"We only have one Sunburst card," said Josh Ravitz.
"Yeah but it's a goody," replied Chris Pikula.
The Sunburst mechanic introduced in Fifth Dawn brings a new level of play to Limited. Unlike draft, sealed only offers players specific cards with which to work. Sunburst and Affinity both are powerful mechanics, but fitting them into Team Sealed strategies can be a challenge. As I wandered around the room I saw teams playing mono-black with Skyreach Manta powered off of Talismans and off-colored artifact land.
I spoke with the Fifth Dawn designer and R&D member Aaron Forsythe about what Sunburst was all about. He said that, with Sunburst, he was trying to accomplish a similar feel as the colorful Apocalypse expansion but less drastic. He liked the fact that if you want to play the Sunburst cards you can shape your entire deck around them but at the same time you could instead completely ignore them. Unlike in Apocalypse, you don't need to mess up your mana. Aaron also commented on how the positive interaction between Sunburst and Scry. He thought the way that Sunburst was demanding on your mana base, while Scry attempted to help it, was a nice synergy built into Fifth Dawn.
One big difference between Sealed and Draft is how the colors break down. Each round your team will be playing against all five colors. One of your teammates will fight their black mage while another faces down a white one.
The decks tend to be stronger in Team Sealed than in draft. Being able to perfectly distribute cards to the different decks means that a weakness of an archetype in Draft won't often be present in Team Sealed.
One strategy that this has created is a re-emergence of the White/Green deck. White/Green had been growing in popularity as a draft archetype in the Mirrodin-Darksteel format. The combination of smaller white creatures with green artifact destruction made for an excellent draft strategy. The introduction of Fifth Dawn, however, saw these white green decks make way for more of a Sunburst strategy. Since players draft one pack from each set, the introduction of Sunburst mechanics caused green decks to want to play more colors. The introduction of Stasis Cocoon gave white decks another answer to artifacts making green's artifact destruction less valuable.
Blue decks seem to follow two distinct patterns. One strategy is to play blue with all of the affinity cards. This strategy usually sees blue as a stand-alone color. Often it will rely on Spire Golems, Myr Enforcers and Quicksilver Behemoth to give the deck enough ways to win. This type of blue decks would use its Talismans, Pentad Prisms and off-color artifact lands to play the Sunburst cards. Skyreach Manta, Suntouched Myr, Infused Arrows and Sawtooth Thresher all were very popular in this archetype.
The other style of blue deck was White/Blue equipment decks. In this type of deck, blue would give white extra weenies with which to work. Placing creatures such as Neurok Spy into a deck full of equipment seemed to be the goal of these decks. While this strategy wasn't as popular as the affinity blue decks, it appeared that most teams at least considered this option before agreeing on their final build.
Black red decks were always one of the Team Sealed deck choices. The pros must have all come to some agreement that you must build a Black/Red deck because everywhere I looked teams were playing the two colors together. The Black/Red deck offers tons of removal options. Red kills the artifacts while black toasts the creatures. In other formats, black red decks would take all of a team's available removal cards but in MD5 all of the colors have good removal options, so black-red being natural allies forms a strong archetype.
Unlike booster draft, where equipment lands in the hands of whoever grabs it first, in Sealed the team can divide it up appropriately. Gab Tsang's teammates, Terry Tsang and David Rood, just accused Gab of grabbing all of the equipment. They joked around that in his desire to win Gab refused to share any equipment with his two teammates. Pairing up Spikeshot Goblin with Bonesplitter in the black red deck while giving most of the other equipment to the white decks appeared popular.
Sunburst and Team Sealed have proven to be very different than standard MD5 draft. The limited availability of card pools along with knowing exactly what you have to work with give the Team Sealed portion its own unique strategy. Old archetypes, such as White/Green, have reappeared because they benefit from the extra Mirrodin cards, while other teams have taken their Sunburst cards and fit them into decks anyway they could to have the best chance at success.