The Third Deck

Posted in Event Coverage on August 15, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

Tommy Ashton, Cedric Phillips and ninth-ranked Ari Lax sat around the table, alternating long looks down at the table with the occasion awkward glance at each other.

“So… who’s going to take it?” Phillips finally asked his teammates at Grand Prix Detroit.

No one spoke up for a few seconds.

“I started this format by drafting these decks, so I guess I’ll take it,” Phillips finally sighed.

Sometimes it’s easy. Each member of the three-person team will have a deck that simply calls to them, and there won’t be any disagreement or unease about which player pilots which deck in the Team Sealed event.

But more often it’s a situation similar to what Phillips’ team faced, where one deck is clearly weaker than the others and no one is jumping at the opportunity to spend up to nine rounds playing it.

The Third Deck

It’s often easy to build the first two decks in Team Sealed. With so many cards to choose from, teams can usually put together two powerful decks that have both early and late-game power, but it’s not always so easy to find that third deck.

Sometimes that means one teammate must fall on the metaphorical Goblin Grenade and pilot the weakest deck, meaning they’ll likely face an uphill battle all day.

That was the case for reigning Player of the Year Mike Sigrist — who is in Detroit battling ahead of the World Championship on tap Aug. 27-30 at PAX Prime — when teammates Jesse Hampton and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa didn’t want to play the black-green deck that consisted mainly of the leftovers from the other decks.

“We spent the whole time building, and when we got to the end we just played what was in front of us,” Sigrist said.

“It worked out, since we didn’t want to play the green deck,” Hampton laughed.


Player of the Year Mike Sigrist may have drawn the short straw when it came to picking his deck in Detroit, he made the most of it by taking down his Round 3 match to keep the team’s undefeated run going.

While that approach is always an option, if not suggested, there are other times when familiarity with an archetype can be the swaying decision, as in Phillips’ case.

Other times the answer to the third deck is more exotic, and exciting.

Trey Smith can attest to that. While his teammates were utilizing traditional decks, Smith decided to play something a little more tricky. When I walked by, I caught sight of a Starfield of Nyx attacking for five damage. Two turns later Sphinx’s Tutelage milled out his opponent and earned him the win.

The final tally? In addition to the Tutelage and Starfield, Smith had seven other enchantments, two of the (just!) four creatures in his deck were Auramancers to bring back the enchantments while Talent of the Telepath helped to run opponents’ libraries out of cards and a Languish helped to steady the board. It was a risky strategy, but it was also one that was paying off for Smith.


Trey Smith put together a riskier deck in Detroit, but the depth of the cards in his pool allowed him to build a strong deck powered by Starfield of Nyx.

“We knew coming in that the enchantment decks can be very good, but then once I saw Starfield of Nyx there was no way I couldn’t do it,” he explained proudly.

Smith’s is far from the only “theme deck” in the room. Black-Green Elf decks are pushed to the max with so many packs to work with, while other players are duplicating Sphinx’s Tutelage Constructed success in Detroit’s Limited format.

“It’s a lot more difficult to build decks in Team Sealed than regular Sealed, but sometimes you get these specialized decks that are really good,” Sigrist said. “While we were doing practice for this event we built several decks that were enchantments or Elves or artifacts. It’s not always the best, but it’s definitely viable.”

Walking around the room in Detroit and seeing all the different directions decks can go, there’s no denying that Team Sealed isn’t just a fun format, it’s one of the most unique Magic has to offer.

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