I went from knowing nothing about Mirrodin Sealed Deck, to feeling that it’s my best Limited format in years within one week. I feel the lessons I learned in that week will be particularly useful to pass along, not because I’m some kind of Limited master – in fact, it’s Constructed that is my specialty – but because they are basic fundamentals of the format. If you already feel you’ve got this format down cold, I won’t be of much good to you… But if you’re still struggling, I can help.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I should start at the beginning…
Given the incredible popularity of the Mirrodin Prerelease and how cool Equipment is conceptually, I was sure this Limited Pro Tour Qualifier season would be a big hit. Sure, European PTQs are less popular in the states than US PTQs, but the prizes are fantastic ($500 in cash and tons of packs). And if you’re going to go to Europe, Amsterdam is a pretty cool place to go.
Despite my plans to attend Grand Prix: Kansas City, I was too busy between work, family and working on Extended for Pro Tour: New Orleans to play any Mirrodin Limited. The first PTQ of the season in my area was Oct 4th, which I would have gone to if it had not conflicted with a much more important event – my son Ryan’s 1st birthday.
I was shocked to discover how low the attendance was at the PTQ I missed. It wasn’t just that event, either. Attendance was low everywhere. I just didn’t get it. It was a cool new format, the cards people would get in the event were from the new set – yet people were just not turning out in numbers.
My confusion lasted until about a week before the Grand Prix. While I had studied every card in the set during my Extended work, I had yet to crack open my first pack. I decided I couldn’t afford to wait anymore; I had to try my hand at Mirrodin Limited. I opened a Tournament pack and two Boosters and sorted my cards by color… Then I sorted the cards by casting cost, putting the creatures, enchantments, spells (Sorceries and Instants) and non-creature Artifacts in different rows.
After staring at my neatly-organized card pool for a long time, it dawned on me; I had absolutely no idea how to build a winning deck out of these cards.
I was sure a winning deck was in there. I had good cards – that much I knew. But how to design the best deck from my giant pile of artifacts and tiny piles of colored cards was a complete mystery to me. I put a couple of different builds together, but they all looked horrible.
Finally, I understood the reason for the low PTQ turnouts. This set is so different from past formats that many players probably haven’t figured out how to build a good deck from their card pools, and who would want to play in a PTQ if they can’t build a deck?
I was finding myself in the same boat. If I couldn’t figure this format out (and fast) what was the point in travelling all the way to Kansas City just to get my butt kicked and lose DCI points? Given that I had already purchased my ticket, I was highly motivated to learn quickly and salvage my trip.
While I’m okay at Limited (I was on the winning Team at Pro Tour: D.C. and my rating is usually around 2000), my strength is definitely Constructed. Fortunately, as a member of Team Your Move Games, I have access to a lot of great Magic minds, so I didn’t have to figure the format out on my own. Danny Mandel, Ed Fear, and most notably Darwin Kastle gave me a crash course on Mirrodin Sealed deck.
I’m a quick learner. After seeing how each of these players would build my deck, and hearing why they made the choices they did, I felt I knew what to do. I put together my own build (which was different from each of theirs but most closely resembled Darwin’s build) and played some matches against their decks with it. The deck performed well, and the matches gave me a better understanding of the format.
Darwin and I repeated this exercise with three more sealed decks. Each time, we would take our decks apart and give it to the other person to build so we could compare notes on our building styles. Despite the relatively small amount of time I spent preparing, I felt I had gained a very good understanding of the format. Here’s what I learned:
You Can (And Probably Should) Play More Colors.
The normal reason to try and stick to two colors (perhaps splashing a card or two from a third color) when playing Limited is to make sure your deck comes out consistently. You don’t want to be stuck with a large number of spells in your hand that you cannot play, so you give up some power in exchange for consistency.
Because this set is different than anything that has come before it, this normal reasoning does not apply. You are forced to play Artifacts, and lots of them. You will be playing so many Artifacts that your primary "color" will be colorless Artifacts. This means that unless you are trying to support cards with a double-color requirement in their casting cost, all your colored spells can be considered a splash.
