I stumble home from work, and flop in front of the computer. I’ve had one hell of a day.
Lighting a ciggie, I fire up the forums. The article series has been going well, so far. They’ve been fun to write, and I hope they’ve been fun to read.
I glance at the screen, and look away. And double-take.
For the first time, one of my Sealed Revealed articles hasn’t hit twenty responses.
What’s wrong with it? I ponder, loading the document and scanning the text. After all, it seemed as strong (or as weak) as the previous six. But this one hadn’t even gained the weird little “flame” icon, the one that probably means “hot topic” but may mean “burn this writer alive for he is eee-vil.”
No, all the ingredients are there… the decklist, the card analysis, the blindingly unfunny jokes… it’s all good. What the hell is going on?
Then, from the blue… an Epiphany.
Of course! There have been few responses, because I made the One True Deck from the card pool available! After all, why respond when the information in undeniably correct?
I sit back with a proud smile. Maybe I’m not so bad at Limited after all.
With a smug grin on my fat face, I reach for the next card pool. Who knows, I muse, maybe this one will be so perfect I’ll receive NO COMMENTS AT ALL!
After scanning the pool and experimenting with builds, I slouch back, defeated.
If my logic is correct, the forums will explode over this one…
Call To Glory
Honden of Cleansing Fire
Hundred Talon Kami
Kami of the Painted Road
2 Kitsune Blademaster
Eye of Nowhere
2 Peer Through Depths
Reach Through Mists
Student of Elements
Swirl the Mists
Cranial Extraction (Foil!)
2 Deathcurse Ogre
Honden of Night’s Reach
Thief of Hope
2 Brutal Deceiver
2 Kami of Fire’s Roar
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
Soul of Magma
2 Dripping-Tongue Zubera
2 Kami of the Hunt
Order of the Sacred Bell
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Sensei’s Divining Top
Tranquil Thicket [Hey, I just go with what he writes, folks. – Knut, who’s pretty sure this is Tranquil Garden]
When playing Sealed Deck, we all want to open the good cards. The big fat monsters, the game-breaking Limited bombs. Unfortunately it’s often the case that, after the tournament dust has settled, these strong cards lounge like lizards in our fifty-cent rares box. They’re fun for the day, but little more than roach material afterwards.
Of course, these card pools are not from actual tournaments. They’re made from the two boxes of product I purchased to form the core of my Champions collection. If I’m honest, I’d rather open cards that will see Constructed play, even if they’re of limited use for my articles.
I think a foil Cranial Extraction counts as a good rip, don’t you?
He shoots, he scores!
I don’t actually care about this pool. Make whatever deck you want. I’m just going to gaze at my foil money rare, and stroke myself. [Ahem. -Knut]
What’s that? You want a deck?
Oh, alright then. If I must.
Some card analysis:
We start off like a freight train, as the White has might and can rock the floor all night. Decent guys, playable spells… we’re cooking with gas.
- The obvious standouts in this White pool are the double Kitsune Blademaster. A 2/2 first-striking guy for three mana, that blocks as a 3/3… he’s as hard as nails. I’ve seen games won on turns three and four, with a couple of the Fox Samurai masters sending sideways and owning everything. All your base are belonging to Blademaster. However, there’s something a little off-kilter with this guy… he’s a Fox Samurai. It’s as though Wizards have held a brainstorming session to decide what’s “cool”, and jumbled the results into interesting new creatures. After all, Foxes are cool. And Samurais are cool. So it’s a fair leap to assume that a Fox Samurai is doubly cool! In the next set, I fully expect to see cards with Creature Type- Ninja Pirate Robot Werewolf Dinosaur.
- At four mana, we have the Mothrider Samurai, thankfully a human. This bushido wing-bound bastard is pretty good. He blocks as a 3/3, and therefore trades with most of the big blue flyers. His moth seems more cuddly that terrifying, mind. Having said that, normal sized moths give me the heebie-jeebies, as do men with beards, so I’m not the best judge of what’s frightening and what isn’t.
- The Hundred-Talon Kami also flexes his claws in this pool. While he’s a little weedy, he serves a valuable purpose in the soulshift chain. The single White in his casting cost is nice, but it doesn’t make up for the loss of one point of power.
- At six mana, the Samurai Enforcers are staunch defending cards. They block as 6/6 guys. But while you’re tapping out to make them, your opponent is fingering his Dragon and laughing at you. I may play him in a base-White build, but he’s no Billy Big-Boots.
- Lantern Kami, the turn 1 Lava Axe, triggers spirits. He’s a 23rd card at best. If you’re lucky enough to pull equipment, or decent creature enchantments, then he goes up in value.
- The Kami of the Painted Road is spirit-triggered clanker of a guy. At five mana, my guys should be flying at the very least. I’d play him if forced, of course. At gunpoint. Then again, I’d play anything if forced at gunpoint, with the exception of Silent-Chant Zubera: I think I’d rather be shot in the stomach than face such indignity.
