Florian Koch had made it to the Top 8 of a Grand Prix three times before. Two of those three events, including the one he won, Grand Prix Lyon in 2010, were Sealed events, so if that's any indication, it wasn't unrealistic to see Koch near the top of the field once again this weekend.
Once he had sat down in the feature match area to build his deck, Koch followed his usual approach of laying out all the cards by colors. As he later explained to me, it was very apparent that both Blue and Black were too weak to be considered. Black didn't look completely terrible, but it was missing powerful creatures. So he pondered over Green, White, and Red, and tried to pair them up in the best way possible.
It's All about the Synergies
Taking a closer look at his cards, he quickly fell in love with Green. It wasn't just that he found the most options for the all-important 2-drop there, he also spotted a number of cards that could really help him wrap things up. The three cards that appealed the most to him were Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Undercity Troll, and Rhox Maulers. Combined with a number of pump spells, that promised to be a great core for his deck.
White had a few things going for it. He found flying creatures there that would allow him to win games that could otherwise turn into a stalemate. The legendary Hixus, Prison Warden further tempted Koch. He pointed out that Hixus would be especially great against less experienced opponents; however, most veterans would see the writing on the wall after you passed with 5 mana. So despite its flexibility and powerful effect, Koch opted against White, instead siding with Red.
He explained his decision to me in the following way: "Prickleboar, Seismic Elemental, Acolyte of the Inferno, and Boggart Brute are all cards that can apply a lot of pressure. Furthermore, Boggart Brute pairs up nicely with the Green pump spells."
Koch pointed out that he had seen this happening a number of times before. Force an opponent into a position where he has to block Boggart Brute, use a pump spell and watch your opponent pick up his cards in frustration. "It is as close to a 'real blowout' as you can get in Sealed."
The Final Verdict
Although all of this seemed very powerful in theory, Koch didn't feel like he had put together an unbeatable deck. He explained that he still wasn't 100% sure whether he made the right decision, but he certainly looked forward to finding out over the course of the day.
A reasonable finish with this deck in his opinion would be a 7-2 record and everything worse could be considered a disappointment in his book. We'd certainly have an eye on him throughout the day to see whether he would end up short or live up to his expectation.