No matter what color mana you draw, you will be able to play spells of your "primary color" (a.k.a.”Artifacts”), so Mirrodin decks have built in the consistency you would get in the past by sticking to only two colors.
With the biggest drawback of playing multiple colors out of the way, I have found my decks to be much more powerful when I play all my best spells from three or even four colors to support my artifact base. Four to six mana sources is enough to support a few spells of that color and a few Artifacts that like to have that flavor of mana available (like the Shards).
The abundance of mana-producing Artifacts like Talismans and Myr help smooth out your mana base even further. I am happiest running sixteen to seventeen land with three or four Talismans or Myr.
And speaking of Myr…
Play Your Myr!
Having a guy – any guy – is better in this set than it has been in the past. The reason for this is Equipment. Any creature starts to look pretty scary when it’s wearing Vulshok Battlegear or swinging a Bonesplitter!
In the past, the speed boost of a 1/1 for two that can tap for a Mana would have been good, but once you got to the late game, that 1/1 would have been looking like a pretty sad draw.
In Mirrodin, you get the best of both worlds. That little guy who helps so much in the early game is now a fine late-game pull. By the time you get to the late game you should have drawn some Equipment, so you will be able to play and equip the little guy in the same turn.
Equipment That Enhances Power Is Great.
Any piece of equipment that enhances your creature’s power is usually worth running. Adding to toughness is nice, but not nearly as good. Remember that a creature with a high power is good on both offense and defense (because you can trade with their attacker). A creature with a high toughness and low power is only good on defense.
You should always run a card like Bonesplitter, but only occasionally does it make sense to run a card like Slagwurm Armor.
Artifact Removal Is King.
In the past, playing a card like Shatter in your main deck was questionable at best. There simply weren’t enough targets for it. In Mirrodin Sealed Deck, your opponents will always have Artifacts in play, and many of them will be huge threats.
To combat this, you should play with every piece of artifact removal you can. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.
Splash Green For Removal.
Colored cards do the same kinds of things in this set that they have done in previous sets, but the abundance of artifacts has turned what that means on its head.
In the past, Green has been horrible at getting your opponent’s threats off the table. Sure, it could blow up artifacts, but how often is your opponent going to have an artifact on the table in Sealed Deck?
Then? Almost never. Now, all the time.
In the same way, in the past I would often splash Black for Terror. I now find myself splashing Green for Deconstruct or Viridian Shaman. In fact, while I have seldom relied on Green as a major color in this set, I’ve at least splashed it for Artifact removal every chance I’ve had.
Don’t Neglect Creature kill.
As important as Artifact removal is, you will still need to be able to deal with non-Artifact creatures, most notably Spikeshot Goblin. There are a couple of other "must kill" guys out there, but they all tend to have low toughness.
As usual, red is particularly good at dealing with these problems with cards like Pyrite Spellbomb or Electrostatic Bolt. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.
It’s Not A Fast Format.
Mirrodin Sealed deck tends to be a bit slow. This makes it less important to play first. In fact, many Pros at Grand Prix Kansas City were choosing to draw.
It also means that aggressive cards are weaker, and cards that break open stalemates are better. For example, Alpha Myr as a 2/1 Artifact creature for two would have been amazing in Onslaught Block Limited, but the abundance of 1/3s make it rather weak in Mirrodin.
On the other hand, a card like Dragon Blood, which would be too slow in some formats, is fantastic in Mirrodin.
Fliers Are Harder To Find.
Another reason the format is not as fast is that this set is lighter on flying than recent blocks. This makes the fliers you do have access to that much more valuable, so you should prioritize them a little higher.
Like I said, it’s nothing earth-shattering, but understanding these basic points allowed me to build winning decks out of my Mirrodin card pools. These fundamentals, with help from my 3 buys and Glissa Sunseeker, allowed me to finish day one of Grand Prix: Kansas City in a strong position with a 7-1 record.
My lack of practice made the Rochester Drafts of day two much more challenging – but I learned a lot on the fly, which I will share with all of you in my next article.