The Weekly Shift Sift: I Didn’t 9-0, But Someone Did

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StarCityGames.com!The Ferrett takes a look from the decks that managed to smash to the top of almost a thousand people at Grand Prix: New Jersey this weekend, analyzing what this might mean when it comes to building your Time Spiral Sealed deck!

This week, I’m sad to say, will be short and sweet; thanks to a trip to CostCo gone horribly awry, I had the time to write about precisely one topic:

1) My latest deck, which did horribly in the tournament it was in because I misbuilt it (a masochistic 1-5), or;

2) The Day One results at Grand Prix: New Jersey.

I looked at myself honestly. “Self,” I said. “Do the readers of StarCityGames.com want to hear about a deck that lost, or do they want to see decks that won, and won big?”

So you know. Let’s not talk about me for a moment. Let’s talk about the big dogs of the weekend who thundered to triumph with their big ol’ decks.

The Day One Undefeated Decks: What Do They Have In Common?
This Saturday, two StarCityGames.com alumni (and two non-SCG writers) went undefeated at Grand Prix: New Jersey. This is amazing, especially when you consider that Richard Hoaen apparently has no talent whatsoever.

Seriously. Some folks have mocked Rich’s “Drafting With Rich” series for weeks now, complaining about how apparently Rich just picks cards at random and can’t really build a good deck. Clearly, the people in the forums know more than Rich does about Limited… So he must have stumbled his way into the Top 8 at the second-largest Grand Prix in America this weekend via a combination of his monkeys-typing-Shakespeare-style method of tossing cards into a deck and playing randomly and people dropping dead of heart attacks as he walked up to the table.

Or maybe I’m being sarcastic.

In any case, what do the 9-0 decks tell us about the face of Sealed Deck Theory in the time of the Spiral?

Two Colors Are For Chumps.
The fewest commitment to extra colors in any of the undefeated decks would belong to Richard, who splashes a Mountain into a G/B deck for Firemaw Kavu and the flashback on Strangling Soot. (Then again, he can fetch that Mountain with a Greenseeker, or just use a Gemhide Sliver to get him a Red mana.)

The rest of them look pretty dicey on paper, at least until you start looking at the many ways to fetch additional colors out in Time Spiral. Guillaume Cardin goes into an extra color for three cards, stepping away from a straight G/W build to add a healthy splash of (once again) Firemaw Kavu, Lightning Axe, and Disintegrate.

And both the ‘Cak and Coimbra step into a full four colors; John Pelcak uses the ol’ Terramorphic Expanse, Greenseeker, and Gemhide Sliver to flesh out his mana base, getting Red for an Assault if he has to, and the completely-uncastable-out-of-his-hand-unless-he-Gemhides-for-Black Strangling Soot, which he’ll have an easier time flashing back. (Fortunately, he can place the Soots in the yard via either Careful Consideration or the already mentioned Greenseeker.) This strange deck gambit paid off nicely, which explains why he’s, like, good at this game.

Andre Coimbra splashes an Island for Crookclaw Transmuter, Coral Trickster, and Fledgling Mawcor – but then again, if he can’t Search for Tomorrow into the Island directly, he can probably get that Blue via the double-Prismatic Lens action in his deck. And if he can’t get that, well, two of ’em are still morphs. He also puts in a Plains for Temporal Isolation and the flashback to Thrill of the Hunt.

In other words, the smart guys didn’t take the best cards from two colors and stuff them into a deck; splashing for the power was the play of the day. So if possible, go for three colors. And pray you get the mana fixing to run it.

Gemhide Needs No Friends.
Both Cardan and Pelcak ran Gemhide Sliver without any other Slivers to help it along, meaning that if you think of Gemhide as a slightly-overcosted, landbound Birds of Paradise you’re probably in the right mind.

Underestimate Not The Ashcoat Bear.
It’s in three of the four decks. (Guillaume has three of them, which must have made it a real hoot whenever anyone attacked in.) I tend to think of it as a generic 2/2 with flash, but you know? If it’s in that many good decks, I’ve gotta assume it’s a little more than filler.

