A grad student’s life is hard. Research papers, “field work” (which really means unpaid labor), and keeping up a day job to pay the rent, food, and bills really add up. So what do I do in my scant free time?
I’ve given up TV and movies, and anticipate giving up more soon. Keeping up with people and avoiding hermitage keeps me sane and socialized, but I need an outlet for something relentlessly fun and competitive for the sake of self-indulgence. I may have skipped going to Friday Night Magic for months on end, and I simply can’t do all-day tournaments like Grand Prix or Pro Tour Qualifiers — but as God is my witness, no one will wrest the Prerelease from my hands. That’s a commitment that I can’t skip.
Now, I do get to draft once or twice a week, thanks to Magic Online, but it simply isn’t the same as gaming face-to-face with friends or new
people. That experience of noise, the crackling of booster wrappers, the rush of sorting cards into colors and playables with hands…
it’s just so more lively.
Using a mouse is sterile. Prereleases are still special, even after all these years.
This Prerelease was different. For the first time, I decided to hold off on studying the Scars of Mirrodin spoiler until the night before the Prerelease. Sure, I read preview articles, I looked at all the cards that were officially spoiled on the Mothership, but I didn’t go crazy trying to memorize the common run.
I didn’t perform my usual Prerelease ritual of typing up my own shorthand spoiler, compressing all of the key data from 250 cards, so that it would fit on five or six pages. When I was in Japan, I needed to do that to read cards quickly and finish matches promptly. But now that I’m back in the US, I don’t need to do that anymore.
When I walked onto the Philly tournament site, I felt a little letdown, though. I was letting things slide. Maybe I wouldn’t remember solid Limited fundamentals. I hadn’t followed my rituals. Did I have what it takes to out-build, outplay, and outwit my opponents? I really didn’t know.
While waiting for the first flight to fire, I watched a few people face off with Sealed decks from midnight Prereleases. (I ain’t too old for them, but in no form does midnight
gel with my schedule.) I watched a few games with G/B infect decks facing off against each other, with boards that also included big beaters like Necrogen Scudder and Skinrender smashing face.
When two players are each at eight life and six poison counters, something’s gone horribly wrong. If one player had stuck to their guns, maybe that wouldn’t have happened. Committing to a side and its victory condition is a damned useful approach.
That’s why I love Scars of Mirrodin. Wizards really forces us to make really challenging choices that matter. Kamigawa block tried to force us into a decision like this, pitting the fleshy Samurai, Ninja, Rats, and Beasts against the wiles of the Spirit world. You could pick up a lot of synergy from picking a side, but you didn’t forsake much by mixing and matching.
This time, picking a side in the conflict between Mirrodin and Phyrexia actually closes some doors. This is heady decision making. I love it.
Here’s what I opened.
- 1 Leaden Myr
- 1 Iron Myr
- 1 Gold Myr
- 1 Copper Myr
- 1 Kemba's Skyguard
- 1 Memnite
- 1 Ichorclaw Myr
- 2 Plague Stinger
- 1 Palladium Myr
- 1 Myr Galvanizer
- 1 Painsmith
- 1 Indomitable Archangel
- 1 Glint Hawk
- 1 Embersmith
- 1 Skinrender
- 1 Oxidda Scrapmelter
- 2 Loxodon Wayfarer
- 1 Lumengrid Drake
- 1 Necrogen Scudder
- 1 Ghalma's Warden
- 1 Salvage Scout
- 1 Sunspear Shikari
- 1 Blackcleave Goblin
- 1 Blistergrub
- 1 Contagious Nim
- 1 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
- 1 Oxidda Daredevil
- 1 Alpha Tyrranax
- 1 Bellowing Tanglewurm
- 1 Copperhorn Scout
- 1 Molder Beast
- 1 Auriok Replica
- 1 Golem Artisan
- 1 Neurok Replica
- 1 Perilous Myr
- 1 Saberclaw Golem
- 1 Soliton
- 1 Wall of Tanglecord
- 1 Disperse
- 1 Contagion Clasp
- 2 Steady Progress
- 1 Origin Spellbomb
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 1 Galvanic Blast
- 1 Stoic Rebuttal
- 1 Slice in Twain
- 1 Withstand Death
- 1 Molten Psyche
- 1 Necrogen Censer
- 1 Dispense Justice
- 1 Revoke Existence
- 1 Seize the Initiative
- 1 Bonds of Quicksilver
- 1 Turn Aside
- 2 Grasp of Darkness
- 1 Cerebral Eruption
- 1 Melt Terrain
- 1 Turn to Slag
- 1 Carrion Call
- 1 Tel-Jilad Defiance
- 2 Untamed Might
- 1 Viridian Revel
- 2 Wing Puncture
- 1 Tainted Strike
- 1 Bladed Pinions
- 1 Golden Urn
- 1 Golem Foundry
- 2 Heavy Arbalest
- 2 Horizon Spellbomb
- 1 Liquimetal Coating
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Panic Spellbomb
- 1 Sylvok Lifestaff
Unlike some other writers who just focus on strategy, I like to show all my work so that you can see the entire logic (faulty or not) that I employed to build my Sealed deck. I rank each card to indicate how often I think I’d use it in most Sealed decks.
