SCG Daily – RGD Sealed Dissected #5: Parting Shot

In the final edition of this excellent Daily series, Eli brings a hot card pool to the table. He discusses his build and evaluates cards, as usual… plus he questions the sexuality of a certain Dimir Lobotomist. A fine article to round out an enlightening week.

One of the cycles I’ve noticed in Ravnica involves the guild leaders (not the Paruns). Apparently, women like to sacrifice things. Lyzolda, the Blood Witch loves sacrificing things for profit, or for kicking the other guy in the head. Teysa, Orzhov Scion’s sacrificial ability is demanding; she wants three heads or it isn’t worth her time to pay attention. But she’ll help finance your army by replacing your Black men. Savra, Queen of the Golgari doesn’t like sacrificing things herself, but lets her friends do the dirty work and pays them off for their labor.

Another thing about the Black guild leaders is that three out of four are women with peek-a-boo cut shirts. Where does Circu stand in this affair? Is Circu their pimp? Or is he in the backstage of Ravnica’s fashion show, altering dresses and yelling at the makeup artists? How do we know that Circu isn’t actually part of a Bad Girl cycle? Maybe Circu’s just a woman who likes men’s fashion.

You may not have noticed a devious little mind game while watching the Prague quarterfinals in game 5 of Christian Huttenberger versus Quentin Martin. Huttenberger sent a 5/3 Dimir House Guard into the red zone at Martin two turns before Martin scooped. Fists of Ironwood and Riot Spikes adorned the House Guard, and one of Huttenberger’s Saprolings bore a Necromancer’s Magemark. Martin made sure to untap the auras on the House Guard. That distraction kept Huttenberger from noticing the trample on the House Guard, and netted Martin three life.

If it didn’t seem patently obvious before, I’ll say it now. Always choose to draw in RGD Sealed unless, miracle of miracles, you’re playing an aggressive two-color deck with a single minor splash (which should never happen.) Getting more cards and avoiding mana problems come from drawing first. Every Japanese Magic player I trust agrees with me so far… The ones I’ve talked to, anyway.

How about that Takuya Osawa? First Japanese player to notch a PT win outside the home islands. My hat’s off to the man. There’s more depth in the Japanese player base than I think most of the English language coverage staff give them credit for.

The problem with Japanese metagaming is that it’s often quite incestuous, and doesn’t really pay attention to the European or American metagame. (More demonstrably in Limited and Standard than in other formats.) Standard is the Constructed format in Japan, hands down. Vintage and (to a lesser extent) Extended have always played second fiddle. Japan’s top tier of players tends to be more open to trying an unheralded deck-builder’s tech.

Back to the matter at hand: Sealed. It’s typical when a new set comes out that people gush over it. "This set will kill Magic!" "Limited fodder only. Meh." After three weeks, I can say that this is the most challenging Sealed format, at least as far as deckbuilding goes. Invasion block’s mana was so much simpler, and there were lots of ways to make any color you wanted. Not in Ravnica. The creatures are meaner, the fixers aren’t as loose, and the removal’s less versatile.

Enough random rants. I don’t want to be typecast as Magic’s Mickey Rooney. To the build!

Avast! In yon frothy waters, thar she be! That white space!

Solid cards: Transluminant, Sporeback Troll, Root-Kin Ally, Cytospawn Shambler, Siege Wurm, Wildsize

Cytospawn Shambler’s crazy. He’s the man Siege Wurm wants to grow up to be, when he’s able to stop sponging off his buddies. The Root-Kin Ally ain’t too shabby either, but that double-Green requirement is pretty fussy. I’m definitely a proponent of Sporeback Troll, though he’s actually better in draft than Sealed. Regeneration’s good, but making two regenerating men is a nightmare for opponents.

As for cheap, efficient guys, all we’ve got is Transluminant, Circu’s best friend. Maybe some guilds will pitch in…

There’s too much double-Green here. I’d be much happier if I could play a good mana accelerant, and we have one in Stone-Seeder Hierophant… but she also costs double-Green. Aaaargh.