- Bushi Tenderfoot is a very weak guy. Having said that, if he flips… he’s unstoppable. Maybe I’d run him in base-White, if I had equipment and Indomitable Wills. When he flips, he becomes “Kenzo the Hardhearted,” but nobody is bothered about the flip-card aliases. If he does flip, people will simply call him “flipped Bushi.”
- Pious Kitsune? Cute. Play him, especially if we’re likely to meet in a tournament. I love a good laugh.
At first glance, the White guys seems very playable… but under scrutiny, they don’t quite live up to expectation. But enough! Onto the other White goodies:
- Blessed Breath is a playable card, but only marginally. It saves a guy from critical damage or removal, also helping him shrug off any pesky enchantments… but it’s very situational. [It’s actually much better than that, but not at first glance. – Knut] I prefer spells with a more proactive outlook, like…
- …Indomitable Will. This pair of instant pants should always make blocking a pleasure. And one of these on a Blademaster means the game should be over pretty quickly.
- Call to Glory? If you’ve the Samurai, then go for it. If you haven’t, then leave it out. Again, this is too situational to be truly inspiring.
- Ah, Honden of Cleansing Fire. Although life is not the commodity it once was, this card helps when racing your opponent. It’s best in a deck with fast flyers and cheap removal, methinks. Or would you not play it? Forum-folk, take flight!
- Vigilance? I shall not tap to attack this piece of s**t.
We have a nice White pool, but it lacks a certain spark. If the two Vigilance were a Moth and a Cage respectively, then White would be my first and only choice for main color. As it is, I’m keeping an open mind.
Does the Blue contain Teller of Tales?
Then into the bin it goes.
Now this is more like it! Black has a lot of-
Oh, stop your whining. I’ll go back to the Blue if I must…
Each color in this block has a standout creature in the common slot. White has the Blademaster (or even the Moth), Black has the Cutthroat… and Blue has the Teller. However, the other colors have decent options for those sad times when their flagship guy stays home with grandpa. Blue, however, really feels the loss when the Teller decided that he doesn’t want to party.
In this pool, Blue is discounted immediately. Why? Because its army numbers three. And one of them is rubbish.
- The two playables from the Blue Creature roll call are the Soratami Mirror-Guard, a 3/1 flyer for four mana… and the airborne looter called Soratami Cloudskater. Each has a happy home in a set of decent Blue guys, but sadly it appears that no one else is coming to their party. And the poor Cloudskater spent three hours making the garlic dips.
- The other guy, Student of Elements, needs a few more years of study before he’s let out into the wild.
Do I really need to bother going through all the Blue support cards? I mean, we all know I’m not playing Blue in this pool. The cards themselves are spectacularly bad. I’ll give you a compromise: I’ll list the cards, and write no more than five words on why you should or shouldn’t play them. Then we can get onto the good stuff, which will be better for everyone in the long run.
- Consuming Vortex: Valuable bounce that aids tempo.
- Eye of Nowhere: Sorcery Boomerang? No thank you!
- Hinder: Counterspells are the Devil’s Playthings.
- Peer Through Depths: Only if you’ve nothing better.
- Reach Through Mists: I’d rather eat hot faeces.
- Psychic Puppetry: Dance, you feckless heathens, Dance!
- Thoughtbind: Does it counter my fist?
- Swirl the Mists: F**k me, this thing’s rare?
Right, that’s enough Blue bilge for today.
Now this is more like it! Black has guys, it has removal… and for once, it has a decent mana curve! I feel so happy I could sing!
- On the removal front, we have the Rend Brothers. This pool packs one copy of Rend Flesh, and one copy of Rend Spirit. Each is playable, of course. But it’s a certainty that when the spirits are beating you down, you’ll draw the Rend Flesh… and when the fleshy guys are making mischief, the Rend Spirit will rise to the top.
- Devouring Greed is a good card, even with a fairly low spirit count. I wasn’t sure of it’s worth. In fact, at first I was afraid. I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never live without my Astral Slide… *ahem* If you’re nut-deep in Black, then play this card.
- Some of the shrines are playable. The Blue one, for example, is very powerful. The Red, the White, even the Green. But the Black? Honden of Night’s Reach isn’t so hot. But would you play it? I’m unsure, as I am with the rest of the shiny shrineys.
- Distress is discard. I personally dislike discard in Limited. I don’t know why, as I’ve suffered at the hands of discard-packers in many a tournament. Once I was copped with my Insurrection and eighth land in hand… and made to discard two. That stings like a paper-cut on the eyeball, I can tell you. Play it if you wish, but I won’t be impressed.