Your mileage may vary, and almost certainly will diverge from mine.
That’s why we have forums. Past readers have correctly told me how I skipped over a brutal combination, or placed too much value on a pet card. So let your voice be heard. Anyway, here’s how I rate cards.
These cards fill out the army or do something great with a very finicky cost. But they’re certainly not for every deck. Examples from the last year include Regress, Brimstone Mage, Grazing Gladehart, Gatekeeper of Malakir, and Soulbound Guardians.
These cards are narrow, underpowered, or simply too much work to spend your time playing them. Recent examples include Enatu Golem, Vedalken Ghoul, Unholy Strength, Primal Cocoon, Bloodcrazed Goblin, Jwari Scuttler, and Affa Guard Hound.
Before we head to the colors, let’s look at the biggest pile, the artifacts. They’re going to make up a major percentage of every Sealed deck, and so they’re first to get consideration.
Let’s start off with the bombs.
Contagion Engine is a one-sided Wrath of God that generally takes two turns to happen. Yes, it’s very expensive. But the effect is so blatantly brutal that you can’t help but play it. This card is worth building a deck around and playing and activating it in the same turn, even if we’re not aiming for a poison kill.
Then there’s Nim Deathmantle, the equipment that puts pants-wetting fear into your opponent when it
equipped on anything. Do
you really want to kill a guy when he’ll only come back stronger and far harder to block? Not really. When coupled with
creatures like Skinrender or Oxidda Scrapmelter, this card is utterly broken.
Whew. Let’s leave the avatars of omnipotence behind and move onto merely great cards.
Ichorclaw Myr is emblematic of the whole poison dilemma. Left to its own devices on turn 2, this guy will probably get in there for three or four or even five turns before trading equitably. But without the support of other sources of poison counters, this Myr’s way too slow. I think of this card as a harrier, harassing an enemy army without really doing much to genuinely make a difference. Smart opponents will be able to assess a deck’s infect tendencies and make superior decisions. I don’t like cards that allow smart opponents to outplay me.
Golem Artisan’s versatility is awesome. This is the best Mantis Engine ever. I particularly appreciate that this card can get evasion, but he also works well with a team of Myr, making opponents’ blocks and attacks utterly unfeasible.
I really wish Auriok Replica could protect creatures as well as yourself. Oh well.
What’s so great about Heavy Arbalest? It costs seven mana just to throw onto a guy, and then you only get one shot with it! But infect decks can use it to sneak poison counters through or permanently shrink guys, and everyone else can use it to keep opponents from equipping little guys. There are quite a few effects in the environment that untap various creatures, happily, and if that’s an option, Arbalest is plain broken.
Greedy players will look at Horizon Spellbomb and get super excited about mana-fixing plus drawing cards. 3G to find a basic land and cantrip is pricy. This card is a superlative method of supporting a three or four-color mana base, but I honestly think that most of the time you won’t have the opportunity to exploit it fully. I definitely wouldn’t play it in a two-color deck unless I had a slew of metalcraft critters.
Even if I’m running fifteen artifacts maindeck, Golem Foundry isn’t worth playing. Without some form of search, there’s no reliable way to get it out early, and that’s the only time it’s any good. Save this for Constructed application.