Also-rans: Battering Wurm, Golgari Brownscale, Gruul Nodorog. Brownscale’s efficient, but double-Green hurts. Most of the time it’s uncastable until turn 4 or so, and by then it’s behind the curve. Battering Wurm’s well worth sideboarding in against those pesky Azorius men. If you can’t tap it, it’s impossible to block. But he’s a little too pricey for most matchups. Gruul Nodorog’s even less reliable.

Green Associates
Selesnya’s passed us Centaur Safeguard, Seeds of Strength, and Selesnya Guildmage. Guildmage is my number two favorite Ravnica uncommon (behind Mark of Eviction) and spawns ridiculous numbers of tokens for a very reasonable price. He then makes your army do jumping jacks and smash your opponent in the beak. Seeds of Strength is one more reliable trick to win a mass combat, and Centaur Safeguard… well, he’s handy with Convoke. Three life is nothing to sneeze at, but you knew all this already.

Gruul didn’t want to come out and play today.

Golgari’s Shambling Shell ain’t bad, especially when we can profit from graft. Golgari Germination’s a card I’ve never felt comfortable playing, as it doesn’t seem like it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Gaze of the Gorgon’s great, and I see the Mortipede below, but… it’s situational removal at its sketchiest. I now rank it as a 20th to 22nd card. I’ll play it, but it doesn’t thrill me.

Solid: Condemn, Droning Bureaucrats, Guardian of the Guildpact, Shrieking Grotesque, Veteran Armorer.

Also-rans: Courier Hawk, Haazda Exonerator, Votary of the Conclave

I’m a big fan of Droning Bureaucrats in Sealed. They shut off the annoying Saproling squad, though they do insist on steep pay grades, or they can shut off an army of Wind Drakes. They help make alpha strikes much easier. The Bureaucrats’ stats aren’t unreasonable for four mana, either. Guardian of the Guildpact’s evasion is fairly decent, but his real draw is being an amazing blocker. Shrieking Grotesque should always make the cut, as should Condemn. Condemn’s extremely handy in that it’s innocuously costed and manages to take annoying Dredge men out of the picture. (Don’t forget its synergy with Tunnel Vision. Junktroller ain’t the only game in town anymore.)

White Associates
Orzhov’s Blind Hunter and Karoo make me feel good. Not just for opening them, but for taking the Blind Hunter out of the hands of the Ferrett. It’s mine! All mine! You can’t have it! Bwa ha ha!

Boros hands us their Guildmage, Parun, and Signet. Boros Guildmage is an amazing onboard trick, turns your decently priced monsters into hasty fireballs, and passes out first strike. Razia’s an extremely expensive bomb, and is frustratingly aggravating to deal with. She’s way better than Sisters of Stone Death, if only in that she has haste.

The Azorius yield up Plumes of Peace, a decent removal spell. It will lock down anything if you’ve got 1WWUU to spare. Most of the time it’ll work about as efficiently as a three mana Retaliation, though it can take out Rakdos Ickspitter.

Walking Archive has a symmetrical effect. I’m sure we’ll be reading about it in a French writer’s article about a month from now, when they find a perfect home for it in draft. My vision isn’t nearly as clear. I note that it feeds Solitary Confinement. But then again, so does Archivist, and no one plays with him in extended either.

Solid: Cerulean Sphinx, Drift of Phantasms, Stratozeppelid, Peel from Reality, Repeal, Flight of Fancy

Also-rans: Lore Broker, Convolute

Well, our Blue has decent amounts of bounce in proportion to the ounce. Cerulean Sphinx and Stratozeppelid smash through virtually any other fliers in the air. Drift of Phantasms is a superlative wall. If we want to play the long game,

I’m aware of Lore Broker’s symmetry. If your opponent sees it on the table, he’s less likely to achieve Hellbent for most of the mid-game, as he’ll sit on a land for most of the time, waiting for you to activate its ability. It’s no Lurking Informant, but it’s potentially playable.

Blue associates
Izzet Signet? Again? How boring. We’ve also got that ne’er-do-well Petrahydrox, who can never be buggered to do anything at all. We’ve also got Simic Signet. Yippee.

Solid: Yawns. Clinging Darkness, Disembowel, Strands of Undeath, Orzhov Euthanist.