The Black removal is functional, if a little shallow. No matter, it’s the guys that’ll win us the prize here. Curving up, I present… the Black all-stars:
- In the two spot, we have Wicked Akuba. He’s a weenie beater, and he’ll do more damage than you’ll think possible, like a Floridian hurricane. At his side we have the 2/1 for two beater that is Cruel Deceiver. Don’t be deceived, folks… he packs a mean left hook, and he can bring down guys of any size.
- Straight in at three, we have the Thief of Hope. With a decent spirit count, this guy will kick seven bells out of your opponent. Even with no backup, he’s a serviceable 2/2 for three. Stock up on the spirit bran, and he’s dynamite.
- At number four, we have the Gibbering Kami. Flying, Soulshift, gibbersome power incarnate! A 2/2 flyer for four is always value. Coupling him, we have the Blood Speaker. He’s tasty, but without a demon to fuel his rage, he’s a little too rich for my blood.
- At five mana, we have Scuttling Death! Listen to him scuttle! He beats, he feats, he’s quick on his feet… and he fetches back any dead spirits that have fell in the name of glory.
- And way up in the clouds, we have the Deathcurse Ogre. Thankfully, as he’s in the clouds, we don’t have to look at his pitiful, unplayable, unpalatable face.
- There’s also a Rag Dealer, for one mana, but he’s a waste of ink and paper.
If you want my opinion, and surely you do… the Black loos neat-o!
I’ve bemoaned the lack of decent Red for a fair few pools. I’ve had decent top-end spells and creatures, granted… but nothing in the cheap seats to make my juices flow.
Well, not any more!
- I’ll start off with the bad stuff: Akki Avalanchers and Akki Rockspeaker are both insults to Goblinkind. The should be fed to a Goblin Goon, or shot from the cannon of a Seige-Gang Commander. I mean, what sort of a word is “Akki”? Wizards, I’m sorely disappointed. [I bet, and I’m just guessing here, that Akki is “Goblin” loosely translated from Japanese… – Knut]
- In direct contrast to these one-drop abortions, we have a flat-packed bomb rare: the new Masticore… Kumano, Master Yamabushi! He spits and polishes, he pings and sings and stings and swings. And he looks harsh on his picture too, the sign of a real battler. Reusable removal is always good… with a 4/4/ body attached, it’s cool beans for Craigy.
- We have three Kami that are worth a mention. The two-drop Hearth Kami is a nice early beater, and can take down pesky equipment if required. The four-drop Kami of Fire’s Roar, while a little slow, is fantastic in our possible heavy-spirit deck. But the star of the show is the fireball-guy… the three-drop Pain Kami. He kills all known germs, dead. And if we have a little bit of soulshifting to boot… he’ll serve numerous tours of duty.
- Rounding out the three-drop slot, we have the playable Brutal Deceiver. His first-strike possibility is very relevant in this block, as he’s one guy at three-mana with a decent chance of trading with a Blademaster.
- Glacial Ray! Glacial Ray! Play this burn spell every day! This is, obviously, the staple burn of the set. Sadly, we’ve no help from Yamabushi and his flames, but it’s a great card on it’s own.
- Unfortunately for Red… that’s all she wrote. The Lava Spike is pants, the Soul of Magma is socks, and the Unnatural Speed isn’t even shoes.
Decent Red for once… who’da thunk it?
We have good Red, good White, good Black… What’re the odds on Green?
Once more, when all is looking good in the Red, White and Black camps, the Green comes along and pisses on my chips.
The Green is wonderful here. How can I avoid it?
- The one-drop guys are a little average. Orochi Leafcaller helps wash mana, but he’s be more helpful if he could wash the dishes. The Jukai Messenger still hasn’t got the message… he should go and play baby games with the Yu-Gi-Oh kids.
- At two, we have Ha Ha dead Elf, a.k.a Sakura-Tribe elder. He is the best Constructed card in the set. As for Limited… he’s also golden. A blocker and a deck-thinner, he’s a welcome addition. We also have the usual gaggle of two-drop Orochi, the Orochi Ranger and Orochi Sustainer. One attacks, one accelerates… what’s not to love. Rounding off the two-slot, we have a pair of Green Zebras. I’d play these if I had to, but my I’d not cry if they were left at home.
- Ramping up, in the usually empty three-slot, we have…. Double Kami of the Hunt! As, so that’s what he looks like! He’s a fine staple of any deck, especially a spirit heavy build as we were motioning towards earlier.
- Orochi Eggwatcher: worth the hassle? Is he playable? Or is he simply a vulnerable Squirrel Nest?
- At four mana, we have two very playable cards. The Order of the Sacred Bell are a pair of scary lookin’ dudes that’ll make bells ring in anyone’s noggin. They beat down with ferocity and pace. Alongside these lime-green legends, we have Sosuke, Son of Seshiro. He’s the stronger of the snake children, and shares the beatdown love in grand fashion.
