Sealed Deck: Gary Wise

Posted in Event Coverage on December 18, 2015

By Rui Oliveira

It's a Limited Grand Prix and that means two things: you have to build a Sealed deck on day one and some people will sit in the sidelines in the early rounds enjoying their byes. One of those players is Gary Wise. For the next three rounds he will be testing his deck while most of the field duke it out.

But Gary Wise is more than just another player who won a Trial or amassed an impressive ranking. Gary is the guy who writes those great articles for Sideboard telling us all about the Limited (especially Draft) options in each new set. So we thought it would be interesting to sit down next to him during the deck construction and see what this Limited guru would do during those, often agonizing, fifty minutes. Besides, he's loud and funny.

In fact he is so loud and funny I had to sneak my way up to him through a group of laughing players. Everyone calmed down upon Head Judge Cyril Grillon's final words and you could feel the tension in the air as everyone rummaged through their pre-registered decks.

Before we get started we will give you his complete card pool so you can have the chance to follow the whole process or even try to build it yourself before checking his choices.

Non-basic Lands: two Ravaged Highlands, two Timberland Ruins, Seafloor Debris.
Artifact: Limestone Golem, Sandstone Deadfall.
Gold: Iridescent Angel, Lithatog, Psychatog.
White: Auramancer, Confessor, Dedicated Martyr, Kirtar's Desire, Mystic Penitent, two Patrol Hounds, Pilgrim of Justice, Sacred Rites, Spiritualize.
Blue: Aether Burst, Aven Fisher, 1 Cephalid Looter, Chamber of Manipulation, two Dreamwinder, two Peek, Phantom Whelp, Scrivener, Words of Wisdom.
Black: two Crypt Creeper, Decaying Soil, Dirty Werebear, Famished Ghoul, Gravedigger, Last Rites, two Morbid Hunger, sadistic Hypnotist, Tombfire, two Whispering Shade, Zombie Assassin.
Red: two Barbarian Lunatic, Blazing Salvo, Burning Sands, Chainflinger, Demoralize, Dwarven Recruiter, Dwarven Strike Force, Earth Rift, two Kamahl's Desire, Liquid Fire, Mad Dog, Pardic Firecat, Reckless Charge, Recoup, Thermal Blast.
Green: Chatter of the Squirrel, two Druid Lyrist, Krosan Archer, Muscle Burst, Primal Frenzy, Rites of Spring, two Simplify, Spellbane Centaur, Sylvan Might.

The player sitting in front of Gary started what he would turn into a recurring tradition: showing his deck's power. He flashed his Iridescent Angel and Wise proudly matched it. "I've never cast this card but I'm excited about the possibility. She's kind of mean."

A first sift through the deck revealed a few surprises. For a start Gary didn't send any blue card to the cheerleading pile (the pile of cards you are almost sure you won't use and if you do get to use them you are normally in a lot of trouble). Most of the colors survived the first screening with small loses and suddenly Gary smiled and again thundered through the cards to show me a nifty combo: Chamber of Manipulation and Sadistic Hypnotist.

For the lazy or less Odyssey-wise of you here is a very quick rundown. The Chamber allows you to discard a card to gain control of a creature until the end of turn and the Hypnotist allows to sacrifice a creature to force your opponent to discard two cards. Now you can understand the "little boy on Christmas Eve" smile on Gary's face.

This interaction set the mood for the first build. In a flash all the black and blue playable cards where laid out in piles divided by costs. A second look at the rest of cards brought in two gold powerhouses: the aforementioned Angel and a Psychatog.

After a global look, Wise pointed at the Angel and said "I think I could do two colors but I think I have to use three". Following that lead, Gary tried to fit in more in order to reach the 22-23 card limit (adding 17-18 lands to reach the minimum forty cards) but after a few tries involving Auramancer, two Patrol Hounds, Soulcatcher and a Kirtar's Desire, the verdict came: "White is not working."

Here is how the piles looked without the white, sorted by casting cost.


2 - two Crypt Creeper, Phantom Whelp
3 - Cephalid Looter, Psychatog
4 - Aven Fisher, two Dreamwinders, Gravedigger, Dirty Wererats, two Whispering Shade, Famished Ghoul
5 - Scrivener, Sadistic Hypnotist, Zombie Assassin
6 - Limestone Golem
7 - Iridescent Angel


1 - two Peeks, Kirtar's Desire
2 - Words of Wisdom, Aether Burst
3 - Last Rites, Sandstone Deadfall
5 - Chamber of Manipulation
6 - Morbid Hunger

Unhappy with the white, Gary tried red, adding Engulfing Flames, Chainflinger, Thermal Blast and two Barbarian Lunatics. While this might seem like a desperate measure at first I quickly, in fact before I even had the time to phrase my question, got a justification: "Probably won't happen but I've to check my options. I have a hole in my three drops and I don't have enough ways to deal with a Hallowed Healer, for example. Red solves both those problems. On the other hand one of my main goals in Sealed is to keep my mana base as stable as possible and red, double blue, double black and pumpable black is not a good mana base."

Throughout the rest of deck construction he flirted with that idea several times but in the end came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth the extra strain in the mana. He pushed the red into the sideboard with the surety he would be bringing it in against anyone with white.

With a big splash of white or red out of the question it was time to trim the piles down to the 22-23 window. Curiously it started of very quickly but the last choices proved quite tricky. The two Peeks gave him the chance to play only seventeen lands relying on the two spells, and any other card drawing he might add, to find the mana to pump out his big spells (Angel, Chamber, Morbid Hunger).

In the end the choice came down to this:

  • Play one more land (twenty-two).
  • Add a Scrivener (which could recycle the two Peeks, for example).
  • Limestone Golem ("Sealed is slower than Draft so this guy is more efficient today").
  • Play one of the longshots: Words of Wisdom, Zombie Assassin or Last Rites.

"I'm going to be here a while" was the understatement of the deck construction period. Gary Wise spent the last twenty minutes agonizing (quite literally) over that choice. He even had the time to react to yet another bomb from the guy in front of him.

"Iridescent Angel and Pulsating Illusion?! Rui, write this down, I am NOT playing against this guy! No way!"

But he had to get back on track and finish it up. As the room noise got overwhelming again with players milling around trying to find their friends to compare decks and with the clock ticking, it was time to make a decision. After a heated argument with Scrivener about his inability to bring back any interesting card from the graveyard the last spot went to...

Zombie Assassin, because "apart from the Chamber it's my only solution to a Healer before sideboarding". And he did it all with one minute to spare. Finally the moment we have all been waiting for: the final deck list, with a very special comment.

Gary Wise

Download Arena Decklist
Sorcery (2)
2 Morbid Hunger
Instant (2)
2 Peek
Artifact (1)
1 Sandstone Deadfall
Land (17)
1 Seafloor Debris 6 Island 2 Plains 8 Swamp
Other (2)
1 Dirty Werebeat 1 Aether Burst
40 Cards

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