As I sat down to watch defending champions Potato Nation build their first sealed decks, Mike Turian was hard at work coloring in the letters in the set names at the top of his deck registration form. Soon the player meeting was over and they got a little more serious as they tore open their card boxes and quickly sorted them by color, calling out the good cards as they went. Not too serious, though, as these guys are always having fun when they're playing Magic.
"Dear Lord! We'll take those . . . " was all Gary Wise could say as he sorted Magma Burst and then Ghitu Fire and Rout back to back. Turian picked up the green and counted the mana fixers - five plus a Nomadic Elf. Scott Johns went through the blue looking for mana fixers too. They wanted to know right away whether 5-color was an option. Blue had just a Dream Thrush. Next they went through the gold cards to see if they demanded any color combination. Two Probes, Vodalian Zombie, and Marsh Crocodile suggested blue-black. Samite Archer and Angelic Shield suggested blue-white. Jilt and Minotaur Illusionist said red-blue. As usual, nothing is simple in full Invasion-block limited.
They had so much green, including lots of fat and lots of mana fixers, that they set it aside, knowing they could do whatever they wanted with it. They decided to see how their other decks worked out and let that dictate how to use their green. Blue-Black with a touch of red for the good Apocalypse red-blue cards seemed plausible, and definitely had enough cards. Having established that, they moved on again. Degavolver suggested a white-red touch black build. That deck wound up with Rout, Ghitu Fire, Goblin Legionnaire, etc. The more they looked, the more they were very happy with their card pool.
This was the point where Johns made a very intelligent comment - "Our card pool is so good that we should be as conservative as possible with our mana." There's no reason to gamble when you don't need too. With that in mind, they started cutting gold cards from their (formerly) 5-color green deck. Galina's Knight and Ebony Treefolk hit the sideboard in favor of Horned Kavu and Quirion Sentinel. That deck wound up with 19 green cards, a consistent mana base, and a consistent ability to apply beatdown pressure. It had just 4 blue cards, 3 white ones, and 3 red ones. Of course, it included three blue-white gold cards (Ordered Migration, Angelic Shield, and Samite Archer) so they considered moving them somewhere else so they could trim down to three colors.
Next all three turned their attention to the white-red touch black deck. "Do you really need Helionaut?" they asked Turian. "He's a soldier!" answered Turian with a grin and a gesture toward Enlistment Officer. Johns kept looking at the Halam Djinn and thinking that it didn't belong in the deck where it would be small much of the time. Rout followed by Halam Djinn would make it big, though, so it stayed. They debated cutting Tsabo Tavoc and/or Hypnotic Cloud because the deck had too many expensive spells. They decided to board the Cloud and bring it in after showing Rout to the opponent. They figured it would be a lot better against people who wanted to hold back creatures in fear of Rout. Tsabo made the cut.
Now it was time to talk about which deck they expected to wind up in which seat. Before making the last fine-tuning decisions, they wanted to think about what they expected to play against. Especially in the first three rounds, they expected their opponents to put blue in the middle seat. That seat was the most common blue seat at both of the previous team events they played in this format: Grand Prix Columbus and a big money side event at Worlds, plus its the traditional blue seat during the draft portion of the Pro Tour. Clearly, their best deck against blue was the double Probe deck. Next they decided the red-white deck with lots of creatures (including Crimson Acolyte) and lots of broken spells should go up against red-black so they put it in seat A. That left them with a green mirror match in seat C that they felt very well prepared for since their green was so good.
They divided up their sideboard cards, stuck the 5-color mage with a much bigger pile that he'd be forced to spend time registering, and then paused one last time to make sure they were happy with their configuration. The only good gold cards that they weren't playing were Galina's Knight and Ebony Treefolk, but they talked through other combinations anyway just to make sure. In the end they stuck to their first impression and spend the remaining time debating individual cards, making sure they were in the right deck.
Halam Djinn eventually left the red-white deck because the mana curve was still too top-heavy. It went into the green deck, which could accelerate toward it and where it would usually be big (Gaea's Skyfolk went to the board since they didn't expect that deck to have early blue mana reliably). They debated Mire Kavu versus Kavu Scout for a long time because the red-white had 6 4-drops and only 3 3-drops. Turian adamantly defended Rogue Kavu because the deck needed early drops and that way Mire Kavu over Kavu Scout seemed more reasonable. In the end Mire Kavu was just too good not to play.
Finally it was time to figure out the all important mana ratios. They sorted each deck by color and turned their attention to them one at a time. After that it was time to register them. They seemed quite confident taking these decks into battle for three rounds.