Sealed Revealed: Wrapping up the Series

Craig wraps up this three-week series with a look back at all the deck archetypes, the key commons in each color that make an archetype, and the lessons he learned along the way. He also gives some props to the readers and forum participants for making this series such a rousing success.

Once upon a time, I was the highest ranked Constructed player in England.

I’ll admit that this was rather flattering. I’m no great shakes. It came on the back of my two successful top-flight tournaments to date, making top eight at Grand Prix: London 2002 and top thirty-two at Pro Tour: Houston 2002. Every dog has his day, after all.

Most of my time at the top was spent drinking champagne and laughing hysterically. I was determined to enjoy myself, and I’ll make no apologies.

But some of my time was spent looking at the other half of my composite score.

With a Constructed rating in the high two-thousands, I had a Limited rating of sixteen-hundred. And a bit.

Sure, my mid eighteen-hundred composite rating saw me scrape into a Nationals invitational spot, thanks to the drop-down rule… but I wasn’t happy. All around me, respected players were claiming that Limited was the true measure of a Magic player. Constructed was a luck-based, matchup dependant format. Any luck-sack with a four-leaf clover could Wiggun his way to the top of the pile. If you wanted to count yourself a playa, it was Sealed, Booster and Rochester all the friggin’ way.

Of course, this is bullsh**. But it still made me think.

“How can I call myself a success at this game,” I asked myself, “if can only master one aspect of it?”

My dwindling Constructed rating attests that I haven’t even mastered that.

Still, as the points cascaded about me, I desperately wanted to improve my Limited game. My team, Team Leeds, cannot muster the statutory eight required for regular drafting. And MTGO is a luxury I can afford for approximately three days a month, usually directly following pay-day. But I did what I could.

I’ve attended two Limited Pro-Tours, each with little success. But they helped. As I began the Sealed Revealed series, both my ratings sat around the mid eighteen-hundred mark.

But even as my scores begin to level out, I still feel that my Limited game is the poor relation of my Constructed one.

So I began the Sealed Revealed series with a purpose. I vowed that, at the end of the series, I’d be a more confident and skilful Limited maestro. I’d tackle twelve sealed card pools, receive advice and guidance from the great and good, and get to grips with the vagaries of Kamigawa.

I feel that, in my special way, I’ve succeeded. For one, I feel I can take a set of cards and build a playable deck. I recognize cards and colors that compliment each other, and I can separate the wheat from the chaff. I also made some surprising discoveries about individual cards, and spotted weaknesses in my thought processes and game-plans.

I learnt a lot during Sealed Revealed.

Here’s some things I picked up…

First, let’s see if there was any pattern to the builds. Over twelve articles, you’d think that there should be an almost even split between the colours I played, right?

Wrong-o, Mongo.

Pool Breakdown: Final Build Color Analysis.

1. W/U/b*

2. G/U/r

3. G/B/u

4. U/B/g

5. W/B/r

6. G/B/w/r

7. W/B/r

8. B/R/w

9. W/U/b

10. W/U/b **

11. G/B/r

12. W/B/r

* Best build out of two possibles. Other build was W/B/r

** Best build out of two possibles. Other build was B/R/u

Of course, these mean nothing on their own. Let’s break them down further:


Main color: 6

Splash color: 2

Total times color saw play: 8/12


Main color: 4

Splash color: 1

Total times color saw play: 5/12


Main color: 8

Splash color: 3

Total times color saw play: 11/12


Main color: 1

Splash color: 6

Total times color saw play: 7/12


Main color: 4

Splash color: 1

Total times color saw play: 5/12

By far the most profitable color was Black. Black removal is the best in the business, after all. Could this with a slew of decent beatdown guys, and you have beauty in a box.

Of course, another reason that the Black is so yummy in Kamigawa is the relative absence of Red. Upon analysis, it seems that the Red creatures are largely unimpressive. And the pool in which I do maindeck the Red included Kumano, Master Yamabushi (as did pool two, the pool in which the forums urged me to go straight U/R). Yes, Red has the splashable burn and the usual bombs… but it is frankly poor when it comes to all-round beef.