Underestimate Not The Firemaw Kavu.
Wait. Someone was underestimating this? Okay, probably not. But it showed up here often enough to prove that it’s, you know, a good card. The more serious advice, however…

Green Is The Color To Beat.
You have to go with the cards you cracked, of course, but two of the decks had Green as their primary color, and the other two had Green as a (very close) secondary color. Furthermore, Green is the new Black because it went with everything; Pelcak’s mainly Green/Blue deck, Cardin’s mainly Green/White deck, Coimbra’s Green/tiny Red deck, and Hoaen’s G/B deck.

Why is it that good in Sealed? Because it has Thallidactular power? Because it has the best Sliver? Because it can enable better mana consistency than any other color, something that’s important when you’re grinding through nine rounds of a gigantic dang tournament? Maybe.

The interesting thing, however, is that for the color of Big Fatties, Green seems to be handing its Big Finisher duties over to someone else in this format. Pelcak’s deck had no Green fatties to speak of; the Green was there for early defense while he got his Deep-Sea Kraken and Errant Ephemerons suspend action engine going (or maybe launching into the artifact heaven of Stuffy Doll or Clockwork Hydra).

Cardin’s deck fared a little better on the “Green for Fatties” cause, using a lone Durkwood Baloth and a Sporesower Thallid (even as sexier critters like the Serra Avenger and Firemaw Kavu stepped to the fore), but mostly his deck was an aggressive, low-costed thing that seemed to win by attrition — a war it was prepared to win with Griffin Guide, Sacred Mesa, Weathered Bodyguards, and Verdant Embrace, exhausting his enemies after a quick rush to ramp into a huge Disintegrate.

Andre Coimbra deck had one big Green finisher — Jolrael, Empress of Beasts — but really, the marquee “Oh my!” critter was the Bogardan Hellkite, backed with a lot of tricksiness in the form of a ton of instants and creature-boosters to ensure that he’d win almost any combat along the way.

The new Green seems to be not designed to win with a huge smashy-thing, but rather to buy you time to ramp into a large smashy thing, whether it’s cast naturally or created by a well-timed Griffin Guide. In other words, it’s a Stompy-style low-mana critter rush, not the big fat – and in that, Green becomes a stranger and subtler color. I couldn’t be happier.

This is not to say that you must put Green in every deck. But if you have a choice between two main colors and one of them is Green, let that be your tiebreaker.

Where Are The Rebels?
The Rebel engine? Not really here. There are some Rebel cards, and surely someone must have cracked a solid deck with multiple Amrou Scouts and a good chain, indicating that perhaps the Rebel chain is too thin to aim for in Sealed.

Where Are The Slivers?
One deck had three Slivers, but they wouldn’t be what I’d consider to be the classics; Basal Sliver and Spinneret Sliver aren’t the Slivers that get people’s hearts pumping. No, the Timmies want the build-your-own monstrosity of the Bonesplitter Slivers and Fury Slivers and Might Slivers and — OMG! — Pulmonic Sliver for the win!

Didn’t happen. Again, I can assume that at least a couple of people opened the Sliver Deck From Hell, and still didn’t 9-0 with it. Why?

Probably for two reasons: first, a lot of the good Slivers are fragile. By the time you ramp up to a Might Sliver to amp that Bonesplitter Sliver, the 4/2 might well have hit the graveyard. But more importantly, every time your Slivers help you out, there’s another time it hands your opponent the win. Thus, probably the killer Slivers sort of trimmed the fat by accident.

Where Are The Plugs?
What’s that, you say? Home on the Strange? Why, certainly! This week, we’re starting up a new storyline: “Movin’ Out,” the story of how Izzy needs to move out of her old apartment, pronto.

Why is this a problem? Well, if you know her um-friend Tanner, the one she’s sleeping with but not committed to, you might have a whiff of why this is going to spell trouble…

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy
[email protected]StarCityGames.com