- There’s more! At the very top, we have the playable Moss Kami! A 5/5 trampler for six is a real threat. He’s no dragon, of course… but he does a job well.
So, guys good. Spells special?
- We have Gale Force. It kills big flyers, and small flyers. In fact, it kills all flyers. A decent board card against Blue, but nothing to ground-breaking.
In summary: the Green guys are wonderful.
But the Red pool is fantastic.
And the Black pool is nice.
And the White? Playable!
Mummy, what shall I do? I’m confused and scared. Make the bad stuff go away.
“Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?”
“Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?”
“Defeat does not exist in this dojo, does it?”
[Alright, that’s it… Craig and I are running off to Massachusetts at our earliest convenience. Wait, did I say that? That was meant to be my inside voice…- Knut, who loves Cobra Kai quotes]
Look, guys… I know it’s boring, but are you sure that Sensei’s Divining Top is a bad card? I’ve played it in each pool it’s appeared in and I still love it. I know that some folk agree with me, but even so… am I really so blind about this card?
Actually, I don’t care. I have a foil Cranial Extraction. In the words of the great Miyagi… “win, lose, no matter.”
The Honor-worn Shaku, S&M paddle to the stars, is strictly last-resort acceleration. Play the wooden spoon if you’re desperate.
Jade Idol? Is that like Pop Idol? This is deck dependant. Got the spirits? Play it. After all, it’ll generally only die at sorcery speed.
If I play Green and White, I may play the Tranquil Garden. If I don’t, I won’t.
Are these lands actually any good? Is the tempo they surrender worth the mana-fixing promise? Throw me a frickin’ bone here!
Decent, deep cards, in four of the five colors. There are many roads we could take here.
Where to go, what to do?
Are you ready for my deck? Are you? Are you really?
Quit playing with your twangers. Here’s the build I’d run with:
Thief of Hope
2 Brutal Deceiver
2 Kami of Fire’s Roar
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
2 Kitsune Blademaster
Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho
Sensei’s Divining Top
I gave up the Green.
After complaining in article after article about my lack of decent mind-range Green guys, I pull two Kami of the Hunt. And I throw them to the wolves.
I think, in all seriousness, that each color in this pool has a strong case for being the mainstay of the final deck. Well, except for Blue of course, but that’s fine by me.
In choosing this path, I sacrificed a little raw power in order to maximize my synergy. By cutting the slithering snakes and the mana-ramp, I stocked up on Spirits with gay abandon, thus making cards such as Jade Idol, Devouring Greed and Thief of Hope a very pertinent threat.
Here are a few of the treats in this deck:
- The maligned Sensei’s Divining Top has nice interaction with the three Deceivers, and is perfect for hunting out a spirit or arcane spell to aid the triggers when the game is drawing on.
- We’ve a couple of stone-cold gamewinners: Devouring Greed and Kumano.
- There’s plenty of early-game to fend off the rush decks.
- We’ve some nice removal. The Pain Kami is particularly precious as he can be returned to the fray via soulshift.
- We’re splashing for powerful cards.
And here are some of the brickbats:
- Splashing for creatures, especially three-cost guys, is never an optimum move. Having said that, a 3/3 first-striking blocker is nice on any turn of the game, so waiting for the plains shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance.
- There is so much good stuff in the other colors… it makes me sad to see it languish in the cheap-seats. After all, my waistline will attest that I’m a very greedy man. I want to play all cards in all colors.
- The Oathkeeper could do with a few more Samurai to make it truly broken. Still, an immortal 5/3 first-striking bushido blocker isn’t to be scoffed at.
You know, I’ve just realized something… I’m not bothering to check, but I think I’ve splashed creatures in every build I’ve made. Every one, in each card pool, for eight articles. Maybe I don’t “hate splashing guys” as much as I claim.
So what do you reckon? I’m a happy wagging dog with a great big bone… but am I barking up the wrong tree? Is the Green too good to ignore? And is the White too good to merely splash?
Before you decide, try a few sample builds. I did. I think I pieced together almost every color combination known to man, and a few known only to acid-addled 70’s funk bassists. There are problems with every hue, I think, but I’m almost sure that the colors above are the best ones for the job.
If forced to play this pool as a PTQ, I’d be happy with the deck. I’d also be annoyed that I couldn’t do better, maybe shoehorning the Green spells into the mix in order to add power. Even so, with some nice draws and a pat from the Mana Gods, I’d be looking at a Top 8.
You don’t agree, do you?
I can see it in your eyes.
Eight articles in, and I’m still looking to learn. Come and tease me in the Forums.
Four more pools to open and discuss… if they’re all like this, we’re in for a rough ride.
Then again… if they’re all like this, I’ll have five foil Cranial Extractions.
Now that’s Magic!
Until the next pile…
Thanks for listening.
Scouseboy on MTGO