Another well-thumbed color was White. The samurai guys are hard to ignore. Still, much fun was had at my expense when it became apparent that I’d even play the White cards if the pale pool contained nothing more than one lonely Kitsune Blademaster.

If we examine the most popular sealed “archetypes”, we can see that W/B/r ties with W/U/b, each coming home with a happy three builds apiece. This tells us that White is a particularly strong color for maindeck consideration.

We take a card pool. We check the Black cards, then the White cards. What else do we do? What draws me to a color?

Things That Make Me Go Hmmm…

Through Sealed Revealed, I found that certain cards made me favor certain colors. I’ll deal with commons exclusively here, as you’re likely to see them in multiples.


Honorable Mentions: Innocence Kami, Mothrider Samurai, Kami of Ancient Law.

Generally, I’d need to see a combination, or multiples of, the above cards in order to consider White. While good in any deck, the Blademaster favours W/B/x, or W/R/x. The Kabuto Moth and Innocence Kami, on the other hand, feels more useful in W/U/x builds. Cage of Hands is simply excellent however you choose to use it.


Honorable Mentions: Soratami Mirror-Guard, Floating-Dream Zubera.

Without Teller of Tales, the Blue mage must spin tales of his own in order to impress. He is the most important card in Blue, no question. Sure, the Soratami are nice… but unless you’ve a myriad of cheap flyers, you’ll not win without the big ugly fish-ball.


Honorable Mentions: Gibbering Kami, Wicked Akuba.

Black has the removal. Black is the removal. There’s nothing more to say. If you have Black removal, play it in some capacity. The Cutthroat is also a splendid card. If I had two of these, and some removal, I’d be hard-pressed to avoid Black as a main color.


Honorable Mentions: Erm…pass.

There’s not one common creature in Red that would make me drool. Sure, Ronin Houndmaster is nice, and Frostwielder, and maybe even Hearth Kami… but without seeing a decent curve containing all of these, plus uncommon goodness and removal in depth, I wouldn’t go anywhere near it. I truly think that Red is nothing more than a splash color in Kamigawa Sealed. That, folks, is a travesty. I’m sorely tempted to find the guy who caused this imbalance and beat him to submission with a sock-full of Goblin Warchiefs.


Honorable Mentions: Feral Deceiver, Orochi Sustainer, Kodoma’s Might, Moss Kami.

Green needs mana-fixers. Without them, the color seems weak in comparison to others. And to be truly happy running Green as a primary concern, I’d need to see both Kami of the Hunt and Order of the Sacred Bell. These are the staples by which my Green shall shine. Of course, with decent mana acceleration and cards such as Moss Kami, there are options to go the heavy-duty route too.

Some Thoughts on Individual Cards and Mechanics

  • Sensei’s Divining Top: this card causes a stir in the forums. Some live by the Top, some call it little more than a mulligan. The jury is still out on this, but let’s face facts. I think it’s good, as does Ted. Scott Wills and Kai Budde, however, think it’s rubbish. Who are you going to believe?

  • Commune with Nature: Another card to kick up a stink in the forums was Commune with Nature. At first, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending a mana to search up what could be a poor creature, possible losing some important cards on the way. However, in a deck with bomb guys, it appears that the Commune is more than playable. Nowadays, I’d be sure to run it if I was playing Green as a main color.

  • Tribal effects, which are so Onslaught, are pretty funky on the plains of Kamigawa. Aside from the obvious Spirit theme, the Samurai and the Snake tribes can be effective if the pool allows it. The Rat tribe is weaker, as are the Soratami and Humans, but when building it will serve you well to keep an eye on the tribal possibilities of your cards.

  • Mirrodin saw us become blasé over artifacts. Just as every third card was a metal marauder, every fourth card was a machine-smashing menace. Kamigawa, however, sees artifacts and equipment rise sharply in value. Whenever I open equipment, I strongly consider playing it. Even if it’s strictly sub-par when compared to the likes of Bonesplitter or Cranial Plating, stuff like Tenza, Godo’s Maul can find a home in the most unusual of places. Don’t be afraid to run with the swords.

  • The Hondens are very playable. These shrine-tastic marvels were slow burners for me, but seeing the power of the Blue, Red and Green (in that order) has made me a devout follower. Run them, splash them, play them in multiples if you can. They are ranked in power thusly: Blue, Red, Green, White, Black. And even the Black one isn’t too shabby.

