So, I email Ted with my previous article. I’ve worked long and hard at it. It’s 3am GMT, and I’m up for work in four hours.
I decide to hang back a while, wait for Ted’s inevitable response. He’s pretty sharp when replying, and as usual, he didn’t dally long.
I hope he liked it, I muse, as I crack open the email. After all, nobody enjoys rejection.
There before me, bold as brass, stood words that poked me in the eye:
“BTW, you really do need help in Limited.”
For a brief moment, I was outraged.
Who the hell is he to tell me I suck? I fumed. I’ve competed in TWO Limited Pro Tours! I write through the night, spilling my Limited soul in order to please, and some cocky sonofabitch editor with a cheesecake fetish tells ME I need help? I mean, the man can’t doesn’t even support a decent soccer team, so he’s clearly insane!
Naturally, I mellowed. After all, I’d overlooked the following facts:
a) As my editor, he makes up a significant portion of the entity that pays my wages. Therefore he can say whatever he damn well pleases.
b) Although I played at two Limited Pro Tours, history shows that I didn’t actually compete. Oh, I drafted, built and played… but the word “competed” implies that I put up some competition. My Limited Pro Tours both saw me out of contention before the bloody Player’s Meeting.
c) Ted was 100% correct. I really do need help at Limited.
I’m enjoying writing these articles. They help me analyze my every choice, which can only strengthen my skills. But the most pleasant aspect of the Sealed Revealed is the interaction in the forums, which is proving to be a robust and forthright arena for the sharing of ideas.
Through these interactions, I feel that I’m learning all the time. Come and join us, and maybe you’ll learn something too.
[Just so we’re clear, I think Craig’s writing is awesome, and while his Constructed deck choices have that “wild and crazy” flair to them (something that most of us love, regardless of their success rates), he’s definitely competed in more Pro Tours than I have. But, as someone who has played with Champions a lot since it was released, I could see all sorts of card evaluation mistakes and build estimations that could use some work. I didn’t mean to bash the man – I was just trying to encourage his learning process. Then again, what do I know? Kai hates the Top, calling is “a bad card” while I think it’s a 3-6th pick in draft, so there’s a lot of room for interpretation here. It’s certainly much better than Darksteel Pendant. Isn’t it? – Knut]
Card pool two saw us playing with explosives. There were genuine bombs in a couple of colors, and the debate over the correct build is still going strong. So what does card pool three bring us, I wonder? For a start, it’s bringing me Repetitive Strain Disorder and a hearty hatred of Blue, as I’m sick to death of typing the word “Soratami.”
Here we go!
Cage of Hands
Call to Glory
Hold the Line
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Kami of Ancient Law
Kami of the Painted Road
2 Kitsune Diviner
Masako the Humorless
Council of the Soratami
Cut The Tethers
Floating Dream Zubera
Reach Through Mists
Sire of the Storm
2 Soratami Rainshaper
Student of Elements
Teller of Tales
Honden of Night’s Reach
Kami of the Waning Moon
2 Ragged Veins
Thief of Hope
Kami of the Hunt
2 Kodama’s Reach
Order of the Sacred Bell
2 Serpent Skin
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Time of Need
2 Tranquil Garden
Grab your pens and crack on.
Aside: As it is our beloved editor’s birthday, I’ve composed a little limerick in his honor:
A dashing young fellow called Ted
Was losing the hair on his head.
Each morn he’d start pleading
“Oh, please stop receding!”
Then tearfully vacuum his bed.
That’s revenge for the “short and bald” Scouser jibe.
Happy Birthday, fella.
Are you done? Good. Let us proceed.
What do we want in White? We want weenies, and flyers, and tricks, and solid defence. Oh, and dragons.
In this pool, White delivers in spades. Unfortunately, those spades are full of dung.
We have a couple of Kitsune Diviners, whose tip-top-tapping can get us all clapping… We have the disenchant guy, Kami of Ancient Law, who I hereby dub “Neil of Cleansing.” Other than that, the pickings are slim.
- Kami of the Ancient Road is clunky without a feast of support cards, and Pious Kitsune is shoddy fodder.
- The Isamaru is playable, but is very weak in the late game.
- In Harsh Deceiver, we have a poor man with a poor ability, but at least he lets us use the most common phrase in Magic today: “The White version is the weakest of this cycle of cards.”
- Masako the Humorless is a one-trick pony, and I’d rather play an Ethereal Haze instead.
- As for Horizon Seed… if you’re sowing seeds such as these, prepare to harvest some very bitter fruit.
The men aren’t up to much, and as White should thrive on cost-effective early beats, this means we’ll only be splashing the color. And only then if the support cards dictate.
Cage of Hands is reusable removal, and therefore extremely worthwhile. Sadly, as a splash card, the White mana needed to effectively protect it could be difficult to obtain. Call to Glory is awful in this card pool, and only marginally playable in a Samurai heavy deck. Blessed Breath has its fans, but I’ll admit that I’m not one of them. At least the Breath has a good splice cost, even if the effect you are splicing isn’t a game-winner.
