I have long since given up hoping for a Visara the Dreadful…
A Rorix Bladewing? I couldn’t even tell you what one looks like right-side up.
But really…is a single fricking Falter too much to ask for?
I played in a Grand Prix Trial for Boston the weekend after the Legions Prerelease, and as I built the deck I felt pretty good about it. The deck was even coveted by my neighbors. It was a sporty black/red model with a fair share of removal, even if it was bereft of the aforementioned bombs.
What I didn’t realize is that my black and red creatures – while crafty – were much smaller than everything my green opponents would start playing on turn 5. Turns one through four were mine with fast creatures and some cheap removal but once we got to a point where there were five or six lands on my opponent’s side of the table and some of them were forests…
Well, there was going to be trouble.
There were a number of turns that I spent playing and unmorphing either Skinthinner or Aphetto Exterminator, only to find myself still losing to a stream of 4/4’s for five mana. Worse yet, it would take two turns to do it and I was never able to mount any pressure of my own.
Here is the deck I played and the relevant cards I left sitting on the bench.
Shepherd of Rot
Scion of Darkness
Unplayed red cards
Unplayed black cards
Chain of Smog
Do you see what I’m talking about? Despite plenty of removal, the deck did not have the”ooomph” needed to succeed in the Onslaught Sealed Deck environment. I played four rounds with an even .500 record, losing to *gasp*choke* a green/white deck along the way. I quickly realized that in a format where everyone wins with falter effects, not having one of your own could prove to be fatal.
I played one round against Neutral Ground regular Mike Short, and I was confident that I was going to win each of our two games – especially the one in which I killed his Exalted Angel – but in each game I fell below the magic number he needed to finish me off with Searing Flesh.
Hmmmmm…Searing Flesh. Should I have played with it in my deck? The card usually survives the first few passes as I build my deck, but when it comes down to the final pass it almost always takes a seat in favor of a creature, a removal spell, or a Falter effect like Wave of Indifference or Dirge of Dread. What I failed to consider in this instance was that Searing Flesh was a virtual Falter, allowing me to get through with seven unblockable points of damage and demoralize my opponent scant turns before his certain victory.
I also should have paid more mind to the Frenetic Raptor. At first glance, I hated this card – but again, without a traditional way to break through I should have considered this one more carefully. In this sealed deck environment, the most common color is green – the color of beasts. With only four beasts in my deck, his drawback would have been minimal for my deck and potentially devastating for my opponent. Ultimately, I did not anticipate my deck’s weaknesses and prepare accordingly. Without evasion or an evasion spell, I needed to be thinking outside the booster box for ways to finish off my opponent.
The card that I clearly should not have played was the Commando Raid. Commando Raid really shines when you have evasion creatures, like in red/white, or falter effects – which we have already determined I did not have. Most everyone who has pored over the deck with me after the event agrees that the Raid should have been either the Searing Flesh or the cycling Zombie.
My other option was to forgo one of my removal colors in favor of white. Both my blue and my green were shallow with little to offer, but of my fifteen white cards I had eleven or twelve that were playable, including a number of flyers as well as a Daru Encampment and a Secluded Steppe.
Disciple of Grace
2 Aven Warhawk
Circle of Solace
If I paired the white with the red I would have been able to reliably count on the Commando Raid with my four fliers as compared to a lone Severed Legion in the black/red build. Daunting Defender and Sandskin would have given me some ground resistance to green creatures and with six soldiers in the deck the Aven Warhawks would have reliably been at least 3/3 fliers and possibly larger.
If I had paired the white with the black, I would have been able to include the potentially ginormous Vile Deacon. I’m not sure which build is correct – or if I should have played the white at all. The point of all this rambling is that I was distracted by all my removal and I did not really consider the overall synergy of my deck during construction. Again, without the game-breaking bombs that are normally clustered around the top tables it may not have mattered-two of my opponent’s had Exalted Angel and one of them also had Akroma, Angel of Wrath.
As far as the Scion of Darkness in my deck, I’m sure that may be a bomb but I would not know. I never even saw him – not once. In fact, I had forgotten that I even had him in my deck until I started typing the list for this article. I assumed that if he was too expensive to cast that I would cycle him, but that never even came up as an option. I have a sneaking suspicion that the card is all right and have even had him busted out against me courtesy of a Dark Supplicant by Brook North around turn 4 in a draft once. In a format where players regularly activate their eight-mana Invokers, I imagine that an eight-mana Reanimate on wheels is pretty good.
While it ended up being a bad day for the Sealed deck format, it was quite successful in the three-on-three department. I did two drafts, one with Mike Flores and Mikey P and another with Matt Boccio and some kid I never saw before vs. Mikey P, Matt Urban and Chunk. I ended up going 5-0 on the day once with a green/red deck and the other with blue/red.
The highlight of my day was playing against Mikey P and his elf deck. Mike had drafted an almost mono-green elf beatdown deck, anticipating Timberwatch Elves in the third pack that never materialized. As a result, this deck was capable of gaining huge chunks of life with multiple Wellwishers but it had not way to win in some match-ups other than decking. At some point in the final game of the match, Mike had two Wellwishers and went up to a hundred and twelve life. He had drawn one card off of a Wirewood Herald, but I was still going to run out of cards first. I had planned on winning by unmorphing an Unstable Hulk and forcing Mike to draw the crucial extra card that would allow me to win. Mike foiled that plan with an Infest, while I did not have the mana to flip up the Hulk. I was now forced to deal him well over a hundred and twelve damage in order to win with something like ten cards left in my library. Fortunately, I drew Goblin Dynamo and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. When Mike finally died he was at something approaching negative fifty life thanks to seven or eight 4/4 lands joining in the final attack.
I know there has been a lot of talk about U/R losing a lot of its luster with one less pack of Lavamancer’s Skills; I think the combination is still viable, but the archetype has changed. I have had some success pairing the Mistform creatures with the blue and red Slivers, like Blade Sliver and Shifting Sliver. 3/1 Mistform Dreamers and 4/1 Mistform Seaswifts present your opponent with a small window of time to find their answers. I have also found nothing keeps an opponent’s morphs back on”D” like a 2/4 Mistform Wall.
One of the more interesting dynamics to arise form the release of Legions has been the scurry of players trying to settle on their three-man teams for this spring/summer’s Team PTQ season. A number of players with significant team results have found themselves without teams for the upcoming season and Legions seems to have served as the alarm clock to wake them to this fact. In the coming, weeks I will be talking about Team Sealed strategy, and politics, and possibly a little gossip thrown in for good measure.
See you all at Grand Prix Boston! Until then, I can be reached at [email protected]