  • The Zuberas started by receiving some bad press, but they are improving in stature every time I play them. I am a particular fan of the Blue zebra, but the Red and Black zebras have their places too. The Green guy is less feisty, of course, and the White guy needs retiring to a hospice. They wouldn’t drag me into a color, but I’d be more than happy to run them as 20-23rd pick monsters.

  • Am I the only one finding Splicing onto Arcane a little overrated? I think it’s a lovely mechanic, but not yet fully realized. If you have arcane spells, then that’s great, but splicing will be a sporadic occurrence. No, these spells are much more important in the triggering of spiritcraft effects,

  • We’ve established that all the cool kids play Black. When playing the color of the night, it is important to maximize your soulshift capability, even if it means playing borderline cards in order to maximise the returning targets. Decent creature beatdown will win you many a battle, but the card advantage inherent in a soulshift chain will eventually win you the war.

  • The spirit/arcane trigger effects are pretty circumstantial, all things considered. If you have a card pool rife in playable spirits, then maximizing your trigger effects is a fine idea. Though in building the decks, I’ve followed a vague rule of thumb: if the spirit/arcane count is low, then look at your trigger effect guy. Is he worth playing without his ability? Thus, a Teller of Tales is fine, whereas a Kami of the Waning Moon may not be. Also, look for decent combos with such trigger cards. For example, the Kami of the Waning Moon might sit in the sideboard of most pools… unless you’re playing Wicked Akuba and Cursed Ronin.

Some Overall Ideas and Advice

  • Kamigawa seems much slower than the zip-along Mirrodin Limited. Gone are the color-free early plays, the mana myr and the quick efficient beaters. Thus, it is important to maximize your land count. I wouldn’t dream of running less than seventeen, and I wouldn’t be afraid to play with eighteen in a three-color deck. Nineteen is a little excessive, of course, but it may be warranted in some circumstances. Especially if you have the Soratami guys to turn your lands into abilities or cards.

  • While, as always, the mana curve is important… it’s not set in stone. Sure, we all like sleek machines of death in our deck choices, but gone are the strictly tempo-driven days of Onslaught and Mirrodin. There are color concerns nowadays, folks. And big bad legendary game-breaking spells. Don’t go mad, but don’t fear playing the decent fat stuff.

  • One thing has been troubling me about these pools. Sometimes, it is difficult to find a passable, playable build with three-colors evenly split, let alone a two-color plus manageable splash. If you check your pool and find this is the case, then prepare yourself for a long journey home. Or a day of drafting.

  • In pool six, I posited a four-color build, and was ritually humiliated in the forums. “You can’t play four colors!” came the cry. However, pool ten saw me go with a W/U/b build, only to be told that a four-color build was viable. Sometimes, I despair for humanity. My tip is… look to your Green mana-fixers. If they’re strong, and if the other Green spells measure up, and if the strength of the splash-cards are worth it… then fill your crazy boots.

  • As with all Limited formats since Garfield began… Dragons Win Games.


To end the series, here’s a few salient points once more:

  • Play Black, or White. You’ll thank me in the long run.

  • Avoid Red as a main color if possible. It is just not strong enough.

  • Green without the mana-fixers is just a collection of boring men.

  • Playing Blue may seem clever, but it will devour your very soul.

  • Tribal functionality is pretty strong, if the cards fall kindly.

  • Equipment is excellent.

Perhaps the best advice I can give you is this: go back and read the forums. There are some excellent build-tips and pick ideas hidden there, far too many for me to outline here.

So that’s it from me. Likely I’ll be back soon, though… I’ve a PTQ on the 7th of November. After twelve episodes of Sealed Revealed, it’d be churlish of me to leave without putting my newfound confidence into practice.

I hope you all enjoyed the series, and I hope your skills at Limited have benefited from reading my insane ramblings.

If they have, I’ll take the credit.

If they haven’t, you can blame Ted.

Good luck at your next sealed event, unless you’re up against a fat specky Scouser.

Until the next pile…

Thanks for listening.

Craig Stevenson

Scouseboy on MTGO

[email protected]