How to build your sealed deck in 10 lessons

Posted in Feature on June 6, 2006

By Olivier Ruel

Today, for the final scene of Olivier's Corner, I'll try and give you tips for one of my favorite formats: Sealed Deck, to help you prepare for future events, including PTQs for Kobe.

A random format?

Most people consider Sealed deck as the most random format of Magic. In theory, indeed, any player may open Hex, Flame Fusillade and Orzhov Ghost Counsil as well as he can open no spoiler at all. However, out of ten decks, there is about one ridiculously strong card pool, two pretty good decks, three ok decks, two bad decks, and one deck there is absolutely nothing to do with.
In this case, if only 30% of the decks are weak, why are 80 to 90% sliof the players unhappy about their decks after building it?

You nearly always have something good in your deck. You can have a strong rare, lot of removals, many flyers, or just a very strong mana base. The thing is you can't have all of this. There is always something missing.

Opening the packs

I think that's what I like the most about Magic, more than the play itself. When I was a kid, I kept on opening collectible soccer stickers, and I think that excitement remained. What's the point, strategically speaking? None I guess, let's move to the main subject. Here are the things I do when opening a sealed.

1)Take a look at your cards?

You can do good with no spoiler, but if you want to do really good, you definitely need good rares, at least one. And I'm too excited to look at anything as long as I don't know my rares.

2)Pile by colors

Gold go in a single distinct stack.

3)Sort playables/Unplayables

Put all the playbable cards that could make the 23rd or 24th spot in a deck in for more visibility.

4)Check the fixers

Your bouncelands and Signets are crucial. A sealed deck is not a draft, you can draw good with an unstable mana if you play three rounds only, but that doesn't apply to a longer event such as a PTQ for instance. You know you will get mana troubles, try to avoid them. A strong manabase is a weapon, it plays the same role as removals or spoilers. If you have loooots of them, you can play more than three colors.

5)Where are the playables?

If you want a solid mana and you don't have many fixers, you need one or two dominant colors, check out the colors with the most playable cards. It will often be green, that's why it's the most played color in sealed deck despite the fact that the cards themselves aren't very strong. With cards such as Farseek, Civic Wayfinder, Silhana Starflecher and Utopia Sprawl, green can be played as a main color to replace bouncelands and Signets when they are missing.

6)Where are the removals?

Don't ever play a deck without removals. Splash them if you have to, but don't play some WUG deck that absolutely can't deal with anything. Otherwise, you can have the most solid deck on earth, you'll never be able to deal with any Spoiler, not even to a Guildmage or to a Viashino Fangtail.


Lay your deck on the table as follows, creatures by casting cost from left to right, then the other spells, by casting cost too.

The things you should keep an eye on:

-creatures: not below 13, between 15 and 18 for the best (count Scatter the Seeds and Fists of Ironwood as one creature each)

-curve: you should be able to play with three manas, and to cast most of your deck with four. An ideal curve would be about: 12 of 1, 2 and 3 mana costs, 7/4, 4/5 and higher. That is only an approximation, but don't play too many two drops which won't do much in the late game, nor too many 4 and more drops that will pollute your hand in early game.

-splash(es): they depend on two things: fixers and removals. If, for instance, you are playing WG/B and you have Civic Wayfinder and Rackdos Carnarium in your card pool, it will only cost you one Mountain to get three red mana sources. You can then easily play one or two red removals. Don't splash just because you can, splash to fill a Gap. You always need removals, but a cards such as Rakdos Ickspitter, for instance, is not worth splashing, not maindeck at least.

-spoilers: try and play them, but not at any costs. Don't play Cerrulean Sphinx if you don't have enough blue playables. If the rare is one colored mana only, try and splash it. A card like Flame Fusillade or Demonfire can't stay in your sideboard.

8)Find the balance

As I said earlier, you can't have everything, mana fixers, removals, spoilers, curve... Just try and combine many of these, build your deck around its strength.

9)Fill in your decklist

Everyone has his own methods to count and verify that the list is correct. Just make sure you double check systematically.

10)Transform your deck

If you realize there where mistakes in your building, it's not too late to repare them. You'll have to keep the deck you registered on game 1 of every match, but feel free to change as many cards as you need to afterwards. Playtesting between rounds can help to correct building mistakes. Frank Karsten said about the format something close to:"If someone says he built his deck perfectly, he's either wrong or lying". There is no shame in making mistakes.

Hope these pieces of advice helped. This is the end of Olivier's Corner, thanks for reading, I'll hope you'll enjoy Ask the Pro as much. You can already send your questions at, I'll pick three a week and answer their authors on the front page of this site. I'll also try to answer other questions individually.

One last word of thank to Hélène, Joery and Vicky for making this column possible. Sorry I've been late so often and gave you more hard work, it was a pleasure working with you.

Olivier wants YOUR questions

Latest Feature Articles


September 17, 2021

The Returning Legends of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt by, Doug Beyer, Ari Zirulnik, and Grace Fong

A return to Innistrad means the return of some of our favorite characters! In case you missed it, make sure to check out the new legends of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt from yesterday's artic...

Learn More


September 16, 2021

The New Legends of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt by, Ari Zirulnik and Grace Fong

Harvesttide is wild this year! Tons of new faces showed up to the party—let's do some introductions. Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Adeline is an excellent tactician and an unyielding fo...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All