I couldn’t wait for Scars of Mirrodin to be Prereleased on Magic Online.
Old formats aren’t the most fun to play, but I’ve had the fever lately, so I was joining a lot of Standard Daily Events playing U/W or Jund, but without a lot of success. The highlight of my week as far as MODO goes was the weekly Pauper Premier Event. In the last one I played in, I ran a fairly standard mono-blue deck similar to the one DirkNight came in second with.
I think it might be the best deck even though it has some bad matchups. I think it has a good red matchup and a decent combo matchup.
I would make the following changes:
I think Boomerang is too narrow and weak, and I think Sea Sprite is better than her sister because of the fact that you can drop it on turn 2 against Goblins, which outweighs the two power in my opinion. Although, at first, I thought the fact that Weatherseed Faeries is able to trade with Mogg Conscripts and the like would be more important.
Anyway, with the Prerelease of Scars on Magic Online, I can finally start playing in “relevant” formats again.
Add to that the fact that I’m attending GP Toronto as well as GP Nashville, and I’m really excited to get down to business and tackle the Limited format.
I’ve never really played a lot of Sealed Swiss queues before, and my timing isn’t perfect as the prizes aren’t as good as they used to be for the Prerelease events, but I still had a great time playing and discovering the format as I only had the opportunity to play one IRL draft with Scars before the set came out on Magic Online.
I’ve played ten Sealed Decks in the past three days, and I’ll try to go over everything I’ve learned during my grind – some things being specific to Scars, others that you can apply to most formats.
For those unfamiliar with the Sealed Swiss queues on MODO, they’re 16-man Sealed Deck tournaments, in which you play four rounds of Swiss. The winner gets ten packs (there’s only one winner, since there are no draws on MODO). People who go 3-1 get four packs, and they get one pack if they go 2-2. I think it used to be one and a half as many prizes but not anymore unfortunately.
I didn’t win a single of my first seven or eight Sealed events, going 3-1 or 2-2 almost every time. I won my last three in a row, which felt pretty good even though the card pools definitely had something to do with it, and it wasn’t just my gaining experience with the set. I’m also not the tightest MODO player, and I was misclicking and misplaying far less during those last three Sealed Decks, which helped.
I’ll start by trying to go through a couple decks I believe I misbuilt, not only by playing the wrong colors but with individual card choices, too. In both cases, I got lured in by some rares.
Of course I could be wrong. There’s a decent amount of variance, and four rounds isn’t enough to be able to clearly judge. There’s no good way to really list Sealed Deck pools, so I’ll try to do my best without having to list everything. I’ll list the decks I registered, the decks I think I should’ve built instead, and I’ll talk about a few sideboard options, etc.
Also keep in my mind that even though some of the things I discuss might be applied to Draft, this article is about Sealed, and Draft is probably another story.
This is what I submitted in my second Sealed Deck:
I decided to play green mainly for Slice in Twain and Ezuri’s Brigade, but the Brigade is pretty weak in my deck with only seven artifacts, and the other green cards I’m playing are subpar as well. I was impressed by Lifesmith in the draft I played, but it’s clearly not great in this deck. Withstand Death isn’t very exciting, and even though Tel-Jilad Defiance is a sweet trick, it just doesn’t justify me playing green.
I also left a Necropede in my sideboard, a mistake that I made at least a couple of times, as the card should usually make it into your maindeck even when you aren’t playing an infect-based strategy. Even though my pool wasn’t very deep, I think I could’ve built a better deck.
I had a decent B/G option with Hand of the Praetors, but it had a pretty terrible mana curve and little removal. It would’ve looked like this:
I would’ve left Chimeric Mass and Grafted Exoskeleton in the sideboard. Neither makes my mana curve better, and the Exoskeleton is pretty dangerous as you can easily get blown out by a lot of the commons in the format. I’m not sure about Untamed Might, either; two might be too many.
Perilous Myr, Moriok Replica, and Golem Artisan are the four non-poison creatures that make the cut. The Myr and the Replicas help my curve and provide a bit of card advantage, and the Golem works as a potential finisher with one of my three artifact creatures. This deck also uses Contagion Clasp way more effectively, as it can be game-winning; whereas it was only a bad removal spell in the W/G deck (don’t forget to pump your Chimeric Mass by the way). I’m running Sylvok Lifestaff in part because of the combo with Moriok Replica and not especially to pump the Infect creatures up.
