The 10th Occurence

Posted in Feature on April 15, 2005

By John Klauk

Sealed deck. Some say it is all in the luck of what you open. I know others that argue it is the most skill-testing Limited format. I tend to lean toward the first line of thought. I mean, I have found myself often squeezing the cards one by one slowly apart with an awkward grimace hoping that what I am seeing will suddenly become better card by card. Probably looks as if I’m in pain from a distance. Thank goodness Magic: The Gathering® Online saves me from this by slamming all my cards at once into my Card Pool window.

Hello, Developers?! You're messing with my suspense here!

Let's face it. What you open mandates what you play 9 times out of 10. It's that 10th occurrence where you can pretty much play almost any combination of sweetness (or junk) that you busted loose that really justifies the believers of Sealed being the epitome of a skill-testing Limited exercise. Yes, there are other things that can and will be used to further argue how skill is the vital ingredient in this Limited recipe. There's how to really know what colors you should be playing. Most players still working on their game tend to get blinded by two or three cards and play a color they really should not be in. There's weeding out the bad creatures and bad spells. That falls hand in hand with what colors you should be playing and becomes easier the more practice you get. And then there's also that actual playing the game bit. In fact, there's a ton of more reasons to say, "Skill, skill, and more skill." So, who am I to argue with reason?

Let's assume it is all about skill, and by that I mean let's examine the 10th occurrence in the current Sealed metagame. As luck would have it, I just so happened to stumble into such a choice-full pile recently in a Champions and Betrayers of Kamigawa Sealed league on Magic Online.

League during Week 1 is just like playing a five-round tournament, minus the Swiss pairing part, so I feel this is as good a place to test and learn the current Sealed environment as any PTQ Sealed event. Heck, in my opinion it's better. In Magic Online league, you can play as many games as you like. Only the first five every week count towards your overall standing, with the extras determining tiebreakers. That means after you play your build "for real," you can experiment with other builds of your deck. I often do this in blocks of five matches in order to compare results against other builds. Not the most scientific way, but it feels effective to me, and I feel like I learn something new almost every time. Besides, ya need to know now, I ramble off from gut instinct and years of experience more than facts and statistics. Get used to it. Now that you know that important tidbit, let me show you what dropped into my Card Pool for this league:

Skullmane Baku

Black (12) 7 Creatures / 5 Non-Creature Spells

Blue (16) 7 Creatures / 9 Non-Creature Spells

Orochi Eggwatcher

Green (15) 11 Creatures / 4 Non-Creature Spells

Red (14) 8 Creatures / 6 Non-Creature Spells

Hikari, Twilight Guardian

White (14) 10 Creatures / 4 Non-Creature Spells

Artifacts (2)

Land (2)

So, we can play almost anything we want with this. If you need some help with your Sealed fundamentals, I suggest reading "How To Get Lucky At Magic" by Matthew Vienneau right now. If not, then take a moment and make your build from this list. I'll wait...

Now, let me see what you got put together there. Yes, I like that. Yep, that looks good too. What, you didn't play with this? Are you nuts? It is so much better than you think! Oh wait, one of the builds I made looked like what you put together, so I guess I can't harass you too much about what you think the correct build is. Trust me; I made quite a few different builds before committing to the one I was going to sit down at the table with.

As a side note, this is also a big bonus of playing leagues on line. You can take as much time as you like to decide on the correct build. Heck, you can even playtest your build many times over before playing in the league with it.

There are definitely many good builds hidden in these cards. I must have made nine different versions of the deck. In the end, here is what I played:

Klaukwork Wizard's league deck

Download Arena Decklist

Only a single black card, Ragged Veins, got the immediate boot (and I've even seen this played before and work, but it is just much too situational for my tastes). I know some others are borderline, like the Skullmane Baku, but even it could be a 23rd card. Couldn't he have been a 2/3 for 5 mana at least though... I mean really, come on... he looks as mean as Erg Raiders to me! That left me with 11 playable black cards, 7 of which are critters.

Blue was a different story. Sadly, it is the highest percentage of our card pool. And I say sadly, because blue can be an Air Force beating. This blue just didn't have the cards we were looking for like Teller of Tales and well... Teller of Tales. Here's a quick list of what I fired the AA guns at:

Heed the Mists

Hisoka's Guard (Hisoka is obviously no Ertai)
The Unspeakable (or as I like to call him, The Uncastable)
Wandering Ones (gotta love the Wandering 1/1s)
Dampen Thought (it was fun while it lasted)
Heed the Mists (I think I could write an entire article...)
Lifted by Clouds (that article would probably tackle this one as well)

That left me with 10 blue cards, of which only 4 are creatures. Pretty safe to say at this point, this would NOT be a main color. And the only real options to splash would have been card advantage via Counsel of the Soratami and Reach Through Mists. I guess some might say you could splash for the tempo cards, Consuming Vortex and Toils of Night and Day, but not I. I mean, if you can't rely on those spells as soon as you want to generate the tempo swing, then what's the point? Drawing cards would be the way to go if I included blue. That is, unless I had a better color with, say, some creature destruction to splash. Rumor has it that is better card advantage in Limited.

