Posted in Event Coverage on March 14, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

If you haven’t taken the chance to look over the options this sample Fate Reforged/Khans of Tarkir Sealed pool offered you should, and put some thought into how you’d tackle the build.

This where I took my chance to defeat fellow coverage writer Jacob Van Lunen:

Sample Sealed Pool #1 – Adam Styborski – Temur

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With solid fixing making a blue splash into red-green easy, I went with the obvious play to jamming the most powerful card I could. With Siege Outpost to set up “drawing” two cards every turn, Dragon-Style Twins and Whisperwood Elemental as “must-answer” threats, and a tricky Surrak Dragoncaller and Flamerush Rider to surprise opponents with it felt right.

With enough creatures and powerful removal to build up to the big hitters, I was confident I could beat Jacob over the head. What I discovered is that it wasn’t that simple.

Jacob’s deck was Mardu splashing blue, a mostly black and white deck with copies of Sandsteppe Outcast, Valorous Stance, Douse in Gloom, Typhoid Rats, Mardu Roughrider, and a solitary Ojutai, Soul of Winter adding blue to top out his curve. Thanks to his powerful, efficient creatures and removal I had a hard time keeping up early in the game. Although my removal could answer anything Jacob played, the fact most of it was so expensive meant I was often faced with a choice between taking care of a powerful threat while leaving myself exposed to his earlier aggressors, or playing another creature but taking a hit from one of his finishers.

In two matches I had won just one game: Surrak Dragonclaw, Whisperwood Elemental, and Dragon-Style Twins were always handily dispatched, and even an active Outpost Siege in a few of the games couldn’t pull me back into the thick of it.

The question as I was left asking myself was “Was this a fluke, or did things go wrong here?” I turned to the number three-ranked player, Eric Froehlich, to take a shot at building and see what I could learn.

No. 3-ranked Eric Froehlich had no trouble breaking down our powerful pool of Fate Reforged and Khans of Tarkir cards.

“White is looks unplayable, but there’s a Duneblast.” Froehlich began. His piles moves in similar ways, setting aside colors like white and black and looking through red and green carefully. “Red is the deepest and strongest color: theres rares, and pretty close to the best uncommon in the set. Green helps to cast these five-drops.”

Sample Sealed Pool #1 – Eric Froehlich – Temur

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It didn’t take long before a familiar-yet-different deck took shape:

“I think this is pretty close to the deck I’d build. You have two Swiftwater Cliffs so it’s pretty easy to splash blue,” Froehlich explained.

While similar to what I had done on my own, Froehlich’s plan pushed the deck firmly into two color-but-just-splashing-a-third territory.

What Froehlich shared matched up to our expectations at the outset. “This deck lets you play your best rares, Pyrotechnics, and Burn Away,” he said. “It plays five rares which is really nice. I wish it had more early drops, but I think this deck gives you your best chance to win.”

The major difference, however, came in regard to using blue. While I shoehorned in some flying creatures and Enhanced Awareness, Froehlich wasn’t convinced. “I like splashing Enhanced Awareness but not in a deck like this,” he said. “There’s already so many five-drops. And it can be awkward with Siege Outpost since you can exile something you can’t cast.”

The additional removal and easier-to-cast creatures might have turned the tide against Jacob, giving the deck a narrower focus and more ways to handle the worst opponents would offer. Not every deck wants to play as many colors and powerful cards as possible: With so much power focused into two colors, it’s an obvious way to push the deck into a more consistent direction.

That nuance within an “obvious” build can make the difference between a narrow win and total loss, and finding those narrow wins will make your difference between success and loss at your next Sealed event.

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