Saturday, 5:06 p.m. – Looking at the Top Tables: Born of the Gods Sealed Deck at Grand Prix Mexico City

Posted in Event Coverage on February 15, 2014

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

One of the best ways to get a picture of what's going on at a Grand Prix is to keep an eye on the top tables. The decks that are doing well, the new cards that are making an impact, and the players that are sure to be central to the weekend's story...they're all found setting up camp at the top tables. This technique works especially well for Constructed tournaments, where the trends tell a rich story about the rise and fall of decks, and often the reasons behind them.

At Limited Grand Prix, however, things get a bit muddier. Anyone who tells you that it doesn't matter what you open in a Sealed Deck is spoon-feeding you lies. Yes, there is a high degree of skill in properly building a Sealed Deck. Yes, play skill is obviously important. But these things are primarily important when you don't open a busted set of cards. I mean, you aren't going to tell me that opening Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and every other utterly broken white card in the block isn't going to paint a pretty clear picture of what to build. You also can't tell me that it's particularly difficult to figure out how to cast Brimaz and attack a few times. Great cards make all of the decisions that go along with Sealed Deck easier.

While it may make building and playing easier, it actually adds a level of difficulty to diagnosing the state of a Limited format by looking at the top tables. People are going to play their good cards and their bombs, and you don't really need me to tell you that a bomb is good and that you should play it. Still, you can glean a few things if you're willing to look a little deeper.

First, it is incredibly clear from how things have been panning out the last couple of rounds that black is highly underrepresented among the winningest decks. Over the course of three rounds, there were half as many decks playing black as blue, which was the next least-played color. This isn't something completely unexpected. Many of the players that I've been chatting with in preparation for the Pro Tour next weekend have expressed their displeasure with black in Born of the Gods, and it goes deeper than "there are less Gray Merchants."

"Their guys just don't really do anything," Chris Fennell said with a shrug when I questioned him.

So perhaps this regression from the top tables lends some credence to this theory of black's relative weakness. It also seemed that those were willing to play black were only really willing to under certain circumstances. Two-thirds of the decks playing black paired it with red, and most of the others paired it with blue. White/black and black/green were virtually nonexistent.

On the other side of things, red appeared to have a clear advantage. More played than green and white by a reasonable margin, one of the biggest attractions to red was the new suite of removal spells Born of the Gods gives to red. Cards like Bolt of Keranos, Searing Blood, and Fall of the Hammer are excellent removal spells, much better than the weaker breed of removal that we've played with for the past few months. Red's most common partner was green, where red's incredible removal and early aggression could be supported by the mid- and late-game power that green's creatures supply.

Speaking of late-game power, it seemed to be the way of the weekend, as far as creatures went. Other than white/red and black/red, most of the decks at the top seemed to favor the top end of the curve. 3/3s and 4/4s were scattered absolutely everywhere, and many people seemed to be making concessions for that. There were a number of splashed removal spells and bounce spells that would have seemed out of place before Born of the Gods, even in a removal-hungry format like Sealed Deck. I'm talking splashing blue for Retraction Helix or black for Necrobite.

There were definitely bombs seen strewn around the top tables. Every color had something stupidly powerful representing it at the top tables, but it was the rest of the cards that made up the decks that told the tale I cared about. White was the color that had the least bombs on the top tables, but that didn't really hurt its appearance there. This leads me to believe that white has one of the deepest card pools in the format, especially when it comes to creatures to fill out a curve. And it seemed to accomplish this goal for aggressive decks like white/red, as well as the slower, more midrange-y decks like white/green.

In the end, it became clear that to succeed in this Limited format you really need to keep in mind the following things:

Red appears to be really good, especially if you pair it with green...

...or go aggressive with white.

If you want to play black, your best bet seems to be to build an aggressive black/red deck...

...Well, that or open a bomb or two.

Planeswalkers are still incredibly powerful...

But in the end, this is still Sealed Deck. Stick to the basics, build yourself the best deck you can, and you'll be alright.

Just keep a close eye on your red cards.

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