Posted in GRAND PRIX SALT LAKE CITY 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on September 6, 2014

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.

2013 World Champion Shahar Shenhar knows his way around the top tables, which means he's played more than his share of Limited matches at the highest levels of the game. With several Grand Prix victories and high finishes at the Pro Tour and beyond, Shenhar is one of the emerging elite: As one of the youngest professional players in the game, his career is on a trajectory for long-term success.

Shahar Shenhar is the 2013 World Champion, multiple Grand Prix title winner, and among the strongest players in the game today.

So how does a player like Shenhar handle Magic 2015 Sealed? Like many others, he sorted his pool by his own dimensions of playability. "There are cards I definitely want to play," he said, "but a card like this"pointing to Fugitive Wizard "I'd never use."

"What's standing out is the Hornet Queen and Chord of Calling," Shenhar explained. "But green has a really bad curve. Red has Kird Chieftain, practically a multicolor card, and two-drops. The rest of the colors look pretty weak, and I'm trying to stay away from two colors splashing a third: Two colors splashing a third isn't very good in this format."

Why doesn't Shenhar want to dip into a third color? "Mana fixing isn't good. There's Evolving Wilds but that's it," he explained. "A lot of the bombs need two of a color, even things like Cone of Flame: The really good cards are hard to splash. If there was a lot of mana fixing it'd be better. Even in this deck there's two Evolving Wilds. Even if I wanted to there's nothing to really splash. Maybe Ulcerate, but that's somewhat mediocre."

He laid the red and green cards out in front of him.

"This is just twenty cards, which is pushing it. This are four cards I'm not really happy with and I'm still not at twenty-three or twenty-two," Shenhar said. "I'm really not happy with this deck so I'm going to look at something else, though I could still end up playing it."

He marched on through every combination of colors using green. "Green-black is also 20 cards, which is bad." When Shenhar laid out green-white he summed it up at once: "This is not a deck."

"The problem," explained Shenhar, "is that twenty cards is just really short. Twenty-two cards and eighteen lands is semi-playable, but needing to add three bad cards isn't going to work. If there's a solid two-color deck it's worth it, but Hornet Queen is one of the most powerful cards in the format." Making a small army of flying, deathtouch Insects is great on offense and defense.

Next Shenhar laid out the blue and green options.

"Guess how many cards?" There was a beat as the obvious count of twenty came up "You can make a 23 card deck out of any two colors, but these other cards are all on the same low power level. It might be red-green after all," Shenhar said. "I'd probably submit this deck: 22 cards, 18 lands. Not a Sealed pool I'm happy to open.

Shahar Shenhar’s Sample Sealed Pool #1 Build

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So what was Shenhar looking for here? "For one, it's missing removal," he said. "If I'm able to cut some of these cards for playable cards, and removal is always playable, I'd feel much better. It's also missing power, but every green deck is 'missing' a Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. Here we have to get to the late game, and just Hornet Queen is probably not enough power. But I also think Sealed pools in this format are pretty weak. If you have a pool that just okay – not great – it's fine. I'm happy with just a reasonable pool."