I really like Perilous Myr. It’s got a considerable rattlesnake factor (™ Anthony Alongi) that keeps opponents from attacking profitably, and the price is right. You guys tell me if you think I’m undervaluing it. I really like the idea of taking out any of the major common infecters with this snazzy chump blocker. This guy will keep the enemy at bay like Lancelot at Castle Anthrax.
Sylvok Lifestaff really pounds Mirran opponents. This card turns the tide of battle in two directions, by requiring opponents to have a big guy on defense while keeping your life high and by pushing your opponent away from the finish line. Every time my opponent played this card, I winced. This card seems significantly more powerful than its earlier analogue, Leonin Scimitar.
Please, don’t play Memnite in Limited. It’s utter trash. If you have to stoop to shoving this into a metalcraft deck, you clearly were very unlucky.
We’ve got reasonable equipment in the form of Bladed Pinions and the Deathmantle to help by giving our team evasion. The mana Myr offer enough fast mana production to ramp up to perform stupid equipment tricks while providing bodies to perform said tricks. There’s certainly enough to support metalcraft cards. We’ve got a solid core. So now let’s see what we can supplement that core with.
To gain card advantage from Dispense Justice, you’re going to have to wait until the mid-game. While this card shines against frustrating blue evasive creatures like Neurok Invisimancer, in so many matchups, this isn’t great. Three mana is also a fair amount to keep in reserve for an instant in the mid-game. Dispense Justice might be better than Wing Shards, its closest cognate, thanks to its easier mana cost, but on the whole, I think it’s excellent in the sideboard of controlling decks facing a very aggressive strategy, such as cheap infecting critters.
It’s never bad, but since it costs three mana, it’s pretty easy for opponents to suss out and play around when you’ve got metalcraft.
What is a Justice Dispenser, anyway? What does it look like? Batman’s fists come to mind. But I could be wrong.
Since we’ve got so many solid artifacts, Ghalma’s Warden is definitely seeing play if we include white. A 4/6 for four mana is utterly sick.
Loxodon Wayfarer fares way better against Mirran armies than the Phyrexian brood. I’d definitely consider sideboarding them in against extremely aggro builds, but don’t like starting them.
White’s got evasion, men that provide solid value, and removal. It’s a solid candidate for maindeck inclusion.
Lumengrid Drake’s metalcraft ability really won’t be relevant until at least turn 6 most of the time, unless your deck’s over 70% artifacts, and all it really does is get you a decent bit of tempo. This looks good in Draft, particularly against decks with pricy equipment, but the Sealed environment’s faster than it was than with M11, which indicates that this isn’t the best use of your time.
You know when you want Steady Progress in your deck. If you’re playing four Trigons or are on the poison plan, it’s clear. But for the rest of us, a three-mana cantrip that usually does nothing? We’ll pass.
If Bonds of Quicksilver tapped the creature like Mystic Restraints did, I’d be much happier with it. But as the card stands now, it’s nerfed. This is yet another removal spell that looks much worse with equipment floating around.
I don’t like countermagic that costs three or more in Limited, with the exception of Draining Whelk or anything that cantrips. Yes, Stoic Rebuttal is a strictly better Cancel. But to presume that I’ll get the benefit of the discount is presumptuous.
Blue’s barren. So is this paragraph.
All of the Smiths are superb, but Painsmith’s the best when fully exploited.
I’d be very surprised to see it as a fourth pick or later in Draft.
Necrogen Scudder is the best Serpent Warrior ever. Why? For one thing, it’s got evasion built in. For another, its drawback doesn’t even matter quite frequently. If your opponent’s dedicated to giving ten poison counters, there’s no drawback to the Scudder. There may be a great Draft deck in the format that involves taking all the Mirran super-efficient G/B cards and ramp to get the beef out. If everyone’s fighting over Phyrexians, you could theoretically sweep up all the big, efficient men.
I like instant-speed spot removal, but getting double black in this format can be problematic. With that said, play all the Grasps of Darkness you can.
We have Ichorclaw Myr, Contagion Engine, and its little cousin to assist us if we want to go for a poison build. Black has four creatures to contribute to the fight, but green is almost completely defanged, which means that the support isn’t ideal. So I think we’re going to have to write off that approach.
