SCG Daily – RGD Sealed Dissected #1

With the release of Dissension, we’ve finally got all ten guilds of Ravnica represented in what has been one of the most challenging Sealed blocks of all time. The tension between playing (mostly) consistent three-color builds and powerful but shaky four-color builds makes for exciting games. This week I’ll be poring over a new build each day.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. With the release of Dissension, we’ve finally got all ten guilds of Ravnica represented in what has been one of the most challenging Sealed blocks of all time. The tension between playing (mostly) consistent three-color builds and powerful but shaky four-color builds makes for exciting games. This week I’ll be poring over a new build each day. I’ll try to skip over the Ravnica card evaluations except when they’re particularly important in choosing colors. It’s more useful to spend our time dealing with the Dissension (and to a lesser extent, Guildpact) guilds.

(Note: Why is it that I’m the guy who always follows a really awesome writer’s Daily series? First it’s Yawgatog, and this time it’s the Ferrett. Ooh, I have the worst timing.)

I’m writing this before PT Prague. So if you see a questionable card evaluation here after seeing the cards in action at the Tour, don’t be surprised. Everyone makes a stinker call or two, even Zvi. My personal flub in my first Weekly series covering mono-Ravnica Sealed kept talking about Lurking Informant as being too small and too expensive to use. Man, was I wrong there. Yes, he requires a lot of mana for his work, but he can shut opponents out of the game in a long game by denying quality draws. Prognosticators expect to screw up once in a while. In fact, they can even predict screwing up.

As always, please bring your thoughts into the Forum. The discussion there often yields as much understanding of the new format as the article itself.

For what it’s worth, new players looking to improve their Limited game should be skeptical when studying Prerelease tournament reports. The pool is fifteen cards larger than normal, yielding about four to seven more deck-worthy cards. With that increase in quality, it’s a lot easier to put together a decent, functional deck. Prerelease Sealed is like riding a bike with training wheels. Yes, the training wheels may be quite small, but they’re still there to prop up shaky riders. You can have a lot of fun with training wheels, but you won’t be able to push the bike to the limit. And when it comes to getting that Pro Tour invite, you’ll need to push that bike to the limit.

Going into the new RGD sealed format, it’s a safe bet to predict that the format will be slightly slower than Ravnica/Guildpact. More guilds yield less cohesive decks. The fundamental cards that win games will be three-drops and four-drops, biasing slightly towards the four-drops.

Here’s the pool, in all of its glory.

Here’s your white space. Use it responsibly.

In Ravnica-only Sealed articles, I preferred to talk about the gold cards first, since that’s where you’ll get the most bang-for-your-buck powerful cards. But with gold cards split ten ways instead of four, the mono-colored cards reclaim most of the spotlight they lost. So let’s get down to business.

I can’t complain about this White. Ravnica’s Veteran Armorer and Oathsworn Giant make our armies tough as nails. I don’t like Courier Hawk all that much, but he can enable both convoke and bloodthirst in the early game. Absolver Thrull’s 187 ability to destroy enchantments is usually useful, but can make problems for you. If you are running more than two maindeck enchantments that you want to keep around, you might want to skip out on the Thrull. Belfry Spirit’s instant air force still an excellent card, but is a little weak nowadays. Dissension’s common fliers with toughness greater than one (Assault Zeppelid, Freewind Equenaut, Helium Squirter, Azorius First-Wing) make swinging with 1/1s in the air somewhat less profitable. Even so, the Spirit still packs a punch.

Dissension’s White brings us Carom and Valor Made Real. Carom’s a super trick. It kills opponents’ 1/1s and keeps your fatties alive. It’s even a cantrip! Three cards for one, for only two mana? How can you say no? Beatdown decks will love this card. Valor Made Real, on the other hand, isn’t anything special. Compare it to Fog or Ethereal Haze, which bought you a turn of painless attacking without requiring you to have a blocker. Valor Made Real won’t stop evasion creatures either. I would never play this card, even if I had two copies of Gaze of the Gorgon in my deck available. It’s just too risky.

Blue is serviceable, but lacks pizzazz. I like Flight of Fancy and Remand, but I have a very hard time paying five mana for Tattered Drake. Plaxmanta definitely makes the cut in any deck with Green, and should be considered as an excellent sideboard card against Rakdos-heavy decks. (I played this guy to counter a Twinstrike at the prerelease. I even had the Green to keep him around.) We do have the best blue Dissension common, Helium Squirter. This guy makes two creatures (to be named later) bigger, and grants them flying, and works as a 3/3 in the meantime. He can’t be overrated. I’d certainly consider splashing him in almost any deck, but we’ll have to see if our manabase can permit it.

Black offers us a few tools, but nothing super. Last Gasp and Douse in Gloom are known, valued commodities. Ostiary Thrull looks a lot worse than the new Master of Impediments, but at least he won’t die to the large number of pingers in the format. Strands of Undeath and Cry of Contrition go up in value, if only in finding new applications to get Hellbent working.

Most of our Dissension Black has narrow application. Nightcreep isn’t quite as reliable as Mana Short when you play it on your opponent’s upkeep, but it also has the ability to throw off your opponent’s radiance tricks. (It’s a real beauty on Isochron Scepter, though.) Delirium Skeins works well in a cheap weenie deck, particularly with Hellbent, but it’s much more useful in Draft than Sealed. (Only twenty percent of your cards have any opportunity to have Hellbent in them in Sealed, as compared to thirty-three percent in Draft.) Entropic Eidolon would be utterly vicious if it cost one less to play, but as it stands it’s just not good enough to make me like it. (I would have lowered its casting cost by one and increased its activation cost to 1B, but I’m not R&D.) It’s not utterly horrid, but I’d always kvetch if I had to play it.

