The Weekly Guild Build: Weapons of Choice

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With the Ferrett on vacation in sunny England, Eli fills his considerable clown shoes with another Ravnica Sealed excercise! The cards this week are juicy… can Eli extract the fruiy goodness and make a deck fit for a king? As always, the forums will be packed with alternate builds and strategies… come join the discussion.

Man, I’m jealous of the Ferrett. He gets to vacation abroad and raves about the great cuisine and booze in England. [Don’t be too jealous… he’s in Leeds at the moment. – Craig.] I’m stuck here reassuring myself that I’ll be able to survive in insane humidity and temperatures in the mid-30s. Not so bad, unless you’re fluent in metric.

I went to the travel agency to book my train tickets and hotel reservation for Hiroshima. I’m getting there two days early to do sightseeing. I’ll be heading to the Peace Park memorial the day after August 15th, the day of surrender in World War II. The city apparently has a few nice museums, so I’ll hit those too. That’s part of the Grand Prix experience that could be yours if you took a little extra time: the opportunity to taste the local flavor and heritage. There’s more than Magic out there. Any great stories of local traditions and history you guys have soaked up while on the road? I’d love to hear them in the forums.

People are already starting to funnel the inquiries to me. Kobe’s coming. It’s Time Spiral at the Pro Tour. It’s in my neck of the woods. To what local treasures can I point globetrotting Pros? I’ll keep you posted.

One of the standard tools I use when doing Sealed practice builds is to work on a time limit. Magic Online gives you twenty minutes to build, and it’s very easy to eat up that whole time analyzing your colors, without having an actual deck. You’ve got to have a strong work ethic and keep your eye on the clock as you drag around those cards with your mouse (or in my case, scratch pad). When building a Sealed deck, I often listen to the Chemical Brothers’ Loops of Fury EP. Twenty minutes exactly. When the last track ends, so do I.

Get up on it like this.

Oh, and Tim Aten.

Dayum, that’s a mighty fine pool. Goodies all over the place, and a fair amount of mana fixing. There’s nothing on the scale of Glare of Subdual or Skeletal Vampire, but there are a ton of three-point cards on the Wizards pointing system, at least as I see them. Like a magpie, I linger over the shiny Gleancrawler.

In Japanese, when you speak honestly and frankly with another person, you “open your stomach” to them. This is a little more polite than the nearest English proximate, “spilling your guts.” It’s embarrassing to tell you guys I have to fight irrational feelings when I open foils, but I’ve gotta be honest here. Reflectiveness brings out the irrational in me. So I have to put that joy aside for the moment and hammer out these seventy-five pieces of cardboard.

Solid playables: Condemn, Divebomber Griffin, Freewind Equenaut, Shrieking Grotesque, Veteran Armorer.

That’s a lot of White fliers, and right behind them in line we have Nightguard Patrol and Screeching Griffin, who’s always addable if you’ve playing Red. Order of the Stars is a quite reliable blocker, particularly against Red attackers. There are too many pingers in the format for one-toughness men to stop sweating, but Order of the Stars may be the exception.

Yeah, it looks highly likely that White’s going to be a key component of our deck.

Solid playables: Cerulean Sphinx, Drift of Phantasms, Flight of Fancy, Ocular Halo, Vedalken Dismisser.

Card advantage is always critical, and we’ve got two spells that allow us to draw cards while furthering our board advantage. Add to that a five-power flier for six mana, the best common defender in the format, and Vedalken Dismisser, and you’ve got some nice Blue. Torch Drake isn’t a slouch either. While Convolute is powerful enough to be reasonable, I doubt it’ll fit comfortably into the curve.

Blue isn’t a lock, but I’d certainly be kicking myself if I passed it over.

Solid playables: Clinging Darkness, Demon’s Jester, Last Gasp, Strands of Undeath.

Aside from the occasionally powerful tool of Netherborn Phalanx, we’ve seen all Slim Pickens can offer us.

Solid playables: Ogre Gatecrasher, Viashino Fangtail, Wojek Embermage

One of the problems with Red in Ravnica Sealed is that there’s not enough Gray Ogres and Hill Giants. There’s entirely too many 4/1s and 2/1s who cry in their beer when facing off Selesnya. The pingers help rectify that problem, but even so, all the filler we’ve got is Flaring Flame-Kin. Then again, I remember two handy enchantments we passed by in Blue.

Solid playables: Aquastrand Spider, Elvish Skysweeper, Sporeback Troll, Trophy Hunter, Wildsize.

Where are my mana fixers? Where are my slugging fatties? Not here. We’ve got a decent choice of mid-range aggro tools, but nothing that plays to Green’s classic strengths.

Three Signets are nothing to sneeze at. Terrarion’s always well worth considering, and Glass Golem… isn’t. What makes me excited is Sword of the Paruns. As a top of the curve card, it’s quite good with lots of men. Creatures with tap abilities make it even better. It’s pricey, but it’s often well worth it in Sealed. The tighter tempo of Draft makes the Sword worse there, however.

