Every Sealed format has its own feel – a combination of the overall power level of cards, the speed of the games, the average number of creatures on the battlefield, and a hundred other tiny pieces of cogwork that weigh in on how the matches, and the format as a whole, plays out.
In this way Kaladesh Sealed is like, and therefore unlike, the Sealed formats that have come before it. With new resources, new artifacts, and new cards in play, it's important to get our bearings as we navigate this new and exciting landscape.
2015 World Champion Seth Manfield's first piece of advice for players new to Kaladesh is to know the new and different interactions between cards in the set, and to get familiar with managing energy, a powerful new resource.
“We're seeing cards that would normally be fine as is, but then all of a sudden it also comes with energy and you can put counters on it,” Manfield said.
It all adds up to cards with a higher power level than normal, leading to a lot of decks that are very good.
Platinum pro Sam Black noticed both a lot of two-drop utility creatures on Kaladesh, as well as a lot of four-drops that handily outclass the cards that come down before them. This adds up to an environment hostile to mid-sized creatures, particularly three-drops.
“The two-drops all have abilities that make them good, and then the three drops just have numbers, which makes them bad,” Black said. “So many of the two-drops are there for their text box rather than their size, and that also contributes to the games going longer, because the two-drops aren't good attackers.”
Three-drops, Black noticed, also get outclassed quickly by the set's four-drops.
“It's not unusual to have a 4/4 turn off all the 2/3s and 3/2s,” Black said. “There are four-mana 4/4 trampling commons that mean a 2/3 prowess just doesn't do anything.”
Black recommends playing a lot of high-impact cards, meaning that a creature like Accomplished Automaton has a place in Kaladesh Sealed. Flying is also better than usual, and a way to punish players who are going too far on big ground creatures.
“I hate Wind Drake less than usual,” Black said. “And I hate all the other three-drops more than usual in this format.”
Gold pro Ben Stark agrees about the generally high power level of cards from Kaladesh, and that fliers are a good way to take a game from an opponent too focus on dominating on the ground.
“Prepare for the long games,” Stark said. “You want to make sure you have a seven-drop in your deck, or a six-drop in your deck, or late-game card draw, because there are games where you and your opponent have about equivalent draws are going to go long, and you want to have powerful cards to draw toward the end of those games.”
“There's a lot of good rares in Kaladesh,” Stark said. “I don't think it's a huge problem in draft because the power level of all the cards is pretty high. But in Sealed where the games are going to be slower, your opponents are going to play rares, so I think you should be prepared for them. You really want to err on the side of playing big removal that kills broken rares.”
Welding Sparks is one of the few cards that would pull Stark into red, a color he thinks is generally pretty weak. While Welding Sparks can usually kill the big Kaladesh rares he's worried about, too many of red's other removal spells, like Chandra's Pyrohelix, fail to get the job done.
“I think red is the color you will use the least in Kaladesh Sealed if you're building your decks correctly,” Stark said.
Manfield, on the other hand, named blue as the weakest card in the current Sealed format. His preference is for green's big, solid creatures.
Black agrees that green is particularly strong, as it has few bad commons and a large number of very good commons, and that there are very few cards in red that he would want in his Sealed deck. Red, he's found, has few ways to break through Kaladesh's board stalls.
All three players agreed that while very good vehicles are worth putting in a deck, and many decks will have one or two vehicles, the bulk of them aren't worth going out of your way to include.
In Manfield's opinion, the cheaper vehicles will make the cut more often, chief among them Renegade Freighter, while the vehicles costing five mana and above are questionable inclusions.
“The more aggressive you are the better vehicles are, because they're not good at blocking. They don't contribute another blocker to the board,” Black said. “The point of vehicles is that they're large for their size, which makes them hard to block. The bigger vehicles are best as sideboard material against decks that are planning to block.”
Black thinks these vehicles are also reasonable top end in aggressive decks, where they take the place of reach because they're so large.
In Stark's opinion, vehicles have to be weighed against the cost of crewing them.
“If you have to tap a real creature to crew your vehicle you could easily play zero or one, if you have one that's particularly good,” Stark said. :But if you have a lot of servos or thopters or if you have small creatures that have utility effects you can definitely play multiple vehicles. If I have to tap my four-drop to crew my vehicle, that's not a good Magic card.”
The format also has a few quirks the pros have noticed.
“Card draw and removal is good,” Black said. “It sounds really obvious, but my first [Kaladesh] sealed I thought that I needed a reasonable creature count. I thought vehicles were good and that I needed enough creatures to use my vehicles, so I didn't play all of my Live Fast and Die Youngs, and that was a huge mistake. You don't need a super high creature count. If you have a lot of card draw and removal you can win the game with 8-10 large creatures.”
Manfield noticed that more players than usual are branching out from traditional two-color Sealed decks, though he worries that those decks are too susceptible to fast draws.
“For Sealed I've seen more decks splashing some cards,” Manfield said. “It sometimes makes your deck too clunky, even though you have the fixing. There have been too many curve-outs of two-drop into three-drop into pump spell.”
Stark's advice is directly related to the set's theme.
“Everyone's going to have to play artifacts, so main deck your artifact removal in Sealed,” he said. “Even two of them is fine. I have no problem playing two different cards that basically just kill an artifact.”
It's not a perfect roadmap, especially since the landscape of Kaladesh Sealed is ever-evolving, changing from event to event and even from match to match. But with the signposts above, you're ready to hop in your vehicle of choice and take this Sealed format by storm.