Duplicate Limited

Posted in Event Coverage on September 2, 2015

By Alex Shvartsman

Those of you who have played sealed deck, know the oldest excuse in the book for losing. "My opponent opened better cards than I!" But what if the luck of the draw could be eliminated altogether? What if every player was given the exact same set of cards to build from? This may not be easy to do in a large tournament, but the format seems to fit the sixteen man invitational perfectly.

There are several unique variations to playing Duplicate Sealed as opposed to your average sealed deck. First of all, you have to keep in mind that your opponent is working with the exact same card pool. In draft or sealed play, if an opponent has four green mana untapped on turn four, a good player will contemplate whether it is worth playing around Elephant Ambush. However, he will not know for sure whether or not an opponent even has it. In this case, you know exactly what tools your opponent has got to work with.

Second, there is a matter of the metagame. Suppose green is by far the best color among the cards you've been given to work with. Will you be main-decking Slay or Perish? Almost certainly, since you expect most of your opponents to be using Forests. Or will they realize the danger of losing to these powerful hosers and settle for playing with slightly weaker cards in other colors? Finally, card valuation changes significantly when you know the card pool. Enchantment Alteration becomes a power card in the enchantment-heavy format such as the one being used this weekend.

To muddy the waters even further, Mark Rosewater and others at R&D who work at creating the duplicate limited card pool, usually throw in a number of surprises, making sure that every invitational offers a unique challenge to the players. Last year for example, players were given a card pool where every single card has had its casting cost altered. Would Mana Drain be good enough to play at UU3? Does Mishra's War Machine become broken when you reduce its cost to four mana? Players had to cope with those questions in order to perform well in this portion of the tournament.

This year's theme is very different. Every single card in the card pool costs just one mana. A wide range of cards is present - from the powerful Jackal Pup, to the casual Icatian Moneychanger, to the brand new Tireless Tribe, to the monstrous Phyrexian Dreadnought. As often the case with Invitational events, Rosewater also threw in some cards designed specifically for this tournament. A Nasty Spite for example, is a Dark Banishing for one mana that causes you to lose four life points. Goblin Thaumaturgist is a lot less exciting - its ability lets you discard a card in order to switch around target creature's power and toughness. The problem - most of the creatures you've got to work with are 1/1.

Beside trying to figure out what the more powerful colors are and how exactly to build their deck, players face another challenge that is quite unique to this card pool. With every card costing exactly one mana, just how many lands will they be using in their decks? Each color offers only eighteen cards - so if you were to play a two-color deck and forgo the artifacts, you would have to play every single card you've got and still have room for fourteen lands - which seems plenty. On the other hand, if you played a three color deck and used twelve lands, you might never draw the right colors of mana. Players will have to find a happy medium in order to avoid this problem.

As to the specific color combinations, I personally find that the blue cards are far superior to what other colors have to offer - the way green was dominant last year. Were I to play this card pool, I would attempt to build a Black-Blue deck, possibly splashing for several white cards. Tune in to the feature match coverage over the course of the first three rounds to see exactly what the invitees did with their cards.

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