Solid playables: Centaur Safeguard, Seeds of Strength, Golgari Guildmage, Gleancrawler, Rakdos Augermage, Wee Dragonauts, Plumes of Peace

We’ve got some gems in here. Gleancrawler’s humongous trampling draws the blockers, and if you have a trick they get wrecked. If they don’t block Gleancrawler and block your other guys instead, then you get free Ill-Gotten Gains. Gleancrawler can even show up as a massive sorcery post-combat. Golgari Guildmage allows us to do some truly broken things with the graveyard and graft, but his services come dearly.

Terry Soh doesn’t hurt at all, but his mana requirements are too finicky to feel comfortable with. His real casting cost’s usually four or five.

Final deck:

1cc: Condemn, Terrarion
2cc: Veteran Armorer, Orzhov Signet, Simic Signet
3cc: Centaur Safeguard, Drift of Phantasms, Flaring Flame-Kin, Freewind Equenaut, Nightguard Patrol, Shrieking Grotesque, Wee Dragonauts, Plumes of Peace, Rally the Righteous, Thunderheads
4cc: Screeching Griffin, Torch Drake, Viashino Fangtail, Wojek Embermage, Flight of Fancy, Ocular Halo, Sword of the Paruns
5cc: Divebomber Griffin
6cc: Cerulean Sphinx, Vedalken Dismisser

1cc: SS
2cc: CSS
5cc: C
6cc: CC

Dimir Aqueduct
4 Islands
4 Mountains
6 Plains

What makes this deck so lovable? Is it because I get to front my national colors when I sit down and playtest with my Japanese friends? (Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be so possessive. I mean, the U.K., Australia, and France also have Red, White, and Blue standards. How do they know I’m representing the U.S.?)

No, it’s the fact that I’m running eight fliers, all of which have quite reasonable power/toughness ratios. I’ll be able to push my army over the heads of the opposition, while a reasonably priced brigade mans the home front. Admittedly, the deck rolls over to Trophy Hunter, but I have no fear of a mere uncommon. We’ve got the ability to bring the win home in a hurry with Rally the Righteous, though the deck could use one more gold creature to optimize the instant.

On the removal front, we’re running a bit light. We’ve got Wojek Embermage, backed up by Viashino Sandstalker, as reusable pingage. Plumes of Peace can tap down a pesky creature for good, but with the aggro curve of the deck, it’s more likely you’ll get more use out of the forecast than the hardcast.

For tricks, we’re keeping it sweet and simple. Thunderheads takes out most midrange creatures economically, though Condemn’s even cheaper. Slapping Ocular Halo or Flight of Fancy on Flaring Flame-kin will make your opponents slump faster than the Addams Dance. (You can even get decent results with Flight of Fancy on Freewind Equenaut, but it’s not that exciting.) Sword of the Paruns makes opponents’ math miserable, and is particularly sexy on a Wojek Embermage or Viashino Fangtail.

That Fangtail isn’t going to hit the table very often, as hitting double-Red mana isn’t easy. We’re a little shy on two-color fixers, so you’ll want to try to horde your Terrarion. We’ve got two Black sources and Terrarion in case we want to get greedy with our Shrieking Grotesque, but in the early game he’s just going to be a 2/1 flier.

I craved to run Sparkmage Apprentice, but with Red as a splash, he’ll rarely hit the table when he’s optimal. Order of the Stars could easily see play instead of Nightguard Patrol. Ogre Gatecrasher’s fine as far as mana goes, but with Drift of Phantasms, I’m a little gunshy on running him. You wouldn’t be wrong in running him, but odds are that he’s not going to barrel through the opposition.

Second guessing yourself is awful on standardized tests, but happily Magic isn’t a standardized test. Can we devise a sideboard deck that would throw our opponents off? Is there a better build?

Cutting the White and adding Green and Black wouldn’t be awful, given the presence of the Guildmage and Gleancrawler, but the Black splash would be quite light. That deck would probably look like:

1cc: Elvish Skysweeper, Terrarion
2cc: Aquastrand Spider, Golgari Guildmage, Clinging Darkness, Golgari Signet, Last Gasp, Orzhov Signet, Simic Signet
3cc: Drift of Phantasms, Flaring Flame-Kin, Trophy Hunter, Wildsize
4cc: Demon’s Jester, Ogre Gatecrasher, Sporeback Troll, Torch Drake, Viashino Fangtail, Wojek Embermage, Flight of Fancy, Ocular Halo, Rolling Spoil, Sword of the Paruns
6cc: Cerulean Sphinx, Gleancrawler, Vedalken Dismisser

Dimir Aqueduct
1 Swamp
3 Mountain
6 Forest
4 Island

1: CS
6: CCC

That curve looks reasonable. We have a decent land-bound army and a little more removal, but far less evasion. Your army is more vulnerable to tricks, and your mana’s going to be less consistent. Ultimately, I like the three-color deck more than the four-color offering. Disagree? Feel free to bring the summer of your heart’s questionable content to the forums.

I’d go on a bit more, but there’s something going down called the World Cosplay Summit in 2006 around the corner. It’s got to be worth a laugh or two.

Eli Kaplan
japaneli at gmail dot com