Magic 2013 Sealed Deck Fundamentals

Posted in Limited Information on July 4, 2012

By Steve Sadin

If you're a regular reader, you probably already know the Magic 2013 Prerelease is this weekend. What you might not know is that if you plan on playing in a Prerelease event this weekend, it's important to call ahead of time to preregister for the event.

Jace, Memory Adept | Art by D. Alexander Gregory

Because Prereleases are so popular, if you don't secure your spot in advance you might very well find yourself unable to play in any events this weekend, as all the spots were reserved by players who planned ahead.

All right, now that I got my PSA out of the way, let's go over some of the things that can help you feel prepared once you actually sit down to play this weekend.

Not Sure What to Expect?

If you've never been to a Prerelease before, or you just want to get a bit more information on what to expect at the Magic 2013 Prerelease, then you should make sure to read Mike McArtor's Magic 2013 Prerelease Primer.

Oh, and if you haven't already pored over it, you should also take a look at the Magic 2013 card image gallery. The card image gallery contains every card in Magic 2013, and is probably the best (and quickest) way to familiarize yourself with the set.

While you don't have to memorize every card in the set (it usually takes me about two weeks and at least six Booster Drafts until I know the set backwards and forwards), it's definitely to your advantage to know what cards you might see this weekend.

Sealed Deck Rules of Thumb

When you sit down to play in a Sealed Deck event, you receive six booster packs and an unlimited amount of basic lands from which you must build a forty-card-minimum deck.

Any cards you don't include in your deck become your sideboard. In between games, you are allowed to swap any number of cards between your sideboard and your deck.

Play forty cards!

While you technically can play as many cards as you want to in your Sealed Deck, I would strongly advise against it. When you play with exactly forty cards, you maximize your chances of drawing your best spells and the lands you need to cast them.

Mind Sculpt | Art by Michael C. Hayes

And if you decide you want to try out as many of your new cards as possible (Prereleases are a great place to learn about the set, after all), you can sideboard in the cards you want to try in between games.

Stick to two colors (or maybe two colors with a light splash)

The more colors you play, the more difficult it becomes to cast your spells.

So while players are sometimes able to find success with three-, four-, or even five-color decks in Constructed formats—where they have access to an abundance of mana fixers like Glacial Fortress, Evolving Wilds, and Borderland Ranger—it's very difficult to put together a Limited deck that can win consistently with more than two colors.

Even if your spells are "better" than your opponent's, if you can't cast them you're just going to die to whatever creatures your opponent (who built a tight two-color deck) draws.

Play seventeen to eighteen lands

It can be tempting to shave lands from your deck, particularly if you have a lot of good cards you want to play with. However, doing so can lead to disastrous results.

Yes, there will be times when you can get away with playing sixteen lands in your deck, but unless your deck is exceptionally fast and almost exclusively full of cheap spells, seventeen to eighteen lands will be the way to go.

Make sure your cards work together

When you're building a Constructed deck you get to choose exactly which cards you want to play with. You can fill your deck with aggressive creatures and burn spells to finish your opponent off in a hurry. You can load up on card drawing, counterspells, removal spells, and a couple of Planeswalkers and eventually grind your way to victory. Or maybe you've discovered an incredibly powerful two-card combo that will kill your opponents in a blink of an eye.

Kraken Hatchling | Art by Jason Felix

When you're playing Limited, and Sealed Deck in particular, you don't always have the luxury of choosing what type of deck you want to play ahead of time. Instead, you will often need to adapt to what your card pool dictates you should play.

Sure, you might desperately want to play a beatdown deck, but if you only open a single good two-casting-cost creature, that's going to become virtually impossible. Instead, you might need to fill up your deck with Kraken Hatchlings, Essence Scatters, and Divinations and settle in for some long, drawn-out games.

Don't be afraid to leave your best card in your sideboard!

Sometimes, building the best Sealed Deck possible requires you to leave your best card in your sideboard.

I understand how difficult it can be to leave a top-notch rare like Sublime Archangel in your sideboard. But if you don't have any other good white cards to go with it, then you just might have to set it aside as you build a blue-black control deck or a red-green beatdown deck that doesn't rely exclusively on drawing its best card to win.

Some cards are too conditional to include in your main deck

You just lost the first game of a match because your opponent had three Pacifisms and an Oblivion Ring to deal with every good creature you played. Fortunately, you have two copies of Erase in your sideboard that you can use to completely turn the tides in Games 2 and 3.

But just because there are times where Erase will play an absolutely crucial role for you doesn't mean it's a card you want to include in your main deck.

In fact, it's difficult for me to imagine a situation where I would choose to main deck Erase in a Magic 2013 Sealed Deck tournament. There are going to be so many games where it's a completely blank card because your opponent doesn't have any enchantments in his or her deck.

Sure, there are going to be situations where I will include a Naturalize because it has the ability to take out enchantments like Pacifism as well as artifacts like Ring of Xathrid, but there just aren't enough good enchantments in Magic 2013 to justify starting Erase, or enough good artifacts to make me want to shuffle up a Smelt in Game 1.

Don't forget that your opponent can stop you from doing what you want to do

It took you a while, but you were finally able to get the mana you needed to play a Vastwood Gorger and enchant it with Tricks of the Trade to make a positively huge 7/6 unblockable creature.

Your opponent is still at 20, but that isn't a concern for you because it's only going to take three hits with your Vastwood Gorger to finish the game...

...except your opponent just cast a Murder, killing your Vastwood Gorger and leaving you with very little else.

No, you won't always be able to prevent your opponent from throwing a wrench in your machine, but if you respect the fact that your opponent could have an answer for whatever monstrous sequence you are trying to set up, then you're going to be in a very good position to play around those answers—or to at least know what risks you are taking.

Save your answers for threats that matter

It can be very tempting to use a Murder or a Searing Spear on the first creature your opponent plays, but if that creature isn't doing anything particularly relevant anyway, you might as well let it live.

Because when all is said and done, it's usually better to take a couple of hits from a Silvercoat Lion than it is to lose on the spot if your opponent casts Sublime Archangel.

Which Magic 2013 cards are you looking forward to playing with?

Currently, the Magic 2013 card that excites me the most is Jace's Phantasm. While I don't plan on spending any early draft picks on the flying illusion, I'm looking forward to sneaking in a bunch of damage with it early—and then completely taking over games with it in longer, drawn-out slugfests.

Are there any Magic 2013 cards that you're particularly excited about?

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