I haven’t been impressed with cards like Strider Harness, Infiltration Lens, or Accorder’s Shield. The rare ones are pretty nutty but don’t go out of your way to play the common or uncommon ones except for Darksteel Axe. Even the Lifestaff, which seemed really good in Draft has disappointed me in Sealed so far, maybe because the games are more attrition then tempo-based, and you play against poison decks more often than you would in Draft.
The other possible build that I saw when I went through the deck again is the following:
I think it’s definitely better than my W/G deck, but I’m not sure if it’s superior to the poison one. Revoke Existence is super solid; Arrest might be the best common in Sealed Deck, and Razor Hippogriff is one of the top uncommons, so it seems hard to not play white.
It’s pretty difficult to compare two decks, one poison-based and one not, when they seem fairly equal in power. This was only my second Sealed Deck, and I wasn’t sure how good poison was in the format, but after playing with and against it a few times, I have the feeling it’s definitely good enough, and you shouldn’t shy from it if the tools are there. It makes sense, since Wizards has been doing a good job with sets for Limited lately, and it would seem weird if they hadn’t balanced the poison cards well enough to make them playable in the Sealed and Draft formats. I even went through all the Scars cards a few times to see if a Standard deck was viable, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Maybe Borteh will prove me wrong.
The one thing I realized is that this Sealed format is very challenging because you always have a lot of playable artifacts. You don’t need many colored cards to complete your deck, and you usually have the choice between three or four colors, even sometimes all five when you have good infect cards as well as solid cards in blue, white, and red.
In my seventh Sealed Deck, I registered the following three-color deck:
1 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1 Chrome Steed
1 Copper Myr
1 Darksteel Sentinel
1 Gold Myr
2 Oxidda Scrapmelter
2 Perilous Myr
1 Razorfield Thresher
1 Saberclaw Golem
1 Silver Myr
1 Snapsail Glider
1 Vedalken Certarch
This deck has too many mana sources, not enough late game potential, and on top of that is three colors. Seventeen lands, three Myr, and three Spellbombs are just too many cards that don’t do anything, despite having a decent amount of two-for-ones. The deck was still too empty and clunky.
My first 4-0 deck had no mana-producing Myr in it, and my third only had one. So don’t necessarily get obsessed with them and feel like you have to play them all every time. You can obviously get nutty draws with metalcraft cards thanks to Myr, but you have to play less lands, fifteen or sixteen. You can easily get screwed if they Galvanic Blast or Contagion Clasp your first Myr. As a general rule, I usually use Galvanic Blast on a turn 2 Myr, as well as Contagion Clasp, but whether you should use Shatter or Revoke Existence on them depends. I’ll usually save them if I’m a bit spell light, but I’d probably use them if it looks like I’m going to curve out on turns 5/6.
To get back to the deck in question, I should probably have cut an Island, a Vedalken Certarch, a Panic Spellbomb, and a Flight Spellbomb for a Necropede, a Tumble Magnet, a Bonds of Quicksilver, and possibly a Heavy Arbalest. I think I overrated Vedalken Certarch in this deck because it was amazing the one time I got to play with it in Draft, but I don’t think you can afford to have a 1/1 that just sits there some of the time.
Tumble Magnet is a card that doesn’t seem that good at first, but I think it’s actually quite playable even without any proliferate effects. It probably doesn’t shine in a kind of control-ish deck like this one, but it still can buy you the time you need. It combos nicely with Venser, and it’s been pretty solid and even devastating whenever I’ve cast it or seen it cast against me.
I’m not quite sure about the Arbalest yet, but it would most likely shine in a deck with lots of Myr and not too much late game. I remember playing a game against a cheap U/W deck that was able to finish me off with it. I ran it in one of my Sealed decks, but I left it in my sideboard more often than not. I don’t recommend playing it if you don’t feel like it will fit in your deck.
Another card I left in my sideboard was Grindclock. I actually opened it in three different Sealed pools but never played it, as it didn’t look that good to me. Antoine Ruel told me he played it, and that it was really good for him, but he added that he never drew it mid-game. He either had it in his opening or didn’t draw it. So it’s hard to say how good it actually is, but I definitely wish I would’ve tried it out. I’m usually all for playing all the marginal rares to find out how good they are but didn’t in this case.
Another rare I almost played a couple times but didn’t was Painful Quandary. It was played once against me, and even though it was a bit scary at first, it ended up doing nothing. My guess is that it’s probably one mana too expensive to be playable.