With the other White cards available, we can destroy an enchantment, or make a guy not tap to attack. Hold me back, people, lest I explode with excitement.
In this pool, White is sh…*ahem*
Let’s just say that White is something that rhymes with White.
As is my wont, I’ll start with the support cards. While card pool one held some very shaky Blue support, pool two was as strong in support as a surgical truss. Unfortunately, pool three sees an unwelcome return to form.
- Peer Through Mists? Filler.
- Cut the Tethers? Sideboard, at best.
- Lifted by Clouds? Thrown in the Bin, more like.
- Hisoka’s Defiance? I hate countermagic in Limited unless it’s truly warranted. Hisoka’s Defiance could be a sideboard option against a dragon-packer, but otherwise… keep it real, folks. Win the game by reacting to a threat, not pre-empting it.
The only savior is the Council of the Soratami, a solid, splashable, playable card. Even if someone in the forums disagrees.
The support slots for Blue are overshadowed, happily, by a handful of playable creatures. We have the Teller of Tales and the Sire of the Storm, both 3/3 flyers with a huge impact on the game. Cast a spell, tap a guy, draw a card, swing, make a guy, untap a guy, draw a card… the interactions are complex, and rewarding. Sadly, if they have no support, they’re a clunky, junky-janky two-Blue splash.
Alongside the fat guys, we have our usual army of three and four mana flying machines. The Rainshaper (of which we have two) is preferable to the Mirror-Guard, whose ability is good but overcosted in the “land-returning” department. We have a mini-Jens in the Floating-Dream Zubera, and a playable Deceiver of the Callous variety. The Jushi Apprentice is a fragile, yet powerful card. His flip ability is ludicrous, but probably achievable with the Mirror-Guard returning your land to hand. Of course, whether you’d want to use his flipped ability on yourself is another thing entirely. Maybe decking your opponent is the better plan. The “vanilla ability” of this flip creature is strong enough as it is.
I like that phrase.
In this pool, Blue is the new Green. It has some good creatures, but little in the way of weighty support cards. I’d be relatively happy with a base Blue build, at this stage. Of course, there are three more colors to explore…
Good support cards.
I’m Back in Black!
The Black pool is deep. For removal, the double Befoul is very nice. Sadly, it isn’t backed up with a Rend or a Swallowing Plague. We have a Soulless Revival, which is a nice card, especially if the final build is creature-light. There’s a Honden of Night’s Reach, which probably won’t make the cut, and a couple of Ragged Veins, which definitely won’t make the cut. And as we’ve mentioned before, the Distress is for the Constructed crowd: don’t bin it, but don’t play it either. [I like a lot Distress in a heavier Black deck without many turn 2 plays, but I think it’s playable in most Black Sealed decks. – Knut]
It’s the Black creatures that make this color unavoidable. For a start, there’s the tempo shadow-rat that is Nezumi Cutthroat. He’ll deal, and he’ll draw removal, all for two measly mana. Alongside the Cutthroat stands the Nezumi Ronin, a virtual 4/2 for the bargain basement price of three mana. The Thief of Hope is a must, especially if we utilize the Blue to its fullest. We also have the double-team of Villainous Ogre and Gutwrencher Oni. They help a quick beatdown start, and the Oni’s drawback isn’t too painful when you’re swinging with a 5/4 trampler. The lack of blocking on the Ogre does hurt, but it still passes muster.
We have some good guys. However, there are two exceptions. This is a decent playable-to-unplayable ration in anyone’s book. The Ashen-Skin Zubera should be left to frolic in the fields with his little zebra chums. Kami of the Waning Moon isn’t the best, but I suppose it could find a spot as it combos nicely with the Thief and can randomly win you a game when stalled out.
I think we have a nice nucleus for a deck here, with the Blue and Black creature base being pretty strong. Sadly, it leaves us low on viable support spell options without a pretty heavy splash, so I’ll be keeping an open mind as I head for the Red.
After the goodness of Blue and Black, it’s almost refreshing to return to the land of mediocrity. Bad White and Red, good Blue and Black: Wizards are making our sealed decks for us.
I’ll not be dwelling over the Red cards. The only strong one among them is Yamabushi’s Flame. Frostwielder is alright, but the rest of the cards are frankly poor. Instead of my usual individual critique, I’ll simply list the remaining red cards and suggest a use for them. Hey, at least they’ll have a purpose.
Akki Avalanchers: You could use this card to remove wax from the ears of an aged relative.
Desperate Ritual: This card is perfect as a stiff “Magic Carpet” for Lego Men or Minifigs.
Devouring Rage: If you have a terrible memory for names, simply take this card and write “I have a terrible memory for names” on it. Hand it to any new friends you may meet, and ask them to clearly enunciate their name three times. Hey presto! They’ll think you’re a lunatic, and never want to see you again, so you can forget their names without fear of reproach.