Wizards seems more willing to print
one-sided mass removal
these days than in days past. Flame Wave, Chandra Nalaar, Disaster Radius, and now Cerebral Eruption limit their fury to one guy and the horse he rode in on. And the guy who sold him the horse. And the guy who shoed the horse. Timmies just love these cards. And with a reasonable four-mana cost attached, the new wave of asymmetrical slaughter is a bomb. Cerebral Eruption’s reliance on chance means that you’re often going to be disappointed when your opponent shows a land, or, worse yet, a zero-cost spell like Accorder’s Shield.
But when it pays off, Cerebral Eruption really is like winning the lottery.
You did click that first link in the previous paragraph, right?
Embersmith should wear a sign that reads “Slayer of Myr.” This is the best land destruction spell in the format. And when coupled with a bunch of mana Myr of your own, he can even take down pesky three-drops.
Watching other players, I saw Turn to Slag take down Clockwork Dragons, Cystbearers equipped with Grafted Exoskeletons, and in one case, a Kemba’s Skyguard carrying two Accorder’s Shields and a Darksteel Axe. Okay, that was only a three-for-one. In Draft, this card won’t be so great thanks to better mana curves. But in Sealed, this card’s sick.
Oxidda Scrapmelter has the best single line of rules text in the format. Full stop. This is even better than ”Draw a card.”
Vanilla Hill Giants don’t really cut it in this format, and while Blade-Tribe Berserkers can hit hard initially if you’re lucky on turn five 5, in most cases your dreams will get thwarted. On paper, this card seems reasonable, but I never want to play it.
Molten Psyche may be an excellent part of a new casual Constructed deck paired with mana ramping artifacts, Temple Bell, and Runeflare Trap. And if your entire deck’s strategy revolves around one card, Molten Psyche gives you a chance to grab that card quickly. You might end up playing this card, if your deck is utterly horrid or if you’re really scraping for one more spell. But you’ll never be happy drawing it.
Red’s lacking in the beater department, but its removal and board control is top notch.
I’ve seen a whole lot of 4/4s for five mana in green over the years. I’ve seen somewhat efficient creatures give their team evasion of sorts, like Tanglewalker, Roughshod Mentor, or Cytospawn Shambler, or Lumbering Satyr. Bellowing Tanglewurm is the best and newest of the lot, giving a somewhat decent evasion ability to your squad the minute he hits play. While trample’s probably superior to intimidate these days, this card’s still solid.
Carrion Call compares negatively to Gilt-Leaf Ambush. Yes, the ability to block two attackers, leaving them limping, or to add a few more poison counters is nice. But Gilt-Leaf Ambush was cheaper and had the ability to utterly break an offensive if you won the clash.
Copperhorn Scout excites me, even if it’s only because I have two Arbalests that allow me to abuse untaps. This man can provide explosive acceleration in Draft in concert with mana-producing Myr, which might be a reasonable Draft strategy.
Untamed Might is far better in an infect deck than coupled with Mirrans. It’s strange to see a trick like this for so much, but I can respect R&D for their call. Giant Growth would’ve been too broken.
Be careful of reality. I saw a little kid get upset when he tried to use Wing Puncture to kill an opposing Sunblast Angel with his Molder Beast. The Angel’s player responded with a Galvanic Blast to the Beast. Most of you out there know this — by virtue of not being little kids. But I implore you to spread the word at FNM and educate your underclassmen and underclasswomen. This doesn’t make Wing Puncture completely unplayable, but it’s sure not Plummet, and there aren’t that many fliers in the format anyway.
A wave of stupor washes over me as I study these green cards. That’s the only way they’d take anyone out, by boring their controller to death.
Alright. So how’d my deck turn out?
Yes, despite all the powerful black cards, I decided to stick with the colors that I thought would be best suited to control the battlefield and control the metallic forces of my opponent. Including black would’ve allowed me to decide what enemy creatures would live or die. But the problem with the black cards is closing the game. I don’t have the critical mass of infect cards to kill off my opponent with poison, and the guys who don’t infect are brutal, but lack synergy.