Red’s got a tidy package of burn and cheap, efficient men. Galvanic Arc and Seal of Fire only get better if Viashino Fangtail gets active. Bloodscale Prowler becomes even nicer if we’ve got Graft men with activated abilities to support their Bloodthirst. (Thanks to the magic of foils, we have two.) Frenzied Goblin and War-Torch Goblin are useful in the mid-game, which is the nicest possible thing I have to say about one drops.

Thank you, Lord, for handing me good Green. I usually hate stupid monsters without evasion abilities, but this time out the fat is reasonable and appropriately costed. Ravnica offers a few efficiently costed men, Fists of Ironwood, Vinelasher Kudzu, and Siege Wurm. (It also offers us the abominable Hunted Troll. Avoid, avoid, avoid this creature. I may point out an illustrative example involving the Troll later this week.) It seasons this with Moldervine Cloak, the number three uncommon in Ravnica (behind Mark of Eviction and Selesnya Guildmage). That’s a good start.

It gets even better with Guildpact and Dissension. We’ve got yet another bloodthirsty beater with Ghor-Clan Savage. Wildsize makes chump-blocking painful and replaces itself. Sporeback Troll passes the regenerating love around. Without even looking at the gold cards, I think he’s going to be an MVP. He needs support from other grafters to be completely ridiculous (as opposed to just great). Utopia Sprawl … now here’s a tough card. Most Ravnica block Sealed decks only have five basic lands of a single type at the most. Once in a while, you’ll see six, but it’s the exception. It’s an excellent mana accelerator and color fixer, but challenging to use properly.

Boros gives us a ridiculous combat trick with Boros Fury-Shield. Rally the Righteous looks awkward at the moment, but it could find a home. If we do run Red and White as primary colors, there’s no question about adding Skyknight Legionnaire.

Dimir doesn’t really draw my attention. Yes, there’s a Lurking Informant, whom I’ve grown to love. Twisted Justice should be a little better in draft, since one less pack of Boros and Selesnya weenies means more cards and better quality opponent sacrifices.

Golgari has Drooling Groodion and a Karoo. Both are reasonable, but that’s not a lot of depth. Selesnya’s a bit better off, with Centaur Safeguard and Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi being quite satisfactory in Sealed. I wouldn’t usually want too many Guardians in a draft deck, but I can dig it in Sealed. Seeds of Strength wrecks combat, so I’m glad to see it.

Guildpact offers us no Izzet at all, so we’ll skip right to the Gruul. Gruul Guildmage is the best of the three Guildpact guildmages. Streetbreaker Wurm will almost always make the cut.

Blind Hunter is the best Orzhov offers. We’ve got a Signet, we’ve got Conjurer’s Ban, and we’ve got Moratorium Stone, which might be somewhat useful against dredge spells. The Signet is good, but that’s all we’ve got.

Looking at Simic, we’ve got Cytoshape and Shielding Plax. Shielding Plax has that all-important cantrip factor, but untargetability doesn’t really get my juices flowing. Cytoshape doesn’t really impress me. It seems even more situational than Gaze of the Gorgon, for the most part. Not much to show here, but then again this is the third set. Dissension’s only going to show its true depths in booster draft.

The Rakdos make out like bandits. Rakdos Ickspitter is an excellent Prodigal Sorcerer, and is common to boot. Hellhole Rats are utterly vicious, usually grabbing a spell of three mana in this format. Gobhobbler Rats are nothing to sneeze at either. If we want to make an efficient weenie deck, these guys jump to the front of the line.

My initial pass:

1cc: Seal of Fire, Terrarion, Utopia Sprawl, Voyager Staff (3)
2cc: Gruul Guildmage, Veteran Armorer, Vinelasher Kudzu, Fists of Ironwood, Orzhov Signet, Seeds of Strength (6)
3cc: Bloodscale Prowler, Centaur Safeguard, Skyknight Legionnaire, Boros Fury-Shield, Moldervine Cloak, Galvanic Arc, Wildsize (7)
4cc: Sporeback Troll, Viashino Fangtail (2)
5cc: Belfry Spirit, Ghor-Clan Savage, Streetbreaker Wurm (3)
6cc: Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, Oathsworn Giant, Siege Wurm *** (3)

6 Forest
5 Plains
5 Mountain

4: CC
5: CCC
6: CCC

For purposes of deckbuilding, I put both Guardian and Siege Wurm’s converted mana cost at six, due to convoke.

The Red, Green, and White guys were just solid threats and had a decent Sealed curve. The mana’s shaky. I would have cut a forest for the Golgari Rot Farm to add more punch, but that would hurt my Utopia Sprawl. Black had some nice removal, but just didn’t offer enough quality guys to make me feel comfortable.

Upon seeing all the Bloodthirst guys, I chose to cut the Oathsworn Giant and run a Courier Hawk instead for the early damage. What drove me nuts was seeing how amazing the Helium Squirter would have been in this deck. But I just didn’t have confidence or any versatile fixers to splash a single Blue card. The Giant also demands two White mana for his trouble. That makes a hell of a difference.

I like the White fliers that help enable the Bloodthirst guys. There’s just so much beef in this build and enough combat tricks, it should be rare that your opponent can outclass your army.

Don’t like the build? Think a card evaluation is wrong? Bring your thoughts to the forum. Thank you for reading, and see you at the next jump.

Eli Kaplan
japaneli at hotmail dot com

BONUS SECTION: The following save one are actual pizza toppings on a Pizza Hut flier I am holding here in my apartment in Japan. Which one is fake? I’ll post the answer in the forums in a day or so.

Grilled Eel