Ember-Fist Zubera: With some carefully planned tearing and folding, this card makes an ideas “Superman” style cape for your pet mouse.
Lava Spike: Sell this on eBay, claiming it’s the “Hottest Buffy Item EVAR”
Sokenzan Bruiser: If you run out of toilet paper, this card is for you! Simply take it to your nearest toilet paper emporium and threaten to staple the card to their counter unless they give you a toilet roll.
Splash for a single Yamabushi’s Flame? Not likely.
With my heart set on a Blue/Black build, along come the Green cards to spoil the party,
Firstly, let’s tackle what I don’t like in this Green pool. There’s not much to say.
- As with the all the non-Blue zebras, the Dripping-Tongue Zubera is strictly filler. His ability isn’t too bad, as he’s a poor man’s Penumbra Bobcat, but he’d be a 23rd card at best, and only if I needed the spirit.
- The Time of Need is a tutor, and thus is always semi-playable. Unfortunately, this card pool only houses two legendary creatures in Isamaru and Sosuke, and neither are strong enough to warrant their own fetch spell.
- Joyous Respite? No thank you.
- Wear Away is a very playable sideboard option, as are all Disenchant effects.
- The Serpent’s Skin is a tricky one. Personally, I wouldn’t bother, as it ether ties up your mana or leads to two-for-one exchanges. I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of you guys on this one.
Now, the good stuff. And there’s a lot of it.
The main thing that throws a spanner in the works of the proposed U/B build is the excellent mana accelerants and fixers we have. If we were going U/B, I wouldn’t be happy with using the splash color to fuel these mana-ramping cards. Two Kodama’s Reach, a Sakura-Tribe Elder… even the Orochi Leafcaller has his place in a three-color deck with a heavy non-generic mana quota. The double-Blues and double-Blacks can breathe easier now.
Coupled with the mana-ramp, we find decent creatures in all slots. We have the Kami of the Hunt, and the Order of the Bald Green Monks, both fine cards in their own right. There’s the cheap utility of Hana Kami, and the basilisk ability of Sosuke, Son of Seshiro. He also pumps any random snake dudes, and works extremely well with the Nezumi Cutthroat and Villainous Ogre.
I can see Green being the backbone of this deck. What’ll I do with the other colors now my original plans have been discarded like so much rancid cheese?
The forum posts on card pool two have a lively debate regarding the worth of Sensei’s Divining Top. I’m strictly in the “excellent” camp, and therefore will include the card in almost every sealed deck I can. With the Reach and the Elder available in this card pool, the Top is divine. The only thing I will say is that I’m glad the card isn’t called Sensei’s Divining Bottom. The artwork alone would boggle the mind.
The Nine-Ring Bo is situational, sub-par removal. But it’s removal nonetheless. I would be tempted to run with it in this card pool, as the double Befoul (and Yamabushi’s Flame) are the only true removal available to us.
Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho… it’s Mirrodin all over again. This is a decent piece of equipment, one that is best used in a Samurai deck. Definitely a playable card.
Two Tranquil Gardens, both tapping for White mana… As I’m unlikely to splash the White, they have no business here.
I think the cards with true potential are found in the Green, Blue and Black stables. But each has a set of double-casting cost spells that are powerful indeed.
So, what do I play?
Do I stick to my guns, playing U/B, maybe rustling up a splash from any of the remaining colors?
Do I go G/U, and weep as I pack my double Befoul into my bag?
Ah, the suspense.
I bet it’s killing you.
Here’s what I’d go with, and why:
Sensei’s Divining Top.
In the end, the lure of the mana-fixers proved too strong. Although all colors have cards with a double-colored-mana in their casting cost, the Kodama’s Reaches and Sakura-Tribe Elder should help with this.
I think the curve for this deck is very tight. I’d love an extra four-drop, and maybe an Ornithopter, so my curve could read 1-2-3-4-3-2-1. That’d make me feel special.
A note on specific cards:
The Nine-Ring Bo made the cut, as the Befouls are our only true removal. Sure, tapping things with the Teller of Tales ability is peachy, but you can’t beat sending a guy to the graveyard with his winkle between his legs.
Sosuke has a couple of random snakes to pump, and a couple of random warriors to inflame. Hopefully, his abilities will come in handy.
I didn’t pack the Oathkeeper, as I thought the Nine-Ring Bo was the correct choice, given the removal count in the deck and the fact that I’m only sporting one Samurai. However, this is a questionable decision, as it’s still a fine card to play. What do you guys think?
I think that this deck would make me a contender for top 8 at a PTQ, but it’d be nice to see how it would fare against a more bomb-oriented deck. I’d hope that the solid quality of the above deck would prove consistent and strong enough to ride the game to victory before Charlie Big-Bananas comes sauntering vaguely downwards, but I could be wrong. After all, sometimes the dragons simply swing for twenty.
So what do you think? Do you disagree with my build?
Come tell me in the forums. It’s the place to be.
Until the next pile…
Thanks for listening.