In a land crowded with Myr and vanilla-ish creatures that turn on with metalcraft, I want a more tactical approach that allows me to wreck opponents’ tempo and clear away the biggest problem, artifacts.
This R/W deck does a lot of remarkably powerful things.
It can get multiple Myr on the table with Heavy Arbalests equipped, and use the Galvanizer to unleash arrow hell. It has two brutal mass removal spells that only hit the other guy. It can power out a surprisingly fast Contagion Engine and hit a double proliferate in the same turn. It can use Glint Hawk to renew the slaughtering Engine as well. The mana curve supports aggressive starts with just enough spot removal to keep the opponent from stabilizing, and there’s enough evasion to seal the deal.
I love this mana base. Fifteen lands supported by six mana Myr ramp up the deck and allow pricy equipment shenanigans. And having all those little guys around also makes a big difference when facing off against the infect decks. Most infect guys don’t pack much toughness, and so having an army of little clanking robots keeps the doctor away.
One significant danger that stuck in my mind throughout deck construction was Indomitable Archangel’s shroud-granting ability. In one game, while the Angel kept meeting Tumble Magnet, my opponent was in an utter funk. He had a Slice in Twain stranded in hand. The Magnet gave up the ghost, and coming through with a small flying army was enough to soothe my concerns.
The MVP of the deck was Embersmith, who managed to slay a good number of Myr and infect critters. With fourteen artifacts, most of them eminently affordable, I never had a problem staying on curve while dishing up hot pinging action.
I smashed face, going 6-0 in games before drawing in the final and retiring to return to my papers. The only tough matchup was in round 3 against an aggressive green metalcraft deck sporting three copies of Carapace Forger and an Ezuri’s Brigade. He flooded in game 1, and in game 2, I managed to draw just enough artifact removal to keep him off his game. Flying Myr shenanigans, early Embersmith pings, and a turn 9 Contagion Engine to wipe his board with an activation finished the job.
The sweetest play of the tournament involved my board with Oxidda Scrapmelter equipped with Nim Deathmantle and Embersmith. I had eight mana up. My opponent, who was holding off an offensive with a few critters and Trigon of Infestation, couldn’t suffer the Embersmith to live.
He aimed a Grasp of Darkness at the Embersmith’s head. The Grasp of Darkness resolved, and my Embersmith shuffled off to the graveyard. The Deathmantle’s equip trigger resolved, and I suited up the Embersmith for a mere second. That sent the defrocked Scrapmelter to the graveyard, and that brought it right back into the fray, destroying the last cog in my opponent’s defenses. I proceeded to smash face.
Outside of a set of practice games with the other 3-0 player, Cerebral Eruption never came up, so I didn’t really get proper time to test this card’s efficacy. In practice, it was an utter blowout every time I played it.
Mirrodin is the home of the on-board trick, and I found my games frequently edging close to the end of the round. I’m a fairly fast player, but there were plenty of times when I had to do thinking on my turn (as opposed to my opponent’s turn) and determine the most efficient use of mana or when to hold back key resources to capitalize.
Be careful when trading creatures, more so than in the past. Why? The more intricate, complex equipment of Scars of Mirrodin allow far more nuanced game decisions and board positions than the old-school equipment, which mostly involved modifying numbers in the lower right corner or adding our Plain Jane keywords.
Sylvok Lifestaff’s impact on the late game and life totals is significantly different than that of Bonesplitter. It’s important to keep your resources alive and on the table. There are a lot of decks which want more and more cards and permanents in play to do broken things, and mana ramps such as the Myr allow decks to keep up and jump ahead on development.
That’s why I choose to draw in this format, except when faced with fast infect decks.
Before I leave, one last note about Scars of Mirrodin and the Myr. We know that the five original Myr now have a big brother who taps for two colorless. That seems like a slight increase. Right?
Wrong. Mirrodin had a pool of about 115 commons. Scars has a common pool of about 75. That means that the percentage of mana Myr in the environment has really shifted. 6/75 is way more than 5/115. So if you thought the old Mirrodin had quality ramping, think again.
You may not be prepared for the prevalence of explosive mana acceleration. This reprint cycle’s impact is greater than you thought.
Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to responses in the forums.
turboeli on MODO