Also-rans: Cry of Contrition, Delirium Skeins, Mortipede, Slaughterhouse Bouncer, Smogsteed Rider, Shred Memory

I shouldn’t have to tell you anything new here. Two boring, decently priced removal spells. Blah creatures though we have a Mortipede/Strands combo and a two mana transmute spell. Delirium Skeins will find a home in one of these Sealed decks someday, but today probably isn’t that day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good, either.

Black Associates
Rakdos has a Wrecking Ball and Squealing Devil. Squealing Devil’s quite a saucy creature these days, considering the relative scarcity of Black men in decks. Wrecking Ball is only underestimated by those who lack pulses.

Eight meters below Tin Street, we find Clutch of the Undercity, Dimir Aqueduct, and Lurking Informant. Clutch’s Transmute is handy. Lurking Informant is a vicious little irritant, and Dimir Aqueduct is nothing to sneeze at.

Solid: Wojek Embermage, Flame Fusillade, Seal of Fire
Hmm. Game ending bomb with Flame Fusillade, and two sources of removal. Looks good. That’s about it, though.

Also-rans: Ignorant Bliss, Flash Conscription, Torpid Moloch

People keep forgetting about Terrarion. Is Terrarion Poland?

Black doesn’t have anything appealing here. Seeing as how I had three Signets and a Terrarion, I was happy to play four colors.

1cc: Condemn, Seal of Fire, Terrarion
2cc: Boros Guildmage, Selesnya Guildmage, Transluminant, Veteran Armorer, Peel from Reality, Seeds of Strength
3cc: Centaur Safeguard, Shrieking Grotesque, Wildsize
4cc: Droning Bureaucrats, Sporeback Troll, Wojek Embermage, Flame Fusillade
5cc: Stratozeppelid, Repeal
6cc: Siege Wurm, Flash Conscription
7cc: Cytospawn Shambler
8cc: Razia, Boros Archangel

1cc: SSS
3cc: CCS
4cc: CCCS
5cc: CS
6cc: CS
7cc: C
8cc: C

Boros Signet
Izzet Signet
Simic Signet
Orzhov Basilica
1 Island
3 Mountain
5 Plains
6 Forest

After four timid, conservative builds, it’s great to let your hair down and indulge your inner greed. Four colors it is.

We’ve only got 13 creatures, but the bounce and removal makes up for that deficiency. Razia and Flame Fusillade end the game in a hurry, and we’ve also got burly hitters like Siege Wurm, Stratozeppelid, and Cytospawn Shambler to put our opponent into range. The Guildmages and Veteran Armorer have more bells and whistles attached than the Paul Revere episode of "Pimp My Ride". The removal’s cheap and effective. You don’t want to trade creatures with this deck, though, so bloodthirst’s going to work more often than not against you.

Is there a single Grey Ogre in there? No. Every single card’s quality, and most are well above the cut. No filler here. Flash Conscription’s arguably the worst card in the deck, but we’re perfectly positioned to take advantage of its swinginess. Guildmage activations, powerful removal… your opponents will be sweating bullets.

With 18 full-time mana producers and a Terrarion, the deck’s mana makes like Christina Ricci. Full, but who’s complaining? When I’ve got as many powerful activated abilities as this deck does, that’s the way I like it. We’ve only got a single karoo, but hey, Shrieking Grotesque ain’t complaining. (I won’t splash Dimir Signet for Blue, though.)

I’m fully aware that this deck will get manascrewed or flooded in 10 percent of games or so. But it’s got the tempo to keep up in the other 90, and its bombs make it the best damn deck I’ve opened this week. If I opened this at a 60 player PTQ, I’d be surprised if I didn’t make top 8.

Again, I would like to thank the readers, particularly those of you who brought your advice and feedback to the forums. See you in a few.

Eli Kaplan
japaneli at hotmail dot com

<ester> so my dad opens 4 packs of Dissension, and gets three condemns
<StoneWork> they have condoms in Dissension packs?
<StoneWork> who knew Magic players were so prolific?
<StoneWork> or prophylactic as the case may be
<gaijineli> keeps men from getting through