Upon review of my pool, I think I should’ve built my deck as follows:
1 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1 Chrome Steed
1 Copper Myr
1 Darksteel Sentinel
1 Glint Hawk
1 Gold Myr
1 Kemba’s Skyguard
2 Oxidda Scrapmelter
2 Perilous Myr
1 Saberclaw Golem
1 Silver Myr
1 Snapsail Glider
1 Vulshok Heartstoker
This deck is still not very impressive for the format, but it has more focus, more consistency, and more business spells. I’m not a huge fan of splashing in general, but Venser is probably too good not to play. I can’t imagine you’d lose too many games in which you play a Tumble Magnet followed by a Venser. Just curving out and dropping it on turn 5 is probably very hard to beat.
In one of my Sealed Decks, I decided to play Tel-Jilad Defiance and Slice in Twain over Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and another decent black card in an otherwise mono-red deck. I’m not really sure what I was thinking; the black mythic rare is ridiculous, and it really doesn’t matter whether you’re playing a poison deck or not. I guess I just can’t resist anything that says “draw a card.”
Two of my three 4-0 decks were just really good W/R decks with a ton of bombs.
One featured Kuldotha Phoenix, Sunblast Angel, Argentum Armor, and Steel Hellkite as well as a Mox Opal for value, which seems pretty good if you have enough artifacts. I had thirteen total but only nine that cost four or less, which is really borderline. However, if you have more artifacts, a few metalcraft cards, or other ways to abuse extra artifacts, you should definitely run the Mox if you’re fortunate enough to open one.
One card I wasn’t sure about that I left in my sideboard was Dispense Justice, but I brought it in a couple of times when I felt it was appropriate – usually for Argentum Armor. Argentum Armor feels a bit slow in some matchups, especially considering my other six-mana bombs. It might belong to most maindecks regardless though.
The other deck only had a Steel Hellkite and a Chimeric Mass but featured double Bloodshot Trainees combined with double Trigons of Rage as well as a Vulshok Heartstoker. The little Goblin won me a lot of games, so keep an eye out for this guy if you have ways to pump him.
My last 4-0 deck was more interesting as it was a bit different and didn’t have as many spoilers in it:
1 Barrage Ogre
1 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1 Bleak Coven Vampires
2 Bloodshot Trainee
2 Fume Spitter
1 Golem Artisan
2 Iron Myr
1 Leaden Myr
1 Moriok Replica
1 Precursor Golem
1 Rust Tick
1 Vulshok Replica
I believe I misbuilt that deck. I played the four-mana equipment over my second Battlegear. I figured I didn’t want two of them with so many one toughness creatures, and that I might want wither damage in case I faced a bomb that had five toughness or more, but the drawback of the Exoskeleton is just too big. It’s not worth playing most of the time. It’ll win you some games that very few other cards would win for you and can be game-breaking, but you’re mostly going to get wrecked by Tel-Jilad Defiance, Disperse, Shatter, etc.
A card I haven’t tried and that I’m not sure of is Flameborn Hellion. I chose to leave it in the sideboard along with Corrupted Harvester and Painful Quandary, since I already had four five-mana cards, and I wanted to try to keep my curve low.
I also chose to leave Darksteel Juggernaut in the sideboard, as I had played against it once, and it wasn’t very impressive; it just blocked the turn it came into play, and then my opponent had to attack with it, and I was able to alpha-strike him back. It’s obviously a very small sample size, and I only had twelve artifacts in my deck. I’d probably run it if I had more artifacts, or less five-drops. The combo with Precursor Golem is nice, but you’re usually going to win games in which they don’t get rid of your 3/3s anyway.
Speaking of the rare Golem, there are some nice combos with it, such as targeting it with Tel-Jilad Defiance. Don’t forget you can sac it to Ferrovore (or something else) if you don’t want to risk all of them dying. Don’t forget that the Precursor Golem and his two buddies might not be the only Golems on the board (obviously you can’t miss it on MODO, but keep an eye out IRL).
For those of you who won’t have time to practice extensively, I’d like to point out all the tricks you might run into and some thoughts on playing around rares.
I’ll list all the instant tricks you should be aware of in each color:
The card most likely to two-for-one you is Darksteel Sentinel (not counting the cantrips). There’s about a 1 in 3.5 chance you open one in Sealed Deck, and it’s usually good enough to make the cut, so if your opponent leaves himself suspiciously defenseless, beware. It can also be a sick bluff against a competent opponent if you feel it’s absolutely necessary you squeeze some damage in with the Darkslick Drake you’ve been keeping on defense before reaching six mana.
