liked it enough to keep sending me those questions, as I am all out again. [email protected] is the place to be… keep ‘em coming!