Wear Away

What was absolutely unplayable in green? Not a single card, though I am not a fan of Roar of Jukai. It feels like an offensive Ragged Veins. And certainly I would be keeping Uproot and Wear Away at the ready in the sideboard. You could maindeck Wear Away, and that very well might be the right call, but I absolutely HATE having a dead card as opposed to having to work around an enchantment or artifact. Wow! So that left me with 12 green cards, and 11 of those are creatures. They curve out ok to boot. It wasn't a fast and brilliant curve, but a decent one where I knew I would more than likely not be the beatdown. Looks like this would be a main color, but it's there to hold the line mainly. It probably would not be my path to victory unless I can flip the Orochi Eggwatcher. Now to find what to pair it up with.

In red, I ejected Akki Blizzard-Herder for high-sticking as well as Clash of Realities for not playing only on my team. Kumano's Blessing was going to sit on the sidelines as well. It's not even a good water boy. Visualize and attack Kumano. Visualize and attack. That left me with 12 cards of the red variety. Seven are creatures and the rest are not. Hmm, I see two very splashable red removal spells (Torrent of Stone and Yamabushi's Flame), and I believe that would be better than the two splashable blue card drawing spells.

Bushi Tenderfoot

White forced us to remove Bushi Tenderfoot.

Okay, I'll admit it... I will play with this card if I have Indomitable Will or some similar trick. He's just that cool flipped.

Silverstorm Samurai is just is too expensive. Don't think so... compare it to a Dragon and then tell me it's not too expensive. Call to Glory didn't make the cut as I don't really have a way to take advantage of untapping my creatures, and I definitely don't have the Samurai to make it effective. Quiet Purity probably won't even come in from the sideboard as I am going to already have the superior Terashi's Grasp in its place. After looking at this, I see that I have 11 white cards left to choose from: eight creatures and three non-creature spells.

I could also set aside Reito Lantern since I would not be playing with Booby Trap. Boseiju, Who Shelters All was put straight into the trade binder.

Next, I sorted my playable creatures and spells by casting cost. This made it easy to visualize my mana curve. I wanted to see lots of things curving up to the 3 slot and then drop off near the 5 to 6 slot. I already knew green looked good along these lines. However, the only other color that conformed to this request was red. And compared to white, red's creatures were nowhere near the same caliber. Ronin Houndmaster or Kistune Blademaster? Obviously the Blademaster is much better. Sokenzan Bruiser or Hikari, Twilight Guardian? Um... moving on.

Serpent Skin

So, the real question now was, Are white's creatures better than black? Yes, and not just in direct comparison, but for another very important reason. Evasion. I needed to match up a color with green that was going to allow me to break through. White gave me three solid flyers and one guy with a big backside that could be a serious problem to any non-black deck if it decided to grow some Serpent Skin. Green-white. Not my favorite, unlike my friend Ryan Adams, who plays it so often in Limited that we have affectionately nicknamed green-white "Ryan." Creativity is not our strong suit.

I don't like having all that good black removal go to waste, but I felt playing black would just not allow me to punch through with the cards supplied. Speaking of removal, if I remembered correctly, we had two very splashable red removal spells. In they went, along with the Shuko to make all our guys a little better. I was happy to have the Pinecrest Ridge, though a Kodama's Reach would have put a much bigger smile on my face-but then hey, I might have splashed the black then cuz I'm just that silly.

Umezawa's Jitte

That's the rundown on how my mind buzzes through the Sealed deck construction process. Now, the question stands, "How'd you do in Week 1?" Well, I did ok. I went 3-2. I picked up my mandatory loss to the 1450 rated player as I knew I would once I sat down to play him (Good job Panik8). I really should learn when to mulligan. My other loss came at the hands of an undefeated 5-0 player, gilgaladthechef, who was sporting Honden of Infinite Rage, Ryusei, the Falling Star, and the completely fair Umezawa's Jitte (yet another article). Every game I won was by the same means. I locked up the ground with good blockers and token creatures and flew my way to victory, usually on the wings of a 4/4 regenerator. My instincts tell me my tiebreaker games will go better. Of course, you are talking to the guy who lost count of how many Limited games he has lost to Butcher Orgg with Mythic Proportions on it! Drop me a line and I'll let you know how it went.

Catch ya'll next time,

John H. Klauk

John started playing Magic back when Antiquities came out. He is a frequent top 8 finisher at PTQs and States using non-archetype decks and is a Regional Coordinator for the Delegate program. He also wants to say he has the most amazing girlfriend a gamer like him can ever hope for. He is Klaukwork Wizard on Magic Online.

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