If your opponent is playing U/x, say, U/W for example, you may want to cast your spell before attacking if you’re not sure whether you should play around a Stoic Rebuttal or a combat trick such as Dispense Justice. Another thing to be aware of against blue players is that they probably have Volition Reins in their deck. Since blue is very shallow, the powerful enchantment is one of the main reasons to play blue – the color has almost no removal. They could also very likely have Argent Sphinx or Grand Architect also, as blue only has two truly playable rares, whereas the other colors have three, four, or five. Although, there isn’t as much you can do to play around the blue creatures.
Some of you may think that I’m getting too specific, talking about playing around uncommons and rares, and I might be, but Scars of Mirrodin Sealed is a fairly small format. The fact that half of the cards are artifacts and that decks are usually composed of 11+ artifacts means that people are going to be able to play their colored bombs most of the time.
This is mostly true about white and Sunblast Angel. There are only 53 non-mythic rares in Scars. So that means that you have an 11% chance of opening a powerful rare in your Sealed Deck, and white has enough good commons that you’re almost always going to be able to play white if you open a good rare. I played white seven out of ten times and had Sunblast Angel once. That seems pretty average, so you can assume that if your opponent is playing white, he’ll have a Sunblast Angel one in seven times.
If your opponent is blue, or is playing non-infect black or green cards, he’s probably even more likely to have cards like Volition Reins, Carnifex Demon, Argent Sphinx , Ezuri, Renegade Leader, or Engulfing Slagwurm in his deck. Opposed to the Angel, there isn’t much you can do about those cards to make them worse, but it’s nice to be aware of the probability when considering whether you should use the Arrest you’re holding to push through some extra damage.
There’s also a one in three chance that your opponent will have Contagion Engine, Steel Hellkite, or Myr Battlesphere in his deck, so it’s a thin line between playing around something like Sunblast Angel and risking getting blown out by moving in. Playing around the Angel gives your opponent more time to draw into one of his bombs or hit a string of running cards to get back in the game. Of course, we’re not machines, and we can’t factor in every possibility, but you can usually get a rough estimate of what you can afford to play around. If you’re holding artifact removal, and you’re at a pretty healthy life total, you should be more inclined to play around the Angel, for example, and even more so if you’re holding an Arrest (with or without artifact removal).
All of this actually indirectly reminds of a game Mark Herberholz played in PT Prague. His opponent had only five cards left in his deck and wasn’t winning on board but seemed pretty confident, so Mark figured he had outs. Mark could play around running removal spells or around the third card from the top, which happened to be Banefire. Now don’t ask me why. I can’t remember the exact story. I asked Mark, and he couldn’t remember either and instead asked himself why alcohol had destroyed his memory. He hadn’t seen Banefire in any of the two first games but could just tell it was there; he just straight-up read his opponent’s soul for the rare X burn spell, but he decided to go with the more rational move and played around running removal spells. The third card from the top was Banefire, Mark lost, and all that he remembers to this day is thinking, “Shoulda played around it!”
If anything, this story shows you that you shouldn’t always go with the math, something Ffej described quite well at some point in
his last article.
To wrap up this review, I’d like to point out what you should be aware of when you’re in striking range and considering sending all of your guys in.
If your opponent is playing infect, he could have Blackcleave Goblin (common) or an end of turn Carrion Call (uncommon) as well as Putrefax (rare) or Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon (mythic). I actually lost a game that I probably would’ve won if I’d played around the mythic rare, as I tapped out instead of leaving a white mana up for Auriok Replica (which shockingly only prevents damage to you and not to creatures; I learned it the hard way on MODO even though it didn’t cost me the game). He played the Dragon, the only card in his colors that could beat me, and attacked me for lethal. If I were playing an important tournament on Magic Online, I’d typically scout my opponent’s deck, but I chose not to in those queues to try to put myself closer to real-life tournament conditions.
In some wicked scenarios, blue decks could steal your haste creature with Volition Reins.
Hopefully this article was helpful and not too confusing and all over the place. I’d love to hear and discuss your thoughts on some of the cards I didn’t seem to be sure of, or if you disagree with some of the things I’ve said. Ten Sealed Decks isn’t that many, so I could definitely be biased or wrong about some cards, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned things that are obvious to some people, but I haven’t discussed the format much with anyone.
See you around,